The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin: Book Review

February 18th, 2018 by

The Year of the Dog_Grace LinHappy new year!

Confused? Yes, the Western world celebrates New Year’s as the clock strikes midnight between December 31st and January 1st. But this weekend marks the start of a new lunar year, celebrated in some Asian countries such as China and Korea. Each year is associated with a different animal — 12 in all. This is now the year of the dog, and in 12 years we’ll celebrate the year of the dog again! (Last year was the year of the rooster, and next year is the year of the pig.)

Just like with the Western zodiac that is based on your birth month, there are certain characteristics attributed to people born in each lunar year. For example, I was born in the year of the monkey, which supposedly makes me mischievous and clever.

Also, each year’s animal influences what happens to everyone during that year. In The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin, the main character, Pacy, learns about what to expect from the year of the dog: Because dogs are loyal, it will be a year dedicated to friends and family; and because dogs are sincere, it will be a good year for thinking hard and finding herself. Immediately, Pacy vows that she will discover her true calling before the year is over — and hopefully it’s tied to a way to get rich!

Over the course of the year, Pacy also makes a new best friend, navigates her feelings about being Taiwanese-American, and deals with the ups and downs of regular school stuff (like the Halloween costume contest and the science fair). In other words, the book is a snapshot of a pretty relatable year. But I love that it is all through the lens of Pacy’s Taiwanese heritage and what the year of the dog means to her and her family.

This book is aimed at younger readers than some of Grace Lin’s other novels (like Where the Mountain Meets the Sea and Starry River of the Sky). So if you’re a super fan of those books, then you might find The Year of the Dog doesn’t hold your attention in the same way. (Also, there are no fantasy elements in Pacy’s life!) But I’d recommend this book for fans of Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins and Andrew Clements’ school stories (like Frindle and Lunch Money).

And don’t just take my word for it — check out these positive reviews from Jackson (age 10) and Tammy (age 10)!

Do you celebrate lunar new year at home, or did you mark the occasion at school? Leave a comment about what you did to welcome the year of the dog!

— Karen

In addition to being quick-witted, people born in the year of the monkey are also supposed to have a competitive spirit. This seems to be true of Karen on board game night!

More about Karen »

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

February 11th, 2018 by

wishtreeSubmitted by Blake, Age 11 from New York

Rating: ★★★★½

This book is about a tree named red and a bird named bongo. Red and Bongo have a great story to tell you a about how wishing day goes it’s a day were people put wishes on Red. But one year someone tries to cut him down.

Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat: Book Review

February 9th, 2018 by

behind-the-mountains“Behind the mountains are more mountains.”

This Haitian proverb is the inspiration for the title of Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat. It’s obviously a description of the landscape in Haiti. But at the end of the book, the main character, Celiane, reflects on how this saying has applied in a deeper way to her own life, with its many ups and downs. And as I read the final lines of the story, my heart was filled with all of the sadness, hope, and relief of Celiane’s journey — even though her life is so different from mine.

Just like me, Celiane moves to New York City from somewhere else. But unlike me, Celiane is coming from Haiti — a country I’ve never visited. That’s one of the things I enjoyed about reading Behind the Mountains; I got a chance to learn about life in Haiti through Celiane’s story.

Celiane lives with her mother and brother in the countryside, but her father is working in America, saving money and putting in his time until everyone can live in the U.S. together. In the meantime, Celiane studies hard at school, spends time with her boy-crazy best friend, helps her mom make and sell candies at the market, and goes to visit her aunt in the big city. It’s during this trip that Celiane has the most harrowing experience of her life and awakens to the volatile political situation in the country.

Unfortunately, Celiane’s problems don’t end when she gets to the United States. But now she faces a different set of challenges — learning now to navigate at her new school, in her new neighborhood, and within hew newly reunited family.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about life in Haiti — getting a window into another country, while also getting to know a character you’ll identify with despite your different backgrounds.

Have you read any other books about Haiti, or any other books about characters who immigrate to the U.S.? Leave a comment and share your recommendations!

— Karen

Karen grew up in San Francisco. Even though it’s not nearly as warm there as it is in Haiti, Karen also had to acquire a winter coat and boots for her move to the East Coast — just like Celiane. And similarly, Karen was fascinated when she experienced her first snowfall!

More about Karen »

You Asked, We Answered: Sports Fiction & Short Stories

January 28th, 2018 by

On January 19th, Daniel asked us for some book recommendations:

I am looking for a good book but it takes to long to find one . I like sports realistic fiction and short stories do you know a good book for me.

Thanks for sending your question, Daniel!

Sports Realistic Fiction:

With the Super Bowl right around the corner, let’s kick off with sports books. (Get it? Kick off! Ha ha ha. I slay myself…)

  • To get in the mood for this year’s match-up between the Patriots and the Eagles, look no further than this list of Books for the Super Bowl.
  • For other sports, check out this Super Sports booklist, with stories involving hockey, baseball, swimming, and more.
  • When I think of sports novels, two authors jump to mind right away: Mike Lupica and Tim Green. Kidsmomo readers like you have shared reviews for several of Lupica and Green’s books (such as RivalsThe Underdogs, and Heat), so see what they have to say!
  • Until recently, I would have said that sports realistic fiction = novels. But author Kwame Alexander proves that sports realistic fiction = poetry too! Check out Kidsmomo reader reviews for his two sports books in verse: The Crossover (about basketball) and Booked (about soccer).

Short Stories:

And now, time for a short list of short stories. (Get it? A short list of short stories! Ha ha ha ha ha. I slayed myself again…) Official descriptions from the authors and book publishers:

tales-from-outer-suburbiaTales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Tales from Outer Suburbia is an anthology of 15 very short illustrated stories. Each one is about a strange situation or event that occurs in an otherwise familiar suburban world; a visit from a nut-sized foreign exchange student, a sea creature on someone’s front lawn, a new room discovered in a family home, a sinister machine installed in a park, a wise buffalo that lives in a vacant lot.

wayside-school-seriesWayside School Series by Louis Sachar
There’d been a terrible mistake. Wayside School was built with 30 classrooms one on top of the other instead of next to each other! (The builder said he was very sorry.) That may be why all kinds of funny things happen at Wayside School… especially on the 13th floor. You’ll meet Mrs. Gorf, the meanest teacher of all; terrible Todd, who always gets sent home early; and John, who can read only upside down — along with all the other kids in the crazy mix-up school that came out sideways.

Guys Read books by 90+ authorsguys-read-funny-business
Check out any or all of the Guys Read Library of Great Reading short story collections: Funny Business, True Stories, The Sports Pages, Other Worlds, Thriller, Terrifying Tales, Heroes and Villains.

scary_storiesScary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz
Walking corpses, dancing bones, knife-wielding madmen, and narrow escapes from death — they’re all here in this chilling collection of ghost stories. Make sure you read these books with the light ON!

13-thirteen-stories13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen
[Note from Kidsmomo: This book is recommended for ages 12 and up.] Thirteen. It’s an age of wonder… or dread. The best year of your life… or maybe the worst ever. You’ve just become an official teenager, even though you’re not quite sure you feel like one, but you’re no longer a kid, either. Here, from 14 different points of view, are stories about that wonderful, terrible time. The big bar mitzvah that goes suddenly, wildly, hilariously out of control. A first kiss — and a realization about one’s sexual orientation. A crush on a girl that ends up putting the boy who likes her in the hospital. A pair of sneakers that a kid has to have, no matter what. Written by some of today’s finest writers for young adults, these stories — by turns funny and sad, wrenching and moving — truly capture the agony and ecstasy of being 13.

Are you like Daniel and looking to add to your reading list, but not sure what to read next? Ask Kidsmomo a question in the form below!

Kids: Ask your parents or teachers for approval before you submit anything to us, and read our Privacy Policy Statement.

Your Name (optional):

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You Asked, We Answered: Fantasy and Funny Books

December 26th, 2017 by

In early December 2017, Damien asked us for some book recommendations:

Hey I’m looking for fantasy and funny books for more great ideas please

Thanks for sending your question, Damien! There are soooooooooooooo many good fantasy books and hilarious stories out there, we could probably spend all of 2018 working on a response. But that wouldn’t be very helpful, now would it? So we’re doing everyone a favor and starting with the basics:

Classic Kidsmomo booklists:

Between those three lists, you’ll find 40 recommendations for fantasy and funny books that you might enjoy.

But if you’re looking for something a bit newer, here are some other ideas:

Mythology/Adventure Books We Recently Recommended:

  • The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  • Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
  • The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

New Fantasy Picks:

  • The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
  • Fish Girl, written by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by David Wiesner
  • The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

New Funny Books:

  • Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams
  • Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten
  • Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
  • Olga & the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel
  • Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
  • Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Are you like Damien and looking to add to your reading list, but not sure what to read next? Ask Kidsmomo a question in the form below!

Kids: Ask your parents or teachers for approval before you submit anything to us, and read our Privacy Policy Statement.

Your Name (optional):

Your Message (required):

You Asked, We Answered: Mythology and Adventure

November 26th, 2017 by

On November 17, 2017, an anonymous Kidsmomo reader asked us for a book recommendation:

i’m looking for mythology or adventure books. I have read a lot of them, so I need new ideas

Thanks for sending your question, anonymous reader! Mythology or adventure books are very popular and very plentiful, so finding a good one to read is always a QUEST in itself! And narrowing down a list can be quite the adventure:

*WE* are going on an adventure, anonymous reader!


Newer Books You Might Enjoy:

  • The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  • Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
  • The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

Some Old-School Picks:

  • Dragon’s Milk (The Dragon Chronicles) by Susan Fletcher
  • Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles) by Patricia C. Wrede
  • The Will of the Empress (Circle Reforged series) by Tamora Pierce
  • The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix
  • Quicksilver by Stephanie Spinner
  • The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

And last but never least, the Usual Suspects:

  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  • Any and all books by Rick Riordan
  • The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer
  • Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland
  • School for Good and Evil series by by Soman Chainani
  • The Brotherband series by John Flanagan
  • Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
  • Spirit Animals series (various authors)
  • His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
  • Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

Note: Just the list above is 100+ books! But… winter break is just around the corner…

Are you looking to add to your reading list, but not sure what to read? Ask Kidsmomo a question in the form below!

Kids: Ask your parents or teachers for approval before you submit anything to us, and read our Privacy Policy Statement.

Your Name (optional):

Your Message (required):

Wonder Movie: Yup, It’s Wonderful

November 19th, 2017 by

wonder-movie-posterOkay, I’m going to keep this short because lately Kidsmomo has been all Wonder, all of the time. First, I posted the movie trailer. Then, I posted some clips. Now, it’s time for the verdict:

This movie is great — dare I say, even wonderful! Although Auggie’s physical appearance in the movie is not nearly as pronounced as described in the book, that really doesn’t matter. That was a big concern of mine beforehand, but as you watch the movie you still see the reactions of everyone around him and you still experience his pain at feeling like an outsider.

But even more than that, the movie does a really good job at showing how the people in Auggie’s world are affected, especially his parents and his older sister (Via). Even though she has chapters dedicated to her in the book, via-photoI didn’t expect Via’s storyline to be so prominent in the film, and I’m really glad that we get so much time to see things from her perspective.

Usually, Kidsmomo gives out smiley faces to the movies that we like. In this case, I think Wonder deserves both a smiley face and a sobbing face — because boy did I cry a bunch during this movie. Thank goodness I planned ahead and brought tissues!

So I give Wonder a 🙂 and a 😭 — but what about you? If you’ve seen the movie, leave a comment with your thoughts!

— Karen

Now that she’s seen Wonder, Karen is looking ahead to the movie adaptations of Wonderstruck and A Wrinkle in Time. They look sooooooo good! 😍

More about Karen »

Wonder Movie: In Theaters This Friday!

November 16th, 2017 by

OMG OMG OMG, it’s almost time! The Wonder movie comes out this Friday! And I’m going to see it on opening night! Yes yes yes yes! YES!

Anyone else planning to see the film? I assume the answer is, well, YES — assuming you’re a fan of the original book by R.J Palacio.

As I said when the trailer was released, I’m a little skeptical about the way Auggie is portrayed in the movie — and that in turn makes me wonder if they’re going to make a lot of changes from the book. But despite my concerns, I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. And let’s face it, I loved the book so much that as long as the film gets the main parts right, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. I’m already pretty psyched, based on these clips:

Are you as excited about the new Wonder movie as I am? Leave a comment about what you expect it to be like!

— Karen

To be honest, Karen cried at that first clip. So please wish the best of luck to the people who are planning to watch this movie with Karen. They’ll need it. Plus, lots of tissues. And maybe hearing aids so they can make out the movie audio over Karen’s loud weeping.

More about Karen »

Some Spectacular Spoooooooky Books

October 31st, 2017 by

Happy Halloween!

What’s the most fun thing to do after a night of trick-or-treating? Well, sorting through all your candy, obviously.

But what’s the second most fun activity? Curling up under the covers with a creepy, bone-chilling book!

If you’re not sure which terrifying tale to choose, then check out these recommendations:


The Witches by Roald Dahl:


The Monsters of Morley Manor by Bruce Coville:

Do YOU have any can’t-miss spine-tingling books you want to share? Leave a comment below with your scary story recommendations!

Third Additions to Two Favorite Series

October 23rd, 2017 by

Halloween may be just around the corner, but this is no trick — two authors have decided to treat us all to new additions to their series!

Okay, all ghastly puns aside, October really did bring Book #3 in some series that we love. Check out the official descriptions from the publishers below:

mr-lemoncellos-great-library-raceMr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race (Mr. Lemoncello’s Library #3)

On your marks. Get set. Lemon, cello, GO!

Everyone’s favorite game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, is testing out his new FABULOUS FACT-FINDING FRENZY game! If Kyle can make it through the first round, he and the other lucky finalists will go on a great race — by bicycle, bookmobile, and even Mr. Lemoncello’s corporate banana jet! — to find fascinating facts about famous Americans. The first to bring their facts back to the library will win spectacular prizes! But when a few surprising “facts” surface about Mr. Lemoncello, it might be GO TO JAIL and LOSE A TURN all at once! Could Kyle’s hero be a fraud? It’s winner take all, so Kyle and the other kids will have to dig deep to find out the truth before the GAME is OVER for Mr. Lemoncello and his entire fantastic empire!

Filled with brand-new puzzles and games (including a hidden bonus puzzle!), this fast-paced read will have gamers and readers alike racing to the finish line because, like Mr. Lemoncello’s commercials say, IS IT FUN? … HELLO! IT’S A LEMONCELLO!

magnus-chase-and-the-gods-of-asgard-the-ship-of-the-deadThe Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3)

Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus faces his most dangerous trial yet. His cousin, Annabeth, recruits her boyfriend, Percy Jackson, to give Magnus some pointers, but will his training be enough

Loki is free from his chains. He’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfar before it’s ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?

We don’t know about you, but we’re really looking forward to learning Mr. Lemoncello’s secrets, and to seeing what kind of role Percy and Annabeth play in Magnus’ next adventure! What about you? Do you plan to read these latest installments in the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and Magnus Chase series?

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