Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer reading for kids

I have mostly been reading adult fiction this summer (a mix of literary and popular fiction - I'm letting myself read some crap. It is summer, after all!) but I thought I would post some recommended reads from my Juv 2009 reading. I actually read a few particularly good titles in the last week, which spurred me to post.

  • Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee: one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Julia and her Saint Bernard, Bigfoot, wander the neighbourhood during her 10th summer (within a 9-block radius!) while her parents, both teachers, scramble to complete graduate degrees. Left to her own devices, Julia tries to win a stuffed meerkat from a claw machine at the local hardware store, hangs out with her neighbour, Enzo, a twenty-year old girl who's reading her way through Shakespeare in an indoor hammock for the summer, gives advice to a young girl scared to start kindergarten, makes (and hides behind) papier-maché masks, tries to discourage Bigfoot's romance with a yappy terrier around the corner, and avoids reading a book she suspects will have a sad ending. A lovely read for thoughtful 8-10 year olds.

  • Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech: Read on the couch in one sitting. After bawling over Love that dog, I thought, OK, I can get through this one without crying, right? Wrong. A small black kitten enters the scene, and Jack finds he can't quite hate that cat. As in Love that dog, the poetry refers back to the work of poets Jack is learning about, including Edgar Allan Poe, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Valerie Worth, and Walter Dean and Chris Myers.

  • Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney: Oh, how I love the Llama books. This one doesn't disappoint! Think: first day of school separation anxiety. Takes me back!

  • Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley: Why is it always harder to find outstanding middle-grade fiction? This title nicely fits in there - a series of short stories about a budding friendship between a snake and a lizard. I actually laughed out loud at a few passages (pretty rare - I tend to have a poker face when reading....) which is high praise - a lot of the humour comes from the sense of pride both animals have, and from their unique (non-human) perspectives. Simple tales of 2-4 pages, with illustrations.

  • The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson: A simply luminous historical novel for older children, set during World War 2, in Devon and the fictional European kingdom of Bergania. Twelve-year old Tally begins attending a free-thinking boarding school, travels to Bergania to perform a folk dance, and befriends the young, lonely prince of Bergania, whose father, the king, is under pressure from the Nazis...

  • At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England by Walter Dean Myers: A very thoughtful account of the life of Sarah Bonetta Forbes, an orphaned Nigerian princess, rescued by British Commander Frederick Forbes. Forbes takes Sarah to England, where she is presented to the Queen (Victoria), who takes a special interest in her upbringing. A bittersweet tale of connections across great divides, and of the tragic limitations (on women, on Africans, on immigrants...) of the time.

  • Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (Alvin Ho) by Lenore Look: A cute middle-reader choice for boys. A little too smart for my taste (some of the jokes seem more aimed at adults, although there is a great one about what Alvin thinks psychotherapist means - it involves the word psycho, of course). Nonetheless, a charming tale of a shy young boy whose best friend is (gasp!) a girl.

  • Cheaters (really great teen fic): The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson (medical ethics... and a dark family secret... A possible choice for my library's teen book club this coming fall, if I can convince them) and Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Weatherford (Sad, but lovely, illustrated novel in verse form).

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