Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Bilbo Baggins is a respectable, reserved Hobbit who lives a quiet and comfortable life in a land called The Shire.  Adventures and other nonsense are frowned upon here, so it comes as quite a surprise when a wizard named Gandalf arrives to enlist Bilbo’s help on an epic quest.  When Bilbo finds himself attached to a company of dwarves seeking the return of their ancient treasure, he naturally starts to wonder if he’s made the right decision to leave home.  After a series of near-death adventures, though, which include encounters with trolls, goblins and a magic ring, Bilbo proves himself to be a truly indispensible member of the traveling party!

“The Hobbit” is a one of my favorite classic novels, and one that I end up re-reading every few years.  Yes, you could just as easily go out and watch the movie adaptations but take my word, you’d do well to sit down and read the book first.  The level of detail that Mr. Tolkien wove into this book, which serves as an introduction to an amazing place called Middle-Earth, is simply astounding.  “The Hobbit” is arguably one of the best, if not the best, fantasy novels of all time.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lawn Boy, by Gary Paulsen

“The Lawn Boy” is a twelve-year-old young man with a true entrepreneurial knack.  When he comes into possession of his grandfather’s old riding lawn mower, he quickly turns a single chore into an awesome moneymaking venture.  In no time at all the Lawn Boy builds a monopoly on yard care, and then begins to look for ways to invest his hard-earned cash.  His business seems to encounter a number of unexpected turns…including a questionable investment in a prizefighter, as well as an unexpected run-in with the Mob!

One of my favorite parts about this book is the way that Mr. Paulsen doesn’t really offer a name for his character, other than “The Lawn Boy”.  I’m not sure if he did this intentionally, but the lack of a name combined with a first-person narrative made it very easy for me to identify with the Lawn Boy.  I’d be willing to bet that any hard-working boy who reads this book would quickly imagine himself being able to corner the market on lawn care too!

At only 90 pages, “Lawn Boy” is a lightning-fast read for all ability levels, and what boy isn’t interested in making money?   Give this book to any kid and you might be surprised by how quickly he starts asking for extra chores….for a small nominal fee, of course!  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Lump of Coal, by Lemony Snicket

Finally, here’s a holiday story told from a different perspective.  At Christmastime, a living lump of coal falls off a barbecue grill and wishes for a miracle to happen.  This particular lump of coal wants to be an artist, but is rejected by a local gallery.  He’s also unsuccessful in finding work at a restaurant, and is about to give up when he runs into a man dressed as Santa Claus.  Finally, through a strange turn of events, the lump of coal finds himself in a position to become the perfect Christmas gift.

This book is a true Christmas miracle, a holiday story without any type of preachy message.  It’s a book about fitting in where you can, and like all of Lemony Snicket’s other books the author has a way of building rapport with the reader.  Children who pick up this book will not be talked down to, but rather taken along on a short but special holiday journey.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Keep reading!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away From The Circus (and joined the library), by A.F. Harrold

There are many boys in the world and some of them have the same name, but there’s only one Fizzlebert.  This boy is as unique as his name, as he travels with a circus and makes a living by helping the lion tamer with his show.  Unfortunately, the one bad thing about living on the road is that he never has time to make any friends his own age.  During one particular stop, Fizzlebert finds a library book and attempts to return it himself, not knowing that this trip would change his life forever.

The best thing about this book is its pure outlandishness.  Most kids have joined a library, but who would ever think of running away from the circus?  My favorite part was when Fizzlebert’s mother and father, a circus clown and a strongman, venture out in town to look for their lost son.  Since I don’t want to spoil this great story you’ll have to read it yourself, so run down to your local library (or circus) and pick up a copy!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

Kimball O’Hara is the orphaned son of an Irish soldier whose mother died in poverty.  As a street urchin in British India, Kim survives by begging and running small errands for shopkeepers.  Through a local horse trader, Kim inadvertently becomes involved with ferrying information for the British secret service.  When Kim enters into the service of a holy lama on a path to enlightenment, his travels take him across the length and breadth of India.

“Kim” might be somewhat difficult to read at first, what with the period language and the historical setting, but it’s definitely worth your time.  This is the type of adventure that every boy dreams of having, and I can’t think of any place more diverse and challenging than India.  Even as an orphan in a country with a billion other people, Kim never seems to lose his nerve.  “Kim” is a classic adventure novel that’s well-deserving of a spot on your reading list.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Adventures of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey

Look there, in the sky!  It’s a fat, bald man wearing nothing but underwear and a cape!  Tra la laaaaaa!  It must be Captain Underpants!  There’s no other superhero quite like him, and honestly that’s not a bad thing.  Two troublesome boys, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, mistakenly hypnotized their school principal so now when they snap their fingers, Mr. Krupp suddenly finds himself transformed into the hero of their homemade comic books!

If this sounds like a crazy plot then believe me, we’re only getting started.  Each book in the series seems to raise the bar for outrageousness and third-grade humor.  Combined with the hilarious cartoons and the action-packed fight scenes (in Flip-o-Rama!), each installment in the Captain Underpants saga will have boys flying through the pages with laughter.  These books are the perfect choice for a reluctant reader ages six to sixty!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

This book is arguably the most famous picture book of all time, so there was no way that I’d consider leaving it off my list!  When a naughty, misbehaving boy named Max gets sent to bed with no dinner, he wishes himself off to a magical land where the creatures are just and nasty and wild as he is.  The beasts stomp and roar happily in a wild circus…at least until Max starts to feel the slightest bit homesick!

This book is over fifty years old now, and it remains one of the best-selling picture books of all time.  It might sound silly, but “Where the Wild Things Are” was actually banned from several school libraries because parents feared it might encourage their kids to misbehave!  Thankfully cooler heads have prevailed, and now it’d be nearly impossible to miss a copy of this book.  Check one out if you haven’t already…it’s the perfect book for the wild things in your life!