Monday, August 30, 2010

The Fairy Realm Series - by Emily Rodda

While I could post about nothing but picture books, I know many of you with LGRs are looking for books they can read independently.  The Fairy Realm Series by Emily Rodda is a MUST have for any child who loves fairies, elves, mermaids and magic.

As with many of Janan's favorite books, we discovered the first book of this series at the local used book store and I still, on occasion, see them when we're out perusing the shelves.

There are ten books in the series.   The main heroine is a little girl named Jessie.  Her job is to save the Realm (which you learn was ruled by her Grandmother, Jessica, before she fell in love with a human and moved to our "mortal" world) from opening to the "Outlands" where trolls, goblins, dragons and many other less than hospitable creatures live ruled by an evil Queen, Valda, who wants to take over.

One issue I have - as with many children's books (for some strange, unknown reason) one parent has died.  In this series, Jessie's father is the passed on parental unit and her grandfather is also gone.  However, on the positive side, Rodda does create an amazingly strong connection between Jessie and her grandmother.

Any child who loves magic and the fact that a child can solve problems to "save the day" will devour this series.  At the end of the first book, Jessie is given a charm bracelet, which grants her access to the Realm.  And, in each subsequent book she gains a charm for her bracelet.  

Online it's listed for 1st or 2nd graders (depending on where you look), but Janan read this series at around 4 and often returned to it time and again (certain books more than others).  A little harder to find than some of the more popular fairy books associated with tv, cartoon and movie fairies, but definitely worth the search!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cassandra's Angel - by Gina Otto

I found this AMAZING book, Cassandra's Angel, while traveling on business in Colorado.  It was right around Christmas time and the book was in a gift box with the book, CD and an angel magnet.

The story follows a little girl through her day where, as unfortunately many children experience today, she's repeatedly told by the people in her life that she's not good enough and she begins to internalize that message.

Her mother tells her she and her room are a mess, her teacher calls her "incorrigible" because she chooses to paint the picture she's told to paint in her own way, and even the mayor tells her he doesn't have time for her problems.

The book is written completely in rhyme with each rhyme ending with "But she did not like that story - NO SHE DID NOT."  Which, of course, after just one reading Janan picked up on.  She LOVED shouting this part and affirming that no matter who in Cassandra's life was telling her she was worthless, she didn't have to believe that. 

Her worth is validated at the end by an angel who tells her:

All of the people who tell stories to you,
They each have the truth deep inside of them, too.

They have just forgotten it over the years,
So now what you hear is their sadness and fears.

It isn't their fault, all those stories they tell.
They believed the stores they were given as well.

Those old kinds of stories create guilt and fear,
But today, Cassandra, those old stories stop here.


With a soft breath of wind the Angel was gone,
And Cassandra could feel in her heart a new song...
"I'm Cassandra, a bright light", was her very next thought.
And no one could change that story - NOT THEY COULD NOT!

This book is very empowering for children.  Even the best parents, at times, forget to discourage the ACT rather than the child.  And our school systems, rather than nurturing a child's individuality and talents, more often forces them to adhere to a set expectation which squelches who they truly are.

While often a nightly choice for Janan, it would also be a wonderful book for those times when a child is struggling with negative messages they're receiving.

The book was made into a musical (hence the CD included in the gift box) and the music is also wonderfully affirming for children!  It was Janan's favorite CD for years.  Below is a clip of her singing along while making banana bread.  

This book was my first introduction to what has become my favorite publisher, Illumination Arts.  Their books are beautiful, positive and without the commercialization of so many of today's books linked to cartoons, movies or television shows.  I'm sure it won't be long before you see many of their other books show up here.  

Blog #2 - The Little Gifted Reader

Well, I never dreamed I'd start blog #1, but I've been thinking about this one (blog #2) for quite awhile.

Age 2, Reading on her potty.
As strange as it may sound, one of my biggest "Mama Challenges" has been finding books for my daughter to read.  Not because she doesn't enjoy reading - on the contrary - but, because she's always been a highly advanced reader.  

Reading one of her favorites "Who Moved My Cheese" to
the schools gecko we kept over a holiday break.
From the day she came home, I've read to her.  I not only love reading for my own enjoyment, but I still LOVE finding a good children's book.  Those amazing picture books which convey life in all it's variations succinctly and with some of the most beautiful artwork created today. 

All seemed normal in our household until, at age two, my daughter began "correcting" me when I read to her.  Now, as is typical with two-year-olds, you often find yourself reading the same book night after night and, often, many times a night.  So, I just thought, "How cute!  She's memorized the story!"  Which would have been 'advanced' in itself, except I quickly discovered that even while reading new stories we had never heard before she was correcting me.  

Reading "The Tao of Pooh" one afternoon
after a swim in Nana & Poppy's pool.
So, I ran an experiment.  I started pointing to words (simple words often repeated in children's stories like 'cat') and asking her, "What's that say?".  It got to the point where I was trying to find words she COULDN'T read!  

I quickly ran out to the closest book store and found some of those "phonics readers" & even invested in a "Hooked on Phonics" package, because where a word stumped her she WANTED to know what it said.  

She was never a big American Girl fan,
but this collection of Samantha stories
she LOVED.
However, after the first "Hooked on Phonics" book and the first set of Bob Books she was done with those 'baby' books and off reading on her own.  By the summer she was three she had completed the entire Magic Tree House series (of which there were approximately 30 books at the time) and the resource guides that go along with certain stories and had moved on to Junie B. Jones.  

Now, it sound like such a wonderful "problem" to have, but what I started finding was that as quickly as she was reading I couldn't keep up with finding books AT her reading level that were age appropriate.  By five, she was reading at a seventh grade level and, I don't know about you, but I couldn't find many seventh grade books appropriate for my 5-year-old.

Reading a "Secrets of Droon" book to Samantha Jayne.
I started talking to other Mama's to see what their kids were reading.  Many of those in the same situation we were in were struggling and hadn't even found some of the ones I had discovered that had become Janan's favorites (like the Jewel Kingdom series by Jahnna N. Malcolm, the Avalon: Web of Magic series by Rachel Roberts, the Carole Marsh Mysteries, and The Keepers trilogy Jackie French Koller).  Interestingly enough, all of these I discovered at our local used book store and were no longer carried in the 'big box' stores like Barnes & Noble or Border's.  

"Found" by Margaret Peterson Haddix
So, somehow I became the 'go to' Mama for those with Little Gifted Readers of their own and continued the search for my own LGR.  I've discovered many gems along the way. Books that (because I pre-read many I find) are enjoyable even at my age!  

And, though the concept for this blog has been rolling around in my head for years, it took yet another Mama from Janan's new school asking me yesterday, "What does Janan read?" that made me finally sit down and start to type.

Just as I rely on the Movie Mom to help me make sure I'm selecting the best movies for Janan to see, I'm hoping this blog will help other LGR Mamas make appropriate reading choices for their children.  (And, I won't have to keep remembering all the titles and authors!)

Reading (as always) while eating one of
"The Jewel Kingdom" books.
Selfishly, I'm also hoping other Mamas will post here when they find great books for our kids to read!  Thankfully, since the Harry Potter series (Janan's ALL time favorite) more and more wonderful authors have been coming out with the stories that will be classics when Janan has her own children.  I hope I'm there to see that, because I've got shelves of many great children's books saved up for just such an occasion!  

Reading Mama's "Mothering Magazine"
while waiting at the bank.

So, I'll go back a bit and begin posting my 'reviews' of the books we've discovered over the years.  The ones we liked as well as those we didn't.  And, if we're all lucky, we'll get feedback from my very own LGR because, trust me, she really knows best!