Both Timmy and Nora are excellent readers. In fact, in the case of Timmy in particular, I have trouble keeping him supplied with books. He just goes through them so fast! So for birthdays and Christmas I put a decent amount of effort into researching potential books to add to my two eldest children’s wishlists.
A couple of months ahead of time, I scour the Internet in search of likely options. I then check to see if any of those are available to download as audio books from Audible, and if they are, I add them to my “library”. I can then listen to them and add individual books to the appropriate child’s Amazon wishlist if I think they’re a worthy option. Here’s the latest round of books, and my impressions, from my preparations for Nora’s birthday, in March. Part 2 will deal with my selections for Timmy’s upcoming birthday in July.
Selections for Nora
Nora thrives on characters, relationships, and animals.
Fairest of All – by Sarah Mlynowski
This is a kind of cute book about a young girl and her brother who get sucked through a magic mirror to a fairy tale land where they accidentally interfere with the course of Snow White’s story and have to try to set things right again. This first in the Whatever After series is silly, pointless drivel, in my opinion, but I’m not an 8-year-old girl. It’s harmless and amusing enough that I decided to give it the nod and recommend it for my daughter.
Fablehaven – by Brandon Mull
I absolutely love Brandon Mull. I’ve listened to several books by him now. My favorite is the Beyonders series. I have also experienced the first two of the Fablehaven books, and they are excellent for Nora. A level-headed adolescent girl and her brave, but foolish, brother find out that their grandparents are the caretakers of a preserve for magical creatures. Then things go horribly wrong and its up to them to resolve the situation.
Floors – by Patrick Carman
The first in a series of books. A boy grows up as the son of (and assistant to) the handyman for the most wonderful, bizarre hotel in the world. The hotel was designed and built by a genius and is full of secrets and surprises. When this designer goes missing, it’s up to the handyman’s son to follow a series of clues and solve the mystery of the disappearance. I wanted to like this one, but the various characters, settings, problems, and solutions are so random and nonsensical that I decided to give it a pass.
The Candymakers – by Wendy Mass
Four children join a candy making contest. At first the story seems pretty simple and straight-forward, told from the perspective of the son to the candy factory’s owner. Then, about a quarter of the way through the book, everything changes and the story is retold through the eyes of one of the other children. This process is repeated four times, once for each child, and by the end of the book nothing even closely resembles what it first seemed to be. The story and characters are masterfully revealed in stages, and surprises abound. After putting this book onto Nora’s list, I added Wendy Mass to my own mental list of authors to revisit in the future.
Young Fredle – by Cynthia Voigt
Fredle is a house mouse who breaks the rules and ends up in the outside world, a place where house mice never, ever venture. Against all odds, he survives, makes friends, learns, and grows. Will he ever get back into the house to see his family again? What will they think of his miraculous return? How will his adventures change his perspective on the life of a house mouse? A beautiful study of social groups and interactions at a level that is appropriate for young children. It’s on her list.
The One and Only Ivan – by Patricia Castelao and Katherine Applegate
This is a complex story. On the surface, there’s not much that happens in it. A gorilla and a baby elephant are caged in, of all things, a mall. Together, they conspire to escape to live in a zoo. Underpinning this simple text, though, is a deep narrative about cultures, communication, poverty, futility, abuse, death, hope, and success. I dithered on this one quite a bit. The story is perfect for Nora, but the themes involved are pretty heavy for an 8-year-old. In the end I decided to give it the green light.
Janitors – by Tyler Whitesides
The first in a series of books. A boy and a girl team up to help the janitors of their school fight against invisible magical creatures that prowl the hallways and classrooms, sucking up their classmates’ intellectual potential. This one is pretty dumb, but it’s definitely fun and pretty harmless. I know that Nora will enjoy it.
Pie – by Sarah Weeks
Set in a small town in the 1950s, this book poses a mystery about stolen pie recipes and a missing cat. Only a young girl and her new best friend can solve the case when all the adults in town are oblivious to the fact that anything untoward is going on. The characters and situations that come up in this story are entirely unlikely. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that it all comes together so seamlessly. Short, and sweet as its subject matter, I couldn’t resist adding this unique novel to Nora’s list.
The Candy Shop War – by Brandon Mull
The second Brandon Mull book in this list. Have I mentioned that I like Brandon Mull? This is the first book in a series about children who are caught up in a war between magicians who practice their trade by creating sweets with wondrous powers. Four friends discover this magical struggle and have to decide which (if any) faction to side with. Mull invents confections with deliciously intriguing effects, and then pits them against each other in increasingly surprising ways. Unique and intelligent all the way through, this one is a definite keeper.