Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books

Fairy Fiction: Friday Favorites, Ed. 11

Time for another Friday Favorites post! The blog features our favorite children’s books of the week on Fridays. See past Friday Favorites here.
book fairy
Illustration by Chicche di Emy

In the past year there has been a gradual shift in our house from princess craze to fairy fascination. I’ve noticed the same trend in other girls my oldest daughter’s age, and now I’m wondering if maybe it’s all a Disney marketing ploy…but it’s definitely real life in my world. Ella (age 6) is crazy about fairies right now. (Confession: I have no problem feeding the fairy fun around here. I may be a grown, semi-intelligent woman, but I think fairies are delightful). As a book loving mom, I usually try to tie together her current interests with books we find at the library. During Fairy Tale Frenzy, it was pretty easy to find princess related books. I was a little less certain that fairy books would be so numerous. But I shouldn’t have worried! There is a wealth of Fairy Fiction out there. Here’s the best and worst of fairy books we’ve found in Fairy Fiction so far this summer.

The Worst

Pia the Penguin Fairy (Rainbow Magic: Ocean Fairies, #3)Let’s start with the worst. Daisy Meadows has written about 4,391 formulaic books about Rainbow fairies, pet fairies, jewel fairies, and on and on. When first introduced to them, I thought, “Oh, cute, some fairy books to get Ella interested in listening to chapter books.” The perks of these books is that there are illustrations on every page so children just getting into chapter books have something to look at, and the books are not too long to read in one 30-minute sitting. But now that we have been through The Rainbow Fairies and the Jewel Fairies and The Weather Fairies (I kid you not), the cons outweigh the perks. I am pretty much searching for any way to avoid reading another one of these books because they are all the same. The characters are never developed, the setting barely changes, and the outcome is as predictable as the sky is blue. They’ve served their purpose and I’m grateful, but I’m ready to move on.

The Very Fairy PrincessAnother fairy book we actually like but would put it as one of the worst in the fairy category is The Very Fairy Princess. Lovely book, but has absolutely nothing to do with fairies. Definitely read it and the others in the series if you have a girl who likes Fancy Nancy books, but your serious fairy lover will find it lacking.

And then there’s Alice The Fairy by David Shannon. Cute book in itself, if you like illustrations of children who look like Darla in Finding Nemo, but to put this in the Fairy Book Category it’s an affront to fairies everywhere. (Okay, okay, it’s not that bad. Maybe I’m discovering an unhealthy reverence for fairies here…)

Some Runners Up

There are some beautiful fairy picture books out there, as you can imagine.  Lavender’s Lavender's Midsummer Mix-UpMidsummer Mix-Up is a short chapter book perfect for 1st-3rd grade girls whose mothers are fond of Kate Greenaway (ahem…me).  The story line is light and quick, so it feels more like a long-ish picture book instead of a chapter book. The author, Cicely Mary Barker, lived from 1895-1973 and created a whole illustrated world called Faeryopolis. Her website is jam packed so be sure to check that out on some rainy day.

A few we are searching for next time we go to the library are:

Lily and The Fairy House – I think I’ll be drinking in the illustrations of this one.

The Teeny Ween Walking Stick – It has a boy for a main character, so maybe Isaac will get some relief from all the girlish books. He doesn’t seem to mind, and we pick out plenty of boyish books for him, too, but since Ella isn’t an independent reader yet, he hears a lot of fairy chapter books. He’s a trooper, though! (i.e. he likes them and he is not ashamed to admit it!).

The Tangle Fairy – We are always looking for lighthearted ways to deal with tangly hair, and books are no exception . It is an emotional mother-daughter problem at our house and probably will be until Ella can brush her own hair. (You can recommend awesome homemade de-tanglers to me all day, but it’s not the actual hair that’s the problem. It’s practically smooth as silk. It’s just one of those epic battles right now…)

And now…

The Best

Shockingly enough, the best fairy fiction we’ve found this summer has been the Tales of Pixie Hollow series.  Yes, this is about the Disney Fairies. But hear me out! We discovered The Trouble The Trouble With Tink (Tales of Pixie Hollow, #1)With Tink by Kiki Thorpe on CD at the library as we were frantically searching the shelves for books to take on a 4-hour car ride. I thought, “well, we’ll try it since I’ll be able to listen along and make sure it’s appropriate.” I now have to admit: I really love these books. The audiobooks are especially good. The characters are more detailed and fully developed than in the movies and there is so much more background information about fairies and their land. Of course the plot is still very fanciful, we’re talking about fairies here, but the adventures are less “We have to save the whole world!!!” and more about each character’s personal failing and how they learn to overcome it. All kinds of great discussion can come out of it. I highly recommend them for 1st-4th grade and beyond! The audiobooks have been lifesavers during 100+ degree days this summer.

Kiki Thorpe has also written a series we’re just starting called The Never Girls. It’s also pretty good, though I don’t like these as much as The Tales of Pixie Hollow so far. We’re only getting started with them, though.

So, may this post arm you with many fairy books to keep your fairy lovers happy this summer! Or maybe it whet your appetite to try fairy fiction out for yourself? Let me know what you find!

Reading, Reviews

Bloomsbury Books Are The Bomb

People are always saying that there is so much trash in modern literature. I disagree. Yes, there is some pretty horrible stuff out there. But I’m pretty sure that there has always been sub-par literature and readers in Dickens’s day had to sift through the junk to get to the ones we consider classics now, just like we current day readers have to really search for the good stuff.  It would be tragic to be a true Old Book Snob like the father figure in The Precious One who wouldn’t let his daughter read anything written after 1900. Who would want to miss out on The HelpTo Kill A Mockingbird, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, or worse, Harry Potter!?!?

But I have to admit…old books are my favorite.

And that’s why I am totally in love with The Bloomsbury Group. It was launched in 2009 and publishes “lost classics written by both men and women from the early twentieth century.” Thanks to The Bloomsbury Group, I discovered a new favorite author and am in the process of refreshing my bookshelves with some beautiful paperbacks.

Right now I’m in the middle of Henrietta’s War. I love the writing style and the lighthearted tone of Joyce Dennys as she writes about her experiences of being on the home front in WWII. Before you go saying, “great, another WWII book,” please know that the books actually written during the war in Britain are so very different from the ones being written now. For one thing, the worst about Nazi Germany was not yet known. For another, they did not dwell on the tragedy because life became normal even in the midst of war.

Here’s a snippet from the Author’s Note:

I never do Spring Cleaning. I know I should and every year am filled with a longing to do better and rush round the house emptying drawers and shelves on to the floor and unearthing many treasures such as my dark glasses (mourned as lost) and endless snapshots. After enjoying several holidays in retrospect I somehow lose heart and bundle everything back again.

My sentiments on Spring Cleaning exactly.

If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society as much as I did, definitely check out Mrs. Tim of The RegimentHenrietta’s War, and Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. They’re perfect for light reading without feeling like your mind is going to mush.

Too bad the house goes to mush while I read these fabulous books…

Happy Summer Reading!

Reading, Reviews

What Books Become Part of Your Life?

So many people are looking for good novels right about now. We need them in summer to take on vacation, or read by the pool, or just because books are always a part of life. Books can be the best vacation your mind can get. And isn’t it beautiful how there are enough different kinds of books and authors in this world so that every reader can find that book that will be just what they need? Writing a book blog is weird because a book I love may be a book you hate, or visa versa. Books speak to people in different ways and connect uniquely.  But since readers are always on the quest for the next great book, we go on sharing what we like and helping each other along the way the best we can. Novels -stories, settings, characters, themes – can be so powerful. Today I’m featuring some books by one of my favorite authors. Not everyone will like her books, but I will always read everything she puts out. Here’s why: I vividly remember every point in time that I was reading a book by Marisa de los Santos.

Love Walked InI read Loved Walked In at the desk in my hated cubicle a year after I graduated from college, or on the bench in the park where I went on lunch breaks to escape the office.

Belong To Me was my companion as I sat at my kitchen table eating Honey Nut Cheerios at 3:00 a.m. in the early throes of labor, and then later in a hospital bed as I nursed my newborn son. (That book made me cry buckets, but it could have been because of other stuff going on…)

Falling Together was in my hands at the beach on a cooler September day as I sat on the porch and wished the plot would get better already (hint: this one is not my favorite).

Belong to MeAnd just two weeks ago, I read The Precious One in the finally silent house after the children’s bedtime, as I curled up on the couch with a hot wash cloth on my face to ease the sinus pressure from a rare case of summer sickness.

This is how I judge an author’s power: if his or her novel intertwines with your life enough to become part of it. 

As I read The Precious One last week, I finally got an idea of why de los Santos’s books have that power in my life. She always includes a few characters who are good at forgiveness and loving and being a friend just for the sake of being a friend. The characters are not morally perfect and they don’t have easy lives, but they are good at loving the abandoned daughter or lonely neighbor or friend suffering cancer. These are the tough concepts so often thrown on us in modern fiction, but so gently dealt with in de los Santos’s work and by her characters. Her work helps me think harder about the kind of person I want to be in real life. It’s not the Bible, for sure, but if you’re a lover of fiction, I think you’re always looking for pieces of a book that you carry with you after the book is over to inspire you or make you laugh, to bolster your resolve or keep you grounded. I love finding that kind of book and those kinds of writers, and I get so excited to share them here on the blog. There are many, many wonderful non-fiction books that can be called life changing or earth shattering, but in my own experience, it’s novels with artistry and story that stick in my mind the most.

So tell me, which novels have been so powerful that they became a part of your life as you read them?

Reading, Reviews

The Best Book of The Summer: The Truth According to Us

I’m adding a new book to my Favorites Page today after finishing Annie Barrows’s latest The Truth According to Uswork, The Truth According to Us. This is hands down the best book I’ve read this summer and possibly this whole year. Seriously, it was so good, I’m in a book hangover right now because I just can’t move on.

You may remember Annie Barrows from her co-authorship of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, another book I dearly love.  The Truth According to Us is only similar in the strength of character and setting. Otherwise, it has a whole ‘nother feel and plot to it. In fact, it rings more of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help in style and is almost as compelling, if not equally so.

The Truth According to Us is set in the small factory town of Macedonia, West Virginia in 1939. Layla Beck, a fiesty socialite, falls out of her father’s good graces and finds herself in the Federal Writer’s Project with the job of writing the history of Macedonia. Beck gets much more than the back country, backwards society she bargained for when she lands a boarding room in the house of the Romeyn family. As the book progresses, it turns out that the Romeyn family is the true heart of the book. There are secrets upon secrets that shape this family, but this isn’t a soap opera story. It’s more like a classic family saga in which the characters seem to live and breathe in your mind and the story is wrenching and gripping even though it’s not your own and has nothing much to do with your life at all.

Under it all is this idea that history and the course our lives take is always based on what we believe is true. Though definitely not a morality story meant to drive home a particular point, I couldn’t help but think of how important it is to surround ourselves with truly trustworthy people. Trusting the wrong person can change everything about a person’s life. I can’t say too much more or I’ll give it all away! I think this is the type of book that will span many genres and reader preferences. Grab a copy and get reading!

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