Who says summer road trips have to be boring? Load up the family and hit the open road: the trip will fly by when you bring an audiobook from DPL! Unlike your child’s Nintendo DS or iPod Touch, audiobooks don’t require charging and they will entertain more than one person at a time, including the driver.

These recorded books are winners for the entire family:

Harry Potter series, read for you by Jim Dale: The whole family is sure to love the expertly performed Harry Potter series. Jim Dale’s narration is absolutely perfect; even if you’ve already read the novels, you’ll find something new to love in the recordings. If your children are a bit younger, there are admirable recordings of the Magic Tree House series. For the kids who’ve already read (or aren’t interested in) HP, try Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson.

 

Bring a box of tissues along with the kids’ classic Bridge to Terabithia, warmly brought to life by narrator Tom Stechschulte. The poignant story of Jess and Leslie has been a favorite since Katherine Paterson penned it in the ’70s. For kids 10+.

Recordings of Suzanne Collins’ runaway hits The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay will be a hit with everyone: mature themes and violence probably make this too grown up for the littlest ones, but don’t let the YA label fool you – adults adore the series too. For kids 12+.

In Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus, 8th grader Maureen risks life and limb – ok, she risks embarrassing herself in front of the whole school – to stand up to the popular girls who bully her. A funny, relatable story about friendship and the perils of middle school. For kids 12+.

Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series makes for a charming listening experience – Judy’s misadventures show kids how to handle things when their grand plans don’t work out, and narrator Kate Forbes captures her spunky spirit. Just Grace, about another spirited grade schooler, is a fun choice for the kids who’ve already enjoyed Judy Moody. For kids 8+.

All kinds of great books for kids are available from DPL, from classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harriet the Spy to popular new hits like The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Warriors series. Princesses, Sports, Dragons, Animals – whatever your child is interested in, we have an audiobook for it!

*Age recommendations reflect the guidelines printed by the publisher, not DPL’s opinion. Always take your child’s unique level of maturity and experience into account when helping him or her choose books to read.

Having children changes your life, but it doesn’t have to change what you cook. The Naptime Chef by Kelsey Banfield is equal parts pragmatic parent and ardent foodie. The result is a tasty playbook of meals, made over to save time without compromising taste.

Some favorites are the 45-minute artichoke lasagna, assembled in the morning or afternoon and held in the fridge until dinnertime; a roast chicken that’s rubbed down with herbs in the morning stays moist and flavorful when roasted later in the evening; a French toast casserole that can be tossed together the night before and popped in the oven in the morning for a special breakfast. Soups, salads, veggies, sides, main courses, and desserts are all adapted to the time that you have—whether it’s during naptime, before bedtime, in the morning, or on the weekends—without sacrificing quality or flavor. Take back dinner, one dish at a time! (description from publisher)

I’m going back to “Gramma” School.  Yup, this month we were blessed with a new grandson, so I’m looking forward to spending some time with the little guy and his big sister.  Being a grandmother really is one of the best things in life!

However, I’ve discovered (surprise, surprise) that a few things have changed over the last 30 years, so it seems that one must approach this “parenting-that- is-grand” phase with a life-long learning approach.  One aspect that is usually different – though not always – is that grandparents have more time.  For me, this rings especially true with reading.  As a former teacher, I knew the “read-it-again” rule about re-reading books that kids like, because they learn from the repitition.  With my own children, I probably managed 3 or 4 read-it-agains in one sitting.  But as a grandparent, I’ve read and re-read certain books 8 or 9 times — or at least so many times that I was certain we had both memorized it and that I was going to go insane if I read it again.  (I copped out and suggested that maybe Grandpa could read it again after bathtime.)

Oh — you want to know what that book was?  Well, it’s Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry by Samatha Berger.  It’s a delightful little picture book with lots of pink coloring, though I could never figure out if Martha was a seal or a weasel or what kind of animal she was, other than a cute one.  And why did my precious, perfectly behaved granddaughter want to read that particular book so many times?  I’ll never know.  I didn’t ask.  Oh, yeah, that’s just one of the other little rules I’ve learned in Gramma School.

 

 

Though there are several food-related adult mysteries to blog about (my favorite is  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by C. Alan Bradley, which Ann blogged about earlier) I’m choosing instead to highlight a delightful childrens book with a food theme — Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.

Polacco has written (and also beautifully illustrated) many fine stories for the younger set, and some of those, such as Pink and Say, have some pretty weighty underlying themes.  But Thunder Cake is just a fun, family story which not only “teaches” about rain and thunderstorms, but also about how to put a cake together.  By ignoring the thunder and keeping busy gathering ingredients, Grandma effectively dispels her granddaughter’s fear of thunderstorms.  At the end of the story, you’ll find the recipe, which includes a surprise ingredient — tomatoes!  I used this book back when I was a school library-media specialist and I’m looking forward to the time when I can use it again when my own granddaughter is old enough to want to make cakes herself.

Every night before bed, I try to catch the newest episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  So I was surprised and excited when I saw that one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents, Samantha Bee, had just come out with a book of humorous essays about her life.   In her new book I Know I Am, But What Are You?, Bee covers everything from her upbringing by her Wiccan mother to teaching her friends about the birds and the bees using her Barbie dolls to trying to come up with the perfect gift for her husband and failing miserably.  I was reading this book on a road trip to Chicago and found myself laughing out loud and sharing  passages with my sister and husband, who couldn’t help but laugh out loud themselves, particularly at the passage where she described her son wanting to put the family cat in his mouth in order “to be kept safe forever in a protective human boy suit.”

Though she stays out of the realm of political humor that she is famous for on The Daily Show, Bee has no problem finding hilarious situations in her own life to write about.  One of my favorites is her story of how she met her husband, fellow Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones:  they were both in a traveling stage production of the childrens cartoon Sailor Moon, complete with anime-style outfits and a lot of very displeased children in the audience.  You don’t have to be a fan of The Daily Show to enjoy this book; you just have to be looking for a good laugh.

Like all boys growing up in Rome during the 1930’s and 40’s, the author was expected to join Balilla, Mussolini’s Fascist Youth Organization in Italy.  An unwilling participant, he counters this activity by becoming a bicycle runner, secretly delivering pamphlets and other materials to members of the Resistance.  Later, near the end of the war, after Italy has surrendered to the Allies but is still controlled by a puppet German government, Romagnoli flees Rome to avoid military conscription.  Hiding in the remote mountainous countryside, he becomes even more dangerously involved in the Resistance, working with both American and British soldiers.

But The Bicycle Runner, which covers his life from ages 14-25, is much more than a war story.  In fact, it reads much more like a coming-of-age novel, full of the usual adolescent angst weaved together with plenty of humorous anecdotes.  Examples include his descriptions of fearful confessions to the local priest (which the entire congregation can hear)  to his first experiences with love and lust.

The author may be better known for co-hosting the first American television program on Italian cooking, The Romagnoli’s Table, for which he  coauthored two companion books.  Though he passed away in December of 2008, the love for his native land and culture comes through strikingly clear;  the subtitle, A Memoir of Love, Loyalty and the Italian Resistance, is perfectly appropriate.

LoraxMost people are familiar with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax –a story about the little mustachioed creature who warns the Once-ler (and the reader) about the harm caused by taking advantage of nature’s resources, but did you know that this classic book was challenged in a California Public School in 1989 for demonizing the logging industry to children?

Of the top ten banned books of 2008, all were children/young adult books (or adult fiction being read by young adults) and of those, seven were cited for being “unsuitable for age group.” What is interesting is how often the books challenged by adults are the most beloved by children– all of my childhood favorites were on the list of banned books from 1990-1999: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, The Witches by Roald Dahl and The Giver by Lois Lowry. I have no doubt that I would be a different person if I had not experienced these stories as a ten-year-old, an eleven-year-old and a twelve-year-old (respectively).

…interesting fact: [The Lorax] used to contain the line, “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie,” but 14 years after the book was published, the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss and told him how much the conditions had improved and implored him to take the line out. Dr. Seuss agreed and said that it wouldn’t be in future editions. (from mentalfloss.com’s The Quick 10: Stories Behind 10 Dr. Seuss Stories by Stacy Conradt )

re-one-of-themYou know what it’s like when you just can’t put a book down? Well, this widely acclaimed book was one I actually had to put down. I just needed to take a break from all the suffering and violence. Still, it’s a book I’m recommending. In fact, I really think that it should be required reading for most adult Americans. Why? Because how many of us are acutely aware of what is really happening in Africa? Sure, you may have heard it on the news, but this book will affect how you feel about those happenings.

The author, Uwem Akpan, is a Jesuit priest who was born in Nigeria and later educated in Michigan. He chooses to tell most of these short stories (a few quite long) through the eyes of children. This, in my view, makes them all the more tragic. For example, in the last story, “In my Parents’ Bedroom,” the young narrator, Monique, can’t understand why the ceiling is bleeding. For me, this was the most powerful story, reminding me of the movie Hotel Rwanda. Monique is the daughter of a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father and the title, Say You’re One of Them, is based upon the advice her mother gives her shortly before the machete-wielding mob arrives.

In the story, “An Ex-Mas Feast,” a 12- year old girl works as a prostitute in order to feed her starving family. And, in “Fattening for Gabon,” two children are sent to live with their slave-trading uncle as their parents die of AIDS. So, no, this is not a pleasant book, but it is an important one. For all those literally starving children in Africa, please at least give it a try.