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Old 08-11-2009, 12:41 AM   #1
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Smile Talk about the kidlit you're reading!

So, I love reading kid books, middle grade mostly. The problem is that no one else I know IRL would even think about reading them, so I have no one to chat to about kidlit. And I'm not around actual reading kids very often these days, as most of my friends have no kids or very little kids. I thought it would be cool to have a thread to see who's reading what, find out what's new and good, get recommendations, chat about what you're learning about kidlit, etc. Any fellow kidlit forumites up for such a thing?

ETA: If you could give us a wee bit of description, and/or why you liked it and/or what you learned from it, that would be The Awesome.


I just finished reading a MG novel, Zahrah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. It totally exploded my brain (in the good way, that is). It's west-africa-based fantasy, as opposed to the practically standard western-european-based fantasy. It's a typical magically-gifted-character-goes-on-a-quest story, but the culture and the setting made it really stand out. I liked it because it was helpful in getting me to think way, way outside the box as far as fantasy goes. She also had a hilarious reference to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was just the cherry on top of an already brilliant book.

So, what good kidlit are you reading right now?

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Old 08-11-2009, 01:08 AM   #2
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I'm reading 'The Seven Keys of Balabad' by Paul Haven. It's set in the Middle East, and involves a treasure hunt and a mysterious brotherhood. It is, as the jacket cover says, "loosely based on the legendary Golden Hoard of Bactria." The author spent years in Afganistan and Pakistan and the details of the scenes show his background. I like the way it is set up more like thrillers for adults, with multiple POVs and settings.
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Old 08-11-2009, 03:27 AM   #3
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I just finished GRANNY by Anthony Horowitz. It's very reminiscent of Roald Dahl's over-the-top humor and play on words. A quick and funny read.

It's about a boy whose Granny is pure evil. She's jealous of young people, so she and her friends set out to make life miserable for everybody.

My 10-year-old laughed out loud on almost every chapter.
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Old 08-13-2009, 06:58 AM   #4
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Yay, thanks for starting this thread, Kitty! I've been wanting to do so after seeing that the YAers have one, so this is great!!

I just finished reading WAITING FOR NORMAL by Leslie Connor. LOVED it! Now I'm a few pages into THE WILD GIRLS by Pat Murphy and I'm already pretty hooked. Anyone care to babysit my little peeps so I can spend a day in the sun reading it?!?
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Old 08-13-2009, 08:30 PM   #5
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I recently read Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, by Wendelin Van Draanen. A couple of years ago I read another in that series, Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception. My wife noticed (she reads many of the same books -- we pass light reading back and forth) that in both books, Grandma appeared to meet Sammy's grandfatherly friend Hudson for the first time.

The stories are fun -- real mysteries, but kid-sized. Van Draanen is an Edgar Award winner, which says something, I think.

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Old 08-13-2009, 10:38 PM   #6
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I recently read Coraline and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I always think of Neil Diamond when I write that name.

I thought they were very intense for intended grade level, but I am old and out of tune with reality, so ignore that if you want to. But the only point I could see to the books was "Stay away from strangers" and "Bad things happen when you least expect them."

Maybe someone can point to some positives to the stories, other than they are, I guess, big hits with the kids?
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Old 08-13-2009, 10:53 PM   #7
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I'll take a stab at it. First off, both books cover disturbing topics, but not in a way that's disturbing to kids. For example, Graveyard Book starts with a triple murder, but you could read it to a little kid and they wouldn't be too bothered by it. The scary stuff isn't really accessible until you're ready to deal with it. It's all in writing style.

As to what they're about, Graveyard Book is about family and what family does, and also about growing up. Coraline is about preteen kid rebellion, learning to appreciate your parents, and realizing that no matter how far you stray, your parents still love you. Neil Gaiman's movie Mirrormask is basically the same story and about the same thing.

Beyond that, both books immerse you in a vivid fantasy world that is intriguing and fairly novel. And it's Neil Gaiman, so the writing is very strong.

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I recently read Coraline and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I always think of Neil Diamond when I write that name.

I thought they were very intense for intended grade level, but I am old and out of tune with reality, so ignore that if you want to. But the only point I could see to the books was "Stay away from strangers" and "Bad things happen when you least expect them."

Maybe someone can point to some positives to the stories, other than they are, I guess, big hits with the kids?
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Old 08-14-2009, 12:36 AM   #8
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Thanks, Kitty - I wasn't trying to be critical. His writing amazes me and I appreciate his talent.

Your points were well made and they make more sense to me now. I thoroughly enjoyed the books, but thought they were too scary for very young audiences. But my 8 year old wasn't bothered by Coraline - he didn't read The Graveyard Book.

Now we're waiting for Blockbuster to send us the movie of Coraline so we can see how they changed it. I like for him to see how reading the book is the better experience, but since I haven't seen the movie yet, I don't know what I'm comparing.

I'm trying to think of what else I've read lately. I read Toothpaste's new one, Timothy and the Dragon's Gate, and I know I've read more since then beside Mr. Gaiman's, but the information eludes me at present. Could be the shingles. I've had them on my face and head for two weeks now, and my brains aren't working at full function.

We need to hear from some more folks, though.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:04 AM   #9
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Recently I've been reading the Little House series. They've expanded the series to include previous generations, ie, Laura's mother, her grandmother, her great grandmother and Laura's only daughter. I've think I've read them all which kind of annoyed me because I enjoyed them so much I wanted to read more. I didn't read them in any specific order because my local library only has so many and I requested the rest. I'm thinking I will probably read them again in order just because.

Also I've picked up the Nicholas Flamel books. Very action packed, tons of stuff going on. I'm not a big fan of high fantasy. Not that I'm knocking it. I just prefer stuff that I don't have to struggle to figure out what's going on. Or even how to pronounce that main characters' name. That a big peeve with me. Too many strange words and I'll usually quit reading pretty quickly. The Nicholas Flamel books border on being kind of out there for my feeble mind, but once I got into the story I wanted to keep reading. I've read two so I'm looking for the third.

I've also read the Magic In Manhattan series. About a teenage witch and her younger sister who is also a witch. My ten year old daughter likes this series, too. The books are called things like Frogs and French Kisses and can't remember the other titles. They're kind of written in a chick lit kind of fashion. First person narrative, kind of funny. A generally fun read.

I've also read the Artemis Fowl series, Redwall, and you don't even want to get me started on Harry Potter. Love, love, love Harry Potter.

Okay so that's probably more than you wanted to know. As you can see I read a lot of children's literature. LOL
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Old 08-16-2009, 12:09 AM   #10
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Great thread.

Kitty, you mentioning the fantasy set in Africa reminded me of Nancy Farmer's The Eye, The Ear and the Arm because it takes place in a sort of bizarre future Zimbabwe. Maybe that's more sci-fi, but I think all her books are just amazing.

I'm reading Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge, another one of my favorites. Her writing just blows me away. I just finished the second Fablehaven book, and I enjoyed that. My son is now finishing #1.

And now I have a few more to add to my To Do list. Thanks for that!
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Old 08-16-2009, 12:13 AM   #11
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I've been kickin' it old school, and reading some retro lit with my daughter. We've read:

Abel's Island
The Shrinking of Treehorn
The Birchbark House
Little House in the Big Woods

Oh, and some Shel Silverstein poetry. I feel 10 again!
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Old 08-16-2009, 12:20 AM   #12
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Oh, now I have some good books to put on the TBR list. Keep em coming everybody!

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I've been kickin' it old school, and reading some retro lit with my daughter. We've read:

Abel's Island
I remember my third grade teacher Ms. Martin forcing Abel's Island on me. I was very resistant, but once I started reading I didn't want it to end. What a great book!
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Old 08-16-2009, 01:18 AM   #13
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Kitty, could you put something about the beginning of the thread encouraging everyone to give a brief description? Some posts do have enough, but it would be great if there could be more than just titles on some, so I could pick where to start! I know it takes more time for people to write longer posts, but if they could, I would appreciate it.
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Old 08-16-2009, 09:52 AM   #14
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I just finished Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, too. For me, it's one of those that straddles the line between MG and YA - almost exclusively because of the triple murders. I had a hard time reading that first chapter as an adult. Or maybe it was especially hard to read being a mother. In any event, I did enjoy the rest of the book, but I wished there had been a bit more explanation/background on the mystical creatures. Especially the Sleer.
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:58 PM   #15
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I just finished Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, too. For me, it's one of those that straddles the line between MG and YA - almost exclusively because of the triple murders. I had a hard time reading that first chapter as an adult. Or maybe it was especially hard to read being a mother. In any event, I did enjoy the rest of the book, but I wished there had been a bit more explanation/background on the mystical creatures. Especially the Sleer.
Yeah, I see what you mean about the Sleer. The mother thing is true; I think reading it would have bothered me if I still had young children.

I thought it was awfully good, though. For those who don't know, it's about a child whose whole family is murdered, who is reared by ghosts in a graveyard. But the ones who killed the family are still after him.

Kitty, thanks for recommending Zarah the Windseeker, which I enjoyed, though I kept on wanting to edit it! Maybe I should mention that it takes place in a different world, where Earth is a fantasy.

And I read Criss Cross, by Lynn Rae Perkins, which was terrifically well written, and enjoyable, but I don't think I would have liked it when I was a child. I think I would have wanted more story in the story.

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Old 08-19-2009, 08:07 AM   #16
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And I read Criss Cross, by Lynn Rae Perkins, which was terrifically well written, and enjoyable, but I don't think I would have liked it when I was a child. I think I would have wanted more story in the story.
Haven't read it, but I know what you mean. Lois Lowry's THE GIVER was like that. I thought it was a fascinating book...for grown-ups, or maybe very mature and thoughtful kids. My son and his friends had to read it in seventh grade, and they just didn't get it. For those who haven't read it, the book is set in a "Utopia" that turns out to be not so Utopian. Every thing is safe and uniform and bland, to the point that people can't even perceive colors anymore. My son and his friends are all technogeek Facebook punk rockers who just take diversity for granted, so the story had no resonance for them. Even though it's a fabulous and well-written novel.
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Old 08-20-2009, 12:39 AM   #17
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Haven't read it, but I know what you mean. Lois Lowry's THE GIVER was like that. I thought it was a fascinating book...for grown-ups, or maybe very mature and thoughtful kids. My son and his friends had to read it in seventh grade, and they just didn't get it. For those who haven't read it, the book is set in a "Utopia" that turns out to be not so Utopian. Every thing is safe and uniform and bland, to the point that people can't even perceive colors anymore. My son and his friends are all technogeek Facebook punk rockers who just take diversity for granted, so the story had no resonance for them. Even though it's a fabulous and well-written novel.
I was the freakish little kid who read The Giver over and over and over again. I remember my mom buying me a copy right away - I was about 10 or 11 years old when it came out, as I recall. I read it a couple times as an adult as well.

And now I want to read it again. I still love the name Asher.

P.S. - Omg spoiler alert on the colors thing! Tsk!


The Giver and Number the Stars. Two Lowry books I LOVED when I was young.

(It was nice, too, that by the time we got around to reading them in school, I had them almost memorized. I got to play more and do less homework!)
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Old 08-20-2009, 07:44 AM   #18
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It's been an interesting journey for me, going from geekish girl-who-reads-anything to mother of two boys and teacher of remedial reading. I have a whole different understanding of "story" now, after watching what engages the kids who just don't really like reading. Giving my son so many of the books I loved - Madeline L'Engle, Lloyd Alexander, the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series - and trying to figure out why he couldn't get into them. But he'll plow through a massive tome like the Pendragon books!
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Old 08-20-2009, 09:17 PM   #19
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I read the Giver as well. I don't know the exact release date but I believe I was already an adult when it was first published. I believe I read it when I was having one of those I'm totally bored and have nothing to read moments. I found a copy lying around my house, I assumed it belonged to one of my kids, and picked it up. Interesting story.

Reminds of a bit of the old Logan's Run series. (I'm so totally dating myself LOL.) Not so much in premise but it sort of the same trying to achieve a 'perfect' society despite the cost. Like people dying. In Logan's Run anyone about to turn 30 was offed in hopes they would be 'renewed' as they put it in the series. In the Giver anyone was that different was offed and the general population believed they went 'Elsewhere'.
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Old 08-20-2009, 10:12 PM   #20
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My neighbor's brats have these "Captain Underpants" books that have the advantage of keeping them quite for awhile sometimes. They're pretty funny.

Well, they crack me up when the kids read them to me, but I don't get far if I try to read one myself. But hey, what could be funnier than underpants to an eight year old?

Wait, I have it, "Captain Flatulence"
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Old 08-20-2009, 10:45 PM   #21
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I love Captain Underpants.

I've been re-reading some Zilpha Keatley Snyder this week. I actually found a few scenes that were similar to my WIP, but not identical. It's interesting to see where I've been influenced without knowing it.
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Old 08-20-2009, 11:41 PM   #22
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I just finished "The Thief" by Megan Whalen Turner. Someone recommended it to me. It was a Newbery Honor book. Great writing, and great characters, and fun action. There was excessive scenery description, way more than I liked (the book is set in fictional quasi-ancient-greece), but maybe if I was little and didn't know about real ancient greece I would have been more into that bit.

In the end I have to say there was a major flaw that ruined the book for me. The MC narrates the story. He's an unreliable narrator BUT there are no clues that he's an unreliable narrator. To me, that doesn't work. I'm okay with 1st person narrators omitting facts about their past. BUT (to avoid spoilers) a major event occurred in the present time of the novel, and everyone was bumbling around all confused trying to figure out what happened. And I was thinking, THE MC DID THAT! OMG he totally did it but he's not saying that he did it! Maybe he didn't do it? Anyways, he doesn't narrate stuff he's actively doing in the main time period of the novel.

At the end he's being all smug and jerky to the other characters that they didn't catch on to what he was doing, but I was like, really he's being smug and jerky to ME, the reader, for not catching on to stuff he didn't tell us about. Not cool.
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Old 08-29-2009, 09:55 PM   #23
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Just finished 13 REASONS WHY by Jay Asher. I know it's YA, but I'm mentioning it here for two reasons (oops, no pun intended).

1) He spent something like 8 years writing books and going to SCBWI conferences and workshops and feeling absolutely discouraged and ready to give up. But didn't. And the book is a bestseller, as well it should be.

2) When people on this thread debate What's MG? What's YA? this is one of the books they must read. Everything about it is clearly written for teens. The subject matter, of course- it's about the aftermath of one girl's suicide. But more than that. It's the tone, the voice, the way the author assumes the reader can handle shifts in time and present/past narration, the focus on character above plot, everything about it says "for mature audiences only." This is not a book that could "go either way."
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Old 08-29-2009, 10:02 PM   #24
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And... I just started reading Barbara Park's THE GRADUATION OF JAKE MOON. If all you know of her is "Junie B." you're in for a delightful surprise. This is a Real Book, with honesty and emotional depth.

Great beginning. A really good example for wannabes to study how she draws you into the story, revealing the most important piece of information only at the end of the chapter.

Also a great example of MG voice. The opening line caught my attention:

"There were these three eighth-grade boys."

Now, I guarantee, if one of us posted a chapter here in SYW with that opening line, at least one critter would highlight it and say, "rewrite to take out the passive "there were." Make it more exciting!"

And that person would be wrong. Because you only find out later that it's written in first-person. And that is EXACTLY how an eighth-grade boy would say it.

Oh, yeah, MG vs. YA. Eighth-grade would be 13 years old. But this is definitely an MG book. Because of the voice.

anyway- I recommend it so far. And my 10-year-old HIGHLY recommends it.
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Old 08-29-2009, 10:32 PM   #25
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JSK-I will definitely check out 13 Reasons Why.

When I was little, I loved this Barbara Park book called Skinnybones. I think I got it at a garage sale, and it was kinda muddy, but I probably read it 30 times. Definitely better than Junie B Jones! She writes great sensitive stuff for kids.
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