Tag Archives: squish

What We’re Reading

I’ve been doing a bit less book blogging lately, but we have, as always been reading.  Here’s what has passed across our shelves in the last few weeks:

Mushroom’s Bookshelf:

Frindle by Andrew Clements
Mushroom chose this to be his book for September required reading and then read it on his new Kindle and finished it almost in September.  He really loved it.  I think he gravitates toward these stories of everyday life, so I suspect more of Clements’s work may be in his future.  In case you don’t know it, this is the story of a fifth grade boy who invents a new word and manages to make it take off in popularity.

Tornado by Betsy Byars
This was the shortest book on our required reading list.  Mushroom picked it for October and finished it in a day.  It’s very easy, but it’s a sweet little story of a boy and a dog who comes during a tornado.  Mushroom gave it a general thumbs up, though no big raves.  He did like that it was such a quick read.

Junonia by Kevin Henkes
This story of a girl spending her birthday in Florida over the summer was a birthday gift from a friend and Mushroom picked it up to read.  He isn’t very far in yet (and neither am I), but so far the introspective tone is just right for him.  Henkes is better known for his picture books, which we love, so I hope this will also be a winner for us.

BalletBoy’s Bookshelf

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
BalletBoy picked this to be his October required reading book and he’s about halfway through.  I’ll assume you already know the plot.  BalletBoy was especially delighted by what’s happened to the bad children so far.

Judy Moody and the Bad Luck Charm by Megan MacDonald
BalletBoy paused his other reading to tear through this newish Judy Moody book on the Kindle in a couple of days.  I haven’t read it and he only told me a little about it, but he laughed a lot while reading it so I assume it’s funny.  This is one of the only chapter book series that BalletBoy has really stuck with over time and finished all of and I really appreciate that about it.  And thank goodness it didn’t inspire him to collect chewed gum.

Ivy and Bean Make the Rules by Annie Barrows
BalletBoy also started this latest Ivy and Bean book, but he isn’t very far into it.  These are really easy reads for him now and I suspect he’ll get back to it.  Maybe.  He has a huge problem with finishing books.

Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary
This is, by mandate, BalletBoy’s September required reading book.  In reality, it’s part of a large pile of unfinished books from the last few months.  He’s very good at reading the first half of things.  He did finally confide in me that he was worried the book wouldn’t end the way he wanted, which is why he has left it with a single chapter to go for months.  In other words, it’s not from dislike of the book that he hasn’t finished.  Quite the opposite.  I made him pick it up again and read together with me.  It’ll be finished by the time this posts, come hell or high water.  Because, as you may have noticed, September is long past now.

Farrar’s Bookshelf

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Ooh, I love Libba Bray.  I love her versatility.  I love her style.  I have a little writing crush on her.  I’m not very far into this newest one about ghosts and flappers, so I’ll hold off judgment.  However, I’m sure I’ll love it.

Every Day by David Levithan
This was a weird little YA book about a character who wakes up in a different body every day but falls in love with a girl and does everything possible to get back to her.  It was an interesting premise, but David Levithan made it work.  I liked the moral issues that the characters faced and the way that having so many bodies allowed for lots of little stories.

Your Eight Year-Old by Louise Bates Ames
This series has some interesting anachronisms in its mention of toys and TV shows as well as its idea of how much freedom parents likely give their kids (big surprise – it’s a lot less now!).  However, the observational parts about age specific stages and behaviors are always useful to me.  I am looking forward to more confidence, less illness, and an increased engagement in the world from my eight year-olds.

Trading Hands and Being Read Aloud

Squish: Captain Disaster by Jennifer Holm
Another Squish graphic novel which both my boys read.  These are very quick and easy and devoured as soon as they come.  Both my boys want more!

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
This is the second part in the Zita series of full-color graphic novels.  It wasn’t quite as good as the first, but both boys read it and loved it.

Avatar: The Promise by Gene Luen Yang
I posted about this series awhile back.  The third volume just came out and we all devoured it quickly.  Anyone who is a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender should be satisfied by the writing in this story, which is like a season four of the show.  The characters grow and change, but are recognizable as themselves.  It’s a perfect series and I’m excited that a new storyline called “The Search” is coming next year.

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
This old-fashioned story about a lake in upstate New York is our current read aloud.  There are some lovely descriptions of the nature around the lake and the story, with its multi-generational friendships, is a nice one.  We’ll finish it very soon, but it hasn’t been a huge winner so I doubt we’ll read the sequels.

My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother by Patricia Polacco
We had the immense pleasure of seeing Patricia Polacco speak at the National Book Festival a couple of weeks ago.  This book about sibling rivalry and friendship, based on her childhood, was a huge hit with the kids.  BalletBoy both read it himself and made me read it aloud, which was very unusual.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
This is our current audiobook in the car.  Slow going as we don’t always listen (and sometimes choose the subway).  It’s a dark chapter in the series, as most of you will know.  I hesitated about going ahead to do it, but the kids asked and I agreed.  They’re definitely enjoying it, especially Mushroom, who, as always, is brilliant at picking out the connections and foreshadowing in these intricate stories.  I’m thinking we’ll wait a good while before the next volume though.

Graphic Novels Again

They really need to do their math there, but I don’t want to interrupt the nearly half hour stretch of quiet they’ve had together!

We were inundated by graphic novels for Christmas gifts and the boys have been making their way through them, along with the other books they got.

 The Flying Beaver Brothers And The Evil Penguin Plan Salt Water Taffy: Caldera's Revenge! Bone: V. 1: Out Of Boneville

Both the boys quickly read Squish: Brave New Pond by Jennifer Holm, which they enjoyed.  I don’t quite “get” these books, but the boys find the story of Squish, a small amoeba, and his school friends, to be funny.  They’re a little bit on the gross out side of humor, so just a parental warning for you there.

I got Mushroom the very easy to read book The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan by Maxwell Eaton.  There’s a sequel as well.  It was really funny, with a lot of what passes as dry humor for the elementary school set, which is exactly Mushroom’s kind of jokes.

BalletBoy got the next entries in the Salt Water Taffy series by Matthew Loux, Caldera’s Revenge.  This is a set of graphic novels about two boys on summer vacation in Maine.  I admit that I didn’t like these much at first, but I guess there’s something funny about grizzled old seamen?  The dialogue is a bit amusing, I suppose.

Finally, both Mushroom and BalletBoy have embarked on reading the great graphic novel series Bone by Jeff Smith and have already gone through the first two volumes and are asking for the third.  This series is silly at times, with slapsticky gags and jokey dialogue.  It follows some bones who leave their home for the wide world.  The rest of the characters are human.  However, it also quickly begins to tell an epic tale full of dragons and quests.  This is an older series (I read the first bit of it years before I had kids) but Scholastic got hold of it several years ago making it clearly a series for children.  It is, by far, the title on this list that I recommend the highest.  The rest are just for fun, but this one is graphic novel art.

I Wish I Was that Kind of Book Blogger and Other Thoughts from Last Week

Prepare yourself for a rambling post.

All ready?  Okay.

We’re slowly working our way through our Great American History Expedition Checklist.  Not many done so far, but two that seemed appropriate for while we’re doing pre-Columbian America and the dawn of the 16th century were the National Museum of the American Indian and the exhibit about the “discovery” of the Americas at the Library of Congress.  We’ve done them both for fun before, but this time it was school related.  Yeah, it’s not that different, but still.

There are a lot of things to recommend the American Indian museum.  Architecturally, it’s pretty awesome.  The collection is fascinating.  While we were there, we saw tons of interesting artifacts – both things we haven’t gotten to yet in our studies and things we have like Clovis points and Mayan sculpture.  We went through the “Our Universes” exhibit, which highlights some different tribes (including the Maya and the Inka, which was useful for us studying those two cultures) and focuses on traditions and storytelling.  The problem is that everything is such a mishmash.  I feel it every time I’m there.  I understand the benefits of seeing a whole bunch of animal sculptures in a single case so you can do cross cultural explorations.  And I get that they were trying to make a unified political statement about the value of indigenous American cultures across the board.  But when you can’t find out what culture or geographic region anything is from because there’s a total lack of signage and the computer touch screens that are supposed to stand in for signs are complete junk, then you’ve really over homogenized a diverse array of peoples and robbed us of our ability to get any sense of the scope of history and geography as visitors.

Luckily, while the scope was very different, the small exhibit at the Library of Congress was excellent.  They had a larger number of indigenous artifacts than I expected along with European documentary records about the initial clash between the two worlds.  Things were arranged in a logical progression.  Plus, there were cool old maps at the end.  I’m a sucker for old maps.  Also, their touch screens not only work, but provide real information I wanted to know about.  The whole thing reinforced for me how utterly frustrating I find the American Indian museum.  Plus, it’s architecturally interesting too.  There’s the kids fascinated by the floor on our last visit.

After we finished the exhibit, BalletBoy begged me to go down to the Young Readers Room.  This is a seemingly secret basement children’s library inside the Library of Congress where they keep lots of current children’s literature that has been stamped “extra copy” and looks about as beat up as at most regular libraries.  Maybe if you’re a senator, you can take your grandkids there and check out books for them?  But for the rest of us plebs, it’s for looking only.  It’s a bright, happy space with room for programming, lots of comfy chairs, tables of coloring pages, and a pretty adorable little puppet theater you can play with.  They have a few interesting things, like an entire copy of a Harry Potter book in Braille (it takes up a whole shelf!) and, most tantalizingly, a whole table of ARCs and galleys.

I must say, when I saw the selection of ARC’s, I wished quite fervently that I were the sort of book blogger who might receive ARC’s occasionally.  Alas, I am not.  But there was a new Grace Lin,  a new Catherine Gilbert Murdock fantasy, a Daniel Handler YA, and a Katherine Paterson novel called The Flint Heart that which looked downright delightful.  I read the first few pages of that one and I suspect it will make a great read aloud when it comes out.

Most excitingly, though, one of the books BalletBoy has been bugging me about literally every week was there!  The next Squish book by Jennifer Holm doesn’t come out for another month, but there on the table, I found an ARC for him!  He sat and read the entire first half of the book, but wanted to save the rest for when he can have it for real.  If they’d had an ARC of the next Amulet book, I suspect he wouldn’t have been able to be pulled away.

As we left, the kids picked up posters for the National Book Festival in a few weeks.  If you’re local and don’t know this event, it’s really a treat.  In our most memorable year, we had the pleasure of seeing (nearly back to back), Holly Black and Tony Diterlzzi, Mo Willems, Steven Kellogg, Megan MacDonald, and Jon Scieszka and David Shannon.  It was just as amazing as it sounds.  You know you’re jealous.  Here’s the lineup for this year.  They’ve added an extra day and a “storytelling stage” which includes a lot of great authors too.  Sorry soccer practice, but we’re totally there – books over brawn.  The weekend of September 24-25.

In my final bit of ramble, after we left the Library of Congress, (and bought BalletBoy’s new ballet shoes since we were on the Hill anyway), we went over to the brand new Yards Park next to the Nats stadium.  I’ve been meaning to go for awhile, but it kept not happening.  We’ve not been at a lot of baseball this season.  Well, I must say, it’s completely and utterly awesome.  If you’re local you must go.  I command it!  Mushroom, BalletBoy and I played a slightly epic game of Hide and Seek there.  But that’s not a commandment, just a recommendation.