Favorite Picks from Children’s Lit 2016

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I love sharing books with my children so I often read books before passing them along. Why? Because a good book is a good book no matter who its intended audience is and it creates connections with my children. How could we play Literary Murder Mystery if we didn’t share our books?

The books in my Children’s Lit section are books I read personally and not aloud. I try to include a wide topic range but don’t always succeed. I must confess that a couple of my favorite picks this year dealt with the elderly.

How to Avoid Extinction – Paul Acampora – is a quick read that packs a lovely punch of life and laughter. Leo’s grandfather passed away and since then he has been in charge of tracking his grandmother who tends to wander off. She isn’t suffering from dementia but a grieving heart and a bit of free spirit. When his grandmother decides it is time for a road trip, Leo tags along. Donuts, dinosaurs, tattoos, and death…how can you pass this read up? It is middle grade fiction but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Leo’s relationship with his grandmother is sweet and I found myself smiling as I read it. At around 200 pages it would be a great choice for the reluctant or struggling reader as well. Mr. Acampora also wrote I Kill the Mockingbird which is another great one for the book list.

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones – Wendelin Van Draanen – comes with a bit of a confession. I saw this book on my libraries New Books list; it was on order. As always I looked it up on Amazon to find out a bit more about it. The reason I put the book on hold was because it was perfect for fans of Counting by 7s. I loved Counting by 7s. When Lincoln Jones arrived I was skeptical. I was concerned that I had been mislead. Ah,  my concern was not needed. Lincoln Jones keeps to himself and keeps to his writing. Great stories all about a hero that saves the day.  Lincoln? He’s not a hero, right? I don’t want to give away this story because I don’t want to ruin it for you. Another middle grade fiction selection but one I think many would enjoy no matter the age.

Ghost – Jason Reynolds – I walked past it. Twice. It was on display at the library with other new books and the bright yellow cover did nothing to draw me. That day wasn’t a great library day. My selections were slim so at the last moment, literally on the way to check out, I grabbed it. It would be a quick read so why not? Ghost is just one of four middle school kiddos on an elite track team. All have a different story to tell but this one is, of course, Ghost’s story. When it comes to the track, Ghost is a natural when it comes to running. That happens when you find yourself running for your life. Thankfully Coach steps in before Ghost has the opportunity to ruin his life

Although this was a quick read, it didn’t take me long to love Ghost and Coach. I love the roll the adults played in this book and that the story came across as “real”. I passed it along to a couple of my girls and they enjoyed. We are looking forward to the rest of the Track series

Reynolds also wrote As Brave As You which we enjoyed well.

Raymie Nightingale – Katie DiCamillo – I had to double check to see if this was really a 2016 read. It seems like forever since I read this book while sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. Raymie is putting all her effort into winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Because winning will be bring her daddy back. But  Raymie isn’t the only one practicing baton twirling for this competition. Louisiana and Beverly are in the competition as well. The unlikely happens and these three girls find that life is pulling them together in friendship. Winning the competition is not what any of these girls needed.  A friend to stand beside you when life is hard is the true prize. I would definitely add this to my girls reading list but they have already read  it, of course. Is it on yours?


The Key to Extraordinary

Two years ago I read aloud A Snicker of Magic (Natalie Lloyd) to my children and we all loved it immensely. Who could resist Felicity and her love of words? Midnight Gulch, with its magic and ice cream, was a town you just wanted to visit. I was interested to see future books by Ms. Lloyd. Several weeks ago I was scanning the library shelves for a few good books to take home and the spine of a book caught my eye. Something about the colors and the style pulled at my memories.

Ah, Natalie Lloyd had written a new book and somehow I had missed this news! The Key to Extraordinary was released in February of this year. I was surprised to find it tucked snugly between other books instead of on display with fellow new publications. My plan was to read it aloud but we were deep in the middle of a couple other read alouds so the timing was off. Naturally I did what any book lover would do and read it for myself. And I must say that is was a delightful read.

Emma lives with her Granny Blue (who drives a motorcycle)  and helps run the Boneyard Cafe. (An appropriate name when you are next to a cemetery). If you stop by the Cafe on Saturday, Emma will take you on a guided tour of the cemetery. The tour ends with a delicious cookie courtesy of the Cafe.

While Emma is a spunky, adventurous, quirky girl who is growing concerned that she will never have her Destiny Dream. A couple of years before, Emma’s mother passed away leaving Emma with a family legacy. Emma was a Wildflower like so many before her. This means that Emma will have a Destiny Dream and that dream will reveal to Emma her destiny, her gift, her purpose. Emma longs for the dream to come so she doesn’t fail her mother and the other Wildflowers.

And how will Granny Blue and Emma save the Boneyard Cafe? Times are hard and Granny Blue is struggling to keep the Cafe open for business. This is Emma’s home, full of memories of her mom, she can’t bear the thought of it being gone.

As with A Snicker of Magic, Lloyd once again brings us engaging, delightful, fun characters along with beautiful words and witty humor that will have you laughing and smiling as you read. I will confess that I even teared up once or twice. This is a story of family and friendship. About realizing that it is the small, ordinary moments in life that are important and life changing. And your destiny? Well, you’ll have to wait and read.

There is a theme of magic woven through out this story. Emma is convinced there is a ghost that visits the Boneyard Cafe but she can never catch him. It usually ends up being her brother making the magical, special hot chocolate; Granny Blue’s secret brew.  There are magical plants that can carry messages through the years. The magic is really love and friendship and memories living and moving around us.

After I finished, Extraordinary worked its way through the female readers in our home. My 10 and 12 year old daughters loved it. My ten year old daughter loves to read but is extremely selective about what engages her.  She said that she loved The Key to Extraordinary more than A Snicker of Magic because this one has more adventure. She also observed a fact that I missed. A character from A Snicker of Magic pops up in The Key to Extraordinary. I totally missed it!

Even my teen girls read and enjoyed The Key to Extraordinary. No matter your age who can resist a wonderfully told story of friendship, destiny, and hot chocolate? I think you should read it and let me know what you think.

‘Tis the Season…to be reading

Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving in a lovely but simple way. A feast around the table with joyful fellowship and thankful hearts. With only dishes to wash, I am sure there will be hours devoted to games and the great outdoors. In our family, there will also be reading going on.

Is it not the perfect time for an evening of reading? Everyone is well fed, leftovers are saved for another day, energy has been spent, and all is quiet. You grab a good read, find a comfy spot and a cozy blanket. Sounds perfect, right? Why, yes, it does. What could be better but a little holiday reading? I have the just the book for you!

Chautona Havig has long been a favorite author in our home. The Annals of Wynnewood and the Not-So-Fairy Tales are well loved by my children. My older girls and I have enjoyed many of her books written for adults. When I had the opportunity to read Chautona’s newest book while she was in the process of writing it, I was thrilled. Carol and the Belles is being released Thanksgiving evening and is a perfect way to end the day.

Carol and Michal have been lifelong pen pals. Through the years, letters have crossed the ocean and formed an amazing friendship. After all these years, Carol finally has the opportunity to come and visit Michal. From the moment Carol steps off the plane, plans take an unexpected turn for Carol and for Michal. With help from the “belles”, Michal tries to make Carol’s visit fun and memorable. There are just some things that can’t be planned.

Intrigued? I hope. There is a delicate balance in sharing about a book without giving it away! Carol and the Belles can perhaps be categorized as a romantic comedy. You will likely find yourself laughing, hoping the right person gets the girl, and maybe even shed a tear or two. A perfect light-hearted read but not fluff! There is depth gently woven into this story. How we see people, how they present themselves…what is real and true? Do we trust in the comfortable or are we willing to take a step of faith? Are we willing to sacrifice our happiness for what is true and right? We also find out the perfect traveling attire. Ha!

Guess what? There is a bonus! If you grab the book this weekend (November 26 – 30), you get a FREE short story that contains letters from over the years between Michal and Carol.  So fun to take a peak into how their friendship developed over time.

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! Eat, drink, and be reading!