Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book #38: Meet Kit: An American Girl

I had forgotten just how enjoyable the American Girl series of books can be. A colleague and I will be hosting an American Girl Club program next week focused on 1930s girl Kit Kittredge, and in preparation I decided to read at least the first book in her series. True to the American Girl formula for books, the first title is Meet Kit: An American Girl, in which the reader becomes acquainted with Kit's life, her friends and family, and the time period in which she is growing up.

The writing style is enjoyable yet simple enough to be accessible to children just starting to read chapter books--and these series make a great introduction to historical fiction (Dear America would be next!). In this particular book, we meet Kit, a school-age child whose family has been fortunate in the Depression up to 1934. When the family's circumstances start to fall, they take in boarders. This event not only allows Kit an opportunity to understand the importance of support and helpfulness in her family, but also a chance to meet some new people who will likely become friends in subsequent books. Up next is Kit Learns a Lesson, the school story of the series. The order and broad subjects of these books may be predictable, but they are still excellent vehicles for interesting and accessible historical information. Plus, the theme of what it means to be an American Girl and a friend are always there. Not too bad for a reader just starting out.

Or for a program, for that matter! We'll be doing an American Girl matching game, talking about the differences between the 1930s and today, decoupage-ing picture frames, watching a Shirley Temple clip, and having snacks: chocolate chip cookies, invented in the 1930s, and black cows, that soda fountain staple. Looks to be a fun time!

I would suggest any of the American Girl series of fiction books for young girl readers with an interest in history, in realistic stories about girls, and series fiction with recurring characters.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Book #37: The Egypt Game

I moved to Missouri last week. I've got this pretty fantastic new job, and while everything happened fairly quickly--interview, offer, move, first day of work (thus my lack of recent posts)--I'm getting settled in now quite well. And it wasn't even a bad drive here from Bloomington, where I was last living. The drive was about five hours, otherwise known as prime children's audiobook length.

On my drive over, I listed to Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Newbery Honor Book The Egypt Game. I checked it out on the recommendation of one Pseudonymous Bosch, an intriguing and imaginative children's author. He mentioned The Egypt Game on a summer reading list he compiled for another blog, and after he likened it to A Wrinkle in Time and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I knew I had to read it. Or, in my case, listen to it.

The Egypt Game is the story of a handful of children who prefer imaginative games to the more physical ball games of their classmates. They create for themselves a little Egypt behind a mysterious second-hand goods store, and there they act out rituals, histories, and anything else than come up with that corresponds with Ancient Egypt. There's quite a bit of intrigue in the mix--after a girl is murdered in the neighborhood, none of the children are allowed out to play. When "the Egyptians" finally do return to Egypt, things start to seem eerie: their oracle begins to actually work, one of them notices they are being watched, and Egypt might not be as safe or secret as they thought. There's nothing explicitly scary in this book, though--while mystery and suspense are part of the novel, it should still be suitable for most elementary-aged readers.

The author wrote a slew of other books about these children and their games, and I think I'll be looking into them if I have any more long car trips coming up. Until then, I'd suggest this book for readers/listeners who enjoy a bit of imagination, a bit of safe mystery and suspense, and reminders of those elaborate, wonderful games we played as children.