Through Space and Time

pi in the skyI just finished reading Wendy Mass’ latest book, Pi in the Sky. I have not decided if I like the book or not. Some parts confused me, but other parts about beings who oversee our universe and are responsible for keeping the planets in orbit kept me reading. There is a space/time element in the book as well.

magic halfI started thinking about books I have read where characters travel through time to a different reality, and the character’s world is still running in a parallel universe, so the space-time continuum is disrupted. I kind of like the circular thinking of a person returning to the past, disrupting an event that occurred, and then meeting up again in present day a la Back to the Future. It has the ability to blow your mind if you really concentrate on the whole concept of time. Here are a few book choices that deal with dropping in and out of time.

george washingtons socks

  • Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer– This is for a more sophisticated reader. The language and vocabulary is more difficult, and the story pace can be slow. I like this book, though.
  • Children of the Red King, Charlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo– Many people list this as a Harry Potter read-alike. This book is the second in the series.
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen– Holocaust alert!
  • George Washington’s Socks by Elvira Woodruff– If you are a fan of Magic Treehouse. This is like a Magic Treehouse for an older reader. Woodruff has companion books too.
  • The Gideon Trilogy, The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer– I loved the first book; I could not finish the sequel.
  • The Magic Half by Annie Barrows– My favorite time travel book.
  • North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler– Found this because I love the author’s Emily Windsnap series so much.
  • Teddy Powers: The Stone Keepers by Anne Todd– This is a self-published book by a parent at my school. My students (and Mr. Star Wars) love this book. It is available on Amazon.
  • The 13th Reality, The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner– This book can be slow in parts, but the concept of parallel lives existing at the same time held my interest.
  • The Wells Bequest: A Companion to the Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman– I really liked the Grimm Legacy, so you may want to read both books.
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead– This book is so much better if you are familiar with A Wrinkle in Time.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle– One of the originals for this type of science fiction (in my opinion).

teddy powersI am trying to remember the name of a book I read as a child about a character who would walk down a foggy street and be transported back in time. I think the setting of the story was London. Does this sound familiar to anyone? Please help me out with a title if you read this book too!

Book v. Movie

chitty chitty car

I read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang this summer by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame. It is the only children’s book that Ian Fleming wrote, and there are many James Bond influences in the book. Chitty has all kinds of cool car gadgets, and the Potts family gets involved in catching a group of gangsters. What? You don’t remember gangsters in the Dick Van Dyke movie version of Chitty?

chitty chitty bang bangOther than a car named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a father who is an inventor, there is very little resemblance between the movie and the book. There are so many movies-based-on-books that barely refer back to the original text. Here are a few book/movie combinations that I disliked, and others that I do like. How do you feel about favorite books that are made into movies?

mr poppers penguins

The movie is nothing like the book.

  • Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang by Ian Feming— Reviews of the 1968 movie do say “loosely based” on the book. Here is a little nugget of trivia; Roald Dahl wrote the script for the movie. When I learned about Dahl, the creepy child catcher made a lot more sense to me.
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater— Critics call the Jim Carrey version of the movie an updated interpretation. If by updated, they mean take every part of the book and do the opposite, they did a good job.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett— Here is my review of the movie: stupid. Apparently, I am the only one who feels this way. The movie was so successful, there is a sequel coming soon.
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien— At least the movie producers had the decency to change the name for the movie to The Secret of NIMH. The whole intelligent rats who have a conscience about stealing (irony) and create a plan, so they no longer steal electricity is pretty fantastical. Why did the movie have to throw a magic stone into the mix?

charlie and the chocolate factory

Don’t miss reading the book, but the movies are good too.

  • Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis— Movies released in 2005, 2008, 2010. I still have fond memories of the animated version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe from 1979.
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl— I like both the Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp versions. The Johnny Depp version is truer to the book.
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White— I think everyone loves the animated film from 1973.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum— Judy Garland movie from 1939. I have not seen the recent Oz movie released in 2013.
  • How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee— It is hard to fault Gregory Peck.

freaky friday

The movie resembles the book (more or less), but I would not recommend seeing the movie.

  • Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks— Movie released in 1995, the Omri character is too irritating.
  • Tale of Despereaux by Kate DeCamillo— Movie released in 2008, Sigourney Weaver narrated.
  • Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers— Movie released in 2003 with Jamie Lee Curtis was bad. My memory of the 1976 movie with Jodie Foster is good. I may need to watch the earlier movie again.
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton— I have not see the 1997 version with John Goodman. I took my children to see the Secret World of Arrietty released in 2010 and promptly fell asleep.

black stallion

Here are some that are up for debate at our house:

  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley— TheRoomDad loved this movie as a child. My memory is a movie that was looong and boring.
  • The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford— I think I would like Homeward Bound released in 1993 better if I did not know about the book and the original animals and setting.

The Wizarding World

harry potter and the sorcerers stone

Raise your hand if you want to have magical powers like Harry Potter and attend Hogwarts? Yeah, me too. Since I can’t figure out a way to make that happen, reading books with characters who have magical powers is my back up plan. It is not as satisfying as actually having the power to fly, but it is the best I can do.

In my experience, readers have strong opinions about magical fantasy books; they either love them or hate them– no in between. If you are like me and love them, it  might be because magic gives readers a feeling that they can control their world. Of course in most stories, using magical powers does not always solve problems; it usually creates problems, which then creates excitement.

The list below typically works well for upper elementary aged readers with a few exceptions. You can also find magical book suggestions on the fairy tale book list, which I posted earlier.

Truly Magical– These books have characters who can perform actual magic like turning people into statues or disappearing or flying. If the characters can not perform magic, then the setting is a magical world or the sub characters have magical powers.

magic thief book

  • 11 Birthdays and sequels by Wendy Mass
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series by Frank L. Baum
  • Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
  • Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo
  • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  • The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
  • Winterling series by Sarah Prineas
  • The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew (out of print– check your library)
  • Magickeepers series  by Erica Kirov
  • Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • Mary Poppins series by P. L. Travers
  • Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
  • Savvy and Scumble by Ingrid Law
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler

the shadows books of elsewhere

Magical Objects– In these books, the characters live in a world that is more or less like the one we know. There is an object that creates magic. It might transport the characters to a different world or allow the characters to do something that would otherwise not be possible. I noted the “magic object” in parenthesis below.

  • The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull (the candy)
  • Half Magic by Edward Eager (the coin) 
  • The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne, younger readers (the treehouse,)
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by by Betty Macdonald, younger readers (the remedies)
  • Tuesdays at the Castle and sequel by Jessica Day George (the castle)
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (the water)
  • The Shadows by Jacqueline West (the paintings)


Almost Normal– These books have characters and settings that are pretty realistic, but there will be one or more characters with a trait that is unusual. It’s not exactly magic, but it is close.

  • What the Dog Said by Randi Reisfeld
  • The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer
  • Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan
  • The Princess Academy and sequel by Shannon Hale
  • Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl

so you want to be a wizard

On My “To Read” List

  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
  • So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane
  • The Key and the Flame by Claire M. Caterer

** Sewing Sister is in town with her girls for a visit. I would like to thank my nieces for their help with this magic fantasy book list.

Versatile Blogger


Sewing Sister thinks my blog has a split personality since I post tips about how to help children in school and then turn around and share cocktail recipes. I prefer the term Versatile Blogger. Turns out, there is a WordPress award for that. A new follower, Forestmtnhike, nominated me, and I would like to thank her. WordPress awards are fun because it is a way to pay it forward by sharing favorite blogs with followers.

To accept this award and spread the love there are 3 rules to follow:

1) I’m to first thank and link the person who nominated me for the award in my post (see above).

2) Share 7 random facts about myself (see below).

3) Nominate 15 of my favorite versatile bloggers for this award (see further below).

Random Facts about Myself:

  • Altoids make me sneeze.
  • I start planning my family holiday card by the end of September (that is probably not that random if you know how much I enjoy projects).
  • I will put about any topping on my pizza except for olives.
  • I will order any dish on a menu if the side that comes with it is mashed potatoes.
  • I dislike doing anything that makes me sweat.
  • I teach and have to stand in front of people all day, but public speaking in front of other groups makes me nervous, makes my face turn hot and red, and makes me sweat (see previous fact).
  • I read children’s literature almost exclusively. I say it is because I need to know what to recommend to students, but the truth is, I just like it.

Since I recently shared some of my favorite blogs for a WordPress Family nomination, I am listing blogs that give me ideas for new children’s book titles. It might not be very versatile, but they are a great resource for me.

Almost 15 Blogs

Man’s Best Friends

black stallion book

TheRoomDad suggested my son read The Black Stallion since it was TheRoomDad’s favorite book when he was a kid. I was skeptical. I saw the movie when I was about nine years old and thought it was the most boring movie I had ever seen. Turns out, as is almost always true, the book is much better than the movie.

There are several things I like about the book, but the best part is the relationship between Alec and Black. Alec assumes complete responsibility for the horse, and while adults support Alec, ultimately, Alec is the one who has to care for Black every day even if it might be inconvenient. Alec and the horse rely on each other and develop a deep friendship. These themes of companionship, trust, responsibility, and independence can be found in many animal books and are reasons I think kids love to read books with animal characters.

Below is a list of other animal-centered chapter books that we like. As you may suspect, more than a handful of animal books also fall in the Sad but Good book category, so if you don’t see your favorite animal book here, check the other list.

Mr. Star Wars likes the more realistic animal books; I prefer the fantasy animal books. Do you enjoy animal books? If so, which style do you prefer?

julie of the wolves book

Animals as Pets (realistic-ish)

  • Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
  • The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley
  • The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
  • Julie of the Wolves series by Jean Craighead George
  • Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey
  • A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
  • Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
  • The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • Rascal by Sterling North
  • Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  • The Yearling by Marjorie K. Rawlings

trumpet of the swan book

Animals with Human Qualities (fantasy)

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe series by C.S. Lewis
  • Mistmantle Chronicles by M.I. McAllister
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • Mousenet by Prudence Breitrose
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
  • Poppy series by Avi
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • What the Dog Said by Randi Reisfeld
  • Wildwood series by Colin Meloy
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Winnie the Pooh series by A.A. Milne

As a little bonus, here are a few picture books we like too!

Picture Books

  • Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem
  • Brave Bitsy and the Bear by Angela McAllister
  • Bread and Jam for Frances and others by Russell Hoban
  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
  • Curious George and others by Margret and H.A. Rey
  • Olivia and others by Ian Falconer
  • Peter Rabbit and others by Beatrix Potter
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
  • Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

complete brambly hedge