Hazel lives with her parents in the small Vermont town of Maple Hill. Her parents are the caretakers of the local cemetery and Hazel has free reign over the cemetery. It is 1953 and the height of the Joseph McCarthy Red Menace where communists seem to be everywhere. Hazel believes what she hears. She is building a bomb shelter in one of the mausoleums and investigating the new gravedigger Mr. Jones. She believes that since the FBI is investigating the local factory there must be other commies in town. Hazel thinks Mr. Jones is suspicious and wants to catch him in the act. She enlists the help of her new friend Samuel who is new in town and has a mysterious past. Together they have to figure out the mystery of Mr. Jones and the communist threat.
I liked this book. Hazel is spunky and smart and a bit full of herself. She loves the mysteries of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon and wants to solve mysteries herself. Since she lives in a small town there aren’t really a lot of mysteries, which doesn’t stop Hazel. She sees things as she wants them to be in a lot of ways. She doesn’t have a whole lot of parental supervision, but this is the 1950s so maybe parents were a bit more lax back then. I like the fact that this book is set in a time period that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention with middle grade novels. There is also McCarthyism which is not something a lot of kids know about it. It is a fascinating time in our history when there was a lot of fear-mongering going on. While the Mr. Jones mystery wasn’t really that interesting, Samuel’s story was as was how Hazel resolved it.
Holly is looking forward to going back to school and seeing her best friend Julia. Her first day does not go as planned however. First her brother spills orange juice all over her first-day outfit and new backpack so she has to use an old batman one. Then Julia has made a new friend at band camp and Natasha is not someone Holly wants to be friends with. Natasha and Julia have all kinds of inside stories about band camp that makes Holly feel left out and jealous. Natasha also plays french horn in band just like Holly does and she is better! Seventh grade is hard enough without having to deal with all of this extra drama.
I actually dreaded reading this book because of the title. I think I Heart Band is going to turn off kids who would actually enjoy this one. It is a completely realistic look at what happens when a new friend is introduced into the mix, when you start thinking about boys as more than friends, when you move up in school and the classes are so much harder. I remember a lot of these emotions and situations Holly experiences from my own experiences in middle school. You cringe a bit but can also laugh because you survived. However, as much as I would have enjoyed this story as a kid I would probably have never picked it up because of the title. I wasn’t in band and would have been completely turned off by the fact that it is mentioned in the title. I would have thought it was all about band instead of a decent story about surviving middle school.
Gladys Gatsby is an eleven year old foodie. She has been forced into learning to cook and learning to love good food by her fast-food eating, microwave cooking parents who have no concept of what good food actually is. She has been making her own gourmet meals since she was seven when her aunt Lydia introduced her to the wonders of excellent cooking. Her life as she knows it comes to an end one day when she accidently set the kitchen curtains on fire while trying to make creme brulee with a regular blowtorch. Her parents ground her from cooking, reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows on TV. Instead they say she has to go out into the world and make friends and do regular kid stuff. This also means she is forced to eat the awful things her parents eat.
Then her new teacher has a fabulous assignment. The students are to write a report on their future selves. These reports will be submitted to the essay contest at the New York Standard newspaper. Gladys loves the dining section of the Standard and all the restaurant reviews. So she writes her report as if she was submitting a cover letter to be a food critic at the paper. Her letter gets misdirected to the editor of the dining section who just happens to need a new food critic. Gladys is hired but now must figure out how to get to New York to the restaurant without her parents finding out or the paper finding out she is only eleven.
This book was simply charming! I was afraid it was going to be filled with implausible coincidences and a child prodigy cook, but it was nothing like that. While Gladys is a fantastic cook, she is also completely realistic. I liked her fascination with food and could belief that it developed because of her parents’ horrible tastes. She gets up to all kinds of schemes to try and get to New York and complete her assignment and I thought they were clever and smart. Doesn’t matter that most of them didn’t work out. I thought the ending was a perfect end to this journey we took with Gladys. My one complaint about this book is that it made me really hungry for fabulous food and delicious desserts.
In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.
But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn’t, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of “pigeoners” trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha’s blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.
While set in the 1800s and the setting seems western in nature, it really isn’t a western. Georgie, the main character, refuses to believe that her sister is dead, despite the evidence pointing to her demise. She sets off, determined to find her. While she is out looking, she runs into more than she anticipated and even though she still doesn’t believe her sister is dead, Georgie begins to resign herself to that conclusion. What intrigued me about the story, were the pigeons and pigeoners, due to the fact that I had just been reading stories about the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the huge flocks of them that would migrate across the country. I think this is a story that will find both boys and girls enjoying.
Hunter and his twin brother Zack are out to find the treasure left by the town founder Lester Dinwitty. They team up with Sarah Yulefski and look for clues. They are followed and assisted by little brother Steadman. Bradley the Bully and their sister Linny are also looking for the treasure. They keep getting mysterious clues and help from someone. Their search leads them from the cemetery to the school basement and drum lessons to the train station and certain doom. Even though the characters in this book are older, it is clearly written for the beginning chapter book reader. The story is in some ways simple and in others completely uncomprehending. The whole treasure hunt scenario doesn’t make the most sense. And there are certain other things that really had me scratching my head in puzzlement. It takes a bit to find the story believable or possible. I think it is a good series for younger readers but can’t image anyone much older than 2nd/3rd grade enjoying it.
The Barker brothers are back in the final installment of the Superstition Mountain trilogy. They and their friend Delilah found the mine in the mountains before it was buried by an avalanche in the last book. In this book they are trying to figure out what the mysterious historical society group is up to. They are back at the ghost town trying to find clues about the deathbed gold of Jacob Waltz and trying to figure out all the clues their uncle left them. The clues lead them to his long-time girlfriend and a plot in the cemetery. They also have to get back up to the mine and return the gold they took before the curse takes hold.
I read the first book in this series but not the second one. I am sure I missed out on some details but this final book does a nice job reminding the reader what has happened in the past. I like the fact that the mystery is based on actual historical events even if the contemporary people are not. I think that lends an aura of authenticity to the events in the books. I also enjoy the fact that this is also a book about family and the Barker family is very present although the parents do not seem to be as aware of their children’s actions as they probably should be. Overall this is a fun mystery series for middle grade readers.
It is the summer after 8th grade. Lucy, Michael and Elena are looking forward to summer and contemplating their summer reading list. They are all book lovers and Lucy in particular truly loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Their favorite English teacher Fat Bob Nowak died the previous year and was also a big fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. The kids decide to start a campaign in honor of Fat Bob and their love of the book. The campaign will hopefully make more people want to read To Kill a Mockingbird, but how are they going to do that. They decide on “I Kill the Mockingbird” and travel around the state hiding copies of the book in libraries and bookstores (they never steal them). They also start an internet campaign and leave I Kill the Mockingbird posters where they have removed books. Their campaign takes off after Wil Wheaton tweets about it. Soon the I Kill the Mockingbird campaign has made the news and has become a national movement. Of course that is not all that is going on that summer. Lucy’s mom has is recovering from cancer and she is worried about her. Elena is an orphan living with her uncle Mort who runs a bookstore and is afraid she won’t fit in at high school because she is so short. Lucy also has a crush on Michael (he has one on her too) but is afraid to ruin their friendship. Michael is a fabulous baseball player and wants to be challenge during the game. This is a wonderful story about friendship, family and good books.
I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I was a bit skeptical at first but the premise of the book really worked. I loved Lucy, Elena and Michael. They are smart, articulate and fun characters who seemed exactly like the type of kids who could pull this off. I enjoyed the fact that the parents were actually present in the book and seemed like real people as well. So many kid’s books have absent parents or truly stereotypical ones. I think this is a book that book-loving kids will enjoy (as well as adults) and one that may spark an interest in reading some of the classics mentioned.
The earth in the future is being taken over by garbage and bureaucracy. Rick and Evie and their dad get in trouble with Winterpole after saving a bird whose habitat has become a landfill. Because of previous infractions dad is placed under house arrest, but not before he tells the kids about a secret formula he created years ago that would turn garbage into organic material. Winterpole found out about it and wanted to use it to make weapons (not sure how that would work) so dad and his partner split the formula and the partner disappeared. The kids are determined to find the partner and create an 8th continent out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Then they would be out from under Winterpole’s control. They are pursued by by Evie’s nemesis Vesuvia who is the secret CEO of her dad’s corporation and determined to turn everything in the world into pink plastic.
I’m not sure how believable this book is supposed to be, but I hope not very is the answer. Everything about it seems so far-fetched and unbelievable that it was difficult to get through at times. I liked the premise however and the writing was fun and entertaining. The characters were a bit one-dimensional especially Vesuvia and the Winterpole people. This book is the first in a planned series and the ending sets up the next book nicely. Even though much of the book makes no sense whatsoever I can see kids picking it up and enjoying the ride.
Jerry Flack is not cool. He is a nerd who likes science and wears glasses. When he moves to a new town he thinks he has a shot at changing his image and becoming cool. He puts away his glasses and gets lessons on being cool from his friend Brenda. Soon he is hanging out with the cool kids and thinks beautiful Cinnamon likes him. But he also misses hanging out with Brenda and the other kids on the science team. And he still likes science and other uncool things. This is a book all about accepting who you are and what is important to you. Is it more important to be cool and do things you don’t enjoy or approve of or is it better to hang out with people you like and do things you enjoy? Jerry has to learn this lesson that we have all learned. No one wants to be uncool or unpopular, but sometimes you realize that being cool isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Sir Sidney’s Circus is the best circus in the world. The circus goes to sea when they receive an invitation from Flora Endora Eliza LaBuena LaPasta to be guests on the SS Spaghetti. Everyone in the circus is excited about the trip except Sir Sidney because he gets seasick. Once they board the SS Spaghetti they find out that Flora is a little girl and her mom is the Captain of the ship. Unfortunately, the captain is not happy that Flora fired all the entertainers and brought the circus on board. She is even more unhappy when they empty the swimming pool (the elephant jumped in) and injured a passenger (he tried the spaghetti tight rope the Banana Brothers set up). But when the ship hits an iceberg she is happy the circus is there to help fix the ship. This is a cute beginning chapter book. It has an engaging story and lots of illustrations to keep the story moving. I really enjoyed how Klise included illustrations showing conversations between the characters. I think kids will enjoy this book by Kate Klise.
I received this book from Netgalley.
Cory hates being a tooth fairy. She isn’t very good at it and doesn’t enjoy it, but her mom is a tooth fairy and convinced her it was the career for her. When she quits her mom is furious as is the Tooth Fairy Guild. Cory just wants to help people and wants to find a career that will let her do that. She starts taking odd jobs like babysitting (for Humpty Dumpty and the old lady who lived in a shoe), mowing yards (for the three little pigs of course) and doing inventory (for the lady selling seashells on the seashore). She also starts setting up her friends on dates trying to find them the perfect match. The Tooth Fairy Guild does not take quitters lightly and starts a campaign of harassment that follows Cory wherever she goes. They send rain and gnats and crabs and the big bad wolf. None of it convinces Cory that she should go back to being a tooth fairy. As the harassment escalates so does her determination to find something truly helpful to do.
I had high hopes for this book as I really enjoy fractured fairy tales, but this book was a bit of a disappointment. I liked the fact that we got to see such a nice mixture of fairy tale characters, but I wanted more of a story. The story itself seems very disjointed with Cory moving from one odd job with a fairy tale character to another. The only truly cohesive thing seems to be the harassment by the TFG, but even that seems a bit extreme. I liked the ending and how Cory’s matchmaking desires finally makes sense but I also thought it was a bit rushed. There was a lot of story about Cory babysitting and such but very little about what happens when she finds her true calling.
Rose is on the autism spectrum with Asperger’s. She is obsessed with rules, prime numbers and homonyms. She gets upset when people don’t follow the rules or when she has problems understanding something. The adults in her life respond to her in different ways. Her father doesn’t understand and all and gets angry at her when she does not respond in a normal way. Her teacher and aide try to help her through difficult situations at school. It is her uncle Weldon who truly understands and accepts Rose. Their relationship is the heart of this story and one that grounds Rose and helps her live as normal a life as possible. Her father gave her a dog one evening which she named Rain. Rose loves the fact that both of their names are homonyms (rose/rows and rain/reign/rein). A hurricane strikes their New York town and her father lets Rain out into the storm. Rain disappears and Rose does everything she can think of to find him. She calls shelters and gets her uncle to help her search. When they finally do find Rain their joy is tempered by bad news. Rose has to find the courage to do the right thing and accept the reality of the situation.
I really only remember Ann Martin for her Babysitter’s Club books (which I was obsessed with as a kid). I hadn’t read a book by her in years and have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. Rose is written so realistically that at times it is almost painful to read her story. Probably almost as painful as it would be to watch it unfold in real life. She does truly try to life as normal a life as possible, but she doesn’t always respond in the normal ways. Her meltdowns feel real and natural as does her confusion over the actions of others. I think this is an eye-opening look at what a person with Asperger’s goes through and how they think and react to situations. It was wonderful and truly worthy of the praise it is getting. The ending alone is enough to break your heart and make you want to give Rose a huge hug.
If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.
Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.
It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.
With all due respect,
I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, THE MISERABLE MILL might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, and they find disaster and misfortune lurking behind every log.
The pages of this book, I’m sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons.
I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven’t, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming, please feel free to make another selection.
With all due respect,
If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted, but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and this one may be the worst of them all.If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair.I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.
With all due respect,
As Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire travel along Lousy Lane toward their new home, they fear the worst. It’s true that Violet Baudelaire has escaped some close calls before. For a fourteen-year-old, she has an extraordinary talent for inventing things. And her brother, Klaus, is also well equipped for emergencies. He has read a great deal and possesses just the sort of knowledge that can get them out of a tight spot. Their younger sister, Sunny, is also helpful in a jam. Though she is only an infant, she has four very sharp teeth, and she likes to bite things. Still, even though the Baudelaires have great talent among them, they can’t help but worry about what sort of guardian their strange Uncle Montgomery Montgomery will be. After all, these siblings are extremely unlucky and they had best be on their guard. Certainly, they will need all of their abilities if they should find themselves faced with a dreadful series of unfortunate events.
It’s a good thing that Violet Baudelaire has a real knack for inventing things. When misery comes to call, the right invention at the right time can mean everything. It’s also fortunate that her brother, Klaus, has read lots of books and knows many important things, like how to tell an alligator from a crocodile and who killed Julius Caesar. When everything that can possibly go wrong does, a small fact can be vital. It’s lucky, too, that Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest sibling, likes to bite things. Even though she is an infant, and scarcely larger than a boot, she has four very big and sharp teeth. When trouble comes along, sharp teeth can save the day. But most of all, it is good fortune that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are as sturdy and resilient as they are, for ahead of these three children lies a seemingly infinite series of unfortunate events.
“YOU BE ME…AND I’LL BE YOU.”
ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.
Then, BAM! They swap lives—and bodies!
Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties while Ellie’s reigning as the Prince of Thatcher Middle School. As their crazy weekend races on—and their feelings for each other grow—Ellie and Jack begin to realize that maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being someone else.
Albie is a boy in fifth grade who has issues. He doesn’t do well in school. He is so bad in fact he was kicked out of his fancy prep school and sent to public school instead. He isn’t good at math or reading or spelling or art. His parents expect a lot more from him; his dad expects perfection, but Albie is just not able to deliver. He isn’t cool or smart and doesn’t have many friends. His new babysitter Calista helps though. She tries to help him study and does fun things with him. His parents are distant and don’t really seem to have a lot of time for him. Albie spends the school year trying to figure things out and figure out his place in the world.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I really liked the fact that Albie was just your average kid. He wasn’t super talented or super smart or super anything. In fact he was pretty much the opposite. He struggles with school. He struggles with making friends. Things are hard for him and they don’t get miraculously better at the end of the book. On the other hand I had a really hard time with this story. Albie’s parents are horrible with unreal expectations for him (which could be very realistic) and with little time or interest in Albie. They make no effort to find out what is going on with him or what he is having problems with or even what he likes. My biggest issue was probably Albie himself though. At one point Albie is tested for dyslexia and finds out he doesn’t have it, but he clearly has something. He is very immature for a fifth grader, he doesn’t pick up on social clues that most kids his age would clearly understand and he has a lot of problems learning. I think a lot of kids reading this book will be frustrated by Albie and the fact that he is so clueless about things. When the bully Darren starts being nice to Albie most kids will instinctively know that Darren can’t be trusted. He is clearly trying to get close to Albie because his friend is on a reality TV show. But Albie thinks he is suddenly cool and tries to help another “uncool” friend become cool. I can’t imagine any fifth grader acting like this. It seems more like the behavior of someone in third grade. I think the message of this book is good though. It is all about accepting yourself for who you are and realizing that not everyone is a superhero or has special powers. It was just a bit of a mixed bag for me though.
At some point in our future the Great Distortion takes place and the world is unstuck from time. What does this mean? It means that different eras/time periods co-exist throughout the world. You have the Prehistoric Snows in Canada, Late Patagonia in South America, the 40th Age in the Philippines area and here in the United States you have New Occident in the east and the Baldlands in the west. Some areas are so disrupted they are closed, but many others are open to exploration and trade. Sophia lives with her uncle in Boston in New Occident. Her parents were explorers who disappeared when she was three. Uncle Shadrack is one of the foremost cartologers (mapmakers) in the world and is teaching her about maps. Then Shadrack is kidnapped and leaves a message for Sohpia to find Veressa. She teams up with Theo and heads off to the Baldlands. Turns out Shadrack was kidnapped by the mysterious Blanca and her Sandmen. She wants Shadrack to help her find the carta mayor, the water map of the world, and revise it so the world is whole again. Everyone meets up in the Baldland capital of Nochtland, but there they discover that the world is not static like they thought. A glacier age is making its way north and wiping out every other age it crosses. Sophia, Theo, Shadrack and the friends they have made have to figure out how to stop it and stop Blanca.
So if the description confuses you, you are not alone. This is a very complex story that while fascinating requires a suspension of belief to enjoy. The description of the world is amazing, but it really doesn’t answer a lot of questions. For instance, no one knows what age the great disruption occurred in; however, there are ages from the distant past and the distant future. How can there be an age from a future after the great disruption if the great disruption occurs? Why are some ages closed and others open? Why can you travel and trade among some but have no idea what is going on in others? If this is earth, why are there people with feathers or metal bones? How can ages move and expand? It kind of makes your head hurt when you think about it. I think one of my biggest headaches was the language. There are lots of made up words that are like our words but not. Things like Baldlands (which I always read as Badlands) and cartologer (which I read as cartographer). It made a confusing story even more confusing. There is also the issue of the maps. Seems in this world you can make way more than paper maps. There are water maps, glass maps, cloth maps, metal maps and these maps contain not just geographical features but memories from people. No explanation on how these maps were created or how people learned to make them. Of course there was no explanation on the carta mayor and how and why it was created either.
Then you have the book itself. It is rather long and the age it is aimed at is questionable. It is complicated and has some nasty bits (torture and such) which seem to point towards a more teen reader, but the main character is obviously young and there is no romance between Sophia and Theo which points toward a more middle grade reader. I’m not really sure who I would recommend this book to. Of course there is the story itself which got even more far-fetched the longer it went along while at the same time remaining completely predictable. That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book or enjoy it. I couldn’t put it down and really wanted to know how everything ended up. I was disappointed by the ending and still very confused when I finished.