36 posts categorized "Children's Books for Adults" Feed

Adults Reading Children's Books

Thanks to Kelly at Big A little a for pointing out this article by Katherine A. Powers in yesterday's Boston Globe. The article is entitled "A drafty castle and other teenage troubles". It's about the reading of children's books by adults, which regular readers of this blog will know is something that I have long advocated. My favorite line from Ms. Powers' article is "I like nothing so much as sitting around reading novels written for children." I couldn't agree more!

I have to admit that I'm not quite with her on enjoying Jonathan Stroud's ''Bartimaeus Trilogy", which I tried to listen to on MP3 and found off-putting. But I'm behind her 100% philosophically on the idea that adults should read and re-read the best children's books. You should check out the article yourself.

Does a Book Ever Call to You from the Shelf?

Does this ever happen to you? You're minding your own business, going about with your life (working, playing, whatever), and suddenly a book calls to you from the shelf, demanding to be read. Soon, if not today.

For me, I've had a sudden urge this past week to re-read The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit. This is particularly odd, because it's not one of my usual favorites. I like it, but it's not one that I read over and over again. I think that I read it once as a child and once as an adult. But something that I've run across recently must have made a connection in my mind, to evoke The Railway Children.

I'm not sure what this was. Something about trains? Something about lost parents? I think it may have had to do with needing to pack up a couple of sets of sheets, to take to a cabin in Lake Tahoe that a generous friend loans us periodically. Remember the scene where the kids write on a sheet, and hold it up to be read by a passing train traveler?

I'm a little bit annoyed, actually, because I have a big pile of other books that I want to read, books that I haven't read yet. And here I'm going to have to put some of those on hold, so that I can re-read The Railway Children. But you have to give Edith Nesbit points, too. Here's this book, written 100 years ago, with the power to call to me from the shelf.

This happens to me with other books from time to time. Mostly with children's books, but also with some adults books (what I consider comfort books). I wrote back in January about My Personal Classic Books, which I defined as "the books that you expect to re-read at regular intervals for the rest of your life." These books frequently call out to me to be read, much as I periodically get the urge to telephone an old friend. This thing with The Railway Children is a bit more random, more like getting the urge to call a friend who I like, but don't actually know all that well. But now that I think about it, that's kind of cool!

What about you? Do books that you've already read ever call out to you from the shelf? Are they always favorites, or does this happen sometimes with less familiar books? And here's the question: do you act on it, or just wait for the urge to pass? Have a great weekend! -- Jen

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Quiz: What Literature Classic Are You?

I learned from Camille over at Book Moot about a fun online quiz that tells you what literature classic you are like. And I actually had the same result as Camille. I am like The Lord of the Rings. The quiz result says: "You are entertaining and imaginative, creating whole new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you have a whole league of imitators, none of which is quite as profound as you are. Stories and songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your eternal battle with the forces of evil." Fascinating. I do love stories! You can check out the quiz yourself here. Let me know your result if you do.

Last Day for Escape Adulthood Discount

One last reminder. If you are interested in purchasing the book Escape Adulthood by Jason Kotecki, which I reviewed back at the beginning of February, time is running out to receive the special Jen Robinson's Book Page discount. Tuesday, February 28th is the last day to get free shipping on any order from the Kim & Jason Lemonade Stand (Jason Kotecki's website) as long as your order includes one or more copies of Escape Adulthood. Just enter the code JKRBOOKS when prompted for a discount code during your checkout process.

Reminder: Discount for Escape Adulthood is Running Out

Just a quick reminder. If you are interested in purchasing the book Escape Adulthood by Jason Kotecki, which I reviewed back at the beginning of February, time is running out to receive the special Jen Robinson's Book Page discount. From now until the end of February, you can get free shipping on any order from the Kim & Jason Lemonade Stand (Jason Kotecki's website) as long as your order includes one or more copies of Escape Adulthood. Just enter the code JKRBOOKS when prompted for a discount code during your checkout process. I really think that if you are interested in staying young at heart, or if you are starting to feel a bit jaded and want to know how to feel happier with your life, you should read this book. I know that I enjoyed it! -- Jen

Book Review: The Kingdom Keepers

Kelly over at Big A little a (one of my favorite book-related sites) has an excellent review today of Ridley Pearson's The Kingdom Keepers, a book that I also enjoyed. The book is about what happens in Disney World after dark, and includes a compelling story filled with Disney villains and high-tech holograms. Like Kelly, I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes Disney details of this book, and the likeability of the main character. But I encourage you to read Kelly's review for more details.

I also liked Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. This book is a prequel to Peter Pan, outlining possibilities for how Peter became the way he is. I know that there has been some controversy in regards to this book, because it's not the official prequel sanctioned by the London hospital that owns the copyright to Peter Pan (click here for a good recap of that situation on the Grumpy Old Bookman blog). But I enjoyed Peter and the Starcatchers.

I also like Ridley Pearson's Lou Boldt / Daphne Matthews mystery series mystery series quite a bit (especially the character of Daphne). But if I had a vote, I would have Mr. Pearson spent his time on sequels to the The Kingdom Keepers, instead of the adult books. Because there are plenty of police procedurals out there, but how many thrillers can you find set behind the scenes in Disney World? Happy Reading! -- Jen

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

30-Year-Old Snowball

In the spirit of keeping young at heart (as promoted by my recent review of Escape Adulthood), I recommend to you a fun column from today's San Jose Mercury News (my local paper). Mike Cassidy writes about Betty Shamus, who keeps a 30-year-old snowball in her San Jose, CA freezer. Betty has been keeping this snowball in her freezer since the last time it snowed enough to accumulate on the Santa Clara Valley floor. In honor of the snowball's 30-year anniversary, Betty's son Jeff recently launched a website: www.oldestsnowball.com/.

Now, as someone who grew up in Boston, and has only been living in California for 5 years or so, it's a bit hard for me to really connect with the idea of this snowball. I mean, in Boston, you can always figure that there will be more snow before too long. But for Betty and her family, the snowball is a big deal. According to Mike Cassidy this week was "Snow Ball Sunday -- a party with snowball cookies, snowball balloons, snowball cutouts, a collection of old photos and newspaper clippings and a big sign celebrating the icy icon's longevity." And the snowball seems to have caught on with local news crews and other fans, too.

So, if you're looking for a role model to celebrate the ideas of play and finding joy in small things, read Mike's article about Betty Shamus. Have a great day! -- Jen

Some Recent Reads: Fun Kid's Books for Adults

I had a pretty good week of children's book reading last week. Here is a quick re-cap:

SUZANNE COLLINS: Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) and Gregor The Overlander And The Prophecy Of Bane (Underland Chronicles). These were recommended to me by Kellye, a visitor to my website. They are about two kids who visit an underground world deep beneath New York City. This world is populated by violet-eyed humans, and giant, talking insects and rodents (cockroaches, bats, rats, and spiders).

To tell you the truth, I had heard about these books before, and the idea of reading about giant insects didn't inspire me. But I have to tell you that these are great books. They're about a mis-matched team of characters of different races going on a quest (shades of the Lord of the Rings, but in a much shorter, easier to digest story). They have to learn to get along, despite vast differences in mind-set and habits, and they face peril and adventure.

The two main characters, the Overlanders (who travel to the Underland) are 11-year-old Gregor and his 2-year-old sister Boots. Personally, I think that the books are worth reading for the character of Boots alone. Everything is an adventure for her, she greets each new person and experience with open arms, and she ends up being sort of a natural ambassador between humans, bats, and insects. She's like the personification of what Jason Kotecki is striving toward with his book Escape Adulthood (which I wrote about on Friday) - all of the good things about a childlike spirit.

The Underland Chronicles are quick, easy reads, with fairly wide spacing of the text. I can see why Kellye recommended them for kids having a bit of trouble moving up to longer books. However, they pack in a surprising amount of adventure, bravery, and betrayal, not to mention character development and the overcoming of prejudices. I recommend them highly.

PETER ABRAHMS: Down the Rabbit Hole : An Echo Falls Mystery (Echo Falls). I listened to this book on MP3 from Audible.com. It's about Ingrid, a curious 13-year-old girl who gets mixed up in the murder investigation of a quirky woman from her small town. The author mostly writes adult mysteries, but has four children, and it seems clear that they've given him perspective into what is and isn't cool in middle school.

What I like about this book is that it's a classic mystery, with a murder and clues and the main character figuring out who the killer is. This book was nominated for the Edgar Award for Young Adults (the book awards for mysteries), and I hope that it wins. I've seen lots of mysteries for younger kids, but not as many straightforward mysteries for the middle school set. This one includes a love interest for Ingrid, complicated by the fact that the boy's father is the police chief. There are also interesting dynamics going on with Ingrid's family in the book. Most of these are left unresolved, which gives me hope that other books in this series will be forthcoming. Overall, this is a great pick for older kids who love mysteries, without any fantasy elements.

MEG CABOT: The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, Vol. 1). Darkest Hour (The Mediator, Book 4). What can I say? I love Meg Cabot's books. I think that she has a tremendous knack for getting inside the head of her characters, so that you feel like you know them. She also makes her characters regular people, even as she puts them in implausible situations (for example, in All-American Girl, the main characters, a teenaged girl, happens to save the President's life, and then starts dating his son). I read The Princess Diaries because I wanted to see how different it was from the movie. It is fairly different (set in New York instead of San Francisco, with a much meaner grandmother than Julie Andrews portrayed), but still fun. Darkest Hour is part of the Mediator series, about a girl who sees dead people, and has to help them resolve their issues, so that they can cross over to the other side (much like the TV series Ghost Whisperer, but with a teen-aged protagonist). Both books satisfied my Meg Cabot fix for the week, though I realize that they wouldn't be the right fare for everyone.

What have you been reading lately? Drop me a line if you'd like to chat. You can also see the lists of all of the books that I've read recently, and want to read, on my book list website. Happy Reading -- Jen

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Recommendation: Escape Adulthood

You know how sometimes you get to the end of a book, and you close it, and you just want to immediately go back to the beginning and start reading it again? That happened to me this week with the book Escape Adulthood, by Jason Kotecki. I think that it will really resonate with visitors to this site, especially those of you who are here mainly because you think that children's books are cool.

Escape Adulthood is a book about conquering "Adultitis". It's about recapturing that childlike excitement and optimism that all of us used to have. The book consists of 8 primary chapters, each discussing a "secret from childhood for stressed out grown-ups." Like "delight in the little things" and "play "and "maintain perspective". Each chapter ends with 11 concrete tips for getting started. For example:

  • From Chapter 3 (Get Curious) we have tip number 8: "Make it a personal mission to learn something new every day. Read lots of books. It is well known that leaders are readers. That's why mansions always have libraries in them."
  • From Chapter 4 (Live Passionately): "Even if it's just an hour a week, or 15 minutes each day, do whatever you can to try to carve out some extra time for yourself and your favorite hobby."
  • From Chapter 5 (Play): "Next time you go out to eat, order dessert first."

Some of the tips are more original than this, and not all of them will be relevant for every reader, but I'll bet that everyone could benefit from following a few of Jason's suggestions. Even if you don't intend to actually follow the suggestions (you're quite happy with your own level of maturity, thank you very much) the book is still fun to read. I laughed out loud many times while reading it. It's also a short, quick read. You could easily squeeze in a chapter every night before bed. And there are comic strips sprinkled throughout (Jason is a cartoonist, with a strip called Kim and Jason).

I do have one small caveat about my recommendation of this book. Throughout this book, Jason makes regular references to God and faith and the Bible. I didn't find it overwhelming or preachy, but if you are someone who will be bothered by this, then this isn't the book for you. Stop here, and go read Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince instead.

But if you are interested in reading Escape Adulthood, I have a special offer for you. From now until the end of February, you can get free shipping on any order from the Kim & Jason Lemonade Stand (the author's website) as long as your order includes one or more copies of Escape Adulthood. Just enter the code JKRBOOKS when prompted for a discount code during your checkout process.

And I can assure that you'll be happy with the customer service from The Lemonade Stand. When I ordered my book they included all sorts of cool stuff in the package, like postcards and bookmarks and a little packet of lemonade. I also heard personally from both the "Chief Sales Servant" Jenna and from Jason Kotecki himself, thanking me for my order. All in all, I've found their customer service to be far above average.

They have other fun products on their site, too. I like the Kim & Jason Greeting Cards, but there are also framed prints candles, mugs and an Adulthood Stinks T-Shirt. This could also be a good place to get a Valentine's Day gift (like the Love Gift Set). But enough said. If you think that you might be suffering from adultitis, or if you just want a book that advises you to play more, then Escape Adulthood is just the book for you. Have fun! -- Jen

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

More Comfort Reading: Under-Read Children's Books

A fellow Jen, Jen Rouse, has started a wonderful list of "under-read books" on her site. These are chapter books that she remembers fondly from her childhood. Her list includes such gems as the Emily series by L. M. Montgomery, the Green Knowe series by L. M. Boston, and the Great Brain books. I completely agree with Jen's comments about the books. These books are like old friends to me, too. When I see them in the library or the bookstore, I want to stop and give them a little pat to say hello. The only ones on Jen's list that I haven't read are the Alvin Fernald books -- I'll have to check those out soon.

I should also admit that Jen's post mentions this website, and perhaps it's a bit too much relentless self-promotion for me to link back to it. But I do really think that if you enjoy this site, the books on Jen's list will make you smile. Happy Reading -- Jen

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Recommendation: The Lightning Thief

This weekend I finally finished reading Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I would ordinarily have read this book in about two or three days, but I was listening to it on MP3, and happened to start it right before an extended hiatus in my regular walks. Anyway, I LOVED The Lightning Thief, and I was very disappointed that it was snubbed by the Newberry committee last week.

The Lightning Thief is about Percy, a modern-day 12-year-old dyslexic boy who learns that one of his parents is a god (as in the original Greek gods). While this explains a lot of strange things that have happened in Percy's life, it's just the beginning of his adventures. These adventures range from fitting in at camp to learning self-defense (with real swords) to going on an epic quest to - no, I don't want to spoil it for you.

Several things made this book stand out for me. First off was the clarity of Percy's voice. He sounds like a 12-year-old boy. His internal insecurities and mistakes are believable, because they just sound right. Rick Riordan was a middle school teacher for 15 years, and I think that this definitely comes across. The supporting characters are also well-drawn and realistic.

Also, Percy's dyslexia, ADHD, and behavioral problems are integrated into the story as differences that are part of what make him who he is, rather than as negative attributes. I think that this will resonate with everyone - children and adult - because we all have differences. I think that the absentee nature of the Greek god parents will also, sadly, resonate with many readers.

Rick Riordan does a wonderful job of sprinkling the book with interesting mythological information while never "teaching" the reader. I think that this is important, because books that set out to teach, with heavy hand, just aren't fun to read. The Lightning Thief, however, is a lot of fun to read. The plot has twists and turns, drama and sadness and betrayal. I recommend it as a great read for children and adults.

I also recommend Rick Riordan's adult novels, the Tres Navarre series. This series is set in San Antonio. It features a private investigator who gets into some pretty dark and gritty situations, but maintains a sense of humor through it all. You can also check out Rick's blog.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Children's Books as Comfort Reading

Today I ran across a fun post on the Shorty PJs blog. Mary Brennan writes about "comfort reading". Or, as she puts it:

"More specifically, comfort reading in the form of kiddie books that made you feel all flannel-y inside, back when you were only worried about putting your clothes on right-side-out and getting your shoes on the proper foot."

Mary includes a list of ten of her own favorites, and asks readers for suggestions. Be sure to read the comments - there are lots of wonderful old favorites listed there. My favorite from Mary's list is Mary Poppins. My favorite from other people's comments would have to be a toss-up between Pippi Longstocking and Anne of Green Gables (both about red-headed, spunky heroines, now that I think about it).

Mary's article is likely to make you want to cancel all of your plans for the weekend, and curl up on the couch with some favorite children's books. If you like this idea, you might also enjoy my earlier article about Why You Should Read Children's Books as an Adult. Comfort reading should be added to that list as reason # 11. Happy Reading -- Jen

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.