Sunday, December 31, 2017
What is it with pigs this year? Several books I have read with pigs in them...
Ruby Clyde Henderson has had an unconventional life. Her father was shot right before she was born. Her mother, who is not so great at coping, has taken up with a shady character named Carl. In the middle of the night the left their homes for his dream of Hollywood. On the way they steal a pig from a local "zoo" and then Carl decided to rob a gas station. He was caught and Ruby's mother was also accused. Ruby who had been hiding during the robbery has no idea what to do. She decides to find her Aunt Eleanor, her mom's estranged twin who is a nun. There Ruby finds a new family and learns to trust again. But what will happen if her mom is convicted?
I thought this was actually pretty good. I was a bit confused at the ending because I thought the lawyer was in the dark - must have missed something in my speedy reading.
Imogene is a member of a crime family. Ever since she was a young girl she has been learning how to be a good criminal. But when her grandmother died she became disillusioned and decided to go to a proper boarding school and become respectable. Now she wants to be head girl at the school. But then the school finds out about her family and since they have just all been arrested for stealing an ultra rare lunch box there is no way she can stay at the school.
So back home Imogene goes to prove that there was no way her family could have committed the crime - because honestly, without her grandmother, they stink at crime. But once she is home Imogene is swept up into her family relationships and the thrill of planning a heist.
This book was funny, charming, and a bit mad cap. There were a few surprises along the way as well.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
This was a decent book about a girl whose brother rescued a runt pig and then brought it home. Once there the girl Josie was told she had til the New Year to find a new home for the pig. At first she wanted to convince her parents to keep it but as the pig grew larger she realized that the pig needed to be on a farm. Then she really had to try and find the pig a home - one that wouldn't involve a butcher.
The story - to me moved slowly. There was a lot of time spent with Josie and her gymnastics (and then she talked about giving it up at the end). I felt there were also some teasers that never got fleshed out fully - her dad's boss, some money issues, a crush. My biggest issue was that there was supposed to be a huge relationship between Josie and Hamlet but it never felt that real to me.
It could be because I have read so many books in the last week and I am really looking for something that just wows me.
This was a short, quiet book about a goat that lives up on the roof of an apartment building. The story is told through the perspective of some of the residents - a blind author, a man who had a stroke and his wife, a family that is apartment and dog sitting, a man who brought the goat to the apartment building in the first place, and the goat. The book took awhile to unfold but the last 1/3 of the book all came together and was quite fun.
Friday, December 29, 2017
I had 3 "Jimmy" books and I wanted to read them all to see about potential fits for MSBA. I have to say Laugh Out Loud was probably my favorite of the 3 but this one was also good. I think my issue with this one is that is the first in a series so there is more to come.
In this book Kelvin has moved to a new space station. His parents are brilliant scientists and every believes he is a mega genius. He's not. Kelvin is trying hard to fit in to a new life and new friends. But there is a scientist on the station who decides, since he can never beat Kelvin's parents at anything, that he will be an evil scientist.
So... I felt that the fast pace kept me from fully understanding the main issue if that makes sense. Maybe things will become clearer as the series progresses.
I love this book!! No I don't think I actually laughed out loud but I am an adult not a kid so what do I know. What I loved about it was the positive message and the love of books that just shone through. Yes, shameless promotion of a bunch of James Patterson's books - brilliant. But, in addition, there were references to some other great books as well. I can't wait to get this into my library and into my student's hands.
This is a book I have been debating for awhile. On the one hand I love time travel type books but the cover kind of put me off. I am glad I read it - not sure how well it will be received by kids and there are some flaws but...
The book focuses on Claire and Annie who are separated by about 30 years. Claire lives with her mother in an old lighthouse. Since the death of her sister Annie, Claire has been eaten up by guilt and grief and her mother is consumed with her art. Claire just wants to get away. Annie lives with her mother and father in Toronto. She has no other relatives. While her parents are all business she is an introspective artist.
When Annie's mother is in a car accident and is in a coma, Annie suddenly finds herself traveling through paintings and visiting Claire. How are they connected? Why is this happening?
So a few issues with the book - who exactly was Mrs. Silver? It never really said. The whole traveling through a painting? Not really explained in any way. Also, anytime a book goes back and forth between characters it can be hard to keep them straight, especially when there is an Annie in both settings.
Overall I did enjoy the book though - quite intriguing and a good message.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Arturo's family owns a Cuban restaurant on Miami and when an empty lot next door comes up for sale they put in a bid. Unfortunately, a bid is also put in by a big land developer. He wants to build a high rise with apartments, cafes, a gym, and more. In addition, he needs the land that the restaurant is currently on. Arturo and his family set out to fight the developer and prove that a family run business is better for the community.
This book had spunk and with the subplots of a crush and Arturo's relationship with his grandmother there was a lot of positives. The negative though was the Spanish. There were a lot of Spanish phrases and sentences and for students with no background (an no translations provided) they will be lost. I don't think the Spanish is a make or break but it will be distracting to my readers.
This was an odd book. When I requested it I didn't realize it was #6 in a series so that affected my reading a bit. In this book a girl unwittingly bring Little Red Riding-hood out of a storybook and into read life. Then she and the others in her club have to find a way to get her back. In addition, they are worried that the Big Bad Wolf may have also come with Red.
The language was quite advanced for what I feel was the intended audience which made the book seem a bit off.
Goldeline is known as the white witch of the woods. She helps a group of bandits, led by Gruff, by acting innocent and lost. Living with bandits isn't the best life, but since the death of her mother, it's the best she's got. During one heist Goldeline decides to help a young boy named Tommy and in doing so draws attention not only to the bandits but also herself. Now, the Preacher, from the nearby town is after the bandits, after Goldeline, after anyone who is different. Can Goldeline save the ones she loves and maybe find a family?
I was really enjoying this until the last 40 pages or so and then I just didn't like the turn it took or how it ended. Disappointed by it in the end...
David and Michael have been called Pottymouth and Stoopod ever since they were in preschool. Michael makes up "potty" words and David, while not actually stupid, did some silly things back when he was young that earned him that nickname. The problem is - the names stuck. They are picked last at gym, teachers don't believe them, and they have few friends besides each other.
But then, David's ex dad takes their "story" and turns it into a cartoon. Pottymouth and Stoopid go viral. But will this fame lead to more teasing or can David and Michael turn the tables.
This is one of those books that kids will enjoy far more than adults - and that's a good thing.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Edie's rule breaking, adventurous grandmother, whom she never met has just died. Now Edie, her siblings, and her parents are at Grandma Petunia's house to renovate it and get it ready to sell. Her Uncle and his daughter are also there. Edie is worried about being away from her best friend for weeks because she already feels like they were drifting apart. Maybe she can impress her friend and her cousin Rae by completing a list of ideas that her Grandmother made years ago. But maybe being brave is more about learning to be yourself than just checking off items on a list.
This was a serviceable realistic fiction story. For readers who like this type of thing it will be a good fit.
It's 1940 near Liverpool, England. Joan and her family are going through what everyone else there is going through - the Blitz, rationing, fear for loved ones. But there are some other things - a mysterious man lurking around the neighborhood and a black market scandal.
The story took a while to get going - I guess it was just the set up - but I am afraid most readers wouldn't stick with it long enough. The second half was quite good.
Monday, December 25, 2017
The book begins with the death of Mor's baay (father). Although he is only 11 Mor wants to take care of his two sisters and stay in their village (his mother died years before). But his aunt wants to take them to the city where Mor will go to school and his sisters will work. Can Mor find a way to support his sisters and stay out of the local gang?
This was a very quiet book. While I appreciate the glimpse into another culture I am not sure my students will stick with it.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Fantasy is not my favorite - there are notable exceptions of course - but I have trouble with the names and settings. This one I did like though. It is by the author of How to Train Your Dragon and while I have not read the books I have seen the movies and this book has a very similar feel - quirky characters, madcap adventure, and humor.
Xar is a wizard with no powers. Wish is a warrior with no real skill. All their lives they have been taught to fear each other. But when they meet they find out they have to join forces to save some friends. In doing so they discover a long lost secret. Of course, they actually let that secret out and in doing so set the stage for more adventures.
I liked the relationship between the two, the humor, and the adventure. While the book is the first in the series it did end in a decent spot.
Saturday, December 23, 2017
When Martha is a little girl her parents are conductors on the Underground Railroad. One night they hide a slave girl who is about to have a baby. The baby is born but the slave girl dies. Because the baby is so light skinned Martha's parents decide to pass him off as a nephew that they have taken in.
Jake has some trouble fitting in an learning and Martha is mainly in charge of him. There is always the chance that someone will ask too many questions and when Jake is 7 a slave owner comes looking for him. Even though the family is able to legally keep the owner from taking Jake south, the owner decides to kidnap him. After a few months Martha decides to go south with the help of other abolitionists to get Jake back.
The book was pretty decent. There were some surprises and some good information about the Underground Railroad and the Fugitive Slave Act. There were some bits that would prevent me from having it in my particular library.
Friday, December 22, 2017
Jeremy is a retrieval specialist. When someone's things are stolen or confiscated by a teacher at school, Jeremy gets it back for them. But not everyone thinks he is doing the right thing. Becca, the daughter of a detective and a cop, is out to prove that he is nothing more than a thief. When one of his jobs, to retrieve a missing key, ends up giving a master key to an 8th grade criminal mastermind Jeremy and Becca must team up to get the key back and clear Jeremy's name.
This was a lot of fun. Good interactions between Jeremy and Becca, humor, a clever plan, and food for thought. I quite enjoyed this.
This book takes about the most famous of the Freedom Rides which occurred over 12 days in May and included the even on Mother's Day which result in the burning of one of the buses outside Anniston, Alabama. This book starts out well with a history of events leading up to the ride. Each day has an entry with what happened during that day and is accompanied by photographs. The book ends with events after the Freedom Ride and a brief biography of the 13 participants. This was well done and informative especially for middle grade readers just getting an introduction to the topic.
Every year the fifth graders participate in a Spirit Week competition that culminates in a Field Day. The winning team this year will get a prize. George and Lilly have been best friends forever and are sure they will be on the same team. But they are not. Instead they both end up being captains of the two teams. But it will be fine - may the best team win.
But... Lilly is very competitive and there are people on both sides who want to win at any cost. Some of the hijinks include stealing class pets, sliming lockers, dumping egg salad on the opposing team, and more. At first Lilly and George get caught up in everything and their friendship is in jeopardy but eventually they decide that their friendship is worth more and that teamwork and fair play are essential. Can they convince the rest of their teams or at least foul the sabotage attempts?
This was a cute book. I think it got a bit over the top and went a bit longer than it needed to but it was fun.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Owl has always wanted to know who her father is but her mother won't tell her. Her mother tells her fairytales but nothing real. Or are the tales real? Lately Owl has been experiencing strange things - being cold, making things look frosted over and she soon realizes that she is, in fact, the daughter of Jack Frost.
Owl's very existence is an issue for the fairy realm and there is a battle for power and Owl is a pawn. Can Owl get her father to admit their relationship and can she prove the conspiracy that is happening before it's too late?
This was pretty cool. Jack Frost was a great character and Owl's discovery about herself, her friends, and her family were good.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
This was a surprising book. The cover makes one think it will a be a cute book about a mischievous pony. And the pony, Dirt, is definitely mischievous. But the book is more about Yonder and the bond she makes with Dirt.
Yonder's life is kind of a mess. Since her mother's death her father has become an alcoholic and is really not taking care of her. Yonder has quit speaking and is getting bullied at school. When Dirt wanders over from a neighbor's house Yonder becomes attached to him. Eventually, when she learns that he owner might sell Dirt for horse meat, Yonder brings Dirt into her house. She has also quit going to school. Her dad doesn't notice but social services does.
Yonder is taken to foster care, Dirt runs off, and then her dad has a stroke. Can Yonder find Dirt and get back the one thing that has been good for her?
More heart than I thought...
Sunday, December 17, 2017
I am not sure I can pinpoint it exactly but this really didn't work for me. I think the premise - the boys pranked another kid by giving him a peanut butter sandwich when he was allergic to it. Then they all got sent to a summer camp for bullies? The prank itself wasn't explained well and how do you get sent to a camp for one offense? Where were the questions, explanations, etc??
I think the friendship between Ian, Ash, and Alva was pretty good but there needed to be more.
Invisible friend - it took me awhile to figure out that the Tom he kept referencing was Thomas Edison and was his invisible friend.
Freaks, time traveling in the bathroom with flushing? I just didn't really get it. Then the word pissed was used numerous times near the end? Why?
Saturday, December 16, 2017
I truly love a good sci fi, space book. Yep, Star Trek (and kindof Star Wars) nerd right here. And this did start out well. Children working as slaves on a mining planet. Some disappear every so often including the main character Daniel. But then he is returned, with his memory wiped. When he gets a chance he escapes the compound and eventually the planet and becomes part of the Truth Seekers. But there is a lot going on - good vs. evil, relics with great power, and a traitor in their midst.
I think the book had a lot of potential and I think as the series progresses it will probably be quite interesting. I felt I didn't get to know some of the characters well and it was a lost opportunity - especially the other "kids" on the Truth Seekers - not enough of their friendships developed. There were also 2 surprises near the end but I didn't feel invested enough in the 2 characters involved for it to really impact me.
Friday, December 15, 2017
I would love to see a shiny sticker on the cover of this book in a few months. It was that good. I had the opportunity to listen to it on audio and there were several times that I was entranced by the quality of the writing.
Crow has lived her whole life on a tiny island with Osh, the man who discovered her as a baby in a skiff. But where did she come from. After someone moves to another island nearby as a game warden, Crow starts finding out more about her own ties to the island. But the truth can be hard to deal with especially when there are others who fear who she is or who want what has been left for her.
Well done. It has a touch of danger to it but I think readers will be able to handle it.
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Carter is quick with his hands. He knows a lot of tricks. But his uncle, who is his guardian because his parents died, wants him to use his tricks to steal from people. So Carter decides to run away. He soon finds himself in the town of Mineral Wells. But, he soon finds himself in the sights of B. B Bosso who runs a carnival and would love to have Carter on his staff as they swindle people. Fortunately Carter meets some new friends, kids like him who have some unusual talents and want to keep Bosso and his gang from stealing. Can Carter find a family with this group of misfits and save the town as well?
This was a cute read and good for my younger students. It may also increase interest in magic.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Ok, I confess at first I was really annoyed with this book. Seriously, how many middle school novels have I read when two best friends are suddenly at odds after the summer or vacation or something? One becomes interested in boys, clothes, being popular and the other one is left out. And yes, that is the basic premise of this story. So what makes it different? Well, Karma's mustache for one. Funny and embarrassing and ultimately the basis for a life lesson. Having Karma be part Indian made the story a bit more interesting as well. I wish there had been more with certain characters - particularly David. Overall, to be honest, middle school kids enjoy these types of books because it does represent their lives and struggles so this wasn't all bad :)
I can see now why this has been on so many end of the year, "best" lists. This was so much fun.
Jean and her family live in a secluded village in the far north. Their village has some pretty strange traditions including eating bear liver. This year is Jean's first year to partake in that tradition but she is unable to stomach the delicacy. Soon after the ceremony all the adults go into a strange sleep. The mayor's son then decides that all the kids will just take over their parents jobs and duties - including voting on a new controversial factory - until the parents wake up.
But Jean thinks something fishy is going on. Can she prove it and save her town from the new mayor and his allies?
This was clever and lots of fun. Very enjoyable.
Oscar Indigo loves baseball but he is terrible at it. He is encouraging, he shows up for all the practices but he never gets to play. But that all changes when, while visiting an elderly neighbor, he gets a watch that can stop time. When Oscar decides to stop time during the first game of their championship baseball series in order to score a homerun he not only helps win the game but also loses 19 seconds of time. And the universe wants it back. Now all he has to do it get the watch back (which has been stolen), figure out how to get the 19 seconds back, and win the series fairly. Or the universe will be destroyed - no pressure.
I really liked the humor and cleverness. I enjoyed how the author brought in a version of the story where Babe Ruth was struck out by a girl. This was cute.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Steffany and her sister Nina have lived with their Aunt Gina for years. Their mom is in the hospital with a brain injury and their dad left. But now dad has come back and Aunt Gina has moved out and is getting ready to marry her boyfriend. Steffany wants her family to be whole again - her parents to reunite, her mom to get better - but will that really happen?
The story focuses a lot on Steffany's passion for cooking and how she uses that to cope with what is going on around her. Overall, the book was quiet and slow moving and there were a lot of unanswered questions. This will have an audience but I feel like I would need to find just the right readers for it.
While I love the story of Temple Grandin and have a longer biography of her in the school library I am not a fan of this shorter one. I felt like the rhyming read more like a Dr. Seuss book and it just didn't sit well with me. Kids would probably not mind though...
Cute and informative - what a winning combination for elementary nonfiction. Add in the combination of Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins and you have a masterpiece. From the clever rhymes - can an aardvark bark? can a kangaroo mew? and so on Stewart explains the sounds animals make in certain situations. Jenkins illustrations are lovely as usual. A fun nonfiction selection.
For anyone who actually reads this blog you may notice that there have been more nonfiction books than usual. In addition, many are shorter. No, this is not to ensure that I reach my goal on Goodreads (although it will help) or so I can rack up my reviews for Maine Student Book Award (not even counting many of these). Many of these books are actually nominated for Cybils. While I will be a finalist judge I am trying to read quite a few of the books now.
So onto this one. I am noticing a trend of shorter biographies and quite a few featuring women. Great!! For me I don't really see an audience for these types of books at my school but maybe I need to be promoting them more somehow.
Grace Hopper is fascinating. A woman who broke barriers and solved problems. She is an inspiration to all girls who dream to doing things outside the "norm".
Eugenie Clark was not even someone on my radar until a few years ago when I got a request from a student for a biography about her. In fact, almost every year since I have had a similar request. I think there must be a teacher in the district who has a book about her and then her students want more. Regardless, this was a good, short account of her life and especially her early fascination with fish in general and sharks in particular. While good, I still think I will need a longer biography to satisfy my students' curiosity.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
A children's book lover's dream - thank you John Newbery for "birthing" children's books. This was a cute look at John Newbery and his work in publishing - specifically publishing for children. I have been asked before why our American children's book award is named after an Englishman... but it is because he is truly the father of children's books.
This is the second Pete Seeger book I have read in the last two weeks and I have heard there were a few more published this year as well which intrigues me. As I believe I stated in my other review I was not really influenced by Seeger - kind of before my time. I think overall I liked the other book better - more information in the text where this relied on the timeline at the end for a lot of the factual bits.
I had visions of Forrest Gump running across America while reading this book. I had never before head of this transcontinental footrace so it was interesting. Much of it was really about the organizer and his lack of organization and profit but there were interesting stories of the participants as well and the challenges they faced. Fascinating stuff - but not sure it inspired me to run across country.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Morrigan Crow is a cursed child. She knows it, her family knows it, everyone knows it. So it is very unexpected when she attends the Bidding Ceremony and is actually bid on more than once. But were they serious offers? Especially when, as a cursed child, she is going to die at anytime.
But then, mysteriously, a benefactor named Jupiter, rescues her on the night of her looming death and takes her to Nevermoor where she will participate as his apprentice in the Wondrous Trials. But how can she win if she doesn't have any knack (talent) to speak of and what will happen if and when she fails?
I was surprised this was over 400 pages (read as an eBook) because it read very quickly. It was a lot of fun, quirky characters, and a clever world. While it appears there may be more about Morrigan it ended well.
I have read many fiction and nonfiction (mostly children's) books about the Holocaust. This book, based on the real life of Dita Polachova, was amazing. I found it to be one of the most thorough as far as day to day events inside Aushwitz. In addition, it was a testament to the human spirit and what hope can do. I loved the references to events that took place while she was there or other known people that she may have met. My one complaint was that Fredy Hirsch was not resolved in the book but rather in the afterwards but that may be because Dita did not learn the truth until after the events of the book.
Very well done!
Sunday, December 3, 2017
I love the author's voice. This is the second Guts and Glory book I have read and I will admit to laughing out loud several times and sharing excerpts with my husband. For a topic that could be dry - the American Revolution - that is a cool thing. Not only wasI reading this for Cybils but also to see if it would work for my school library. While I love it - it is too hefty for my 4th graders who study the Revolution (of course I think they are too young for it anyway but who asked me).
A well done look at trash - the issues of too much, where it is kept, how it is handled, and what can be done about it including recycling, upcycling, and more. What I liked were the infographics and bright visuals and that it wasn't overly "preachy". The facts were laid out well - problems and solutions.
I know this a really popular book right now and I can understand and appreciate why. I like the illustrations and I like the author's voice. It is a good history of the Statue of Liberty. But, even as the author says in the book, it takes awhile to get to the point - her right foot. Then when the book finally gets there I don't think the author solidly proves the point. Yes, idealistically we like to think Lady Liberty is moving forward to greet the immigrants but where is the evidence from the designer's perspective. Was that the intent? Even the section about the chains, while it says what it is intended to show, does not quote the source that proves it. I would just like more in the back matter even that substantiates the ideology. I agree with it... but as a librarian teaching research I would like more.
Saturday, December 2, 2017
Having been to the Vietnam Veterans memorial a few times I have to say it is one of the most beautiful, haunting, striking memorials I have ever seen. This was a great picture book biography of Maya Lin and how she grew up and became the designer of this memorial. Well done.
The Vanderbeekers, a crazy, fun, loving family has lived at the brownstone on 141st Street for years. Their landlord hasn't always liked their wild ways and antics but they ever expected that he would refuse to renew their lease and make them move right after Christmas. While their parents try to find a new place to live that they can afford the children have some plans of their own. Can they get Mr. Beiderman to change his mind? It would be a Christmas miracle if they could.
This was a sweet, gentle family story. There is certainly an audience for this but it was a bit too slow moving for me. I did like the ending.
Friday, December 1, 2017
Bad librarian! To just now be reading last year's Caldecott winning book. I had never heard of Jean-Michael Basquiat so this was an interesting look at his childhood and his road to becoming a famous artist. It did pique my interest and makes me want to know more about it. It does sound like there was some tragic aspects which, understandably, were not covered in this children's book.
Yes, I had heard of Pete Seeger but to be honest he was a bit before my time so I didn't know that much about him. This was an informative introduction into his early career especially and how he used his music to fight for justice. Well done picture book biography.
What a clever take on the Arthur legend!! The story begins with Merlin who is training Morgana. Merlin also has a dog Nosewise who is the star of the story. Nosewise would love to be just like Morgana, especially if he could learn how to open a door. But Morgana is frustrated with Merlin's restrictions and when her "father" asks her to do something for him she agrees. Unfortunately, her father is actually Oberon, the king of the Fey, and he wants Merlin to help him pull the sword from the stone. As Nosewise seeks to help Merlin escape from Oberon he meets a young servant named Arthur.
Full of adventure and humor and a few surprises this well please Arthur fans and maybe gain some new fans as well.