Tara Lazar, Author
James Burks, Illustrator
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Fiction, 2013
Suitable for ages:4-8
Themes: Monsters, Brothers and Sisters, Problem Solving
Opening: “At the back of Frankensweet’s Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gums balls, there’s a trapdoor. Knock five times fast, hand over a bag of squirmy worms, and you can crawl inside…THE MONSTORE.”
Synopsis: Zach is desperate to keep his sister Gracie from snooping around his bedroom. “Keep Out” signs don’t work, so Zach visits The Monstore to purchase a monster that frightens pesky sisters. He purchases Manfred, but Manfred shows Gracie his favorite hiding place. When Manfred doesn’t work, Zack returns to the store and demands a refund. But the manager says “no returns and no exchanges.” Zach keeps returning to the store to buy more monsters, but they don’t scare Gracie. The house becomes overrun with monsters. Zach is frustrated and not sure what to do. But Gracie does.
Why I like this book: Hilarious! This a clever and unique sibling book for children who have a MONSTROUS appetite for monster books. Tara Lazar has written a quirky and humorous story that will inspire young minds to create their own monsters. This is wonderful bed time book that begs to be read repeatedly. James Burk’s illustrations are lively, bold and colorful. They will tickle the imaginations of both children and parents. Visit Tara Lazar at her website.
Resources: Have children draw the monster they’d like to buy at the Monstore. You can fill a box with crafty materials and let your kids make their own monsters and name them. For monster craft ideas visit Make My Own Monster and Activity Village.
A Summer Secret: The Mysteries of Middlefield Series
Kathleen Fuller, author
Tommy Nelson Publishers, Fiction 2010
Suitable for: Ages 12 and up
Themes: Amish Lifestyle, Sibling Rivalry, Mystery, Adventure, Friendship
Opening/Synopsis: Mary Beth Mullet is a 13-year-old Amish girl living with her parents and three mischievous and noisy brothers. She seeks a quiet place of her own where she can day-dream, write and sketch in her journal. Many readers will identify with her situation. She finds refuge in an old abandoned barn her parents have forbidden her to visit. One day she finds a button that she knows must belong to a Yankee (non-Amish) person. It is unsettling for her because she realizes her secret place has been violated. Her twin brother, Johnny, discovers her secret place when he follows Mary Beth one day to the barn. There a mystery begins to unfold when the twins discover a young runaway boy hiding in the barn. Who is he? Why is he hiding? They have some decisions to make that may involve an element of risk and danger. What will they do?
Why I like this book: Kathleen Fuller has written a richly detailed and beautiful coming of age book. Although it is designated for young adults, I believe middle graders would enjoy this clean read, as well as adults. And, I would also recommend the book for boys because it is full of adventure, mystery and has many twists and turns. The plot is strong and the characters are well- developed. Fuller has thoroughly researched and accurately portrayed the humble Amish lifestyle. Growing up in Ohio, she writes about Middlefield, the fourth largest Amish community in the world. She weaves their history into the book, using some of the Old Order language. There is a glossary in the book. I loved the book and couldn’t put it down. I’m also from Ohio, and am drawn to stories about the Amish communities. I look forward to reading the remaining two books in the series: The Secrets Beneath and Hide and Secret. Check out Kathleen Fuller’s website.
I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 40th annual conference in August. I returned with some favorite picture and middle grade books, and YA fiction that I will share in coming months.
Big Red Lollipop, is written by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Khan won a Golden Kite Award for the text of her picture book at the SCBWI conference in August. A gifted storyteller, Rukhsana Khan gave one of the most inspiring and humorous acceptance speeches by telling her real-life story of siblings rivalry and cultural differences, and how she brought this winning story to life. Blackall’s illustrations beautifully compliment and capture the many emotions in the story.
Rubina races home after school, with her first birthday party invitation. Her mother asks Rubina, “What is a birthday party?” Rubina explains that “it’s when they celebrate the day they are born.” There is cake and ice cream, games and toys. In the background her little sister Sana, screams that she wants to go. Not understanding the custom, her mother tells Rubina she can go if she takes her little sister. Rubina knows the other girls will make fun at her and never invite her again. Taking Sana to the party isn’t too bad and they leave with a gift bag of small toys, chocolates and a Big Red Lollipop. Sana eats her lollipop on the way home, but Rubina carefully saves lollipop on top of the refrigerator for the next morning. Guess who spots the lollipop the next morning? But, the worst thing that happens is that Rubina doesn’t get any invitations to birthday parties for a long time. Then one day Sana runs home from school with an invitation to a birthday party and is told that she must take her little sister Maryam. This is a charming book about sibling rivalry, friendship and compassion that take some unexpected twists and turns. I have added this book to my book shelf.
Kahn has authored many multi-cultural picture books including Silly Chicken, Ruler of the Courtyard and The Roses in My Carpet. Her newest book, Wanting Mor is a middle grade book I plan to review soon.