12. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Children's Books, Children's Books, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

From Slave to World-Class Horseman: Tom Bass by J. L. Wilkerson., read by Kira, on 09/10/2014

downloadimages (12 Bassahs7  This is a short biography of a African American born into slavery, then emancipated with his family, who loved working with horses, and ended up owning his own stables and showed horses at major events.  Bass was able to overcome a number of racial barriers because of his great skill with horses, and because other people, whites, stood up for him.  He was a quiet, gentle man, and one wonders if an African American with a different temperament would have succeeded in his place.

I liked the fact that so much of the story took place here in Mid-Missouri, in Columbia, Boonville, etc.  download (1) download (2) images

12. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Blood Ties: Spirit Animals Bk 3. by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, read by Kira, on 09/11/2014

blood ties elephantlarge_1download (2)This time the team heads to an Asian jungle with nasty leeches, snakes, crocodiles, and deadly insects, in search of the elephants talisman.

This book, was Not as well written as others, the tension was problematic, where I just wanted to skip ahead, and Not endure the will this person succeed at jumping high enough, or some such thing.  I suspect Garth Nix didn’t contribute as much as Sean Williams, having read Nix before.  Still I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

11. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Grounded by Kate Klise, read by Angie, on 09/10/2014

Daralynn Oakland survived because she was grounded. She had gone fishing at Doc Lake without permission so her mom grounded her and she didn’t get on the plane that crashed and killed her dad, sister and brother. After the funeral, her mom starts doing hair at the funeral home and takes over the local hair salon. Her mom becomes more and more withdrawn as time goes by and everything seems to irritate her. The biggest irritant is Aunt Josie. Aunt Josie runs the Summer Sunset Retirement Home for Distinguished Gentlemen out of her home and is always taking care of old men with no family. Her new beau is Mr. Clem who has just opened the new crematorium in town. Daralynn and her mom are unhappy because Mr. Clem steals their idea for living funerals and they are afraid he will put the funeral home out of business.

This book contains an interesting case of characters. They are all eccentric and just a little bit different. The story is a bit over the top but it is fun and definitely keeps you interested. I thought the reveal about Mr. Clem was easy to spot and just a bit predictable but kids might not be able to spot it. I did like the glimpse into how people deal with grief in different ways. It would bring up several good discussion points for parents and kids to talk about. I think my favorite moment in the book was when Daralynn was talking about her brother and his love of peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. I had no idea anyone outside of my family ate such a thing! Guess it must be a Missouri thing.

09. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Wild Born: Spirit Animals Bk1 by Brandon Mull, read by Kira, on 09/06/2014

In
images Spirit Animals_thumb[4] Animal_spirits_squares_black_detail AnimalSpiritCircle The beginning of the Spirit Animals series.  At the start of the adventure, 4 11-yr olds drink the special honey liquid and are able to call spirit animals.  But Not just any spirit animals appear to these 4, rather the Great 4 Fallen, who died in the old battle with the Destroyer.  Each youth is from a different country on Erdras and from a different segment in society.

 

This is a fast moving, action filled adventure.

04. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberley Griffiths Little, read by Angie, on 09/03/2014

Larissa is bitter about the scar on her face. The scar that was caused when she was pushed through the old Bayou Bridge by Alyson Granger and her friends. Larissa and her family have a long history in Bayou Bridge but her mamma doesn’t like being back in town. She is bitter about Larissa’s accident and the fact that her own sister drowned in the bayou when the bridge was hit by lightning. Larissa gets a mysterious phone call from someone telling her to trust the fireflies. Only problem is the phone isn’t connected to anything. The fireflies keep trying to lead her across the bridge to the island where her family used to live. When she makes it to the island she discovers she has been transported to 1912 and witnesses events in the life of her ancestor Anna. She also witnesses events in the life of each subsequent generation. In each generation there is some kind of tragedy and the creepy doll Anna Marie is always present. Larissa has to figure out what it all means before the doll strikes again and hurts her mamma who is pregnant with her baby sister. 

This was a pretty captivating mystery if you suspend your disbelief a bit. There is no explanation given for the magic of the fireflies or how Larissa receives the phone call from the future. The doll also doesn’t really get a very good explanation, but I did enjoy the journey Larissa went on to figure everything out. I think more important than the mystery of the doll and the family tragedies was Larissa coming to terms with her scar. She was so fixated on the scar and her hatred for Alyson that it blinded her to actual events. Once she came to terms with everything things started to become clearer. It was a nice added part of the story. 

I received this book from Netgalley.

indeximg-thing 6a00e54efdd2b38834015393b5f173970b A delightful set of guidelines on how to live your life, especially if you live within fairy tales.  Some of the wisdom applies to our reality on this earth as well.

01. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fiction, Science Fiction

The Battle for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi, read by Eric, on 08/30/2014

This final book in the WondLa trilogy puts Eva Nine amidst the war between humans and alien species, to decide the fate of Orbona. It also illustrates how much she has matured, and how powerful she has become, since The Search for WondLa. She has gained abilities which put her on par with most anyone on the planet, and she will need all of them in order to do her part in stopping the machinations of advisor-turned-usurper, Loroc.

This isn’t my favorite story of the trilogy, but even so, it is far from disappointing. Former antagonists become allies, treachery is revealed, and in the middle of it all is Eva. She is a great character, and her companions just as strong. Their effectiveness is enhanced by DiTerlizzi’s artwork, which is consistently excellent throughout the trilogy. His character and world designs are wonderful, and the perfect guide in case someone wishes to put all this on the big screen. Please?

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein, read by Courtney, on 08/12/2014

The town of Alexandriaville, OH has been without a library for 12 long years, but they’ve just built a new one that will, quite possibly, be the most fascinating (and fun!) public library ever. That’s because it’s being built to celebrate the birthday of one of the town’s most famous residents: master gamemaker, Luigi Lemoncello. When it is announced that 12 lucky 12-year-olds will be given the opportunity to spend the night in the new library, Kyle jumps at the chance. He’s a huge fan of Mr. Lemoncello’s games and cannot wait to see what what’s inside. Naturally, Kyle becomes one of the 12 lucky kids to be the first to enter the library. The night is full of fun games, but little do any of the kids know that the real game hasn’t even started yet. As the lock-in draws to a close, a new and more exciting contest is announced: the first one to escape the library will win the prize of a lifetime. They can only use the resources within the library and cannot go out the way they came in. Since the library used to be a bank, it seems pretty impenetrable. Kyle teams up with some of the nicer kids so that they can be the first to exit and share in the prize.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this book is a lot of fun. The library itself sounds like an extremely cool (and extremely expensive) building. The narrative is peppered with references to popular children’s and teen books. There are puzzles here and there that the kids in the book have to solve and the reader gets to go along for the ride. Unfortunately, readers aren’t given a chance to solve anything on their own (something my middle schoolers were anxious to do), so it feels like a bit of a let-down when the answer comes right away. The prize is one that, to me, doesn’t feel very appealing, but perhaps to a 12-year-old, it might be. The characters aren’t particularly well-developed and most of their actions are predictable. There’s a definite “Willy Wonka” vibe to this book, except you would replace “chocolate factory” with “library” and “Willy Wonka” with “Luigi Lemoncello”. And instead of golden tickets, you have winning essays. This is an entertaining read, but I can’t help but think it could have been better executed.

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf, read by Lisa, on 08/26/2014

An intriguing novel with a classic feel, featuring three vividly alive young sisters, an eccentric family struggling against the odds, and the slowly revealed story of a house with a past.

At the end of the world, near the border with Germany, stands a house as long as nine open arms. Half hidden behind trees and shrubs rises a wide brick wall, topped with two attic windows, each no bigger than a dishcloth. The walls have been whitewashed and the wooden floor is bare, as if the house is waiting. Waiting for someone to move in. 

It is the summer of 1937, and it hasn’t rained for seven weeks when Fing and her family of nine move into Nine Open Arms, along with their handcart of meagre belongings. ‘The Dad’ is a man who does all kinds of jobs and none of them well, while Oma Mei courageously holds everything together, including the family’s history in her Crocodile bag full of pictures and stories. But as the year progresses, the family just gets poorer.

Meanwhile, Fing and her two sisters, wild Muulke and fearful Jess, begin to discover strange mysteries…a bed that looks like a tombstone, and an unmarked grave in the cemetery.

Nine Open Arms is an exceptional imagined historical mystery – the story of a very special home, the eccentric families who have lived within it, and the unexpected ties that emerge between the two..

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Sea-Cat and Dragon King by Angela Carter, Eva Tatcheva (Illustrator), read by Lisa, on 08/13/2014

This is a magical story of the love between mother and child and the gifts of kindness and understanding. Dragon King and Sea-Cat both live under the sea. Sea-Cat lives with his mother who sews him fabulous jewel-encrusted suits that shimmer and capture the attention of all who see him. Dragon King, the ruler, lives a sad and lonely life as he is so ashamed of his ugliness. When he sees Sea-Cat in his beautiful suit, he is overcome with jealousy and wants the suit for himself. But Sea-Cat is clever and kind and befriends Dragon King. Sea-Cat knows his mother can turn the Dragon King’s ruby tears into a most dazzling suit, just for him! 

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, read by Lisa, on 08/15/2014

This much-anticipated follow-up to Jonathan Auxier’s exceptional debut,Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is a Victorian ghost story with shades of Washington Irving and Henry James. More than just a spooky tale, it’s also a moral fable about human greed and the power of storytelling.

The Night Gardener follows two abandoned Irish siblings who travel to work as servants at a creepy, crumbling English manor house. But the house and its family are not quite what they seem. Soon the children are confronted by a mysterious spectre and an ancient curse that threatens their very lives. With Auxier’s exquisite command of language, The Night Gardener is a mesmerizing read and a classic in the making.

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler, read by Lisa, on 08/01/2014

In this middle-grade Bridesmaids, hilarity ensues as triplets have to stop a wedding!

One bride. Two boys. Three flower girls who won’t forever hold their peace. What could go wrong with this wedding? Everything!

The Brewster triplets, Dawn, Darby, and Delaney, would usually spend their summer eating ice cream, playing with their dog, and reading about the US Presidents. But this year they’re stuck planning their big sister Lily’s wedding. Lily used to date Alex, who was fun and nice and played trivia games with the triplets, and no one’s quite sure why they broke up. Burton, Lily’s groom-to-be, is not nice or fun, and he looks like an armadillo.

The triplets can’t stand to see Lily marry someone who’s completely wrong for her, so it’s up to them to stop the wedding before anyone says “I do!” The flower girls will stop at nothing to delay Lily’s big day, but will sprinklers, a photo slideshow, a muddy dog, and some unexpected allies be enough to prevent their big sister – and the whole Brewster family – from living unhappily ever after?

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, read by Angie, on 08/20/2014

Splendors and Glooms is a 2013 Newbery Honor Book and kind of reinforces my idea that the Newbery Award is not about books that kids would choose to read themselves. It is about books that adults think kids should read or need to read. Which means the books are generally not popular and are not going to be books kids will pick up on their own. Splendors and Glooms is a heavy book that deals with some very tough topics like child abuse, unwanted male attention, death and evil all the while set in Victorian England. It is a long read with a lot of descriptive language reminiscent of Victorian literature. It is a book that I would actually say is more geared towards older kids because of the situations and language (there are a couple of swear words). 

Splendors and Glooms is the story of three children: Clara, Lizzie Rose, and Parsefall. Clara is a privileged girl who is the only surviving child of a cholera epidemic that killed all her brothers and sisters. Her house is one of mourning even years after the fact. Lizzie Rose is a child of the theater who was orphaned when her parents died who plays at being a lady. Parsefall is another orphan who was rescued from the workhouse, loves being a puppeteer and picks a pocket or two. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall live with Grisini the puppeteer. He doesn’t treat them very well, barely feeds them and makes them work for him. The three meet when Clara begs to have Grisini do a show at her birthday party. She disappears the next day with no trace. Then Parsefall and Lizzie Rose discover a new puppet who looks just like Clara and come to believe that Grisini is a magician who turned her into a puppet. Grisini disappears leaving the children on their own until they discover a letter from Cassandra asking them to come live with her. Cassandra is a witch who has visions of being consumed by fire because of the fire opal she possesses. Grisini tells her that a child must steal it from her in order to free her (thus the request for the kids). The kids arrive at her country castle and start trying to figure out what is going on and how they can get out of it. 

So not my favorite book. The story was overly dramatic and gruesome at times for a children’s book. The ending was way too simple to be realistic and diminished the drama of the previous 400 pages. And the plot got a little convoluted and a bit boring to tell you the truth. 

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection CD by Neil Gaiman, read by Angie, on 08/19/2014

Four short children’s stories by Neil Gaiman are contained in this collection and they were all wonderful: Crazy Hair, Cinnamon, The Wolves in the Walls and the Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. I think my favorite might have been the Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish just for the plain fun and silliness of the story. The Wolves in the Walls was a bit scary. Cinnamon was a touching story. Crazy Hair was just fun with its rhyming text. I think the best part was the fact that Gaiman read the stories himself and the fact that his daughter interviewed him at the end. Wonderful collection. 

08. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steam-punk

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 08/08/2014

The League of Seven is an alternative history steampunk adventure. It is 1875 and the world is much different from the one we are familiar with. The east coast of America is the United Nations: seven tribes united together (six of the Indians and the last Yankees). The old world of Europe has been lost to darkness. Everything runs on steam mainly because lektricity wakes the monsters. That’s right there are monsters imprisoned in the earth. The Septemberist Society keeps the knowledge alive even though most people just think of history as myths and legends. It seems the mangleborn feed of lektricity and every thousand years or so they break out of their prisons and destroy the world. It is up to the League of Seven to imprison them again. The League is always made up of seven heroes: a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strong man, and a hero. 

Archie Dent’s parents are members of the Septemberist Society and have been brainwashed by manglespawn as have all the other members of the society. Instead of working to prevent the rise of the mangleborn they are working to free one of them. It is up to Archie and his two new friends Fergus and Hachi to stop the mangleborn and save his parents. Archie believes they are the new League of Seven. Fergus is the tinker, Hachi is the warrior and Archie thinks he is the hero but he doesn’t feel very heroic. Their quest takes them from the swamps of Florida to the streets of New Rome to the ruins of Atlantis under Niagara Falls and back again. They are fleeing from Thomas Edison, who is mad with the power of lektricity, and his evil tik tok ninja (think robot). They are helped along the way by Archie’s tik tok Mr. Rivet, Tesla (who is a Septemberist and quite mad) and a variety of other fun characters. 

This was a great start to this trilogy. The world building is very comprehensive and wonderful. The steampunk is really well done with airships and aether guns and mechanical men and pneumatic tubes. I also thought the alternative history stuff was very well thought out. I love the thought of all these great societies rising and falling because of the mangleborn (Atlantis, Rome, Cahokia, etc.) We don’t learn why Europe has gone dark or who the other Seven are, but those things will probably get covered in the next books. The heroes defeated one mangleborn but there are lots more out there and they are going to need help. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

07. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire, read by Angie, on 08/06/2014

Elena is a poor girl from the Russian countryside. Her dad is dead, her mom is sick and her brothers have left. One day a train stops in her poor village and she meets Ekaterina (Cat). Cat is a privileged girl heading to St. Petersburg to meet the tsar’s godson. The train is stalled while a bridge is repaired. Cat is showing Elena the gift for the tsar (a Faberge egg) when the train starts up again. Cat and the egg are thrown from the train and Elena is left on it. The girls have suddenly switched places and have to make a go of it. Cat sets off to try and get to St. Petersberg and runs into Baba Yaga. Elena tries to hide until she is found out and then pretends to be Cat. She also finds a firebird’s egg in the forest and tries to use it as a replacement for the Faberge egg. Baby Yaga agrees to take Cat to the tsar after Cat gives her the egg. Turns out the firebird’s egg was supposed to hatch and since it hasn’t magic is all out of whack. After the group is reunited and Anton the tsar’s godson joins them, they head north to figure out what is wrong with magic. 

There is a lot of craziness in this story. There is the ibza of Baba Yaga (her chicken house who forgets where she puts things), the matryoshka dolls who unnest themselves and marry the tooth soldiers of the ice dragon, there is the monk narrator who witnesses everything through the eyes of birds, and of course there is Baba Yaga herself. She is perhaps the best thing about this book. She is completely insane but hilarious. She has knowledge of the future and the past and brings it all up with the knowledge of the present.

This is a very complicated story. I am not quite sure who the intended audience is. It is a little long for a middle grade book and the story tends to wander a bit. There is a lot going on in the story and I think younger readers might be a bit confused by it all. It was an enjoyable story but I will admit that I couldn’t read it for long at a time. I kept putting it down and going to something else. It is kind of a convoluted plot. It all ties together at the end, but it took a lot of effort to get there. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie

The Ninja Librarian: the Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey, read by Leslie, on 07/07/2014

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Dorrie and her brother Marcus accidently open a portal to Petrarch’s Library, where they discover a secret society of warrior librarians who travel in time, protecting the world’s greatest thinkers from torture and death for sharing knowledge and ideas.

I picked this one because of the title, obviously!  It is a cute little story that kids might enjoy fantasizing that might happen to them.  You drop accidently into another world you never knew existed and find yourself wanting to spend more time there.  A good read, with both a main girl and boy protagonist, so it should appeal to both as readers.

05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags: ,

Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr, read by Angie, on 08/04/2014

Odin’s Ravens picks up right after the events of Loki’s Wolves. Matt, Fen and Laurie are headed to Hel to bring back their dead friend Baldwin. They hope that this mission will stop Ragnarok since Baldwin’s death is to start the apocalypse. In Hel they find Viking zombies, a river of acid, giants and Aunt Helen who agrees to help them. Once back in the real world they find that Ragnarok has not stopped and things are still progressing at a dangerous clip. Owen (Odin) enters the picture and decides to help them even though it limits his knowledge. Matt needs to find Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer). There are Valkyries, more Viking Zombies, wolves and battle goats! Seriously there are battle goats! It is an exciting time to be the living embodiment of a Viking God.

I think this series is a lot of fun. It is definitely for fans of Rick Riordan’s books and actually reminds me of them a lot. There is a lot of action and adventure, but you really learn about Norse Mythology. I like how the mythology isn’t shoved down the reader’s throat through a lot of exposition, but comes up naturally throughout the story. It is fun and fast-paced and I really can’t wait to see where the final book goes. The ending of this one was a bit of a slap in the face and I really want to see that resolved. 

02. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Madeline

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, read by Madeline, on 07/20/2014

Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible. So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has – the address of the cello maker. Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers – urchins who live in the sky. Together they scour the city for Sophie’s mother before she is caught and sent back to London, and most importantly before she loses hope.

29. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, read by Angie, on 07/29/2014

Felicity Pickle has been wandering her whole life. Her mama has a wandering heart and they barely get settled in a place before they are moving on. Felicity is hoping Midnight Gulch will change that. This is a place that feels like home. They are staying with her aunt Cleo and she learns that their family has a history in the mysterious Midnight Gulch. It is a place of wonder and magic. In the past magic bloomed everyone and in everyone, but since the Weatherly Brothers’ famous duel all that’s left is little snickers of magic. Felicity wants nothing more than to break the Weatherly Curse and stop her mama’s heart from wandering. It will take a whole cast of curious characters to help her out and another duel to settle things once and for all.

I was charmed by this quirky book. It is full of strange and wonderful characters both in the past and the present. I love the everyday magic that inhabited the people of Midnight Gulch and the snickers of magic that were left behind. It seems like there are lots of books in this genre: quirky, small town folks who band together out of love and hope and community. My only complaints were the overuse of specific words. Felicity sees words in the air and captures them in poems and her notebook. These words are wonderful and unique; however, her vocabulary is not. I got sick of reading spindiddly and what the hayseed and factofabulous. They were overused and unnecessary when such a rich vocabulary was introduced throughout the book. Other than that I really enjoyed it.