05. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Lisa

Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown, read by Lisa, on 05/25/2014

In this irresistibly funny follow-up to the breakout bestseller Darth Vader and Son, Vader–Sith Lord and leader of the Galactic Empire–now faces the trials, joys, and mood swings of raising his daughter Leia as she grows from a sweet little girl into a rebellious teenager. 

Smart and funny illustrations by artist Jeffrey Brown give classic Star Wars moments a twist by bringing these iconic family relations together under one roof. From tea parties to teaching Leia how to fly a TIE fighter, regulating the time she spends talking with friends via R2-D2′s hologram, and making sure Leia doesn’t leave the house wearing only a skirted metal bikini, Vader’s parenting skills are put hilariously to the test.

02. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy · Tags:

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein, read by Tracy, on 05/22/2014

Is the kingdom’s fate in the hands of an orphan cat?

Running fast to save his life, Aldwyn ducks into an unusual pet store. Moments later Jack, a young wizard in training, comes in to choose a magical animal to be his familiar. Aldwyn’s always been clever. But magical? Jack thinks so and Aldwyn is happy to play along.

He just has to convince the other familiars the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert that he’s the powerful cat he claims to be.

Then the unthinkable happens. Jack and two other young wizards are captured by the evil queen of Vastia.

On a thrilling quest to save their loyals, the familiars face dangerous foes, unearth a shocking centuries-old secret, and discover a destiny that will change Vastia forever. Their magical adventure an irresistible blend of real heart, edge-of-your-seat action, and laugh-out-loud humor is an unforgettable celebration of fantasy and friendship.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Hide and Seek by Kate Messner, read by Leslie, on 05/30/2014

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For five hundred years the Jaguar Cup, sacred to the Silver Jaguar Society, was hidden in a cave on the coast of Costa Rica–so when a fake copy shows up on display in America, it is up to José, Anna, and Henry, junior members of the society, to travel to Costa Rica and rescue the real cup from thieves.

A fast-paced story, sure to keep readers engaged to the last page, trying to figure out who the bad guys are.  My only question about the books so far is, if the Silver Jaguar Society is supposed to be as secret as the parents claim, why do so many people know about it?  Not something my students will probably pick up on, they will enjoy this story, both boys and girls.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton, read by Leslie, on 05/25/2014

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe

Twelve-year-old Frankie Joe Huckaby, forced to live with the father he never knew, a stepmother, and four half-brothers in Illinois, starts a delivery service to finance his escape back to his mother in Texas, not realizing he is making a better life for himself than he ever had with her.

A very good story on blending a family, I enjoyed the way that Frankie found ways to deal with his situation positively.  A great story to show kids that lashing out is not the only way to deal with difficult situations.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Thriller/Suspense

The Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki, read by Leslie, on 05/21/2014

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Seventh-grader Timothy July and his new friend Abigail try to break a curse that is causing them and others to be tormented by their greatest fears brought to life.

If you have students who like to read scary stories that give them shivers, this is a great book for that. Timothy and Abigail have just met and need to learn to trust each other quickly if they want to break the curse that haunts Abigail and now, Timothy. There is just enough edge to it to possibly give them real nightmares!

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, read by Leslie, on 05/14/2014

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With love and determination befitting the “world’s greatest family,” twelve-year-old Deza Malone, her older brother Jimmie, and their parents endure tough times in Gary, Indiana, and later Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression.

I tried but could not find the appeal of this book, as I did with Bud, Not Buddy.  I just found it too unrealistic, the more I read, mainly with the father.  I think young readers will not see those aspects to it but will enjoy seeing the family overcome each obstacle tossed in it’s way.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, read by Leslie, on 05/14/2014

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When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.

I loved the form in which the author wrote this book.  The chapters are short but contain so much in those short amounts, it will appeal to kids who don’t normally like long chapter books.  The fact that she based it on a true story will be another hook for some kids.  It really makes you think about zoos and how we treat our fellow creatures.  I can see why it won the Newbery award.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

The Young Healer by Frank N. McMillan III, read by Leslie, on 05/08/2014

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“What starts out as just another day becomes anything but that for Feather Anderson. Her beloved grandfather, a traditional Lakota healer, pulls her out of class one snowy morning and takes her on a traditional vision quest in the heart of New York City in hopes to find the perfect Lakota medicine. It becomes the most magical day of Feather’s life as she saves her little brother’s life and earns her newly-given secret Lakota name”

A good story, I think that both boys and girls will enjoy reading it, the Native American traditions that are written about are sure to inspire research for some students.  While it seems that Feather and her grandfather pack a lot of stuff into the length of one day, I really enjoyed the story.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, read by Leslie, on 05/05/2014

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Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.

Not a fast paced book, but a good story of building friendships and trust.  Georges isn’t fond of the way his name is spelled, his dad loses his job and they are forced to move to an apartment, where Georges meets Safer and his sister.  Georges isn’t sure what to make of Safer but they eventually overcome their differences and Georges comes to admit to himself that his life is not he has been painting it to be, in his mind.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Paranormal

Blue Moon (Dead City #2) by James Ponti, read by Leslie, on 05/01/2014

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Molly is ready for more nonstop, undead action in this follow-up to Dead City, which Kirkus Reviews described as “a fast-paced read for those who like their zombies with just a little fright.”

If you like zombie stories with a little intelligence to them (zombies, that is), you’ll enjoy this series.  Molly and her team are once again on the prowl for dangerous zombies in New York City.  When they stumble upon a zombie plot to take over the city, they get a little help from some of their zombie friends, including Molly’s mother.  Lots of action and appealing to both boys and girls.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler, read by Angie, on 05/31/2014

Alice is orphaned and sent to live with her uncle in the country. Uncle Geryon lives in The Library and has a fortress-like library filled with all manner of strange books. There are invisible servants and talking cats to add to the strange mix of the household. Alice discovers quite by accident that she is a Reader, a magician who can read herself into magic books. The books can be prisons for dangerous creatures or portals to other worlds. Alice tries to find out what happened to her father and what is happening to her. She doesn’t know who to trust and ends up working with Isaac, another young Reader who has snuck into the Library trying to locate a book. 

I love books like this that deal with books in a mysterious and dangerous way. Basically any book with Library in the title will get my attention, but it has to be quite enthralling to keep me reading. This one pushed all the right buttons. Alice is a spunky and smart girl who is not afraid of doing what’s right even when it hurts. She isn’t gullible or easily led, but thinks for herself and looks out for herself. I loved the idea of books as prisons and portals. I especially loved the cats. They are just as you would image magical cats to be full of attitude and mystery. This is the beginning of a series and leaves several questions unanswered, but I was ok with that. The main story is wrapped up nicely with just a few threads left dangling to keep your attention. Definitely a series to watch. 

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Best Kept Secret by Ann M. Martin, read by Angie, on 05/31/2014

This book tells the story of Francie as she grows up in the 1970s and 80s. She has to deal with her parents’ divorce, her disabled uncle moving in, new friends, new schools, family feuds and all the things that come with growing up. This is the third book in this series; the previous two followed Francie’s mom and grandma. A lot of time is covered in this short novel. It starts with Francie starting school and ends with her married with a baby on the way. Unfortunately, the span of years really cuts down on the storytelling. Each chapter is basically a different year in her life so very little is actual told about what happens to her on a daily basis. It is more like a collection of vignettes than a fully fleshed-out story. There are things like the feud between family members that is mentioned but never really explained. And there is an incident when Francie is young where she is almost kidnapped and another girl disappears. This is mentioned several times but really never goes anywhere. I think the book would have been better served to tell Francie’s story through childhood with more attention to detail than to try and tell her entire life story in 200 pages. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. 

27. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fiction

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein, read by Eric, on 05/17/2014

Eccentric billionaire Luigi Lemoncello, creator of the most popular board games in the world, has designed the most amazing library in the world. 12-yr-old Kyle Keeley and eleven other fellow students have been chosen to be the first to experience the library during an overnight lock-in event. The thrills of that night are nothing compared to the challenge given by Lemoncello the following morning- the first tween able to discover a secret exit from the library will earn a very special prize.

I’m sure nearly everyone reviewing this book makes an instant connection between this adventure and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The influence is obvious, but not in a negative way. The library is a fantastical place which any fan of reading and puzzles would die to visit for a lifetime or two. The array of characters also are familiar, from the win-at-any-cost rich kid to the bookworm more interested in keeping her nose in a book than solving any sort of riddle. Kyle lands squarely in between, and has a small, likeable group of friends, as well. Several of the trivia challenges the author has the tweens solve are quite out of time for a younger generation, but they work as a whole, and keep the game hopping. References to popular (and slightly dated) books are peppered throughout the adventure. I’m not twelve anymore, but I would be happy to join these kids.  Time to build a library!

21. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Drama, Eric, Fiction

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, read by Eric, on 05/03/2014

Melody is a bright, confident 11-yr-old, blessed with a photographic memory and the ability to “taste” music. She also has cerebral palsy, is unable to speak, and has extremely limited movement. Nearly everyone in her life assumes she is “slow,” and the frustration of not being able to prove otherwise is overwhelming. When a device to help Melody communicate finally is available to her, her intelligence is obvious to everyone. But, will she finally gain acceptance?

I appreciate how Draper refuses to take the easy, expected path with Melody’s story. Melody knows she is one of the smartest girls in any room, and she’s not afraid to make that fact known. Children (and adults) can be cruel when faced with someone deemed “different,” and Draper doesn’t wrap everything in a neat bow of acceptance. Making your place in the world can be tough, and Melody shows she is exactly that. A worthy award-winner.

20. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett, read by Angie, on 05/19/2014

The Carpet People was first written by Terry Pratchett when he was 17 years old. He reworked it and reissued it a few years ago. You can see his progression as a writer and a satirist in this early work. It has the beginnings of the depth and humor as his early Discworld books. You get a good idea of where his leanings lie and what message he wants to send out into the world through his books. I would be interested in reading the original version of this book just to see how it was finessed for the reissue.

The Carpet People tells the tale of the land of the carpet. It is populated by different groups of people, animals, monsters, kings and emperors. The Munrungs are a simple people led by Glurk. They are part of the Dumii Kingdom, but only in the sense they are counted and pay taxes. When The Fray destroys their village they take off across the Carpet. Along the way they discover the monsterous Mouls are ravaging the land on their vicious snarls. They help free the Deftmene people and they meet a mysterious Wight who sees all possible futures. Together they all band together to free the land of the terrible Mouls and to come up with a better system than kings and emperors. This story is part adventure, part fantasy, part political satire and all fun. Fans of Terry Pratchett will not go wrong with reading this early work. 

19. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine, read by Angie, on 05/19/2014

Red Porter comes from a long line of Porters. He is proud of his family heritage and his place in the world and his community. Then his daddy dies and suddenly mom is talking about moving them from Virginia to Ohio. Red doesn’t want to leave his home or the shop and store his daddy owned. He tries everything he can think of to stop his mom from selling even if that includes enlisting the help of Darryl Dunlop. The Dunlops have been the Porter’s neighbors for a hundred years and there has always been bad blood between. The Dunlops and Porters couldn’t be more different. The Porters are pillars of the community whereas the Dunlops beat their kids and cause trouble. 

Red is also having trouble reconciling the racism he sees in his community with his own beliefs. Red is learning that just because it is the 1970s that doesn’t mean racism is gone. There are still people who want to put Blacks in their place and keep them separated from the whites. Red is friends with Ms. Georgia, an old Black lady who lives up the road from his family. Her grandpa was murdered 100 years ago on land he was buying from the Porters. Red decides to try and solve the mystery of where the Freedom Church was and what really happened the night George Freeman was murdered. This leads him to some hard truths about his family and the Dunlops. 

There is a lot going on in this book. It is a book that would spark a lot of discussions on civil rights, women rights and racism. It is also a good discussion book on grief and how different people deal with a loved ones death. Red wants to hold onto everything related to his father, but his mother can’t stand being around everything without his father. I liked the progression of the characters. Red grows up a lot during the course of the book. He learns to stand up for what he believes in and not to give in to the bigots and racists. His mother also changes. She is devastated with grief at the beginning, barely able to function, but by the end she is strong and more than what she was.

15. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, read by Angie, on 05/15/2014

Sometimes I read a book and wonder what happened when I was a child that I missed reading it then. Maybe I was just too preoccupied by The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High and didn’t pay attention to books that might be considered quality. Maybe I only read things I could get through Scholastic Book Club. Whatever the case, I am glad I have the opportunity to read some of these as an adult and to introduce them to kids. 

The Westing Game is one of those books I never read as a kid but know I would have loved. It did when the Newbery when I was a pre-reader, but I am sure it was on every library shelf throughout my childhood. It is a wonderfully engaging mystery that reminded me a lot of the movie Clue (not an exact match I admit, but some elements were there). I liked that it is not a dumbed down mystery for kids, but one that made me think even as an adult. In the introduction, it states that Rankin never “wrote-down” to children, but instead wrote to the adult in children. I think this perfectly describes this book.

The story begins with the Sunset Towers and its new occupants. They are all carefully chosen, except for the mistake, and all are connected even though they do not realize it. Sunset Towers is in the shadow of the Westing House whose mysterious owner, Sam Westing, disappeared 20 years ago. Then Sam Westing is found dead in the house and the occupants of the Sunset Towers are notified that they are heirs to the Westing Fortune. The sixteen heirs are paired up and given clues to solve the mystery of who murdered Sam Westing. They winner of the Westing Game will receive the Westing fortune. Along the way we learn so much about each of the characters and their connections to each other and Sam Westing. In the end there is only one winner of the Westing Game, but everyone who plays benefits in some manner. 

07. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kristy

The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jiménez, read by Kristy, on 04/30/2014

These independent but intertwined stories follow a migrant family through their circuit, from picking cotton and strawberries to topping carrots – and back again – over a number of years. As it moves from one labor camp to the next, the little family of four grows into ten. Impermanence and poverty define their lives. But with faith, hope, and back-breaking work, the family endures.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Explorer: The Lost Islands by Kazu Kibuishi, read by Angie, on 05/05/2014

This is a collection of seven short graphic stories. They all center around tales on islands. There is Rabbit Island where the rabbits become to reliant on a robot. The Mask Dance is a scary story about a girl who sails to another island and dances all night with ghostly masked figures. Carapace tells the story of a young man lost on an island and his ghostly companion. Desert Island Playlist is an unusual story about a young girl who washes up on a beach and meets a baby and an old woman. Loah is a tale of fish who escape their exploding island. Radio Adrift is about a young mage-in-training who enlists the help of a DJ to hatch her pixie. The Fisherman tells the story of a group of fisherman who discover a mysterious island. I enjoyed the variety of these stories and the wonderful illustrations.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge, read by Lisa, on 04/30/2014

Penelope Tredwell is the feisty thirteen-year-old orphan heiress of the bestselling magazine. The Penny Dreadful. Her masterly tales of the macabre are gripping Victorian Britain. even if no one knows shes the real author. One day a letter she receives from the governor of the notorious Bedlam madhouse plunges her into an adventure more terrifying than anything she ever imagined – A thriller with a fast-paced cinematic style. Twelve Minutes to Midnight is an electrifying story from an exciting new author.