Ages 5-11

Howl's Moving Castle

Perhaps you saw the flick by Hayao Miyazaki? Miyazaki usually writes his own stories, but he was clearly inspired by this amazing book. Miyazaki also directed My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones is also a must read for fans of Harry Potter! The story is about Sophie who is a hat shop apprentice until a witch turns her into an old woman and she finds herself in the castle of the wizard Howl. Diana Wynne Jones is the author of MANY books - so you will never run out of great fantasy options.

Did you read it over the weekend?

We know it sold a record 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours, but did you actually have time to read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince over the weekend? I only had time enough to get through the first fifty pages, but I'm looking forward to the next 622.

Here Come the ABC's

A host of animators and puppeteers illustrate the wonderfully wacky Here Come the ABC's, a recent children's DVD (also on CD) from the band They Might Be Giants. Highlights include the psychedelic "Pictures of Pandas Painting", "C is for Conifer," and "The Alphabet Lost and Found." TMBG, purveyors of whimsical experimental pop, celebrated their 20-year anniversary in 2002 with the release of their first children's CD, No!

The Mighty Asparagus

There's an oft-reinterpreted russian folk tale about a big turnip, and lots of people try to pull it out, etc. etc. The titular Mighty Asparagus of this book is an obvious descendant of the russian turnip, but the brilliantly off-kilter style and tone of Vladimir Radunsky provide a wonderful new spin on the otherwise warmed-over folk tale that is eccentric and quite silly.

Radunsky uses famous renaissance paintings as visual fodder (and includes thanks and an apology to each pillaged artist in his dedication), and the result is a unique combination of rich texture and cross-eyed goofiness that overshadows (in a good way) whatever the parable is supposed to be about (even the smallest effort counts).

My 3-year-old son adores this book, especially the Ballad of the Mighty Asparagus at the end, but if you have a child who is into order, they may be a bit dismayed by the centerfold-style pullout of the fallen asparagus. Should that have had a spoiler warning?

Remaking Gene Wilder

Poor Gene Wilder: Two of his films, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and The Producers (1968), are getting remade this year. First, Johnny Depp stars as Wonka in the upcoming Tim Burton film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which Burton is careful to claim is not a remake--but we know better), then Matthew Broderick takes on Leo Bloom in the upcoming film version of The Producers.

Lance Armstrong


The new youth book Lance Armstrong, Cyclist by Michael Benson describes Armstrong's amazing journey from cancer survivor to today's frontrunner in the 2005 Tour de France.

The Guild of Geniuses

Frederick Lipton is a Movie Star. As is often the case with Movie Stars, his best friend is a monkey: Mr. Pip. They find themselves in need of the services of The Guild of Geniuses, a co-ed group of four wizened, lab-coated scientists who solve any problem and offer prizes to those who are able to stump them, although it is noted that they haven't yet had to give out a single prize.

This is Dan Santat's first book, both as an author and an illustrator, and while the story is sweet, it's also a bit dull. The art, however, is stylish, colorful, and retro-geeky, reminiscent of Mo Willems' excellent animated works such as The Off-Beats and Sheep in the Big City.

The English Roses

Madonna's music may or may not tickle your daughter's fancy, but this short bedtime book is a favorite with my girls. The story is of three young friends who learn to include a fourth girl into their circle.

If your daughter is poking around the stacks for something to read for the Summer Reading Game, this might be a right fit for her. It comes highly recommended from a five and a six-year old!

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