Tag Archives: kids books

Henry and the Clubhouse, by Beverly Cleary, 1962, Book Review

Henry and the Clubhouse is my favorite Henry Huggins book yet. Of course, Henry overlaps with the Ramona series. She’s his pesky little neighbor. And in this book, the two of them certainly clash!

Henry obtained a paper route in the last book. In this installment, his after-school job is funding his building project–a clubhouse that he and his two best friends are building in his backyard. Male friends, because of the “no girls allowed” rule. Yet, Henry feels badly for Beezus, who isn’t so bad as girls go, and whose feelings have been hurt. Enter Ramona who locks Henry in his own clubhouse and won’t let him out until he teaches her the secret boys-only password! And she causes no end of trouble on his paper route. Even Henry’s best ideas to get rid of her backfire. But if it weren’t for Ramona, Henry wouldn’t have gotten his name in the paper…

I love the innocence of Cleary’s books. They’re perfect read-alouds for six- to nine-year olds. The simple thrills of childhood, like building a clubhouse and sleeping in it in your very own sleeping bag, are just as fun for young kids now as they were in the last century. And the books are full of positive messages. Consider this clip from the final chapter:

“‘Henry, I’m proud of you!” said Mr. Huggins. “I don’t care how much snow there is. I’m going right out and buy half a dozen papers so we can send copies of this (article) to your relatives.’

‘Gee, thanks, Dad,” said Henry modestly. He had waited a long time to hear his father say he was proud of him.

‘I’ll admit that when you took on the route and then got mixed up in building a clubhouse, I didn’t think you could handle it, but you’ve done a good job,’ said Mr. Huggins.

Henry was pleased and at the same time a little embarrassed by this praise from his father.”

There you have it. Responsibility, pride in one’s work, friends, family and a kid-pleasing story. Is there any wonder why I love these books?

Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, by Elise Stokes, 2010, Book Review

cassidyjonesfrontI met Elise Stokes recently in a forum post discussing clean content in children’s literature. I was intrigued enough by our conversation to order her book, Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula. I’m glad I did! Not only are its pages free of objectionable content, they contain all the ingredients required for a superb adventure. The story is well-written, compelling, and exactly the sort of teen read my daughter loves.

Cassidy Jones doesn’t stand out in a crowd. She isn’t popular, nor is she a bully. She can’t climb a rope in PE to save her life, and she has an allergy to sports equipment in general. In the sea that is Queen Anne High School, she has “adopted the strategy of being a sardine. A sardine wasn’t exciting, but it was safe.” She’s the very last person you’d ever suspect of having mutant genes and super powers.

But the morning after an accident in the lab of a famous scientist, Cassidy finds that her senses, emotions, reflexes, memory and strength have all been amplified. She’s been turned into a finely-tuned weapon, but one as unstable as hydrogen in a smoker’s lounge.

As Cassidy learns to control her new strengths, the scientist suddenly disappears. Distrustful of the police, Cassidy teams up with Emery, the scientist’s brilliant teenage son, to locate her and bring her safely home. After all, the woman is the only one who can help Cassidy now. But Emery warns her that enhanced abilities place her in grave danger. The ones who kidnapped his mother would stop at nothing to control Cassidy and use her powers for their own evil purposes.

And then someone even closer to Cassidy disappears.

Ms. Stokes employs a very solid writing style. It’s not particularly beautiful or witty, but it flows along as strong and easy as a Mississippi current. It’s a natural base for the hard-hitting, fast-moving action that zips above it like a powerboat, tugging us along in its wake till the final pages. Pages that, I must say, compel me into the sequel. I mean, who is the strange new character at the end? Who has the item missing from the lab? And what, I want to know, does this mean for Cassidy’s future?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I need to let you know that Ms. Stokes has crafted Cassidy Jones in such a way that even guys will enjoy getting in on this adventure. Don’t let the girly name in the title throw you, fellas. The book isn’t girly. It reads like a comic book, with a gaudy, insane villain, unlikely heroes, and high-powered action sequences. Numerous references to well-known characters like Clark Kent and Wolverine back up this comic book illusion, as does Cassidy’s little brother’s fetish with all things superhero. And it’s clean! I highly recommend this one.

The sequel, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift will be released this fall.  Watch for the date on Ms. Stokes’ website.

Tomorrow – interview with author Elise Stokes.

Newbery Honor Books, 2000-2010

Here’s where to find Newbery Honor books and my reviews. Asterics indicate the books I’ve read for my ongoing Newbery challenge but not reviewed.












Newbery Medal Winners and Where to Find Them

The Newbery Medal is the highest honor given to an American children’s novel. I’ve set myself a challenge to read them all, as well as the Newbery Honor books (yearly runners-up). The first award dates back to 1922.

Here’s a list of the winners, starting with the most recent. Links include all available Amazon versions (paperback, Kindle, audio, etc.). If I’ve reviewed the book, I’ve linked to that, too. Asterics indicate the books I’ve read for my ongoing Newbery challenge but not reviewed. How many have you read?

Here are links to the Newbery Honor books from 2011-20202000-2010 and 1990-1999.

My favorites from earlier years:

Night of the Full Moon, by Gloria Whelan, Book Review

If you haven’t become acquainted with the work of Gloria Whelan, you are missing out on a rare treat. She writes with a gentle beauty that makes reading feel effortless. Truly, every sentence is crafted so carefully, so vividly, that I float right through them. And she applies imagery as an artist applies color, adding depth and fullness to every scene. Her pages nearly breath.

Like myself, Ms. Whelan is a native of Michigan, and I especially appreciate her stories that take place within our state. Such is the case with Night Of The Full Moon. In 1840, large numbers of Potawatomi Indians from Michigan and Indiana were rounded up and moved to Kansas so white men might take their land. This is their story. It contains scenes of heartache and despair, but Ms. Whelan treads gently. She leaves her readers wondering how such a tragedy could have ever been sanctioned.

Night Of The Full Moonis only 62 pages of large type, easily understandable and appropriate for the youngest grades. I would guess third graders might read it independently, yet it still appealed greatly to my sixth-grader. I just read it to her, and to my third-grader, in two twenty-minute segments as part of our state history curriculum, but it’s of such high quality that we also made a literatary study out of it. Unfortunately, I did not know it is the second in a trilogy until we finished. The first book is the award-winning Next Spring An Oriole, and the last is Shadow Of The WolfThey are next on our reading list. If they are anything like Full Moon, this series is truly a Michigan treasure.

Frindle, by Andrew Clements, Book Review

thumbnailNick wasn’t a bad kid. He just got these ideas. Bright ideas. Fun ideas. Ideas that sometimes got out of hand. So when Nick decided to call a pen a frindle, he should have known that all of Westfield wouldn’t be able to contain the after effects.

Frindle, by Andrew Clements, is a delightful, quick read; only 105 pages of large type. Clements uses matter-of-fact narration and an anecdotal style to deliver a hilarious battle of wits between Nick and Dangerous Grangerous, fifth grade language arts teacher at Westfield Elementary. Consider the following excerpt: “Mrs. Granger kept a full set of thirty dictionaries on a shelf at the back of the room. But her pride and joy was one of those huge dictionaries with every word in the universe in it, the kind of book it takes two kids to carry. It sat on its own little table at the front of her classroom, sort of like the altar at the front of a church.” This is humor kids will love!

I’d estimate the reading level as advanced third to fourth grade, based on the length, vocab, and uncomplicated sentences structures. But it will appeal to fifth and sixth graders as well. It was a bit on the lower side of the middle-grade novels I usually focus on, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. If you need a little light reading, give Frindle a try.

Grumpy Badger’s Christmas, by Paul Bright, illus. by Jane Chapman, Book Review

613U71JyMzL__SL500_AA300_My literary interests don’t usually extend to picture books, but every now and again one tickles my fancy. Such is the case with Grumpy Badger’s Christmas. Deep in the forest, all the animals are decorating for the holidays, but Grumpy Badger just wants to be left alone. He checks and rechecks his spring provisions and settles into a cozy bed. But three visitors interupt his nap, and a community crisis finally changes his attitude.

The story elements shadow Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. We have Scrooge in the form of Grumpy Badger, three nighttime visitors, a needy public and a final reformation. It’s cute, predictable, and satisfying; appealing qualities for young readers.

It is the pictures, however, that won me over. Jane Chapman creates the most becoming forest scenes, with textured, snowy backgrounds and adorable animals who look as if they might jump right off the page and offer their hand in greeting. She brings to life a forest community in such detail that I find myself wistfully longing to become a part of it. The kid in me wants to join the festivities in the clearing and explore the quaint dwellings. I’d love to peek into Badger’s snug little tree home and perhaps share one of his goodies over a cup of tea. The characters are so beautiful, so animated, that I’m quite certain I could become good friends with each of them.

My son must have felt the same way, because this Christmas, I’ve had to read this library book to him no less than fifteen times. And I-an adult-have enjoyed every reading. That’s a pretty sure sign of a great book.