Kids, Books and Kidsī Books Tips

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Island of the Blue Dolphins - Scott O'Dell

"Island of the Blue Dolphins" won the Newbery Medal in 1961, and in 1976 the Children's Literature Association named it one of the 10 best American children's books of the past 200 years. The book was inspired by the true story of an American Indian girl, Karana. Karana jumped ship during the evacuation of Ghalas-at to stay behind with her little brother, who had accidentally been left behind. The boy died a short time later, and Karana was left alone on the island for 18 years, fending for herself. "Island of the Blue Dolphins" is an unusual story of survival and perseverance.

What is The Story About Ping?

The Story About Ping

You can purchase this remarkable little book, which has stayed in print for almost 70 years, at Amazon. They also have reviews (including one which sees Ping as an allegory of UNIX computer networking) on this page: The Story About Ping

What are some good gift books for children?

Harry Potter Books

If there's a English-speaking child in the world who hasn't heard of Harry Potter, it's about time! Encourage your child to visit the wonderful world of Wizards and Muggles, Quidditch and the dreaded He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. These books appeal to all ages; their magic is more than just part of the plot.

Pick them up today at Amazon, for 40% off the cover price!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)

How can my child learn about cultural festivals?

A Calendar of Festivals - Cherry Gilchrist

"In our modern world, where we usually live in small groups, it´s especially important to share our festivals and celebrate together," says author Cherry Gilchrist. She chooses festivals originally established by Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Caribbean, Japanese, Celtic, and Russian traditions.

Each festival´s chapter begins with a one-page overview followed by the story of how the fete came into being. Illustrator Helen Cann varies her motifs to compliment the culture celebrated. An excellent book for the whole family.

Ages 9 to 12

What´s a great adventure book for children?

Kalifax - Duncan Thornton

"Kalifax" is a wonderful children's tale of high adventure, populated by characters both dramatic and comedic. From the crusty, doom-saying Cook to the valiant First Mate, each contributes personality and depth to the story, and viewed through the eyes of a young cabin boy, this is indeed a tale worth the telling.

The adventures begin when young Tom sets sail as cabin boy on the good ship Volantix (a fine elvish name). The brave Captain and intrepid crew are on a voyage of discovery: "We'll sail North," said the Captain, "to the Eaves of the World … sail into the eaves and shoulder through the icy narrows of the sea and then drop down the other side of the West into spice winds and warm waters and lazy islands that bloom like summer flowers." With this, their plans are laid, and Tom's tale of the magical torch Kalifax encourages even some less-than-enthusiastic sailors to sign on for this dangerous trip, to see "the fire that dances in the black night sky."

What follows is a beautifully-told story of ice trolls, snow-goblins, terrible cold and crackling ice; courage, comedy and triumph. The language is grand and rolling … this is a book which begs to be read aloud, a book which could engender in any child a love of good words and incredible tales. It roars and thumps with enthusiasm, rollicking through the Eaves of the World and on, at last, to spice winds and flowery islands, and finally home again.

About the Author: Duncan Thornton, born in northern Manitoba, is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His dramas have been produced for radio and stage. Kalifax is his first book.

Review by Teddi Stransky

What is an Impressionist Picture Book?

Frogs and Kittens, Monet and Degas - Joan Sweeney

Sweeney´s first Impressionist-centered picture book, "Once Upon a Lily Pad: Froggy Love in Monet´s Garden," won the acclaim of many critics. Her effortlessly beautiful follow-up is titled, "Bijou, Bonbon and Beau: The Kittens Who Danced for Degas." In both books, Sweeney opens up a painter´s world through fictional critters who fit themselves into an artist´s life and work. Bijou, Bonbon, and Beau are kittens born in the Paris theater where Degas made his well-known sketches and paintings of dancers. Leslie Wu provides illustrations influenced by the Impressionists in all the best ways, and her kittens are miniature works of art.

List some award-winning books for children.

The National Book Award for Young People's Literature

The National Book Award for Young People's Literature is presented each year by the National Book Foundation. The award in this genre has been presented 1996, recognizing outstandin contributions to children's literature. Books of all genres written for children and young adults by American writers are considered, with an emphasis on literary merit.

Where can I find out more about <I>Clifford the Big Red Dog</I>?

Clifford the Big Red Dog

The giant red pooch isn't just a set of books, he's a phenomenon! Scholastic Books has a site for kids to explore Clifford's stories (authored by Norman Bridwell) and engage in fun, educational activities.

What are some good new books of children´s poetry?

Great Poetry Books for Your Child

Funny and fabulous poetry is a great way to get a kid "hooked on reading" early in life. Here are some books of children's poety that have gotten rave reviews from the under-ten set.

Timothy Tunny Swallowed a Bunny by Bill Grossman

This is a hilarious collection of rhymes about the unusual (and occasionally bizarre) characters who populate the strange world of Bill Grossman´s imagination. Enhanced by colorful and fanciful illustrations by Kevin Hawkes. Ages 4 and older.

Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs : Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian

The latest of poet/painter Douglas Florian´s wonderful biological books. His illustrations, alway exquisite, are "pun"ny and playful. If your little ones liked Insectlopedia and Mammalabilia, they will love Lizards, Frogs and Polliwogs. Ages 5 and up.

It´s Raining Pigs and Noodles: Poems by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by James Stevenson

Over 100 wild and funny, warm and punny poems to delight any child 4-10, with simple and expressive line drawings from James Stevenson. Merciless punning at its best!

Where can I find out more about Brian Jacques and the Redwall stories?

Redwall Abbey

Redwall Abbey is the official web site for the Redwall books by Brian Jacques, now a popular PBS television series. Intended for readers aged 9-15, these books, in conjunction with the television programs and web content, are bound to inspire a love of reading in any kid.

What is the Caldecott Medal?

The Caldecott Medal

The Caldecott Medal has been awarded yearly since 1938 by the Association for Library Service for Children. Named in honor of eighteenth century English artist Randolph Caldecott, it is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

The criteria define a picture book for children as "one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised."

The ALSC also sometimes recognizes other books. These books are termed Caldecott Honor Books.

Who is Linda Grant?

When I Lived in Modern Times - Linda Grant

Linda Grant took home the 2000 Orange Prize for her novel "When I Lived in Modern Times." The book tells the story of Evelyn Sert, a 20 year old European refugee to Palestine in 1946. She arrives as a Zionist to live on a kibbutz, but learns she doesn't have the skills to carve out a home in the hostile land. Moving to Tel Aviv, she's amazed to learn that she has more in common with British colonists than the Jewish refugees from their wide variety of countries and cultures. Separated from her family, she struggles to find a place for herself in a new world.

What is the "Unfortunate Events" Series?

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket´s series of books about unfortunate events - called, in fact, "A Series of Unfortunate Events" - provide just the kind of zest the author´s name suggests. He says, "If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book."

The books feature a trio of orphaned siblings. "The Bad Beginning" introduces Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire and their plight: orphaned and homeless, and as children they can´t control their own fates, a theme repeated in subsequent novels such as "The Reptile Room," "The Wide Window," "The Miserable Mill," and "The Austere Academy." Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation.

These fast-paced books are not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters in distressing situations. However, anyone who enjoys Edward Gorey, Roald Dahl or Charles Dickens will find them lively fun.

What books have been chosen by children to receive awards?

Young Reader's Choice Award (North America)

Established in 1940 to promote reading for enjoyment, the Young Reader´s Choice Award recipients are chosen by the children and young adults of Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington. They are nominated, from books published 3 years previously, by librarians, teachers, students and others. The Youth Division goes to a book for grades 4-8. In 1991, a Senior Division (grades 9-12) was added to the awards program.

What´s a good almanac for my kids?

The World Almanac for Kids

The World Almanac for Kids is designed to combine education and entertainment in a fully illustrated and kid-friendly format. Designed for ages 7-12, it´s packed with information on hundreds of topics to suit the interests of every young reader. The book includes 32 pages of full-color maps and flags with more than 700 illustrations and charts. "The educational value of this book is high--it will be great for elementary and lower-middle school classrooms, teachers, and students´ personal libraries." --Booklist.

Where can I find information on children´s books online?

Children's Book Newsgroup

If you are a patron of the online newsgroups, you might want to check out rec.arts.books.childrens for some interesting information.

How can I get my child interested in reading?

Share Your Favorites by Reading Aloud

The best way to interest a child in books is to read to him or her. And it’s never too soon to start.

You can read to very young babies, who enjoy the closeness of a parent along with the visual stimulation of a picture book. As children get older, reading a book with mom or dad creates a quiet one-on-one time. The child’s attention span will lengthen as they get older and the books become longer and more involved.

Reading aloud to a child has many benefits, such creating a calming atmosphere that allows for bonding. You’ll expose the child to language, and help build his or her imagination. The child will also learn about relationships that may be different from your family life.

Even if your child is capable of reading on their own, reading aloud with him or her is a way to share the books you loved as a child. Try taking turns reading every other chapter.

Best of all, the quiet time spent sharing a book creates an atmosphere that is ideal for communicating with your child. Perhaps something in the book will trigger feelings or a memory that he or she will want to share with you, or even something from your past that will interest your child.

Taking time out to read a book to your child is a wonderful way to create a quiet, intimate space, free from the overstimulation of today’s electronic age.

Where can I find children's books read aloud online?

Engaging Stories Read Online by Actors

Storyline Online at is a fun website where actors read children's stories aloud via online video streaming. There are 25 books for young children, read in their entirety by actors and other celebrities.

You’ll find books as diverse as “The Polar Express,” read by Lou Diamond Phillips, to “Brave Irene,” read by Al Gore, to “No Mirrors in My Nana’s House” read by Tia and Tamara Mowry. Each book comes with related activities and an activity guide for parent and teacher use.

The website visuals are bright and fun, and the video shows the readers sitting comfortably, turning the pages to show the illustrations. The audio portion is also an excellent resource for the visually impaired.

Storyline Online is a children’s literacy outreach project of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation ( Since 1993, SAG Foundation has been committed to championing children’s literacy. Through a link, visitors can purchase the books directly from the Foundation, as well as sign up for periodic newsletters.

What online resources are available for children's books?

A Library for the World's Children

Imagine reaching for your computer and finding a world of children’s books right at your fingertips! The International Children's Digital Library ( is a free online resource with over 4,600 multicultural children's books available online.

The website’s format has vibrant colors and graphics and is extremely user-friendly. Visitors can browse through featured books, or use the search feature to search the library by age group, book length, author, illustrator, language. To search by country, just click on a continent on a graphic of the Earth to see regional lists of works.

All book genres are represented, including fairy and folk tales, animal stories, science and nature, adventure tales, mysteries, fantasy and science fiction. In addition to fiction, there are plenty of other literature forms such as non-fiction, poems, short stories and plays.

The International Children’s Digital Library is an invaluable resource for children, parents and librarians. Teachers can incorporate web content into their school lessons, and there is a complete teacher training manual available.

Books are available in more than 60 languages, ranging from Afrikaans and Amharic to Vietnamese and Yiddish. Other features of this digital library include fun activities such as a website scavenger hunt. Visitors can explore special exhibits such as Celebrating Differences and Seasons of Change.

The International Children’s Digital Library Foundation is a non-profit organization located in Manchester, Massachusetts. Its mission is to support the world's children in becoming effective members of the global community - who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas -- by making the best in children's literature available online free of charge.

What is a good science fiction book for children?

Timeless Science Fiction in "A Wrinkle in Time"

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Madeleine L'Engle's classic science fiction work for children, "A Wrinkle in Time." This Newbury award-winning book is the first of a series of five works known as the "Time Quintet."

In "A Wrinkle in Time," Meg Murry, an awkward, extremely bright 13-year old, embarks on a mission to rescue her father, a government worker who is being held prisoner on another planet by the evil presence IT. She is accompanied by her genius brother Charles Wallace, who is only five years old, and Calvin, a new friend and high school basketball star.

The children travel through many planets and dimensions, aided by three magical and colorful presences: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. A time wrinkle, otherwise known as a tesseract, is a mathematical phenomenon similar to a wormhole. This action-filled story is full of interesting characters and lots of suspense, and exposes children to real science in an intriguing atmosphere.

Interspersed throughout the children's adventures are themes of the triumph of good over evil, and the power of love and family. Meg is one of the few female heroines of children's science fiction written at that time.

L'Engle's novels are suitable for ages 11-16.

How can I interest my child in U.S. history?

Explore Pioneer Life with Laura Ingalls Wilder Series

In her award-winning series of eight books for children, Laura Ingalls Wilder chronicles her family’s life as pioneers in the late nineteenth century. Leaving their Wisconsin home in 1874, Laura and her sisters, along with Ma and Pa Ingalls, moved through Kansas and Minnesota before eventually settling in De Smet, South Dakota in 1879.

Wilder tells the story of their journeys in eight books. Since initially published, the books have been continually in print. Here are the books in the order of their publication:

• “Little House in the Big Woods” (1932)
• “Farmer Boy” (1933)
• “Little House on the Prairie” (1935)
• “On the Banks of Plum Creek” (1937 – Newbery Honor book)
• “By the Shores of Silver Lake” (1939 – Newbery Honor book)
• “The Long Winter” (1940 – Newbery Honor book)
• “Little Town on the Prairie” (1941 – Newbery Honor book)
• “These Happy Golden Years” (1943 – Newbery Honor book)

All of the books are appropriate for ages 8-12, although the later books deal with some serious problems including homesteading hardships, illness and near starvation. Even younger children will enjoy having the first few books read aloud to them.

The “Little House” books are glimpses into a simpler time in U.S. history. The Ingalls family's journey included homes in Indian Territory as well as the rigors of homesteading. The books are filled with gentle humor and examples of core family values such as honesty, hard work, perseverance, togetherness and love.


The Newbery Medal

The Newbery Medal is given yearly by the Association for Library Service for Children, a division of the American Library Assocation. It is named for eighteenth century British bookseller John Newbery, and is given to the author of the book the group determines has made the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

The Newbery Award was the first children's book award in the world, and has been awarded since 1922. The purpose of the medal was stated: "To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children's reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field."

The ALSC also sometimes recognizes other books. These books are termed Newbury Honor Books.


The Just-So Stories - Rudyard Kipling

Suitable for young readers (grades 2-6).

Kipling originally wrote these tale tales for his own children, and are addressed to his 6 year old daughter, Josephine. From the tale of how the leopard got his spots to the crab who played with the sea, from the ingenious invention of the alphabet to how the rhinoceros got his wrinkled skin, these stories of strange happenings in the High and Far-Off Times brim with life, humor, and magic.


The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling

Today, most people are more familiar with Mowgli from the Disney movie than from the original book, but "The Jungle Book" is worth giving to any child. The book is a collection of stories, the best known of which feature Mowgli, the Man-Cub rescued from a tiger as an infant, and raised by wolves in the jungles of India. The book also contains "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," the story of a heroic mongoose, and "Toomai of the Elephants," the story of a young elephant handler. The stories are fables that give moral lessons with a spoonful of sugar, and teach valuable lessons to children.

What books might stir a boy´s interest in reading?

How to Encourage Boys to Read

Does your boy dislike reading, or just not read enough? To stir some excitement, suggest the modern day Catcher in the Rye, by Chris Wooding, called "Kerosene," or any of Gary Paulsen´s easy reads.

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Guru Spotlight
Susan Sayour