Thursday, May 30, 2013

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy Cavanaugh


Rachel, or Ratchet as her dad calls her, is homeschooled and this journal is a big part of her language arts requirement.  The journal uses many different writing techniques - essays, poems, regular journal entries, etc - to tell about her life.  Ratchet lives along with her dad who fixes up old houses and cars.  They move often which is why Ratchet is homeschooled.  At the beginning of the book she wishes to find out more about her mom because she feels she is missing out on a lot by not having a mom to train her how to be a girl.  She also wants a friend.  Throughout the book Ratchet does learn about her mom and it wasn't what she had expected, she does make a friend, and she helps save a town park in the process and learns to appreciate how much her dad loves her.    I enjoyed this book.  The journal style made it a quick read even though it was over 300 pages long.  


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga by Teddy Steinkellner

Okay, I'll cut right to the chase.  I didn't like this.  I actually decided I didn't like it during the first chapter but as a member of the Maine Student Book Award committee I feel obligated to finish the 2013 books that I read.  The book was about 4 students Jacob, his sister Hannah, Dorothy, and Danny.  Hannah is in eighth grade and the rest are in seventh.  The story follows their year in middle school and is full of drama, gossip, love affairs, and gangs.

I work at a school that is currently grades 4- 6 so the book is a bit beyond the reach of my students.  I would be naive to believe that my students have never been exposed to the topics in the book but that doesn't mean I need to endorse it.  I felt there was way too much language and sexual innuendo for a book aimed at middle school  Although things mostly worked out by the end I felt there was too much angst and bad behavior.  Again I may be just naive or too straight laced but I didn't like it.  Others may disagree with me and that's fine.  

For me....croak...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Lieography of Babe Ruth by Alan Katz

So this is a fake biography of Babe Ruth.  It was really out there.  Readers who like Captain Underpants would probably find this amusing - especially the many times he shakes hands after going to the bathroom and not washing his hands.  I was not quite as amused.

Sorry :(  

Stranded by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts


I am a major Survivor fan so I picked this up thinking how fun it sounded.  The premise is good - 4 kids stranded on an island with no adults.  The problem with this one is that it is all the story leading up to the shipwreck and then really just barely into the issue of surviving.  Don't get me wrong - I will probably purchase these for my library but by itself it didn't get far enough into the story and survival for me to get really excited about.  I am hoping for a lot more in the next installments.

Giving it a ribbet because I like the idea and I have hopes that when taken as a complete package the series will be worth it.

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine


This book is set in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958 which is the year after the Little Rock Nine started attending the newly integrated schools there.  In 1958 the high schools tried to get around integration by closing the schools.  Enter Marlee, a very shy girl who has trouble making friends.  She attends junior high.  She is so excited when Liz, a new girl, befriends her and Marlee is developing confidence.  But then it is discovered that Liz is only "passing" as white.  Can Liz and Marlee remain friends?  Can they take on the integration issue?  

This book really hit the issue straight on from the perspective of children caught in the middle.  I love the tagline on the cover "friendship is more than skin deep".  Marlee really develops as a character who learns about friendship, faces danger, and overcomes her own fears.  


Friday, May 24, 2013

Deck Z: The Titanic - Unsinkable Undead by Chris Paul and Matt Soloman


You know that story about the Titanic you've always heard?  Well forget that.  It was really the zombies.  I mean, yes, they still hit an iceberg but it's because Ismay was in such a hurry to get to New York and away from the Zombies.  Apparently Theodore Weiss discovered a new strain of the plague.  While studying it and seeking a cure he found out that the German high command wanted to use the plague for nefarious purposes so Dr. Weiss escaped with the vial of the Toxic on the Titanic.  Of course it got into the wrong hands and the rest is history.   If you have students interested in Zombies then this was an interesting twist.  A bit violent - duh and some language.

I was amused by it  --  ribbet (my frog looks odd with Zombies)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau


I do like a good Dystopian novel.  I know some people are sick of them but I love the world building.  I did like this one but there are some flaws.  Cia Vale has always wanted to be picked for The Testing and get the privilege to go to the University.  But, it isn't all she hoped.  Warned by her father who had himself gone through the testing but has no memories of it except occasional nightmares Cia prepares herself as best she can.  The Testing itself is very Hunger Gamish - puzzles to solve, who to trust, teenagers turning on each other.  Again, I liked it but there are probably too many similarities to Hunger Games and even the Uglies series to make it really stand out.  For the audience I typically work with the romance and some language probably puts it out of range.  

I give it a ribbet because I like Dystopian books but I won't be purchasing it for my library.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ungifted by Gordon Korman


Donovan is an impulsive, average boy whose decision to whack the school statue of Atlas in the butt leads to some hilarious results.  Instead of getting in trouble, Donovan mistakenly gets sent to the gifted Academy where he joins the robotics team.  Years of video game playing lead to a skill in robot driving.  How long can Donovan pretend to be gifted?  Or is he gifted after all?

This was a cute story.  I enjoyed it....


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

It may sound weird to say that I like books about the Holocaust.  It's obviously not because they are enjoyable but more because they can be powerful as they speak to the resiliency of the Jewish people and the need to get the message out so that things like this do not happen again.  This story is based on the life of Jack Gruener and tells about his experiences in ten different concentration camps during the Holocaust.  Because of the time span and the many different locations it touches only briefly on some of the events and yet paints a picture of the horrors that he lived through.  This is all done in a way that, with some prior knowledge, would be acceptable to 6th grade and up and maybe even fifth grade.  In the afterward the author does say it is a work of fiction because some events and details were altered a bit (with Jack Gruener's knowledge).  I do recommend this book.

A happy frog seems odd for this type of subject matter...but that's how I evaluate books so there you are.


Earling by Mark Fearing


I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I'm not a big fan of graphic novels.  But...this one wasn't bad.  Bud and his dad move to New Mexico and on Bud's first day of school he gets on the wrong bus.  This bus he gets on takes him to Cosmos Academy.  There he meets and befriends some "aliens" but has to pretend to be something other than an earthling because of a deep seated fear and mistrust toward them  Can Bud get back to Earth safely?  Will the Earth be destroyed by the administration in a preemptive strike?

This will get a ribbet because my students like it.  It is on the Maine Student Book Award list and many kids have already read it.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullay Hunt

Carley Conners has had an interesting in Las Vegas, dumpster diving for clothes at Goodwill, but nothing prepared her for the confrontation will her step-father and the role her mother played.  As a result she ended up in the hospital and then was put in foster care with the Murphys.  Julie Murphy is nothing like her mother and at first she can't stand it.  She then learns what a real family can be like and is torn between the love she is starting to feel for Mrs. Murphy and the rest of the family and  her confusing feelings about her mom.

This was a fabulous book.  It actually gets a double ribbet.  It was one of the best I've read in awhile.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins


Isolade and her mom are Brannigans.  Their family has hunted vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and so on for hundreds of years.  Isolade's mom decides to test Isolade's skill by sending her to a high school that is being haunted by a ghost.  In the meantime, her mom is also searching for her missing sister.  The book wasn't bad - some ghost hunting, a little romance, a few twists at the end.  There was some language though and a bit too much romance for my students.  I can give it a little ribbet because it was a decent enough story but it's not one I will be purchasing.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On the Day I Died by Candace Fleming


If you like spooky stories then this is the book for you.  Honestly, it is not my favorite genre but I can appreciate how my students like this kind of thing.  Some of the stories were a bit campy for me but it was enjoyable overall.

It gets a ribbet because I know the kids will like it.

Better to Wish by Ann M. Martin



Okay I wanted to like this, I really did.  It's set in Maine so that's good.  Unfortunately it just didn't do anything for me.  I wanted more - there just didn't seem to be any real plot.  Maybe the problem was that it jumped so much and covered so much time that nothing really seemed developed enough.  Whatever happened to Freddie for goodness sake?  Did anyone ever go see him?  And what about Orrin?  All of a sudden he was not mentioned anymore.  And the ending...don't get me started.  Sorry this didn't work at all for me.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

I have probably said this before but I am not a big fan of graphic novels.  I don't have anything against them per se; I'm not anti-graphic novel like some teachers, I just don't like them that much.   This one was one of the better ones I've read.  Strange idea but that's what my kids like.  Cardboard creations coming to life and then going all evil.  Yep kids will like it.  

I'll give it a ribbet - not because I necessarily liked it because the kids will.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson


Loved it!!!!!  This is on the Maine Student Book Award for 2013-2014 and I will be recommending it any chance I get.  I thought it was wonderful.  Sage and 2 other orphans are "rescued" by Connor to be part of his nefarious (I just wanted to use that word) to take over the kingdom.  One pf the orphans will assume the role of Jaron the long lost prince.  I don't want to give away any of the plot but the book was really great.  Hoping they have the sequel at the Scholastic warehouse sale :)

Ribbet Ribbet - happy frog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Accidental Time Traveler by Janis Mackay

I really like time travel books.  In fact, they are one of my favorites so I really wanted to like this.  But, it didn't totally work for me.  Saul lives in Scotland with his mom, dad, and new twins.  He has some good friends, a cool hang out, and he deals with normal boy stuff - school, a bully, wanting a new bike.  While going to the store for his mom a girl, Agatha suddenly appears and almost gets hit by a car.  It turns out she came from 1812 in an experiment done by her father.  Good premise but the middle part of the book lagged quite a bit and the actual method of time travel...not great.  I know...time travel is far fetched to begin with but this didn't work for me at all.  Also, some of the relationships - Saul's friends with Agatha and another girl Agnes, the resolution of the bully problem, his dad who shows up just at the end - weren't developed enough.  I did like the ending and the closure with the ring but there were some jumps concerning Agnes and Agatha that could have been developed more.

One part that really bothered me was Saul's award winning essay.  I get that it was an essay written by a middle grade boy but award winning?  It was not good at all...

I think another issue with the book is the abundance of British words and references - not sure my students would understand all of it.'s a croak.

I received this free from Netgalley.  I am not required to do a positive review.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Giants Beware by Rafael Rosado

I am not a huge fan of graphic novels but I liked this one. Claudette wants to be a hero, Marie wants to be a princess, and Gaston wants to be a chef/sword maker. Together they set out on a quest to kill the Baby Feet Eating Giant. Along the way they meet some interesting characters and learn about themselves.   

Ribbet :) 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

This was a fun mystery.  Anna, Jose, and Henry meet after an event at the Smithsonian where the Star Spangled Banner flag was stolen.  It turns out that they all have relatives who are part of a secret organization whose job is to protect valuable artwork.  While stuck at an airport during a blizzard they discover that the flag is hidden there and they work together to solve the mystery.  This is kind of like National Treasure for kids.  I enjoyed it. 

Ribbet :)  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Super Schnoz and the Gates of Smell by Gary Urey

This was a really cute book.  Andy has been cursed with an extremely large nose.  This causes him to be teased at school until some of the kids find out that his sense of smell can actually be helpful.  When a truly disgusting smell threatens to close their school for an extended time and perhaps doom them to losing their summer vacation, Andy becomes Super Schnoze and his friends Jimmy, Mumps, TJ, and Vivian help save the school and the town.  I think my students will find this book very funny.