Category Archives: Reads

September 29, 2016

Book Swap Party

Posted by at 1:52 am in Kid Power, Reads | Permalink

Want to start a new tradition with your friends? How about a book swap party? For those always on the hunt for the next great read, a book swap is the way to go.

Here’s how it works:

  • Invite a group of 1-5 friends.
  • Provide book-based snacks like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hot chocolate or a bowl of Bertie Bott’s jelly beans.
  • Everyone brings at least one great read to swap – it can be new, used, dog-eared, whatever, as long as all the pages are there. Feel free to bring more than one title because the ultimate goal is to match every swapper up with a fabulous book.

Get creative with how to match up friends with books. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have each swapper create a short “personality quiz” (like this one) to see who’s best suited to the book.
  • Try a “Yankee Swap.” Draw numbers out of a bag. Person 1 gets first pick, but Person 2 can choose from the pile OR grab Person 1′s pick – and so on.
  • Make connections with other books your guests have already read and loved. Here are some pairings to get you started:
Harry Potter If you liked sinking into all seven Harry Potter books, try The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper. The Dark is Rising
The Calder Game If you liked going to England with The Calder Game by Blue Balliett, try The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Inkdeath If you liked the characters with amazing abilities in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, try Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke.
Try
The Lightning Thief
A Series of Unfortunate Events If you liked the quirky twists in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, try The 39 Clues series. The 39 Clues

Cap off your book swap festivities with crafty fun like bookmark-making. (You supply the thick paper, stickers, and glitter glue.) Or pop in a book-based movie like The Chronicles of Narnia or Goosebumps, pop some corn and settle in.

Are you planning a book swap? Be sure to Comment and let us know how it goes.

— Amy

September 28, 2016

Whatever After Readalikes

Posted by at 1:18 am in Reads, Whatever After | Permalink

Whatever After booksOh, to live in a fairy tale! Talking animals, magic spells, exciting adventures . . . it would be so awesome. Well, it would be awesome if you managed to stay out of trouble, that is — and trouble is exactly what Abby and her kid brother Jonah end up in after stumbling through a magic mirror and into the worlds of their favorite fairy tales. After accidentally turning the stories upside down, they have to use their wits and bravery to turn them right-side up again. If you’re a fan of fairy tales, you probably already love this fantastic series. Once you’ve finished the latest book, chances are you’ll be looking for more fun fairy tale adventures–and that’s why we’ve put together this list of our favorite Whatever After readalikes!

Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel
It can be hard to live in the shadow of a famous parent. It’s even harder if that parent is famous for being a villain, and has been banished to live on an isolated island with other villains—and you’re stuck there, too! That’s the life Mal, daughter of Maleficient, and her friends (all children of Disney villains) have on the Isle of the Lost, where the only thing to do is learn how to be evil. But when a small break in the protective dome appears and activates Maleficent’s scepter, the kids are in a race against each other to find it first and use it for their own reasons…

Princess Academy
14-year-old Miri has lived a humble existence in the humble mining village of Mount Eskel, where it is expected that she will work in the quarry just like her family when she is old enough. But an unexpected prophecy by the king’s priests that the next princess will come from Mount Eskel turns Miri’s world on its head! Sent to a special academy with all the other eligible girls from the village, Miri must learn how to behave like a princess. But will living a life she’s only dreamed of be worth it?

The Tail of Emily Windsnap
Even though Emily Windsnap and her mom live on a houseboat, Emily’s never learned how to swim…and she finds out why during a swimming lesson at school: her legs turn into a fishtail! Thanks to her newfound ability, she discovers an underwater mer-city close by and learns more about who she is and her mysterious past. Determined to reunite with her merman father whom she’s never met, Emily embarks on a journey to find him — and learns several shocking things along the way!

The Wide-Awake Princess
Thanks to a spell from a fairy named Moonbeam, Princess Annie can’t be affected by magic. So when her older sister Gwendolyn — also known as Sleeping Beauty — falls asleep, Annie is the only person at the castle left awake. It’s up to Annie now to find Gwen’s true love to kiss her awake, and she sets off across the land in search of eligible princes to break the spell. Along the way she meets all manner of fairy tale characters…and maybe even finds a love of her own.

Ella Enchanted
When Ella is born, a well-meaning fairy gives her a “gift” that turns out to be more of a curse: Ella must obey any order that is given to her, even if it puts her in danger! She’s determined to break the curse, but not before she goes on a wild adventure involving evil stepsisters, ogres, giants, and a very charming prince. This funny book presents the story of Cinderella like you’ve never heard it before, and is sure to become one of your favorites!

Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell
On their twelfth birthday, twins Alex and Conner are given a book of fairy tales from their grandmother. It contains all the stories she used to read to them when they were younger. Suddenly, the book comes to life and plunges the twins into the magical Land of Stories — a land where all the fairy tale characters they read about are alive. The only way home is by following instructions in a mysterious journal to complete the Wishing Spell, which requires collecting eight special items from the Land of Stories. But it’s no easy task, and along the way Alex and Conner discover that they have a very special tie to this magical, wonderful land.

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends
What if you decided not to follow your pre-written destiny? Raven Queen, daughter of the Evil Queen, is supposed to follow in her mother’s footsteps. At Ever After High, the special boarding school for the children of fairy tale characters, each student is required to sign the Storybook of Legends on Legacy Day to fulfill their destinies as princesses, princes, and villains. Raven isn’t too sure she wants to be evil . . . but refusing to follow her fate might prove disastrous not just for her, but everyone else in the Snow White story!

What do you think, fairy tale lovers? Have you read any of these books? Do you have any other recommendations for fans of Whatever After? Share in the Comments below!

En-Szu

September 27, 2016

Books For Animal Lovers

Posted by at 1:42 am in Reads | Permalink

Are you devoted to your dog? Do you ham it up with your hamster? Hang out with spiders? Well, if you are looking for books for animal lovers, check out a few of my faves . . .

Marley Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan
When John and Jenny decide to adopt a cute Labrador puppy (Marley), they have no idea what they are in for. He’s like a walking hurricane with paws — eating expensive jewelry, jumping everyone who walks through the door, flinging drool everywhere, and even getting kicked out of doggie obedience class. But their lives will never be the same, and they find out Marley is a very loyal and loving dog. I couldn’t put this book down; it had me ROTFL at one point, then ready to grab a Kleenex at the next. I really think any dog lover or pet lover will LOVE this one.

Cricket-in-times-squareA Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
When Chester the Cricket finds himself in New York City’s Times Square (after a wayward jaunt into someone’s picnic basket from his home in Connecticut), he is totally lost until he finds Mario, the human boy who sets him up at his family’s newsstand.He befriends Tucker the Cat and Harry the Mouse, and he finds that big city life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He lives in a matchbox bed with Kleenex sheets and has some pretty cool adventures. But the friendships he makes and life lessons he learns I could totally relate to —  even though he is a cricket. This one definitely is one of my faves.

WarriorsThe Warriors (Book #1: Into the Wild) by Erin Hunter
This book is like house cat meets ancient tribal wildcat, or as I like to call it . . . Lord of the Rings with cats! This epic saga runs through several books and series (The New Prophecy, The Power of Three, and more), but for starting out, I recommend Into the Wild, which is the very first book. Rusty, a house cat, gets the chance to join Thunder Clan, one of the ancient warrior cat clans, but he gets in the middle of a turf war with other rival clans. He has to prove his bravery, uncover a traitor, and rise to become a hero. If you are a fan of animal fantasy adventure stories, check this out. You’ll never see your cat the same way again.

Charlottes_webCharlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Okay, this book is a total classic, so I just had to put it on the list. It’s like a soap opera for barnyard animals. After Wilbur the piglet is deemed the runt of his litter, he is sentenced to live a lonely life in the cellar of the barn. He meets spider Charlotte, and they become fast friends. When Wilbur discovers he is going to be slaughtered and eaten, Charlotte finds a way to save his life. I don’t want to reveal anymore, but there are more twists and turns after this, leading up to a heart-wrenching ending. Have a box of tissues handy.

All of these get my vote for two paws up! Tell us your favorite animal stories in the Comments!

— Ratha

September 21, 2016

Wings of Fire Readalikes

Posted by at 1:56 am in Reads | Permalink

WingsofFireIf you fell in love with the wonderful world of Wings of Fire, you’re probably looking for other great fantasy titles full of magic, adventure, and—yes—dragons. Fear not! We’ve got you covered. We’ve put together a list of the best Wings of Fire readalikes that will transport you to exciting new worlds (some of which may be in your very own back yard).

Warriors
Rusty is a housecat who yearns for adventure, and he’s in luck. Right beyond the backyard of his home lies the world of the feral cats, who are divided into different gangs in the midst of an epic battle for power. Apprenticed by the ThunderClan, Rusty is given the new name Firepaw and trains to become a warrior . . . and he may just be the one to save the clans from destruction from the evil ShadowClan.

Foxcraft
Young fox Isla lives outside the land of humans—known to foxes as “the furless”—with her fox family. One day she returns to her den to find it on fire, surrounded by foxes she’s never seen before and with her family nowhere to be found. On the run, she must enter the world of the furless to survive . . . and learn the ancient magic of Foxcraft.

Dragon Rider
With his colony under threat by humans, young dragon Firedrake flees and embarks on a journey to find the Rim of Heaven in the Himalayas, a mythical place where dragons are safe and can live in peace. Along with his dragon rider, an orphan boy named Ben, Firedrake sets off on the dangerous quest full of fantastic creatures— one very evil one intent on ending Firedrake’s journey for good!

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Minli lives in the valley of Fruitless Mountain, where she and her parents must work hard all day just to barely survive. It’s a difficult life, but Minli’s father tells her many magical stories to make their days less miserable. It is through his stories that Minli learns about the Old Man on the Moon, who has the power to tell her how they can change their fortune—and with encouragement from a talking goldfish, she sets off on a journey to find the Old Man. Along the way she meets and befriends many magical characters, including a dragon who can’t fly . . . and learns a thing or two about bravery and the true meaning of fortune.

Magesterium: The Iron Trial
Twelve-year-old Callum Hunt has been warned by his father to stay away from magic and the Magesterium, a school for magically inclined children. The problem is, Callum is descended from mages: he’s got magical abilities whether he likes it or not. When he tries to fail the Iron Trial, the entrance exam to the Magesterium, he fails at failing and is admitted. Now forced to attend the mysterious and frightening school, he is apprenticed under the great mage Master Rufus. He’s in for one wild ride of friendships, foes, and, yes—lots of magic.

Fablehaven
When Kendra and her brother Seth are sent to stay with their grandparents at the Fablehaven estate while their parents are on a vacation. Little do they know, Fablehaven is actually a protected home for magical creatures—and their grandfather is the caretaker. There are many fascinating creatures to meet and adventures to be had, but there are also very strict rules to follow. And when Kendra and Seth break one, they are in a world of trouble unlike anything they could ever expect!

The Menagerie
The author of Wings of Fire, Tui T. Sutherland, joined forces with her sister Kari Sutherland to write this incredible series. Logan, new in the town of Xanadu, Wyoming, is shocked to find a baby griffin under his bed one night—and even more surprised to learn that the baby griffin actually escaped from the top-secret Menagerie, a special zoo for magical creatures. The Menagerie is run by his classmate Zoe and her family, and with Logan’s help, they start tracking down other escaped griffins. But the Menagerie is due for an inspection soon, and if anything is amiss it will be shut down for good. Will Logan and Zoe find the remaining griffins in time?

Are you a Wings of Fire fan? Have you read any of these books? What other books would you recommend for fans of the series? Sound off in the Comments below!

En-Szu

September 19, 2016

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Posted by at 1:00 am in Reads | Permalink

Ahoy, matey! Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. To celebrate, check out some of these pirate-themed books:

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Pirate’s Plot by Ellen Miles
  • The Pirate’s Son by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Nick of Time: An Adventure Through Time by Ted Bell
  • Stowaway by Kristiana Gregory
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
  • Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbitt
  • Peter Raven Under Fire by Michael Molloy

So tally ho, make ye enemies walk the plank, and don’t forget to talk like a pirate!

—Carly

September 15, 2016

Book Review: Dear Dumb Diary

Posted by at 1:23 am in Dear Dumb Diary, Reads | Permalink

Ddd_130

Jamie Kelly is your average middle-schooler with an average (but evil) best friend, Isabella, and an average (but sickeningly beautiful) nemesis, Angeline. Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic, but Jamie is dramatic . . . and did I mention hilarious?

In the Dear Dumb Diary books, Jamie warns us not to read her diary in disclaimers such as, “Only a super gross person reads another person’s diary.” And, “If you are Angeline, I did NOT give you permission, so stop it.” Each book is like a mini-journal which follows something going on at the time in Jamie’s life.

Like right now, I just finished Book 4: Never Do Anything Ever in which Jamie starts collecting money for an online charity to channel her “inner beautiosity.” Which is basically because Angeline has been collecting money for charities and Jamie wants to outdo her (and attract the attention of her super-cute crush, Hudson). It backfires, thanks to Jamie’s aforementioned friend Isabella — but I can’t reveal exactly how things go wrong! You’ll just have to read it for yourself!

Besides an overall entertaining story, each of the little daily occurrences and descriptions are wickedly funny. For instance, Jamie is paired with a bunch of misfits on her team in gym class, and she refers to one guy as “That Ugly Guy Whose Name I Forget” . . . or as she calls him for short, “TUGWNIF.” You feel like you are reading something slightly naughty or mean . . . but then you remember this is someone’s “diary” and you’re not supposed to be reading it . . . and somehow it’s okay! It’s hard to describe, so I can only recommend you read the series!

And if you’ve already read any Dear Dumb Diary books, give me a shout! What are your favorite books of the series? Let me know which ones I should check out next!

— Ratha

September 14, 2016

12 Books for When You Are 12

Posted by at 1:24 am in Reads | Permalink

Recommend me!Being 12 can be downright confusing. You’re not a teenager just yet, but not really a kid anymore. Everything is changing: your friends, your family, your likes and dislikes, even your body. (Whaaaaaat? Gross!) Talk about having your world turned upside down! But that’s why we have great books. Get inspired by extraordinary characters and their even more extraordinary tales in this list of the 12 best books for when you are 12.

The Golden Compass
12-year-old orphan Lyra Belacqua has lived her whole life scampering around Oxford with her daemon, Pantalaimon. But when she stumbles across a dangerous conspiracy, she is forced to flee to the unknown North—where armored polar bears battle, children are being abducted and experimented on by a mysterious and sinister society, and Lyra uncovers dark truths about her past, and the universe, that could completely alter the course of the future.

The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm
Tendai, Rita, and Kuda have been holed up in their mansion far too long—but when they escape to explore the world outside, they find themselves confronted with dangers beyond their wildest imagination. In the world of 2174 in Harare, Zimbabwe, the siblings find themselves kidnapped by gangsters and bounced from one awful situation to the next…all while being pursued by a strange detective agency their parents have hired. This bizarre, funny, and downright fascinating tale of the future will take you on one wild ride and have you wondering what the world will look like in 158 years.

The Graveyard Book
Brad is anything but normal…but you could probably say it’s because of how he was raised. You see, Brad was raised as the only living thing in a graveyard. His whole world has been ghosts and other supernatural beings. As he grows older, his love for his graveyard family—and fear of the outside world—grows.

Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl is no ordinary 12-year-old. He’s a brilliant criminal mastermind, and has done a pretty good job managing his family’s criminal enterprise. He’s also on the hunt for something very, very valuable…fairies. When he captures fairy Holly Short, he thinks he’s landed on a goldmine. What he fails to realize is that Holly and her fellow fairies are anything but the gentle fairies of lore: they’re armed, and they’re ready to fight! But are Artemis’ intentions really all bad?

A Wrinkle In Time
Meg’s father has been missing for over a year. One dark and stormy night, a Mrs. Whatsit visits the family and reveals that she is a magical being who can read thoughts. She informs Meg that her father isn’t just missing on this planet—he’s lost somewhere in the fifth dimension, and it’s up to Meg, her brother Charles, and her friend Calvin to rescue him from whatever evil is holding him captive. This wild inter-dimensional tale is an absolute must-read!

The Giver
In Jonas’s world, everything is in perfect order. Nobody fights, nobody hurts, nobody is poor, nobody gets sick. At the age of 12, each member of his community is given their career assignment. Jonas is assigned a very unusual job, however: he is to be the new Receiver of Memories. It’s no easy task for anyone, let alone a 12-year-old. He begins training under The Giver, who is the only one who knows of what life was really like before everything was perfect…and now that Jonas knows the truth, will he let things continue to be the way they are? Or is there meaning, and even happiness, in imperfection?

The Dark is Rising
On his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton learns that he is actually the last of the Old Ones, immortals who fight the great forces of evil. To save the world, he must first find the six Signs of the Light and unite them. But the world of magic and good and evil that Will has discovered is far more complex and sinister than he ever could have imagined…

Island of the Blue Dolphins
Karana has lived on Ghalas-at, also known as the Island of the Blue Dolphins, her entire life. She lives in the village with her father, the chief, and her brother. After a trade agreement goes terribly wrong, ending in many deaths, her fellow villagers leave—but Karana and her brother Ramo are left behind. Karana will have to rely on her survival skills and strength to stay alive until someone comes to rescue them, but soon tragedy strikes again and Karana must learn what it truly means to be brave…and be human.

Al Capone Does My Shirts
Moose Flanagan, age 12, has to move with his family to Alcatraz Island in 1935. His father got a job working at the infamous prison, and his autistic younger sister Natalie can go to a special school nearby in San Francisco. Moose is pretty miserable—he had to give up a pretty great life back in Santa Monica, and his life now is lonely and frustrating. But he’s about to make a friend (or two) in the most unlikely of places…

A Long Walk to Water
Two parallel stories—one taking place in 2008, and the other in 1985—explore the lives of two different people and how they collide. In Sudan in 1985, Salva’s classroom daydreaming is violently interrupted by what begins a harrowing journey of survival and escape. Over 20 years later, Nya spends must walk eight hours a day to collect water for her family, most of which is contaminated. How these two tales intertwine is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and will give you so much hope for how we can love one another.

Counting By 7s
12-year-old Willow Chance is a genius who is a sponge for information. She leads a pretty quiet life, and finds comfort in counting by 7s. But when her world is turned upside down by tragedy, she will be challenged in ways she never could have imagined—and through it all, she shows the power of survival, finding hope, and finding family where you least expect it.

The Thing about Jellyfish
After her ex-best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting because things don’t just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, and complicated friendships.

Have you read any of these books? What other books do you think every 12-year-old should read? Share in the Comments below!

September 13, 2016

Book Characters I Want to Meet

Posted by at 1:10 am in Reads, Writing Prompt | Permalink

Here is my list of the five book characters I’d most want to meet in person:

Charlie_and_the_chocolate_factory_25. Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl)
Thanks to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, now I’d love to meet the genius behind everlasting gobstoppers, an entirely edible landscape, and all the rest of the mouthwatering wonders described by Dahl!

 

Charlottesweb4. Charlotte A. Cavatica (Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White)
I don’t think any explanation is necessary beyond what E. B. White says at the end of the book: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

 

Secretletters3. Victoria (Secret Letters from 0 to 10 by Susie Morgenstern)
You may have never heard of this book, but it’s one of my absolute favorites. It’s about a boy named Ernest who lives a dull, dreary existence until Victoria moves into the neighborhood and throws back the curtains and lets in the sunlight on his life by her sheer exuberant presence. I’d be very curious to experience whatever adventure she would bring to me.

 

Hpcos2. Dobby (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)
While he’s far from the grandest character in the series, you’d be hard-pressed to
find one who is more unerringly selfless and good-hearted. He’s also hilariously funny.

 

Thebadbeginning1. Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket)
Fine, this is a bit of a cheat, but I’d argue that this elusive man in a bowler hat is as much a character in his books as he is the alleged author of them. And with all of the unresolved mysteries, Lemony Snicket is the #1 book character I’d want to meet in person. I’d love to corner him in a room and interrogate him — and by “interrogate,” I mean “ask him all my burning questions about VFD, and in the event that he refuses to answer, threaten to torture him with my own ill-conceived definitions of sophisticated vocabulary words, in the style of his writing but not nearly as clever.” Take that, Mr. Snicket! I’ll get you to talk if it’s the last thing I do!

What about you? Which book character would YOU most want to meet in person?

— Karen

September 9, 2016

Book Review: A Mango-Shaped Space

Posted by at 1:12 am in Reads | Permalink

Imagine if  words and sounds drew colored shapes in front of your eyes — wonderful colors no one else could  see!

It’s called synesthesia and it’s what Mia, the main character and narrator of A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass has been hiding from everyone (even her best friend!) since she was 8-years-old, when she was called a “freeeeaaak!” (She was at the chalkboard for math and offered to put the numbers in their correct colors. Because we all know what those correct colors are, right? Wrong-o! The classroom laughed and pointed. Sad.)

Mia finally has to come clean five years later when she’s nearly failing Math and Spanish. See, the colors get her confused. Like, if the English word “mother” is purpley-red but the Spanish word “madre” is green — it doesn’t make sense they’re the same thing, right? Of course everyone thinks she’s nuts or sick with an incurable disease. Even her best friend is miffed.

I’d easily recommend this book. We all feel like freaks about something, and I like the fact that Mia learns more about herself, meets people who have similar colorful visions, and understands she doesn’t have to hide it. In fact, she finds that once people understand, they think it’s cool. (I wonder what color my name is!)

Let me know what you think!

— Jessica, Scholastic.com Staffer

September 7, 2016

Books Whose Titles Are Too Short

Posted by at 1:30 am in Reads, Writing Prompt | Permalink

Have you noticed a lot of book titles have the main character’s first and last names in them? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key.

So I thought it would be fun to re-title some of my old favorite books whose titles are just too short:

Holes Holes becomes . . .Stanley Yelnats Breaks the Family Curse
Walktwomoons Walk Two Moons becomes . . .Salamanca Tree Hiddle Goes on a Journey to Search for Her Mother
Hoot _10552675 Hoobecomes . . .Roy Eberhardt Saves the Owls
Swindle Swindle becomes . . .Griffin Bing Pulls Off the Heist of the Century
Tangerine Tangerine becomes . . .Paul Fisher Thinks His Parents Are Lying to Him

What new titles would YOU make up for your favorite books?

— Sonja