Category: chapter book

Book Giveaway! – “Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream” (Gwynneth Beasley)

By , July 21, 2010 1:26 pm

One of the really fun things about blogging is all the people you “meet.”  Recently a former Unplugged Project participant, blogger and now published author Gwynneth Beasley (hooray Gwynneth – congrats!!) contacted me to see if I would be interested in hosting a giveaway of one of her books.  When she mentioned that it was about the very unplugged activity of camping (unless you are in a 40 foot RV with satellite TV of course, LOL) I was definitely sold.

One night at dinner Zeke announced, ‘I have made a decision everybody.  We are going camping this weekend and no one is bringing the computer, the phone, their mobile, the TV or the DVD.’

quote from p.1, Zeke, Ky, and the Mountain Stream

Yes, Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream is perfect for an Unplug Your Kids review and giveaway!

Gwynneth kindly sent me two copies all the way from Australia, one for my family to read, and the other to give away to an Unplug Your Kids reader.

I wasn’t able to show the book to my children right away since they were camping for a few days with their father.  A happy coincidence I thought!  When the kids returned from a fun camping adventure of their own, they were ripe to read the tale of Zeke and Ky’s camping trip.  They all enjoyed the book and I found them picking it up and rereading it on their own later, even my older children.

Zeke, Ky and the Mountain Stream has a large, easy to read font and the vocabulary is fairly basic which would make it a good choice for younger readers who are just transitioning to “chapter books.”  Each page contains just a few sentences of text and a simple photo illustration.  The book length (18 pages) is also great for younger children with short attention spans.  It would make a wonderful read-aloud book too and could inspire lots of conversations about camping, nature, the power of positive thinking, and the value of unplugging once in a while!


  • To enter the giveaway for my free copy of Zeke, Ky, and the Mountain Stream, simply leave a comment with a quick summary of a favorite outdoor or camping activity that you do with your children (or grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.).
  • For an additional chance(s) to win this book, you can subscribe to Unplug Your Kids (link is in upper right sidebar).  Just leave another comment here to let me know.
  • The giveaway ends on Wednesday, July 28th at 8:00PM PST.  I’ll select a random winner based on all entries, and announce the winner on Thursday, July 29th!
    Comments are now closed. Winner to be announced tomorrow (July 30th). Thank you all!!

Ta Da!! (2010 Newbery & Caldecott)

By , January 19, 2010 2:06 am

Yesterday morning was the big announcement of this year’s Newbery and Caldecott children’s book award winners. Drum roll please…


John Newbery:

“The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”


2010 WINNER – When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 HONORS –

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (YIPPEE!! Bought this for my 9 year-old for Christmas!)

Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick


Randolph Caldecott:

“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”


2010 WINNER – The Lion & the Mouseby Jerry Pinkney

2010 HONORS –

All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman


PS: How well do you know your children’s book awards? If you can’t tell your Theodor Seuss Geisel Award from your Pura Belpré Award, then you can read up on them all here.

Magical Reads! By Elizabeth Orton Jones

By , July 1, 2009 3:28 pm

While surfing the “What Others Bought” links at Amazon one day last winter, I discovered the wonderful old book Twig, by author and illustrator Elzabeth Orton Jones (1910-2005).  My 8 year-old daughter really likes tales of fairies and magic and this book sounded perfect.  It WAS perfect.  My daughter adored it and read it in one sitting!

She even chose it for her school book report book, complete with a cute diorama (I wish we had saved that to illustrate this post, but alas, it was taken apart and scattered who knows where).

This 1942 story centers around Twig (which was also the author’s nickname), a lonely little girl who decides one day to make a fairy house out of a discarded old tomato can.  I will let you discover the wonderful adventure that ensues.

I am so grateful to Purple House Press, the publisher of our 2002 edition of Twig, for their wonderful work in reprinting this lost treasure!  The mission of Purple House Press is:

“to revive long lost, but well loved children’s books. Today’s children deserve to read wholesome stories from a simpler time and we know grownups want to revisit with old childhood friends too!”

You can still order Twig from the Purple House Press website, but all they have left are more expensive editions autographed by Elizabeth Orton Jones.  We loved the book so much, that I just ordered an autographed copy to have in our collection of very special, keep always, books.

You can also order new (from Amazon affiliate sellers only) or used copies of Twig from Amazon.  Our copy was a used one from an Amazon seller but it was in like-new condition and far less expensive than the Amazon affiliates’ new editions.

After enjoying Twig, my daughter wanted to read more books by Elizabeth Orton Jones. I searched about and found Big Susan, written in 1947 and also published by Purple House Press in 2002.

Big Susan is about a little girl and her dollhouse (the story is based on the actual doll house and dolls that the author played with as a child).  The dollhouse is in complete disarray on Christmas Eve, the one night of the year where the dolls can come to life.

We read this story together as a bedtime book and I laughed out loud at the descriptions of the poor dolls (Nurse was standing on her head in the bathroom wash basin) and the general state of the dollhouse.  It reminded me of our always-messy dollhouse. It also, sadly, somewhat resembles our own house at times (although I have yet to find myself upside down in a wash basin)!

This is a sweet story all about Christmas magic, love, friendship and giving.  My children and I all loved it and were sorry to see it end.  Although it is more of a girl book I suppose, my 7 year-old son adored it and was actually the most eager to keep reading on every night.

Big Susan is easier to find than Twig.  You can order it directly from Purple House, or from Amazon.

Trust me. These are books you’ll love and want to keep to pass down to your grandchildren!

Here are pictures of the text of Twig, to give you some idea of the reading level (it is 152 pages long) – recommended ages 6 to 12:

Here is Big Susan (a slightly easier reading level than Twig with only 83 pages and lots of sweet illustrations by the author) – recommended ages 6 to 10:


Betsy-Tacy (Maud Hart Lovelace) – Another Great Chapter Book

By , February 17, 2009 10:44 pm

I find so much good stuff by surfing Amazon!  Having no “real” bookstore here and only a tiny library, it is one of my best ways for discovering great books.

One of our latest wonderful reads is Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace.  I believe it is something of a classic although it was new to me.  Hopefully I am not demonstrating my ignorance of classic children’s literature by recommending it, but recommend it I do!

The story revolves around two five year old neighbors, Betsy and Tacy, who become such inseparable friends, that the title of the book must be Betsy-Tacy (rather than Betsy and Tacy, get it?):

“Betsy’s brown braids went with Tacy’s red curls, Betsy’s plump legs with Tacy’s spindly ones…” (p.1)

Betsy is outgoing, Tacy is shy.  But, after a rocky start, opposites do attract and the pair become a “unit” as suggested by the title.

The girls enjoy simple adventures, mostly involving a lot of imagination.  It is all very sweet and innocent and charming.  There is nothing that I could find to scare particularly sensitive readers.  Even I enjoyed reading a bit further along every night before bedtime.

The only potentially upsetting moment is when Tacy’s baby sister dies of an illness.  The episode is not really about Baby Bee, but the focus is on how Betsy sweetly comforts sad Tacy.  It was well-handled and my rather sensitive children were not upset by it at all.

The author Maud Hart Lovelace was born in Mankato, Minnesota in 1892.  This series of books is about her memories of her childhood, “…the happiest childhood a child could possibly know…” (quote from Maud Hart Lovelace, inside of back cover).

The author is Betsy, right down to the straight hair that wouldn’t curl.  Her lifelong best friend Frances Kenney (known as “Bick” – baby-talk for “Brick” – due to her red curls) is the model for Tacy.  The pair met at Maud’s 5th birthday party, just as Betsy and Tacy meet at Betsy’s 5th birthday.

The book has a very interesting section at the end about Maud Hart Lovelace and her life, complete with some photos of both her and “Bick.”  For even more information, there is a Betsy-Tacy Society in Mankato with its own website:  There are all kinds of Betsy-Tacy gifts to buy and events to attend that you can discover here.

Hmmm…..I guess these books are way more popular than I realized.


PS.  We’ll be reading all the others ASAP.  By the way, although these books would obviously appeal to girls, my 6 year-old son was just as captivated as his 8 year-old sister.  If you have a young boy, you might want to try one from the library because he just might love it also!


1940’s Innocence – Maj Lindman’s Series (Chapter Books Suitable for Extra-Young Readers)

By , October 16, 2008 1:39 pm

I am on a roll with Swedish children’s books after last week’s recommendation of Astrid Lindgren’s The Children of Noisy Village and Happy Times in Noisy Village.  That post reminded me of Maj Lindman’s two lovely series:  Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Snipp, Snapp, Snurr.

Don’t you love it when you wander into a thrift store and discover something wonderful?  I know I do.  It always brightens my day when that happens.  Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, and the Reindeer and Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the Three Kittens were that kind of happy thrift store find!

The Snipp, Snap, Snurr series (first published in the U.S. in 1957) is about three adventurous little Swedish boys in, I would estimate, the 1930’s or ’40’s.  Although the books seem to be written with boys in mind, my daughters love them too.

The Flicka, Ricka, Dicka books (first U.S. publication was 1941) are about (you guessed it!) three adventurous little Swedish girls of that era.  Again, although targeted toward girls, my son loves these books as much as his sisters do.

The books are short, about 24 pages each.  Since each two page spread includes one page of text (in very large type) and a wonderful Maj Lindman 1950’s-style illustration on the facing page, there are really only 12 pages of text per book.  There are no chapters, but these are entirely suitable for beginning chapter book readers since they are so short and fairly simple:

Each book involves an innocent adventure with a little bit of minor drama (boys lost in the snow, a missing cat, etc.) that is, of course, always happily resolved.  None of it is too suspenseful or frightening which makes it appropriate for even the youngest new readers.

Also, if you don’t mind buying from Amazon, they are all part of the 4-for-3 promotion so you could get four of these wonderful Maj Lindman books for the price of three!

Our first two:

The others (those that are easily available in the U.S.):

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka

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