5 Books About Inspiring Older Siblings

As the oldest child in my family, I am pretty biased in my believe that eldest siblings rule. We came first, we work hard, and we look great doing it! Some of the most famous people in the world have been oldest siblings, and many of our favorite fictional characters also showed up first. Beyond Bill Weasley, Winston Churchill, and every actor who has ever played James Bond, check out these other utterly fantastic big brothers and sisters.

Smile and Sisters: The Box Set, by Raina Telgemeier
Fall in love with Raina, who handily tackles the many challenges life throws her way. In Smile, she suffers an injury to her mouth that forces her to wear braces and headgear and basically everything else in the orthodontic world. After overcoming that major life event, Sisters find her trying to embrace her new role as a big sister. In these funny and engaging graphic novels, Telgemeier recounts her feelings on becoming on older sister, and navigating the teenage years with style and aplomb. (Ages 8–12)

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, by Barack Obama and Loren Long
Malia and Sasha Obama are of course the nation’s current First Daughters, but they are also beautifully illustrated young ladies in this sweet book by President Obama. Malia and Sasha, like Jenna and Barbara, and Chelsea before them, have spent their formative years in a unique house that is unlike any other. Oldest sibling Malia has some pretty historic role models to help her set a good example for her younger sibling. (Ages 6–8)

I am George Washington (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos
If you want to talk about awesome oldest kids, look no father than George Washington. You know, the General of the Union Army and, uh, the first President of the United States. He was the oldest of nine kids, including both full siblings and half siblings. Is it possible that leading this herd of kids around Ferry Farm in Stafford County near Fredericksburg, and later the famous Mount Vernon, helped shape him into the world-changing leader that we all know and love? I’m going to say yes. (Ages 5–8)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit: A Story Board Book, by Beatrix Potter
Peter Rabbit is the leader of this gang of mischievous bunny rabbits as they snatch vegetables from Mr. McGregor’s garden. He might not set the best example, seeing as he steals food and and loses his jacket. But, he is brave! Peter also learns his lesson, and he takes his lumps with a strong upper lip and a sense of pride. Like all good older kids, Peter helps to take care of his mom, is proud of their house and garden, and turns into a loving uncle to his nieces and nephews. (Ages 2–5)

Frozen Little Golden Book (Disney Frozen), by RH Disney
Queen Elsa. Queen. Yup, this oldest sister is queen of an entire kingdom — no mere princess here! She has an unbelievable magical power, and is able to inspire her younger sister’s great bravery and unfailing love. In true oldest sibling form, Elsa doesn’t let either guilt or being ostracized because she is different stop her from going after her dreams. With her inner strength and dignity, not to mention a fabulous dress and killer vocals, Elsa is an older sister like no other. (Ages 2–5)

Finding Dory Little Golden Book (Disney/Pixar Finding Dory), by RH Disney
This may be one of the biggest literary mysteries of our day: Is Dory the oldest, the middle, or the youngest in what is probably a very large family? Dory is brave, take charge, and caring, so maybe she is indeed the oldest sibling. She will also gladly follow Marlin into any adventure, so she could also be the middle child. Then again, she does love a good caring shoulder, some help from her friends, and has a thirst to prove herself — youngest sibling anyone? No matter where she lies in the family, we love Dory (but my vote is for oldest!). (Ages 2–5)

Who are your favorite oldest sibling characters?

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6 Awesome Middle Grade Dads

In honor of Father’s Day, lets celebrate our favorite middle grade dads, whether they be biological, adoptive, or living only in our memories. Many of us have a special bond with or memory of our dads, which has forever shaped us. My own Dad takes a lot of pride in doing things himself, and as I’ve grown older I find myself appreciating those same traits. He is also really great at backing a motorhome into any size campsite. These middle grade novels all feature special relationships with fathers, be they god, mortal or somewhere in between. No matter who they are, or what they do, let’s just all agree that we’re pretty lucky to have these guys in our lives.

The Hidden Oracle (B&N Exclusive Edition) (The Trials of Apollo Series #1), by Rick Riordan
Zeus is the father of Apollo, who just happens to now be trapped in the body of a regular New York City kid. That, on its own, is amazing and inspiring and everything that a dad/son story should be. Parents aren’t always easy people to get along with, I admit it, but when your dad happens to be the head honcho of all Greek gods, the stakes are that much higher. In another wonderful series from Rick Riordan (you’ve heard of Percy Jackson, perhaps? Magnus Chase, maybe?) kids pull out all the stops to save the world, prove their worth, and earns some serious brownie points for their otherworldly parents. Zeus is no one to mess with, and he knows it! Plus, he gives Dad Bods a good name.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II, by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
This whole series is jam packed with awesome dads, and The Cursed Child is set to be another great addition. Fans get reintroduced to Harry and Ron, this time as fathers to young Albus and Rose, who are embarking on their first year at Hogwarts. With their own awesome examples of fatherhood (Arthur Weasley and James Potter), as well the slightly reckless influences of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin over their childhoods, it will be fun for fans to see what kind of fathers these two have become. The even more pressing question may be: what kind of father is Draco, and does Scorpius follow in the Malfoy family footsteps.

Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
In this classic story, Pinocchio lets his mischievous ways lead him astray from his loving adopted father, Geppetto (with more rule breaking and adventures than the movie, and also more heart and more love between Pinocchio and Geppetto). Readers also get a chance to think on what makes a family: is it birth, or is it unreserved love, or some combination? Pinocchio eventually learns to behave, attains some much needed-bravery, and finds that the one person who has always been true to him is his very own father.

The Little House series (9-Book Boxed Set), by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garth Williams
Pa, father to Laura Ingalls, is the perfect example of a pioneer days dad. He works his tail off all day in the the fields, or goes hunting, or sugaring, but he still has the time to teach his kids the life skills they need to survive on the frontier. Laura lovingly remembers all the nights he played the fiddle, the careful way he did his farm work, and the bravery he showed even when things got tough. Whether they are out riding horses, taking their first train ride, or raising the walls of a new home, Pa is absolutely a guy who should be celebrated on Father’s Day—but he definitely doesn’t need a tie, or a mug with golf jokes on it.

Song of the Deep, by Brian Hastings
In this soon to be released book (and video game!) twelve-year-old Merryn lives with her father, who is a deep sea fisherman. After a terrible storm, Merryn worries that he is lost at sea. Thanks to the courage and imagination that her father fostered in her, she builds her own submarine to find him. While traveling the ocean, she learns that her father’s many deep-sea legends just might be true, and also that she is stronger, braver, and smarter than she ever believed. Sometimes a father’s love, support, and encouragement can send us out on the most amazing journeys.

Captain of the Ship (American Girl Beforever Series: Caroline #1), by Kathleen Ernst, Juliana Kolesova, and Michael Dworkin
The American Girl books always have great, multidimensional relationships between their parents and their kids. Whether it is Molly’s dad being deployed during the war, Kit’s dad trying to work through the Depression, or Addy worrying about her dad as he escapes slavery, there is no shortage of important fathers. One of the most standout dads has to be Caroline’s father, the proud ship builder who is taken hostage in 1812. Caroline is so inspired by her father’s love of sailing and his ship building business that she can’t help by stray back to Lake Ontario at every opportunity. She braves the lake, and the British, in an attempt to rescue him, all because of their strong, reciprocal love.

What stories do you love to share with your dads?

Originally Published with Barnes and Noble

7 Awesome Audiobooks that Make for Awkward Road Trip Listening

Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time on a long drive or to make your commute a little more entertaining, but not every book is the best choice for every road trip. Whether you are out exploring with family, friends, or a caravan of adventure-seeking souls, carefully consider which books to load on your listening device. For example, each of the books below are fun and thought provoking stories worthy of the time spent reading them, but they might not make a great road trip audio fodder. Instead of listening to these with your kids, or sensitive friends and family, plug in your headphones and enjoy the thrill of hearing a good book alone. Maybe grab some jazzy soundtracks to sing along with on your trip with Grandma; that’s usually a safe bet.

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades Trilogy #1), by E L James
While this is probably an obvious no-go for a trip with kids, also consider the adults in the car too. True story, my husband and I tried to listen to this while driving across the country…and we just couldn’t. We felt at turns silly, awkward, and extremely interested in the world outside the car. The book is a fun read, and the audio is super entertaining for a solo listener, but it might not be the group share you thought it was.

 

Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer, Ilyana Kadushin, and Matt Walters
While the Twilight series is a fun supernatural YA read, it gets darker as it goes along, and fourth (and final) installment Breaking Dawn might be a little blush-worthy with the kids in the backseat. So, although we totally understand your desire to the the “cool” parent who is into all the books that the kids are reading these days, spare your tweens the urgent need to avoid eye contact with you for the next few hours and instead let them enjoy this book with their headphones on. Then you can listen to new Justin Timberlake single by yourself without their judging. Win-win!

 

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1), by George R. R. Martin and Roy Dotrice
The TV adaptation is of course insanely popular, so it makes sense that fans of the show might be interested in discovering the books it is based on during a long road trip. And if all of your passengers are already familiar with the sex, violence, and dragons involved, then go for it! But if not, maybe spare that one rider who isn’t into all things Stark from a group listening session. Alternatively, send your outlier friend the books beforehand so they can prepare, or listen to the soundtrack on the road to make the ride seem more epic (and then binge watch every episode on the hotel’s free HBO channel).

 

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman and George Guidall
At turns thought-provoking, funny, dark, and unexpected, this unique book is a great reflection of American culture. But (or because of this), there are also some rather graphic sex scenes and a fair amount of profanity. A group of tight-knit, like-minded buddies will probably enjoy listening to this on a funky, soul searching kind of road trip, but American Gods probably isn’t your best bet for a family jaunt to see the grandparents. For younger kids, and some impressionable teens, not all of the characters are great role models, and a lot of the philosophy may be little overwhelming.

 

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
You might think that a book about soul-searching travel would be an amazing audiobook for a road trip. Well, if you’re on a solo excursion, definitely listen to this book; twice if you have the time. But since it depicts a struggle with depression and addiction, the passing of a beloved figure, and a bit of sex, this memoir might make an uncomfortable companion for a family trip. For a more all-ages appropriate chronicle of a long, life-changing walk, check out The Lord of the Rings (or A Walk in the Woods)and maybe save Wild for one of your own personal journeys.

 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume and Laura Hamilton
This a YA masterpiece, but it is one of those important, find-it-yourself kinds of YA; not one that you listen to with your parents. Judy Blume is the queen of books that every teenager should read (and that maybe parents of teenagers should reread along the way, too). The main character’s self exploration, the talk of bras and puberty, the general teenage-ness of it, just oozes awkward family listening. Instead of spending quality time trying not to look at each other in the car while listening, leave the book (or a download of the audio) for your budding teenager as a summer gift. Later in life your kids will thank you for sharing, and for not listening to it in the car with you this summer.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Series #1), by Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling, and Robert Glenister
Yes, this is the other fantastic J.K. Rowling series — but just because your family loved listening to the entire Harry Potter canon during your last road trip, does not mean that you should pick up the Cormoran Strike series next. Written as a classic crime thriller full of well-drawn characters and Britishisms, it involves is a fair amount of violence, profanity, sex, and discussions about all of the above. Like most of the other books mentioned here, a group of adult friends would probably enjoy trying to solve the murder of Lula Landry, but leave this one on the shelf when you head to Disneyland with the kids in the car.

Does your family have any favorite audiobooks for road trips?

7 More Sob-Inducing Books That Deserve to Be Made into Movies

Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, the emotional bestseller that brought countless fans to tears, hits theaters across the country this week. On June 3rd many of us will be seen walking out of movie theaters with red-rimmed eyes and all the feels, glad to have been able to spend some time with Louisa and Will and to witness their unexpected love story on the big screen. Books and movies that have the ability to bring fans to tears often stay with us long after we have experienced them. If you enjoyed the Me Before You or the book (or film adaptations of) The Fault in Our Starsor Wildyou may also find yourself hoping for movie adaptions a few of the books below as well. Make it happen, Hollywood!

 

We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
Everything changes for Cadence Sinclair during her fifteenth summer at her family’s beach. As Cadence struggles with memory loss, physical injuries, and a secret that no one is willing to share, she is also growing into adulthood. After spending the next summer in Europe, and then finally returning to the family’s beloved summer house on the island, Cadence has to face some harsh realities about herself and her cousins. In much the same vein as the twisty Gone Girl, readers will find themselves by turns sad, frustrated, amazed, and shocked. It’s nearly impossible to read this book without having some strong feelings, and a movie adaption would be irresistible.

 

A Child Called It: One Child’s Courage to Survive, by Dave Pelzer
I wept, a lot, while reading Dave Pelter series of memoirs. At turns devastating and hopeful, producers could film a heck of a tearjerking masterpiece of Oscar material with this set of books. Why this material hasn’t yet been tapped for a movie is almost inexplicable. Depicting Pelzer’s journey from an abused child to an adult who has to learn to cope with his terrible past, and eventually to thrive, is as heartbreaking as it is inspirational. A film that blends the realism of Wild with the elements of a damaged childhood like Room would no doubt rack up some nominations…and plenty of drenched hankies.

 

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
Granted, there is a Bell Jar film from 1979. There is also the Gwyneth Paltrow/Daniel Craig film Sylvia, which loosely covers the author’s more autobiographical material. But a real, gritty, earnest look at the health care system and the borderline torture that Esther Greenwood underwent during a mental breakdown in the 1950s would make for a devastating film. This novel, which explores the pangs of teenage love and rejection, along with the pressures to achieve perfection in a competitive world, is timeless — maybe even more so today.

 

Looking For Alaska Special 10th Anniversary Edition, by John Green
John Green is the brains behind many of our beloved sob-inducing books and movies like Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars, and Looking For Alaskawas his first novel. Miles Halter is a high school junior, with a penchant for darkness, who is on his way to a new boarding school. As he takes on new friends Chip “The Colonel” Martin, and Takumi Hirohito, along with crush Alaska Young, the journey unfolds into a series of pranks and personal revelations. The more that each character reveals, the more readers begin to worry. The end, which I won’t spoil here, is a heartbreaking series of events that places it among the ranks of A Separate Peace (another must read weepy classic) and Me Before You.

 

The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
Just ask any parent the last time they cried over a children’s book and you will mostly definitely hear someone say The Giving Tree. From the master of poignant children’s literature, this classic tale of self sacrifice to one’s children will make you cry every single time. And not just cry, I mean Dawson’s Creek ugly face cry crying. Given its brevity, the book may be hard to adapt, but if Hollywood can turn Where the Wild Things Are into an emotional film about parenting and birth, than I have faith that we will all be sitting together crying about The Giving Tree one day. I’ll save you a seat.

 

Wonder (B&N Exclusive Edition), by R. J. Palacio
A film based on Wonder is currently in production, and it is no surprise, seeing as this is a beautiful novel that is beloved by kids and adults alike. The story of middle grade boy with birth defects that leave him extremely disfigured, and the struggles he has while attending school for the first time, is a universal tear jerker. Who hasn’t felt out of place, or longed for acceptance in some way? Who hasn’t been betrayed, fought for, or lost a friend? Despite its middle grade labeling, all readers can find something of themselves in main character Auggie. In the same way that The Lovely Bones and The Fault in Our Stars touched fans of all ages, this movie could be popular among all ages.

 

The Still Point of the Turning World, by Emily Rapp
Emily Rapp’s second memoir is a book like few others. At six months old her son Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs, an always fatal genetic disorder. In an attempt to find a path in a world that no parent ever expects to inhabit, Rapp takes readers through the emotional, physical, and intellectual stages of grief. Readers also are shown the absolute beauty in loving the small things, in embracing the entirety of life. More than story of grief though, this is a story of fierce — even staggering — unconditional love.

Which beautiful, sad, books do you want to see in theaters?

6 Books that Help Share the Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day originated during the Civil War as Decoration Day in 1868; the Grand Army of the Republic wanted it to become a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead. It wasn’t until 1971 that it became the familiar date and name that we all observe today. Despite the changes over the years, the purpose has stayed the same: to honor our military members who gave their lives for our country. Now, that may be a challenging concept for some kids, and some parents, but here are a few fantastic books to help bring home the meaning in a relatable way. During this holiday weekend, maybe while waiting for a parade to start, or enjoying the sun and BBQs with family, bring along some of these worthy reads to share with the kids.

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The Civil War: An Interactive History Adventure, by Matt Doeden
Since the idea of Memorial Day began during the Civil War, it makes sense to pick up some books set during the same time period. A unique choose-your-own-adventure format puts middle grade readers right in the middle of the battles, from Gettysburg to Chancellorsville; few things bring home the reality of a situation like being asked to make tough choices yourself, plus there is a lot of room for rereading and new discoveries in Doeden’s book. Another great Civil War choice for middle grade readers is The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale, where readers follow 11 year old bugle player Gabe into the The Battle at Gettysburg as he tries to protect his older brother and make sense of the fighting. (Ages 8–12)

0tequssdzfgwmy_yqSoldier (DK Eyewitness Series), by Simon Adams
The Eyewitness Series is a fantastic resource for introducing kids to realistic topics in an approachable, informative way. Memorial Day can be a difficult topic when kids want to know specifics. Using books like Solider, Vietnam War, and others offers kids enough facts that they can appreciate the holiday’s meaning without being overwhelmed by the details. The real pictures, maps, and true accounts can be super engaging for kids who always want to ask a million questions — and there may even be new facts for some parents too! (Ages 8–12)
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Year of the Jungle: Memories from the Home Front, by Suzanne Collins and James Proimos
Year of the Jungle, a based on true-events story from the writer of The Hunger Games, follows young Suzy as her dad leaves for the Vietnam War. Collins writes in a way that is sincere and thoughtful, but that won’t be too much for little readers. The wonderful illustrations give the book some lightness and whimsy so that anyone can enjoy and relate to the story. Part of growing up is learning empathy and thankfulness, and stepping into the shoes of another, especially on a day like Memorial Day, can help families embrace those important ideas. Families can revisit this book, and the next one on our list, on Veteran’s Day as well. (Ages 4–8)

0kjjk7jqglwzsaklo Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, by Jill Biden and Raul Colon
The Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, has also written a book inspired by her own family’s experiences. Told from the view point of Natalie, her granddaughter, young readers will be able to understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by military service members and their families. There are also some really great ideas on helping kids, both your own and those of other military families, to celebrate and support each other. Memorial Day isn’t just about being thankful to those who have lost their lives in war; it is about supporting their families as well. (Ages 5–8)
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US History Through Infographics, by Karen Latchana Kenney and Laura Kay Westlund

Looking at the timeline of American history, and America’s involvement in combat, can be hard for kids to grasp. This visually interesting book puts nearly everything about American history into easy to understand and unique infographics. Sometimes a number, or a easy to read chart, can open up ideas to kids that they might not have understood before. Since the Revolution, America has fought in many wars, and many brave men and women have given their lives for our country. Books like this have the power to show kids what they were fighting for. (Ages 8–10)

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The Wall, by Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler
In another beautifully drawn picture book, this gentle story follows a young boy and his father as they search for his grandfather’s name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Using soft illustrations and a calm narrative voice, Bunting and Himler have created a loving book about a difficult topic. Sometimes the best way to tell a story is the simple way, as this book shows. During Memorial Day, or before any trip to visit The Wall in Washington DC, this book should be on everyone’s must read list. (Ages 4–7)

How does your family celebrate Memorial Day?

From BN Kids 

5 Astonishing Reads for American Crime Story Fans

The thrill of celebrity, the intrigue of an unsolved crime, the search for closure and justice; American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson brought it all to TV and then some. While few things have the pop culture impact of that infamous glove, there are plenty of gripping crimes that are worthy of our attention. From stories as well known as Waco and Tupac to twisted tales of murder in the desert, international espionage, and cannibals, these five books all make worthy reads for American Crime Story fans, and fans of its inspiration, The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson.

 

Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mojave, by Deanne Stillman
In 1991 two girls were murdered outside Twentynine Palms Marine Corp Base. The Marine in question had recently returned from the Gulf War and found himself readjusting to life in another desert setting. But how did they all find themselves in the same apartment in the middle of the night in Twentynine Palms? Was there something in their pasts, their families, maybe even their cultures that brought this unlikely set together. And what ultimately sealed their fate? What is life really like for those who live outside military bases? What does this rootless culture do to towns, neighbors, even individual families? With so many questions, an amazingly vivid setting, and bigger — even national — implications, Stillman’s exploration is a must read.

 

The Waco Siege: The History of the Federal Government’s Standoff with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, by Charles River Editors
People may mention the Waco massacre in passing, thinking they know the details, but this story is one that has changed law enforcement in immeasurable ways. With a paper trail running all the way from local law enforcement to then President Bill Clinton, there is much more to this 50 day standoff than meets the eye. With a mix of high profile government involvement, extreme beliefs, and terrifying violence, the Waco Siege is a gripping story of unanswered questions and the cult of personality. In the aftermath of David Koresh’s standoff with authorities, local and national law enforcement agencies have reworked how they respond to large scale situations and domestic terror attacks. This case shaped America, and it is fascinating.

 

Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest, by Carl Hoffman
Travel back in time to the 1960s and the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the son of New York Governor, and later Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller (and yes, a member of that famous family). The who’s who connections of the Rockefeller family, the remote terrain, and the still-unanswered questions about Michael Rockefeller’s death make this a most fascinating read. In the same way that most questions will never be resolved in the OJ Simpson trial, we may never know if Rockefeller drowned or was taken — and eaten — by local cannibals in New Guinea. The art that Rockefeller collected and can be found in some of the world’s most famous museums, such as the MET in New York, but this mystery may be his biggest legacy.

 

LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implications of Death Row Records’ Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal, by Randall Sullivan
Tupac and Biggie, two of the biggest names in the early LA rap scene, are also at the center of some of the most wide-spanning conspiracy theories and fan fantasies. Is Tupac living peacefully on an island somewhere? Were the two killed by rival gangs? The police? Their own label — or maybe a competitor? Russell Poole, a highly decorated LAPD detective, was called on in 1997 to investigate a controversial cop-on-cop shooting that turned into more than he could imagine. Eventually Poole came to discover that the officer killed was tied to Marion “Suge” Knight’s notorious gangsta rap label, and the Bloods street gang. The shocking crossovers between the police, gangs, and the rap industry are as as riveting as they are controversial.

 

Hard Drive: A Family’s Fight Against Three Countries, by Mary Todd and Christina Villegas
This more recent story is still playing out in three countries, yet no one seems to have the answers. Or do they? What appeared at first to be a standard tech industry job for Dr. Shane Todd turned into an international intelligence nightmare that caught the Chinese government, Singapore police, and one American family in the same net. Dr. Todd was found dead by apparent suicide in his apartment, but among his personal belongings his family discovered an external hard drive with thousands of files that called everything they were told by police into question. The information in those files transformed this story from a tragic suicide to an international saga of mystery, deceit, and coverup. What do you do when all of your attempts to get the truth are thwarted by every level of international government and no one wants to help?

What crime story do you think needs the American Crime Story treatment?

From Barnes and Noble Reads

The Best Honeymoon Destinations for Book Nerds

Wedding season is on the horizon, and with it comes some amazing honeymoon travel opportunities. In the quest to find the perfect spot to relax after the months of planning, family time, and the ceremony itself, consider hitting the country that best suits your literary tastes. Both coasts of the U.S. boast their own wonderful literary histories, or well read and adventurous couples can branch out into more far reaching countries, like Japan or Cuba, to find their literary loves. Of course, there are certain distant havens for the written word, like London and Paris, that should not be overlooked. Wherever you and your beloved decide to go, be sure to bring plenty of books for your downtime.

Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. is a gorgeous city with amazing literary offerings. The Library of Congress can be an almost full day adventure for any book lover, with exhibits that highlight everything from historical maps to the origins of jazz. True must-sees include the Thomas Jefferson Collection, holding many of the actual books read by the third President. And along the National Mall is the Folger Shakespeare Library, home to one of the few copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio. The Library regularly hosts productions of Shakespeare’s plays, poetry readings, and exhibits relevant to Shakespeare’s world. Visit the city in spring for the beauty and romance of the cherry blossoms, and stay for the fantastic history and literary sights.

England
England’s literary bona fides are unending and make it a dream honeymoon destination. Take in one of Shakespeare’s romances at The Globe Theater, walk the moors so loved by the Brontë sisters, sit in the village of Haworth at dusk for an otherworldly view of nature. Take an afternoon turn in the gardens of Jane Austen’s house in Hampshire while chatting about the love affair between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Maybe you want to check out a tour of the Harry Potter sets; they were good enough for the royals to visit. England is an amazing country, full of more literary sites and romantic day trips than could ever be listed in one place.

Northern California
Stay at the Hotel Boheme, visit Chinatown and the Chinese Historical Society to relive the worlds of Amy Tan’s novels, and spend a day at The Beat Museum to immerse yourself in the writing of the Beat Generation. Travel farther down the coast that inspired so many writers and photographers, and take in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean before a stop in Salinas and the National Steinbeck Center. The dramatic contrast of the ocean and the redwood forest, the fertile valleys and the busy cities, are as interesting as any other characters in East of Eden, and time spent here won’t soon be forgotten. Whether you find the beaches or the forests, the cities or the open roads, California has a stop — and an author — for every taste.

Paris
Even without its astounding literary connections, the City of Lights can be the honeymoon of a lifetime. Make a reservation at Le Procope to eat like Victor Hugo, or drink 40 cups of coffee like Voltaire at cafés around town. A cemetery might not seem like a romantic stop, but Père Lachaise is the most visited cemetery in the world, with residents including Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Colette, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Richard Wright, where a true book-loving couple will be glad to pay their respects. Or, if graveyards aren’t your thing, step into the 1920s and get a drink in the same speakeasy where Hemingway met F. Scott Fitzgerald in April 1925; Le Rosebud is literary destination like no other. From your perch atop the Eiffel Tower or at a sidewalk café table, drink in the city that was home and muse to centuries of revolutionary writers.

Cuba
Now that Americans can travel to Cuba to sightsee, the Hemingway House in San Francisco de Paula should be at the top of book lovers’ travel lists. Just outside of Havana you’ll find Finca Vigía, where Hemingway wrote his classics For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, and began A Moveable Feast. The house is on both the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 Most Endangered sites and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places, so it is very much worth the visit. Nearby, visitors can see the National Museum of Fine Arts, the mosaic art at Fusterlandia, and grab something to eat in Old Havana. For a unique adventure in a country few have vacationed to, book nerds can immerse themselves in a culture we’ve only read about in books like Dreaming in Cuban.

Japan
A step outside of Western culture may bring book nerd lovers to Japan. The country is currently home to Kenzaburo Oe, Haruki Murakami, and Natsuo Kirino, among others, but these literary heavy hitters are just part of a long literary tradition. Plan your trip using this list of cities where famous Japanese stories take place, find a Tokyo jazz bar where you can whip out your favorite Murakami novel, and carry a tour books like Lonely Planet Japan to ensure you hit all the major points of interest. To see Western lit through an Eastern lens, check out a themed night at a restaurant, where they often take on classics like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

From Barnes and Noble Reads

Magnificent Middle Grade Poetry for National Poetry Month

Rhyme lovers of every age, rejoice, for April is National Poetry Month! We all know that little readers love silly sing song poems, and adults can get lost in the emotions of a good poetry collection, but what about middle graders? Wonderfully, middle grade readers get the best of both poetry worlds, with plenty of funny collections, serious books, and ageless crossovers that can enjoyed all month (and beyond!).

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Illustrated Edition, by T. S. Eliot, with drawings by Edward Gorey

 T.S. Eliot’s tale of stray cats and their nighttime wanderings has been retold for years, most notably as the Broadway show Cats. Made up of 14 poems, that are both very real and completely unbelievable, readers can enjoy the cat phenomenon the way it was before memes took over the internet. Books like this one are a great bridge between the funny sounds of younger books and the more serious fare of adult lit, but still 100% awesome poetry.

Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking, by Alan Katz, with drawings by Edward Koren

 A silly take on the mischievous, these poems are just plain fun. Katz is also the author of the charming The Day the Mustache Took Over, among many other books, so he definitely gets middle grade humor. Whether read out loud together, or alone while tucked away in a cozy spot, these bits of verse show that there is a lot more to poetry than serious thoughts and beautiful landscapes. Make sure you have some tissues on hand though — you will be laughing until you cry.

Because I Could Not Stop My Bike … and Other Poems, by Karen Jo Shapiro, illustrated by Matt Faulkner

 This super smart collection is a modern twist on classic poems. From William Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson, kids won’t even realize they are reading funny takes on the works of some of the world’s most famous poets. Faulkner’s zany illustrations take this book to a whole other enjoyable level. It won’t be until later, when your kids recognize the rhyme and meter of the poems in their textbooks, that they will catch on that you had them reading classic poetry in junior high. This book is so clever that you will probably find yourself reading it, and falling in love with poetry all over again.

Neighborhood Odes, by Gary Soto, illustrated by David Diaz

 Gary Soto and David Diaz take the small moments of childhood, the beautiful little event that stick, and present them in a way that readers of all ages can love. Parties and pets, family celebrations and long summer afternoons all get the thoughtful treatment that Soto is known for, and the simple black and white illustrations are frame-worthy. This book is a terrific addition to any middle grade reader’s collection, as it will probably turn out to be one of their favorite books — both now and later.

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings, by Shel Silverstein

 An ageless classic that can be read in elementary school, laughed over in middle school, and reminisced about as an adult, Where the Sidewalk Ends is a childhood-defining collection of poetry. The rhymes are silly, the illustrations create a fully fleshed out world, and the quiet meanings can bring adults to tears. Shel Silverstein is a master like no other and the beauty of his writing makes him a must read, and not just in April, but all year long. After your kids have devoured this book, grab A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Everything On It for years — really, years — of amazing poetry experiences.

Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, by Billy Collins

 For a slightly different twist to your National Poetry Month reading, tackle Billy Collins’s collection, Poetry 180. Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001–2003, put together this collection, and its sequel 180 More, to introduce school-aged students to modern poets. His idea is that students should have a love of poetry first; poetry that is written in modern language kids can understand, before jumping into the classics. Given this idea, this book contains 180 poems, one for each day of the school year, from some of the biggest names in contemporary poetry. Before you know it your kids will have a new favorite poet, be it Lucille Clifton, Kenneth Koch, Philip Levine, or Naomi Shihab Nye.

What poetry does your middle grader love to read?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on April 7, 2016.

Presidential Reading: Hillary Clinton

In a continuing quest to ruin my eyesight and read a book from every 2016 Candidate I just polished off HillDogs Hard Choices. At 560 pages (1400 on my iPad… seriously) this is a beast of a book that covers a lot of ground, some of it serious and some of it kind of crazy.

Before diving into Hard Choicesit is important to revamp the reading list, given the state of the race. Off the docket is Chris Christie (we should #freechrischristie though, dude looks like he’s in trouble), Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, Lindsay Graham, and Martin O’Malley. I am about 75% finished with Carly Fiorina’s book, so even though she is out I plan on finishing it. It is a decent read so I begrudge the time to read about her time at HP.

Still on the blocks I’ve got Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders. If Michael Bloomberg has a become I might try to squeeze him in, even thought we all know he has a snowball’s chance in hell. Today I checked Bernie’s book out of the library. I also have the audio of Rubio’s book, but I keep finding my mind wander when I listen, so I need to commit to the print verison. The Douglas County Library is clean out of Cruz and Trump… which says a lot about the state of the area I live.

But enough of the house keeping. On to Hillary.

The book tries not to read like a resume for the job of President, but that is exactly what it is, let’s all be clear on that point. Having gotten past that, this is a truly interesting collection of stories from her time as Secretary of State, some flashbacks to her time as First Lady, and a few anecdotes in her downtime (if you can call it that). Told region by region, Clinton covers her knowledge of the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe including their leaders and the US personnel stationed there. She goes to lengths to establish that was was as involved as possible, in as many ways as she could be.

The book is long, not for the faint of heart, and clearly vetted by a team to make sure all the facts add up. If you’ve got a question about Benghazi, she has an answer. Want to picture Hillary as a family person, she’s got details of her daughter’s wedding. Need a little insight into her marriage, she mentions her travels with Bill during his administration. Anyone who questions her experience before reading this book will have a hard time doing so afterwards.

Along with that level of polish does come a bit of phony. Or maybe it is just because her life is one that is so out of touch with the average person. She did work to earn her education, and she did put in her time with the Children’s Defense Fund, but she has also traveled the world three times over, lived in the White House, met some of the most famous people of our time, and is sitting on a vast amount of money that few can relate too. Yeah, sure, many polticians are rich, so we can overlook that for now, but do the other items make her interesting and qualified or woefully out of touch with the rest of us? I guess that is a personal decision that each person needs to make.

In terms of the issues themselves, she has no problem saying she takes responsiblity for the State Department’s failings and mistakes, but at the same time she may say it, but there seem to be few repercussions. I like her ideas on Smart Power, and working to include more women and children’s issues in her agenda. But at many times her stories feel as though she is treading in mud, bogged down by the systems that she has long been a part of. I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t impressed with the easy way she talks to, and about, world leaders. It is pretty cool that she knows everyone — 0r knows someone who knows everyone — but if you want an outsider candidate, someone different, Hillary just isn’t it.

But read the book. Read the book and make your own educated decision. I may jump into her other books when my Election 2016 reading list comes to a close, since she has made some impressive leaps for women and women’s rights about the world. Her memoir Living History, and her first book It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us will probably find their way to the library check out with me one day.

The Kingdom Keepers: The Return Series Continues with Legacy of Secrets

Ridley Pearson’s wildly popular Kingdom Keepers series is the story of five teenagers chosen to be Disney theme park “guides”, who discover that the gig is a lot more dangerous than expected; they soon find themselves battling against Disney’s own villains and witches to save the Magic Kingdom from destruction. The final book in that series saw them triumph against all odds, but every terrific series calls for an encore, does it not? The Kingdom Keepers: The Return series is the offshoot fans have been begging for, and it offers the brilliant twist of sending the original cast of characters back in time — to opening day of Disneyland, circa 1955! Featuring a genius premise and a perfect mixture of science fiction, history, magic, Disney trivia, and adventure, this middle grade romp is as tough to put down as a delicious raspberry Mickey Macaron.
The first book in the spinoff series, Disney Lands, was filled with riddles and puzzles, and ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger; luckily for us the second book, Legacy of Secrets, jumps in at full speed right where we left off. Our original five Kingdom Keepers friends (Finn, Charlene, Willa, Maybeck, and Philby) are continuing to follow clues left behind by their mentor, Wayne, which will hopefully help them protect the future of Disneyland. At the same time, unofficial Kingdom Keepers and Fairlies Jess and Amanda (Fairlies are humans with unusual abilities, but they are still “fairly” human, zing!) have their own dark and dangerous backstory returning to haunt them as they try to help the Keepers solve the mystery from their position within Disney’s School of Imagineering, in current-day 2016. Believing that the Overtakers they (presumably) defeated during the first series are gone, the Keepers try to keep the opening week of Disneyland safe, while hunting out the source of Walt Disney’s magic. Along the way they stumble onto the Legacy of Secrets, as well as a real life, flesh and blood villain who may do more than throw a hitch into Walt’s opening ceremonies.
In a succession of short chapters that keep the action always at the forefront, readers race alongside the characters to solve a series of clues woven into Disney history. As they zip from the fabled Lilly Belle train car, to Walt’s backyard, to deep in the rare books room at the Los Angeles County Library, and across more than 60 years of time and space, fans will find themselves absorbed in the magic and engaged by the mystery. Impressively, throughout all of the talk of technology and time travel, the book stays grounded; rooted as it is by characters that grow and change — people you care about and root for no matter what year it is.
Of course, the second book leaves us with nearly as many questions and cliffhangers as the first. Still, it answers many of the questions from Disney Lands, and reveals surprising facts from the original series, which will delight longtime fans. The real strength of Legacy of Secrets is the suspense that doesn’t let up. Each clue opens more avenues for exploration, and everything that you think you know about Disney is called into question. As a bonus, the Barnes & Noble Exclusive edition comes with a map that helps you navigate Disneyland circa 1955 (it would also look terrific in a frame for any Disneyland fan!), which is surprisingly different from the park we know and love today.
Fans of the series won’t be able to put this installment down, Disney lovers will adore the journey into Disneyland’s origin, and anyone who loves a good mystery will be engrossed.
Legacy of Secrets is in stores March 29.
Originally published at http://www.barnesandnoble.com on March 25, 2016.