I love books and have done so from a very young age. However, I also admit to loving certain TV shows, the Amazing Race being one of them. I enjoy seeing the wide range of locations across the world used by the race. My husband and I like discussing what we would do if faced with the challenges the contestants are given. I think this is why I was especially drawn to the Race the Wild series by Kristin Earhart. To me, it is like a rated-G blend of the Amazing race TV show and nature documentaries.
Race the Wild by Kristin Earhart
The Race the Wild series is about a contest for teams of kids that takes place around the world. The race’s challenges are presented in a riddle format. In order to succeed, the teams must draw upon their knowledge of animals, plants, and the environment to complete the challenges, typically by photographing a specific animal or plant. The chapters of each book are separated by a brief nonfiction passage about a specific animal, plant, ecosystem, or biome. After finishing a leg of the race successfully, teams are whisked off to another location to compete in the subsequent leg.
Like mysteries, races and competitions have built-in suspense and drama. The questions, “Who is going to win this leg of the race?” and “Who is going to win the entire race?,” are always there pulsing in the background. Despite this, it took several chapters for our daughters to become invested in the series. However, once they were in, they were completely hooked.
As a parent, I appreciated that the series struck a balance between moving the plot along and presenting facts about wildlife. I also liked that the series places a heavy emphasis on the importance of teamwork. Each book in the series is written from a different team member’s perspective, which helps to provide insight on how each team member copes with frustrations of the race and learns to work with the others. A final selling point for me was the gender balance and diversity among the characters of the series.
Have you enjoyed other books about competitions or races? I’m looking forward to reading the Lemoncello’s Library series by Chris Grabenstein and the Candymakers series by Wendy Mass with our daughters when they are older. Feel free to leave additonal recommendations here!
What’s the last book series you binge read? Mine is Dragon Masters by Tracey West. Over the course about a week, our daughters and I read the existing 9 books of the series. Their only disappointment with the series is that the tenth book will not be published until June 2018!
Dragon Masters books by Tracey West
The series begins with a young boy named Drake leaving behind a comfortable life on his family’s onion farm to train as a Dragon Master in the castle of King Roland of Bracken. Drake has been chosen by the Dragon Stone, a mystical stone, to be paired with an Earth Dragon who he eventually names Worm. Pieces of the Dragon Stone are given to each of the Dragon Masters to facilitate their ability to bond and communicate with their dragons. At the castle, Drake meets the other Dragon Masters and their dragons, as well as Griffith, the wizard in charge of training them. Over the course of the series, the Dragon Masters face danger and solve problems together. There is a heavy emphasis on the importance of teamwork in this series, which will appeal to parents.
The books are fast paced and suspense builds over the course of the series, particularly between books 8 and 9. At the end of each book, our younger daughter always exclaims, “I wonder what the dragon in the next book will be like!” The characters are life like and have distinct personalities. I appreciate the gender balance among both the heroes and villains of the books. While there is fighting in the books, the violence is largely mild and free from gore and blood. When injured, characters are rendered unconscious or frozen, rather than bloodied. The series also raises ethical questions about how the dragons and the Dragon Masters were recruited by King Roland that can lead to interesting discussions.
Do you have a series or two to recommend while we wait for the next Dragon Masters book comes out? Feel free to leave your thoughts!
Over the last few months, we have received an influx of new books as gifts from friends and family who know that both of our girls love books. Between the holidays and their respective January and February birthdays, our bookcases are overflowing. Exciting!
The Adventures of Sophie Mouse books by Poppy Green
One of our recent discoveries has been the Adventures of Sophie Mouse series by Poppy Green. Sophie Mouse is a young mouse who lives with her parents and younger brother in Silverlake Forest. She and her best friend, Hattie Frog, have adventures with other young animals in the forest. In gentle ways, the books deal with issues of friendship, school, independence, and identity—all of which are topics that early readers are likely to find relevant to their own lives. For example, the first book in the series, A New Friend, deals with being the new kid at school and how to fit in despite being different.
Personally, I have not found the books to be fast paced, but they are quick reads. The books are filled with black and white illustrations and the font used for the text is relatively large. Plot twists are often predictable, but our daughters revel in being correct about their predictions. Characters talk through their worries and problems to find solutions. Parents of younger readers will appreciate that there is no violence in the books. Even during a snowball fight, the snowballs end up hitting a wall instead of the characters themselves. An additional bonus for parents: Sophie and her brother are often depicted doing their chores and helping out around the house!
What are your favorite chapter books for early readers? Feel free to leave recommendations!