Not only do I read books, but I love books (especially children’s books), and I bet you do, too!

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel

Posted: April 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Chapter Books | 322,120 Comments »

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, caught my eye in the “Beginning Chapter Books” section at the library.

Cover of Make Way for Dyamonde DanielThird-grader Dyamonde Daniel has been in her new school for 3 weeks and still doesn’t have a best friend.  When her parents got divorced, she had to move to a new neighborhood with her mom and leave her old best friend behind.  Luckily, an even newer kid has just joined her class…and even though he’s grumpy and unfriendly, Dyamonde decides to follow her teacher’s advice and ask Free why he’s so mad all the time.

When she sits with him at lunch, the other kids stare, but that doesn’t stop Dyamonde.

“Wow,” said Free.  “You’re amazing.”
“What?”
“You really don’t care what people think.”
“About what?”
“About sitting with me.  About anything.”
“Why should I?” asked Dyamonde.  “I know what I think, and that’s enough” (55).

The dialogue is believable and the urban setting is laid down in a central but unobtrusive manner; almost any child will be able to identify with Dyamonde’s story.  Christie’s blocky, contemporary illustrations reflect the setting well.

Dyamonde gives Free a lot to think about, and by the end of the book he’s much less grouchy and even decides to read out loud at school, something he’s never wanted to do before – and surprises everyone when he turns out to be one of the best readers in the class!

Although I haven’t extensively read in this genre, there don’t seem to be many early chapter books about African-Americans, so I think this book fills an important need – I believe that everyone should be able to find characters like themselves in the books they read.  It was a quick but thought-provoking read, and since it’s supposed to be the first book in a series, I look forward to the next!


My Favorite Children’s Chapter Book

Posted: March 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Chapter Books | 229,334 Comments »

Hands-down, my favorite chapter book is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

It’s the only Newbery Medal winner among my favorite books, and it’s easy to see why it won.  As an adult I find this book as witty and brilliant as ever, especially since it reveals the interior lives of not only the children in the story, but the adults as well.

In 2000, School Library Journal named The Westing Game one of “One Hundred Books That Shaped the Century.”

In the front of the edition I currently own (published by Puffin Books in 1992), there is a quote from The Horn Book describing it as “a fascinating medley of word games, disguises, multiple aliases, and subterfuges – a demanding but rewarding book.”  I couldn’t agree more!

The Westing Game begins with a great first line:  “The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east.”  That’s only the first of many strange details in this convoluted and funny mystery.  The story opens with an odd man named Barney Northrup leasing apartments to mysteriously selected tenants.  But at the end of the very first chapter, the reader learns that something has gone wrong…“Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person.”

After this portentous beginning, the book skips ahead several months and begins to follow the lives of 16 residents of Sunset Towers, who soon find out that they may be heirs to the fortune of eccentric millionaire Samuel Westing.  According to the dictates of his will, the heirs are paired and set off to play the game, win, and inherit millions.

I love the interactions between the characters (especially the adult-child pairs), and I love the way the children are savvy and, at times, much smarter than the grown-ups.  And I love the way this clever mystery unfolds.  The Westing Game is just a sharply-crafted, rollicking good read!


Welcome to Jenny Reads Books

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 254,119 Comments »

Hey, you found me!  But I’m not quite ready for you yet.  Check back soon!