Something to Read: The Buffalo Storm

This treasure was displayed on the shelf near the checkout at our local librarybuffstorm a couple of weeks ago, and as we all love a good Pioneer Girl story, we picked it up on a whim on our way out the door.  I’m so glad we did!

Written by Newberry Award-winner Katherine Applegate, The Buffalo Storm beautifully illustrates the story of young Hallie, who must leave her beloved grandmother behind and go west with her family to Oregon.  It is written in free verse and is poetic and beautiful and full of adventure and heart.

“We joined other wagons,
like beads slowly stringing.
Papa let me drive the team, though some said
I was too young and green, and a girl, to boot.”

The Buffalo Storm is beautifully written with a message of strength and resilience and finding home.  The lovely artwork suggests the vastness of the setting.  We’ll read it again and again.  We hope you will, too.

Something to Read: The Great Cake Mystery

Raise your hand if you participated in the Summer Reading Program at your local library this year!  We did, and at the end of our program each of our Pioneer Children got to choose a free book as a reward for all their reading hours.  We tabbed through the items offered by our reading program and I was so excited to find a children’s book by an author I’ve enjoyed.

Alexander McCall Smith writes The Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency series, which (despite the ungrammarly title) I have enjoyed.  We love stories that help us discover new places, so a few months ago we read a couple of the author’s Akimbo stories, which are set in Botswana as well. But, for all our reading, I didn’t know Smith had written these books about a young Precious Ramotswe, the protagonist of the Detective Agency bGreatCakeMysteryooks.

In “The Great Cake Mystery,” Precious is a schoolgirl of about 10 years old.  As she and the other children spend their days doing lessons in their classes, the treats that they bring from home to make the boring school lunches more bearable begin to disappear.  Friends come to Precious with stories of a thief at school, and Precious employs her detective spirit to investigate the situation and solve the mystery, all while making a new friend.  The story opens with a startling lion encounter and ends with a lesson on honesty, loyalty, and friendship.

The end of the book includes a note from the author on what he hopes children will take away from the book, as well as some pronunciation guides, a short glossary of African terms, and some thoughtful reading questions.  Ms. Pickle hosted a summer reading club last summer, and I think this book would have been perfect for that sort of setting.  It makes me want to bring reading club back!

Precious is a beautiful character filled with kindness and generosity.  She is a lovely person to spend the last few minutes before bedtime with, and we enjoy our time with her so much that we have already picked up books two and three in this series.


Something to Read: Shivers the Pirate

We picked up Shivers!: The Pirate Who’s Afraid of Everything after reading this fabulous list of books for tweens posted on Brightly.

I read the list above and put every single one of the titles on reserve at our library for our Pioneer Girl, but when I picked this one up I wondered if Pioneer Boy might be interested in it too.  He does love a good read-aloud chapter book, so the first night we invited Miss Pickle in for his nightly reading time and tried it out it.  It was an immediate hit with both of them.

Shivers is a scaredy-pirate who had the misfortune of being born into a very brave pirate family.  He was named for the very piratey saying “shiver me timbers,” but unfortunately his shivers are more of the worried sort.  His mother, father, and Brave Brother Brock are all known in pirate circles for their courageous acts of villainy on the high seas.  Shivers, however, lives on a ship called the Land Lady, which is docked in the middle of the beach in New Jersey, and his greatest adventure is the battle with the alarm clock that he relives each and every morning — until one day when he receives a message by carrier pigeon telling him that his brave family members have all been taken hostage and that he is the only one who can save the day.  Even a scaredy-pirate can’t ignore this call for help, so Shivers sets off to rescue his family.

After a little more than two weeks of a chapter a night, we finished Shivers this evening.  I asked each of the big kids what they liked best about it, and they named particular scenes of piratey grossness that I will leave you to discover for yourself.

My favorite part of the book, though, was Margo.  We meet Margo in chapter two, when she is the only one willing to help Shivers with his quest.  Margo has always wanted to save the day, but being a regular police officer’s daughter, she hasn’t lead the life of a pirate.  She is only too happy to take the clues Shivers receives and lead the way to adventure.  As Shivers gives Margo the adventure she’s been craving, she lends him a little of the courage he’s been seeking.  Along the way they develop a sweet friendship as they rescue each other from mishaps and one-eyed pirates and giant squids.

I was so glad to get to know Shivers and Margo and to have such brave, kind characters in our lives for a couple of weeks.  I hope we’ll meet them again in future books.  For now, this was a fun, silly adventure the whole family could enjoy, with a message of kindness and courage at its core and a strong female character to make it even more appealing.


Something to Read: The New Small Person

Here’s a book about two little black boys that I think all kinds of kids should read:


“The New Small Person” by Lauren Child

I picked up this book because it’s by Lauren Child, and in our house we love Lauren Child.  I also picked it up because it has two little black boys on the front, and there are not enough little black boys, even in books, in our house.

My favorite thing about this book was what happened when I read it to my five-year-old and we got to the third page.

2015-03-30 15.05.21

Even though my boy is pretty white, he looked at this picture and he said,

“That’s me, right, Mom?  Because I like jelly beans, too.”

And, you guys, when a little white boy immediately identifies with a little black boy, whether in a book or on a playground or at school or whatever, that’s the beginning of the fix of a lot of our problems.

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This article published in Slate last year has some great ideas about thinking about race and then talking about it with kids.  Black kids get race talks from their parents all the time.  I think white kids should, too.

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Lola and Lotta

Lauren Child is one of our favorite children’s book authors.  She writes the
Charlie and Lola series, which we all adore.  The kids love that Charlie and Lola are funny; I love that Charlie and Lola are funny while being kind to each other.  The big brother doesn’t pick on the little sister or call her names.  They are nice.  Charlie and Lola are white, and Lola’s best friend, Lotta, is black — and a great recurring character.

(Bonus: My kids start speaking in tiny British accents after watching episodes of the TV series based on the books.  “It’s an absolute disaster, Charlie!  What are we going to do???”)