ages 9 – 12


5M4B disclosure

As I type this, it’s late in the evening of December 14th, and my husband and I just said to each other, “We really should start Christmas shopping.” This is par for the course for us. What about you? Do you comfortably do some shopping in the week before Christmas, or do you start in July and finish by November? Regardless of when you begin shopping, books are always great gifts for the people in your life. I personally think all families should have their own copies of the classics, and most do, but often they are old tattered copies from the parents’ childhoods (true confession: our family tends to be like this). Oxford is continuing to republish children’s classics in fun, bright new editions, and this is a lovely way to add to your own family’s library or to buy a present for a child in your life.

I’m presenting 4 recently reintroduced books, ones that I’m sure you read and enjoyed as a child, but that could stand a reread, especially if you’re reading aloud with a young friend. Writing this review has put me in the mood to read them all again, curled up on a couch and pretending I’m 11 again. Be right back. In the meantime, I highly recommend them all–either for Christmas presents, or really just for you, all over again.

black beautyBlack Beauty

This book is SO. SAD. I  am not going to tell you what happens just in case you’ve forgotten,  but Black Beauty goes through some Very Rough Times. Don’t worry though–all is okay at the end. This book introduces ideas of social justice and kindness to animals, through a well-told tale that takes one into the world of horses in the late 19th century. Many little girls go through a horse phase, and I was no exception, and I remember loving this book. This version has a glossary, which helpfully explains some words no longer in use, and a section of facts on the author. Did you know that Black Beauty was distributed by animal rights activists and helped change people’s attitudes towards horses? There are also recommendations for other books, all presented through fun quizzes and interactive games.

wind willowsThe Wind in the Willows

First of all, don’t you love this new cover? I realize that we don’t judge the book by it, blah blah blah, but I must admit that covers attract or repel me. That said, this is such a fun book no matter its outward appearance. I think I’m going to have to reread it. I remember how very sensual a book this is, how it makes you love the outdoors in all seasons and weather. I loved sensible Mole and Ratty, the wise and kind Badger, and the crazy Toad and his madcap adventures, who never learns from his mistakes. I remember giggling helplessly at Toad’s antics. What about you? This edition includes some thoughtful questions to deepen the reading experience, as well as short reviews of other classics.

tom sawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Who didn’t love these stories as a child? Who didn’t scheme ways to be this resourceful and cheeky? I personally wracked my brains to try to come up with my own version of the fence-painting scene, and I longed to escape down a river on a raft. (I once took an inner tube down a creek, but I had a most uneventful childhood overall) This is a great adventure story, full of fun and mischief and humour, but again touching on the real issues of the time, which also reflect our own. This is another book with a gorgeous cover, with the lettering formed of tree branches that line the river, and this edition includes a short interview with the illustrator. I love this, as I think it gives kids ideas for the future–I could illustrate books I enjoy! And of course there’s also recommendations for other books, fun quizzes, a glossary (called “Weird and Wonderful Words”), and reading questions.

secret gardenThe Secret Garden

I loved this book so much when I was a child, and I still love it now, even though it’s been several years since I last read it. (My daughter is now 17 but we read it together when she was younger.) The story of grumpy, unlovable Mary Lennox and how she is transformed into a happy, healthy child who helps her cousin through love and friendship, good food, and outdoor play is one that resonates through to a very different time period, our own. And who doesn’t thrill at the hidden, secret garden, and Mary’s discovery of first a door, then a key, then of growing things and how to help them thrive. This edition includes a quiz, recommendations for other books, an explanation of all those weird Yorkshire words (wish the version I’d had as a kid had had that!), and more. It’s a lovely book.


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David Baldacci on his switch from adult legal thrillers to fantasy for kids #ReadBaldacci

I’d be willing to wager that most of you are familiar with David Baldacci’s work as a best-selling fiction author. Even if you haven’t read one of his legal thrillers, it’s likely that someone in your family has, or you’ve at least seen his books featured in airport bookstores, grocery stores or on the bestseller list. I was thrilled to be able to participate in a group conference call interview with him last week. This year he published two books The Finisher for older middle grade readers and young adults, and The Escape, a John Puller novel. I was curious about the switch, not only in genre but in the target age group. Baldacci spoke passionately about this new direction: I’ve always felt that a
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Guys Read: True Stories

Spiders, shipwreck, elephants, dental care, singing the blues: you’ll be wiser about all of these topics when you read Guys Read: True Stories, the newest collection edited by Jon Scieszka. This is a collection of nonfiction works, which my 5th grade son happily devoured. As a part of his curriculum, they have explore different kinds of reading which includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. This was the first book I suggested, and the short small bites of informative writing whetted his appetite for me. He’s been surprised to find that he enjoys biographies “as long as the writing is good.” The collection has “good writing” from Scieszka, Nathan Hale, Candace Fleming, Nathan Hale, Thanhha Lai, Sy Montgomery and more. And just like the writers aren’t all
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The Biggest Burp Ever, poems for kids by Kenn Nesbitt

I love funny poems, and my 10 year old son and I have been a big fan of Kenn Nesbitt’s for a long time (see below for our thoughts on his other books). Since he’s moved into self-publishing, the covers have changed, but the poems haven’t. They are still funny and relatable. The line drawings inside are from the same illustrator who did the cover I assume, but in black and white, they look much less juvenile and are great accompaniments to the poems. When my son began reading The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids, he laughed (as always), and then called me over when he was reading “I Didn’t Go Camping.” This poem tells the story of all the things a child
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Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata #Giveaway

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata is a heart-warming and honest story. Twelve-year-old Jaden was adopted from Romania four years ago from the orphanage where he grew up, when he was abandoned by his mother. Although his parents are loving and kind, Jaden doesn’t feel love, either from them or for them. Of course the truth is that he doesn’t know what love is, but hearing it through his own thoughts brings a new perspective. That’s one of the things I love about reading middle grade and young adult fiction. Skillful authors like Kahohata do such a wonderful job of capturing those thoughts and emotions of that particular moment in time, leaving behind the filter of adult experience. When Jaden’s parents go to Kazakhstan
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Absolutely Truly, a Pumpkin Falls Mystery #Giveaway

Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery is a fun novel, with the exciting plot element of a mysterious treasure hunt. It’s the type of children’s novel I like best — one like The Penderwicks which has a modern setting, but somehow a classic feel. Truly Lovejoy and her family (yes, it’s a family name) have moved to her grandparents’ house in New Hampshire to help run the family bookstore. Truly’s dad was just about to leave the army when he was injured, changing their plans to settle down in Texas for good. This is a novel featuring topics that will resonate with many kids — moving, making new friends, being different (Truly is only 12 and recently shot up to 6 feet tall), being part
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Smithsonian Discover and Young Explorers Series #Giveaway

If you’re still on the hunt for educational holiday gift ideas for the elementary school aged children in your life, the Smithsonian Discover and Young Explorers series give glimpses into themes of their world famous museums in book and puzzle form. Smithsonian Discover: Flight and Smithsonian Discover: Space are fabulous gifts for enthusiastic learners from about age 8 and up. Mixing historical information about the history of flight and scientific explanations for how various flight machines work, along with models for paper airplanes and even a large poster celebrating the concept of flight, Flight is a wonderful hands-on resource perfect for the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. Space follows the same format with the inclusion of fact cards and a poster, as well, with the focus on aspects
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50 Years of Rudolph #Rudolph50 #Giveaway

When I sat down to write the post on 5 Minutes for Mom celebrating 50 years of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the longest running special in television history, I wasn’t sure what to say. Sure, I grew up watching Rudolph, but could I get nostalgic about it?  It turned out I could, and the more I wrote, the more I realized what a big part that brave reindeer has had in my Christmases over the years. While we own the DVD of the Rankin/Bass special and have several Christmas decorations, we don’t have any Rudolph books, which is kind of amazing. So I was thrilled to receive a box of Rudolph books as part of the review and giveaway, featured over on 5 Minutes for Mom. The books
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Books for Little Women (Tweens and Teens) #Giveaway

I’ve written so much about this series, the Mother-Daughter Bookclub by Heather Vogel Frederick, that I don’t even know what to say anymore. That’s not really true. I get more and more excited, to be honest. Check out the related posts list below to find out more about mine and my daughter’s love for this series. I am beyond thrilled to be able to give away the complete set (well–as of now, since she’s announced that she’s writing another one, even though she thought it was over!), as well as a beautiful picture book, Little Women Christmas, AND her brand new novel (which looks wonderful and I hope to review within the next few weeks). Read my review of A Little Women Christmas over at
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Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

My kids and I all read and like Stuart Gibbs’ Belly Up. I know he’s published books since then, but we haven’t gotten to them. However, when I saw this new space-themed mystery, I jumped at it, hoping it would be just as enjoyable. The entire story in Space Case took place over the course of a couple of days on the moon unit where people are living in the year 2041. Each chapter ends with an excerpt from the “Official Residents’ Guide to Moon Base Alpha” handbook in regards to something that is referenced in that chapter, like meals, safety, exercise, etc. It was an interesting way to share facts and limitations of living in space and give this science fiction a base in
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Sports Illustrated Kids Books on Football and Wildest Plays in Sports

I live in Colorado, and if you follow sports at all, you’ll know that recently the Denver Broncos replaced the Dallas Cowboys as America’s team. Now, I don’t really know what that means, but I’m guessing it has to do with how many people root for the Broncos. And football is huge here — recently when the Broncos played on the Thursday and the game ended at 10pm, the entire half hour news cast was devoted to the game – replays, interviews with players and coaches, the sportscaster insisting the Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl, as he does every night. As I’ve mentioned before, my two boys, ages 11 and 7, are both sports fanatics. They play a different sport every season, watch
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Behold! The Dinosaurs!

Dinosaurs can be awfully fascinating to some children, and books and toys featuring the ancient creatures range from straightforwardly informational to outright silly. A new (sort-of) book by Dustin Harbin, Behold! The Dinosaurs!, presents over 100 dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures from the Devonian to the Cretaceous periods in eye-popping drawings. Did you catch how I called it a “sort-of” book? Well, I have to admit that I learned something new when I received this publication in the mail and I saw it referred to as both a leporello and concertina, and I was compelled to look up the terms before I opened the book. All I would have had to do was open the cover and see the fold-out pages, which measure more than six
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