Book Review: The Tenth Justice, Brad Meltzer

Book Review: The Tenth JusticeBrad Meltzer

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I will admit, I am a sucker for some of the blockbuster authors. Baldacci, Grisham, Clancy, Patterson–I have read and will continue to read their books. An author who can tell a story, make me like a character, and pull me into a place will get my attention. 

 

Brad Meltzer’s debut novel, The Tenth Justice, was published in 1997. Supreme Court clerk Ben Addison knows he cannot reveal deliberations or decisions outside the court. When a friendly former clerk just wants to casually reminisce and talk shop, though, what could it hurt? As it turns out, plenty. Meltzer’s book introduces sharp characters, has an intriguing plot with several twists, and pulls the reader inside the Supreme Court and into the life of one of its clerks–a life that is unraveling before our eyes.

 

Meltzer is at his best when painting the portraits of Ben’s closest friends. Although from Boston, Ben’s roommates have been besties with him since high school. Nathan, Ober, and Eric each found their own way to Washington, DC, but they also found their way together. Sharing a house, the friends are each deeply affected by Ben’s troubles. The consequences of their actions together and separately test the limits of friendship and make for some of the funniest and some of the most painful scenes in the book.

 

Meltzer has written several books since this auspicious debut. I may be late to the party, but I definitely plan to add his later works to my TBR list. It may not carry the weight of the Supreme Court, but that would be a good decision for you as well.

 

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Book Review: The Tenth JusticeBrad Meltzer

Book Review: Foreigner Series,  C. J. Cherryh

Book Review: Foreigner Series, C. J. Cherryh

 

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Science Fiction: Foreigner Series, C. J. Cherryh

 

The first Foreigner book was published in 1994. C. J. Cherryh won her first (!) Hugo Award in 1979. Sustained excellence is hard. Bands come and go. Companies wax and wane. Even countries rise and fall. In any walk of life, maintaining a high standard is a constant struggle. After twenty-four years, nineteen novels and two short stories, she could perhaps be forgiven if she went through the motions on her latest offering. Instead, she continues writing must-read books in a must-read series. In a genre that has tended to overlook talented women, Cherryh’s body of work demands respect.

 

Bren Cameron is the main protagonist through the series. Cameron is the “paidhi,” an intermediary between the native (non-human) “Atevi” population and the human colony on the planet. The role developed almost 200 years earlier, created to maintain peace between the species after a war almost wiped out the humans soon after they landed. Traditionally, the paidhi translated documents, negotiated trade deals, and basically tried to stay out of sight. Largely ignored by the atevi and forgotten by the humans, for two centuries the paidhi was kept in the dark and left to his own devices, unable and unwilling to serve the needs of either species.

 

A young Bren Cameron accepted the position straight out of college, about the same time as a new ruler became “aiji” of the Atevi. “Tabini” became supreme leader of the Atevi with a vision to unify the Atevi and to reconsider the relationship between humans and Atevi. In these goals he found a willing ally in Cameron. The need for change accelerated when a new spaceship appeared in the sky. The space station humans had built and abandoned two centuries before still orbited the planet, but when a new ship with humans arrived, the Atevi realized they needed to catch up technologically to their visitors and the guests they shared their planet with.

 

Through the Foreigner series, Cameron strives to be the impartial mediator that the “paidhi” role requires. He redefines it multiple times, developing it under Tabini’s direction into essentially a cabinet role within the Atevi government. He becomes a negotiator, not only between the island community of humans and the mainland population of Atevi, but between the spaceship humans and the planetary populations, between different Atevi factions and Tabini’s government, and ultimately between a new species, the Koh, and the two populations he serves. Cherryh does a remarkable job shepherding Cameron’s growth as a character through the series, changing his perception of himself from that of a human serving a human function to a human serving an Atevi function to a person–still human–but representing people of whatever species they may be.

 

The other main character of the books is Tabini’s young son, Cajeiri. Cajeiri is born early in the series, but as he becomes a boy his role in the books becomes more prominent. The most recent books in the series split their attention and their perspective between Cameron’s activities and Cajeiri’s. Cajeiri starts as a brash, immature child who tries to escape his caregivers and find adventure. Not appreciating that as the son of the ruler, adventure could quickly become danger, Cajeiri is wont to make poor choices and rash decisions–just like many 7-year-old humans do. As he ages through several of the books, though, Cajeiri matures. He learns from his mistakes, he embraces his role as future ruler of his people, and he begins to attract followers who are loyal to him personally. A bright and precocious child, he brings a point of view to the books that is both childlike (and sometimes childish) and distinctly non-human. He deeply admires both his father and Bren Cameron, and they in turn grow to trust him. Through his adventures in space with Cameron, he develops his own human friendships that violate tradition and precedent. Cajeiri will clearly become a leader who takes his father’s vision of interspecies cooperation to new heights.

 

Cherryh is remarkable at switching perspectives from human to Atevi, from adult to child, and from planet to space. Atevi dialog is distinct from human. Relationships are different. “Love” and “friendship” mean very different things to humans and Atevi, and those relationships and the words we use around them figure prominently through the series. Loyalty and service, politics and tradition, all the sundry inner workings of family and clan and city and community are outwardly similar in many regards between the species, but the devil is in the details and without understanding the differences misunderstandings are easy–and potentially deadly. Cherryh weaves a tapestry that is both familiar in its threads and yet deceptively intricate in its stitches.

 

The Foreigner series is actually several series, each a trilogy. The most recent book (2018) is Emergence. Although you can enter the series at almost any point and quickly capture the direction, it is well worth the investment of time to go back to the original book (Foreigner, 1994) and start from the beginning.

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Book Review: Foreigner Series, C. J. Cherryh

 

If you like this review also see,

Book Review: Redshirts, Celebrate First Contact in the Star Trek Universe, April 5th

Book Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew Sullivan

Book Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreMatthew Sullivan

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Fiction: Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreMatthew Sullivan

 

Lydia is a bookseller at the Bright Ideas Bookstore. A large, independent bookstore in Denver, CO, it is the home for a number of quirky employees and for a number of regular patrons, the BookFrogs as the employees call them. One night a young member of the BookFrogs, Joey, hangs himself on the third floor during Lydia’s shift. This tragedy starts Lydia on an arc of discovery, about Joey, about herself, and about the night twenty years earlier that changed her life forever.

 

First, this is just a cool book. The characters are fun, the dialog is fresh, and the story feels real. Lydia’s journey is authentic. She is a young woman who survived a brutal event, an event that cost her almost everything dear to her. This has left scars that cannot be hidden, though hide them she tries: a new name, a refusal to discuss her past, complete disconnection from her father. But Joey’s death draws her reluctantly down a path of rediscovery and reconnection with that past. Old faces return to her life in new ways. In unraveling the threads of Joey’s life, she begins reweaving threads of her own. Matthew Sullivan makes Lydia a heroine that we can cheer for. She is broken, but her response to the brokenness is hopeful and empowering.

 

For an adult with fond memories of his childhood in Denver, this book is delightful. Colfax Avenue could almost be a character in the book. America’s longest street, Colfax winds through the neighborhoods of Denver carrying traffic to every kind of business. Sullivan takes his readers through some of these neighborhoods. The LoDo of the book is a real place. The Bright Ideas bookstore itself is a thinly veiled homage to the venerable Tattered Cover Bookstore, one of the best bookstores in America! (No hometown bias in this review!) Sullivan knows Denver–he used to work at the Tattered Cover–and his love for the city is apparent throughout.

 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a solid book. It is a mystery, but it is not bogged down in procedural drama that so often marks the genre. Instead, the mystery of Lydia’s self-discovery, her journey toward finding her own answers about her own life, guides the reader through the streets of Denver into the life of a special young woman.

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Book Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew Sullivan

 

Book Review: An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon

Book Review: An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon

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Science Fiction: An Unkindness of GhostsRivers Solomon

I love finding new books from authors with different voices. Often, their characters are refreshing and also speak with different voices, representing populations that open my eyes to people I might otherwise overlook.  Rivers Solomon is such an author, and the lead character “Aster” in An Unkindness of Ghosts has that voice. Aster is poor, mixed race, sexually ambivalent (“they” is the preferred pronoun for the character–and for the author), and leaps off the page with fire and rage.

 

The Matilda is a spaceship that has been searching for a new home for humanity for centuries. On board the spaceship, differences between race and class mean everything. A religious/military government, basically comprised of white people, rules harshly over the entire ship. Lower decks are lower class–and largely black or brown in skin color. Into this stratified world walks Aster. Aster is brilliant in many ways: studying under the ship’s Surgeon General Aster has learned traditional medicine. Aster has also learned from books and from experimentation how to grow plants and distill medicines that replace those withheld from the lower classes by the ruling elites. That genius is both recognized and resented by people throughout the ship. Others with darker skin appreciate the skill, but resent that Aster has access to parts of the ship they cannot visit. Guards and rulers also appreciate Aster’s skill, but feel compelled to remind Aster constantly that they are in charge. Aster is a freak, and few can see past the freakishness to appreciate the person inside.

 

An Unkindness of Ghosts is a powerful book, creating a world that pulls the reader in. It is dark. The book does not offer easy answers, it does not end with “and they lived happily ever after.” Aster is a survivor. Sometimes, survival is ugly. It is also triumphant, though. Aster’s answers may not be the answers they, or we, were looking for. But life often refuses to give the answers we want. What matters is what we do with the answers we are given. An Unkindness of Ghosts demands that we examine who the “freaks” are–those who are born differently, who choose a different path, who wear a different skin, who love fiercely the people they love whatever their gender, or those who draw lines between “us” and “them,” who use skin color and gender to divide, who treat power as the opportunity to abuse and mistreat. The Matilda may be a dystopian nightmare. Perhaps, that type of misery is the fertilizer needed for an Aster to fully bloom.

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Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

Fiction: Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

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George Saunders book “Lincoln in the Bardo” has won some of the most prestigious literary awards given, including being only the second American book to win the Man Booker Prize. It is an extraordinary book, truly unlike anything I have read before.

 

The book is set in the few days following the death of Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son. Willie Lincoln died of illness during the Civil War. He was a boy who many felt was the very image of his father, more in his heart and demeanor than in his appearance, and Lincoln was devastated by this personal loss. Compounding the loss of his child, the progress of the Civil War was very much in doubt at this time. It was a dark period in the White House.

 

Saunders sets this scene with quote after quote from historians, contemporary observers, and historical documents. In fact, the entire book appears to be a series of quotes in succession. Fans and critics of the president have their say, with both noting that the boy died the same night as the White House held a gala. No doubt the music from the gala traveled to the boy’s sick room, but provided no comfort to the child nor to his distracted parents who frequently excused themselves from their guests to check on him. Many of the quotes are eerily similar to what we read on Twitter and other social media today. Criticism and defense of the president has a strong historical foundation.

 

Once the boy dies, he is interred in a nearby cemetery. The style of the book continues as a series of quotes, but now the quotes are from other residents of the cemetery. People who died and are interred there now get their chance to weigh in, observing the burial of the child and interpreting the actions of the living through the lens of their own lives. And Willie Lincoln himself gets a voice, reflecting upon his own short life and the love he shared with his father.

 

“The Bardo” is a Buddhist construct, a place of waiting where the dead can let go of their lives and then move on to the next plane of existence. In this cemetery lie people who have been waiting, some for days, others for decades, unable to let go of their hopes and dreams, or their “sins” and wrongdoings, and transition to the next stage. We meet and get to know these self-imprisoned souls in their own words and in the descriptions given of them by their fellows. Saunders’ “quotes” are extraordinary, finding voices for people who are lost, alone, disenfranchised, abandoned, and confused. Each character has a unique voice. Their interactions with each other allow their stories to unfold. We meet ordinary people, white and black, rich and poor, shopkeepers and preachers and housewives and the child of a president, and each gets the chance to speak and be heard. There is no “plot” in the traditional sense, but we find the story moving forward by the statements and conversations of the spirits stuck waiting for futures they will not get, held back by pasts they cannot undo.

 

President Lincoln comes to the cemetery to visit his son’s body. That simple event, one that is recorded by historians and contemporaries, creates a crisis of faith in the Bardo. Each spirit waiting there is forced to confront the real reason why he or she is still waiting. Their stories, told in the first person with all the biases and lack of perspective we have about ourselves, are the beauty of this book. You can almost see Saunders sitting there with a tape recorder, capturing their conversations and reflections and sharing them verbatim, unvarnished and unredacted. The author has an extraordinary gift for finding the voice and unveiling the motivations of his characters.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo touched me. Deeply. The book may be about ghosts. But it is the most profoundly alive story I have read in years.

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Book Review: Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Celebrating National Library Week, April 8 – 14

 

Our boys grew up loving libraries. On son #2’s 10th birthday, by his choice, we did the two things he loved most in the world  – eat at the local Chinese restaurant and then visit the library. He had a special seat by the window in the children’s section where he would curl up and read a stack of books. Later when he was in 5th grade, he wrote a poem about the library that he gave to his favorite children’s librarian. Libraries are a safe haven that children of all ages can enjoy. Celebrate National Library Week! Visit your local library and check out some books about libraries.

 

Before Shared Reading

Depending on your child’s attention span, try reading two books in one shared reading time. Pair a story book with a concept or nonfiction book. Talk about what is the same and different between pretend stories and realistic stories.

During library story times, in addition to introducing the book’s title, author, and illustrator, librarians also include a short teaser lead-in to focus reader attention.  This teaser blurb is known as a “Book Talk”. Your local library may have a reference book of Book Talks for popular story time books or you can see examples of Book Talk in action by viewing episodes of PBS’ Reading Rainbow. Storyline Online also has great examples of Book Talks in action.

 

During Shared Reading

To build comprehension, point out what is the same and what is different between the story libraries in the books and your local library.

 

After Shared Reading

To celebrate libraries in the best way possible, plan a trip together to your local library or book mobile. Based on the book you read together discuss what to expect at the library.

During the trip talk about your local library’s policies, discuss what is age appropriate and necessary (for example, how old your child is or being able to write their own name) for your child to have their own library card. Celebrate with your child if they are ready for their own library card by checking out a book about libraries or books.

After the trip, set up a home library and role play visiting and checking out books.

 

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Celebrating National Library Week, April 8 – 14

 

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The Library Lion

Words by Michelle Knudsen

Pictures by Kevin Hawkes

One day a lion drops in for the library story time; Hmmm, let’s see what happens next.

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The Library Dragon

Words by Carmen Agra Deedy

Pictures by Michael P. White

Sunrise Elementary has a new librarian and she’s a REAL dragon. Who’s going to be brave enough to read a book? If you love dragons, also see Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library, words by Julie Gassmanand and pictures by Andy Elkerton which has library etiquette 101 delivered with humor and rhymes. 

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If You Want to Bring a Circus to the Library 

Words and Pictures by Elise Parsley

Part of the Magnolia Says Don’t series

Magnolia takes the “You Can Do Anything at the Library” sign literally and sets up her own big top. Loud and proud, Magnolia learns what not to do in this cautionary tale about library etiquette.

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Lola at the Library

Words by Anna McQuinn

Pictures by Rosalind Beardshaw

Picture Book Ages 2 – 5

Great for introducing toddlers and preschoolers to the local library. Also see Lola Loves Stories

Tomas and the Library Lady

Words by Pat Mora

Pictures by Raul Colon

Picture Book Memoir Ages 4 – 8

The true story of Tomas, from a family of migrant farm workers, who learns to love reading and books from his mentor a local librarian. Tomas grew up to be the first minority Chancellor in the University of California. See also, Abe Lincoln:The Boy Who Loved Books by Kate Winters.

 

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Chapter Book Ages 8 – 12
Part 1 of a Series
A library that’s a locked room puzzle. Mr. Lemoncello is a game maker extraordinaire and he designed the new library! To celebrate the opening of the library, there’s going to be an overnight lock-in at the library. Kyle and friends are on a quest to escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s library.

More ways to celebrate National Library Week, if you like this Booklist about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children, then see our Book Review: The Invisible Library Series

Share your favorite library story or book about libraries here

Book Review: The Invisible Library Series

Book Review: The Invisible Library Series, Genevieve Cogman

Celebrating National Library Week April 2018

Fiction Fantasy Series

The Invisible Library, Book 1 in The Invisible Library Series

The Masked City, Book 2 in The Invisible Library Series

The Burning Page, Book 3 in The Invisible Library Series

The Lost Plot, Book 4 in The Invisible Library Series

The Mortal Word, Book 5 in The Invisible Library Series

How are you going to celebrate National Library Week? Try reading a book about or set in a library or better yet, a whole book series about libraries! I have read the first three books in Genevieve Cogman’s series about The Invisible Library, and I am very eager to catch up with the rest of the stories. Cogman’s books are fun, with a kick-ass heroine, a dragon side-kick (he looks human most of the time), a Sherlock Holmesian detective, and rich settings in imaginative worlds that are both fun and fantastic. The Invisible Library: a fantastic series to read in celebrating National Library Week.  

Irene works for the library as a book collector cum spy. Her job is to go into alternate realities and collect unique books. Not rare. Unique. Shakespeare may be read in multiple realities, but in one of those realities perhaps Hamlet has an extra scene. The library collects and preserves those unique texts, and in so doing preserves the uniqueness and separateness of the various realities.

Along the way she picks up an assistant, Kai, a young dragon who wants to become a librarian. Dragons can choose to appear as human, and Kai typically remains in human form. When needed, Kai can pull some dragon magic to save the day. Usually, though, it is Irene saving him.

Irene is opposed by a fearsome entity, a former librarian who has forsaken his mission and has turned to stealing books for his own purposes. As the book series develops, we learn that her enemy is trying to replace the library with a creation of his own. He finds, though, that Irene is more than formidable, and that whatever dangers she may encounter in the multiverse, she is capable of handling herself and rescuing her friends.

Cogman’s worlds are creative and well drawn. Irene may find herself traveling through time, traveling around the world, or traveling between worlds. She may find herself in a modern car, a steampunk dirigible, or riding a dragon. Wherever she goes, though, she is armed with her quick wits, her sharp tongue, and both the bravery and the skills to confront any challenge.

Although the series is written for adults, it is quite appropriate for teens as well. Irene is no wilting flower, no damsel in distress, no woman waiting for rescue by a man. She is a bold and sometimes headstrong heroine. She is quite capable of rescuing herself and leading her assistant bravely into battle when necessary.

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The Invisible Library

For Genevieve Cogman’s website on the series http://www.grcogman.com/books/

More ways to celebrate National Library Week, if you like this Book Review on The Invisible Library Series, then see our

Booklist: Books about Libraries for Shared Reading with Children

Booklist about Books for Shared Reading with Kids

What book will you read to Celebrate National Library Week?

Author Spotlights: If You like Tom Clancy, You will Like Mark Greaney

Author Spotlights: If You like Tom Clancy, You will Like Mark Greaney

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Tom Clancy

In the 1980s the Cold War was nearing its end, though no one knew it then. Into this backdrop of geopolitical tension and rivalry, Tom Clancy, an insurance agent from Maryland, published his first book. With brilliant and heroic CIA agent Jack Ryan working to help a Soviet submarine captain defect with his state-of-the-art sub, The Hunt for Red October became a bestseller. Promoted by no one less than the Book Critic in Chief, Ronald Reagan, Tom Clancy embarked on a second career as an author, turning out book after book that kept him at the top of the best seller lists for decades. Several of his books also became hit movies, starring the likes of Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, and Chris Pine.

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Tom Clancy dominated the literary world like few others, from 1984 until his death in 2013. With iconic characters, sharp dialog, and technical accuracy, he shaped the genre of wide-focused geopolitical thrillers. Multiple conspiracies, nefarious political actors at home and abroad, bold action by our enemies and too often dithering and indecisiveness on the part of the US set the stage for crises that fortunately could be resolved at the end by Jack Ryan, John Clark, Rainbow Six, and the rest of his ultra heroic ubermenschen. His heroes did not have super powers, but they had few physical, mental, or moral weaknesses and never needed (nor ever received) oversight or punishment for overreach.

 

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Clancy could tell a story. To his credit, he often shared that story with others. He partnered with other writers during his life, and his estate has continued to do so since his death.  One writer to pick up his mantle is Mark Greaney. Greaney co-wrote Clancy’s last three novels, Locked On, Threat Vector, and Command Authority.

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Following Clancy’s death, Greaney has written four more novels in the same world: Tom Clancy: Support and Defend, Tom Clancy: Full Force and Effect, Tom Clancy: Commander in Chief, and Tom Clancy: True Faith and Allegiance.

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Mark Greaney

Greaney is also known for his Gray Man series of novels. These novels feature a disavowed CIA Agent who has become the best assassin for hire in the world, but one that holds to a moral code that prohibits him from killing “innocents” or good guys. You could hire him to kill your drug dealing rival, but not your ex-wife (unless she was a drug-dealing rival). As the novels progress, Court Gentry (the Gray Man) works out his differences with the CIA, but continues to hew to his own moral code even when it interferes with his agency missions. This usually means he is in a position where he is opposed by all of the competing parties in the novels, most of whom want him dead. Fortunately, the skill set and tenacity of the Gray Man allows him to walk–or at least limp–away at the end.

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There will never be another Tom Clancy. But in the world of high energy, world traveling, politically intriguing, death-dealing heroes, Mark Greaney fills the void.

 

Booklist: If You Like Peter Rabbit… Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

If You Like Peter Rabbit…

Booklist: Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

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When I first heard of the 2018 live action movie of Peter Rabbit, I must admit to being worried, because I adore Beatrix Potter’s detailed and delightful watercolor illustrations. Peter Rabbit, himself is also an irrepressible trickster with that balance of naughty and nice that makes him so lovable. Of course, ending one’s adventures or rather misadventures with a soothing cup of chamomile tea is a perfect precedent to continue.  Whatever your thoughts on the movie, take time to read the original inspiration as well as some of Miss Potter’s other works.

 

For more about the author/illustrator Beatrix Potter see the 2006 PG movie Miss Potter https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/miss-potter

 

Before Shared Reading: Establish a Reading Routine

A reading routine can be soothing for children and help them focus on the story. Examples of routines include time and place of shared reading – before bedtime and in bed or a comfy chair. Include in your routine a way to introduce the book which includes highlighting the title, author, illustrator, and some story clues (blurbs from the back or dust cover flaps of books). This routine will help your child by building anticipation as well as listening skills.

 

During Shared Reading

Make the reading relevant to your child, by pointing specific character traits and behaviors. The lead characters in this booklist are all rabbits that act like people in both positive and negative ways. In folklore, rabbits often take on the role of the trickster, a clever character who can circumvent typical behaviors for their own positive outcome, for example, Uncle Remus’ Brer Rabbit or even Bugs Bunny. While reading, highlight naughty or nice behaviors that fits the rabbit  in the story into the trickster role.

 

After Shared Reading

Children often enjoy characters that they can relate to, even if they are being naughty, such as Mo Willem’s Pigeon who whines and wheedles in order to get his way. Talk about what your child likes or doesn’t like about the behaviors of the rabbit character. Are they relevant to your child? Is the rabbit a good or bad model of behavior? Would they want to be friends with a person or character with similar behaviors.

 

Depending on the dialog and action, use homemade (finger, stick, or sock) puppets or even stuffed plush toys to dramatize favorite scenes from the books. Reenacting the story plot helps build reading comprehension skills.

 

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If You Like Peter Rabbit…

Booklist: Bunny Books for Shared Reading with Children

 

White Rabbit’s Color Book

Words and Pictures by Alan Baker

Board Books Infants and Toddlers

White rabbit experiments with the paint pots and has a colorful adventure. If you find a paperback or hardback edition read that edition as the detailed full page spreads are easier to view. Also see by the same author/illustrator, Black and White Rabbit’s ABC

 

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present

Words by Charlotte Zolotow

Pictures by Maurice Sendak

Caldecott Honor Book

Mr Rabbit helps a little girl find a present for her mother who loves colorful things.

 

If You Plant a Seed

Words and Pictures by Kadir Nelson

Picture Book Ages 4 – 8

Rabbit and mouse plant a garden and wait patiently for harvest, however, when it’s time to gather their carrots and cabbages unexpected visitors arrive. Gorgeous paintings by an award winner illustrator paired with a lovely story about friendship and cooperation.

 

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale

 

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion

Words and Pictures by Mo Willems

Picture Books Ages 2 – 6

Knuffle Bunny Caldecott Medal

The adventures of Trixie and her cuddle buddy, Knuffle Bunny, from toddlerhood through preschool years will delight your family. Include The Velveteen Rabbit, words by Margery Williams and pictures by William Nicholson, during a reading session to extend the theme of rabbit shaped toy friends.

 

Bunny Cakes

Words and Pictures by Rosemary Wells

Picture Book Ages 2- 6 Part of the Max and Ruby series

Max wants to make grandma a cake with worms, but bossy Ruby wants to make an angel cake with icing. Which sibling will be in charge of the baking in the kitchen?

 

The Little Rabbit Who Lost Her Hop

Words and Pictures by Jedda Robaard

Board Book Ages 2 – 4

On the way to a party, little rabbit loses her hop – how will she get to her family’s celebration? Let children lift the flaps to see how she will get to the party on time.

 

Watership Down

Richard Addams

Fiction Fantasy

The classic tale of rabbits in search of a new home due to building on their former field. This would also be a good audiobook to listen to on a road trip. You might want to introduce younger children to the plot by viewing the animated adaptation from 1978, for more on the movie, see  https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/watership-down 

 

 

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The Tale of Hill Top Farm

Susan Wittig Albert

First in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series

Fiction Cozy Mystery/Fantasy

Including real people and locations, this cozy mystery series brings a lighthearted look at the complexity of village life including the point of view and side stories of the animal inhabitants. Grown-up fiction which is approachable for older elementary and middle school readers.

 

So, what do you think? Peter Rabbit — movie or book? Share your thoughts below.

 

Booklist: Worms on the Sidewalk, Books for Shared Reading

Booklist: Worms on the Sidewalk, Books for Shared Reading

Ground Hog Day’s Punxsutawney Phil may get the notoriety for heralding the onset of spring, but to me the surest sign of spring is worms on the sidewalk.  My mother is a gardener, so I grew up respecting worms and using gardening gloves to move them from the sidewalk to soil.

My favorite worm book is Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin with pictures by Harry Bliss. This book inspired son #2’s summer project of a DIY worm composting bin. Due to only having a small patio, we couldn’t winterize the worms and set them free in the fall in time for their dormant stage. The azalea bush is still grateful. When granddaughter #1 is ready, I will probably pair that book reading with the nonfiction book We Dig Worms! — words and pictures by Kevin McCloskey — because they share the same cartoon style illustrations. Bonus: both authors are from Pennsylvania where we live.

 

Before Shared Reading: Set the Stage

Select a good time, these books are perfect to read during a rainy day.  Get comfortable and cozy; proximity is important because in a shared reading experience you want everyone to be able to see all the pictures and the words. The book should be within reaching distance so your child can help turn the pages (when appropriate by skill and age).

Point out the names of the author and illustrator on the book cover. This will build the concept that books are created by people and will subtly reinforce your own child’s agency in creating pictures and stories.

 

During Shared Reading: Be Dramatic and Go for an Encore

It’s time to let your inner Oscar, Emmy, Tony or Golden Globe out. Use funny voices and encourage your child to add in sound effects.

During the first couple of read throughs you might want to stick to the main text. For repeated readings take time to explore the dialog balloons or side text boxes; move your along the words to show that you where your are on the page. Ask questions (who, what, where, why, & how) to check your child’s comprehension for the plot and character or factual information.

 

After Shared Reading: Engage in Activities

Find a few worms to observe in a jar with local soil (potting soil may not have enough compost nutrients for them) for a couple of days. Feed them small bits of compost material (for example: leftover vegetable leaves) and lightly spray the soil with water.  Also, make a wrap around sleeve of cardboard for darkness when you aren’t observing them. (See the nonfiction books on earthworms, they don’t have eyes but do have light sensitive cell receptors) Like a any good scientist, encourage your child to take dated field notes (pictures, dictation, bullet points) or like the worm in the book keep a diary for the time you have your wormy guests. Besides observing them, there are a few experiments you can try with your worms. For example, while on a tray place the worm in front of wet paper towel and a dry paper towel, in which direction will your worm move? After a few days, do the capture/release or search & rescue (if you saved them from a wet sidewalk) and set them free because the earth needs worms in the environment.

 

Booklist: Worms on the Sidewalk, Books for Shared Reading

Diary of a Worm

Words by Doreen Cronin and Pictures by Harry Bliss

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

With humor and clever cartoons, this book takes you through the day to day life of a young worm. There is also an easy reader spin-off in the I Can Read series that extends your stay in this setting as well as a companion picture book Diary of a Spider.

 

 

Best Lowly Worm Book Ever!

Words and Pictures by Richard Scarry

Picture Book Fiction Ages 3 – 7

Nostalgia for grown-ups and new adventures for children, readers follow Lowly Worm as he rides around in his apple car on a busy day. Plenty of details in the pictures will keep children engaged during re-reads. Huck Scarry completed the book making process for his dad.

 

How to Eat Fried Worms

Thomas Rockwell

Chapter Book Ages 8 – 12

Two boys make a bet that forces one of them to eat a worm each day for 15 days in a row. Lots of dialog makes for a great read aloud. There is a 2006 movie adaptation with a PG rating, for more on the movie see https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/how-to-eat-fried-worms

It’s a Good Thing There Are Earthworms

Words by Jodie Shepherd

Illustrated Book Nonfiction Ages 4 – 8

Basic introduction to earthworms with photographs for up close illustrations.  Also see similar photographic works: Earthworms, by Lisa J. Amstutz; Earthworms, by Nikki Bruno Clapper; Earthworms, by Claire Llewellyn and Barry Watts.

 

Snail and Worm Again!

Words and Pictures by Tina Kügler

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 9

Geisel Honor Winner

Snail and Worm are friends, share three stories about their friendship. The mini-chapters can be read by new readers on their own. There is a previous work with the same duo, Snail & Worm. Also see, Wiggle and Waggle, a beginner chapter book by Caroline Arnold that features the friendship between two worms.

 

The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves

Words and Photography by Richard Sobol

Picture Book Nonfiction Ages 6 – 9

The author/photographer shares his trip to a village in Thailand, where all the town’s people including the children work together to produce cloth from silk worms.  Pair this travel story with How to Eat Fried Worms, because there is a photograph of villagers eating boiled silkworms with their lunch, nothing gets wasted in this culture.

 

 

We Dig Worms!

Words and Pictures by Kevin McCloskey

Graphic Novel Nonfiction Ages 5 – 7

School Library Journal’s Top 10 Graphic Novels 2015

Shares facts about worms with a focus on how earthworms aid in plant growth with their tunnels and castings. In the back of the book, the author shares great tips on how to read comics with kids.

 

Wiggling Worms at Work

Words by Wendy Pfeffer 

Pictures by Steve Jenkins

Picture Book Nonfiction Ages 4 – 8

Basic presentation of a worm life cycle and facts with interesting torn paper collage illustrations. Back of the book suggests experiments for observing worms in their environment. For a similar book, see Garden Wigglers: Earthworms in Your Backyard; Words by Nancy Loewen and Pictures by Rick Peterson (Picture Book Nonfiction Ages 4-8)

 

Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer

Words by Carol Brendler

Pictures by Ard Hoyt

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

Our spunky heroine, Winnie Finn is on a quest to enter her worm friends in the Quincy County Fair, even if there is no category for worms. See the back of the book for advice on starting a family worm farm.

 

The Worm (Disgusting Critters Series)

Words and Pictures by Elise Gravel

Picture Book Nonfiction, Part of a Series  Ages 6 – 9

With humor, a worm introduces himself to the readers, along with a variety of worm facts.  The cartoon illustrations will pair well in a read along with Diary of a Worm.

 

Worm Weather

Words by Jean Taft

Pictures by Matt Hunt

Picture Book Ages 3 – 5

In rhyming verse, two children play in rain as worms underground raise up to explore the wet ground.

 

Superworm

Words by Julia Donaldson and Pictures by Axel Scheffler

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

Superworm saves his friends, the toads, the bees, and the beatles, however, when Superworm is caught by the wicked Lizard wizard, it’s time for Superworm’s friends to save him.

 

Yucky Worms

Words by Vivian French

Pictures by Jessica Ahlberg

Picture Book Fiction Ages 4 – 8

Bridges the gap between a fiction and nonfiction book. While gardening, a grandmother explains to her grandson the importance of worms, so this book provides an overview of worm facts within a gentle setting.

If you like this booklist, then see

Booklist: Spring Books for Shared Reading with Children

Recommend your favorite book with worms here