I love reading books with the Littles. Even if we read them separately, it makes for some great conversations and besides, I’m a kid at heart. Here are a few kid’s books that I read recently and what I thought.

Disney After Dark (Kingdom Keepers Series, Vol 1) – Ridley Pearson

I had identified this book series as being of potential interest to my son a year or so back. He was 8 then and now we’re finally diving in. The first book presents the context for the entire series. A group of young teens have agreed to be models for an experimental program that creates 3-D holographic characters based on their likenesses. These characters, Disney Host Interactives (DHIs) serve as tour guides to guests of the park. However, they also serve as keepers of the kingdom, protecting Disney World – and presumably the world at large – from an evil plot coordinated by Disney Villains.

The tale begins as the unsuspecting models begin waking up in Disney World as their DHI counterparts while their physical bodies sleep. The five keepers must solve a riddle from Walt Disney himself to defeat the forces led by Maleficent. With the guidance of Wayne, an original Imagineer, and a shaky alliance with two girls who may or may not have secret information, the team learns to work together and problem solve under extreme pressure.

There are some light leadership lessons in this book, but it’s mostly an adventure story with a well-researched setting of the Disney World theme park. An enjoyable read, which leads me to book two…

Disney at Dawn (Kingdom Keepers Series, Vol 2) – Ridley Pearson

…or the one where Pearson got a little lazy. Not that I want to pick apart a kid’s book, but there are a handful (or two) of inconsistencies that raise flags and take the reader out of this adventure. Many are minor, like confusing which character did what and whether or not clues would mean anything to characters who weren’t privy to certain conversations. There are some logistic issues, such as whether the keepers are banned from all the theme parks or if their agreement as DHIs was limited to the Magic Kingdom. And there’s a question of how they manage to keep in contact using their Nintendo DS systems for chat and maybe audio? However, the first and most persistent concern was the name of a main character. Is she Jess or Jez? (If you’ve read the 1st book, that makes more sense.)

All that aside, however, this is a nice second installment to an on-going series that explores the Disney mythology and provides kids (and adults) with adventure-filled stories. This one takes place mostly in the Animal Kingdom as the keepers attempt to find and rescue Jez, who has been kidnapped. They face many challenges of course, not the least of which is an alternate DHI server that threatens to capture them in Sleeping Beauty Syndrome (asleep and can’t wake up) should they drift off. And this time, Maleficent is joined by the most evil Disney villain ever: Chernabog (from Fantasia). And the slight hints at leadership lessons from book one blossom a little more in this book. I won’t give away any spoilers, but the story provides a resolution while still leaving plenty of plot lines in play for book three, which… I haven’t read yet.

A note to parents: there is a bit of suggestiveness throughout the books – both in language (Maybeck has a mouth on him apparently) and in relationships (very mild, but it’s there – you sense a love triangle in the making). And, of course, behavior you don’t want your kids emulating (lying, etc.).

Third Grade Angels – Jerry Spinelli

Released just in time for school, Jerry Spinelli works backwards in time to continue his series of grade-based books. I’ve not read any of his other books, but my now fifth grader has enjoyed a couple of his books – including his memoir/autobiography. And now that I have a third grader again, it was only fitting that I give this book a spin. It’s a cute story that takes place at the beginning of the school year for our main character, George (a.k.a. Suds).

Mrs. Simms, the third grade teacher, issues a challenge. Each third grade angel has a chance to earn a halo for good behavior and paying attention. Suds decides that he must be the first student to earn the halo, but his new friend Joseph might be his downfall. This quick read unfolds with some quaint expressions of frustration, eagerness, fear, doubt, and discovery as Suds sets out on his quest. As complicated as any real third grader. I enjoyed the book and I’m pretty certain that my son will also when he finishes the stack of books he’s currently churning through.

peace.. love… bdg…