Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10: What to Get the Kids??

It's Day 10 in our 24 Days of Books, and today we're talking about books for younger readers, around 8 to 12 (although these are just rough guides, because every kid is different AND lots of older readers -- me, for instance -- like to read good middle grade books). So take the age range with a grain of salt.

The first "book" I want to tell you about is a book plus a whole lot more: Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects, by Robert Malone and published by Workman Publishing ($24.95) -- an irresistible book and kit that shows how to make ten different moving robots out of the most ordinary things from around the house such as an empty salt container, a drinking straw, a candy tin, a cereal box, cardboard tubes, old dolls or action figures, and assorted Lego or Tinker Toy parts.

The kit includes a full book of instructions, along with a battery-powered motor, two windup walkers, some googly eyes (it just wouldn't be complete without googly eyes), and much more. What kid won't love being the inventor, designer, and engineer of his or her own amazing, moving robots??

Another perennial bestseller along similar lines is Papertoy Monsters: 50 Cool Papertoys You Can Make Yourself, also published by Workman ($16.95). The book offers 50 fiendishly original die-cut designs that are ready to pop out, fold, and glue -- and each character comes with its own backstory.

No discussion of books for middle readers would be complete without a mention of the Wildwood Chronicles series by local writer and singer Colin Meloy and his wife and illustrator Carson Ellis. Book Two in the bestselling adventure series set in the Impassable Wilderness, a dense, tangled forest on the edge of Portland (hmmm...could it be Forest Park???), Under Wildwood, has just been published in hardcover ($17.99) and Book One, Wildwood ($8.99), is now out in paperback.

One of the most popular writers for the younger crowd is Rick Riordan, a former middle school teacher with two sons who writes wonderful books that are based on Greek mythology (the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, followed by the Heroes of Olympus series) and Roman mythology (the Kane Chronicles series). Riordan is also the mastermind behind the 39 Clues series. I've been hard-pressed to find a kid who doesn't like his books.

One of my favorite new middle reader series is the Books of Beginning trilogy, by John Stephens. The first book, The Emerald Atlas, has recently been published in paperback ($7.99), and the second book, The Fire Chronicle, recently came out in hardcover ($17.99). “Irreverent humor and swashbuckling adventure collide in a fetching fantasy," says one reviewer of this tale of three siblings: Kate, Michael, and Emma. While the New York Times called it "A new Narnia for the tween set," perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials series. The author was a writer for The Gilmore Girls, a TV series known for its witty, snappy dialogue, which definitely comes out in this series.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and its sequel The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, written by Catherynne Valente and illustrated by Juan Ana, tells the story of twelve-year-old September, who lives an ordinary life in Omaha until her help is needed in Fairyland. Described as offering the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, with "a glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale, done with heart and wisdom." The author creates "a world as bizarre and enchanting as any Wonderland or Oz and a heroine as curious, resourceful and brave as any Alice or Dorothy." Heck, I would buy the books for the titles alone!

If you have a middle grader in your life who hasn't yet read The Phantom Tollbooth, then straightaway that's the book I'd recommend.

Lemony Snicket, the mystery man behind The Series of Unfortunate Events, is back with a new book: Who Could That Be at This Hour?. The book is full of Snicket's characteristic wordplay and droll wit, with gothic wackiness and literary allusions a-plenty.

I would also give a shout out to The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen, the first book in a new trilogy.

And yes there is a new Wimpy Kid book for the holidays, The Third Wheel: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 7. I don't think there's much more I can say about that.

As always, you can find many more great gift ideas in our Holiday Books guide, available at our store. Of course we're happy to help you find just the right book for the younger reader on your shopping list. See you soon!

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