The dystopian theme is still going strong with Eldest (12), who began to devour the newly-released Allegiant on the day it was published after re-reading the first two books in the trilogy: Divergent and Insurgent. I loved the first two books, too, and can’t wait to catch up with the third. In these books, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue-Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For the protagonist, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is. The books raise wonderful questions about the value of classifying and segregating people, as well as questions about finding yourself in a faulty system of classification.
Eldest is now reading I Am Number Four, and loving it. It has aliens. Vampires, werewolves, magicians I can deal with all of these, but I found aliens to be too much of a stretch, personally. I had no desire to read subsequent books in the series. My son can’t put the book down, though, so it’s a hit with the audience for which it is intended! Why? “I like the characters, the excitement and the style in which it is written.”
Middlest (8) is making his way through Book Two of the Books of Beginning: The Fire Chronicle. I read book one, The Emerald Atlas, aloud to him, and found it a bit wearing. The books have the appeal of each chapter ending with a cliff-hanger, so it really does propel the reader through. Epic battles between the forces of good and evil, featuring three young siblings in a world a lot like Narnia. There is time travel, there is magic, there are secret doors and portals. I’m glad he’s reading book two to himself, and, luckily, so is he.
On heavy rotation with Youngest (5) are the Stella books by Marie Louise Gay. Featuring the precocious Stella and her little brother Sam, these books are simply delightful. No adults ever appear in their world, which is beautifully illustrated in whimsical watercolours. Stella leads the timid and curious Sam on adventure after adventure, and she is never less than self-assured. Even when she is wrong. A new one, Read Me A Story, Stella, will appear under the tree. Can’t wait!
Polarity Bear Tours The Zoo: A Central Park Adventure by Sue de Cuevas, Illustrated by Wendy Rasmussen
Polarity Bear lives in the Central Park Zoo and she is bored. One day she escapes from her cage and tours the zoo, meeting all sorts of other animals. The tale of this loveable bear is told in rhyme, which is always a favourite with my boys, but it is the illustrations that are truly captivating. There is something magical about Polarity’s expressions, in particular his spirited eyes that never fail to draw-in this reader. Should you have a budding bookworm on your holiday list, this beautiful book would make a perfect gift.
The Morgan Series by Ted Staunton
As a young child I read Puddleman and I recently had the opportunity to attend an event with my boys where Ted Staunton read aloud his 30-year-old classic. Charismatic as ever, Staunton had his audience, young and old, listening to his every word and my boys as fans. Staunton’s every popular Morgan series was an instant hit with my 6 year old. A mini-novel that we read together before bed, is about an ever-chatty boy named Morgan and his nemesis Aldeen Hummel, a.k.a. The Godzilla of Grade Three. Through their misadventures, complete with silly humor that little boys love, an unlikely friendship develops between the two. The Morgan books have more substance that many early readers and are an easy transition from picture books to novels.
With titles like Soccer Shootout, Skate Park Challenge, On the Line, Mr. Strike Out, Dance Team Dilemma and Free Throw (to name a few), Jake Maddox’s beginner
novels are a favourite with my reluctant reader! Maddox’s characters learn values such as dedication, honesty and compassion through sport. I appreciate that the heroines in these stories are strong, sometimes feisty and never second to the boys on the field.
I never read Pippi Longstocking as a child, but I certainly heard of her, and she was raised back into my consciousness when I discovered her creator Astrid Lindgren in a different but also delightful literary world. But I’ve been reading about adventures of the strangely strong girl with an absent cannibal king father and no mother who merrily raises herself with her pet monkey, her horse, and her two beloved neighbour friends. Aftful and funny, it’s just right storytelling for all readers.
Monster Graphic Novels: Monster Mess by Lewis Trondheim is an animated story about the unlikely creation of unlikely monsters. The text accompanying the cartoons are oddly small, so it’s not intended for new readers, which is just as well, because it was great fun to read as a parent, and that’s saying something, because this particular parent does not like reading cartoon books to her boys. But this funny book different from most cartoon fluff by actually having a plot you’ve probably not read before, and even manages to throw in some meaning about family relationships on the side. There are a few other Monster Graphic Novels, but Monster Mess is by far the best.
Reading books featuring diverse female characters in strong roles is as important to do with boys as with girls, and so it was a pleasure to stumble upon The Seven Chinese Sisters on the shelf at our local library. Apart from the baby who is still too young to display it, each girl has a special talent which she must employ to rescue the baby after it is captured by a hungry dragon. Ranging from karate kicking to counting well, to cooking noodle soup, the girls succeed in their mission through teamwork. Also noteworthy in the book is their ultimate compassion to the starving dragon, an early hint to children that evil often has its shades of grey. The book concludes by disclosing the baby’s special gift. A lovely book; my boys were riveted.