Category Archives: Children’s Books Reading Goal

Book Purchases

I went on a bit of a buying spree on Book Depository1. I first heard about Book Depository from a romance listserv I subscribed to many years ago and forgot about it till we wanted to get Calvin the complete Thomas the Tank Engine Collection2. That purchase was a while back but every so often I’ll buy from there if the US edition is unavailable or is substandard.

A couple of weeks ago Jaeger forwarded me a Guardian article written by Chris Riddell about his latest book, inspired by Ada Lovelace. While in San Francisco we had picked up Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, which I loved3, also by Chris Riddell. So, the combination of an Ada Lovelove inspired heroine created by Chris Riddell was an instant buy for me.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse did not appear to be available in a physical format in the US. So I traveled over to Book Depository and immediately ordered it and the sequel, Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. The books arrived about a week ago and we’ve already read through both of them with Calvin. They’re a great deal of fun. Calvin enjoys them, and the wonderful illustrations, but there’s also a ton of subtlety and puns that makes the books fun for adults to read also (it’s always nice when we can stand the books Calvin wants us to read to him).

Several days after I had ordered the Goth Girl books, I ran across another mention of Riddell. (I can’t remember where I saw it but this Guardian article provides a nice summary.) He had illustrated a short story of Neil Gaiman’s called The Sleeper and the Spindle. Once again it didn’t appear readily available in the US so I off I went to Book Depository. It arrived yesterday. This one I haven’t read to Calvin, mainly because I think it’s too old for him to get much out of. However, the story is great and the illustrations are also wonderful. I’m not 100% sold on the ending but I do appreciate it straying from the expected.

I’ve also read a couple more books for my Children’s Reading Goal.

Jinx, by Meg Cabot – Jinx has problems at home so she goes to stay with her prosperous aunt and uncle in New York City. Jinx is known for being clumsy and getting into trouble so she’s not terribly surprised when Tory, her female cousin, appears to hate her on sight. Though, possibly she didn’t expect things to deteriorate quite so far.

An easy YA read with a touch of supernatural elements.

The S.O.S. Files, by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers – A teacher asks his class to all write a story about a precarious situation they’ve been in. Each chapter is one student’s story.

This is a juvenile book that is billed by the Publishers Weekly Review as a good book for reluctant readers because of its short format. I’m obviously not the audience for this book but I could see a younger kid enjoying it quite a bit.

Gloria’s Way, by Ann Cameron – This juvenile book feels a bit like a short story collection except they’re all about one girl: Gloria. The stories talk about Gloria dealing with typical issues such as jealousy when her best friend is friends with someone else, what to do when a friend isn’t being nice, etc. It’s very short, I was able to read it during Calvin’s most recent piano lesson. The stories are nice and I’ll probably read it to Calvin.

The one other book I’ve read recently is The Paper Magician, by Charlie N. Holmberg. Ceony Twill wants to be a metal magician but, in spite of being top of her class, she’s forced to apprentice as a paper magician. At first very disgruntled she slowly learns to appreciate her teacher. Then, someone from her teacher’s past comes back to haunt him and it’s up to Ceony to make sure the paper magician survives.

I picked this book up because I needed a book to read but one I could finish quickly4. At 224 pages, The Paper Magician felt safe. I read it all in one weekend day. I like the both the setting and the magical system. At first I wasn’t a huge fan of Ceony, she seemed a bit whiny and purposefully dense, but she grew on me. I’ve got the next book on hold.

  1. A UK book seller that will ship books all over the world for free.
  2. For some reason, the US edition only had about half of the stories. Also, I was amused to note that Sir Topham Hatt is actually called “The Fat Controller”.
  3. More, I’m afraid, than Calvin who the book was ostensibly bought for.
  4. The next two weeks are going to be my make/break weeks at work. We’re either all going to survive the ILS migration, or we’re not.

Reading Goal Housekeeping Note

Because my reading goals seem to have gotten out of hand, I’ve created specialized categories for each one in addition to the generic books category.

Many Reading Updates

No, it’s not your imagination, I’m not checking off my goal books particularly fast. However, I am making progress. I think one reason I like having goal books is because it provides handy reading material when I want to read but am not in the mood for any particular book. Also, it’s working well as a way to scout new books and audio books for Calvin. We recently finished listening to The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, mentioned in my previous reading goal post, and Calvin seemed to like it.

At the beginning of the year I didn’t have any book goals but now I seem to be acquiring new ones monthly. I’ve recently decided to listen to all of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Up to this point, I’ve listened to about half of the Discworld books. There are some, such as Monstrous Regiment that I seem to listen to at least once a year. I decided to make sure that I haven’t missed other equally good Discworld books by listening to them all in published order. This is a bit tricky because most of the unabridged1 Discworld audio books appear to be out of print or are really, really expensive2. However, Interlibrary Loan is coming to my rescue. I searched and it appears I should be able to get the whole series one ILL at a time.

So far I’ve listened to The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. When we went to London, many years ago, we took public transportation for everything. This was before the days of the Kindle and I quickly ran out of books to read while transiting to and from places. As a result, Jaeger and I expanded our must-see attractions to include a bookstore. I was aghast at how much the books cost (like everything else, it helped to pretend I was paying in dollars) but picked up UK editions of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. Unfortunately, they didn’t speak to me. At all. After listening to them, they’re still not my favorites in the series but I like them a lot better. I’d give them a solid 3 stars. I’m not sure why I have such different reaction to reading versus listening. As a side note, I also watched The Color of Magic miniseries. It’s not the highest quality but gives a very good flavor of the Discworld series in terms of laughing at stereotypes, etc. What I found weird though was that even though the miniseries was called The Color of Magic, it contained a lot more plot elements from The Light Fantastic. It obviously was meant to cover both books but I felt a lot more of the second book ended up in it.

Listening to the Discworld series is more of an unofficial goal. However, I do have one other official goal I’ll be working on: the 2014 Hugo Nominations. This year Jaeger and I decided we really, really should take part in the Hugo nominations instead of just watching from the sidelines so we both bought “supporting memberships”3. I only submitted nominations for “Best Novel” as that’s the form that I’m most familiar with. However, I’m going to try to commit to reading all nominations for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and the nominated authors for John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Committing to read all the nominations for Best Novel seemed relatively easy until I saw that the entire Wheel of Time series has been nominated. I hadn’t even realized entire series could be nominated but apparently there’s a clause in the WSFS constitution that makes this possible. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that. I think I’ve read the first three books in the series and then gave up with plans to reconsider if it was ever finished. Well, Robert Jordan died before he finished the series. However, Brandon Sanderson, working from Jordan’s notes, has finished it. That being said, I don’t think I’m willing to commit to reading 15 books in one series in the next couple of months. So, I’m contemplating reading the last three that Brandon Sanderson wrote. I’ve liked every Sanderson book I’ve read so hopefully I can get through these three. I imagine ardent fans will say I can’t possible get the scope of the series with just reading the last three books. That’s probably fair but being a long-time library user, I’m pretty good and figuring out what happens in prior books without reading them. Also, given I gave up after the first three books implies I wasn’t invested enough to be interested in voting for it anyway.

My nomination for Best Novel was Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. It’s an excellent book but I’m worried it’s against really tough competition this year. However, it’s nice that there are worthwhile books to be nominated this year. I was really not impressed with the options a couple of years ago. I suppose it’s better to have too many good choices than no good choices.

And at long last, my progress on my children’s books . . .

Children’s Goal Books I’ve Read Since the Last Update

Shakespeare’s Secret, by Elise Broach (Shakespeare, new school, friends)

Hero, named after Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, is having to adapt to yet another school. Hero is hoping that her new classmates will ignore her but she ends up the butt of a joke her very first day and it goes downhill from there. Fortunately, an elderly lady next door provides a mystery that helps Hero forget her socialization troubles.

Good juvenile book. I always like reading interesting female characters.

Bearwalker, by Joseph Bruchac (contemporary Native American, stereotypes, adventure, life lessons, new school, horror)

Baron has moved to yet another new school and has been dealing with bullies. His class goes on the annual eighth-grade bonding experience to “Camp Chuckamuck.” Baron senses that something is wrong at Camp Chuckamuck. Things get particularly strange when it seems like a Native American folk tale is coming to life.

This is a book that I would have never picked up on my own. After all, it has a male protagonist. However, it was really good. It’s way too old for Calvin at this point but I’ll put it on my list to introduce it to him when Calvin is older.

The Dark Pond, by Joseph Bruchac (contemporary Native American, loner, adventure, horror)

There are a lot of similarities between this book and Bearwalker. Both deal with boys that are having a hard time making friends and both deal with nature and Native American legends. However, in this one Armie, the protogonist, is going to school in an area surrounded by nature instead of just taking a trip there.

Again, another really good book that I’ll keep in mind for Calvin later.

The Fairy Tale Detectives, by Michael Buckley (fairy tales, sisters, self-reliance)

Two sisters are shipped of to live with a woman claiming to be their grandmother after their parents mysteriously disappear. The girls have always been told their grandmother is dead so they are deeply suspicious of the old women. The old women is very strange, has a strange man that appears to live with her, and lives in a strange house. However, eventually the girls realize that they come from a long line of Grimms whose job it is to protect normal people from real fairy-tale characters.

I expected to love this book. I usually adore fairy tale retellings and similar stories. However, I never really got into this one. I don’t know if it’s because it was too young an audience or something else. I won’t bother saving this one for Calvin. However, if I happen to end up with a girl at some point, I might introduce it to her. Maybe she’ll like it better than I did.

Keeper of the Doves, by Betsy Byars (girls, words, prejudice)

Amen McBee is the youngest of five sisters. She loves words and writes poetry. Her older twin sisters are both her mentors and tormentors. The twins willfully misunderstand Mr. Tominski, an old recluse who lives on their lands, which ends in tragedy.

This was a short book which also felt very reflective. Amen spends a lot of time thinking and trying to figure out things which is in stark contrast to her twin sisters who appear to enjoy jumping to conclusions. It’s a good book. I might request the audio book for Calvin to listen to. It deals with some heavy situations but I think it could provide some good conversations about judging people without understanding them.

Reading Goal: 23 of 180

  1. And who would condescend to listen to abridged audio books (though I sometimes make an exception for non-fiction).
  2. Audio books are naturally more expensive than printed books due to the narrator, who can make or break an audio book, and all the additional production requirements audio requires. I understand why audio books are expensive. I’m just personally unwilling to spend more than $40 for any audio book.
  3. We contemplated actually going to Loncon 3. I’ve never been to a Worldcon before and would really like to try the experience. However, the timing was really bad. We might try to hit the 2015 “Sasquan” which will be located in Spokane Washington(state).

Children’s Books Reading Goal: Update 4

I’ve been slacking. This goal is definitely going to take a while.

Goal Books I’ve Read

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, by Betty G. Birney (small town, stories, juvenile)

Eben longs to explore all the exotic places around the world and get away from his boring town. His father makes him a deal that if he can find “seven wonders” in Sassafras Springs, he can go to Colorado to visit his relatives. Eben doesn’t believe that Sassafras Springs has any wonders but starts looking in hopes of escaping his town.

I enjoyed this book. Eben learns to appreciate his town and the people within it. I’ve requested the audiobook version because I think it’d be a good one for Calvin to listen to.

Hoop Girlz, by Jane Lucy Bledsoe (basketball, girls, commitment, juvenile)

River loves playing basketball and dreams of playing in the WNBA. However, when the “A team” is chosen, River doesn’t make the cut and is devastated. Instead, she has to learn to commit to making the “B team” as good as it can be

This book didn’t really grab me but I think if I was a girl that loved basketball, I would have loved this book. I could be wrong but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fiction around girls playing sports.

My Last Best Friend, by Julie Bowe (Juvenile, girls, bullies, friends)
Ida’s best friend has moved away and she’s heartbroken. She decides it’s too painful to make friends when they just end up leaving. It doesn’t help that the room’s bully seems to have a personal vendetta against Ida. However, a new girl arrives who is (amazingly) persistent at trying to become Ida’s friend.

More juvenile than I’d choose to read but a good story for that age range. Discusses several issues around friends, bullies, and lying to sound good.

Storm Catchers, by Tim Bowler (teen, family, secrets, kidnapping, ghosts)
Ella is kidnapped one night when she’s babysitting her 3-year-old brother. Her older brother was suppose to stay but left to hang out with friends. As a result, he blames himself for her disappearance. In addition, the younger brother is acting very odd and keeps leaving the house unattended.

This was my least favorite of the ones I’ve read recently. It was a good story but ghosts in a context other than fantasy freak me out. I’m going to blame it on my upbringing but I like ghost stories to stay firmly in fantastical settings. All that being said, there were a lot of interesting themes that the story dealt with.

Reading Goal: 19 of 180

Children’s Books Reading Goal: Update 3

Well, I made it through 3 books this week. I actually thought I had done four. However, it was only after finishing Lost in Bermooda that I realized it wasn’t one of my goal books. I must have checked it out for Calvin (?).

Goal Books I’ve Read

Hope was Here, by Joan Bauer (young adult, politics, family)

Hope and her aunt are moving to Wisconsin to try to start fresh after being betrayed. Addie, Hope’s aunt, takes over the job of cook from a dying man while Hope waitresses for the diner. Hope misses the exciting life of New York but gradually the little town becomes her home.

This was a really good book. It has all sorts of themes that may be relevant to a teen: rejection, family, growing up, relationships, adversity.

Peeled, by Joan Bauer (young adult, fear, newspapers)

Another great book featuring a female protagonist by Bauer. Hildy is a high school reporter who is trying to follow in her deceased father’s footsteps. She loves her small town but there have been rumors of malicious ghosts near the old Ludlow House. The town is whipped into a panic, helped by the town’s official newspaper, and Hildy is determined to get to the bottom of the situation.

The Double-Digit Club, by Marion Dane Bauer (Juvenile, girls, cliques, conflict resolution)

At the beginning of the school year Valerie created the “Double-Digit Club”. It’s for “any” girl that is ten or older. At the time, Valerie was the only ten-year-old in the class so it was a club of one. However, one-by-one the other girls turn ten until only Sarah and Paige are excluded. Sarah and Paige have vowed not to join the double-digit club and stay friends but things don’t go the way they envisioned.

This was a harder book for more to get through. It’s probably because it’s aimed at the juvenile audience. Probably a good book for juvenile girls but not one of my favorites reads as an adult.

Reading Goal: 14 of 180

Children’s Books Reading Goal: Update 2

This week was a fairly bad week for goal books. I only got through two books.

Goal Books I’ve Read

The Secret School, by Avi (Juvenile Historical Fiction)

I haven’t read a lot but so far every Avi book I’ve read has been good. In this one Ida is an eighth grade student who has a goal of going to high school and becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, her teacher has to quit toward the end of the year and the school board is too cheap to hire a replacement teacher. So, Ida decides to teach everyone herself so she will be able to take the high school placement exam and still go to high school. It’s a good story.

Traitor’s Gate, by Avi (Juvenile Historical Mystery Fiction)

Can you tell I’m reading alphabetically by author? This book was also a juvenile historical fiction but set further back in history, around the time of Dickens. In addition, it’s still a juvenile book but I’d say it’s for a slightly older audience. It’s a coming of age story where a boy starts learning that his father isn’t perfect and makes mistakes, sometimes mistakes with dire consequences.

Reading Goal: 11 of 180

Children’s Books Reading Goal: Update 1

I forgot how short some juvenile books are. I checked out several from the library this week and already ran out of new reading material. I’ve checked out some as ebooks but many of the books listed in Reid’s Read-Alouds don’t appear to be available as ebooks, at least from the libraries I have access to. I’ve put a lot more on hold for next week so hopefully I can avoid running out next time. I’m also hoping I get more young adults. The juvenile chapter books are a bit more basic than I like reading for fun.

Goal Books I’ve Read

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall (Juvenile Old-fashioned Summer Adventure)

The Penderwicks has a very old-fashioned feel to it. It’s the story of a family of girls and their father renting a cottage for the summer holiday. The girls are quirky and adventurous and they drag everyone they meet, including their landlords son, into their adventures. It won the 2005 National Book Award for young people’s literature. NPR did a short interview with Bridsall about the book.

This was a good book. It’s very much in the vein of older children’s book written a long time ago and reminded me of many books I read as a child.

The Poison Apples, by
Lily Archer (Young Adult Boarding School)

Three girls acquire stepmothers and get packed off to the same elite boarding school. All of them hate their evil stepmothers and want their fathers to get rid of the new stepmothers.

This was my favorite of the books I read this week. One reason is probably because it was written for an older audience than juvenile. However, it’s also a wonderful plot. Boarding school stories always seem to be fun. Parts of it reminded me of The School for Good and Evil.

I Was A Third Grade Spy, by Mary Jane Auch (Juvenile Talking Dog)

This was a very short chapter book that revolved around a dog learning how to speak English. However, he still has the brain and motivation of a dog so this doesn’t end out working well.

This was probably my least favorite. Not because the book was bad, it wasn’t, but because it’s so below the level I would normally choose to read. It’s very much a book for children that are just starting to read chapter books on their own.

Ereth’s Birthday, by Avi (Juvenile Anthropomorphic Porcupine)

A porcupine leaves his home in a huff because he thinks everyone has forgotten his birthday. Through multiple mischances, he ends up talking care of three young foxes whose mother has died.

This was a great book. The language is fantastic. The porcupine is constantly swearing but in a very creative manner. For instance,

“Why can’t young folks ever be still?” A deeply disappointed Ereth complained to himself. “Potted pockets of grizzly grunions, it would save so much trouble if children were born . . . old.”

According to the reviews, this book is rated for the same grade levels as I Was A Third Grade Spy but it felt a lot more complex to me. It’ll be several years before Calvin can read this book but it’s a prefect listening level for him now. The subject is interesting without being too mature and the sentences are beautiful.

Ivy and Bean and the Ghost that Had to Go, by Annie Barrows (Juvenile Chapter Book)

Ivy and Bean are best (female) friends. They see a ghost in the elementary school restroom and pretty soon none of the students are willing to use it.

Another chapter book. It was fine but wasn’t inspiring for me. At least it was short.

Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One, by Judy Blume (Juvenile Sibling Fiction)

“The Pain”, a first grader, and “The Great One”, his 3rd grade sister snipe at each other like normal siblings. Sometimes they have good days and sometimes bad but in spite of it all they still look out for each other.

I remember listening to Judy Blume stories when I was in elementary school. I really enjoyed the ones I heard back then. Reading this one now, I thought it was fine. It’s probably good for the age group it was written for.

Reading Goal: 9 of 180

New Reading Goal

Since I finished my first reading goal back in October I’ve been trying to figure out what my next reading goal should be. I was thinking about doing a goal around children’s books which would help me figure out books that might be good for Calvin.

At first, I was considering reading all the Newbery Medal books. After all, it’s one of the most prestigious awards in the US for children’s literature. However, I wasn’t getting inspired after pursuing the list of past Newbery Medal winners. There’s many good books in the Newbery list but there are some that are also very dated. In addition, I have read quite a few of them already. So, I dithered and dallied waiting for inspiration to strike.

Being a librarian in charge of an ILS, I do a lot of random searching to make sure things work the way they’re suppose to. Last week I stumbled across Reid’s Read-Alouds. It’s an annotated list of books selected to be of interest to juveniles and young adults. What I particularly like about this list are the books were all published between 2000 and 2008. This means they’re all new since my childhood. In addition, the reviews I’ve read imply that the books are nicely diverse reflecting a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

So, the goal. My goal is to read at least 180 of the books listed in Reid’s Read-Alouds. These are juvenile/young adult books so they’re probably going to be on the thin side. However, 180 is still a lot of books. I don’t have any idea how long it will take me to get through this many books but I guess we’ll find out.

Goal Books I’ve Read

Down the Rabbit Hole, by Peter Abrahams (Juvenile Mystery)

Ingrid is a teenage girl who loves Sherlock Holmes and acting. After getting lost on her way to soccer practice, Ingrid finds herself in the middle of a police investigation and develops a compulsion to figure out the mystery herself.

I enjoyed the book. I always like reading about strong female characters and Ingrid fits perfectly. She’s intelligent, moderately quirky, and figures things out in the end.

Whittington, by Alan Armstrong (Juvenile)

A story within a story. Whittington, a stray cat, finds a home in a barn with other stray animals the local gas station owner has taken in. The animals talk to each other and to the owner’s two orphaned grandchildren, Abby and Ben. Ben is having trouble learning to read at school and Abby and the animals decide to try to help him. Each night, after Ben finishes studying, Whittington tells the story of his famous ancestor.

I suspect this is a book Calvin would really like. However, it was a bit slow for me. It’s a good book, I’m just not the right audience.

Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Young Adult Historical Fiction)

In 1793 Philadelphia suffered a yellow fever epidemic that killed 5000 people. In Fever 1793, Mattie is 14 and is in the awkward stage between being a child and adult. She starts out resenting her mother but then the epidemic strikes and chaos ensues. Mattie tries to survive the epidemic while making sure the family’s livelihood, the local coffeehouse, also survives.

This was another good book and was a fairly quick read for me. At the end of the book Anderson provides an appendix that discusses various historical details interwoven throughout the book.

Reading Goal: 3 of 180