In Part 1 and Part 2, I reviewed the picture books in the photo below. These books were new and wonderful reads this summer.
Upper grade books for older children.
I had a double-dose of Patricia MacLachlan books. Lucky me! After reading Prairie Days (see Part 2), I read her chapter book, My Father’s Words.
My Father’s Words, by Patricia MacLachlan
I didn’t think there could be a book as wonderful as The Poet’s Dog. There is! Simple words can have a mightily powerful impact on the reader, if they are carefully crafted by a master writer. My Father’s Words is a story told through the voice of Fiona, older sister to Finn. Their Dad is a psychologist, makes runny eggs, plays basketball, and sings “Dona Nobis Pacem.” He’s a great all-around guy who is unexpectedly killed in an accident. Is the book sad? No, it is about finding the way, ‘the eternal fitness of things’. The many words their Dad spoke become part of a labyrinth, with unexpected turns.
Fiona is trying to make sense of everything. The boy next door often stops by; he tells Fiona some of the words her dad said, words she had never heard. Finn is just plain angry, and Fiona wants to help him. They decide to volunteer in an animal shelter. The dog that no-one can reach is drawn to Finn. He sings to the dog his father’s song, and the dog responds. When a woman who was at the scene of the accident arrives at the house with her little boy and dog, Finn has a revelation, and the story ends in a surprising way – it brings down the house. Does the dog at the shelter stay with Finn? No, far better. I couldn’t put the book down. If you love dogs and have a warm spot for children, read this book!
A Nest for Celeste and Another Quest for Celeste, by Henry Cole
These two books combine history and adventure, with Celeste the mouse. She lives on a plantation in the south in the 1800’s and encounters many adversities, including two ‘bully’ rats. When company arrives for an extended visit, it is John Audubon and his young apprentice, Joseph. Joseph is quiet and homesick, and takes a liking to Celeste – she spends her days in his pocket and learns much about birds and drawing, watching Audubon and helping Joseph paint backgrounds and flowers.
Along the way, she watches Audubon as he pins his birds in order to make perfect drawings. Celeste rescues and befriends one of his birds, Cornelius. In an effort to find him food, she is swept in a storm, looses her way, meets Lafayette, and learns the value of friendship. The story’s adventures and subtle lessons never let up.
The sequel is equally fascinating. Celeste unexpectedly leaves the plantation in a bale of cotton packed on a wagon. She ends up on a riverboat and meets old Rosebud the dog. When the riverboat became snagged by tree limbs under water, it sinks, and Celeste must save herself. With the help of a turtle she makes it to shore, and her adventures begin. After befriending squirrels and beavers, she is finding how to survive in the woods. While she sleeps in a hickory tree, along comes a boy with an axe, young Abe Lincoln. He sees Celeste, smiles, and takes her home.
Celeste helps Abe with his many chores, and also helps him to learn how to read and to write. From the book Abe borrowed that became ruined, to her many forest friends secretly helping Abe, the book is full of adventures. Celeste must decide where home really is. She has come from a plantation to a riverboat to the woods, making friends along the way. What will she choose to do? I highly recommend these books, for Henry Cole’s delightful writing and storytelling, and for the history they tell.
Amanda in Alberta, by Darlene Foster
Amanda lives in Calgary, Canada. Her life is in cowboy country and the rugged, beautiful lands of Alberta – prairies, badlands, and the rockies. Amanda’s best friend, Leah, lives in England, and comes to Alberta to visit Amanda.
Amanda and Leah see the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo), go on a cattle drive, visit Buffalo Jump, and the dinosaur museum. These adventures are intertwined with a mystery- Amanda finds a stone, which people seem to want, one cowboy in particular. Amanda is curious about the markings on the stone and is determined to learn more. She is the modern day Nancy Drew, and her sleuthing proves to be both dangerous and exciting at times.
Throughout the book, the reader is engrossed in the story, learning about history and Canada, and solving the mystery of the stone. Amanda and Leah have further adventures in Darlene Foster’s outstanding Amanda series. I am looking forward to reading the newest book in the series, Amanda in Holland, and solving a WWII mystery. If you love Nancy Drew, this book and the Amanda series is for you!
Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem, by Kate DiCamillo
The latest book in the ‘Tales from Deckawoo Drive’ series is Stella’s story. On the first day of second grade, she meets her teacher – with a lovely middle name. Stella is smitten with names and words and stories, as she is a beautiful dreamer.
DiCamillo writes the teacher’s words, “Class, I want you to know that I believe in listening closely and speaking softly and singing loudly. I also believe in examining mysteries.” I was struck. These words show up again and again in the story – just in the right place.
Horace Broom is mister-know-it-all. He is annoying. When the class begins to write poetry, the reader is reminded of Stella’s favorite quote, “Anything is possible.” The class poetry assignment is writing a poem with a metaphor. Stella and Horace clash over Stella’s poem. They argue, and they’re sent to the Principal’s office. On the way, the long and dreaded walk, Horace is a wreck, Stella is strong, and they get locked into the janitor’s closet. What happens next while they’re trapped makes the stars align, literally and figuratively. This is a perfect book! Kate DiCamillo is a master at bringing the most important pieces of childhood into focus.
The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White
This book stands alone in it’s popularity and reviews. Every summer I treat myself to reading a childhood classic, one I never read. This year it was The Trumpet of the Swan. Louis is a trumpeter swan who was born without a voice. His father, in determination to help his son, steals a trumpet so Louis can have a voice. The course of events that ensue, and how Louis deals with a trumpet, and also his father’s well intended thievery, are written as only E.B. White can do. I am so very glad I read this book. It was a great pleasure. If you missed it like I did, I highly recommend reading the book. It’s never too late.
I am delighted and honoured to have my book included with books by Patricia MacLachlan and Kate DiCamillo, two of my favourite authors. Thanks for the great review. I´m pleased you enjoyed Amanda´s adventure in her home province of Alberta. I think it is time for me to read The Trumpet of the Swan too.
Thanks so much, Darlene. I’m so glad you liked the review. It was my pleasure! I think you will enjoy The Trumpet of the Swan, too. I am off to Amazon to order Amanda in Holland. 🙂
Another wonderful selection, Jennie. Great to see the lovely Darlene’s books featured here too.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thank you, Pete. They are all winners. I really enjoyed Darlene’s book. Best to you.
Wonderful books in there!!
Thank you, Ritu!!
I loved the poet’s dog and cannot wait to read my father’s words! thanks for this, and for the others as well, I just got so excited as soon as I saw that one )
I’m so glad, Beth!! It was published in 2018, so it’s pretty new. And how it ends is unexpected and simply wonderful!! I can’t say enough…🙂 I think I’m going to read aloud the Celeste book to my library group.
These all sound outstanding, Jennie!
Thank you, GP!
The books in this series have been wonderful examples of the fact that there is no excuse for not reading to and with children.
I like your thinking, Dan!
Wonderful selection Jennie! I definitely need to try Darlene’s book.
It’s good, Kim! Historical fiction with mystery and adventure. Thank you!
It was so good to see Darlene’s book included in your post! I was a big fan of E.B. White as a child, and I, too, missed The Trumpet of the Swan.
I loved Darlene’s book, and I am looking forward to reading her new one. For you, Liz, please read “My Father’s Words”. You will be…well, many words come to mind. I feel like reading a great book that I missed as a child is a summer highlight. E.B. White is as good as it gets.
Liz, have you read “Some Writer”, by Melissa Sweet? It’s the story of E.B. White, with illustrations that are like nothing you have ever seen. Brilliant, and a must read.
Thank you for the recommendations, Jennie. I haven’t read either book, so I’ve added them to my “Want to Read” list in GoodReads.
You’re welcome, Liz. I know you’ll enjoy the books.
Jennie, I feel all warm and cosy reading these wonderful reviews of children’s books! I want to stop everything else and just find the books to sit down and read! I loved Nancy Drew as a child and re-enacted many of her adventures! Darlene’s book sounds like a treat and I have Amanda in Holland on my TBR list! Happy Reading! xx
Thank you so much, Annika. I’m so glad you enjoyed the reviews. I feel the same way, reading children books just makes me feel good. I saved my Nancy Drew books and gave them to my grandchildren who love them, too. I can’t wait to read the new Amanda book!
Ahh … a third generation of Nancy Drew fans in the family – how lovely!😀 And a good excuse for you to reread them. I thought all my books had disappeared but found them in my mother’s loft when she moved last year – I’d forgotten I had about ten boxes of my childhood books, school work and toys there! I had many fun hours going through them all! 😀
That must have been wonderful! Did you save the boxes of books?
Absolutely! 😀 Most are now in my loft but I took a few out for the bookcases in the house!
I’m so glad! 😀
My mother taught me to love books and it was the best part of my teaching years to pass on that love of books. I see you have it too.
I do have it, Anneli, just like you. It’s the most important thing I do in teaching.
All good, Jennie. Thank you.
Thank you, John. When your library opens, I urge (oops, that’s a strong word) you to go to the children’s room and check out “My Father’s Words”. I know you. Dogs are there. ‘Nuff said.
Will do, Jennie
Wonderful, Jennie! Sharing… ❤ xo
Thank you, Bette! 😍
You pick some brilliant books Jennie.
Thank you, Opher!
I used to read The Trumpet of the Swan to my students. I pretty much like anything written by E.B. White.. There are few authors more brilliant than Kate DiCamillo. Great picks, Jennie!
Can you believe I had never read this book? I can picture you reading it aloud to your students. Lucky you, and lucky kids. I absolutely agree that few authors are more brilliant than Kate DiCamillo. Her Deckawoo Drive series for younger readers is as terrific as her hallmark books. Really. I would pass this series along to your K-2 teachers. Those kids probably know the Mercy Watson series, so they will be eager beavers. Thanks so much, Pete.
I like the my father’s book cover.
I do, too!
I’ve learned a lot here today about fellow bloggers and children’s books. Wow! Thanks.
That’s wonderful, Marlene. I guess reading comments tells you a lot. Thanks so much!
Amazing, and you had read one of the Amanda series by Darlene Foster, too. Michael
Yes! I loved her book and look forward to the next Amanda book in the series.
Another wonderful collection Jennie and I am sharing part one on 11th of September and then the other two parts a few weeks apart.. hugs xxx
I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Sally. Thank you so much for sharing! People are looking for books during this pandemic, and many bloggers have reached out for more.
And with winter coming..it is good to stock up…hugsx
Yes it is! 🙂
Love these books, and all perfect for my little niece. Funny I recently ordered Amanda in Alberta for her in paperback. She’s going to be 9 and thankfully, loves to read and prefers paperback, lol. I’m marking these all down, But My Father’s Words has piqued my interest most. ❤
Wonderful, Debby. How exciting to get books for your niece who loves to read! You picked a winner in Amanda- perfect for a girl who likes adventure stories. I will tell you that My Father’s Words will always be remembered for anyone who reads the book. It’s that good. If you get it for your niece, please read it, too. And tell me what you think. ❤️
I certainly plan to Jennie. Thanks again. ❤
Pingback: My Summer of Books by a Teacher | Darlene Foster's Blog
Wonderful, Darlene! Thank you. 🙂
Can you delete this comment as reblogging didn’t work for some reason? I have written up another post featuring this one. Thanks.
Hi Darlene. I’m home from school and just now seeing this. Yes, I will delete. Thank you!
Lovely books for children, and a great review of Darlene’s book!
Thank you, Stevie!
Fabulous books and reviews, Jennie. I hope the school year has started successfully. ❤ ❤
Thank you, Diana! School children begin next week, and it will be challenging and different.
I’ll be thinking of you.
Thank you, Diana! 🙂 I know it will be fine, just very different. The hardest part, besides not hugging children, will be reading to them while wearing a mask. Sigh!
What a wonderful selection of Books here Jennie… And all holding so much magic within their pages to enlighten and delight little faces listening to their stories 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed these books, Sue. They made for a great summer of reading. While these are too ‘old’ for my preschoolers, I hope readers will read them to their upper grade children. Reading aloud to older children is so rewarding. That’s what I do at my public library. 😍
It is what I have always done with my granddaughter and with my Children… 😀
Just wonderful!! 😀
Pingback: Smorgasbord Children’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Updates – #Reviews #Travel #Adventure Darlene Foster, #Monarch #Butterfly Bette A. Stevens | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine
Thank you, Sally!