Friday, May 4, 2012

May the 4th be with You

Since today is May 4th, also known as May the 4th (force) Be With You Day, I thought I would share a few of my favorite Star Wars books.  My husband is very much into all things Star Wars and has been since a very young age. I have written blog posts with him that draw everything back to Star Wars.  Knowing that, it may be no big surprise that our home has a few Star Wars books, many Star Wars toys, and I believe every Star Wars movie. Every. Single. One.

First, I will start with books for the very young.  Star Wars ABC from Scholastic Publishers is a oversized board book that features different Star Wars related characters/terms for each letter of the alphabet.  The photographs are very high quality and all directly from the movies.  All of the movies are represented in the books with Chewbacca, Padme, Young Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Ewoks, and Han Solo all making appearances.  Lil Guy at age 3 loves this book.  He is able to recognize and name each page easily.  The overall format of the book is very well done with full page pictures, bold themed letters, and very Star Wars themed fonts, borders, and writing.  If you have a Star Wars lover in your family, I highly recommend this book.  It’s a great primer for even the youngest children with nothing scary and no fighting is portrayed in pictures or words.  Soon to be published is Star Wars 123.  We can’t wait for this book due to be out July 2012.

The next set of books is also from Scholastic.  Traditional sized board books with thick pages are Star Wars themed with Heroes, Villains, and Spaceships.  The books have photographs from the movies, or in the case of Spaceships books illustrations that clearly are part of the Star Wars vault of artwork straight from the movies.  Heroes and Villans each feature some of our favorite characters.  Yoda,  Darth Maul, General Grievous, Luke, and more are all represented.  Along with a one sentence description of the character is a line from the movie.  I like this tie in to the films, and in our family calls for character’s voices to be used.  The Spaceships book on the other hand offers Boom! Zip! and other sounds in comic book like bubbles.  The villains book has some scary looking characters, but little fans might already recognize these bad guys (and girls).  These books are great in the hands of toddlers, I do recommend them.

There are many many other Star Wars books for readers of all ages.  We have a few of the DK Readers series of Star Wars books.  These books feature uncluttered pages and text along with photographs and clear descriptions of characters and simple adaptations of stories between favorite characters.  The best part of the books is the levels which are clearly marked on both the front and back covers.  If you can, make sure to look inside the book before you buy to match level and interest with your reader.  Sometimes the leveling can be a little off.  The books have big spoilers for the movies sometimes and do have some scenes of fighting in the higher levels.

Besides these Star Wars selections I wanted to be sure to highlight the wonderful series from Tom Angleberger, Origami Yoda.  These middle grade books are not set within the Star Wars Expanded Universe, but feature classmates that are Star Wars fans.  In The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back, the ‘main characters’ as it may be are all origami versions of Star Wars characters that talk through the pre-teens characters in the book.  The stories are based on school-aged problems and friendships and offer Star Wars fans a fun connection to a fictional story including other Star Wars liking kids.  Not only will Star Wars fans enjoy the books, boys and girls will like the structure of the books.  Each page is typed from a child’s point of view, as if a child had messily thrown together a set of stories all connected.  There are hand drawn cartoons, handwritten scribbles, and several voices used throughout the book.  The story is very good as well!  It’s MG fiction at its best with boys and girls working together to stick up for someone who is different and solving problems creatively!  If you haven’t checked out these books, hurry up and read the first 2 books, because the 3rd book is set to release in August of this year.  I highly recommend. These books should not be missed.

That's my review of Star Wars books for kids.  I am sure if my husband was writing this post there would be about 1,000 additions to the list.  If you have additions, add them into the comments below.  Enjoy Star Wars Day and May the Force Be with You! 

My husband read this Star Wars post and decided to add this comment: I am not quite the voracious reader that some of you are, however I wouldn't be nearly the reader I am without Star Wars.

It was May 1991 when Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn came out. It was the first of a trilogy, the first book in the modern day Star Wars expanded universe, and the first serious original Star Wars story since Return of the Jedi was released 8 long years before. It would be 6 more years until a Star Wars movie returned to the big screen, and 8 years before the prequel trilogy. 1983 to 1991 are what hardcore Star Wars fans refer to as the "dark times."

I was shocked the day I saw it on the bookstore shelf. I had to have it! $20 for a book, not a Nintendo game?!? Well this was something new for 15 year old me. I finished the book in a few days - shocking my family. I couldn't believe there was going to be another book...but I had to wait a whole year for it to come out! This is the book that hooked me on reading fiction. There are now well over 100 Star Wars novels (and I have read most of them) but whenever someone asks me which one to read first, I always recommend Heir to the Empire. I enjoy many of the books recommended by my wife, but Star Wars books will always be my first literary love and something I am so happy to share with my son.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Wonder.  It’s not often that you find a book that can touch you in a very deep and meaningful way the way this book has touched me.  Many other readers have reviewed and recommended, touted and praised all that Wonder has to offer, yet I didn’t feel the connection. Until I read the book.  Wow.  Wonder is just special.  Adults, adolescents, teens, teachers, parents, friends, family, everyone should read this book.  It speaks about the way we each gently walk in and out of special lives, but don’t really know the impact.  I think it’s the same for this book.  For each of us who reads the book, it leaves an impact.  For each, the impact is a little different, for each the book has touched us in a different way.  I doubt you will be able to read this book without connecting to the story and the characters and having the book impact you.  Now, let me tell you a little about the book.

Auggie is navigating the world as a home-schooled student entering the public school system for the first time.  He comes from a loving family, who supports him, but they can only do so much so ease his struggles.  Auggie was born with a severe facial anomaly that few can look past at first glance.  Children, adults, friends, strangers, react to Auggie’s face on different levels.  While some show disgust, others show pity, and some simply can’t even bare to look.  As you can imagine, Auggie is slow to make friends.  The really interesting part of the story is that Auggie has an amazing personality, thoughtful nature, and an amount of perseverance and courage that we all should admire.

Through his experiences at school, home, and around the neighborhood, Auggie learns lessons about his family, friends, classmates, teachers, and teaches those around him lessons too.  Sometimes people disappoint Auggie by judging him and using him as a pawn in cruel childish games.  Other people surprise him with true friendship and understanding.  Auggie isn’t innocent either.  He can sometimes be unforgiving and let his emotions get the best of him.  Throughout the story though, Auggie grows and matures, growing into a young adolescent with a great deal of perspective on life, differences, friendship, and his own facial disability.

The story is not only told from Auggie’s point of view but those of his classmates, sister, even his sister’s boyfriend.  We also have glimpse’s of the entire story from Auggie’s caring parents.  Throughout the story, Auggie is central, but not in a ‘I am the center of the universe’ type way.  I felt the story moved along well with the alternating points of view and short chapters.  The story was, for me an easy read in the sense that it was read in one evening.  Let me be clear though, the story both breaks your heart and mends and warms it.  I recommend this book to 4-8 graders, teachers, parents, and anyone everyone in between.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Top Ten Books that Would Make Great Movies

I rather enjoy this Top Ten Tuesday meme, especially reading other people's responses.   A meme is a chance to share a post with others posting on the same topic.  This week I am trying: Top Ten Books that Would Make Great Movies.  I was thinking as I began, I usually enjoy the books more than the movies!  Isn’t it the worst when a great book becomes a mediocre movie??  I still think these books would be great on the big screen!  As always, I have chosen to highlight children's and YA book characters.  

Be sure to check out the other great Top Ten Tuesday Lists like mine.

 In No Particular Order:   
Top Ten Books that Would Make for Good Movies:

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.  I loved this book with its complex characters, friendships, and loves.  I also love the idea of a boarding school.  I can just envision a mature but inexperienced Anna meeting her classmates!  I would also love to see each of the famous places visited by Anna and her friends in Paris.  I don’t know a lot about Paris, so for me, this would really enhance the book.  Most of all, it would be great to see an actor portray St. Clair with his sensitive, exciting, and oh so charming personality.  Even as an adult, I would enjoy that kind of movie, but I know teens would be into it for sure.  I bet it would meet PG-13 standards of viewing.

2. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Much Like Anna and the French Kiss, I would enjoy this book because of the trek that Ginny takes across Europe.  The characters are very colorful, the places are amazing to imagine, and both would be fun to see.  I can imagine this movie with a voice-over narration from Ginny or maybe even from her Aunt Peg.  In my mind, Collin Firth (swoon!) would play her uncle.  The movie would be popular with teens and young adults.   For the movie, I might make Ginny a bit older.   Maybe 19 or 20.  I might also up the romance a bit to increase the audience.  This would put the book solidly in the PG-13 category.

3. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.  I chose this book because I think middle grade and elementary children deserve a wholesome movie with likable, believable, and adventurous characters.  This book is 100% in the realistic fiction genre and would have audiences with each of the 4 ages of girls.  Think of the adventures, trouble, and good clean fun of this book.  I am sure this movie might not be a blockbuster, but it would be child centered and parent approved.  I think this movie would easily pass for PG.

4. Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger. This makes me smile because I could see this book being an awkwardly animated movie, just like the book.  The hand-drawn look of the pages of the book would be a perfect way to tell the story of Origami Yoda, Tommy, Dwight, and each of the classmates featured in Angleberger’s book.  Lovers of Star Wars would be an instant audience, as would lovers of underdog stories.  Maybe this is a stretch for a movie, but I love the idea.  Tween boys lack movies without weapons and fighting as well as movies that have important life themes like bullying, friendship, and social awkwardness.  Movies for this age set rarely represent kids who are able solve problems and think creatively!  A movie for the under 13 crowd equals a PG rating !   

5. The Agency series by Y.S. Lee. This series features Victorian Spies, romance, and suspense.  I would enjoy a beautiful costume movie with dark shadows, suspenseful music, very suggestive (but not over the top) romance, and great stories.  I love the elegance of Downton Abbey and would see this as a suspenseful, undercover agent version.  One book in the series even offers a story inside the Queen’s palace with the protagonist, Mary working as a maid.  The books were mature and definitely of the YA variety with mentions of late night romps and Mary being a young lady, not really a teen.  I would see this being offered as a PG-13 movie for teens and young adults.

6. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. This is a nearly 50 year old book. Wow!  If you ever taught 2nd or 3rd grade or had a child in those grades you’ve probably met Flat Stanley. I personally love his story.   He was crushed in a household accident but gained the ability to be folder up into an envelope and sent across the globe.  Stanley visits friends and relatives, but in later books goes on many, many adventures.  Kids love this book because they create their own Flat Stanleys to be traveled through the mail or on vacations.  (Photos snapped and collected along the way!)  Can you imagine, with today’s digital technology, being able to portray Stanley as a flat but personality filled child traveling across the globe?  The thought makes me smile.  I don’t know who could resist a movie like this for children of all ages and adults who read the book in the last 50 years.  I easily could see this movie as being rated G.

7. Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow. I chose this book because there are not many historical fiction accounts of what happened in Berlin before and during WWII.  This book looks at not only the war experiences of a teen jew in the months leading up to WWII, but also the cultural experiences of all teens and children in Nazi Germany.  The scenes in the schools, the inclusion of a transsexual, the portrayal of ‘die Kristallnacht’, and the brutal realities of war all are tangible while reading, but would be very powerful in a movie as well.  All set with a backdrop of a true German celebrity of Nazi Germany, boxer Max Schmeling.   The inclusion of boxing, training, and fighting act as the perfect metaphor for German Jews, but would also lend to beautiful cinematography.  Violence, Mature Content, and Language might lead this movie to be PG-13 or even R.

8. Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder.  What I love about this book was the realistic fiction story with a small bit of fantasy.  Rebecca finds a magical breadbox that will magically grant her wishes, as long as her wish can fit inside the breadbox.  As a child, I always knew magic wasn’t real, but still hoped that I could have one little piece of magic, like this, for myself.  The plot would easily play out on the big screen with family, friends, and neighbors all playing a part in Rebecca’s story.  Children would enjoy this magical little story, but also would definitely learn from the tale.  Things aren’t always what they seem when one person’s gain is another person’s loss.  This movie would probably be PG given the child’s point of view in this story.

9. Travel Team/Summer Ball by Mike Lupica.  Maybe I would just enjoy a Mike Lupica story turned into a movie because the stories are so good.  Lupica is a talented writer having honed his skills through years and years of writing non-fiction, MG novels like these basketball books, and countless articles, commentaries, and features for the New York Daily News, not to mention his other work featured in magazines, newspapers, and websites.  His storytelling is what I might like most about him though. He tells stories like he is creating something very personal and real.  He sounds like he is speaking from experience (he is) and that means something to readers.  A movie based on these 2 books would be received by children, parents, and sports lovers as a story with hope.  Plus the cameos from a few star athletes would be nice for fans.  The books are very cleanly written and would easily garner a PG rating.

10. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. To me Wonderstruck read like a movie.  The black and white images flying through the book at a quick pace made me imagine an old cinema. Could you see this movie (ala Wizard of OZ) being filmed in either black and white or in color depending which part of the story is being told?  I also think the black and white scenes could be silent?  I love the idea!  Connect this with the heartwarming story, amazing scenes in old theatres, mystical museums, and cold winters and you could have quite a magical experience.  This movie would be PG for it’s not so scary or mature content.

Of course if you want to experience any of these ‘movies’, make sure you read the book with an active and creative imagination.  Books are usually better than the movies anyway!  Make sure you leave a comment and if you have a Top Ten Tuesday I will be sure to visit yours as well.