Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Girl Called Vincent

I was very interested to read about Edna St. Vincent Millay.  I, of course, have read some of her poetry and I knew of her Maine connection.  I found the book informative and it gave a good glimpse into the adventurous and sometime rocky life of this poet.

That being said, for my elementary audience I don't think this will be a good fit - better in a library where her works are taught and enjoyed.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


I have had the arc for this book for quite some time and have just never gotten around to it.  I started it last night and didn't want to stop and pretty much devoured it today.  Of the three books in the trio by Schrefer, this is my favorite.

Raja was brought home by John's father when he was about 10.  The two became best buddies even though Raja was a bit of a handful.  But when the two had to be separated due to an illness, Raja became aggravated and in a fit of confusion, terror, and loneliness, John lost a finger.  Soon after that John's parents divorced and Raja stayed with his dad while John and his mom moved west.

Now, a few years later John's dad lets him know that Raja is being taken to a zoo.  John decides to go see Raja one last time but when he sees where Raja is being sent he stages a rescue.  On the run, John eventually gets help from a vet and others to get Raja back to his home.

Of the three books by Schrefer this was the least violent which makes it a better fit for my students.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Other Boy

Shane has always known he was a boy - not a girl, not a tomboy.  Once he told his parents he started to act more like a boy at school but when his mom moved he was able to start fresh - no one knew that he used to be a girl.  He has a best friend, he has started hormone treatments, he plays for the school baseball team, and he even has a kind of girlfriend.  But when he mistakenly tells a rival where he used to go to school the truth comes out.  Shane will soon find out who his real friends are.

I found this book about the transgender experience far more realistic than others I have read and therefore more hopeful.

S.M.A.R.T.S and the Invisible Robot

This was a cute mystery involving a group of students who attend their schools Science, Maker, and Real Technology Club.  After visiting the high school's exhibit featuring science and art projects a necklace from the exhibit is stolen.  The kids use their science and robotic smarts to solve the mystery.

While the characters are primarily middle school students and there are even high school characters the feel of the book and the mystery itself is more younger elementary.  I can see my 4th graders enjoying this book.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Alien That Ate My Socks

The book started with a go cart race between the Hooligan Brothers and their nemesis Rock.  But in the middle of the race something big and purple gets in the way.  Then that big purple creature follows them home, destroys their house, and eats clothing.  The rest of the book is about the family trying to figure out just what the creature is and maybe how to communicate with it.  

I liked the book at the beginning but then it just seemed to spin its wheels.  It wasn't until the very end that we learned the creature's name.  Definitely a set up for the continuing series.  Not my favorite.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Adventurer's Guide

Anne and Penelope can't wait until they turn 13 and can leave the Saint Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children.  But Matron changes the rules at the last minute and Anne has to try and escape.  Thus begins a strange adventure involving a magic sparrow, robots, dragons, a gauntlet, and a quest filled with riddles.  Can Anne and her party solve the riddles before time is up?

This was enjoyable enough book but I was left with more questions than answers.  I guess that is what a sequel is for.  Penelope and Anne were good characters but the third part of their party wasn't developed enough for me.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Applesauce Weather

Every year when the first apple drops Aunt Lucy and Uncle Arthur come back to the farm.  But now Aunt Lucy is gone.  Will Uncle Arthur come back on his own and will he ever tell Peter and Faith the story of how he lost half his finger.

A sweet poetic narrative - refreshing.

Babes in the Woods and Waters

Very sweet book that looks at the young of Maine animals.  Great photographs and lovely text.  Will work well for primary studies of Maine.

A Bandit's Tale

In the late 1800s Rocco is sent in disgrace to America where he will work as a street musician for a padrone.  But the padrone mistreats his boys and Rocco looks for a way out.  One of his attempts at making more money is to take up with a mob of pickpockets but he ends up getting arrested.  He eventually escapes from the island where he is being "reformed" and ends up working for a blacksmith.  But Rocco still feels he has to lie and struggles to resolve his need for money and his conscience.  Rocco learns about attempts being made to make conditions for the animals and people of NYC and becomes involved in the efforts.

This was a fun book.  Rocco was a great character put in a tough situation.  The supporting characters were also good.  Really enjoyed this.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dara Palmer's Major Drama

Dara was adopted as a baby from Cambodia.  She looks nothing like her adopted family or even her adopted sister, Georgia who is from Russia.  She is also a future star and a drama queen.  When she tries out for the lead in The Sound of Music she is devastated when she doesn't even get a part.  Why?  She made all the right faces, sang loudly - what's up?  

In this coming of age book Dara learns more about herself by learning to step into another person's shoes.  She finds out that she is actually overdramatic and selfish.  Soon she embarks on a mission to learn more about herself - her Cambodian roots and where she fits in now.

A fun book.  Dara is quite the character.

A Long Pitch Home

Bilal has a great life in Pakistan - friends, a great cricket team, and a wonderful family.  Then his father disappears for 3 days and soon after the rest of his family is sent to America.  His dad tells them he will come soon but there are delays and problems.

Meanwhile in America Bilal is trying to adjust - ESL classes, new friends, and baseball which is kind of like cricket - but isn't.  Can Bilal learn to love his new country and all it has to offer and will his father every get to come too?

This was a good story - solid.  Good information about this Muslim family without overdoing it.  Also good to see what life is like for a newcomer.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tales From the Haunted Mansion; The Fearsome Forsome

This book is based on the Haunted Mansion Disney ride.  In it four children who call themselves the Fearsome Foursome love scary stories and get together to tell stories to each other.  One night they receive an invitation to go to a mansion.  There they meet a librarian who tells them 4 scary stories featuring each one of them in turn.  

The stories themselves were pretty good and creepy.  There were some good allusions to the Disney ride (wish there had been more) but it certainly wouldn't be necessary to have been on the ride to enjoy the book.  Students who like scary stories will like these.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

This book has been getting a lot of buzz and it is easy to see why.  What a gorgeous book and well put together.

Life on the 2 sides of the bog couldn't be more different.  On one side, in the Protectorate the people live in fear of a witch who demands that a child be sacrificed to her every year.  The sorrow is palpable.  On the other side the people are free, live in joy, and look forward to the yearly star children that are delivered.

There are always two sides to every story.  This story revolves around two witches - a witch who saves children and a witch that people don't realize is a witch.  And of course, the girl who drank the moon.  One of the child sacrifices - whose mother was devastated and whose sacrifice changed the life of a young man.  She herself was enmagiced but then made to forget for awhile.

The way the book comes together at the end is fabulous.  My one concern is the length - my school only goes to 5th grade and a 400 page book can be daunting.  I felt the book lagged a bit at the beginning but really picked up at the end.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Most Frightening Story Ever Told

I quite enjoyed this story.  Billy Shivers is a reader and finds himself drawn to The Haunted House of Books and Mr. Rapscallion.  He loves the pranks, the "atmosfear", and the books.  But the bookstore is failing and Mr. Rapscallion finds himself in possession of a hundreds year old story that is considered the most frightening story ever told - in fact, the last time it was read several children went mad and one even died from fright.  Mr. Rapscallion starts a contest where 5 children will get to hear the story and the one who isn't frightened will win $1000.  

This was a lot of fun - good allusions to ghost stories of the past, reminded me of Dahl, and a great twist at the end.  My one concern is the text of the short stories in the book which may be hard for some students to read.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Apple Tart of Hope

Wow, that was something.  Short but packed a punch.  Alas, too old for my particular school but I will highly recommend.

Oscar and Meg have been neighbors and best friends for a long time.  When Meg's parents decide to move to New Zealand for 6 months Meg is not happy.  Oscar encourages her to embrace the change and of course keep in touch.  Meg finally realizes why she doesn't want to leave and writes Oscar a letter about it.  But she never sends it, she puts it under her mattress.  Enter Paloma, the perfect girl who moves into Meg's house while they are gone.  Oh, a woman scorned.  Things go terribly wrong for Meg and Oscar due to a intentional misdirect and meddling by Paloma.  Shortly after everyone thinks Oscar has committed suicide.  But did he?  Is Meg crazy to hope?

Like I said really good!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

One Half From the East

After Obayda's father loses his leg in a car bombing incident their family loses its status and moves from Kabul to a smaller village.  There her aunt convinces her mother to have Obayda become a bacha posh - a girl who pretends to be a boy.  The reasoning is that a house full of girls is bad luck.  If Obayda becomes a boy then good luck will come to house and maybe her mother will actually have a baby boy.  At first Obayda, now Obayd hates this new life and feels awkward and out of place.  But, with the help of another bacha posh she quickly comes to embrace the change and the freedom it affords.  But all too soon, her friend is forced to change back and at 13, is given to the war lord as his bride.  Obayd tries to ensure that this will not happen to her.  

I won't give any spoilers about what happens.  I found this to be a very interesting book and I was not expecting it.  This is a very interesting look not only at the specific culture but gender roles in general.  Enjoyable and thought provoking.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Unidentified Suburban Object

Chloe Cho is used to the feeling of being the only Korean child in her school and town.  The expectations and stereotypes.  And for the most part she lives up to them - good grades, violin, compliant.  The really annoying thing though is that her parents never acknowledge or talk about their culture, history, heritage.  And then they do...  When her parents tell her the truth Chloe is more confused than ever.

Fun book about identity and friendship.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pete Milano's Guide to Being a Movie Star

Pete is a crazy kid - prone to pranks and fun.  One day he is hiding out from an angry mother and catches the eye of a movie producer.  Pete soon finds himself the star of a movie opposite one of the most famous teen stars in America.  But being a movie star is not quite as glamorous as he thought it would be - lots of sitting around, learning lines, missing school, and missing out on his life and friends.  Can Pete find balance?

This was a fun read - not overly mind blowing but fun.

I am Drums

Sam (Samantha) knows she was born to be a drummer.  She is in the percussion section in school but that is limited and they are cutting the music program.  Sam is desperate for lessons and plots a way to pay for them.  Problem is she doesn't tell her parents that she is "borrowing" the lawn mower every Saturday or that she started lessons.  Oh, and she keeps erasing her principal's phone messages so she doesn't get in trouble for something that happened at school.  When everything finally catches up to her will Sam be able to continue with her lessons or is she done forever?

This was a fun book.  Sam was a great character and the lessons she learned were hard ones.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Firefly Code

Thanks Megan for helping me get this at ALA in Boston.  I finally got a chance to read it.  I request a lot of books from NetGalley and Edelweiss plus get quite a few from publishers as a member of the MSBA committee.  I am constantly rearranging my TBR pile to reflect what I need to read in January - March for MSBA to go from shortlist to possibly on the list.  Then I am always looking for books that someone hasn't read yet - I hate missing a good book.  Later in the year I read ones that others have already read and so the cycle continues.  I actually thought someone on my committee would have read this by now so it got pushed back but yeah, finally.

I loved this.  Yes, dystopian kind of, but fresh and different and interesting.  A good cast of characters with problems and issues but not a lot of the "typical" problems - okay yes, there is a friend issue but it is NOT the same as usual ;0

Mori and all her friends live a pretty good life on Firefly Lane.  The are waiting for their 13th birthdays when they get to pick a trait - their latency - which will be pulled out and strengthened and then lead to their future employment.  But Mori has questions about that, about her grandmother and another community leader who suddenly left, and about the new girl Illana who seems - different.  

Very good character development and world building.  As I was getting closer to the end I sensed that things were not going to finish completely.  Not sure if a sequel is coming????

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


I love Tetris so I had high hopes for this book.  But - while I did learn about the history of the game it was rather dark - scandal, broken promises, shady contracts, a murder / suicide - yikes.  Part of my problem was that I had to read it on Bluefire Reader and graphic novels take so long to load on it.  I would read a page and - I am not kidding - have to wait about a minute for the next page.  Ugh.  So, interesting but definitely not for my elementary audience.

Monday, August 1, 2016


Okay, I loved this.  I had trouble sleeping last night - my foot was in pain and I probably had caffeine too late in the afternoon.  So I read this ....

It is the first book in a series but thank goodness it ended well - 1 mystery solved and even though there are some lingering threads it wasn't so bad that I wanted to throw the book in frustration.  

TOAST - that stands for Theory of All Small Things and it is how Florian helps the FBI solve crimes.  Florian notices the little things which others miss and he teaches his friend Margaret to do the same.  When artwork is stolen from the National Gallery Florian and Margaret help to figure out who did it by noticing the details.

Really good - not as outlandish as some kid detective, spy type books - fast paced, good action.  

Every Falling Star

This book is about the author's experiences growing up in North Korea.  When he was young he lived a life of luxury. His father was a high ranking officer.  But then when Kim Il-sung died everything fell apart.  His father fell out of favor and they were all sent to live outside the city.  There they fell victims to the famine - his father went to find work and food and didn't return and then his mother also disappeared.  The author then became a street boy - begging, stealing, and fighting to survive.

For over 4 years the author survived in this way until he was found by his grandfather and later by his father who was in fact still alive.  

This was a great insight into what life was like in North Korea in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Due to the violent content I think it is a bit much for my particular audience.