Reference books for back to school?

August 28, 2013

Is it back to school time ALREADY?  (I’m trying to pretend I wasn’t counting the days.)  Here are my suggestions for dictionaries for students.

For children younger than fourth grade, I recommend The Scholastic Dictionary of Spelling.  There are no definitions, and it’s a smallish book (the paperback version is 272 pages / 15.25 oz) which is less intimidating than some of the bigger reference books out there and gets children used to looking up words.  There are wonderful sections on “How to look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it,” “A dozen and one spelling rules,” “Memory tricks,” and more.  I highly recommend it.

Scholastic Spelling Dictionary

I recommend this for children younger than fourth grade.

For children fourth grade and older, I recommend Webster’s Student’s Dictionary.  It says on the cover that it’s “written for ages 10-14,” and that it’s for “Middle School Students,” but I actually like using this dictionary myself!  It’s very well organized, has a lot of extra information (such as word histories, idiomatic phrases, biographical info on important people, and more), provides context for word usage, and the pages are (thankfully) less crowded and hard-to-read than a regular adult dictionary.  It’s a hardcover book just over 1000 pages and weighs about 4.5 lbs, so it’s a chore for smaller kids to get out and use (make sure it’s already on a desk for easy access).  I highly recommend this dictionary as well.  My son is not the kind of child to even want to use a dictionary, let alone look up words unprompted (uncoerced), but even he read a few of the extra side notes on certain words!  (A great example is on page 299 – the word history of the word “Eureka.”  Fascinating!)

Webster's Student Dictionary

This is a great dictionary for middle schoolers, but I think fourth graders can benefit from it, too. I even like to use it myself!

Student dictionary

You can kind of see how the information is organized.

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Alert: Free show and book signing at Books of Wonder Tues 4/30/13 – 4 p.m.

April 28, 2013

Story Pirates at Books of Wonder 4_30_13

The Story Pirates will be at Books of Wonder this Tuesday to act out the story of Septimus Heap! My middle schooler LOVED this series and got me to read it, and I love it, too.  Do not miss this!  SUPPORT INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS!  

Free Theatre Storytime at Books of Wonder with Author Angie Sage and The Story Pirates!

Books of Wonder, the oldest and largest independent children’s bookstore in NYC, will hold a free theatre performance and book signing with author Angie Sage on Tuesday, April 30th beginning at 4 PM (18 West 18th Street, between 5th and 6th Aves in Manhattan).

Fyre, the seventh and final book in the Septimus Heap series, was published last week to enthusiastic fan reception. Often compared with Harry Potter and other works of fantasy for middle grade readers, the series follows the adventures of Septimus Heap, who as a seventh son of a seventh son has extraordinary magical powers. An original fantasy about lost and rediscovered identities, magyk and intrigue, and one family’s warmth and strength, the series has appeared on national bestseller lists and garnered worldwide acclaim; Warner Bros. has acquired the rights to make a movie of the first book.

To celebrate the book’s release, local literary-based acting troupe The Story Pirates (www.storypirates.org) will introduce new readers to the series by performing scenes from the first book, Magyk!

Also in attendance will be the series’ author, Angie Sage. Following the performance Ms. Sage will meet with fans and sign copies of all of her books.

The event will begin at 4PM and is open to the public.


Alert: Discount on Septimus Heap books in month of April! Support local business!

April 12, 2013

CORRECTION (4/15) – THE DISCOUNT CODE IS “OVERSTRAND” (which makes more sense), not “OVERSTREET” as I originally reported.  Sorry.  I got misinformation.  I’ll definitely be at Books of Wonder on 4/16 for my copy!  

New Yorkers: If your child is as excited as mine is about the new Septimus Heap book Fyre coming out this April 16, you might be interested in this discount at local, independent bookseller Books of Wonder on 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.  It’s good for the whole month of April and on all Septimus Heap books.  In store only…

The last volume of the Septimus Heap series is almost here – come to Books of Wonder and celebrate with us!

 Fyre, the seventh and final book in the series, will be released on April 16th. To celebrate, Books of Wonder is offering a special 10% discount on ALL Septimus Heap titles in the month of April! To claim the discount, simply mention the code word, “OVERSTREET, OVERSTRAND” to the cashier at checkout! It’s like Magyk! **Offer valid in-store only.**

Web: BooksofWonder.com
BOW Blog: BooksofWonder.com/Blog
Email: Store@Booksofwonder.com
Phone: (212)989-3270


Great books for early middle schooler?

January 30, 2013

I love the New York Public Library and get most of the book recommendations for my son from the wonderful librarians they employ.  My son is just finishing up the exciting fantasy adventure series Septimus Heap.  He is reading the 6th book Darkeand the last volume Fyre comes April 16th, 2013.  Today, I asked Rebecca, a (Super Awesome) librarian at Jefferson Market, to give me recommendations on what to read next, based on my son’s enjoyment of Septimus Heap and similar books.  She suggested:

  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson and Greg Call – (we are now on book 3 – AWESOME)
  • Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, Patrick Arrasmith (came with “it’s spooky and very dark” warning)
  • Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, Antonio Javier Caparo
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (not a series, it’s a standalone book – I have read this, and it’s pretty good!)
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio (not a series, it’s a standalone book, and apparently, it’s AMAZING, it was the NAIBA Book of the Year 2012 for Middle Readers) – (I have since read this, and it made me cry.  Great book, very touching.)

Also, see a past post about The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, which is another great book for the 8 – 12 year olds in your life.  We all read this as a family and loved it!

UPDATE 5/29/13: The Books of Umber Trilogy, starting with Happenstance Found by P.W. Cantanese.  I am reading these (just finished book 2 – Dragon Games) and loving them!  Great fantasy action/adventure with good world-building (with some darkness and evil to keep it interesting), for 9-12 year olds!  Strongly recommended!

UPDATE 7/1/14: Dead End in Norvelt and From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos are well-written, funny books, and great for kids (especially boys) in the 10-13 age range.  However, they have “A Christmas Story”-esque humor, so it can get a bit inappropriate, a little old fashioned (in the best way possible) and there are guns in the story (I know a lot of people who are sensitive about mentions of guns in kid stories, thus the warning).


Good book for 8 year olds?

March 16, 2012

Aside from the typical answer of Harry Potter (which was AMAZING), my family absolutely loved The Ordinary Boy series (obviously, start with book one). I reviewed book three in the series.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, Book 3: The Great Powers Outage (Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy)The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, Book 3: The Great Powers Outage by William Boniface
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant. Simply brilliant. The Great Powers Outage was my favorite of the Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy series, of which this is the third (and latest) book. To my knowledge, Book 4 is not yet out, nor do I know if it is in development. However, I can tell you that everyone in my house is eagerly awaiting it.

In this episode, everyone in Superopolis loses their power. It’s up to Ordinary Boy to figure out what happened and how (and if!) to fix it. The plot refers to elements in Books 1 (The Hero Revealed) and 2 (The Return of Meteor Boy?), which makes for a very satisfying read. While not as technically complex as the non-linearity and recursiveness of Book 2, The Great Powers Outage was richly layered, with the peripheral stories of the class election (an indictment of the American political process, minus any ideology or dogma) as well as the tale of the founding of Superopolis and the origins of The Li’l Hero’s Handbook. The book was also a simplistic, but very effective lesson in cause and effect, especially regarding correlation vs. causality. In spite of more pronounced destruction of evil compared to Books 1 and 2, no villain (or government) took a worse beating than Pringle’s Potato Chips (very thinly disguised as “Pseudo Chips” in the book), in my humble opinion.

I feel that this series is perfect for ages 8 to adulthood. Yes, I would recommend it for adults, too. It’s well-written, irreverent, smart (not dumbed down at all) and is entertaining on many levels. Children can enjoy the books and still miss many of the more sophisticated references or underlying meanings. But the humor is solid even without these.

Notable:

p 131 (O-Boy is disappointed with his teacher’s level of ambivalence and his classmate’s lack of curiosity):

“I’m not trying to put anyone down.” I insisted. “I’m just trying to get answers. Isn’t the whole point of school to seek out knowledge?”

“Not particularly,” Miss Marble responded gloomily. “I’m afraid the point of school isn’t so much about learning things as it is learning not to say things that irritate other people.”

“But how else do we gain knowledge?” I asked. “Shouldn’t we always be asking questions and trying to use what we discover to make life better?”

“You’re free to do all that” — Miss Marble nodded — “as long as you don’t upset anyone in the process or challenge any of their beliefs.”

View all my reviews

Also, see this more recent post on great books for early middle schoolers.


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