Posts Tagged ‘Books For Youth’

Not only is this the first time I’ve read an “interactive” book, but it’s my first time reviewing one. Developed for the Apple iPad and Android, Koto ($2.99 on iTunes and Android Marketplace) takes bedtime storybooks to the next level.

It took me a minute or two to figure out that you don’t click the arrow buttons unless you want to skip ahead (or go back)–the story advances by touching the text, which is then read to you. Once each scene has been fully read, a quality video pops up showing Koto in action. Going through it only takes about ten minutes.

Story overview:
Koto is a dog that wants to sleep, but odd noises throughout the house keep him awake. With an overactive imagination, he puts on his samurai outfit, grabs a broom, and investigates the disturbances.

First, he imagines a group of spirits invading his living room. When he gets there, he finds that it’s only his television, so he turns it off. Then, a noise comes from the basement. A group of monsters digging for diamonds? Nope, just a clothes dryer. But wait, there’s a witch scratching at the window. OK, guess it’s just a squeaky hinge. The real problem is the robot sneaking outside, never mind it’s just moths fluttering against a light. The goblins stomping the yard are the bigger foe. He charges at full speed to chase . . . cats out of his garbage cans. Hold on, a group of ninjas are on the roof. Nope, just a broken weather vane.

By the time he gets to the end, a glass toothed dragon proves to be nothing more than a wind chime. Taking in the soft, pleasing sound, Koto goes back into his house. Content with winning the battle of silence, he slowly drifts to sleep.

My thoughts:
My daughter is in love with this book. She is two and a half years old and goes to bed saying, “Daddy, read dog book?” Where I’m not thrilled about putting my $700 device into her hands, I am confident with holding it and letting her tap the text. She comments on just about every page, asking why the goblin won’t put his foot down, worried that the ninjas will fall, and chomps her mouth like a dragon. She even says, “awwww,” when Koto falls asleep at the end. I have to tell her that he’s sleeping and doesn’t want to be disturbed, otherwise I’d be replaying the book for her all night long.

Things to consider:
This is rated for children 4+, though my two and a half year old finds it quite enjoyable. There is a witch and a few things my daughter points to and says is scary, but I explain that it isn’t real and she seems fine with that. Good for both girls and boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
Just about every child goes through a stage where they think there’s a monster in the closet, beast hiding under the bed, or boogieman lurking around the corner. This is a good book to show your children that there’s really nothing to be scared of. Their fears are just that, fears, and the story can help to calm them at bedtime. Share 2 Timothy 1:7 [ASV], “For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.” If your children are old enough, that message might just sink in.

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I came across this book in the library, and it sounded interesting, so I checked it out. There are four books in the original series, followed by another series of four more called The Circle Opens. It finishes off with a standalone named The Will of the Empress.

Born into a hillbilly family, Tamora Pierce understood what it meant to be “American poor.” She fell in love with books at a young age and started writing when she was only 6 years old. It is said that many of her stories contain feminist themes. If you’d like to know more, you can read her Bio at http://www.tamora-pierce.com/bio.html .

Story overview:
Four children with three completely different backgrounds come together at a place known as Discipline Cottage. Other than being troublemakers, the only thing they have in common is the ability to control magic.

Sandry–the book’s namesake–comes from a noble family. She has the ability to work with threads. Tris, a heavyset merchant girl, told from a young age that she had no magical abilities, discovers a dormant power that can manipulate weather conditions. Daja, the lone survivor of a terrible shipwreck, learns how to master metals as a smith. And, finally, Briar, a young street boy and thief, who is given the name of a shrub due to his divinity with plant life.

Under the supervision of Niklaren, and a few other magical users, the four children learn what it means to form unlikely bonds under abnormal circumstances.

My thoughts:
Tamora fans, please understand that I’m only saying how I honestly felt about this book. That doesn’t mean others won’t feel differently. Firstly, I didn’t like how I was thrown into the heads of four different children. It got confusing at times, and I can see how younger children may feel the same way. I also didn’t care that much for the story progression. There was a plot, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t feel mapped out; the story mainly centered on the individual progression and relationships between the characters. I know this isn’t a bad thing, but for me, I became bored not having the supporting goal to pull me along. I wanted to see where I was going. I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, then the book was over. I’m sure this was done to introduce the following books in the series, but honestly, the first book didn’t make me desire to continue on to the next. So, this will probably be my only review of the Circle of Magic. I just couldn’t get into it, but I can see others doing so, so don’t take my word for it.

Things to consider:
No sexual situations or extreme cases of violence. The most I remember hearing in the way of foul language was a few made-up insults. There are instances of meditation, but I didn’t get anything overly creepy out of it. Good for teens and older, though, as I mentioned above, may be a little confusing to some. Probably targeted more toward girls, but overall is equally acceptable for boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
The children learn to overcome their differences and focus on what they have in common. Whether it is race, gender, ethnicity, wealth, status, age, or whathaveyou, the world has known, and still knows, what happens when people find contention with one another. Where we know that some differences are beyond our control (and in some cases, are good), all humankind is seen as equal in God’s eyes. It is good for us as believers to be reminded that humility was one of the most frequented subjects in the Bible. Loving our fellow men and women should not be restricted by external observations. Just remember, unless you are a Jew, you were not among His original chosen people. Remind your children that God allowed the possibility of all gentiles into His family. No one should consider other human beings as being below him or her. Finding what we have in common, and growing upon that, is sometimes the only way we can really extend God’s love.

I am pleased to announce Book For Youth’s first official book release. From the author of The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again comes a new and magical journey.

Story overview:
As the son of a great wizard, Traphis doesn’t understand why his mother and father have forbidden him from learning magic. Raised to tend fields, he often dreams of a bigger life–one in which he performs in front of an awe-stricken crowd.

A year after the death of his father, Traphis, now fifteen years old, spies his mother tossing a collection of magic books into a nearby creek. Unbeknownst to her, he is able to rescue them and read their contents hidden within his secret cave.

Opening himself up to the world of magic, a dark presence surfaces–one which has been seeking to track him down for years. Hidden secrets of the past unfold as Traphis joins with other trainees in hopes of learning the skills necessary to survive. The more answers he uncovers the more mysteries arise, sending him down the path of a true wizard, which is far more dangerous than he ever imagined.

My thoughts:
Ever since I can remember, I have loved the Narnia series, which was read to me at a young age. As I grew older, I was surprised at how little Christian Fantasies there were out there; the Christian bookstores had little to nothing of them. It was disappointing to say the least. Traphis, with a subtle/non-preachy Christian angle, targets fans of series like Narnia as well as secular ones like Harry Potter and Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle). It is not meant to compete with them, but to provide a new fantastical world in which youths can follow and come back holding onto messages of faith, hope, forgiveness, and redemption.

Things to consider:
Since this was written to appeal to teens and young adults, there are a few places that may be considered disturbing to younger children. No foul language or sexual situations, but there is action violence–done to enhance the story rather than shock the reader with sensationalism. Nothing inappropriate for the right ages (preteen and older). This should appeal to boys and girls; there are strong characters representing both genders–though the protagonist is a boy.

Opportunities for discussion:
Forgiveness is one of the leading elements in this story. Traphis’ need to forgive God for taking his father away, and his need to forgive his own failures. Skinny Jack learns he needs to forgive his abusive father, and Falin offers grace to his brother who rebelled many years ago. One thing this story also shows is the difference between forgiving and forgetting. Forgiveness is about releasing the power for vengeance and setting it into the hands of God, but one should not forget the past; we can learn from it and grow stronger as a result. Christians are not blind, they just learn to see with different eyes.

Availability:
Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale is currently available on the Kindle and Nook for $2.99 (which is a good price for a 155k word novel). If you don’t have either a Kindle or Nook eReader, don’t worry, you can download the story and read it on your computer, smartphone, or tablet using the free Kindle software.

Purchase the eBook at:
Amazon (Kindle – $2.99)
Barnes & Noble (Nook – $2.99)

What is an eBook? It’s an electronic book format that can be read on digital devices, removing the need for paper. Learn more about the story at: http://awizardstale.com.

This is the second book to the Amulet Graphic Novel series. I also plan on reading and reviewing the third book soon, so stay tuned. A fourth book is scheduled for release on September 1, 2011, and I have it on my to-acquire list already. How many total books there will be, I have yet to find out.

Be sure to check out my review of the first book (The Stonekeeper) if you have not done so already.

Story overview:
After having rescued her mother, Emily travels in her great-grandfather’s portable house to a local town. Her aim is to find a doctor that can remove the poison, which put her mother into a coma.

Soon after docking in the waterfall town of Kanalis, the elves track down Emily, Navin, and Miskit. Thankfully, for them, a stranger in the form of a human-like fox comes to their rescue. This fox, Leon Redbeard, safely takes them to the best doctor in town. There they learn that the only antidote for the poison is found in the treacherous Demon’s Head Mountain.

Escaping an elf segue against the hospital, our adventurers come across a secret hidden base for a group of rebels. These rebels were put in place for the day she and her brother arrived. As Emily embarks on a journey to find the cure for her mother, Navin takes on his new position as leader of the rebel army and heads out to recover their house from the elves.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed reading this one just as much as the first. Finished it in two sittings, but would have probably done so in one had it not been for the NyQuil I downed an hour before (head cold). I’m looking forward to reading Book 3 in the next week or two.

Things to consider:
Appropriately aged for preteens and older, this book maintains the same standards as the first: no sexual situations, foul language, or gore–there’s no need to shock the audience with these things when there’s enough mystery and adventure to keep the reader going. I can see both girls and boys enjoying this tale.

Opportunities for discussion:
The amulet seeks to consume Emily and take control of her body. It claims that this is for her own good as doing so will give her great power. Yet Emily fights against this desire and demands that she be the one in control, regardless of the consequences. I liken this to anger and rage. There are times where we feel that, if we let go and let our anger take control, it will make us stronger. The problem with this is that, if we do, we more often than not hurt those we care about. Giving in to our rage may provide a temporary satisfaction, but when the dust settles we must face the consequences of our actions. Consider these verses: 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (NIV) “. . . [love is] not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” And Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” Emily understood that she would lose these things if she gave into the amulet. Help your children to understand that they too will compromise their standings if they give into anger.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2010. That’s about 21 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 19 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 78 posts. There were 22 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 615kb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was June 6th with 89 views. The most popular post that day was Inkheart (Book 1), by Cornelia Funke.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were booksforyouth.com, en.wordpress.com, facebook.com, mangablog.net, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for inkheart, inkheart book, books for youth, youth book reviews, and star wars the force unleashed novel.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Inkheart (Book 1), by Cornelia Funke January 2009
7 comments

2

The Capture (Guardians of Ga’hoole, Book 1), by Kathryn Lasky August 2009
1 comment

3

Mirror in the Mirror, by Michael Ende September 2009

4

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 1), by Michael Scott January 2010
1 comment

5

The White Mountains (The Tripods, Book 1), by John Christopher March 2009
2 comments

From the author of Anne Droyd and Century Lodge comes the next book in the series, The House of Shadows. Will Hadcroft is probably best known for his The Feeling’s Unmutual non-fiction story, which overviews his challenges of growing up with Asperger Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder, which usually results in difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness).

The first Anne Droyd book was written in mind of children that suffer with similar symptoms. However, the story is not limited to this group by any means. It is a tale of a robot designed to have the appearance of a young girl, thus, an android. She comes across three children who end up adopting her in an attempt to help her understand what it is to become human. You see, she possesses some biological properties that make up her brain, and it is the children’s responsibility to awaken them.

Story overview:

Gezz, Luke, Malcolm (Malc), and Anne are on winter break in the coastal town of Whitby. Gezz’s parents—who are the chaperones—are not known for their wealth, and so the group ends up staying at a low-cost Bed and Breakfast. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that this place—and the family running it—are more than a bit odd.

The only semi-normal member of the Stevenson family is a girl named Sophie, who happens to be around the same age as the rest of the children. Malcolm takes an instant liking to the girl, and the others accept her into their group without any quibbles. Only, there is one thing. They promised to keep Anne’s secret safe. What secret? That she’s an Android. Sophie realizes there is something different about Anne and she is determined to find out what the other children are hiding.

But that’s not all. Sophie’s family has a few secrets of their own. Strange comings and goings of people in the night have all the children on a mission to uncover what is going on. It isn’t until they come across the frightful figure of a man, with the characteristics of a best, that they realize this isn’t the kind of vacation they were expecting.

My thoughts:

For some reason—which I can’t put my finger on—Anne leaves a lasting impression on one’s memory. The idea of a robot trying to figure out what it is be become human is not a new idea (can anyone say, Data?), but Hadcroft does this in a unique way. The behaviors of Anne Droyd are believable, as well as the personalities of the children who take care of her. In The House of Shadows, I found myself enjoying the side stories, such as the boating incident and the counterfeit money. But the ongoing plot as a whole also does not disappoint and comes out with a satisfying end. Overall a fitting sequel in the Anne Droyd saga. Here’s looking forward to the completion of Anne Droyd and the Ghosts of Winter Hill.

Things to consider

There is nothing questionable that I could detect in this story. I would age rate this for children ages twelve and older (tweens plus). It is important to note that this is a British written novel, which has not been converted over to an American audience. There were a few phrases, slang, and descriptions that confused me. Such as “Oh, you’d better take your coats. It’s still quite cold in the evenings and you’ll have to queue up on the pavement. There’s always quite a queue.” It took me awhile to realize what “queue up on the pavement” meant. There are also some punctuation differences such as single quotes instead of doubles and the placement of things like periods. Still, this does not affect the overall clarity of the story as a whole.

Opportunities for discussion:

There is a theme of addiction in this story. Not only Malcolm’s alcoholic parents, but Sophie’s family who tried to continue her grandfather’s experiments to prevent illness. Even though the experiments destroyed her grandfather’s immune system and ultimately lead to his death, Sophie’s mom wanted to use the mixture of chemicals to eliminate her negative moods. As you know from reading the story, this had negative consequences. Not only to the mother, but to Sophie. Unfortunately, children are often the victims in cases of addiction. Read the sequence on page 192/193 and ask your child to think about how Sophie is feeling. Warn them of the negative consequences of addiction and how they not only hurt themselves, but the ones they love too.

After a year of reading and reviewing lots of interesting books, I’ve come to some conclusions as to which are my favorite reads of 2009.

Favorite Trilogy of the year

1) The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1)
2) The Golem’s Eye (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2)
3) Ptolemy’s Gate (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 3)

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud is clearly a gem. Great writing, superb characters, intriguing story line, wonderfully dry humor, and a page turner no matter which of the three books you are on. Who knew a boy wizard and his djinni could be so much fun?

Favorite Novel of the year

1) Mimus, by Lilli Thal

From a fairly unknown author comes another gem: Mimus, by Lilli Thal. Built on the idea: “what would happen if a prince had to play a fool?” This medieval tale pulls the reader into the prince’s traumatic situation and keeps one glued to the pages to see how everything turns out.

Favorite Manga series of the year

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1), by Yellow Tanabe
2) Dragon Eye (Volume 1), by Kairi Fujiyama

This is a tough one; I’m actually stuck between these two. Both have great characters, mysterious story lines, and quality artwork. As each volume becomes available in my local US Library, I’m one of the first to reserve a copy.

What lies ahead for 2010?

I hope my readers continue to follow along as excitedly as I when Books For Youth discovers new and exciting adventures. Please feel free to drop a comment of any suggestions for 2010, either for the site, review process, or books you’re interested in getting a perspective on.