Monday, August 21, 2017

The Van Gogh Deception

When a boy is found at the National Gallery in D.C with no memory of who he is or how he got there the police bring him in, set him up in a temporary foster home, and start looking for his parents.  But others are looking for the boy as well.  This boy is placed with a foster mom and her daughter, Camille.  The next day they decide to go back to the museum to see if it will jog any memories and soon things start coming back piece by piece - his name which is Art, his backpack, his knowledge of artwork, and what happened to his father.  As his memories return Art becomes more dangerous to those who are trying to find him.  Can Art and Camille stay one step ahead and prevent a major art scandal?

This was a fun action, adventure, mystery!!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Forest World

Edver's mother, a cryptozoologist originally from Cuba decides to send him to Cuba to visit his father for the summer.  What she has never told him is that he has a sister - Luza.  The book, told in alternating voices through poetry, is mainly about Edver and Luza learning about each other.  There is also a lot about Cuban culture and the forest and a mysterious poacher that Edver and Luza unknowingly attracted to the island and now feel they need to capture.

There were parts I liked and the poetry itself was well done but overall the story was just kind of meh.  I wish there had been more - especially about the dad.


This is the second book in Jason Reynolds Track series.  In this book we follow Patina who is a friend of Ghost's from the first book.  Patina is being raised by her aunt (Momly) and her uncle who are white.  Her father died and her mother has had both legs amputated due to diabetes and can no longer care for Patina and her sister Maddy.  The book takes place in the course of a week as Patina adjusts to her new school, new team, and some events in her family life.

I did not find this one as strong as Ghost but readers will enjoy the continuation of the series.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Room of Shadows

Wow, this was something.  My daughter is a big Edgar Allan Poe fan - earrings, t-shirts, a clay puppet she made...  So from that perspective I enjoyed this creepy Dr. Jekyll and Hyde tale of Poe (who was buried alive) and David who unknowingly released Poe.  I loved the allusions to Poe's work but I don't know about the audience.  The book as a whole read younger to me - David and Libby didn't seem to be 8th graders - until they kissed I guess - but the Poe characteristics make me hesitant to give the book to my younger students.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Trail

I love hiking and my dream is to someday do some of the Appalachian Trail.  That is what drew me to this book.  It tells the story of Toby who feels he needs to hike from near his home in Vermont to Katahdin to finish a list he created with his best friend.  A friend who died.  So Toby (12) leaves home to walk the trail.  Along the way he encounters moose, bear, skunks, almost dies of hypothermia, loses his pack to a drunk but ultimately manages to survive on his own and saves a dog.

Now I will say the book was quite adventurous but...  highly unrealistic.  First - he's 12.  I question whether he would have gotten that far alone without anyone noticing, stopping him.  Then he really faced almost every imaginable thing that could happen on the trail (nope, didn't meet a porcupine) - to the point of being too unbelievable.  I did like his growth and determination and kids won't mind the unlikelihood of his adventures.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bean Stalker

This was clever and funny.  Take well known fairytales, mix them together with puns and homonyms, add in zombies and vampires and you have a funny, slightly scary book of tales.  I liked it.

Things That Surprise You

I read a lot of books....  This wasn't bad and for 4th or 5th graders (girls most likely if we're honest) this will be okay.  For me, too many tropes and not enough freshness.  I did like the older sister and how the book dealt some with her eating disorder.

I read an ARC from NetGalley and found 2 big editing issues that I hope are resolved by the final printing.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beast and Crown

I just don't think fantasy is my thing anymore - especially what I consider more high fantasy with creatures, made up setting, etc.  I did like this at first but as it went along and especially as I realized it wasn't really going to end I really lost interest.

Ji is a boot boy and he is so sick of being a servant, especially when is means you can be sold like his friend Sally's brother or mistreated.  Ji has been slowly stealing trinkets off the boots he's cleaning in order to buy Chib back but all that is thrown away when he and his friends are forced to serve Brace who is going to be in the Diadem Rite that chooses the next king or queen.  Unfortunately for them the rite is not pleasant.  Can Ji and his friends save Chib and avoid being killed?

Like I said, I enjoyed this at first but it got kind of long and I knew there would be a sequel.  I did like when Ji found out what he had been turned into.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

Oh, Avi - you truly are a masterful writer and no doubt this was well researched and probably quite accurate but it just didn't do anything for me.  And the ending - having to wait for another book - makes me sad.

The book started with Oliver Cromwell Pitts waking up to a flooding house and a father who has disappeared.  His father did leave a note but the note got wet and Oliver can barely read any of it.  He only knows his father went to London because of his sister who is there.  How long will his father be gone and what is Oliver to do in the meantime.  Well, he ends up in a home for orphans briefly, steals money from a sunken ship, is kidnapped by highwayman and forced to help with a robbery but he finally makes his way to London where he eventually finds his father and sister.  But then they are all caught and arrested for various crimes.  Eventually Oliver and his sister Charity are found guilty and are sent to America and the plan is that there father - who was able to buy his way out of his guilty verdict - will join them in America.  But Oliver and Charity get separated and...  That's where it ends - grr. 

So for a historical fiction it was well researched and probably accurate.  I just didn't find it super engaging - to be fair I did listen to it in very choppy increments though.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trackers Canyon

This was unexpected.  At first I wan't sure I wanted to finish it because of the swearing - it will not go in my library.  But, the adventure, mystery, and suspense hooked me.

Tristan's dad disappeared in the Lower Canyon months ago.  His mom is a wreck, his uncle is trying (and failing) to run their business, and Tristan wished he knew why his father went to the canyon alone and what happened.  After months of not canyoneering he not only meets a tracker who befriends him but also gets invited to go on a trip for free.  But the guide, Brigit, is a bit odd - she runs hot and cold but maybe that's because she is only 19 and is in charge of her brother after her mom died only a few months earlier.

But wait...  turns out Brigit believes her mom and Tristan's dad were in the canyon together and now she wants revenge.

This is really like candy - not overly deep but a good adventure and I can see the appeal.


This book was so good - so much yes!!!

This book follows the lives of 3 refugees.  Josef and his family are trying to escape Germany right before WWII, Isabel is escaping Cuba in 1994 with her family, and Mahmoud and his family are escaping Syria in 2015.  All of them face hardships, danger, death, and are misunderstood.

This book was powerful especially in light of how Gratz was able to weave the stories together.  Some might find the intersections of stories forced but I found it beautiful and touching.  Loved this!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Song From Somewhere Else

First off, let me say that I read this as an eBook so the illustrations were not as good as they probably are in the physical version - they probably add to the experience for sure.

Frank is bullied pretty badly, especially during the summer with her best friends gone.  One day as she is putting up posters about her missing cat, Nick, a very large boy who is also teased, helps her out.  She ends up going to his house where she hears strange music.  In time she learns that the music comes from another world where Nick's mom, a troll-like woman is from.  But there are other creatures who would like access to the portal in Nick's basement and unfortunately Frank reveals the secret.

Friday, August 11, 2017

In the Shadow of the Sun

How timely is this??

Mia and her brother Simon have gone with their dad to North Korea of all places. Their dad works for a relief organization so has been to North Korea before and Mia is actually adopted from South Korea - so why not?? But Simon is not happy - teenage boy angst and anger and Mia is just confused, especially when she sees her dad leave his hotel room late at night. But then things really take a turn for the worse when Mia mysteriously gets a phone that has photos on it of prison camps run by the North Koreans and then their father is arrested. Mia and Simon don't really know what to do - being caught with the pictures would probably mean more trouble for their dad but turning over the pictures just hides the evidence. So Simon and Mia run...

Can Mia and Simon get to the border safely and will their dad be ok? The book sheds light on North Korean culture and issues and is also a fast paced adventure.

Stealing Our Way Home

Life has not been the same since their mother died.  Their dad is floundering, Pippa isn't talking, and Jack feels guilty about it all.  It gets worse though when Jack finds out that his father has lost his business, can't pay the bills, and is about to lose their house.  In order to find money their dad decides to rob a bank and asks Jack to help.  What is Jack supposed to do?  He promised his mother that he would help keep the family together.  But by stealing?  Then Pippa finds out as well, but she can't communicate what she knows.  Is stealing the answer or is there another way to stay together?

This was quite good and could be a good discussion starter.  Lots of wisdom especially at the end.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Secret Grave

Hannah loves the old house they've moved into and call Nightshade.  It was actually a house her grandparents lived in for a year long ago.  She even decides to "haunt" the house for fun.  But then weird things start happening - noises in the attic, things missing, and Cady, a girl who lives in the woods and comes and goes mysteriously.  Cady isn't very nice to Hannah, but since Hannah's best friends are gone for the summer Hannah hangs out with her anyway.  But when Hannah discovers a cemetery out in the woods and Cady insists on having a midnight swim Hannah starts to worry about who Cady really is.

This book really reminded me of Wait Til Helen Comes (which I love) - especially the climax in the lake.  That's not necessarily a bad thing - my students will love it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Bone Thief

It's hard being normal when you live in a magical town like Quiver Hollows.  Grimsly has friends who bend spoons, use telepathy, and even levitate but he can't do anything.  Then all of a sudden the magic in the town starts disappearing and Grimsly discovers that he is the Keeper and he is supposed to be in charge of keeping the bones of all the magical creatures in Quiver Hollows.  But someone has stolen the bones and now Grimsly has to find them.  In doing so he uncovers his own history and a terrible curse.  Can Grimsly save the home he loves?

So I liked this at first but then it got a bit weird for me - when some of the bones ended up being human and when people were eating the ground up bone powder (just animals).  It also annoyed me that Grimsly felt so guilty about failing as the Keeper when no one had ever even told him he was.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

In Darkling Wood

Alice’s brother needs a new heart and when one becomes available Alice is sent to stay with a grandmother she doesn’t even know.  When she gets there she hears of her grandmother’s plans to cut down the Darkling Wood all around her house.  At first Alice agrees with the decision but she soon meets friends, including an elusive one named Flo, who are against the decision.  In fact, Flo says, if the wood is torn down the fairies will do terrible things.  Flo says that Alice needs to believe in the fairies to help them stop the wood from being destroyed.  Alice struggles with this but as time passes and her brother gets worse and every plan to tear down the woods in thwarted she begins to think maybe fairies are real after all.  Can she save the woods and also find out what happened between her father and her grandmother long ago?

This was a clever book.  Throughout the book we get snippets of letters from a girl to her brother in WWI.  It isn’t until the end of the book that everything comes together.  There are also some great historical bits about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and fairies.  A good read.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Crossing Ebenezer Creek

Heartbreaking!!  I think if I had realized this was based on an actual event I wouldn't have been so surprised and saddened by the ending - it is still sad but I would have been more prepared for the reality of it.

The book follows Mariah, her brother Zeke, and other former slaves who follow Sherman's troops as they travel through the south.  The book focuses primarily on Mariah and Caleb's blossoming love and Mariah's struggle especially with her new freedom and anger and resentment over her lives in slavery.

As I was reading the book I felt that it really focused on the evils of slavery - and there were many - as seen through Mariah's eyes.  But the story just sort of went from one revelation to the next along the journey with very little else to carry it.  The ending was tragic and I am glad that I learned about this event in history though.

Armstrong & Charlie

Integration is coming to the schools in a California neighborhood in the late 60s.  Some of Charlie's classmates are switching to private schools or just others schools to avoid it but Charlie's parents want him to stay.  Armstrong has been chosen to be one of the students that is bused across town.  Right off the bat the two boys have conflict - arm wrestling competition, stolen Ho Ho's and revenge of the hot sauce, and a clash of cultures but over time the two boys come to an understanding and a friendship that sticks togethers.

This was a really nice look at not only the issues surrounding integration at the time but also the friendship just between the two boys.  There were a few instances of language and a few situations that make this better suited for students older than my 5th graders but a good read. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Williams Wenton and the Impossible Puzzle

For the last 8 years, ever since the car accident that paralyzed his dad and his grandfather's disappearance, William and his family have been living in hiding in Norway.  Even though William loves solving puzzles his dad does everything he can to keep him away from them.  But when an "impossible puzzle" is displayed at a nearby museum William can't stop himself.  Then when he actually solves it things get really interesting.  Who is after him and where is his grandfather.  Together William and his new friend try to figure things out.

Good action, good adventure.  I found a few editing errors but overall it was a fun ride.

Friday, August 4, 2017

This is quite the adventure - steam punk, mystery, and more.  In the past the Morningstarr twins were responsible for the development of most of New York City as well as fantastical inventions.  Then they disappeared, leaving a mystery and a treasure.

Now, about 150 years later, the cipher has still never been solved and there are people who think change needs to happen.  One change is the purchase and eviction of residents from a famous Morningstarr building.  Twins Tess and Theo and their friend Jamie live in the building and hope to solve the cipher in order to save their home.  But the process and results are not what they expected.

I loved the book for the most part.  I felt it got bogged down a little at times - too much filler between clues and the ending - arg.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Supernormal Sleuthing...

Stephen's dad has just moved him from Chicago to New York so that his dad can take over his grandma's job as head cook at a hotel.  The problem - it's not an ordinary hotel.  The guests at this hotel are supernormal (not monsters) - vampires, fae, ghouls, Bigfoot, and so on.  Not that Stephen knew any of this.  And that's not the biggest surprise - nope, turns out his mother was a fae and so that makes him half fae.  When his dad's cookbook, his legacy, is stolen it is up to Stephen and his new friends to figure out who stole it.

I had hoped for a bit more mystery, more sleuthing and this just wasn't enough.  There was action, humor, and I did like the ending but overall it wasn't my favorite.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Mars One

It's 2027 and after years of preparation Tristan and his family as well as 30+ other people are about to leave for Mars.  It is what they have trained for and they are ready.  Sure there are things making it hard - Tristan's girlfriend Isabelle being one and protests by a fanatic group being another but it's time. The trip starts of with bad news when they find out the Chinese secretly sent a ship before them and then to make matters worse, the Chinese ship seems damaged in some way and the colonists never made it to the surface.  Besides that, for the most part everything goes great, even boring almost until unthinkable, unimaginable malfunctions happen.  Tristan, his friends, and some others soon realize that the incidents could only be sabotage.  But who would do such a thing?  Will Mars One ever make it to Mars and what will they find when they get there?

Action packed and very enjoyable!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Chester and Gus

Chester is bred to be a service dog.  But his fear of loud noises makes him unqualified.  Gus has autism and his parents hope that a dog will help him with his social skills.  At first Chester and Gus have trouble connecting but they soon develop a special bond.  Unfortunately, the school discovers they can't really let Chester stay in school but when everyone witnesses Chester's ability to predict Gus' seizures everything changes.

Really nice book, heartwarming.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Orphan Island

Every year it is the same.  1 child arrives on the boat and another, the eldest child, leaves.  The new child falls under the care of the new elder child and so it goes year after year.  But now it's Jinny's turn.  The boat has just taken her best friend Deen and she is in charse of Ess.  But Jinny is conflicted - she doesn't want to leave.  What would happen if she broke the rules?

This was haunting and in the end left more questions than answers but it was beautifully written.  Would be one to discuss for sure.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Someday Suitcase

Clover and Danny are always better when they are together.  Their friendship is perfect, they balance each other out, it is symbiotic.  When Danny becomes sick, Clover tries to scientifically figure out what is wrong and more importantly how to fix him.  Could she be the answer?

A beautiful book about friendship, hope, and magic.

Friday, July 28, 2017


After cell phones are banned the middle school resorts to post it notes to send messages.  Frost and his friends Bench, DeeDee, and Mozart find themselves in the middle of it and their friendship is tested.  Not only that but a new girl Rose, threatens their tribe.

This was really interesting.  Anderson captured the dynamics of the middle school - good and bad.  Quite realistic.  Words can be powerful things.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pigs Might Fly

Lily has been working on an aircraft design but no one knows about it - not even her inventor father.  But then Warthog planes fly overhead on a scouting mission and it's imperative that the pigs get aircraft soon.  But Lily's dad won't listen to her so she takes matters into her own hands and goes off to find the source of the warthog's power.  But what she finds is an old friend who is obsessed with revenge and magic.  Can Lily save the Pigdom?

It is no secret that I don't love graphic novels.  I was not really a fan of this but my students will probably like it.


Rachel has scoliosis.  It's hereditary, she knows it and it has been monitored.  But all of a sudden it is getting worse and she is going to have to get a brace.  Why now?  It's right before soccer tryouts, before a new school year.  Everything will change.  To make matters worse her mother who also wore a brace and then had surgery (and who is also pregnant) doesn't seem to understand.  Then her dad is never around, she starts getting teased at school, and even her best friends are having trouble relating.  How is Rachel going to get through this?

I thought this was interesting - especially having a character dealing with scoliosis which is not often addressed in children's lit.  For that reason it should probably have a place in a junior high library.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Star Scouts

Avani does not like the Flower Scout troop that her dad made her sign up for so when she is accidentally transported onto an alien ship by Mabel she is thrilled with the chance to join the Star Scouts.  She soon has the opportunity to go away to camp with the other Star Scouts where she enters into a competition with another scout named Pam.  The competition leads to some important lessons for them all.

I would not be surprised if there are more Star Scout adventures ahead but the story ended well.  My 4th and 5th graders will like this.

The Pearl Thief

Julie is back from Code Name Verity except this is a prequel and it was so cool to see a younger her and have a mystery to boot.  Julie has returned early from boarding school where packing and renovations are underway.  After the death of her grandfather the estate has been sold to pay the debts.  On her first day back however, before her family even knows she has arrived she is hit on the head and is unconscious for 3 days.  During that time she first stays with a Traveler family who then take her to the hospital.  Not only that but another man has gone missing as well.  In the midst of all the mystery Julie makes some new friends and learns more about herself.

This was really good - tension, mystery, exploration.  It is definitely too mature for my kiddos but a worthwhile read.

Real Friends

As a graphic novel memoir this is a departure from Shannon Hale's typical work.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is different.  Shannon in the story struggles with making real friends as opposed to being in "the group" and constantly struggling to maintain a position in that group.  She also struggles with her relationship to her older sister who has some behavioral issues.  In the end, Shannon finds friends who are loyal and who like her for who she is.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jelly Bean Summer

Okay, I am starting to feel old.  We now have more "historical fiction" that takes place in my lifetime.  As a result I find myself being more picky about the accuracy.  I was having trouble getting into this book as it was.  The book starts out with Joyce wanting to move up to the roof.  There she can escape the sadness of her brother Bud being MIA in the Vietnam War, his sister's weird obsession with UFOs and her guinea pig Jelly Bean, and her parents' fighting.  Soon she meets another boy Brian whose brother has died in the war and who is fixing up an old truck in his honor before he moves to Arizona.  Okay - on the surface not bad but then the issues creep in.  She is looking for Orion in the night sky?  Nope, Orion is a winter constellation.  They sell tickets for the UFO scheme - first it's $1.00 each, then they are made for 50 cents but then again at times it seems like a dollar and then once it even seems like 25 cents.  When they talk about the total it was mentioned as being over $30 but when they go to divide it among 4 people they each only get a little over $2???  But the kicker was when mom brought out her portable cd player.  In the late 60s???  Nope.  Now, I know I read an ARC so maybe this issue got resolved?

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Whydah

An interesting account of a slave ship turned pirate ship which was later shipwrecked and eventually discovered in the 1980s.  Students interested in pirates will enjoy this tale.


It's only been a few years since the famous Bigfoot photo swept the country and Tobin knows there are more around which is why he started the Bigfoot Detectives, Inc.  When Lemonade moves to town after the death of her mother Tobin is hesitant to let her help him but together they make a great team.  

The two characters together are great.  Both help each other - Lemonade helps Tobin become a bit more social while Tobin helps Lemonade as she works through the death of her mother and adjusting to her new life.  Together they solve one mystery and get clues about another.  

All in all a fun read with some nice twists and a great ending.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

2 books for tonight

This book is based on a true story of an elephant named Zambezi who was rescued when he was only a month old.  The story features Aaron a boy who helped rescue Zambezi and who continues to work with elephants at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery.  The book has several chapters of the story as well as informational blurbs about elephants in general.

The book talks about the design process and 9 real life engineering projects.  The projects themselves were pretty interesting, especially the bridge and I can see this having a place in STEM, maker, design thinking initiatives.

Moon Shadow

Lucia's mom has always been a bit mystical about the fact that she was born during a lunar eclipse and now, for the first time, she is about to witness a lunar eclipse herself, on her 13th birthday.  But things have been so weird lately - her mom and dad divorced and her mom now lives in Sweden, her ex-best friend Violet is now dating her other good friend Will, and she has two new friends but she isn't sure where things are going.  When she wishes on her moonstone during the eclipse she doesn't really believe anything will happen.  But then she starts having some weird dreams - but stranger still, the dreams actually seem to be reality but in a weird, shadowy, different version of herself way.  What exactly is going on and is it a good or bad thing?

I enjoyed the book quite a bit but by the time we got to the shadowy explanation the book was almost over and things seemed almost too easy.  I think kids will like it though.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Space Runners: Moon Platoon

Benny has been picked, along with 100 other teens, for the trip of a lifetime - 2 weeks on the moon with the creator of the moon resort, plus everyone will get money when they return, and someone may even be picked to stay on the moon and work.  Sounds wonderful - learning to drive space runners, reverse bungee jumping, and more.  But when one of the girls' space runners is hit by an asteroid things get bizarre.   The asteroid doesn't look natural.  Just what is Elijah, the creator of the resort hiding?  When Benny and his friends find out what is really going on they decide to step up and meet it head on instead of hiding in lunar tunnels.

As the first in a series there is obviously more to the story but Benny and his friends do manage to thwart the bad guys at least for now.  Not a bad opener - good for those who like science fiction.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lily's Mountain

Lily's dad has disappeared while coming down Denali.  But Lily can't accept that he has gone so she plots to go to the base of the mountain where he left his stash of peaches and brandy to see if he ever got them.  She is able to talk her sister Sophie into going with her and tricks her mom into thinking they will just be camping.

The trip is dangerous - water crossing, a wolf, bears, and of course, the glacier itself.  Can Lily find her dad or make peace with his disappearance?

Some of the situations Lily gets in are quite dangerous and I'm not sure how realistic it would be to have 2 young girls camp in the park even with a ranger on alert.  But, for younger readers this will be a fun adventure.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I really loved this book!!

Lester has been homeschooled for his whole life but now that his mom has a job at the library he needs to go to school.  Will he make friends?  Will the understand his love of science?  It quickly becomes clear to the reader that Lester is unique - load noises bother him, he is very fixated on science, if the schedule changes he has a hard time adjusting.  Fortunately, the teachers and principals recognize that Lester is on the autism spectrum and soon establish a good environment for him.  But, making friends and fitting in is a bit harder.  He makes a good friend at first but soon she is pulled away by the allure of a new popular girl.  He wins the science fair but it isn't until he can apply science to kickball that he truly finds his "thing".

This book had a lot of heart.  Lester was a great character and there was good growth and honesty in the characters who surrounded him.  The chapter about his research at the library was awesome!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Girl With the Ghost Machine

Ever since the death of her mother nothing has been the same.  Her father can't seem to get over it and spends all his time tinkering with his "ghost machine" in an attempt to bring his wife back.  In frustration, Emmaline tries to destroy the machine only to discover that it actually works.  By feeding it something that holds a memory of the person (or animal) that has died that ghost will return for a short while but then that memory is gone forever.  But is it right to lose a memory for a short visit with a ghost?  Shouldn't the dead be allowed to be dead and the living move on?  These are the struggles Emmaline and her best friends Gully and Oliver face.  But then a tragedy makes them question their decisions even more.

More meat than I thought with this one - quite good and a relatively quick read.

Elsie Mae Has Something to Say

Being the youngest of 7 children means Elsie Mae doesn't get many things all to herself - attention, recognition, etc.  What she does get is the privilege of spending the summers with her grandparents and uncles in the Okefenokee Swamp.  That is, until her cousin Henry James shows up to steal even that.  But Elsie Mae has some plans.  First, she has written to President Roosevelt to try and save the swamp from developers.  Then she plans to find the thieves who are stealing the neighbor's hogs.  Maybe then she can get some recognition.  With the help of her new dog Huck and her cousin Elsie Mae embarks on a grand adventure but sometimes when you get what you wish for it comes with consequences you never intended.

This was a clever story.  I liked the historical aspect and Elsie Mae and Henry's growing friendship.

The Explorer

Not to be confused with the book I reviewed yesterday...

4 kids are on a plane trip above the Amazon Jungle when something goes terribly wrong and the plane crashes.  Of the whole book the beginning was my least favorite - I felt it was unclear where they were all going (some was revealed later) and what actually happened to the pilot (Hatchet flashbacks)?  

Once in the jungle the 4 kids must learn to survive - find food, find water, maybe try to get to the city by building a raft.  There is a lot of bickering and differences of opinion.  Once they find a map though the book gets more interesting.  They travel to an x on the map and find a hidden city and "the explorer" who wants nothing to do with them and demands that the whole place be kept a secret.

In time the children and the explorer come to understand each other and the kids realize why the city must remain a secret.  But when one of the kids is seriously bitten by bullet ants the kids must get to the city as soon as possible - leaving the explorer behind.

Overall, I liked the book but there were a few things at the beginning that kept me from getting invested right away.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley

I loved the way this book started out - quirky chapter titles, a quirky character, and asides to the reader.  The problem was that the quirkiness wasn't consistent all the way through.  The book starts with Sebastian coming upon a mysterious door in an alley and discovering the Explorer's Society.  He soon begins to "work" for them.  Meanwhile, there is Evie, an orphan who finds herself in a dangerous situation and discovers that her grandfather is alive.  

At that point the two begin to look for a group of 5 explorer's, including Evie's grandfather, and a mysterious key.  There was some good action and a bit of mystery but...  the book ended with a cliffhanger (and the cliffhanger taunted about cliffhangers).  I think once more of the books are out the series might catch on but it wasn't my favorite.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Kit Marlowe and the Doomsday Bug

Kit is minding his own business, tolerating a holiday with his family when he finds out that his parents and sister have been kidnapped and that he must get a Faberge egg in order to save them.  He gets help from a girl named Abi whose sister was also kidnapped.

As it turns out the kidnapping was actually an initiation test into a secret spy school that his parents were part of, as were Abi's.  But there is more going on than meets the eye because Kit found a vial in the egg that wasn't supposed to be there.  It is a type of bug that can turn people into mindless zombies and there is a mad Russian who wants it.

This reminded me of Alex Rider but unfortunately I think the book got too long and there was too much extra and not enough action and character development.  In the end the vial was kept safe but the bad guys are still out there.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are more installments coming.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Player King

This book is based on the life of Lambert Simnel who was chosen to pretend to be the missing heir to the throne Edward VI.  It tells of his rise to power and subsequent loss of power just as quickly.  What I liked was the length and accessibility.  Unfortunately, to me the length was also a disadvantage as was the 1st person telling.  I never felt like I really got immersed in the conflict or Lambert's life - just not long enough to accomplish that.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Keep in a Cold, Dark Place

All Limpy wants is a way out - away from the failing potato farm, away from her father who blames her for her mother's death, away from her brothers.  She is good at one thing - art - and if she can submit her artwork on time she might win a scholarship to an "artsy" high school.  But everything seems against her - work on the farm, her father's anger, school issues.  One day, while working in the cellar she comes across a mysterious box that say "keep in a cold, dark place".  When she opens it she finds colorful objects.  When she takes one out it hatches into an adorable little creature.  Limpy names him Chup and hides and cares for him in the house.  But soon, other eggs hatch and one especially is not so nice.  Then mysterious things start happening - her father gets bit on the toe by something, chickens go missing, and something is starting to terrorize people coming to see the farm.  Soon Limpy, with the help of a friend, realize these cute (or not so cute as they start growing) creatures are actually chupacabra.  But how to get rid of them before it's too late?

This was deliciously adventurous and exciting by the end but it did take while for it to turn from cute little creatures to terrifying chupacabras.  Hopefully readers would stick with it that long.  It reminded me of Gremlins.

Soupy Leaves Home

It is the Great Depression.  Pearl loves to learn and wants more for her life, but since her mother died her father has become violent and refuses to listen to her.  So, she disguises herself as a boy and runs away.  She soon meets a hobo, Ramshackle, who takes her under his wing.  Soon she creates a new life for herself as Soupy, riding the rails, learning the ropes, finding freedom and the wisdom and dreams of Ramshackle.  But Ramshackle is ill and there are those in the hobo community who mean harm to the others.  Who can Pearl trust with her secrets and can she and Ramshackle both find what they are looking for.

I read this in one sitting even though I had to read it on my laptop and it was slow scrolling through.  The story was really good and had a lot of truth and insight in it as well as a historical perspective.  My one caution is the audience - my 4th and 5th graders will probably pass on it (unless I can entice my 5th graders with the Great Depression angle) because they typically like their graphic novels more colorful and not as serious.  I will promote it however because I thought it was great.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Single Stone

Many years ago an natural disasters left people stranded on one side of the mountain.  Over time traditions and survival have created a society where girls are prized for petiteness so they can go into the mountain, 7 at a time, and find the mica that is used for heating, light, and cooking.  But is that all there is?  And are the Mothers, the guardians of their society, manipulating births to produce even smaller offspring.  Jena has always done the right thing and is the leader of her line but when one of her girls dies and she discovers some of the Mothers' secrets she begins to question everything she has been taught.

This was really good.  I loved the feel of this society and how it grew out of desperation and tradition.  I loved how things came together at the end.