Tuesday, February 28, 2017


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All his life Jasper has known that he and his sister will be Bounders.  What that actually is no one knows - but he knows that they have traits that were bred out of society and then bred back in.  Now that he is 13 he will travel to EarthBound Academy for training.  With 4 new friends in his pod, Jasper learns to use jetpacks, special gloves, and how to bound.  But to what end?  Is Earth Force telling them everything?

Reminiscent of Ender's Game this new series is exciting and has some good friendship and questions.  I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tru & Nellie

Based on the true childhood friendship between Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee this story is full if adventure.  I really enjoyed the beginning of the story - their blossoming friendship and their love for mystery.  I got bogged down in the middle - I think I wanted more to the mystery and it kind of lost my interest a bit.  I did enjoy the short stories at the end and of course the author's note about the real friendship between the two.  Unsure how readers will react especially when most of mine at least will have no idea who these people were.

Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America

With the popularity of the Hamilton musical it is not surprising that a new biography would come out about his life.  This was a solid look at his life and written in a way that junior high students could read and understand.  I don't think it will necessarily appeal to the general population but for what it is - it was good.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Last Boy at St. Edith's

Jeremy and his sisters are able to go to St. Edith's because their mother works there.  It started as an all girls school but they decided to accept boys around the time Jeremy started school.  But... that didn't work out so well and now Jeremy is the last boy there.  He hates it and wants to figure out a way to get kicked out.  Together he and a friend, Claudia, decide to pull some pranks to get in trouble - but not too much trouble.  But the pranks don't work out as expected and Jeremy starts to wonder what he really wants.

I wasn't really a fan of the fact that Jeremy never actually got in trouble for anything.  Even Claudia, who took the rap for everything, really blew everything off.  Kids will enjoy the book but it wasn't my favorite.


I am obviously very late to the party on this.  When I read for MSBA I try to find hidden gems, books that no one else is reading so since this had been read by pretty much everyone in the known world I just now finished it.

So well done!!  Peter rescued Pax when Pax was just a kit.  But with war coming, Peter's father says its time to put Pax back in the wild while he goes to war and Peter goes to stay with his grandfather.  Peter does so unwillingly but once he is with his grandfather he can't live with not knowing what happened to Pax so he sets of hundreds of miles to find Pax.  Unfortunately on the way he breaks his foot and spends weeks recovering at the home of Vola.  There he learns a lot about himself. 

Meanwhile, Pax is conflicted between waiting for Peter to return and learning to survive in the wild.

So good - lots of discussion points and will make a great read aloud.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Best Man

Archer has been in 2 weddings in his life.  The first one was when he was six.  He met Lynette but otherwise it was a disaster.  The rest of the story builds up to the second wedding.  It includes Archer's role models - his dad, his uncle, his grandfather, and Mr. McLeod who is a student teacher at his school.  

This was a fun story with a lot of heart and Archer had a unique voice.

Save Me a Seat

I had been looking forward to reading this for awhile and meh... don't think it led up to the hype.

We have Joe - bullied, with an auditory disorder, mom is working at the school but he hates that

We have Ravi - new student from India, thinks he is pretty amazing, doesn't fit in at new school

The story is sectioned into a week and during that time both boys are bullied and there are some changes made.  By the last day Joe and Ravi help each other out against the bully and become friends.  

I liked the set-up but it seemed a big jump to friendship by Friday and just didn't seem to be realistic in that way.

Come On In, America

World War I doesn't get as much attention as other conflicts.  This book seeks to explain the reasons for the war and how America came to be involved.  The book also has chapters on immigrants, women, and African Americans both in the war itself and on the homefront.  A solid piece about the war.

The Big Dark

The town of Harmony, NH, along with a large portion of the world are enjoying a fantastic natural light show on New Year's Eve when all of a sudden all the lights go out.  Nothing electrical or battery operated works at all.  How will the town survive in the middle of the winter - limited food, limited heating?  To top it off there is a crazy family of conspiracy theorists who want to take control and Charlie's mom needs a medication to save her life.  

I felt the Bragg family was really over the top - so many racist comments and the use of the word "retard" annoys me.  But it was in the context of the book and just how awful he was.  Liked the book for what it was...

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Cedar lost her brother and father in a car accident last year.  Now she, her mother, and her brother Miles are trying to pick up the pieces and go on.  Her mom decided to buy a summer place near her grandparents and fix it up.  To keep herself busy Cedar takes a job at the summer theater and meets a boy Leo.  Both become fascinated with a local legend and start giving tours about her life.  Leo's friendship helps Cedar learn to heal.

This was a good enough book and it came together nicely at the end but it was very quiet.

Garvey's Choice

A book does not have 
to be long or flowery
to make an impact,
to shine a light, lift your mood.
Perfection in tanka verse

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ruby Lee & Me

It's 1969 and Sarah's having a pretty rough summer.  First, her sister Robin was in a terrible accident that she blames herself for.  Then she gets in a fight with her friend Ruby Lee over the upcoming integration of their school and whether they can actually be friends there.

While the book was pretty good I felt like the different issues didn't get enough attention - especially the integration aspect.  Then there was the horse and the crush which were not fully developed either.

The Inquisitor's Tale

This was a really ambitious tale and as an adult I enjoyed it.  It reminded me of The Canterbury Tales.  I liked the interplay of African boy, peasant girl, Jewish boy, and dog.  I liked the references to culture and religion of the time period.  But will students???  The cover looks kind of young but I know my 4th and 5th graders would not appreciate it.  A sophisticated 6th - 8th grader might enjoy this but will the cover turn them off before they delve in?  Love the research and story but not sure if it will find its intended audience.

The Playbook

An inspirational book filled with quotes, poems, advice, and background for succeeding in sports and life.  Fans of The Crossover and Booked will pick this up for sure.  Well done.

The Best Mistake Mystery

Stephen makes a lot of mistakes.  In fact, he makes so many that he counts them.  But sometimes a mistake can work to your advantage.  During his dogwalking one day Stephen sees some unusual things - a Volkswagon Beetle driven by his principal and then someone else later on.  When you add that to the mysterious bomb threat at school, the toilet paper at his principal's house, and the Volkswagon Beetle ending up crashed into the school - well, a real mystery is going on.  Can Stephen and his new friend, Renee figure out what is going on and save one of the dogs, Pong, in the process.

A cute mystery, especially for the younger crowd.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Demon Dentist

Rollicking good fun, reminiscent of something by Roald Dahl.  Large text and illustrations make the text accessible for even younger readers.  This would also make a great read aloud.  

Alfie has never liked the dentist but when Miss Root comes to town he has even more reason to worry.  All of a sudden children's teeth under their pillows are being replaced by all sorts of disgusting objects.  Then she removes all of Alfie's teeth.  Can Alfie and his not girlfriend, Gabz, rescue their town from this evil dentist?

Lily and Dunkin

This book explores the lives of 2 eighth grade students who are each struggling with other people's perceptions of them and their own realities.

Lily was born Tim but has always known that she is a girl.  Her mother, sister, and best friend are very supportive but her dad is hesitant.  She is a target for bullies.  Slowly she makes headway with her dad and begins to let others see her for who she is.

Dunkin and his mom have just moved to Florida.  Dunkin takes medication for bipolar disorder (which we discover slowly) but in his attempt to be popular and be part of the basketball team he decides to stop taking one of his medications.  He met Lily early in the book but was conflicted about being friends with her while she was being teased and bullied by his basketball "friends".

I felt the book focused more on Dunkin than Lily.  I wished there had been more from Lily - like the letter she wrote to a hero - more of those.  I also wish they had been able to come together as friends earlier in the book.  I don't work with the intended audience for this book - middle school and junior high.  I wonder if in tackling two big issues we diminish one of them?  

Monday, February 20, 2017


This was an interesting steampunk take on Peter Pan.  A war has led to the bombing of a chemical weapons lab releasing a terrible disease on the city.  Most of the adults has died and the kids, especially the girls have also caught the disease.  Gwen though seems to be immune.  Her sister has starting showing signs and for her brother it is only a matter of time.  While Hook tries to find a cure, Gwen is rescued by Pete, Bella, and the Lost Boys who are leaving underneath Everland, the old city of London.  

Lots of adventure and a quick moving plot.  There are enough tie ins with Peter Pan to make it fun.  There is a bit of a romance between Peter and Gwen that gets a bit cheesy at the end but overall a good read.

An Eagle in the Snow

I love pretty much everything Morpurgo writes (Kensuke's Kingdom being my favorite).  He can take a historical event and create a story around it and do so in manageable, accessible text for some of our younger readers.  This was starting off good but as I was riding my elliptical I saw a plot twist coming and was like "dang that is so good".  Then, in typical Morpurgo fashion there was also a good twist at the end too.  Really liked this.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Me & Miranda Mullaly

This book tells the story of 3 middle school boys who all have a crush on the same girl - Miranda Mullaly.  Told in alternating chapters the book tells about all of their attempts to get her to notice them - being on student council, being in the play, shoveling her driveway.  The results are often humorous.  In the end though I though the book was shallow - little description and character building of the girls, no explanation of Miranda's previous relationship ending, and then at the end two of the boys all of a sudden fall for someone else and Miranda actually finds she likes one of them.  Maybe that is middle school reality though ;9

Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter

Isabel is just a girl selling newspapers in 1920s Chicago, but someday she wants to write the articles like her hero Maude Collier.  When a friend of hers is accused of murdering her mob related boyfriend Isabel gets the chance to do some investigative work and make friends with her idol.  

Very clever mystery and Isabel was a great character with a lot of spunk.  I really enjoyed this.

A Soldier's Sketchbook

What was cool about this is its rarity...  it is hard to find writings of a soldier from WWI.  The most spectacular part of it are the sketches - so well done and beautiful.  The entries from his diary are quite short and just factual.  A reader would have a hard time piecing together any narrative if it weren't for the authors background information and transitions.  For those interested in WWI it would be a worthwhile purchase.

Under Their Skin

Typical Margaret Peterson Haddix - bizarre science fiction.  In this one, Nick and Eryn's mom decides to get remarried.  The weird thing about it is that they will now have a stepbrother and stepsister but are told they will never meet them.  So of course, being the curious children that they are, Nick and Eryn set out to find everything about their stepsiblings as they can.  But what they find out - well, it looks like most of the "people" around them are actually robots - their parents, these siblings.  In fact, Nick and Eryn just may be the oldest "people" there are.  Now what??

Ended a bit abruptly - next book will probably be much more satisfying.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ms. Bixby's Last Day

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3 six grade boys love their teacher, Ms. Bixby.  She has been there for each of them and has given them more than an education.  When she leaves suddenly before the school year is over to get treatment for cancer the 3 boys set out to fulfill a dream of hers from a writing assignment earlier in the year.  How would you spend your last day?  Heartfelt...

Shackles from the Deep

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This was a really cool account of the discovery of the slave ship Henrietta Marie and the subsequent search for its history.  Not only was the search an intellectual one but also an emotional journey for the author in his search to connect with his own African roots.  I am not sure if the writing style will be something the audience will relate to.  Hard to say...

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel

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It is tough being from another country that no one really knows anything about, but then when your country is all of  sudden in the news all the time it is even worse.  That is what Zomorod (Cindy) is struggling with.  You see, she is from Iran in the late 1970's.  So not only is she dealing with normal middle school issues but also a revolution in her home country and the hostage crisis.

I thought this was well done.  Although long, the chapters were short.  Cindy was a great character.  For the most part I felt the time period was accurately depicted.  I did have an issue with the saying about being thrown under a bus.  From the quick research I did I could not find evidence that the saying was used prior to around 1984 or even a bit later.  Minor quibble.