Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cyber Shopping: Some Book-Linked Tips

If the kids you shop for are anything like the ones I know, toys have proliferated since baby days and threaten to take over the house. With the space-eating syndrome in mind, here are some space-sparing gifts, all with links to popular books, for holiday shopping which will be appreciated by their parents.

Based on the popular I Spy picture riddle books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick, these computer versions really do provide hours of skill and vocabulary building fun. The games are officially rated for ages 6-10, but my youngest grandson, now four, has been playing these on his own for over a year. I've sat in on these games with him and find them intellectually challenging, fun, and surprisingly engrossing, teaching concentration and attention to detail in a highly rewarding way.

The I SPY games are cleverly designed to make them non-frustrating for young users. Each page reads the picture riddle clues aloud whenever they are clicked on, and clicking on objects in the pictures provides a sound effect and a re-reading of the clue which matches it. The program saves the player's place when he or she stops, has the player accumulate bonus tickets which entitle him or her to put together clues to solve the final mystery and play additional games not available in the books. A clever touch puts the player's login into some of the interactive pages as headlines on newspapers or locations (Joseph's Cafe', Jules' Bait Shop, for example). And when the player completes all pages, he or she can put in a new login and play again, with new riddles for each screen.

In addition to
I SpyTM Fantasy DVD Game (shown above) others in this outstanding series include I Spy Treasure Hunt DVD Game, and I Spy™ Spooky Mansion DVD Game.

For younger players or those less practiced with the mouse, there are beginner versions also, especially
I Spy Junior Educational Computer Game.

Favorite Fiction--Boxed Sets :

For series readers, there's nothing like a boxed set to keep those pages turning, and what's better than a good book or two or three over the holidays when the grownups get boring or the snow turns to drippy slush. Here are a variety of some kid-tested top sets:

Junie B.'s laugh-out-loud kindergarten adventures continue in Junie B. Jones's Fourth Boxed Set Ever! (Books 13-16), as the irrepressible Junie B. swings into the spring of her Kindergarten year, keeping her teacher Mrs. and her mom on their toes as farm field trips, Valentine's Day, family weddings, and field day roll around. A great beginning chapter book or hilarious family read-aloud experience for all ages!

In a light-hearted fantasy series which combines exciting adventures with lessons in geography, science, and history, Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 5-8: Night of the Ninjas, Afternoon on the Amazon, Sunset of the Sabertooth, and Midnight on the Moon takes Jack and Annie from prehistoric days to a walk on the moon in four of their most suspenseful trips in their magic tree house. One of the most popular of all beginning chapter series, these short and highly readable novels are often used, with their classroom guides by the author, as curriculum drivers for grades 2-5. (Ages 7-10)

Megan McDonald's loyal readers of her Judy Moody series demand equal time for pesky little brothers! Well, it's Stink Moody's turn, with a set of his first beginning chapter books now available as Stink: The Super-Incredible Collection: Books 1-3 (Stink), featuring STINK: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KID, STINK AND THE INCREDIBLE SUPER-GALACTIC JAWBREAKER, and STINK AND THE WORLD'S WORST SUPER-STINKY SNEAKERS. (Ages 7-10)

Funny and on target with middle elementary readers, Andrew Clements' set of school stories, Back to School (Boxed Set): School Story; The Report Card; A Week in the Woods provides three fast-moving stories of fifth- and sixth-graders who embrace the challenges of middle childhood with verve and good sense. (Ages 9-12)

Part thrilling adventure, part deep-rooted English fantasy, part spiritual allegory, the children's novels by master C.S. Lewis, known collectively as The Chronicles of Narnia Boxed Set, have been universally popular for decades and should be part of every child's reading experience, whether read independently or read aloud. (Ages 9-14)

No fantasy series is better known or loved than Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery classics, Wrinkle in Time Quintet Boxed Set (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, An Acceptable Time), a sequence which spans two generations of Meg Murray's and Calvin O'Keefe's family story. Suspenseful, magical, and meaningful, these five novels are truly stories for the ages, to be savored, read, and re-read. (Ages 9-14)

Set in the near future, when government forbids, upon pain of death, the birth of third children in any family, this fast-paced, suspenseful series, Shadow Children Boxed Set: Among the Hidden, Among the Impostors, Among the Betrayed, and Among the Barons, deals with themes of government and personal responsibility, law and freedom, as third-born Luke, himself one of the "shadow children," fights for their right to exist in a corrupt and closely controlled society. (Ages 9-14)

Ann Brashares' four best-selling young adult and teen novels are brought together here in Sisterhood 4-book boxed set, in which a well-traveled pair of jeans keep best friends Tibby, Carmen, Lena, and Bridget, the famous Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants connected and together over a significant period of their lives. (Ages 12-18)

For hard-core fantasy lovers, young adult readers have flocked to this serious, imaginative, and thrilling series by Christopher Paolini. Inheritance 3-Book Hardcover Boxed Set (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr) includes the first three books in this best-selling series, in which fifteen-year-old Eragon raises a young dragon and takes on the powers and responsibilities of a Dragon Rider in a time of great turmoil and promise. (Ages 12-18)

Movies from Books:

Not all good books become good movies of course, but some hold their own despite their filmmakers, who often can't resist juicing up the monsters or slipping in some slapstick. Here are some books-to-movies which have succeeded without abandoning the heart of the books upon which they are based.

The latest movie versions of the Narnia novels have been hits, thanks to their strong young players and spectacular cinematography. Now available are The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Full Screen Edition) and the most recent, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

The Water Horse - Legend of the Deep (Two-Disc Special Edition), Dick King-Smith's novel of a Scottish boy who finds a large egg in the loch and hatches it into a water horse--a baby Nessie--features beautiful scenery and an exciting adventure tale of a family who must hide their unusual and fast-growing pet from both curious neighbors and invading Nazis.

Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies) stars in a charming remake of Noel Streatfeild's classic 1930's novel, Ballet Shoes, the story of three stage-struck orphan girls whose understanding adoptive family helps them realize their dream to dance en pointe.

Based on The Agony of Alice, one of the 23 Alice McKinley books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Alice Upside Down has been praised as a film about a real, likable, 'tween girl without the attitude which spoils most teen girl flicks. Alice (Alyson Stoner) finds herself entering a new school for her first year of middle school--finding new friends, including a boyfriend, and adjusting to a unique teacher played by Penny Marshall.

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  • Hi, I was looking for a contact link or something, as this isn't really a "comment"...

    Basically, I like your blog, and, I myself have just started one that might compliment this quite nicely.

    I was hoping we would be able to link to each other?

    I'll link to you anyway, unless you object? If you'd be happy to quickly look at my blog (just the one post so far), and maybe link to me, I'd be grateful.

    My blog's address is

    Please feel free to delete this comment if you don't want it cluttering up your page. I would :)

    By Blogger Jimbo, at 7:08 AM  

  • It's Noel Streatfeild, if you're looking for the author of the Shoe books. As Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail sighed out while sitting in the children's section of the rival bookstore that drove her out of business.

    By Blogger Kai Jones, at 11:50 AM  

  • Dear Kai,
    Thanks for the editing note. As we say, "I knew that!" but obviously not at that particular moment!

    Streatfeild always seemed to get shelved slightly out of order.

    Perhaps this movie will revive some interest in his books.

    By Blogger GTC, at 12:43 PM  

  • I've got a great idea for a children's Christmas present.

    The Oddies is a children's book series which explains where all teh odd socks go!

    Each book comes with a matching pair of odd socks!

    Check out the website for ordering the sets and some fun games at

    Or the blog at

    They make great presents or stocking fillers!

    By Anonymous Fleur, at 11:35 AM  

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