Monday, July 5, 2010

What we're reading on vacation

We have been having a great family vacation, visiting family and friends in England and sight-seeing in Paris. I keep thinking of different posts, but have found little time to write. I thought, instead, I'd try to do a quick wrap-up of different things we've all been reading.

Audiobooks: I love having the kids listen to audiobooks while we're on vacation. They each have a different audiobook loaded onto an MP3 player (like an iPod), and listen to them at night (great help with jetlag in the middle of the night!) or just when they need some down time. I get our audiobooks through or through the local library.

Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary: We have loved listening to several other Ramona books all together. So now, my 6 year old is listening to Ramona and Her Father, the 4th book in this series and a Newbery honor book. The Ramona books make wonderful family listening - we all laugh at Ramona, seeing her stubbornness, but we find ourselves relating to her predicaments and rooting for her. Available from or your local library.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire, by Derek Landy: I loved, loved the first Skulduggery Pleasant book as an audiobook (see my full review here), as did my 8 year old. She loves the blend of fantasy, action and humor. The protagonists are fantastic: a 12 year old girl full of courage and curiosity, and a 100 year old skeleton detective who's witty, sarcastic and, well, long-lasting. I recommend it to kids who've loved The Lightning Thief and want that blend of action, adventure and fantasy. This is the second in the series. I have not listened to this book, but she's now listening to it for the second time and begging for the third in the series. Rupert Degas is a deliciously wonderful narrator. Available from or your local library.

Bloody Jack #4: In the Belly of the Bloodhound, by L.A. Meyer: The Bloody Jack series is a ripping yarn full of adventure for Mary "Jacky" Faber, a young British girl who escapes poverty and convention in her 18th century life to live on the high seas. In this installment, Jacky and her classmates at the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls are kidnapped and forced onto a slaver ship. My 11 year old loves the combination of historical fiction, action, adventure and breaking stereotypes. Winner of the 2010 Odyssey honor award from the ALA for outstanding audiobook. Click here to listen to a clip from the publisher, Listen and Live. Available from Amazon, and your local library.

Novels and chapter books: We've also brought along several books to read on vacation. Here are the ones that stand out.

House of Dolls, by Francesca Lia Block: My kindergartner was fascinated by the world of the dolls in this book. Wildflower, who once belonged to the little girl's grandmother; plain and meek Rockstar, so named because the little girl had wanted a more glamorous doll; and Miss Selene, a greenish-skinned fairy. The little girl, Madison Blackberry, is a lonely child with little contact with her parents or friends. This book was a bit of a stretch for my 6 year old, and yet it touched both of us in a heart-felt, deep way. As Madison starts mistreating her dolls, Madison's grandmother realizes that no one has given Madison real attention. Her grandmother makes Madison a dress, just the way she used to make the dolls dresses. My 6 year old could really connect to that, as we talked about a blanket I made just for her. It was a very touching moment, one that will stay with both of us. This is a book to read aloud with your child, perhaps 2nd and 3rd graders, and talk about. Review copy was sent by the publisher, HarperCollins. Available on Amazon or at your local library.

The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan: My husband is reading this aloud to my 8 year old, and I've been listening to the audiobook. It was really exciting to visit the British Museum and the Louvre and watch my daughter get so excited about the Egyptian sections. Right away, she recognized Horus, Isis, Thoth, and Baset. Riordan has an amazing ability to bring mythology alive. I must say that I've found the audiobook a bit hard going. There are so many different characters, and the narrators play up the different accents with almost too much gusto for my taste. But the story is full of action and suspense. Available on Amazon, at or at your local library.

Word After Word After Word, by Patricia MacLachlan: I've just started this book, on the recommendation of a fellow librarian at ACL, and it's is truly wonderful. On one hand, it's the story of an author coming to visit a 4th grade class to teach the children about writing, but on the other hand it's a story about friendship and surviving and growing up. It's full of beautiful writing, touching moments and words that whisper in your ear. None of it feels forced. I can't wait to read more. It reminds me of Love That Dog, one of my students' all-time favorite books. Review copy sent by the publisher, HarperCollins. Available on Amazon, at or at your local library.

I hope your summer is going well. Have you read any good books with your family lately?

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