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Kids Read: Living Sunlight, Night Fairies, Crash

A local librarian reviews children's books.

Children reap great rewards when parents encourage at least 20 minutes of reading a day. Reading aloud with all your children is a terrific way to spend quality family time. Books also give us some time alone in our own space – and while we use that space to think about the story, we also reflect on ourselves and the world around us.  Books spark creativity, innovation and imagination – let’s lead our kids there!   

Today’s top picks:

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life, by Molly Bang, Penny Chisholm, The Blue Sky Press – for ages 7-12

From the earliest age, kids are mesmerized by the sun. Ask a child to draw you a picture and he will invariably draw Earth’s sun, with its light radiating toward all the other objects on the page. 

As your child grows, he’ll ask questions about the sun’s purpose. He’ll ask you about what makes plants grow, how we humans breathe, and all about water and air. 

What will you tell him? 

The colorful picture book “Living Sunlight” does a remarkable job of explaining the sun’s “starring” role in photosynthesis – the process by which the sun’s energy is converted to plant energy – and how that energy cycles back and forth between plant and animal life. 

Making life with sunlight, the sun says, “… is my gift of energy to you." Molly Bang has illuminated “Living Sunlight” with bold colors and patterns, depicting plants, animals, people and, yes, molecules. 

Her illustrations are fanciful – readers even younger than 7 will be drawn to them. Though this picture book is clearly aimed at elementary-school readers, its explanation of the energy life cycle is most certainly complex enough to engage older students, and, in fact, teach an adult a thing or two. 

After the picture book is complete, there is an afterword: “Notes About This Book." Sure to spark interesting conversation, the notes give a much more thorough explanation of the science, as well as enlighten us about some of the exceptions found in nature. Middle-school students (right on up through adults) will appreciate these additions. 

“Living Sunlight” is a terrific book to add to your collection.   

Find “Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life” at your local library.

Did your daughters LOVE the Rainbow Fairy series when they were just beginning to read on their own? What comes later, when they still want to read about fairies and they are ready for a well-developed little novel? 

The Night Fairy, by (2008 Newbery Medalist) Laura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick Press – for ages 9-11

“The Night Fairy” wants you to understand that fairies are not just little pixies, all sweetness and light. Saying Flory the Fairy is adventurous is an understatement. Injured, losing her wings and ability to fly, and finding herself alone in a dangerous world, she survives quite nicely. She is clever and quick-thinking, seeking shelter, clothing and food.  With spells and a dagger she fights off creatures large and small.  

Flory starts out so fiercely independent that it prevents her from seeing what others need. However, each adventure along the way helps Flory sense what true friendship entails.

Throughout most of the book, she seeks companionship with other animals.  However, she exhibits some of the traits you'd expect in a male warrior character, an Indiana Jones type, if you will: Someone who fashions weapons, is resourceful, adventurous, self-serving, cunning and not looking for attachments to tie her down. 

Yet, Flory is interested in all things girl, too. She sews herself tiny flower blossom dresses, and the author conveys every aspect of her miniature world in a way that suggests the sweetness of little girls’ delights.

Each page in “The Night Fairy” is a work of art. Its beautiful prose and delicately drawn watercolor illustrations (by Angela Barrett) work into your sub-consciousness like an old-fashioned fairy tale. But this is no typical tale. 

First wild and free without strings attached, Flory begins to see the value in true friendship and how to achieve it. That is the real beauty of this book. It is a modern-day fairy tale written for today's delicate and fiercely strong girls.

Booklist Top Ten Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels for Youth 2010

Find “The Night Fairy” at your local library.

Crash, by Jerry Spinelli, Knopf/Random House – for ages 11-15

"Crash" is one of the best middle-school novels out there. Spinelli's narrative flows so well it's addictive. Faster and faster you read, becoming part of Crash Coogan's journey toward a more mature perspective on what it means to be a good friend who is kind and completely accepting of others, and to appreciate love and loss.  

This popular teen comes to understand how the adult-child roles people play within a family change over time. He learns empathy and redefines himself as a young man.  

Does this novel feel as though it’s one of those books parents are pushing on their kids because it’s got a great message? Absolutely not. Teen readers will identify with the characters and the school landscape, and appreciate all the same social dilemmas that they are a part of themselves.  

Although Crash is a boy — a school football star — this book appeals equally to girls. Yet, I can't help but think that boys especially need to hear the positive messages in this book.

Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2002)

Find "Crash" at your local library.

Find your local, independent bookstores.  They trump the big-box stores with best-selling author book events, personalized service and selection.

Read. (connected to G.R. DOODLEBUG)  www.readbooksellers.com

Rakestraw Books  rakestrawbooks.com

Bay Books  www.baybooks.us

Towne Center Books  townecenterbooks.com

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