Just like Saturday mornings (from 6:30-9:30 a.m.) when TV programming was reserved for kids’ cartoons, Saturday mornings on PWR are reserved for recommendations for kids’ books.
Today’s read is Rachel Renee Russell’s series “The Misadventures of Max Crumbly.” Russell is the author of the well known “The Dork Diaries,” and is a very popular author with 5th through 8th graders in the U.S. and in other countries. The book I read is book three of the series, but the author kindly gives us in a sparse two sentences what happened in the first two books, so it works as a stand alone.
The illustrations in this book are only superseded by the text on the humor scale. It is a fast, zany read with a plot that makes the reader laugh out loud and chuckle like a crazy person. Whenever Max thinks “MY LIFE IS OVER,” which he thinks frequently during the novel, something comes along and makes everything all right.
Max’s message to his readers is simple. “…just remember, if Erin and I can become superheroes and make the world a better place…
SO CAN YOU!
Just hang in there! and KEEP YOUR HEAD ABOVE WATER!
Just like television programming back in the 50s and 60s, this blog reserves Saturday mornings for kids. Today, I wish to feature a series that has been around since I was a kid–The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is described in the book as being, “very small and has a hump on her back… When children ask her about the hump, she says’ Oh, that’s a big lump of magic.’ ” “The children are all very envious of the hump because, besides being magic, it is such a convenient fastening place for wings.” The children of the town are her friends, and she leads them on many adventures throughout the series.
For example, Mrs.Piggle Wiggle’s Farm deals with Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s attempt to straighten out Fetlock Harroway, the town’s spoiled child and bully, who rules the roost at his house. Finally, he gets so bad that he is sent to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s to be “cured of faults,” something Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has done for many boys and girls in her town. The results are hilarious.
Betty McDonald, the author, writes in a captivating, gentle style that will have kids and those who read to them chuckling together.
“The Arthur series “is today’s recommendation for both boys and girls ages four through eight. Arthur Read (Yes, “Read” is his last name.) is an anthropomorphic aardvark created by Marc Brown. For the girls, Arthur has a little sister. He is a good Big Brother. Himself eight years old, Arthur addresses the fears of eight-year-olds like asthma, dyslexia, cancer and diabetes. Family issues like taking turns, being kind, controlling anger, etc. are also dealt with.
One of my favorites is Arthur’s Eyes, dealing with eye checkups and getting glasses.
Arthur’s adventures include writing a story, meeting the President, and his eyes, ears, nose (another favorite), and tooth (about loosing a baby tooth).
A friend gave me multiple copies of Arthur books, which I not only put out in my Little Free Library, but shared with teacher wannabes in my classes for their classroom libraries.
Arthur has been made into a PBS TV series as well.
One doesn’t think of a dragon as a picky eater, but one doesn’t think of a dragon as a grandpa either, does one? This delightful story by blogging friend and Starblind series author, S.J. Higbee is so much fun to read. She had me at the beginning lines when the grand-dragon, Castellan thought his grandkids/dragonets were up to something and “tip taloned across” the cavern where he was babysitting them. Sammy Jo, the dragonet queenling reminded Castellan of his departed wife, she was so much like her grandmother, and she had inherited the skill/gift of time travel as had he. Her father, Rondell, in Castellan’s opinion, “the waste of skin and scales who ended up with [his] daughter,” Emmy Lou provides much humor as the beleaguered son-in-law in the story.
Such detail is given to the dragons’ lair (for example, as Higbee describes Emmy Lou’s “sleeping mound” of golden coins as “chinking as she settled down” for a nap after an energy expending adventure of traveling in time), and the characterization of each of the dragon characters is exquisite. I know from comments and conversations on her blog Brainfluff that dragons are one of her favorites, and she certainly does them justice in this story.
This is a rollicking read for all ages and members of the family. I highly recommend it. It is available in paperback from Amazon and may be available on Kindle as well. Proceeds from the sales go to National Health Charities. UK
Lauren Child’s charming chapter book, Utterly Me, Clarice Bean was not my first encounter with the girl of the title. Several years ago, I found a book at Half Price Books for my Little Free Library (LFL) entitled Clarice Bean Spells Trouble which was about a kid who couldn’t spell if her life depended on it and a teacher, Mrs. Wilberton, who couldn’t understand why Clarice “just didn’t try.” This book, Utterly Me… is evidently the first in the Clarice Bean series. Clarice and her best friend, Betty Moody are “utterly” (Clarice’s favorite word) hooked on the Ruby Redford series (think Nancy Drew with James Bond gadgets and Batman’s butler).
Not only do Clarice and Betty follow the books (of which excerpts are included throughout), they write to the author and use the girl detective’s methods to solve a mystery in their own classroom, much to Mrs. Wilberton’s dismay (She is not a fan of either Ruby Redford or Clarice.), Clarice and Betty decide to do their book report on a Ruby Redford book they are reading. Betty disappears, Clarice is partnered with the worst boy in class (who turns out not to be so bad), and eventually the mystery is solved with the culprit astonishing Mrs. Wilberton.
Secondary characters like Clarice’s and Betty’s parents, Clarice’s siblings, and various students in their class add humor, interest, and satisfaction. The cartoonish drawings which illustrate the story are excellent as well.
It is aimed at 8 year olds to early junior high, providing an excellent starter-chapter book for any girl or boy. I received it as a discard from a local elementary school for my LFL, free, so I can boast that my five out of five star rating is totally unbiased. I am glad I took the time to read the book.
Somewhere near the beginning of the semester, I tell my students the story of Don Marquis, a newspaper journalist who came into his office one morning to find a strange letter in his typewriter. The letter was from archy, a cockroach who claimed he was the reincarnated soul of a Roman poet who writes in free verse. I pass out copies of the letter and ask for reactions. Of course, the students say there are no capital letters or punctuation, and I explain the laborious way in which archy composes his poems. He stands on the space bar and dives headlong into the keys to make them work. Since he can’t be in two places at once, he can’t operate the shift key, and he leaves out punctuation as one less key to have to manipulate.
A few students have insisted, like the walrus-mustached Oral Interpretation professor I once had, “This is not poetry!” Sometimes I have trouble myself concocting a defense. Several of Mehetibel’s (a cat who was Cleopatra once in a former life) poems do have a definite rhythm and sound qualities. These are fairly dependable poetry-appreciation-starters, although for youngest audiences, I censor out some of the passages when Mehitebel hitchhikes to Hollywood and takes up with a coyote along the way who is so tough, the resulting kittens are born wearing spiked collars. I received a parent call once about Mehitibel’s poem that ended with Mehitibel’s motto: “Toujours gay, toujours gay, what the hell, what the hell.” I also received a call from a mother who said her son had told her he had read poems written by a cockroach at school today…she wanted to know, “what the hell kind of crap I was ‘feeding’ her kid.”
Granted this method is gimmicky, but it is a “grabber” and a painless place to start. Students discover that poetry does not have to rhyme, that it does not have to use “highfalutin” language, and it doesn’t have to be about a “pie-in-the-sky” subject. Along the route, they gain insights into the historical and sociological occurrences of the thirties and forties as I explain archy’s comments on what were current concerns when the “poems” were written. I do not encourage by the use of The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitibel, a disrespect for poetry, but a familiarity with it. Hopefully as students read poetry from a cockroach about a mundane subject like what goes on after hours in a newspaper office, they will view poetry as something accessible. Later in the semester, I make a concentrated effort to elevate the students to an appreciation of the “specialness” of poetry and to introduce them to recognized and acclaimed poets. The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitibel, however is one place to begin.
This children’s series of books is an old-fashioned read for little girls who like and/or collect dolls. I found the first book of the series, “Tatiana Comes to America: An Ellis Island Story”, at Half-Price Books, and at $1.99 scooped it up for my Little Free Library. At the time of publication (2002, by Scholastic), book two and three of the series had also been published, and books four, five, and six were “promised.”
The story is simple. Mom and Dad, both humanitarian doctors, are off to Africa to help sick people there. Rose, the elder daughter wonders why they “…can’t just help sick people in America instead.” She and Lila, the younger daughter are about to be “parked” at their Nana’s for a year. What the girls discover at Nana’s is that the turret of Nana’s Victorian house is set up as a doll hospital where broken dolls are mended ,”refreshed” and restored to former glory by Nana’s nimble fingers. Eerily enough, as Nana mends Tatiana, a doll- “patient”, with the girls listening and learning to help, Nana channels the doll and speaks for Titania, telling her “life’s story.”
There are many humorous moments (What! no TV! and Nana, herself who first appears to the girls as an aged hippie complete with love beads and lava lamp along with the resident four cats named after the Beatles), and they are complimented by the delightful, typical Scholastic illustrations. My $1.99 was well spent and make this little paperback the best book investment for my LFL I’ve made in a while.