Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Thanksgiving-Themed Reads You Won’t Want to Miss!

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We are two days away from Thanksgiving! While most of our favorite parts of this holiday include turkey, stuffing, and second-helpings, it’s also an important time to reflect on what we are thankful for, and remember why we are celebrating this national event. But your kids should be familiar with the history behind this day too! To help you, and them, get in the Thanksgiving spirit, try out one or all of these fun reads:

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Children’s Book Recommendation Time!: Presidential Election-Themed

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We’re only a month away from the 2016 presidential election, and it feels like we can’t talk about anything else. Anytime you turn on the TV, you’re hearing about the latest nominee scandal, you’re seeing poll numbers rise and fall, and you’re watching commentary on the most recent debates. But how much do your children understand about what’s going on?

If you’re unsure of the best way to help them understand what happens in the presidential election and what it means for our country, try reading them these books to get the conversation started! (more…)

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Back-To-School Books Your Child Needs to Read!

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With back-to-school season might come some back-to-school jitters for your young ones—whether they’re starting kindergarten, starting a new school, or making that big leap to junior high. But luckily there’s a way to get your kids excited about this new season, and surprise, it has to do with reading! These are my top recommendations for your kids to read if they need a story to encourage them to push aside their nerves and make the most of their new school experiences.

Wemberly

Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes. This is an adorable story about a little mouse named Wemberly who often worries about things big and small, but her biggest worry yet is about starting school. It’s perfect for kids heading to school for the first time, and is sure to lift their spirits!

First Day

First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg. If your child is going back to their first day after switching to a new school, this is the story for them. It’s about a girl named Sarah who is very nervous to start her life over at a new school, and the relationship she builds with a teacher there who helps her transition smoothly through. It’s a charming and memorable book that will stick with anyone going through that difficult transition!

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes. On Chrysanthemum’s first day of school she is teased for her name—something she had always loved about herself. Henkes can do no wrong in this sweet paperback about learning to take pride in oneself no matter what anyone else thinks…a lesson every kid should have the opportunity to soak in before stepping into their first classroom.

Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn. This one is about a raccoon named Chester who is a little scared about starting school for the first time, and the mother who tells him a family secret called the kissing hand so that he will always know how loved he is anytime his fear starts to get the best of him. This one could be a tear-jerker for any parents out there who aren’t ready to let go of their babies just yet, so make sure to keep the tissues on hand!

What is your favorite back-to-school tale? Let me know in the comments!

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Book Review Time! The BFG (Film Adaptation Edition)

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BFG

I just saw Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg’s movie, The BFG. (Big Friendly Giant to all you new guys.) It’s totally cool. For those who don’t know, it’s about this eight-year-old girl Sophie who gets snatched away from her orphanage bedroom by an awfully tall giant and whisked away to the giant’s cave way off in Giant Country.

I won’t tell you everything that happens after that. There’s the problem of the nine other bad giants that eat kids. (Our nice giant is a vegan.) And the trip to Buckingham Palace to warn the queen that the bad giants are about to invade. But that’s just plot stuff. The charm and essence of the thing is the BFG’s job. He captures dreams—in a butterfly net, no less—and stores them in jars and sneaks into town late at night and blows them into the bedrooms of sleeping children. With his long, skinny trumpet.

“Nice dreams. Lovely golden dreams. Dreams that is giving the dreamers a happy time.”

A great leitmotif are the Frobscottle and Whizzpoppers. Frobscottle is a bubbly green drink where the bubbles float down instead of up. So instead of burping, it has you making great green Whizzpoppers out of your down part. They lift you off your feet.

Sophie is a proper British girl and is put off by this, but she comes around to it in the end. As it were. Even the queen and her Corgis try Frobscottle and the results are diverting.

You’ve got to love Dahl’s wackiness. He’s the king of wacky. But I think my favorite thing of his is the way he sticks it to the grownups with this naughty stuff. He often said the key to his success was conspiring with children against adults. (I have found with my own children’s stories that the more I can slip past the naughty police, the better. Up to a point, of course.)

About the movie itself: It tracks the book straight down the line (except for changes that the genre demands). The visuals are great. (Hey, this is Spielberg, right?) The makeup is magical. (Think Harry Potter.)

And the acting: They say Mark Rylance (the giant) is the greatest stage actor of his generation. You may have seen him in Bridge of Spies and the TV series Wolf Hall. (A KGB colonel and Thomas Cromwell, respectively.) He deals with the BFG role wonderfully, and manages to get Dahl’s goofy words out cleanly. E.g., ughbwelch, probsposterous, quogwinkles. (I know, this is part of any good actor’s job, but YOU get the book and try rattling off some of these in the middle of a sentence!)

I put Ruby Barnhill (Sophie) at the top, though. She is eight years old in the story and looks it in the movie. Oh, maybe ten—but her front teeth aren’t even in straight yet. She handles the part of a proper little English girl like a twenty-year-old pro. Her delivery and enunciation are right there, and she comes off as a real, live kid. Like she’s done this for ten years. I can’t say she’s better than Rylance—she’s not—and anyway that’s apples and oranges. But I do put her performance at #1. For the true and ample reason that it’s easier to play a grotesque than a real, natural, sure-enough individual person. You can go look it up!

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My Top 4 July 4th-Themed Children’s Book Recommendations!

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The 4th of July is almost upon us! And while most all of us know the reason we are celebrating (happy birthday America!), sometimes our children don’t take a moment to think of it as anything other than a day to play out in the sun and have a yummy BBQ. That’s where these books come in!

4th of July

The Fourth of July Story, by Alice Dalgliesh. This is a straightforward, but fascinatingly written, account of America’s independence story. It gives a history of why American wanted to break free from Britain, tells Thomas Jefferson’s story of writing the Declaration of Independence—everything you need to know! The story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations that kids won’t get enough of.

Judy Moody

Judy Moody Declares Independence, by Megan McDonald. This is another charming installment of the Judy Moody series, and takes Judy on an adventure to Boston where she meets a British friend, and has a wild adventure learning about Independence Day, and what it means to be independent herself. With a line like this, who wouldn’t want to pick up this read? “She, Judy Moody, would hereby, this day, make the Judy Moody Declaration of Independence. With alien rights and her own Purse of Happiness and everything.”

Rhyming book

Fourth of July Cheer, by Dee Smith. For the really little kiddos, this rhyming picture book is the perfect Independence Day read. It follows the story of Buster the Dog and his family heading out for some July 4th fun at the beach—complete with the beaches, BBQs, parades, and even a fireworks display! It’s very sweet, fun and easy to read, and will put you in the mood for the holiday.

Milo and Jazz

The Case of the July 4th Jinx, by Lewis B. Montgomery. Another installment of the Milo and Jazz Mystery series, this story follows the kids as they try to figure out why everything seems to be going wrong at the 4th of July fair. This is a great choice for kids being introduced to chapter books, and the mystery keeps them turning the pages!

What are some of your favorite 4th of July traditions? Let me know in the comments below!

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What Happened to #BoysWhoRead?

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As many of you who have been following this blog for a while know, I started a campaign some time ago called Boys Who Read, which aims to encourage children and parents together to make reading an enjoyable habit in their lives. As a children’s author, father, and lifelong reader, I wholeheartedly believe that books are an important part of expanding a child’s inner life, helping them to understand the world and the people within it with greater empathy, compassion, and curiosity.

As C. Gordon puts it, “A book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter any other way.”

And don’t our children deserve to know the pleasure of walking on that red carpet?

I have written about it before, and I will write about it again: As parents, we need to encourage our children to turn off their screens, turn off the Netflix, and pick up a book once a day. But the approach with which we encourage them to do so is extremely important. If we treat reading a book like a recreational activity (you’ve finished your homework, now you can read!) and going to pick out a book like an exciting outing (why don’t we go out for ice cream and pick out a new book!), then their mindset will follow.

But what is also important in helping your children fall in love with reading, is choosing the right books. Which is why every day this week on Twitter and Facebook I will share a book I think your child will love, using the hashtag #BoysWhoRead. Follow along, and share your own book recommendations with the hashtag so that parents all over can benefit and help their child become lifelong readers themselves!

Let’s work together to create a new generation of #BoysWhoRead. Can’t wait to see what you all have to say!

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Spring Break Book Recommendations!

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With Spring Break upon us (or quickly approaching, for some), that means an entire week of trying to find ways to entertain your children! Whether you’re planning a beach trip, road trip, or just hanging out at home, it’s the perfect time to get a book in your kid’s hands. Here are my top 3 recommendations!

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

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This middle grade book is about a boy named Augustus, who was born with a facial deformity, and his and his communities search for acceptance. The official synopsis says, “August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.” This is a thrilling, beautiful book that teaches a valuable lesson; highly recommended!

 

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate

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As an author who writes about a boy and his crocodile friend, I have to recommend the book about a boy and his cat friend, Crenshaw. The official synopsis reads: “Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?” It’s a charming middle grade book about friendship, what’s not to love?

 

My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights, by Brooks Benjamin

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A boy who wants to be a dancer, vs. a father who wants his son to play football. Yes, please! This is another great story about finding acceptance and perseverance, but filled with excellent humor! This is a great, feel-good read—perfect for a relaxing day at the beach!

Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think, or leave your recommendations for me in the comments!

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Book Recommendation Time! Best Parenting Books

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With so many parenting books on the market these days, it’s difficult to sort through and choose the ones that will be most applicable to your situation and your life. This is why I’ve provided a few different types of parenting book titles below—from ones aimed to parents of young children, to general parenthood stories, to books targeted directly to fathers. I hope you find that each one of them has something special to offer you and your children!

Father for Life

Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change, by Armin A. Brott: In this book, Brott explores how fathers evolve from the time their child is born and on, and how children influence their fathers’ development. The author combines his personal experience with advice from experts and interviews with other fathers, adding up to a “wise guidance on what it means to be a devoted dad over time.”

Kids Will Listen

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish: This is one of the most popular parenting books on the market, and for good reason. Mazlish and Faber delicately and logically explore what it means to effectively communicate with your children. It has been referred to as a “parenting Bible,” and I can’t say I’d disagree.

raising-boys

Raising Boys, by Steve Biddulph: This book explores just what it says in its title; that raising boys is an altogether different task and therefore requires a different approach than raising girls. Being written from a psychologist’s point-of-view, it is filled with bits of scientific information, but is still easy to follow and downright humorous at times. It includes chapters on testosterone, sports, and how boys’ and girls’ brains differ, and focuses on boys’ development through many phases of life.

Velventeen

The Velveteen Father: An Unexpected Journey to Parenthood, by Jesse Green: This is my favorite of the list, which is in part due to the beautiful storytelling and in part due to the fact that the author was an acclaimed writer before turning his subject matter to parenthood—I’m always supportive of dad-writers! This book tells Greene’s story of falling into parenthood unexpectedly and the many unexpected challenges and joys accompanying that lack of preparation. Amazon wrote it best when it said the book explores, “the transformative effects parenthood can have on people who least expect to become parents—and of how we are repeatedly made anew by the love of children who need us.”

As parents, do you enjoy reading parenting books? Have you found any to be particularly helpful or insightful in your own life? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Recommendation Time! The Best Historical Fiction for Children

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I’ve written a few posts now about how important it is for us as parents to help our children fall in love with reading. But today I want to take this one step further—I think it is important for us to get kids interested in reading about history. History is one of those subjects that a majority of people sleep through during grade school and don’t even consider studying past their few general ed requirements in college. But it’s also one of the most important subjects out there, if only to keep our world from repeating its past mistakes.

I’ve been a history buff from the time I was a kid, and I think that is largely due to teachers who made the subject interesting for me and books that made historical stories come alive in a tangible way. So I’ve compiled a short list here of some books for kids that hopefully will do the same for them.

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars

I’m sure you’ve heard of this classic already, but I couldn’t help but put it on my list. It takes place in Copenhagen during World War II, and it is a beautiful story that helps children to see the difficult reality of the Holocaust, while also telling of a friendship worth risking lives for.

Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos, by Robert Lawson

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First published in 1988, this funny, entertaining story tells the story of Benjamin Franklin and the founding of the United States of America through the eyes of a mouse named Amos. According to the book, Amos gave good ol’ Benjamin all of his best ideas. It’s a very charming book filled with important historical information, and I guarantee your child won’t be able to get enough!

She Was Nice To Mice: The Other Side of Elizabeth I’s Character Never Before Revealed by Previous Historians, by Alexandra Elizabeth Sheedy

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Yet another historical tale told with the help of mice! This one takes place in the Elizabethan era, and follows the life of a mouse living in Queen Elizabeth’s courts. What I think is interesting about this book is that it was written by a twelve-year-old. It really helps kids relate to an era from long ago because it was written by a child who related to it herself!

Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco

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This picture book (still intended for kids ages 5-9) is set during the Civil War. It tells the story of a black Union soldier named Pinkus Aylee finding and rescuing white Union soldier, Sheldon Curtis (who goes by Say). It is a tragic story based on true events from the author’s own family history. To me, the Civil War is one of the most interesting historical events, and I give this book my highest recommendation.

Did you read any historical fiction when you were a kid? Did it help grow a love of history in you as an adult? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

 

 

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Other Children’s Book Titles I Highly Recommend!

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With the release date of Night Buddies Go Sky High fast approaching but still not upon us, today I thought I would take the liberty of recommending great children’s books that are similar in some way (content, writing style, etc.) to the Night Buddies series so that you and your child can find the perfect book to read together!

Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life

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This book aims for an audience a little bit younger than the Night Buddies books, but it’s definitely worth the read. The story is about a young kid named Alexander and his cousin Hallie who turn Alexander’s bed into a pirate ship called “The Flying Dragon,” and go on crazy adventures! It’s similar to Night Buddies in that it plays with language and dialogue that is unique to the characters, which makes the story really come to life and fun to read. The book won Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 in the Children’s Indie Category, and after giving it a try you’ll be sure to understand why!

Akimbo and the Crocodile Man

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I had to put this book on the list for a number of reasons, including the fact that one of the main characters is named John, and there a number of crocodiles in the story (sound familiar?). The second in a series, this tale revolves around a boy in Africa named Akimbo who is invited on a field study with crocodile expert John. But when John gets attacked by one of the crocodiles they are working with, Akimbo has to find the bravery to go on his own in a dangerous place in search of help. The book is filled with adventure, and is very fast-paced! Like the Night Buddies series, boys between the ages of seven and ten would really enjoy this read.

Tales of the Time Dragon

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Kids being led on adventures through time by a big red dragon? That could be similar to a certain kid being led on adventures by a big red crocodile! This book is great because it combines a fun fictional story with real historical knowledge, and includes maps, a list of historical facts, and a glossary. It’s about two kids who get sucked into their computer when doing a research paper, and end up traveling through time. It’s recommended for kids in either first or second grade, and I would say it’s a definite must-read (this coming from a history buff like me)!

What are some of your favorite children’s books? Leave a comment below to let us know.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

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