Monday, March 12, 2018

The Rescuers

Bottom line:  Adventure novel with mice.
Author:  Margery Sharp
Lexile measure: 880
Language: None offensive.
Violence:  None, however, in the following novels there are mentions of abusive discipline of children such as beating without any graphic details.
Big Kid Mature Topics:   The prisoner being rescued for an unknown crime, presumably an unjust imprisonment but it's never really spelled out.  Drunkeness portrayed in a bad light.  Adults in the novel are often, but not always, evil.  One of the male protagonists is in love with the female protagonist but there isn't any physical affection--he's just very protective and concerned for her.
Illustrations:  Black and white shaded drawings, every few pages.
Plot:  moderately complex
This isn't the Disney version at all.  If your children like talking mice, this novel is not as dark as Despereux and yet probably just as exciting.  It has the plus of having both male and female protagonists.  The female protagonist faints at one point, but she also is quite brave when faced with actual danger.  My word lovers also enjoyed the extensive use of Latin based vocabulary.
Helpfully, this book is the first of several in a series about Miss Bianca.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Meg Mackintosh series

Bottom line:  pictorial mysteries.
Author: Lucinda Landon
Lexile measure: about 490
Language: No issues. 
Violence:  In some stories, people might get hurt by falling, tripping, or being pushed or run into accidentally.
Big Kid Mature Topics:  These mysteries deal with issues like theft, or items getting lost/taken/stolen.  Suspects often lie.
Illustrations:  Black and white drawings, every few pages.
Plot:  moderately complex.

These mystery books are great beginner mysteries.  The idea is that you read the story and look carefully at the pictures.  Every so often the story pauses and the book asks you, the reader to answer a question like, "WHERE SHOULD THEY LOOK?"  or "HOW DID SHE KNOW?"  and you have the opportunity to try to be a detective, too, before the story goes on and the answer is given.  The answers are all right in the story and pictures, and you don't need to have any specialized outside knowledge to figure out the answers, if you are patient enough, unlike the Encyclopedia Brown series.  This series depends highly on the pictures, so they are great for visual kids, and the answers aren't completely obvious, so even readers who have a reading level far above what the Lexile reflects can enjoy this series.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Raggedy Ann and Andy

Bottom line:  Innocent classic from the 1940's
Author: Johnny Gruelle
Lexile measure:  not yet measured--about 800
Language: Nothing objectionable.
Violence:  Getting restuffed because you have a tear, or getting totally reworked because you are old or neglected by a child.  One doll has a cracked head.
Big Kid Mature Topics:  Smoking is depicted as socially acceptable (Santa smokes a pipe, for example).  Many of the stories are gently moralistic in tone-- a few of the more edgy themes include stealing and social class.
Illustrations:  Full color illustrations, every few pages.
Plot:  simple.

DS enjoyed several of these.  The idea of toys coming to life is one that grabs the imagination of many young children and Raggedy Ann and Andy are so kind that it is a pleasure to read about their adventures.   Most very sensitive children would find these stories easy to listen to.  After a while, though, the device got boring to DS and he moved on to something else.  Each chapter is a different story and can be read independently from the others.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ruby Lu, Brave and True

Bottom line:  An Asian American Ramona
Author: Lenore Look
Lexile measure: 640
Language: Mention of "four letter words, bad ones".  Also, there are some words (not bad ones) in transliterated Chinese .
Violence:  None.
Big Kid Mature Topics:  Bullying (verbal name calling making fun of sweaters, not violent or threatening).  The bully gets sick with pneumonia and is hospitalized.  The seven year old protagonist drives a car.  The story talks about immigrant relatives in a negative, stereotypical way--but this is in the context of the protagonist naming the reasons she doesn't want them to come to the US, and it all melts away in the end.  There are also a lot of elements of Cantonese American culture that young kids from other cultures might not be familiar with.
Illustrations:  Black and white shaded drawings, every few pages.
Plot:  moderately complex.

Ruby is one of our favorite protagonists.  Maybe its because we get to use our very limited Cantonese and knowledge of Chinese culture, but I suspect its also because Ruby is so real  and yet so funny.  Even DS (4) thinks so.  She reminds me of Ramona and Judy Moody and Clementine all wrapped into one.

A word of caution:  Very young readers may not understand the gravity of getting into a real car and driving it for real with a pretend driver's license.  DS was very blown away when I told him that he was not allowed under and circumstances to drive our car.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Boxcar Children

Bottom line:  Easy to read, nonviolent mysteries.
Author:  Gertrude Chandler Warner
Lexile measure: 490
Language: None offensive.
Violence:  None.
Big Kid Mature Topics:   The children are orphans.  They have run away before they can be turned over to a guardian.  They do not go to school.  The cover of the book depicts a thunderstorm.
Illustrations:  Black and white shaded drawings, every few pages.
Plot:  moderately complex
DS took one look at the cover and was convinced this was a scary book.  It really isn't but try telling that to him.  This book was a fun read with an interesting plot twist, but the dialogue, vocabulary, and characterizations are all relatively simple.  DD thought it was great, even though she often reads far above this Lexile.   We are looking forward to the more than 100 sequel books.  Of note, GC Warner only wrote 19 of the sequels.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Early Chapter Books--Mommy's Bad List

Early chapter books (usually 3-5 chapters of 3-10 pages each) are easy to review in the library, but what if you want to buy a book or receive one as a gift?  I wrote an earlier post on our recommended early chapter books.  Now it is time for a post on early chapter books I do NOT recommend.  I hate to be negative, but there are so many really good books out there that it seems a shame to waste your time on books that probably aren't worth your time.

Junie B. Jones series--Well known for rude language and poor grammar (not just incomplete sentences, but also non-words and poor structure).  DD did not find the story interesting either.

Thomas the Tank Engine early readers--Although the character seems like he's innocent enough, and the merchandise is cute, the books are for older children.   The stories often deal with trains in mild peril.  Almost every easy reader we have gotten from the library has been scary enough to give DS nightmares at age 2-4.  If your child is Thomas crazy and not overly sensitive, they probably will be fine, but sensitive kiddies may have problems.  Of note, we do own several Thomas books that are not early readers and they are fine, not scary at all.

Magic Tree House--Some kids really like these but I think there are better ways to get a kid into history than this.  The books are not only full of poor and partial sentences, but they often glorify witchcraft and magic.  Some parents may also find their evolutionary content offensive.    The Magic Schoolbus is much more benign.  For history, there are many picture books which are much more interesting.

Nate the Great and the Missing Key

Author:  Marjorie Sharmat
Lexile measure: 380
Language: Mild name calling, such as "stupid".  One page of text in cursive.
Violence:  None.
Big Kid Mature Topics:   The main character repeatedly mentions his fear of scary dogs.
Illustrations:  Black and white shaded drawings, every few pages.
Plot:  complex.

DS loves Nate the Great, and I think everyone in the family at least listened to me read this book aloud with DS's help.  I remembered this book from my own childhood.  It isn't great literature, but this series is a lot of fun because the mystery makes you think about what you've read.  I think this is one of the better ones in the series.  I posted previously about Nate the Great and the Boring Beach Bag.