Saturday, June 29, 2019

Review: In the Shadow of Spindrift House

In the Shadow of Spindrift House In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I opened my copy, saw this novella was dedicated to "beloved Catherynne Valente," and knew I'd be at home in spite of the obvious Lovecraftian theme evidenced by the cover illustration. Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire) has given us a Lovecraftian tale in the vein of Ruthanna Emrys' recent retellings- a kinder, less racist and xenophobic Lovecraft world. For you see, I've never been a Lovecraft fan, since I find his original works pretty repellant. (See for instance here if you don't understand why I dislike his work.) It is, however, with relish that I read authors like Emrys, or here, Grant/McGuire, spinning Lovecraft's ideas on end, re-envisioning all that was creative in his work, so that it is better, finer, and more of a celebration of diversity.

In the Shadow of Spindrift House gives us the story of Harlowe Upton-Jones, a young woman whose childhood is forever scarred by the murder of her parents. She was found at age four, in a car with their bloody corpses, and few clues as to the reasons for their fate. Raised in Chicago by emotionally absent grandparents, she finds her real home and family with her chosen brother/friend Kevin, and is one of a quartet of teen detectives along with Kevin and his friends Addison and Andy Tanaka. (If they sound like the quartet from Scooby Doo, you wouldn't be wrong...) Harlowe, who is not so secretly in love with Addison, suggests a job that may be the teen detectives' last gig together, since they are outgrowing their situation, including local law enforcement's tolerance for their antics. The gig is in a remote area of Maine, trying to uncover the deed or information about the rightful owner of the mysterious Spindrift House. Located in a place called Port Mercy (RED FLAG), with a slew of intrusive/restrictive conditions set by those contracting them to find this information, you'd think the Scoobies would know from the get-go that this job simply isn't worth the risks. Well, Kevin knows, but Harlowe pushes ahead, trying to do right by her girl Addison. Things don't go well, but they seldom do in haunted houses with dark histories.

This was an engaging, fast read and I enjoyed the audiobook, too. Narrated by Jesse Vilinsky, this would be a great sleepover party audiobook. Just hope the power doesn't go out, leaving you in the dark. ;)

I received a Digital Review Copy from Subterranean Press in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: Hexarchate Stories

Hexarchate Stories Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yoon Ha Lee's Hugo Award-nominated novels in the Machineries of Empire series have been some of my favorite science fiction novels in recent years. Lee has offered us a wealth of short stories set in this world on his website, and many of those stories in this volume are included here, along with the story that we know every fan of the series is here for, "Glass Cannon." Set several years after the end of Revenant Gun, Jedao starts piecing together his past and wants to recover his memories. Of course, the repository of quite a few of his memories is Cheris, who has been living a quiet life teaching children among the Mwennin. Needless to say, the Shuos are not really down with this plan, though Cheris is willing to help Jedao to divest herself of a bunch of complicated memories. But how will this be accomplished? And at what cost?

A variety of other stories are here, including some shorter ones that are dear to my heart, like "The Robot's Math Lessons," a favorite of mine that let me understand the long game in Raven Stratagem, and the story of Irriz the Assassin-Cat who, in her harness and leash journeying about with Zehun, reminds me of a certain Catten.

While not the best entry point to Lee's work, this volume is a must-have for any fan of the Machineries series. The timeline at the start was very useful, and the author's notes about the stories lent insights to both Lee's thoughts and the development of some of the characters. 

Emily Woo Zeller's narration of the audiobook is wonderful as always.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Summer Reading for the Children in Your Life, Part 1

Again and again we see studies showing that reading during the summer is essential to keeping your child on track with their education. Yet, in most cases, schools assign a single summer reading book, if that. And if your child is anything like I was as a child, that assigned book is viewed as torment, someone "telling me how to spend my time," etc. (And mind you, I was a voracious reader who organized my bedroom library by the Dewey Decimal System, and yeah, I'm not all that OCD *cough* And no, I'm not kidding.)

One of the first things I can suggest to frustrated parents is that for younger children (under tten), you should read that summer reading assignment together. And I mean that literally. I would take turn reading the assigned summer book out loud, chapter by chapter with my kids. Reading out loud is really important for developing reading fluency. It lets you gauge how well your child is reading on multiple levels and can even be a tip off that your child might need glasses or they have signs of mild dyslexia that you missed up until now. For younger children, I always had them read their passages with a bookmark under the line they are actually reading. It helps a child get over the occasional frustration of getting lost on a page when they are starting chapter readers. I would use the bookmark, too, so if they were in my lap or sitting next to me, they could keep track of what I was reading. That helps a child learn how to pronounce more challenging words. For tweens and teens, if you can swing it, I'd recommend reading the book they were assigned and going someplace fun, within your budget, as a date to discuss the book. I remember one summer I took our daughter to afternoon tea in a swanky hotel. I literally think it was the only way I got her to read the book because she wasn't and still isn't a reader. There was also the time I discussed the assigned book on the way to a theme park with the youngest. (Reading the assigned book was how he got to go along with extended family.) Bribery is okay when it comes to reading, right?

As for format, in addition to the kinesthetics of paper or the ease of e-books, there's always the audiobook option— my youngest is dyslexic and audiobooks were a godsend for the first few years of elementary school. If your child is really having trouble reading an assigned book, the audiobook option might be the best bet. You can even borrow audiobooks from the library but if it's a district-wide assignment, get that request in early! If you want to be sure your child is really paying attention while you listen to the audiobook together in the car, I strongly recommend the "Wait a minute, what? I missed that. What happened? You missed it, too? Let's rewind it. I think I got lost." tactic.

But all of this is about the reading an assigned book. What about looking at books your child might choose? Here's a selection of books you can look at for pre-kindergarten, elementary school kids, middle graders. (This coming week I'll post a suggestion list for those looking for books for teens.) Most can be found in a library or secondhand, if you don't to make a big investment in a book you're not sure your child will read. And again, don't forget that many libraries loan e-books, and audiobooks too, so if going out and getting books is a challenge, one trip to get a library card can open a world of e-books and audiobooks that you can access on your computer or tablet or even a smart phone.

Pre-K to Kindergarten/Getting Ready to Read

Getting your child prepared for their Kindergarten and First Grade introduction to reading can be made easier with books with clear sight words— animals, plants, colors, objects like cars and trucks and buildings. I Spy books can be great fun and a good way to pass the time while sharing names and colors with a younger child. And of course beyond the pure fun, books with a "message" serve an additional purpose. Here are a few classic suggestions and a few newer ones, in case you already have the classics on your shelves.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is an absolute classic bedtime story parents read to their children but it's also one many children can read with you, at bedtime. It's a good book for a beginning reader to start with because the words are already familiar. Now it's time to recognize them.

Likewise, Eric Carle's The Hungry Caterpillar is a wonderful early book for children because it is so colorful (naming colors is always good!), has different foods to name, and it introduces the concept of growing and changing. I've always found the metamorphosis to be a little abrupt, but many children like the humor of the caterpillar eating a hole though so many things.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is a surprisingly controversial book. I've actually read reviews that suggest it promotes socialism while other reviewers say it's promoting Christian values, and still others say it is about philosophy. It's an interesting book to discuss with a child, and to ask the child what they think it's all about. Sometimes adults tend overcomplicate things with their adult paradigm. I once had a child tell me that it probably meant you would have more friends if you were willing to share when you had something nice.

Another book that is wonderful for discussing with your child is Demi's The Empty Pot. A philosophical approach to telling the truth, and trying to do your best, this is a beautiful book that many children love because of its simplicity. Many of Demi's other beautiful retellings of Asian fables and fairy tales would be worth borrowing from the library for your child.

Isabelle Simleur's The Blue Hour is one of my favorite children's books. It teaches younger children to look at the differences in shades of blue while introducing the idea of finding a serene time of the day, with calm, blue colors. The palette of blues at the end requires a bit of adult input but can be a good way for you to connect with a child about the book by looking at colors of the sky, birds, flowers, cars, or clothes, and linking back to that color palette. It gets a child thinking about all the colors around them. Plus, this book is so beautiful! As a parent, you're sure to enjoy sharing it.

In terms of series for young children, I can also recommend the Peppa Pig books (by Scholastic and Eone), currently a very popular series for young children. Peppa is the protagonist in a Nick Jr. series of the same name. There are a number of books in the series or you can get the collection in a larger book!

For slightly older pig-character-lovers, I strongly recommend the Olivia series by Ian Falconer. Olivia is strong-minded and independent, if a little tiring to those around her. Sometimes she even exhausts herself! These books have things you can explore with your child after reading. Like that paining that Olivia and her mother looked at? That was a Degas, a real painting you can look at in a book or online. Olivia is a polished children's series that opens your children's minds to a larger world.

Early Elementary Readers/Short Text Books

At 62 pages of very accessible text, this book is a winner. After reading it a few times with your child, you could challenge them to read it back to you in exchange for breakfast of green eggs and ham. (Best possible use for blue food coloring, in my estimation.) Dr. Seuss books have humor and that's one of the best ways to engage a child in a book. Plotting with them to feed their other parent green eggs and ham as a surprise is also quite rewarding!

I have a love/hate affair with this book. I once read portions of it to our youngest almost daily when he was learning to read (he's dyslexic and thinking he could "do it" was vital). It's a classic, and has a good message for a child who has struggles. And really doesn't everyone need to believe they can? The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper is a classic.

If you're looking for a fun fantasy book that is sure to stir your child's laughter and imagination, look no further than this one. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett was our daughter's favorite book in childhood and it was the first book she enjoyed reading on her own. It's better than the movie and sadly I really can't recommend its sequels, which attempted to capitalize on the success of the original book rather unsuccessfully.

Does your child ever have terrible days where it feels like everything goes wrong? Meet Alexander, who is sure he is going to have the very worst day. On a day where everything goes wrong, Alex just wants to go live in Australia. But maybe everyone has a bad day now and again. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is a good discussion book for getting children to realize that bad days happen to everyone.

Trying to encourage your child's imagination? Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is a classic! It teaches children about what their mind and spirit can create. Of course, you may end up having to explain to your child about why drawing on your walls is not a great plan. (Or you could just buy washable markers and crayons before you hand them this book.)

Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is a humorous way of approaching your wild thing's behavior, time outs, dreams, imagination, and the dangers of wolf suits. Like all things Sendak, the illustrations are gorgeous, and after reading it a few times you can also show your child the short video of the book, narrated by Peter Schiekle (on Amazon Prime).

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beatty is a great book for the little girl in your life who is interested in how things work. It's the first in a series that includes Ada Twist, ScientistIggy Peck, Architect, and Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, and several books with The Questioneers. (BTW, Iggy is a boy, lest you think these are only for girls.)

One thing that all children must learn to deal with is frustration. The frustration of not being able to make something look like what you had in mind, whether it's a drawing, a lego structure, or that neatly written page your teacher wanted, is something every child goes through. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires tells the story of an unnamed girl and her dog. The little girl is a perfectionist and wants to build the titular most magnificent thing but gets frustrated that it isn't perfect and after a while gets so angry she quits. Her dog persuades her to go for a walk and when she returns she decides to try again. A book about learning to deal with your frustrations, about perseverance, and knowing when to take a break. Something even some adults could learn from!

Elementary Age Children/Chapter Readers

Let's start with some good standalone books and move toward series of increasing length.

Author E.B. White's two classic novels, Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, are books every child should read. An adventurous mouse living in a human family with a cat named Snowbell, Stuart bravely leaves his family to search for his missing friend Margalo, a bird who is missing from her nest. And Charlotte is a spider who is a friend to a little pig named Wilbur and a girl name Fern who saved Wilbur, the runt of his litter. These are perfect books about friendship and also introduce children to some more sophisticated vocabulary.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a beautiful book about learning to survive heartbreak and disappointment. At 200 pages it's a book that you should probably help your child read. It's beautifully illustrated to help form visuals about the plot. And the story is very engaging and moving. Frankly, I can honestly say I haven't read a bad Kate diCamillo book. For ambitious vocabulary that doesn't talk down to your child, I'd also recommend The Tale of Desperaux. 

Jackson Pearce's Ellie, Engineer is the first book in a new series that includes Ellie, the Next Level, and the forthcoming Ellie, In the Spotlight. In the first book, Ellie wants to build her best friend Kit a dog house for her new puppy but the engineering project is so big that Ellie has to form a collaborative group with some friends that haven't always gotten along with one another. For children who loved Andrea Beatty's Rosie Revere, Engineer series mentioned above, this book is a natural transition to chapter reading.

Author Neil Gaiman has several books for young readers including Odd and the Frost Giants, and the luminous, if very gory at the start, The Graveyard Book, the scary (gave one of my kids nightmares!) Coraline, and the humorous Fortunately, the Milk. All four books are available bound into one rather daunting looking volume of 752 pages that would be too heavy for most children to hold. But they are also available in standalone format, with Odd weighing in at 97 pages, Fortunately at 117 pages, Coraline at 162 pages, and my favorite, Graveyard at a more challenging 307 pages. I should note that if your child like visuals and is comfortable with comic book style text fonts, The Graveyard Book has been adapted into two gorgeous graphic volumes. Some children, particularly those who have reading difficulties, may have problems with comic book font, but for other children, the visuals will provide added comprehension to their reading. (The visuals are pretty gory at the start of Bod's story. Some children really like gory stories, though.) I provide a screen capture of the font so you can see what I mean about it (you should be able to enlarge the image to full size) and if you're curious about the gory visuals, Amazon's "Look Inside" feature will let you see what I'm talking about at the start of the first graphic novel. As your child gets older, depending on how much of a visual learner they are, it might help to check out graphic novels as a way to make reading more accessible and interesting for them.

While most people know about Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series, his standalone novel Half Moon Investigations is also excellent and a truly funny audiobook, narrated with a gentle brogue, by Sean Patrick Reilly. Fletcher Moon is a twelve year old detective. He's witty and amusing. This is a great audiobook for a long car ride. And if your child enjoys Colfer's humor, his eight-book-long Artemis Fowl series, about twelve year old millionaire, genius, and criminal mastermind Artemis, is a pleaser. These books are accessible and it's easy to pick through several chapters a night.

Erin Hunter's Warriors: The New Prophecy series is about a group of feral cats and follows the ThunderClan and Bramblepaw, the hero seeking to save the clans and fulfill a prophecy. Children who love cats often adore these books and learn a lot about wild cats from them. There are six novels in the series, beginning with Bramblepaw's story in Warriors.

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper follows the adventures of Will Stanton, who learns on his eleventh birthday that he is the Sign Seeker, last of an old race of immortals who are responsible for protecting their land from an evil called The Dark. Will is tasked with finding and linking the Six Signs that will form a strong shield against growing darkness. This is a highly acclaimed five-book series with elements of Welsh mythology readily engages the reader. At 1150 pages in total, this is a longer reading commitment than its mere five books might indicate at first glance.

Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons follows the adventures of the Walker children on Wild Cat Island, a deserted island they camp on, reached with the help of their loved boat the Swallow. They are joined by the intrepid Amazons, the Blackett sisters. This is a well-written, classic, twelve-book-long adventure series that has inspired modern authors like Sarah Tolcser, whose books I recommend in the Middle Grade section below. It's a bit dated but still fun and accessible. For those looking for audiobooks, the narrator Alison Larkin speaks with a clear British accent that might amuse your child, or initially frustrate them, depending on their ear for language. Assuming that your child has normal auditory processing, learning to listen and comprehend different accents in English is a valuable skill readily acquired in this age group. Before you know it they'll be imitating David Tennant's Scots accent for you. 

And progressing to very long series, Brian Jacques' Redwall is a wonderful introduction to a twenty-two book long adventure series, set largely in Mossflower Woods, which is home to Redwall Abbey. It's a series that provides both male and female protagonists. One of the things that is nice about series with animal protagonists is that you avoid any overt human-type racial assignments. Here we see brave mice like Matthias, Mattimeo, and Mariel, good cats like Gingivere and bad cats like Tsarmina. There are pirate rats, brave squirrels and otters. There's a very well established wiki site to help you and your child keep all the characters straight.

Thoughts on Harry Potter— Are 4th and 5th graders too young for these books?

I'm a huge fan of Harry Potter, as are all three of my kids. One of the questions I've had several blog readers and even some friends ask me is what age children could/should begin reading Harry Potter. My answer is always that it depends on your child. It's really important to remember that while the early books, though tinged with loss and, at times, great loneliness, are filled with friendship and life lessons, the later books in this series are very dark, so much so that they are probably only suitable for middle grade children or older. A number of children, parents/guardians, a beloved house elf, and even a beloved pet die in the later books in this series. My eleven-year-old was very impacted by the final book, at the sheer numbers of children, especially, who died, at the torture of a major character, etc. On the positive side, the deaths aren't tossed off- the losses are deeply felt. It's still a lot for some younger children to handle. That said, if you're trying to recapture a bit of the magic you felt with the series, the excitement of waiting for each book to release, the illustrated editions of the book are now being released on a schedule not too different from that of the original series. They are already up to book four, which will release in October 2019. So your child has time to grow, and to reach maturity for the darkness we see from Goblet of Fire onward.

Middle Grade Books

The Middle Grade years are ones in which bullying often reaches its height. It's the best time to start to learn about empathy, and more about life, loss, and finding your self-worth, through reading. Children at this age may be very engaged by books that pose challenges for the protagonist, and the strong friendships that help us overcome tough situations.

Among absolute classics in the genre, a book I'm always happy to recommend is Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. While you might consider it middle grade historical fiction, this classic novel about the dissonance that children often feel between their hopes and their realities, their dreams and their responsibilities is a masterful American novel. Francie Nolan's story ranked high on the PBS Great American Read and yet it is too often overlooked by schools and parents. A moving book that ends in hope.

Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia is a book about Jess Aarons and his best friend Leslie Burke. Together the children build the woodland kingdom of Terabithia out of their imagination. They escape their loneliness and worries, deal with life their way- becoming the King and Queen of Terabithia. But be aware, if you haven't read the book or seen the movie (the book is not surprisingly much deeper than the movie) that this is a book with a hard emotional punch to the gut because of a child death.

New author J. H. Diehl's little jewel of a book Tiny Infinities remains one of my favorite middle grade reads of recent years. Alice's parents separate and her mother's depression leaves Alice floundering as she tries to keep up with her swim team and deal with her younger brothers, and an annoying new girl who joins the swim team, Harriet. Harriet is determined to be Alice's friend. The visiting boy next door, Owen, is similarly dealing with his divorced parents. It's all a challenge and Alice meets it by... being kind. This is a beautiful book about finding your way through troubling times with grace.

Just as Tiny Infinities gives us a quiet story about kids struggling, author Beth Vrabel's books frequently give us characters who are trying to find ways of dealing with their world and building or rebuilding their self-esteem. I've never read a bad Beth Vrabel book. She writes kids who are feel real. I think my favorite of her books is Bringing Me Back, about a young man named Noah who is on redemption curve in his school and community. But I also have a soft spot for Caleb and Kit, about a boy coming to terms with cystic fibrosis, and his friend Kit, a girl who has a lot of secrets.

Helping your child understand how others deal with loss is an important topic. Sometimes the losses are parents divorcing, sometimes they are absentee parents, and sometimes children lose siblings. Lisa Graff's moving Umbrella Summer tells the story of Annie Richards, whose brother Jared has died from a heart condition while playing hockey. Now Annie worries about everything and has become so cautious she, in some respects, barely lives. Her best friend Rebecca tries to help Annie, as do others around her, but her parents are so busy with their own grief that they don't see how afraid of the world their daughter has become. Her reflections on the death of her brother are quite poignant. At 240 pages this is a book short enough that a ten-year-old could read it but I think it's better suited to a slightly older child. 

If your child loves fantasy, author Yoon Ha Lee's space opera and Korean mythos mashup, published by Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson and the Olympians/The Lightning Thief, another series worth looking at below) Presents, is the story of Min, a fox-spirit girl (with fox magic, of course!) who sets off on an adventure to rescue her brother, who is missing. With elements of family duty, confronting racism, and belief in herself, brave and clever Min saves the day.

Yet another Rick Riordan Presents entry can be found the Aru Shah books by Roshani Chokshi. Based on Hindu mythology, Arundhati Shah discovers she is a Pandava, meets her hygiene-obsessed OCD friend Mini and a variety of interesting supporting characters. These books are absolutely loaded with humor. Adults listening to the audiobooks will be chuckling out loud. Thus far we have seen Aru Shah and the End of Time and Aru Shah and the Song of Death. Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes publishes in Spring 2020.

Before he was releasing books on his own imprint with Hachette, Rick Riordan was the lauded author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Beginning with The Lightning Thief, we meet Percy Jackson, a young man who finds out he's a demigod and is packed off to Camp Half Blood to learn how to deal. From there friendships and adventures ensue, as he finds out he'd definitely not alone on the god-parent front.

Since I've mentioned Aru Shah, another fun series based in Indian mythology is the Kiranmala series by Sayatani DasGupta. Also presently at two books in the series, Kiranmala is a little more focused on action and adventure, though the second book in the series has a stronger message to it than the first did. If your child prefers non-stop action, Kiranmala might be the better first choice in this subgenre of mythological fantasy retellings. Entries released thus far in the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series include The Serpent's Secret and Game of Stars. The Chaos Curse will release in Spring 2020.

Christopher Paolini started writing Eragon when he was only fourteen years old. By age fifteen he was the youngest bestselling author ever. (Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records!) Inspired by the works of Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and others, he built a world full of dragons and elves and magic. It's a four book fantasy series and Paolini's writing progresses steadily over the four books. The story of Eragon and Saphira and the fate of Alagaesia will probably be diverting to most tweens and young teens, even if some adults may find it too derivative. If you're looking for a good audiobook series or a print series for a boy who loves fantasy, this is a good one to try.

Author Taherah Mafi's Furthermore and Whichwood are companion novels set in the same world, the first with Alice Alexis Queensmeadow first set in Ferenwood and then in the land of Furthermore, and the second book, a darker story, set in the village of Whichwood, with Laylee, who is slowly hardening into silver. Written with the magic of color characteristic of Mafi's prose, these two books form a duology about love, family, and friendship.

Inspired in part by Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, Sarah Tolcser's duology Song of the Current and Whisper of the Tide follow the adventures of Caro Oresteia on her father's wherry the Cormorant, and later on another boat she might have, um, sort of pirated? (She did have official papers saying she could do what she needed to do to accomplish her task, though.) This book was so refreshing in that we have strong female and male characters, and an unexpected ending. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Philip Pullman's epic trilogy His Dark Materials, including The Golden Compass/The Northern Lights*, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, is one of the richest, unique and most imaginative children's fantasies I've ever read. The novels are being adapted by HBO (and I'm hoping it will do better honor to the novels than it did to A Song of Ice and Fire/A Game of Thrones). The story of Lyra and Will is truly epic in scope. The audiobooks, with a full cast, are just spectacular. As for any religious "controversy" that has been associated with the books, the Archbishop of Canterbury loved them!

*The first book is titled The Northern Lights in the United Kingdom releases.

So what about The Hunger Games trilogy?

Yet another series that provokes a lot of questions is author Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, a series in which two children are selected by their government from each of twelve districts as tributes who will then fight each other to death in a computer generated arena, with the winner living in a life of seeming, if troubled, luxury and their district honored. This book is very clearly, by its end, anti-war and it makes clear that soldiers in any war or civil uprising can be the pawns of abusive leaders. It's a cautionary tale. The ending of the books was controversial for some readers. The emotional costs to the central protagonist, Katniss, are searing. Can eleven to thirteen-year-old children really grasp Collins' message? Is it okay for kids this age to read such violence? Once again, it probably depends on your child. To me, the best solution with my youngest, was to read the books with him. We discussed them at length, and went to see the films together. (Whenever it seems like a book or series might be too intense or have questionable content, if my child really wants to read it, rather than say no, I always default to reading it with them.)

Thought-Provoking Books for Children

So much of the media is absorbed with the immigration crisis going on in this country. Children can have a hard time understanding immigration, even if they know their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents immigrated to their present country. Why do people leave their homes? In some cases it's to find better work, and in others it's due to avoiding war. Here are two eloquent graphical books about this experience to share with children.

Australian author Shaun Tan's The Arrival is an incredibly powerful book with no words. It allows readers of any age to see the difficult experience of emigrating to a new country, of missing family left behind, and of the feelings of loneliness that immigrants experience. This is a beautiful, gentle book to spur discussion with your children.

Irish author Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) penned the text to the powerful graphical novel Illegal. This award-winning children's book tells the story of Ebo, a boy whose siblings have left or disappeared, who makes the dangerous trek across the Sahara, arrives in Tripoli, and then makes a perilous passage across the Mediterranean Sea, holding hope in his heart that he will be reunited with his older sister. By examining the harrowing journey some refugees make through the eyes of a child, Colfer captures the universal truth that people often are simply searching for a better, safer life.

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