03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie

Fallout by Todd Strasser, 258 pages, read by Leslie, on 10/06/2014

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When an unthinkable nuclear attack occurs in an alternate-reality 1962, Scott is forced into his father’s bomb shelter with his family and neighbors, where they rapidly consume limited supplies and fear the worst about the fate of the world outside.

I see the appeal this will hold for boys, not so much for girls, since the main characters are boys.  What would have happened if the Cuban Missile crisis had happened and not been averted?  In Fallout, Strasser takes this on and we get a glimpse of what it might be like to anyone stuck in a fallout shelter.  Nothing happens as planned by Scott’s father, he hasn’t thought about a lot of supplies they needed, didn’t think about what would happen when his neighbors, who don’t have a shelter, try to come in, and how to keep from going slightly crazy while they wait out the radiation levels.  If you are somewhat of a survivalist, or thinking about it, this book could give you some good ideas.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Cats, Children's Books, Fiction, Kristy

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 3 by Kanata Konami, 152 pages, read by Kristy, on 10/25/2014

7639935Chi’s new friend, Kuro the bear-cat, teaches Chi how to act more like a cat and less like a human. They go on many adventures together, catching the landlord’s attention. They nearly get captured multiple times. Sadly, Kuro is eventually caught by the landlord and he and his owner are forced to move away. Chi’s family decides to move as well in order to keep Chi with them.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Kristy

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 2 by Kanata Konami, 160 pages, read by Kristy, on 10/22/2014

7338279In the second volume of Chi’s Sweet Home, Chi begins broadening her world. Chi’s rambunctiousness nearly gets the Yamada family caught for keeping a kitten in a no-cat apartment, and Chi makes a friend with a large, bear-like cat.

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

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 1 by Kanata Konami, 168 pages, read by Kristy, on 10/21/2014

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 1Chi’s Sweet Home is easily the cutest thing I’ve ever read. Chi, a tiny kitten, gets lost from her mother and siblings, and is found and taken in by a small family- The Yamadas. The Yamada family is comprised of a mom, a dad, and little boy named Yohei. Yohei and Chi have an instant connection, and the Yamada family keeps Chi despite living in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets.

Though Chi initially misses her cat family, she slowly forgets about them and learns to love her new home and family. Chi is constantly getting into trouble, both exhausting and amusing her new family.

The cuteness and humor of this little graphic novel is overwhelming and amazing. Love it.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

A girl runs through the forest covered only in spiderwebs. She has no name but is running towards something. Her path is blocked by a cabin which turns out to be the home of a witch. She rescues a boy captured by the witch and together they set off to their destination. They are headed to Pennyroyal Academy. The girl is going to join the princess corps and the boy, Remington, plans to train as a knight. At Pennyroyal, the girl is given the name Cadet Eleven but shortens it to Evie. Evie becomes friends with a few of the other princess hopefuls in the Ironbone Corps. The girls are training to be princesses so they can go out into the world and fight the evil witches. They are walking in the footsteps of the great princesses like Pennyroyal and Snow White and Cinderella. Princesses are the only hope in stopping the evil witches and their plans to take over the world. The boys are training as knights so that they can fight the dragons.

If Evie had known what being a princess was all about she might not have come to Pennyroyal. Turns out Evie is under a memory curse and can’t recall what her life was like. All she remembers is the last few years with her family: her mother, father and sister. She tried to fly like her sister and almost killed her father and that is when she realized just how different she was from the rest of her family. She ran away because she isn’t a dragon and doesn’t want to cause her dragon family anymore pain. At Pennyroyal Evie does learn more about her background and her curse. Everything comes to a head during one of the training exercises when the truth behind her real family is revealed.

I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would. It is one book that when I finished reading it I immediately wanted another book in the series. I loved the different take on fairy tales; princesses are not born they are trained to become who they are. I really enjoyed the fact that Larson was able to so successful intertwine actual fairy tale stories with this tale. Evie is a fantastic character. She makes mistakes and isn’t the most knowledgeable but she has what every good princess is supposed to have: courage, compassion, kindness and discipline. I can’t wait to see where the next book will go and if it will answer some of the other questions that arose during this book.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 11/02/2014

Brenda “Chip” Anderson’s world has come crashing down. Her beloved daddy has died and taken the world she knew away with him. Chip used to spend her days outside exploring nature and climbing trees with her daddy and best friend Billy. Now mama is moving the family from New York to North Carolina to live with a grandma they have never met. Chip’s sisters Charlene and Ruthie immediately fit in with the Southern belle pageant atmosphere of grandma’s house. Grandma was Miss Dogwood 1939 and mama was Miss Dogwood 1961 so of course Charlene will be entered in the pageant and young Ruthie can do the Little Miss Dogwood pageant. Chip decides to enter the Junior Miss Dogwood pageant in the hopes that she will fit in with her family, but even that doesn’t seem to work. Chip is definitely not pageant material and can’t seem to get on grandma’s good side no matter what she does. Her tomboy ways just make her an outsider in her family. Then she discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm. Miss Vernie’s isn’t like a regular charm school. Chip and the two other students, Dana and Karen, don’t learn how to eat properly or walk with a book on their head. They spend their days working in Miss Vernie’s garden and learning about themselves. Miss Vernie gives each of them a charm bracelet and as they learn their lessons a charm falls off. The girls have to learn to stand on their own two feet, to find beauty, to blossom.

School of Charm is simply charming. I thought the Southern setting in 1977 really set the stage for the story. The South at that time was a different world from the world Chip left in New York. The women in Mount Airey do seem to be obsessed with the pageant and everything it represents. There are also the racial elements as Dana is the only Black contestant in the pageant. I love the fact that when Chip realizes her plan to fit into her family has failed completely she takes a stand and comes out as herself. She forces her family to accept her on her own terms and quits trying to change to please others. I think this is an excellent lesson for young readers to absorb. The one part of the book that I thought could have been a bit stronger was grandma’s story. We do learn a bit about why she is the way she is, but it comes so late that her character doesn’t recover from her one-dimensional, pageant loving, animal hating, mean lady persona of the rest of the book. Overall though this was a magical book full of spunk and charm that is sure to please.

02. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Double Reverse by Fred Bowen, 125 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

So sports books really aren’t my thing and this one wasn’t really that different. I can see it finding fans with sports-loving boys, but I really wanted a bit more plot. It was more football plays than plot. The book tells the story of Jesse who is starting freshman football with a team that has a terrible quarterback. Jesse’s brother Jay has always been the quarterback in the family but he is off playing college ball. When the quarterback is injured Jesse decides to try out even though he doesn’t look like a quarterback. Turns out he is really good, knows all the plays and even writes a few of his own. His move allows big kid Quinn to handle the ball and bit and little guy Langston to get some game time. The team needs a kicker which they find in soccer girl Savannah. Turns out that even though none of them look like ideal player they all got game. I enjoyed the fact that the characters defied the expectations of their looks to be who they wanted to be on the team, but I wanted a bit more meat to the story. It was a lot of play-by-play and little character or plot development.

02. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

Mysti dreams of going to France one day, but first she must survive 7th grade. She knows it is going to be a difficult year when her only friend Anibal decides to conduct a social experiment wherein he becomes a hipster and cool. In order to do that he has to ditch Mysti and in fact become a super jerk. Mysti is stuck on loser island with fact-filled Wayne Kovok (my name is a palidrome) and superhero Rama Khan (*not really a superhero but her name invokes it). Things at home aren’t much better. Mysti’s mom is agoraphobic and never leaves the house. This isn’t a huge problem because dad is there to take care of things. When dad falls out of a tree and ends up in a coma things go downhill fast. Mysti is forced to take care of the family and try and stretch their meager supplies. She eventually has to figure out a way to get additional supplies when the family accepts the fact that dad isn’t coming home anytime soon.

This is a story about acknowledging your situation and then taking steps to change the things you can change and accept the things you can’t. Mysti takes a while to figure things out, but she eventually starts standing up for herself both at school and at home. It helps that Rama Khan is there to boost her up when she needs it. I enjoyed Mysti as a character, but I did get a bit frustrated by the story. These types of novels are all about the kids taking charge of their situations and becoming more resourceful which is great. And usually the parents are gone or withdrawn from the kids life. However, there is generally a bit more realism to the story. I thought Mysti’s home and school life were very realistically portrayed. I could see trying to cope with a disabled parent and dealing with friends who abandon you. What I couldn’t buy was no one realizing what Mysti’s home life was like. It should have been a red flag at the hospital when the dad is there for weeks and weeks and no one comes to visit and the doctor has to talk to the mom on the phone about dad’s care. It should have been another red flag when you have a 12 year old walking to the grocery store and only buying what will fit in her backpack. The neighbors should have noticed that the mom never left the house and stepped in. You would have thought even the school would have noticed. I guess I just wanted someone to realize what Mysti was going through and give her a break. It was an excellent book aside from that point.

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

Murphy, Gold Rush Dog by Alison Hart, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

Murphy has a horrible owner named Carrick, but all he really wants is a home. So when he gets a chance he runs away; he has to live hard on the streets of Nome where everyday new prospectors come searching for gold. One day Mama and Sally get off the boat and they are so different from everyone else that Murphy approaches them. Soon he has the home he has dreamed of, but times are hard in the frontier town. Mama has to work around the clock to make enough for them to survive. Sally dreams of having her own stake and finding gold. When Mama decides they have had enough and are going back to San Francisco Sally and Murphy take off to find their claim. Their journey is full of hazards from wolves to bears to avalanches to Murphy’s old owner Carrick. Murphy has always thought he wasn’t brave, but he has to be brave to protect his family.

This book is told from Murphy’s point of view which makes it a different kind of book. Murphy wants nothing more than to find a home and family and once he has it must decide to be brave and do whatever he can to protect them. I like that the story was based on historical events and that the author included a lot of information about the gold rush, claim jumpers and actual dogs. It is a strong story for reader’s who like animal books.

02. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord, 218 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

Lucy’s dad is a photographer and loves to move his family around a lot. This time they have ended up on a lake in New Hampshire. One day they move in and the next dad takes off on a photo shoot in Arizona. Luckily there is a lot to occupy Lucy’s time. She immediately meets their neighbors, the Baileys, and becomes friends with Nate and Grandma Lilah. They come to the lake every summer, but this one might be the last because Grandma Lilah is not well. Nate introduces her to the loons of the lake and Loon Patrol. Every day they head out on the lake to check on the pair of loons who are nesting there. Lucy also finds out about a photo contest her dad is judging and decides to enter. She too is a photographer and gets Nate to help her with the contest. During her quest for the perfect shots she learns more about the area, Nate’s family and herself.

I really enjoy Lord’s writing. She is a wonderful storyteller and really makes the world she is writing about come alive. I like that Lucy is a regular girl, but one with a special talent. She is learning to see the world through a photographer’s eye and the world opens up around her. She is able to see things that others might not or might not want to see. Her photos show how vulnerable Grandma Lilah is and reveal how much Nate doesn’t want to accept that his grandma has dementia. Lucy also works hard to convince herself that she is good enough for her absent father. It seems that everything she does it to please him until she realizes how to please herself. Even though there is a lot going on in this book, it is a quieter story with more depth than action.

31. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

The Mummy's Curse by Penny Warner, 182 pages, read by Angie, on 10/30/2014

The Code Busters Club is a group of four friends who love to solve puzzles and codes. Cody, Quinn, Luke and ME are in 6th grade and learning about hieroglyphics. Their classes are taking a trip to the local Egyptian museum. At the museum they meet Ms. Cassat, the museum director, and Dr. Jordan, a forgery expert. The kids notice that an eye of horus appears to be fake and they start investigating what happened to the real one. Did Dr. Jordan create the perfect forgery or did Ms. Casset’s love of Egyptian jewelry get the better of her?

This is an interesting book. In some ways I really liked the fact that there are actual puzzles for the reader to solve along with the Code Busters. In others I became really frustrated by the fact that I had to keep flipping to the back of the book to find out the answers. I thought the mystery was good and not as obvious as some kid’s mysteries. I liked that all the kids were smart and did their parts to solve the mystery.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

New Orleans! by Giada De Laurentiis, Francesca Gambatesa (Illustrations), 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2014

Alfie and Emilia are off to New Orleans in this adventure. They find themselves at the La Salle Royale restaurant and staying with the La Salle family. They get to experience New Orleans during the Jazz Fest and help the La Salles solve a mystery. This is again a nice offering from Giada. She really knows a lot about food and the places she writes about. It makes for interesting reading. It also makes me want to attempt to cook some of the dishes she describes.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Hong Kong! by Giada De Laurentiis, Francesca Gambatesa (Illustrations), 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2014

Brother and sister Alfie and Emilia are always excited to see what Aunt Zia is going to cook up for them next. Her cooking is magic and able to transport the kids to a different place. This time they are sent to Hong Kong. They are mistaken for exchange students and stay with a family opening a new restaurant. They get to know Hong Kong and all the exciting things it has to offer all the while eating a lot of great food.

I haven’t read the first two books in this series but I don’t think you need to in order to understand it. It is a great book for fans of Magic Tree House. The kids are likable and Giada includes a lot of good information on the location and the foods available. It really isn’t a good series to read when you are hungry; you are going to be even hungrier after you are finished!

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 242 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/29/2014

Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, meets her match in the not-quite-kingly Mendanbar. With the aid of a broken-down magic carpet and a leaky magical sword, the two tackle a series of dragon-nappings.

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

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin , 368 pages, read by Angie, on 10/28/2014

Many years ago a band of 60 went into the mountains to battle the Nethergrim. Three returned: the wizard Vithric, the warrior Tristan and the local John Marshall. The kingdom has been relatively peaceful since then. Edmund’s family owns the local inn but he really wants to be a wizard. He hoards his collection of books and tries to teach himself spells. Katherine is John Marshall’s daughter. She loves training horses and learning swordplay from her father. Tom is a slave to a horrible master. His friendship with Edmund and Katherine is the only light spot in his very dark life. Their lives change when several children are taken from the village, including Edmund’s brother, by the monsters of the Nethergrim. John Marshall sets off to rescue them, but the children can’t wait at home. Edmund, Katherine and Tom take off for the mountains on a perilous journey. They will discover scary truths about the Nethergrim, its history and what it wants with the children.

This book reminded me a bit of the Lord of the Rings. There is an evil in the world and a band of heroes must find a way to defeat it. It is a pretty dense book for a middle grade novel and does get a bit slow in the middle. I wanted the kids to set off on their journey much quicker than they did. There is a lot of backstory and preparations to get through before they head for the mountains. The last quarter of the book is pretty exciting with some interesting revelations about the Nethergrim and what happened to the band of men years ago. This is the beginning of a series so the next books will hopefully pick up the pace a bit.

29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman , 288 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/26/2014

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa · Tags:

School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott, 304 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/16/2014

Who’s got time for hair curlers and high heels when you’re busy keeping baby turtles alive?

Chip has always been a tree-climbin’, fish-catchin’ daddy’s girl. When Daddy dies, Mama moves her and her sisters south to Grandma’s house and Chip struggles to find her place in a family full of beauty queens.

Just when she’s wishing for a sign from Daddy that her new life’s going to work, Chip discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm. Could unusual pageant lessons and secrets be the key to making Chip’s wishes a reality?

Full of spirit, hope, and a hint of magic, this enchanting debut novel tells the tale of one girl’s struggle with a universal question: How do you stay true to yourself and find a way to belong at the same time?

26. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kira · Tags: ,

Black Beauty: the Autobiography of a Horse by Anna Sewell, 301 pages, read by Kira, on 10/26/2014

black_beauty  black-beauty-ladybird-book-children-s-classic-series-740-gloss-hardback-1986-1445-p  imagesBlack-Beauty-02-800x587blbeaut 902078-M 054677Although Beauty’s life starts out soft and sweet, you know abuse by humans is coming down the pike.

There is a lot of moralizing.  Moralizing of a sort that I agree with, we should Not abuse horses, nor other animals.  And I think showing kindness to other humans is a standard by which we ought to judge others (if we are going to judge them at all).  But I am surprised that this is a classic, it might as well have been titled, 50 ways Not to abuse horses.  That said given the great positive influence this title has had on the treatment of horses and animals, I am glad of its impact.  Plus the story had a happy ending.

25. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Noelle

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, 264 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/07/2014

AWESOMELY FUN CHILDREN’S BOOK!
In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.nbsp;But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship–and a cheeky sense of humor–he just might triumph in the end.

23. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

Dreamwood by Heather Mackey, 333 pages, read by Angie, on 10/22/2014

Lucy has run away from boarding school and is off to find her father. Her father is a ghost clearer and has gone to the Pacific Northwest on a job. Once Lucy gets there she finds her father gone with no idea where to find him. She discovers that something is very wrong there. The trees that the economy depend on are dying from Rust. She believes it is related to the loss of the dreamwood trees. Many years ago dreamwood trees grew on the Devil’s Thumb in Lupine territory. But they were all cut down and the thumb has been deserted. Anyone who goes there never comes back. Lucy partners with Pete who wants to find dreamwood to save his family. She also got backing from Angus Murrain the local landowner. The thumb is treacherous and full of supernatural powers but Lucy is determined to find her father.

I liked Lucy as a strong female protagonist. She is smart and spunky but maybe just a bit too full of herself. I found myself rooting for Pete more than Lucy. I liked this alternative history version of America with First People Nations and belief in ghosts. I even liked the thought of the first dreamwood being a nature spirit on a warpath. I thought Murrain was pretty one-dimensional and his intentions easy to read I just wish Lucy would have seen him for what he was long before she did. She was so smart about a lot of things but completely blind when it came to Murrain. Overall this was an entertaining book that I sure young fans of fantasy will enjoy.