The Adventures of Dod

The Adventures of Dod by Thomas R. Williams

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “Years ago, a father went missing. Recently, a grandfather died. Now, fourteen-year-old Cole finds himself inexplicably transported to the world of Green, a place where he must use his special abilities and unique friendships to solve mysteries and, ultimately, try to stop an evil villain named The Dread.”

First let me explain how I came about this book. The elementary school my children used to attend received a few boxes of this book, intended for each student in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. A few people in my book group work at the school and the principal asked if our book group would review it before they handed them out to the children. Interesting. So, of course, we decided we better review it.

I’m torn with this one. Usually I know exactly what I want to say. I just finished all 507 pages and I don’t know. I’ll start with this…..it was okay. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Do I want my 4th grader to read it? I don’t know. The first few pages are quite violent, and there are some violent scenes in it following that (poisonings, sword fights, scary creatures, characters dying), but the whole story is not that violent. My problem with this book is that I kind of don’t get it. I know it’s part of a series, but there are so many unanswered questions, so many things that just don’t make sense to me. There are a ton of characters and places and I couldn’t keep any of it straight. Things are not explained very well in the book. For example, Cole, the main character, ends up in this other world. He’s never been there before, but yet he “remembers” some things. Huh? He has memories of some events and places and people that he’s never been to or met. How? Why does he know some things but not others?  How does he know anything at all? Maybe I shouldn’t try so hard and just enjoy the read, but I can’t. It really bothers me. I don’t understand how he can just take some one’s place and no one notices. Also, what are coosings and pots?  There are a lot of made up words that just are not fully explained or clarified. Another thing that bothered me was that the first chapter ties into the book, but it’s not easily apparent. When I finished I went back and read it again and it still took me a minute to figure out how it played in.
The story itself is okay. It’s interesting and could be really good, I think. There are twists and turns and surprises. There’s suspense, drama, action, and a little flirting. It’s just that there is so much to it that isn’t fully explained, and it’s so long that it takes away from the plot. My 4th and 3rd graders kept asking me if they could read it and they could, I think. My 4th grader has read all the Harry Potters and Fablehavens, and together we’ve read all the Percy Jacksons, so I think, in that sense, it would be okay for them to read. I just don’t know if they could keep it all straight, since I couldn’t. If I hadn’t been reviewing it I don’t know if I would have finished. I think they may lose interest because it’s so confusing. I do think it is better for 4th grade boys….girls may not like it as much. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to put it all together, but it shouldn’t be that hard. It’s too bad because I think it could be really good. I wish he had left out a lot of the extras that ended up taking away from the storyline. Or, I wish he had just clarified and defined things a little better. An index in the back with character names and a map would have helped a lot!

I did really like the morals and lessons in the book, though. Dod doesn’t pick fights, he just fights the ones he needs to. He sticks up for and respects women. He makes good decisions based on memories of his family members teaching him those things. He shows respect for elders and most authority figures and he is humble in his accomplishments. I like those things a lot and liked that part of the storyline.

Rating: PG (almost PG-13) Violence, death, but no language or “physical intimacy”

Recommendation: I guess I’ll stick with 4th grade and up. If your child has read books like “Harry Potter” or “Fablehaven” then he or she should be fine reading this, if they can keep up with the characters and places.

Summer Fit

Summer Fit (www.summerfitlearning.com)

(Summary taken from the back book cover.) “Keeping brains thinking & bodies active during school breaks is entertaining and engaging with Summer Fit workbooks and online games and activities. Created by educators, fitness trainers, and parents, Summer Fit activities focus on key areas of child development, including academics, physical fitness, and core values. Right now it might feel like a million years away, but the first day of the new school year will be soon upon us. With Summer Fit, your child will take a seat better prepared to handle the mental, physical and social challenges of the new school year.”

I have the K-1 Summer Fit book and I’m very impressed. You may not know it, but I have my degree in elementary education, so I was very interested in these books. Last summer I drove my kids crazy because every day they had 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of homework. I spent a lot of time on the Internet searching for the correct math problems and reading activities for my kids to do. They learned a lot and did great, but it took a lot of effort on my part. This book makes it easy! All I have to do is buy a book (I haven’t seen the older books so I’m hoping I won’t have to supplement.).

This is a great idea. Why didn’t I think of it??? The summer is broken down into weeks and then days. There is a page for each day of summer (I haven’t counted, but it’s got to be really close.). On this page there are some brain activities like math problems or reading activities. There are also some physical activities. The kids not only have to exercise their brains but their bodies as well. There are cardio and strength exercises that switch off. There are lots of ideas and there are more online as well. Then each week there is a value. The first one in this book is Honesty. There is a picture of Abraham Lincoln and it discusses his nickname “Honest Abe.” It talks about how honesty is important and why. I hope the values are the same in each book so it will be easier to discuss with my kids all at once, but I’m not sure. For each week there is a certificate to complete when the child finishes the weekly activities and there is an incentive. The incentive could be whatever you want. It could be a treat, but it could also be a trip to a local museum or a picnic at the park, or a family game of kickball in the backyard. I love this! There are also a lot of activities, games, and more challenging work pages online.

As a teacher I would definitely recommend these books to parents, and as a parent I am so glad that I don’t have to do all the work this summer! I love that it is not just for the brain, but for the body as well, and I love that it allows me to have fun with the kids while they are learning. I have the K-1 book but now I need the 2-3 and the 3-4 books as well!

Prince Etcheon and the Secret of the Ancient

Prince Etcheon and the Secret of the Ancient by Joann Arnold

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Etcheon always believed he would live and die in his small village that he moved to with his grandmother, Granna Fela–safe, loved, and protected. But with Granna’s death comes new information about Etcheon’s royal heritage and destiny, which suddenly throws him in the middle of a battle against a wicked king. On the run from hideous beasts sent to kill him, Etcheon is saved by a mysterious girl, a tree with magical powers, and several amazing animals. With his new friends to protect and teach him Etcheon undertakes a journey that will challenge his abilities and define who he needs to become–a warrior-prince charged to save his people.”

I really enjoyed this book. It is a little “Eragon,” a little “Lord of the Rings,” and a little “Harry Potter” all rolled into one. It has everything you want: love, war, wizards, magic, magical creatures, good vs. evil, mystery, and suspense. It is “clean” and very creative. Ms. Arnold has a fun imagination. At first it really reminded me of the story of “Eragon.” A boy, who doesn’t know who he is, needs to be schooled and mentored, and so is hidden away while he learns. As the story progresses it takes on a “Lord of the Rings” feeling with wizards and evil wizard creatures. Although it may have some of the elements of these books, it is very different and stands alone in its storyline. There are some twists and turns that surprised me, which made it a fun read.

I felt like I really knew the characters and thought Ms. Arnold did a very good job with their development. I wish we had gotten to know a little bit more about Granna Fela and Mr. Otherton, and how he fit into the kingdom. Did he live in the Hidden Kingdom? And which time period did Granna Fela come from? I also wish we had gotten to know Etcheon’s parents a little more. Some of the time travel was a little confusing, especially with Etcheon’s time frame. It took me a little while to realize how long he had been gone from his kingdom was much different than his age would suggest.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun and easy read. I would recommend it if you are in the mood for a good fantasy story.

Rating: PG (Some death, some war scenes, no language and no “physical intimacy.”

Recommendation: 9 and up. I am going to hand it over to my 9 yr-old after school. I know that he is ready, though, because he just finished the last “Harry Potter” and has also read all of “Fablehaven.” If a child hasn’t read those you may want to read it first. It fits in the same category as those books do. It is fine for some but may be too much for others. As always, I suggest parents read it first just to make sure it is a good match for your child. Thank you Ms. Arnold for saving me, I didn’t know what to suggest to my son to read next!

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
(Summary taken from the back of the book.)  “As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini–the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik–the gentle giant; Inigo–the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen–the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.”
Wow! Do I love this book!!! I have read it before, and I will definitely read it again! My first experience with it was when my Dad read it to my siblings and me. I was hooked from the beginning. We actually read it right before the movie came out, so it was exciting to be able to watch the movie after reading it. I loved it, and as soon as I could read well enough, I read it on my own. It is a great read-aloud, for boys and girls. It has it all–action, romance, suspence, love, sword fighting, drama, ROUS’s, death, miracles, and one of the most beautiful girls in the world. Who could ask for more? I love the humor, the characters, the plot, and I think I have almost the whole thing memorized. Classic. That’s all I can say, classic! I recommend this book for about age 10 and up. I also recommend reading it out-loud for your child’s first time. Don’t worry, you don’t have to read the kissing parts!
Rated: PG (Kissing, I know…..ewww! Sword fighting, poisoning, and the fire swamp)
Recommendation: Fourth Grade and Up. In the book the author says he read it to his son at 10. Great as a read-a-loud or a read-to-self book.