Best-sellers aren't always the best books
Select quality stories to share with your family
Just because a book is on a best-seller list doesn't mean it's great.
One recent example is the latest installment of "Gossip Girl" (more on that in a moment). Sadly, the original "Gossip Girl" series was such a huge hit, it has been made into a successful TV program. Fans abound — but do adults really know what's in these novels and the TV programs? Probably not.
Let me fill you in with a quick synopsis of the type of content that's in the newest novel, "Gossip Girl Psycho Killer":
Super-rich, bratty New York City boarding school girls spend a lot of time being drunk, high, having sex, spewing endless foul language and plotting revenge in the form of killing the people who make them angry.
Nice, right? Marketed to adolescents age 15 and older (just when hormones and an absence of clear critical thinking occurs), I hardly think this is the kind of material teenage girls should be reading. Not only does this fill a kid's head with desensitized ideas, but it offers some sort of "green light" to readers to behave in a similar fashion to one degree or another.
Best-selling books do not necessarily equate with great writing or books that offer the reader something of value they can take away. Conversely, what you'll always find in this column and its companion website (greatestbooksforkids.com) are books that don't compromise a child's intellect or sense of right and wrong. Quite simply, the only books you'll find here are the ones really worth reading — for all kinds of good reasons.
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs" by Betty G. Birney, illustrated by Matt Phelan, Atheneum, 211 pages
Read aloud: age 7 — 8 and older
Read yourself: age 8 — 9 and older
Young Eben longs to see the Seven Wonders of the World, and it frustrates him that he is too young to go out and explore on his own. To make matters worse, Eben considers his small farming community of Sassafrass Springs to be the most boring place in the world.
Then Eben's pa presents Eben with a challenge. If Eben can find seven wonders in Sassafras Springs that are as remarkable and interesting as the real Seven Wonders of the World, Pa will send him on a trip out West. While Eben is pretty sure that will be impossible, he decides to give it a try. What he discovers comes as a total surprise in many ways.
A remarkable book on several levels, this selection serves as a reminder that wonders exist everywhere if one is willing to look for them — even in our own back yard.
Library: Yuba County Library, 303 Second St., Marysville
Interim Director: Kevin Mallen
Choices this week: "My Life as a Chicken" by Ellen A. Kelley; "I Can Read with My Eyes Shut" by Dr. Seuss; "Gossamer" by Lois Lowry
Books to Buy
The following books are available at your favorite bookstores.
"Tales of Prehistoric Life: Ankylosaur Attack" by Daniel Loxton, illustrated by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith, Kids Can Press, 2011, 32 pages, $16.95 hardcover
Read aloud: age 4 and older
Read yourself: age 8 and older
Millions of years before humans walked the Earth, a young ankylosaur searches for food. Suddenly, he sees an old, injured ankylosaur being pursued by a tyrannosaurus rex. The old ankylosaur was no match for the mighty tyrannosaur. That's when the young ankylosaur steps in for a rescue.
Astonishing lifelike artwork and exciting text combine to create a thrilling story all young dinosaur lovers will enjoy.
"Pirates & Princesses" by Jill Kargman & Sadie Kargman, illustrated by Christine Davenier, Dutton, 2011, 32 pages, $16.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 3 and older
Read yourself: age 7 — 8
Ivy and Fletch have been best friends ever since they were born. But things seemed to change when they started kindergarten; during recess, the girls played princess games and the boys played separately as pirates.
When Fletch rescues Ivy from a pirate capture and the two friends realize they've missed playing together, will it be the catalyst needed for all the kindergarten kids to play together?
Perfectly matched with charming illustrations, this story of friendship and open-mindedness is first rate.
Kendal A. Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached at her website: greatestbooksforkids.com.