Monday, December 6, 2010

A Quick Christmas List for 2010

Bookivore and Mr. Bookivore learned early on that it was impossible (and fruitless) to compete with grandparents in the toy-giving department, so we began giving books to our nieces and nephews instead. When our own kids came along, we found there were always books we wanted to get for them, so why not save them for Christmas and dilute the river of toys a little with some quality literature? After all, every book you buy is one less toy that will break or end up at Goodwill.

So here's the breakdown for 2010:

The Lost Hero: two copies of this for our tween nephew and niece. Hardbacks of this one are reasonable through Amazon. I also saw them at Costco for about the same price.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda: for my 11 year old nephew. Should be a hit.

Maximum Boy books: a new old series that my 7 year old recently discovered. 11 year old Max Silver accidentally becomes a superhero and has fast paced, silly adventures saving the planet. Humor that is a bit more sophisticated than Captain Underpants (but not much).

Down, Down, Down and Sisters and Brothers: We love Steve Jenkins books and these are two fairly recent ones. Informative text, beautiful collage art. These are for my 7 and 4 year olds.

Ingo: for my 13 year old niece. Loved the dark tone of this mer-people tale.

Hunger Games series: for my 16 year old nephew. He's a total omnivore when it comes to books and has been trying to get these from the library and failing. Not sure if we'll be getting him Mockingjay, but the first two for sure.

Sabotaged: for my 9 year old daughter. She began the Missing series and really likes it, so book three is going to make an appearance under our tree.

The Girl Who Could Fly: this one for my 11 and 13 year old nieces. 11 year old Piper McCloud discovers she can fly, just before she's packed off to a school for special kids called I.N.S.A.N.E. -- nothing ominous in that, right? A gem of a book.

Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally): for my 9 year old daughter. She is very into humorous writing now, so this one should work. Fourth-Grade Bobby Ellis-Chan is sandwiched between two sisters and has a girl as his best friend, but this is not something he wants to advertise. He gets into a series of mishaps (like finding his sister's underwear static-clinging to his shirt the day of his speech) that should have my daughter rolling.

The Case for Christ for Kids: my daughter specifically requested this one, so I think Santa is going to bring it. I haven't read it, but if it's anything like the adult volume it should be pretty good.

The Once Upon A Time series: my 12 year old niece really likes these, so we're getting her a couple to round out her gift pile. I have not personally read any of these, but my sister-in-law speaks highly of them. There are a bunch of them, retelling both classic and lesser-known fairy tales.

Here's what I'm NOT getting:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 5: The Ugly Truth. Although both my son and his cousin want this one, I can't do it. I am not a big fan of the Wimpy Kid books -- I find the characters mean and crude and disrespectful. Sorry, no sale.

Knufflebunny Free: I loved the first two Knufflebunny books, but this one just jarred me. I realize the author is trying to show the passage of time by giving the parents in the story new hairstyles and such, but I found the change really hard to swallow. Hmmmm....maybe I'm more of a toddler than I thought.

Next week is the start of the Scholastic Warehouse Sale, so I may add a few things to my list if I hit some good deals (okay, who are we kidding -- I will almost certainly overbuy in the the book department. Don't judge me). You can check out last year's recommendations for seasonal books if you like and you can check Scholastic's website for a warehouse sale near you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

The big question: Is Origami Yoda real?

Well, of course he's real. I mean, he's a real finger puppet made out of a real piece of paper.

But I mean: Is he REAL? Does he really know things? Can he see the future? Does he use the Force?

Or is he just a hoax that fooled a whole bunch of us at McQuarrie Middle School?

So begins The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger. And the central question, of whether Origami Yoda really knows things revolves around his "animator," the school's oddest kid, Dwight. The argument is simply that Dwight is too weird to give good advice, otherwise he wouldn't be so weird, right? And yet Tommy and his friends Kellen and Harvey begin tracking Origami Yoda's patients -- or victims -- to see whether he is the real deal or not.

This book brings up a number of middle school issues -- the kid who cries in P.E., the kids with the awful nickname, the kid dealing with an embarrassing crisis, the kid who wants to see an R-rated movie his parents have nixed, the boy who likes the girl who might not like him -- each handled by Origami Yoda. It's nicely done, all woven neatly into the mystery of Origami Yoda, which makes it more factual and less melodramatic than it might have been.

I think this one will play equally well with boys and girls, but especially with boys for a couple reasons. There's the obvious Star Wars theme, which will appeal to boys, it's loaded with doodles ala Wimpy Kid, and the main characters are all boys. Each chapter is a first person account by Tommy or one of his friends; a few are also by girls they know, but most of the story is told by boys. This would make an excellent Christmas gift for 7-12 year olds on your list, especially if they're boys.

The writing style is easier than I expected: Accelerated Reader puts it at a 4.7 (4th grade and 7 months) which seems about right. My 7 year old and my 9 year old read it over the holiday weekend and both really liked it. They especially liked the instructions at the back of the book for folding your own Origami Yoda. Having spent last Saturday folding little paper Yodas, I can offer you this advice if you find yourself in a similar situation: start with half of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper cut or torn neatly to a 5.5 x 8.5 rectangle, then follow the approximate proportions shown in the diagrams instead of the measurements as they didn't actually work that well. The author's website offers instructions for folding an origami Yoda like the one on the cover if you're up for a challenge.

Get this book you must. Enjoy it you will.