Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Jerrie Mock Story

What I liked the most about this book was that it was about a person I had never heard of.  Even my husband who is very into flight hadn't heard of her.  To read about her experiences was very interesting.  I was a bit annoyed with her husband and all his nagging - :)  Very interesting book though.  I kind of wish the font and formatting had been a bit more kid friendly.  The book will be fine at a junior high or high school for students interested in flight or women's accomplishments.  It would be a hard sell for my students though.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Last of the Giants

This was a very interesting account of some of the largest species to ever walk the earth and how many of them are now extinct or or the verge of extinction.  Included in the list of animals are some that are not necessarily large in size but were large in impact like the passenger pigeon.  There were 13 animals highlighted in the book.  Each section talked about the animal and its habits and then how and why it became extinct or almost extinct.  Well done.

Monday, October 24, 2016


This was a well-researched and informative look into the attempts to stop the German production of a nuclear weapon.  The focus of this book was Vemork plant in Norway which was producing heavy water needed for the nuclear reaction.  Several sabotage efforts were undertaken.  What I liked was the personal accounts of the saboteurs and the thoroughness of the account.  Well done. 

The Infinity Year of Avalon James

Avalon and her best friend, Atticus are about the enter their Infinity Year.  Sometime during the year that they are ten they will both receive a special power.  Atticus is the first to show signs of a power when he has a dream that helps them find Avalon's missing cat.  Avalon is having a the some drama in her life - a dad in prison, a bully, and studying for the spelling bee - and hopes that her power will help with these situations.  But, when Avalon lets of a secret that Atticus has been hiding from everyone their friendship and Avalon's power are in jeopardy.  Can Avalon get her best friend back and will she ever get her power?

A nice book of friendship and overcoming obstacles.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Best Bear in All the World

I have been a Winnie the Pooh fan for a long time.  Of course, I relate mainly to Eeyore ;0  When this book came in the mail for review I was a bit unsure but I was delighted when I started reading.  The 4 authors captured the writing style and innocence of Pooh and his friends very well.  The 4 short stories - each focusing on a season were well done.  My hope would be that these new stories will bring renewed interest in the old favorites.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


I remember when we took my daughter Erica to get a pet.  We ended up getting a hamster she named Toast but one of the associates at the store tried to get us to buy a rat.  I remembered thinking - no way.  Reading this book has changed my opinion somewhat.  Rachel Toor is definitely a rat lover and most of the book is about her rat Iris and her antics as well as some history, genetics, and general rat information.  What was odd about the book was the meanderings about her boyfriends, her mother, and her dog.  The book was very readable but I found it got off topic a bit.

The Memory Thief

I was pleasantly surprised by this.  Twins Benji and Kelly are really close.  They have to be with their parents constantly arguing.  They both wish there was something they could do to keep their parents from divorcing and possibly splitting them up.  When Benji stumbles upon a weird tent at the fair he meets Louis who buys and sells and steals memories. At first Benji thinks he has found the solution to his problems but when another Memory Thief, Genevieve, arrives he finds himself in deep trouble.  First, Kelly's memories are stolen.  Then Louis dies and imparts his gift to Benji.  Benji takes his parents memories of being angry with each other but in doing some erases other things about them as well.  Then Genevieve gets ahold of their memories.  What a mess?  Can Benji ever fix everything?

Good length and pacing.  I liked the insight into memories - especially when Benji compared his parents memories of the same event and he and Kelly's memories of the same events.  I had actually been thinking of the very thing recently - how we can experience something with someone and yet both remember it differently.  Interesting stuff.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Level the Playing Field

This was a solid look at the history of women in sport.  I found it to be thorough and informative while not too heavy handed.  It was interspersed with interviews of female athletes and included photographs.  This would be a great book to include in my sports section where women in sports books are lacking.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mercy: The Incredible true Story

Very interesting account of Henry Bergh who was the founder of the ASPCA.  What I like more than some nonfiction I have read recently is that this has pretty wide appeal - animals and it is on the shorter side.  For my work especially with MSBA this is a plus for me.  Good back matter and photographs as well.  The author also didn't shy away from some of the contradictions in Bergh's life which I appreciated.

Adding to my review - had never heard of Bergh until I read the fiction book The Bandits Tale and he is mentioned in the book.  Good connection!

Isabella for Real

Isabella is not too thrilled about going to a private school and it's worse when everyone thinks she is the daughter of a contessa.  Although she tries to deny it, eventually she goes along with it because everyone wants to believe it and well...she is popular.  But then when videos of her real life and real family are uploaded to YouTube she is an instant celebrity and everyone finds out you Isabella is for real.  Can her new friendships stand up under the deception?

Cute book and a nice setup.  I can see my 4th and 5th grade girls gobbling this up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Guts & Glory: World War II

This is my first time reading one of these Guts & Glory books.  I was impressed by the breadth of information covered but also the humor and brevity of each chapter.  Breaking it up that way - humor and short sections makes it easier to digest.  Perfect for a high school student or upper junior high interested in the topic.  Too advanced for my kiddos.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Image result for dive world war II stories

This well researched book told the stories of submarines and their sailors from the US entry into World War II until the end of the war.  Each year was highlighted with tales of ships and their patrols.  What I liked was that each chapter was relatively short and there was a lot of photographs and links to other information and resources.  There was also extensive back matter.  Very well done.

This is too bulky for my students (up to 5th grade) but perfect for 7th and up - especially those interested in the war and submarines.  Very well done.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Only Road

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I was drawn to this book because of my experiences in Guatemala.  Last time I was there a teenage girl spoke of her desire to escape to the US for a better life.  Some people on our team talked her out of it due to the dangers...  but one can see the appeal.

In this book, Jamie and Miguel are targeted by the local gang.  It really is either join or die - and then, one day when he is alone, Miguel is killed.  Now, even more, Jamie is in danger and so is his cousin Angela who caught the eye of the gang.  There only road is escape to the US to join Jamie's older brother.  But even with money the way is dangerous - more gangs, trains, immigration workers, and more.  Can Jamie and Angela make it safely?

I am torn by the immigration issue - I feel for the refugees and those just searching for a better life but worry about our resources being stretched thin.  This book really brought to life the struggle.  Loved it.

This Land is Our Land

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This land explores immigration issues in our country going all the way back to the early colonist like Ben Franklin who didn't want the Germans coming over.  It looks at other ethnic groups that have been discriminated against and kept out and continues all the way through to today's refugee conflict and the talk about a wall at the border.  It really put a lot of things into perspective.  I feel like this would be a good book for upper junior high or even high school as a comprehensive look at the issue.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Extraordinary Suzy Wright

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This was a really interesting account of Suzy Wright.  Born in England she traveled with her Quaker family to the colonies to avoid persecution.  They settled in Pennsylvania where the family prospered.  Suzy never married and because of this she was able to own land and have more freedom than most women of her time.  She practiced law, was friends with Ben Franklin and was well known and regarded.  The book is told through excerpts of her poetry, other people's reminiscences, and her own words as well as pieced together through documents.  I found the account interesting - younger readers would struggle with the 1700 and 1800s language.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


What a fascinating book - a look into the lives of three people - Dr. Alfred Blalock, Dr. Helen Taussig, and Vivien Thomas - who created the procedure that saved the lives of blue babies.  What I found particularly interesting - but also a little disappointing - was that the book really focused on Vivien Thomas and the discrimination he faced because he was African American.  I loved that this book exposed the issue and brought his role to light.  I just felt that the title of the book didn't adequately portray the content and its focus on Thomas.  Yes, Blalock and Taussig were discussed as well as the actual research and procedure but Thomas was really the focal point and I wish the title better reflected that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Knights of the Borrowed Dark

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Denizen only remembers living at the orphanage but around his 13th birthday his whole life changes.  He discovers that he has an aunt, that he has the power to detect Tenebrae, and he could become a Knight of the Borrowed Dark.  But what really happened to his parents and why are the Tenebrae breaching more than ever and threatening war.  Denizen must come to terms with who he is and try to find the Tenebrae king's "mercy" before it is too late.

For me this was too much - not really my kind of book although I did like the twist near the end.  Probably a bit too difficult for the students at my school.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gorillas Up Close

This was an interesting book about gorillas in the wild and in captivity.  It mainly focused on gorillas in a family troop at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the silverback Kwan.  Many facts about gorilla behavior, the new ways they are kept at zoos, and their intelligence.  I enjoyed the book quite a bit but must confess that by the end they were just so many different gorillas being discussed that it got a bit ho hum.  For students really interesting in gorillas this would be a great read.

27 Magic Words

I am so not sure what to do with this book.  For most of the book I thought it was a magical fantasy and then it turned tragically realistic.  Is it too sad for my students?  Not that I would censor it per se - but would I strongly recommend.  I thought the writing was lovely...

Kobi's mother, a writer gave her 27 words on post it notes and she was told they were "magic".  Since her parents' disappearance Kobi has found out what magic most of the words contain - especially Avanti which lets her see her parents on the island they are stranded on.  But they haven't returned and things are changing - her grandmother is getting married, her and her sister are drifting apart, and they are staying with an uncle that Kobi doesn't remember ever meeting.  Can she figure out what the rest of the magic words mean and find a way to get her parents back?

Like I said, well written but sad...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Great White Shark Scientists

I have read quite a few books in the "Scientists in the Field" series.  I have found some to be really good and some just meh.  This one was okay - following the work of some scientists studying the Great White Shark.  It was interesting to see how many were in the New England area where they were studying.  But...  it got kind of boring for me and I am not sure how many of my students at least would stick with it.

You Can Fly

I thought this was a very interesting poetic narrative about the Tuskegee Airmen.  Pretty interesting that is was written in 2nd person which is pretty rare.  I think some of my teachers would appreciate that as it is hard to teach.  Well done.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Will's Words

 It is a short history of Shakespeare and some of the sayings - still around - that were used in his plays.  The format is a page of text - history of the theater, Shakespeare himself, the time period with certain phrases highlighted.  The next page defines the phrases and one of Shakespeare's plays that contain the phrase.  Accessible and readable.  Really enjoyable.

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea

This was a really cool account of Marie Tharp and her work mapping the ocean floor and helping to validate the theory of continental drift and plate tectonics.  The book was very accessible and I liked how it was told in first person.  Very good.

Going, Going, Gone

I really enjoyed this cute little book.  The librarian is a hoot and is in charge of a time machine book.  Grace, Luis, and Matt all have the opportunity to travel back in time to help Matt's Grandpa Joe get his chance in the big leagues.

I think I will look into getting this book and the continuing series for my school.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Snow White

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Alas, I received an ARC from NetGalley and it doesn't do the book justice.  I can't wait to get a physical copy of the book because from what I could tell it is gorgeous and the concept of Snow White set in the 1920s is fantastic.


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Loved this one so much.  Maya's family moves to a new town in the hopes that it will be better for Cat's health.  Cat has Cystic Fibrosis.  The town has a very strong Latino heritage and is especially in tune with the Day of the Dead and local ghosts.  Maya isn't very comfortable about it, especially when some ghosts - who take in oxygen from living people around them - inadvertently cause Cat to have a health issue.  Eventually though Maya comes around and starts to enjoy the culture and her new friends.

I loved the tie in with Cystic Fibrosis and the Day of the Dead.  This is a strong book. 

The Tudors

Image result for tudors kings queens marcia williams

A clever introduction to the Tudors - Henry VII, Henry VIII (and all his wives), Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth.  The format made it accessible and even funny.  Not sure why the ferrets were included necessarily - I don't think they were needed to make the book cuter or funnier.  Not sure how interested my students will be in this type of history but I liked it.