Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Locker Hero

From the author of Dork Diaries comes another series written in a "notebook" style.  This time it is Max Crumbly who unfortunately writes most of this while locked in his own locker over a 3 day weekend.  Well, he does manage to get out of the locker eventually but as he is looking for a way out of the school he comes across 3 burglars stealing the school's new computers.  

I thought the book was funny and I know kids will love it.  Hated the cliff hanger ending though.

The Black Lotus

In an alternate universe President Goda controls most of the world with the help of his two ancient swords.  The Black Lotus have so far been able to keep the third sword away from him because who knows what power would be unleashed if he had all three.  Ghost, Carmac, and Kate are three new Black Lotus recruits.  They all have abilities and they all have things in their past they would rather forget.  Can the new recruits and the rest of the Black Lotus keep the sword from Goda?

I liked the action and adventure of this even though there were some cheesy aspects and some issues.  Kids will eat this up.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Miss Muffet or What Came After

What a cute collection of poems that tell about Miss Muffet and what comes after the traditional nursery rhyme.  In it we find Patience (her real name) making friends with the spider, meeting Bo Peep, and playing violin for Old King Cole.  Very cute addition to nursery rhyme lore and may help spur interest back to those classics.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Oh my word, Dan Poblocki does it again.  This time it is a series with an app connected to it - so cool.  In the book 5 kids are drawn to a mysterious house - 1 thinks it's to meet a long lost relative, 2 think it is a movie location, another a special music school, and the final thinks it is a boarding school.  All of the kids are escaping something - a dead sister, a life in an orphanage, etc.  But when the get to the house nothing is as it should be and they find themselves trapped.  As they are looking around they meet 5 other mysterious kids in strange masks.  Who are these kids and what happened here.  The reader learns more about the back story by interacting with the free app.  Genius and very creepy.

Answering the Cry for Freedom

Well researched looks at the lives of 13 African Americans who were influenced by the ideals of the American Revolution and found freedom in many ways.  What bothered me a bit was that the title implied more of an American Revolution connection but most of the narratives were about their lives after the Revolution and some weren't even alive during the Revolution itself.  Learning about these people was good and the connections between many of them was also interesting.

League of Archers

Elinor has lived her whole life in awe of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.  They once helped out her whole village.  But lately things have changed...  Robin Hood has disappeared and life is back to the way it used to be.  Elinor and her friends - the League of Archers - play at being outlaws but really they are just hunting and trying to provide for their families.  Then one day Elinor meets a man in the woods.  While they are talking he is shot by a poisonous arrow.  When she talks him to the abbey where she lives she finds out that he is Robin Hood and her abbess is Maid Marion.  Unfortunately the Baron figures this out as well.  He accuses Elinor of killing Robin and arrests Marion.  Can Elinor rouse the Merry Men to rescue Marion or will she and her friends be on their own?

I have a basic familiarity with the Robin Hood story but not enough to really judge the authenticity of this.  But I loved this!!  It showed the complexity of characters - ones we put on a pedestal can actually be flawed.  I loved the strength of Elinor and the flow of this.  Well done.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Ever since Lola died Clara and her family have been in a black hole of mourning.  But when Clara finds a note in a purse from China she finds a purpose.  Somehow she feels she needs to save Yuming, a girl who was kidnapped and forced to work in a purse factory in China.

Told in alternating chapters this story tells of Clara's attempts to save Yuming and come to terms with the loss of her sister while Yuming is struggling to escape the factory and reunite with her family.

The book was pretty good.  I liked the premise.  I was worried about halfway through that the plot would play out too perfectly but while there were certainly some near misses and contrived coincidences the author did not take the easy way out at the end.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Ever since she was young Jubilee has not spoken - at least not to most people.  She was given up by her mother when she was young and has been taken care of by her Aunt Cora on an island in Maine.  At the beginning of this book she is going to start in a regular classroom for the first time.  But an old friend claims "no one wants" her and Jubilee believes it.  But Jubilee does rescue a dog and makes a friend with a new boy named Mason.  When Jubilee finds out that her mother has moved back to Maine and is living on the mainland she decides to go find her.  Will Jubilee find what she is looking for?

I read this because it was recommended by someone else.  It is a quiet book and sweet in its own way.  My concern is that it is too quiet and will not be appreciated by most of my readers.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cinnamon Moon

What I liked about this book was that is touched on the firestorm in Peshtigo, WI which happened at the same time as the Chicago fire and resulted in more deaths.  The main characters, Ailis and Quinn, were there and lost their whole family.  Now they have been taken in at a boardinghouse but are being forced to work instead of going to school.  To make matters worse, another young orphaned girl who was with them has been stolen and is being used as a rat catcher.  Can Ailis and Quinn find Nettie and make a life of their own?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Henry Cicada's Extraordinary Elktonium Escapade

Bummer - this book just did nothing at all for me.  I just was never able to get into it and lose myself.  It was too weird and quirky I guess....

Nothing But Trouble

Maggie's class is doomed.  There will be the last class to ever go through Odawahoka Middle School before it closes down.  All the other grades have been moved and now it is just them.  But Maggie wants the year to be memorable and with the help of her father's journals she intends to go out hacking.  Starting on the first day with tennis balls in the lockers Maggie sets out to have an epic year.  But the new principal is not pleased.  Fortunately, Lena, the new student at the school becomes Maggie's friend and together they create sublime hacks and create a movement in their school at the same time.

I loved this story.  I loved the hacking bits and the creativity there but there was also the friendship between Maggie and Lena, the underlying story of Maggie's mom and grandfather, and the bullying of the principal.  This was fun.  While there was a hint of a sequel at the end it ended in a satisfying way.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Left-Handed Fate

This book was mostly historical fiction set during the War of 1812 but by the end it had steam punk elements.  Max is on a quest to find pieces to a mysterious device.  His father died while trying to find it.  To aid his quest Max has hired the Left Handed Fate and her crew.  But there is a strange ship following them with St. Elmo's fire appearing when it appears.  There is also now a war going on.  During one battle the captain of the Left Handed Fate is killed leaving his daughter Lucy and son Liao in charge.  The ship is also now in control of Oliver Dexter, a twelve year old.

Can they find the pieces to the device?  And what exactly will it do and who will it help?

Most of the book plodded along in historical fiction fashion.  It wasn't until closer to the end that the device became clearer and the whole story took on a more steam punk feel.  I think there may be an audience for this but my students are too young to appreciate it.

The Music in George's Head

This book briefly told of George Gershwin’s life focusing specifically on his style of music and then the creation of his Rhapsody in Blue.  This is a good introduction and I could see it pair well with actually listening to some of Gershwin's music.

Grumbles From the Town

I rather liked this book with new takes on traditional nursery rhymes.  Nursery rhymes are not popular in my library at all and most kids these days (in my experience) don't know them.  Maybe reading and using this book would renew interest.  Maybe I will do that with my first graders.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Like Magic

Image result for like magic book

Three girls - Grace, Jada, and Malia - all facing worries and loneliness and all brought together by a mysterious box and a kind librarian.  All 3 girls take turns "checking out" a locked box and leaving treasures in it.  What they don't realize is that these treasures are bringing hope to the others when they are found and are drawing the three into a magical friendship.

This was a sweet story.  At times it was hard to remember who was who, especially when some of their stories overlapped.  The ending was very satisfying though.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero

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Mik would love to be a superhero.  He is a kind boy and likes to help people.  Trouble is...he's not sure exactly how to go about it.  He tries to create a costume like Ironman but it is too heavy - although he does get so use out of the defenses he creates.  What Mik discovers is that he can be pretty super without special powers.  He helps a homeless family, finds the people who kidnapped his dog, stopped some candy snatchers on Halloween.  

What I liked - Mik was very nice and helpful and had a good relationship with his family and his dog.

What I didn't like - It didn't seem to flow well, lots of time passes and it went from episode to episode.  There was also a "boss" that wasn't resolved.

My biggest gripe was that I got this from NetGalley showing as a 2016 release but....  It was actually first written in 2012 and has a sequel (assuming the "boss" is in that book).  While overall I enjoyed the book, it ended up being a waste of reading time for me since my committee does not consider rerelease books.


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There have been a lot more books about mental illnesses lately and I think that it a good thing.  In this book, Daniel has OCD but does not realize it.  He knows he is different and he has what he calls Zaps and Rituals but he is so embarrassed by it and wants to be normal that he doesn't seek help.  Enter Sally, the girl at school who doesn't talk - until she does talk to Daniel.  Together they form a friendship and a team.  Sally's father is missing and Sally believes her mother's boyfriend killed him.  Together Daniel and Sally try to figure our where her father is and slowly Daniel comes to understand what is happening to him.

I liked the story.  It did end up being sad - no spoilers - enough so that I probably won't put it in my library that only goes up to grade 5 but could certainly see it in a jr. high library.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Littlest Bigfoot

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Alice has always felt like an oddball.  Her hair is unruly, she is bigger than most girls her age, she doesn't have any friends, and her parents virtually ignore her.  She is about to start at a new school...

Mille is a Yare - or a Bigfoot - but she is small for her race and her fur is an odd color.  She wants to learn more about the No-Furs, she wants to sing, she also wants to belong.

One night Alice saves Millie from drowning and they become friends.  But rumors of Bigfoot abound, there is a boy and a mysterious organization on the trail, and Mille and Alice's friendship is in jeopardy.

Can the girls' friendship survive?  Will the people in the community and school learn that maybe we are all "freaks"?

This book had a lot of heart - I really enjoyed the friendship and the message.  There is a bit of a twist at the end that hints at a sequel but it ends well even with it...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fight to Learn

A book that talks about the fight for equal rights in education worldwide and people who have fought for or created opportunities both for themselves and others.  Good information here - suited for the middle school crowd.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone

Nick is sick of the abuse from his uncle so he decides to run away.  But when he stumbles across a strange house he gets more than he bargained for.  The house belongs to the Evil Wizard Smallbone who decides that Nick will be his apprentice - meaning Nick will cook, clean, take care of the animals.  Nick isn't happy but because of a spell - he can't leave.  Slowly Nick begins to learn magic for himself by reading many of the books in the bookstore that the wizard runs.  He also finds out about the nearby town, Smallbone Cove, and the arrangement between the wizard and the residents.

So this book is 406 pages which can be daunting.  The book was recommended to me though so I wanted to give it a go.  It is set in Maine but that doesn't really have much impact except for the fishing, cold winter, and seals.  I did like the character development and the ending was good.  I felt the climax was a bit anticlimactic but overall I enjoyed it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Totally Gross History of Ancient Rome

This book covers "gross" hygiene, entertainment, food and medicine of the ancient Romans.  Kids like "gross" things so this could fill a niche especially if your collection doesn't already have a similar book (my collection does).  Good but not a must have.

The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez

Although I am not typically a fan of animal fantasy I thought I would give this a go...  and I still am not a fan of animal fantasy.

Mateo swears he saw two skunks steal his (ok, really his sister's now) trike but who would believe him?  But, it is missing and Mateo has to convince his best friend and his sister to help him find it.  Can they find the trike and help their new friends in the process?

So...  I just never really got into this.  Didn't really seem to get anywhere and too many unanswered questions.  Why could those 2 skunks talk for example?  So they needed the trike to get to the playground first and when they did so they won the "midnight war" but then what?  They will now take the trike every night?  What about the issue with Mateo and the bullies that bother him.  Just left with a meh.