In Case You Missed It: The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness

The third book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness SeriesWith over 20,000 children’s books published in the United States each year, even the most prolific reader can feel overwhelmed. Sometimes great books, or even entire series, can get lost in the ocean of new books. Luckily, I’m here to tell you about a wonderful series that you might have missed -The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness written by Michelle Paver.

The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness is a six-book historical fantasy series published between 2004 and 2009. There are at least two benefits of reading a series five years after its conclusion. First, and most importantly, you don’t have to wait around for the next book’s release. Second, you know from word-of-mouth and critical acclaim whether the series sustained its quality and whether it has a satisfying ending (spoiler alert – it does).

Historical and fantasy books abound, but the Paver series is unique because it is set in a rarely-utilized time period – the Stone Age. The events of The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness take place 6,000 years ago. Even though the story has fantasy elements, the reader also learns about life in prehistoric Europe. Paver slept in the forest and utilized only tools, food and clothing that would have been available to the characters in the book. Continue reading

But Series-ously: Juvenile Historical Fiction

Book cover for With the Might of Angels, a book in the Dear America seriesConfession: One of the most satisfying questions to get from an early reader is something like, “I really liked so-and-so book, do you have any more like that?” when you know that yes, yes, burgeoning reader, you have picked a book in a series! Let’s get as many books as possible into your hot little hands! Read! Read, you young absorbent mind – read like the wind!

While I am a firm believer in the theory that whatever a child is reading, within the parameters of law and reason of course, is good because they are reading, it is such a cherry on top when there is an educational facet to these series. See? Interdisciplinary learning can be recreational fun! Okay, maybe don’t take it that far with your child/student/patron, as you’ll likely send them running from the stacks and your vicinity in general, but hopefully you see my point.

The further good news is that while the classics of juvenile historical fiction, such as the Little House on the Prairie series, are still popular and valuable, this particular genre has really expanded over the past decade or two, especially in series form. And again, that series factor can be crucial if you need to strike while the enthusiasm for reading – I mean, the iron – is hot.

An American Girl bookBesides becoming a mega-doll industry, American Girl has managed to pump out some (and by “some,” I actually mean “oodles of”) pretty good books that cover a wide range of American demographics, periods of time, geographical location, etc., while still retaining a relevance to things girls today experience. Continue reading

Check It Out: Caramba

“Caramba looked like any other cat. He had soft fur and a long, stripy tail. He ate fish. He purred. He went for long walks. But Caramba was different from other cats. He couldn’t fly.”

Book cover for Caramba So begins the tale of Caramba, the cat who couldn’t fly. Caramba does want to fly, and he tries several times without success. In truth, Caramba is just different from all the other cats. Author Marie-Louis Gay has created an endearing character, with which we can all sympathize. We have all felt different at some point or been unable to do what seems easy to everyone else. Yet once Caramba accepts his differences and discovers his own personal talents, he is able to let go of his anxieties and even encourages his friend to try new things. If you have a little one worried about his or her own differences, check out this beautifully illustrated story.

Stories Without Words

Children love to tell tales, both of their own true experiences and those they have created. Often before a child can read print, you will see a child “reading” a book, ignoring the text, but using the illustrations as inspiration for a story he fashions as he turns the pages. In doing this, the child will learn to use illustrations as guides and will later be able to use this skill to help him in figuring out difficult words on a page and understanding more complex texts. Listening to a child “read” a book in this manner is a great way to build an early reader’s confidence and narrative skills. You can encourage your child to look closely at illustrations by providing her books without words. Try a few of our favorites:

Book cover for Chalk by Bill Thomson

Interested in more stories without words? Check out some of these.

Books for Mystery Lovers and Super Sleuths

Book cover for The Hidden StaircaseI rarely read mysteries. I can’t trust any of the characters because everyone is a suspect. I can’t relax and enjoy the story because I’m looking for clues. I can rarely resist skipping to the end because I lack patience. That’s why it’s especially amusing (to me, anyway) that my favorite childhood book series was Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. I loved the books and wanted to be like Nancy: marginally-supervised with fun friends and loads of money. I gathered a notebook and pens in anticipation of my new life of solving mysteries, but the suburbs did not present the myriad sleuthing opportunities that were in Nancy’s world.

The first Nancy Drew book was published in 1930, but the series has retained enough relevance that a major motion picture was released in 2008. Whether you have finished the entire run of Nancy Drew, or you want something more contemporary, here are suggestions to inspire the next generation of super sleuths.

Wandelin Van Draanen’s Sammy Keyes is a sweet, but sometimes mouthy, teenager who solves crimes around the Southern California town where she lives with her grandmother. At her junior high school, Sammy has both friends to help her and enemies around which she must navigate. Continue reading