06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 224 pages, read by Lisa, on 12/24/2014

They’re back! Except Princess Cimorene is now Queen Cimorene of the Enchanted Forest, and she is on a very important mission with Kazul the dragon king, Morwen the witch, Telemain the magician, two cats, and a blue, flying donkey-rabbit named Killer. It’s not going to be easy.

The wizards have become very smart (sort of) and have found a way to capture the most powerful source of magic in the Enchanted Forest — King Mendanbar’s sword. If the sword is not returned to the forest in due time, the forest will begin to die. And you can bet your last dragon scale that Cimorene won’t stand for that!

Description from Goodreads.com

06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, 304 pages, read by Lisa, on 12/12/2014

Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academymasterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.

Description from Goodreads.com

06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline

Schooled by Gordon Korman, 224 pages, read by Madeline, on 12/15/2014

Homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Capricorn (Cap) Anderson has never watched television, tasted a pizza, or even heard of a wedgie. But when his grandmother lands in the hospital, Cap is forced to move in with a school counselor and attend the local middle school. While Cap knows a lot about tie-dyeing and Zen Buddhism, no education could prepare him for the politics of public school.

Description from Goodreads.com

06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Sports

Fantasy League by Mike Lupica, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 01/05/2015

Charlie Gaines is a HUGE football fan. He loves everything about the game even if he doesn’t think he plays that well. He is best friends with Anna who is the granddaughter of Joe Warren, the owner of their beloved L.A. Bulldogs. Even though the Bulldogs aren’t doing very well, Charlie and Anna still cheer for them every game day. Charlie is also a fantasy football master. His picks for his fantasy teams always win. Anna convinces him to start a podcast where he can share all his football knowledge. She also convinces him to tell Joe what he thinks about the Bulldogs. This leads to the Bulldogs signing two of the players Charlie suggests. Suddenly Charlie is thrust into the spotlight and made out to be a football boy wonder.

Usually I don’t enjoy sports books very much, but this one really captured my attention. Sure I had no idea what was going on when Lupica was describing football plays, but I really didn’t care. It was the human part of this story that was so enjoyable. Charlie is a truly likeable character with his strengths and his weaknesses. Charlie doesn’t have a father so his growing friendship with Joe was really touching. I also liked Anna a lot. She was a strong female in a male dominated sport. She knew just as much as Charlie about football and wasn’t afraid to let him know it. This is a very strong story about following your heart, sticking with your gut and being a good friend. I think sports fans and non-sports fans alike can find something to like here.

06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction

Fairy Tale Christmas by Michael McLean, Scott McLean, 176 pages, read by Angie, on 01/05/2015

The fairy tale villains want to change the endings of their stories. They are tired of good always winning. So they concoct a plan to kidnap Santa and force the heroes to give up their endings. They have Rumpelstiltskin as their inside man posing as an elf and an evil queen, a witch and a giant to do the kidnapping. Of course things don’t turn out like they planned at all. This is a fun little Christmas tale. I enjoy fractured fairy tales and this was pretty inventive. It is short and very readable so kids could read it very quickly or it could be read aloud at Christmas time.

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Emma and the Blue Genie. by Cornelia Funke, 90 pages, read by Kira, on 01/01/2015

0385375409 emma-and-the-blue-genie-illustration2-kerstin-meyer-001 emma-und-der-blaue-dschinnI’ve really enjoyed Cornelia Funke’s works, and was delighted to see another of her works translated into English.  This is a short story of a girl having an adventure in elsewhere with some genies.

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Evil Fairies Love Hair by Mary G. Thompson, 320 pages, read by Angie, on 01/04/2015

Ali is determined to raise her flock of fairies and get her wish. She wants to be smarter so she won’t be compared unfavorably to her sister anymore. Raising fairies isn’t easy however. There are lots of rules that have to be followed and you have to feed them constantly. What do fairies eat? Hair of course. That is why you must wear your hair up in a bun and spray it with hairspray so the fairies don’t get your hair. Ali doesn’t know it but the fairies have a plan of their own. They don’t want to be tied to children and hair anymore and just need a few more flocks to complete their plan. Ali learns that all is not as it seems. Breaking fairy rules have consequences like being turned into a fairy slave. Ali must convince her friends to stop the fairies and free the slaves. This was definitely not my favorite book. I thought the concept was kind of clever but the execution was a bit tedious. I really didn’t want to finish the book and ended up skimming the last third of it to see how it all turned out. I think the story could have been streamlined a bit to make it more readable.

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction

Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom by Dan Yaccarino, 336 pages, read by Angie, on 01/03/2015

Luno comes from a long line of Zorgoochi. They have been in the pizza business for generations, delivering pizza across the galaxy. Luno finally gets to start delivering and his first deliveries are doozies. He doesn’t make it back with many tips, but he does seem to improve his skills. Zorgoochi deliveries are dogged each step of the way by Quantum Pizza who wants to take over all the pizza business in the universe. Luno must find the golden anchovy and save his family before the evil Quantum completes its takeover. This was a silly book, but fun. I can see where fans of Captain Underpants will be comfortable moving on to this book. It was a bit too far off the believable spectrum for me to truly enjoy, but it had its moments.

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Greenglass House by Kate Milford, 384 pages, read by Angie, on 12/27/2014

I really wish I had been snowed in while reading this book. I would have been the perfect book to be reading while cozy on the couch with a quilt and hot chocolate as the world turned white outside. As it wasn’t snowing, I still enjoyed my couch and quilt while reading this book. Greenglass House is a hard book to categorize as it seems to shift about or meander every which way depending on its mood. I had a hard time pinning down if it was set in the real world or an alternative and whether it is in the past or the present. But in the end it did not matter. I enjoyed Milo’s story thoroughly and would definitely recommend it.

Milo lives with his adoptive parents in Greenglass House, an inn that caters to smugglers and is difficult to get to. He is looking forward to a quiet Christmas with just mom and dad. Then the guests start arriving, one after another. Milo’s quiet Christmas disappears as a strange group takes up residence in the inn. The cook is recalled along with her daughter and granddaughter, Meddy. Milo and Meddy are the only kids in the house and on their own for a lot of the time. Meddy introduces Milo to a role playing game and they don their new identities of Negret and Sirin. These new identities come in handy when items start disappearing from the guests and someone starts sabotaging the inn. They must figure out who the guests really are, what they are looking for at the inn, and who is behind the thefts.

I think the thing I enjoyed the most was Milo’s transformation throughout the book. He goes from being a quiet, unassuming boy to a confident detective. He gains confidence in himself and his place in the world through the investigation and Meddy’s influence. I also liked that his parents are present and an active part of his life. He is adopted and that fact weighs on him but never makes him doubt his place in the family. This is a longer book and because it doesn’t fit with conventional genres may lose some readers, but those who stick with it are in for a treat.

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction

Cool Beans: The Further Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 12/23/2014

Tucker thought life would be so much better after he created comic hero h2o’s new sidekick in a contest. But things at school are the same as ever. He is still bullied by super-jock Wesley and his minions. The art club is losing members and its one and only bulletin board. Tucker has to somehow make the Art Club popular so it won’t get cancelled. He convinces the principal to let them have a pep rally. The pep rally is awesome until the sports teams highjack it. Next, Tucker starts distributing comic panels of his Beanboy superhero fighting for the arts. To his surprise, the students start really responding to Beanboy, but that doesn’t help the Art Club. Then Tucker gets the bright idea to enter the school dodge ball contest. He just has to convince his fellow art clubbers to do it and get them good enough to win against the jocks. He gets help from surprising places and learns more about himself and his friends.

I have not read the first Beanboy book, but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying this one. I will admit that I didn’t really have high expectations for this one. I thought it would be along the lines of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Middle School books, but it was much better than that. Tucker’s story was inspiring and highly enjoyable. I found myself cheering for the art club kids and hoping that would triumph in the end. This is definitely a story about the little guy coming out on top, triumphing over the popular bully. I enjoyed it and I hope kids will as well.

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, 240 pages, read by Tracy, on 12/12/2014

The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world. (description from Goodreads.com)

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, 224 pages, read by Tracy, on 12/09/2014

On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself. (description from Goodreads.com)

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, 206 pages, read by Tracy, on 12/05/2014

They open a door and enter a world

NARNIA…the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy…the place where the adventure begins.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first, no one believes her when she tells of her adventures in the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund and then Peter and Susan discover the Magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. In the blink of an eye, their lives are changed forever. (description from Goodreads.com)

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Magicians Nephew by C.S. Lewis, 221 pages, read by Tracy, on 12/02/2014

When Digory and Polly are tricked by Digory’s peculiar Uncle Andrew into becoming part of an experiment, they set off on the adventure of a lifetime. What happens to the children when they touch Uncle Andrew’s magic rings is far beyond anything even the old magician could have imagined.

Hurtled into the Wood between the Worlds, the children soon find that they can enter many worlds through the mysterious pools there. In one world they encounter the evil Queen Jadis, who wreaks havoc in the streets of London when she is accidentally brought back with them. When they finally manage to pull her out of London, unintentionally taking along Uncle Andrew and a coachman with his horse, they find themselves in what will come to be known as the land of Narnia. (description from Goodreads.com)

31. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Kristy

El Deafo by Cece Bell, 233 pages, read by Kristy, on 12/23/2014

20701984Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.

(goodreads.com)

23. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Poetry

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 12/22/2014

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while you read a book and it just blows you away. I really enjoy novels in verse even though I don’t enjoy poetry like I probably should. I love how authors who write novels in verse can get across so much information with so few words. Sometimes novels in verse read like short prose paragraphs, but the truly great ones highlight different styles of poetry and draw the reader in completely. Kwame Alexander’s Crossover has been getting a lot of buzz lately and all of it is well deserved. The Crossover is a potent novel that draws readers in and doesn’t let them go.

Josh and JB are twin brother and the stars of their middle school basketball team. Their mom is the assistant principal at their school and their dad is a former basketball star and olympian. The Crossover is told through Josh’s voice as he practices his mad rap skills on and off the basketball court. He is your typical 13-year-old boy with a lot of the same concerns and issues most boys his age deal with. He is cocky about his basketball skills, he is jealous when JB gets a girlfriend and starts spending more time with her, he is concerned about his dad’s health. Things come to a head with JB when Josh takes his frustration and anger out on the basketball court. Concerns about his dad get more real when he realizes just how sick his dad potentially is. When dad has a heart attack and is in the hospital Josh and JB have different reactions regarding basketball. Their team is playing the championship game and they have to decide if they are going to play or spend time with dad. It is heartbreaking to watch Josh win the championship at the same time he loses his dad. A truly heartbreaking story.

Dead, dying or sick parents seems to be a trend in middle grade literature right now. The subject makes for really powerful stories as kids have to deal with situations they shouldn’t have to deal with for years. You really don’t expect to lose a parent until you are an adult yourself. So losing one at a young age is horrible and heartbreaking and makes great literature. While The Crossover isn’t really about the aftermath of losing a parent it is an essential part of this story. The dad was the heart of the family and Josh and JB and the mom have to learn to readjust their life with the heart gone.

One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the fact that the poem styles were all over the place. There are lots of different styles here that make this book so much more interesting than if everything was written in the same style. I really liked the poems where Josh described the action on the basketball court. Even though I am not a sports fan, this style really brought the game alive in a way that regular prose would not have been able to. Hopefully the fact that this story is told through poems will not turn young readers off. It is a wonderful story about family and brothers and basketball and loss and growing up. I highly recommend it.

22. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Where I Belong by Mary Downing Hahn, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 12/21/2014

Brandon is a foster kid who is bullied by his teacher, his classmates, his foster mother and the town thugs. He is a dreamer who could care less about school or any of the people around him. He escapes to the woods where he has built a tree house and daydreams about the Green Man. One day he finds an old man asleep at the base of his tree. He believes he has finally found the Green Man and the man goes along with it. Because he has flunked 6th grade, Brandon has to attend summer school where he meets Shae. She is different from all the other kids he knows and he finds himself a little interested in knowing more about her. Together, Brandon, Shae and the Green Man form a family of sorts in the woods where they are safe and loved. But Brandon is beat up terribly by the town thugs who then go after the Green Man. Brandon must find his courage and step up for what is right.

Some people are just lost. They become disconnected from the world and live in their own minds. Brandon is beginning down that path. He can’t seem to find anything worthy in the real world. He wants to live in his idea of a perfect world where nature matters and the Green Man is there to protect the forest and its inhabitants. It is easy to see why he wants to disconnect from the world. He doesn’t know who his parents are; his mom abandoned him as an infant. He has been shuttled around foster homes his whole life. His current foster mom Mrs. Clancy seems to care more about watching tv shows and doing crossword puzzles than paying attention to Brandon. His teacher is a nightmare who bullies him and allows the other students to bully him. The forest is really his only refuge. Shae isn’t quite as broken down as Brandon, but she too has her issues as does Ed Calhoun/Green Man, a Vietnam vet who became a homeless bun, drinking in the park and living in the woods. Together they start to heal each other. The story doesn’t have a happy ending, but it does have a hopeful ending. Hopeful that things will start to get better.

22. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal

Greetings from the Graveyard by Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise (Illustrations), 160 pages, read by Angie, on 12/21/2014

The residents of Spence Mansion are going into the greeting card business. Ghost Olive C. Spence writes the cards and young Seymour Hope illustrates them. The new business came about because author Ignatius B. Grumply started getting letters from an old love who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Nadia S. Richenov is determined to get Ignatius back now that he is a successful author and she is having money troubles. Then there are the two escaped criminals who look a lot like the new couple in town offering home security systems. There is a rash of burglaries but no one will listen when Seymour tries to tell them the truth. Olive brings back her old butler, also a ghost, to act as security at the mansion, but he just drives Ignatius crazy. The book is told through letters, greeting cards, newspaper articles, text messages and notes. I’m not a huge fan of this format as I think it doesn’t do a great job of telling the complete story. However, the book was a fun, quick read with a nice light mystery.

22. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Chasing the Milky Way by Erin E. Moulton, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 12/21/2014

Lucy and Cam want nothing more than to get out of the Sunnyside Trailer Park. Their plan is to compete in the annual BotBlock competition, win $5000 and 15% college tuition. They have a plan to complete their mission that includes raising the admission fee, building and programming their robot and getting to the beachside competition. Lucy wants to escape a mom with manic-depressive disorder who seems to be off her meds and Cam wants to get away from a house filled with children and his mom’s abusive boyfriend. In addition to their problems at home, they are also hassled by a bully at school. Their road to victory is hit with several roadblocks when Lucy’s mama takes them on a runaway roadtrip to escape the authorities.

Mental illness is a hard topic to cover in middle grade fiction. It isn’t often written about and when it is sometimes it is overblown or completely unrealistic. Chasing the Milky Way does not suffer from either of those problems. It is a very realistic look at what it is like to live with a mentally ill parent. Lucy deals with so much more than most kids will ever deal with, but I am sure kids with mentally ill parents will recognize a lot of her story. It is a book that was a bit hard to read because it seemed so realistic. I just knew disaster was around the corner and I kept not wanting it to arrive. I wanted Lucy and Cam to succeed but knew there was very little chance it was going to happen. It was almost like watching a horror movie where you knew the bad guy was going to attack at any moment. You cover your eyes or hide behind the chair and peak out at intervals. That is kind of like how I felt reading this book. Mama is not the bad guy of course, her illness is, but it still felt like it could jump out at you at any moment, which I am sure is how mental illness sometimes feels. This book is going to be a hard sell to a lot of readers, but the ones that tackle it are going to have their eyes open to a world I hope they never experience.

22. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel · Tags:

The Complete Adventures of Johnny Mutton by James Proimos, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 12/19/2014

Johnny is a sheep who is left on the doorstep of Mrs. Mutton. She takes him in and raises him like any child. He goes to school and even though he is different he is basically treated like a weird child. This is a collection of three adventures, but really includes several short chapters that can all be read on their own. Graphic novels are extremely popular in the library and I am sure this one is going to find its fans. It is more geared towards beginning chapter book readers than some of the other graphic books I have read. Johnny is in kindergarten and dealing with first year of school type issues: friends, bullies, teachers, parents, etc. It was a light, entertaining read.