March 28, 2017 · 11:47 am
For the first months of 2017, I was immersed in reading children’s books. They soothe my soul; they provide mentoring for my own writing; and I have the opportunity to share the best with my blog readers. 2016 provided a variety of excellent children’s titles, but I am most excited about sharing the best nominees of Easy Readers and Early Chapter books. What a surprise when I met prize-winning authors in competition with new authors.
The creativity of well-illustrated books with original texts was obvious in this judging assignment. Mo Willems and Kate DiCamillo were nominated in this eclectic mix of 10 titles for me to choose the “Best Of,” as shared with children’s bloggers in CYBILs (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). I was honored to be among teachers, parents, and fellow bloggers led by the creative Jodie Helliker Rodriquez, whose “Growing Book By Book” blog has always amazed me with her own creativity and sharing.
Wait until you get the winning book for Early Chapter Books in your hand. It is appealing from the cover illustration featuring Mango Allsorts and her new pet. Look for a black and white and lavender cover! Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig begins a new series by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy. What originality! Faber’s endearing new character Mango Allsorts finds a Malaysian tapir stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. The setting is a busy city and Mango, on her own most of the time, discovers a strange sight as she walks home from karate class. It’s “not a pig” is lying down on the busy street camouflaged in the white stripes of the highway! This book of four experiences with new friends, Mango and her tapir Bambang, is difficult to describe. It would not be the same without the original illustrations by Vulliamy. I want to purchase all the Mango books in the series. Each new book uses a different palate than the original lavender highlighted in this debut.
Mo Willems’ titles turned out not to be written by him. Remember Go Dog Go, the P.D. Eastman title confused as a Dr. Seuss favorite? That little Cat in the Hat in the corner of the cover made readers think we had another Seuss winner. Of course, Eastman had his own classic even with “I Can Read It All By Myself” series stamp on the corner of the cover. Mo Willems did the same thing, adding his name to the title page of a book series called “Elephant and Piggy Like Reading! Despite the appealing title, We are Growing and The Cookie Fiasco were not my favorites. Check them out from your library and see if you agree.
In the category of Easy Readers I discovered Snail and Worm: Three Stories about Two Friends by Tina Kugler! This debut title is definitely an easy book for new readers. The illustrations are delightful. Kugler’s characters share values of friendship, pride and understanding. Her tongue-in-cheek pictures with Snail and Worm’s animated and inanimate friends will resonate with her intended audience. Repetition in the text will help these readers. This book was the winner for the Easy Reader judges from CYBILS nominees for 2016.
My second favorite Easy Reader is a longer story. The Infamous Ratsos by Kara La Reau is at first funny, cute and endearing when the Ratso brothers try to be tough like their single Dad. I can see why it was nominated by the CYBILs first round of judges. Readers will identify with the bullying scene, the plans to be mischievous, and the bonding with the father. At the second reading I wasn’t certain if parents reading with their children would find the situations funny. Who is going to buy this book? We judged it too long for early readers; still reluctant older readers may enjoy the high jinx of these rat hoodlums. There is a lesson by the end and the main characters all learn that being bad is not good!
Kate Di Camillo’s latest entry in the Early Chapter books category was a fun read. She writes about neighbors of the popular pig Mercy Watson. Baby Lincoln and her aged sister Eugenia are unusual characters introduced in Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Adults will understand Lucille’s need for a “necessary journey,” but I am uncertain whether children ages 6-9 will find these strange characters engaging. DiCamillo is an expert in plot, dialogue and voice, as well as a challenging vocabulary. This title didn’t spark my interest as much as Faber’s Mango and Bambang book did.
What children’s books do you recommend from your reading in 2016? As usual, your comments and suggestions are welcome.
Happy Reading in 2017!
Filed under Children's Literature, First Novels, Prizes
Tagged as best books, book blogs, Characters, children's books, Friendship, Growing Book By Book, Jodie Rodriguez, literature, Polly Faber, Tina Kugler
April 7, 2016 · 3:13 pm
Most genres of fiction interest me from mysteries to historical fiction. There are many categories to relish as I have found from Book Page, a magazine provided by the Friends of the Library in my vacation spot. Where to begin to find the next book to read? I am changing my blog to include books I want to read but have not read yet.
Which are your top choices from this list?
New titles on my TBR list include one from each of these categories:
- Literary Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith. This one includes three narrative threads, intriguing for a reader and a writer.
- Family Saga: Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlan. She is a favorite author since I read her Black and Blue, a realistic view of domestic violence.
- Coming-of-Age: Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton. Begins in the 1960’s.
- Memoir: Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith. About her life in Appalachia.
- Middle Grade Fiction: A Bandit’s Tale by Deborah Hopkinson. A historical tale beginning in 1887 NYC with an Italian Oliver Twist-like character.
- Picture Book: The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield. Starts in a forest and progresses to Broadway!
- Historical Mystery: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. For adults and especially lovers of Jane Eyre (and no vampires!)
- Mystery: Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron . An Agatha nominee for best debut cosy mystery. I confess I read this one first as I am going to the Malice Domestic conference later this month.
- Audio Memoir: On My Own by Diane Rehm, read by the author.
- Historical Fiction: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. If you loved Major Pettigrew’s Land Stand, you have been waiting five years for her next novel. I think we will be pleased from the several reviews I have read so far.
Trisha Ping’s review in book Page of #10: “Full of trenchant observations on human nature and featuring a lovable cast of characters, The Summer Before the War is a second novel that satisfies.” Isn’t this premise the reason we read? I know it rings true for me!
Let me know what you recommend currently in comments.
I hope you are having fun with your own 2016 Reading Challenge!
HAPPY READING IN 2016!!
Filed under Adult Literature, Book Clubs, Children's Literature, First Novels, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Malice Domestic, Mystery, Reading challenges, Uncategorized
Tagged as best books, Book Reviews, children's books, review books
January 2, 2015 · 12:58 am
This year is the first year of my own blog, Best Books By Beth.com! I will be sharing links to reading and writing sites, reviews of children’s literature as well as great adult titles, both new and classic. Links will be shared to other writers’ blogs. Today, I am motivated to write more myself as I send in stories to contests, publishers, magazines and maybe find a writing group and an agent. Are these too many goals? C. S. Lewis said, “We read to know we’re not alone.” A well-known children’s writer, Richard Peck, mentioned that “…nobody but a reader ever became a writer.” I have discovered great inspiration from his book Invitations to the World: Teaching and Writing to the Young. (NY: Dell, 2002) So as I work on Best Books By Beth, my goal is to share great reading and writing with my followers.
When I decided to write my own blog, I thought about my best skills. What do I love to do daily? I cannot go a day without recommending at least one book to a friend, a friend I just met or a golden one. Today I started reading one of the books in Betty G. Birnam’s series of “Humphrey” books for middle grade readers. This reading started as research for my own writing, but I fall in love with Humphrey, the golden hamster, each time I read his narration. Do you need a light-hearted read today, the beginning of a new year? I recommend Surprises according to Humphrey. If you have never been introduced to this great character, you will be in for a treat. Today may be the day you laugh out loud while reading silently or when you decide to share this book with a loved one of any age.
Maybe you are looking for a new book for your adult book club. Remember CAMEL! C= Complex Characters; A= Ambiguity; M= Meaty Issues; E= Exceptional Setting; and L= Language and Literary Devices.
Let the CAMEL acronym fill you up with the best you can find. Would you like some examples?
C= The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Spark! A= Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck! M= Still Alice by Lisa Genovese! E= Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill! and L= The Last Letter from My Lover by Jojo Moyes! You can see I enjoy reading many genres of fiction with literary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries and women’s popular fiction all included in my tastes.
In the next post I will write about my favorite mystery writers for each age of reader. Until then, happy reading in this new year of potential and possibilities.
December 16, 2014 · 7:06 pm
There is nothing more I love to do than talk about books, except to read them! You will find lots of reviews and discussions about the latest, greatest and most interesting books for book lovers. Whether you like mysteries (my favorite), historical fiction, or children’s books, you’ll find what you’re seeking on this blog, Best Books By Beth. I welcome new authors to send me their books and I will be happy to review them!