Saturday, January 28, 2017

Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den

Simon lives with his Uncle Darryl.  His mother travels a lot so he rarely sees her and his father died a long time ago.  He gets bullied at school but otherwise life is pretty normal - oh except that he can now talk to and understand animals.  Then things get weird - pigeons and rats are fighting, a one eyed eagle is looking for him.  Simon soon learns that his life is far different than he thought - shape shifting, a twin he never knew he had, a grandfather, and a mysterious scepter that everyone seems to want.  Who to believe?  Who to trust?

Good story that introduces a series.  Friendship, action, and a decent fantasy.  Yes, it ends with no real resolution but the set up is good and it is pretty accessible for a fantasy.

Friday, January 27, 2017


A delightful little story of a lost dog, a lonely girl, and a struggling juggler.  I was skeptical about the book at fist but loved how it all wove together.  Well done.

The Time Museum

I didn't find many graphic novels from 2016 to my liking so I am pleased to start 2017 with a good one.

Delia finds herself, along with other children from various places and times, as an intern at The Time Museum.  She and the other interns learn about time travel and how to gather artifacts for the museum.  But it is a competition so while they want to be friendly they know only one person will be chosen.  During their first mission Delia meets a strange man who gives her a special rock.  But who is he?  And is he good or bad?

Loved this book.  It is the first in a series and there was a bit of a "reveal" at the end but it was a tolerable cliffhanger.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

I listened to this on audio and it was so good.  I had about 10 minutes left when I got to work this morning and I wanted to just sit in the car and finish.

Emmaline and several other children have been evacuated from the cities in Great Britain to the countryside because of the war.  The children with Emmaline are different though.  They all have what she calls the "still waters" or tuberculosis.  Emmaline is one of the healthier ones - she can still go outside, unlike her friend Anna.  She has a great imagination which is why everyone thinks its just her imagination when she tells them she sees winged horses in the mirrors and that one, with a hurt wing, is in the garden and needs protection.  It is up to Emmaline to save Foxfire from a dark horse and the Horse Lord tells her how to do it.

Magical realism at its best - haunting, beautiful, tragic, lovely.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trouble the Water

Interesting book with a lot of facets.  It all starts with an old dog who is wandering around town.  When Callie follows the dog she finds more than she bargained for - a new friend from the other side of town and a mystery.  Meanwhile 2 boys "live" in a mysterious cabin in the woods.  Who are they?  Why are they still hanging around.  This comes together in a pretty cool way with a bit of a message to boot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Shadows We Know By Heart

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Years ago a tragedy struck Leah's family.  Ever since her mother has been distant, her father an unhappy, strict pastor, and she and her remaining brother Matt are left to fend for themselves and find themselves bucking against the confines.  As the story progresses we get bits and pieces of the past revealing the "deaths" of her best friend's father and his son Reed and her other brother Sam.

Since that awful tragedy Leah has been told to stay out of the woods but she is drawn there, especially because she has seen Bigfoot.  At the beginning of the book she also sees someone else living with the Bigfoot - a boy, a wild boy.

Leah is drawn to the boy and despite her father's warnings goes to the woods and befriends the boy and a female Bigfoot.  The boy is so familiar - but he can't be???  

Because the book reveals the past quite slowly I was a bit weirded out at first about who the wild boy was.  Then it became more clear.  I felt that the romantic attachment was a bit much (Twilight anyone) and will keep this from my library (only goes up to 5th grade).  I also didn't like the stereotype strict pastor, rebellious preacher's kid angle - especially at the beginning (Footloose anyone) but that got more understandable as the book went on (I am a preacher's kid - non rebellious).  I felt that the book could have been cut by about 50 pages or so but in the end I did enjoy it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dark Energy

Really cool "alien" book.  As an adult I enjoyed it.  There was a great connection with the Anasazi which I thought was cool.  Definitely not for my students but I would recommend to older students who like a good sci fi. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Animals by the Numbers

Great information about animals in a visual appealing way.  The accompanying text was accessible without being dry or "too much".  Well done!!!  Kids will be poring over it.

Ghost Hunters Handbook

Kids will love this as it is a very popular topic.  I enjoyed most of the book, especially the Maine connection.  I did not like the case studies - the smaller font and denser text interrupted my reading flow and I found it hard to get into.

To Burp or Not to Burp

Written by a former astronaut this book tackles the topics most important to kids when they think about space exploration - burping, farting, going to the bathroom.  Solid information and accessible.  I was not a fan of the mixed media.  The photographs didn't always relate but gave the book a more credible feel than the illustrations which made the whole book feel "younger".

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Skeleton Tree

Chris thinks he is in for a grand adventure sailing along the Alaska coast with his Uncle Jack.  But when they leave another boy is with them.  Chris doesn't know who Frank is but he does know that Frank is sullen and angry.  Within days their lives are turned upside down when a storm sinks their boat, Uncle Jack goes down with it, and Frank and Chris are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness.  Can they survive and find food, shelter, and protection from the wildlife?  Can they discover why Frank even came with them in the first place.

This was a pretty solid adventure novel in the tradition of Hatchet.  I found it lagged a bit in the middle but it will certainly find an audience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Cam has a certain lifestyle that he needs to maintain and it involves constant gaming and otherwise flying under the radar.  But when his obsession leads to a close call his parents tell him he needs to get more involved.  Enter the "Positive Action Group" a community service group he makes up but has no intention of really participating in.  That is until PAG takes on a life of its own.  Can Cam ever get back to his slacking ways?

This had more heart than the cover would imply.  Korman does not disappoint.

The Boy With 17 Senses

I sometimes debate whether I should even do a review.  This book really did nothing for me, but then again to each their own.  It was a kind of retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk but with Jaq and a wormhole instead.  

Loving vs Virgina

This lovely poetic narrative, told in alternating verse between Richard and Mildred, tells their love story and their fight to be married in the eyes of the law.  Set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement this book ties in to significant events with photographs and explanations.  Well done.  My school only goes up to grade 5 so I am not sure if I would have it in my library but would highly recommend to the jr. high.

Monday, January 16, 2017


Finally got around to reading this.  My opinion is that is is just as good as the first although I didn't like the hanging at the end - what was in the box??  Should I have figured that out???  But overall really good.  I liked the allusions to other books.

Camp Midnight

Skye is supposed to be spending the summer with her dad and "step-monster" but when she gets there she finds out they decided to send her to a camp for a few weeks.  Then when she gets to camp she finds out that she may have been sent to the wrong camp.  Camp Midnight is where "monsters" can be themselves.  Fortunately Skye meets Mia who doesn't want to reveal her "true" monster so together they get through the daily routines at camp.  But the pressure is always there to fit in by revealing who they really are.  Will Mia tell her secret?  Will Skye let the others know she is actually human?

Not a bad graphic novel.  I wasn't a big fan of the colors and they was some language I didn't like.  As a whole package it was okay though.

Book Uncle and Me

Set in India, this book is about a girl who loves to read and goes to the free lending library, run by Book Uncle, almost every day.  But when he is told he has to shut done unless he gets a permit Yasmin is devastated and inspired to do something about it.  It is an election year and Yasmin starts a letter writing campaign and encourages people to vote for the candidate who will allow Book Uncle to keep his library.  Will the new mayor keep his promise?

Very simple story - sentences were a bit choppy I thought but the message make it an inspiring read and a good pick for a read aloud.

Cloud and Wallfish

I loved this story set in East Germany in the fateful year of 1989.  In this book Noah and his family travel to East Germany under the pretense of his mother's research on speech impediments.  But things are so weird for Noah - first he has to change his name to Jonah, lie about his past, his age, and he loses the freedom to speak freely.  Then when they get there he is even kept from school at first because of his stuttering.  Then he meets a girl, Claudia and they become friends - they become Cloud and Wallfish.  But Claudia's parents disappear, their friendship is discouraged, and suspicion is all around.

A lovely story leading up to the wall coming down.  There are great historical "secret files" which will help orient younger readers.  Loved this.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Little Cat's Luck

Like Little Dog Lost this poetic narrative was cute and a nice story.  The poetry was lovely.  It is a quiet book but easily accessible to my younger readers.  Now I have the pair to give to the animal lovers as well.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Presenting Buffalo Bill

So Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show are things you "know" about but maybe don't really know much about.  That's what made this book so good.  Really learning about Buffalo Bill - the man, the myth.  How much was myth?  Candace Fleming does a great job of telling the story and then pointing out where historians disagree.  I found it fascinating and enjoyed the book a bit.  The question now is whether my students are too young to enjoy it...

The Cartographer's Daughter

This was a strange tale about a girl who lives on a land that is oppressed by the governor.  When some kind of creature kills a girl from the town the governor wants to pretend it didn't happen but Isabella wants to figure it out.  When she accuses her friend Lupe, the governor's daughter of causing the incident and not caring, Lupe heads out to the Forbidden Lands herself.  The governor and his men, and Isabella follow.  What happens next gets a bit bizarre and is where the story fell apart for me...  Strange creatures, banished people, and something mysterious in the tunnels underneath.  Then it got really sad...  

Didn't really work for me in the end...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lucky Strikes

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Melia is a pretty independent girl.  She helps her mom, Brenda, run their gas station.  But when her mom dies, Melia has to figure out a way to take care of her younger brother and sister, avoid foster care, and keep the gas station out of the hands of a rival.  When a homeless man literally ends up on their doorstep Melia asks him to "act" as her father.  But who is he really?  

This was a really good book.  Melia was a great character and the story was at times funny, sad, a bit violent, a whole lot irreverent, and full of action.  My biggest issue with the book was the cover.  It speaks middle grade mystery to me but the book really is intended I'd say for 7th and up - quite a bit of swearing, some innuendo...  Will the cover turn off the intended readership?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mice of the Round Table

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King Arthur has been gone for awhile and the knights of the Round Table have become complacent.  Meanwhile, the mice of the round table are having problems of their own.  Calib's grandfather, their leader has been killed and the evidence seems to point to the Darklings.  But Calib doesn't believe that and he sets out to prove his theory and unite the Darklings, the mice of Camelot, and the owls against the real enemy.  But, the foe is bigger than he imagined and he may need to get the help of the two-leggers including Galahad.

This was an interesting take on Camelot and was pretty good, expecially for those who enjoy animal fantasies.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The First Last Day

Haleigh is having the best summer of her life.  But it all ends tomorrow.  Her family is moving and she is unsure if she will be able to keep her friendship with Kevin.  When she finds a mysterious box of paints with directions to paint her hearts desire she wishes that the summer will never end.  And it doesn't - Haleigh finds herself in an endless loop of the day.  At first it is pretty cool but after awhile Haleigh realizes that life needs to go on.  Can Haleigh figure out how to get time moving again and will she be able to live with the consequences?

Really liked this story - good message.

The Classy Crooks Club

AJ is being forced to live with her grandmother for 4 weeks while her parents are in the Amazon rainforest.  She is dreading it because her grandmother is determined to turn her into a respectable lady.  But then AJ finds out that her grandmother and her "bridge club" are actually crooks.  They "rescue" exotic animals from their terrible owners, get back items from an ex - husband, and try to get back a painting that one of them created and then sold.  They decide to let AJ help them out.  Is this the way for AJ to win her grandmother's approval?

The book was okay but it kind of plodded along.  It really got good with 50 pages to go.  Not sure my readers will stick with it that long.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Emerald Tablet

Gabe just wants to stay with his new friends Kaz, Brett, and Lilly but his uncle is moving them again.  In attempt to bond the 4 complete a strange ritual that Brett found in Gabe's uncle's office.  But the ritual has strange consequences.  All of a sudden they each have "powers" and Gabe's uncle is kidnapped.  Unbeknownst to them their ritual "called" to a cult that has been trying to bridge the world with a shadowy magick world called Arcadia.  In addition, a boy from that place has been manipulating Brett.  Can these 4 friends learn to control their elements, save Uncle Steve, and maybe save the world.

So, this is the first in a series and as such it does not resolve everything.  For the most part I liked it but it was a bit too "occult" for my taste.

Two Naomis

This was a really nice story about two families that recently went through divorce and are coming to terms with that and moving on.  Naomi Marie's mother is dating Naomi Edith's father which is kind of strange.  The parents want the girls to get to know each other and push them together but both girls initially resist.  Can these two families come together and make a new family?

I liked the message in this story and the ending was good.  I appreciate the idea of having both Naomis narrate the story but it did make it a bit hard to differentiate between the two characters.  I kept having to think before each chapter - ok, which Naomi are we talking about now???  May make is confusing for other readers as well.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What Are You Glad About?

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A really nice collection of poems.  Sometimes poetry collections can be hit or miss but this was pretty solid all the way through.  Some I particularly liked - "And We Call It Home", "Toes" and "In Between" were my favorites.  

Finding Wonders

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This book was delightful.  In poetry it tells the story of 3 women who were scientists.  What is special about them is that they were scientists when it was not popular for women to really do anything.  Maria Marian studied caterpillars in that late 1600s and early 1700s.  Mary Anning learned about fossils in the 1800s.  Maria Mitchell studied the stars and discovered a comet also in the 1800s.  Well researched and yet the poetry makes the women come alive.  Well done.