11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, Graphic Book, NonFiction

Smile by Raina Telgemeier, 224 pages, read by Angie, on 11/14/2012

Smile is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s journey through orthodontia. It was not a pleasant or a short journey. It began with an overbite and a fall resulting in the loss of her two front teeth. The journey consisted of false teeth, braces, surgeries, headgear, and four years worth of visits to various dental professionals…all during junior and high school. Poor Raina! Throughout it all Raina is also dealing with boys, pimples, friends, mean girls, and all the other trials and tribulations of high school. She comes through it stronger and happier, but it is not an easy journey.

As someone who has had braces and retainers (thankfully not four years worth) I completely sympathized with Raina. They are an invented torture to make our teeth look perfect. They work but are definitely not pleasant. I winced with her when her braces were being tightened and when all she could eat was mashed potatoes. I think Raina definitely remembers this time of her life perfectly and she really captured it on the pages of Smile. The story and illustrations embody the torture of braces and the agony of middle and high school. I would recommend this to just about anyone.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Children's Books, Lisa, NonFiction

Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen, 35 pages, read by Lisa, on 02/28/2013

   People around the world know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, but not many know the story of his creator, J. M. Barrie. Barrie’s young childhood was marked by sorrow, but also held great adventure. His adult life and relationship with the Davies family brought about a second childhood that helped him to create his lasting triumph. Masterfully illustrated by Steve Adams and using Barrie’s own words, Jane Yolen tells the story of the author and the boys who changed his life.

22. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Children's Books, Classics, Fantasy, Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books, Teen Books

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, 189 pages, read by Rachel, on 01/21/2014

Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

Journey into the land beyond the wardrobe! The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been captivating readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like journey back to Narnia, read The Horse and His Boy, the third book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

31. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Sarah

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker, 275 pages, read by Sarah, on 11/23/2013

Stella loves living with Great-aunt Louise in her big old house near the water on Cape Cod for many reasons, but mostly because Louise likes routine as much as she does, something Stella appreciates since her mom is, well, kind of unreliable. So while Mom “finds herself,” Stella fantasizes that someday she’ll come back to the Cape and settle down. The only obstacle to her plan? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. Angel couldn’t be less like her name—she’s tough and prickly, and the girls hardly speak to each other.

But when tragedy unexpectedly strikes, Stella and Angel are forced to rely on each other to survive, and they learn that they are stronger together than they could have imagined. And over the course of the summer they discover the one thing they do have in common: dreams of finally belonging to a real family.

17. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags:

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley by Sally M. Walker, 112 pages, read by Angie, on 11/17/2013

The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. It was built during the Civil War and actually sank twice before completely a mission successfully. On February 17, 1864 the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic off the Charleston Harbor. Unfortunately, the Hunley never made it back to shore nor was it ever seen again. The Hunley was found buried in the mud in 1995. It took several years and lots of work before the Hunley revealed its secrets. Scientists still don’t know exactly why the Hunley sank with all eight crewmen aboard. However, the crew have now been put to rest while the investigation into the Hunley continues.

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Madeline, NonFiction

Sugar changed the world : a story of magic, spice, slavery, freedom, and science by Marc Aronson, Marina Budhos, 166 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/06/2013

When this award-winning husband-and-wife team discovered that they each had sugar in their family history, they were inspired to trace the globe-spanning story of the sweet substance and to seek out the voices of those who led bitter sugar lives. The trail ran like a bright band from religious ceremonies in India to Europe’s Middle Ages, then on to Columbus, who brought the first cane cuttings to the Americas. Sugar was the substance that drove the bloody slave trade and caused the loss of countless lives but it also planted the seeds of revolution that led to freedom in the American colonies, Haiti, and France. With songs, oral histories, maps, and over 80 archival illustrations, here is the story of how one product allows us to see the grand currents of world history in new ways. Time line, source notes, bibliography, index.

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, NonFiction, Science

The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle, 48 pages, read by Angie, on 11/14/2013

The Doctor: Donna, come on, think: Earth, there must have been some sort of warning. Was there anything happening back in your day, like… electrical storms, freak weather, patterns in the… sky?
Donna Noble: Well, how should I know? Um, no. I don’t- I don’t think so. No.
The Doctor: [disappointed] Oh, OK, nevermind.
Donna Noble: Although, there were the bees disappearing.
The Doctor: [dismissive] The bees disappearing.
The Doctor: [sarcastic] The *bees* disappearing.
The Doctor: [revelational] The bees disappearing!

Of course the bees are disappearing, any fan of Dr. Who knows that. In fact it is true that honeybees at least have been disappearing. Colonies have collapsed and scientists have been trying to work out why. They have explored changing habitats, overwork, diet, mites, fungus, pesticides, and cell phones. Luckily cell phones have been cleared, but the others have all been found to contribute to colony declines. I didn’t realize how important bees were to our way of life. They are the main pollinators for not just flowers but many of the foods we rely on. This book is a wake up call to the role bees play in our lives and what we should do to protect them.

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags: ,

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 11/14/2013

I couldn’t put this book down; I didn’t want to put it down. Leon Leyson captured my attention and held it throughout his entire story. We learn a lot about the Holocaust and what happened during those years, but I haven’t ever really read an autobiography about it. Leon Leyson was just a young boy when Germany invaded Poland. He and his family lived in Krakow and quickly began to feel the effects of the Nazi machine. Because his father had a job, most of his family was protected, but they were never really safe. His father worked for Oskar Schindler at his enamel factor and was one of the first on “the list”. Leon, his mother and his brother David also had their names added to the list. Unfortunately, two of his brothers did not; one fled to the country and one was rounded up during one of the ghetto cleansings. His sister worked for another factory and was protected until the end. Being on Schindler’s list did not necessarily mean full protection however. The family was still subjected to the ghetto and the guards who terrorized it. They were also all sent to concentration camps during the move from Krakow to Brunnlitz. This is a very compelling story of one family’s survival during the atrocities of WWII. Leon didn’t die horribly like so many others during that time. He survived, moved to America and became a teacher. It wasn’t until the release of Schindler’s List that he started to speak about his experiences. Leon Leyson was the youngest person on the list, but he was not the only one. Oskar Schindler’s bravery and dedication to saving his Jews was amazing. Reading this book made me want to learn more about Schindler (beyond what I remember from the movie!).

08. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Kristin

An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors by Kremena Spengler, 32 pages, read by Kristin, on 11/05/2013

From controlling fire to the debut of the ipad, this book highlights the biggest advances in history.  The book is a 32 page timeline with illustrations and one or two sentence descriptions of the events.

I read this book with my 5 year old who was enthralled.  I found the illustrations to be clever and the descriptions gave just enough information that the reader didn’t get bogged down in the details, but still provided the necessary information.  It took us approximately 30 minutes over two evenings to read the book–that’s with many interruptions for side stories and questions.

I think this book serves as an excellent introduction to a number of topics.  Once the reader’s interest is peaked, he/she can delve into a specific subject more thoroughly through other books.

I would say this book would be good for a 8-10 year old as a read alone or as young as five if the child is being read to.

I just found that MRRL has a transportation timeline book by the same author, so look forward to that review soon.

04. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah

The Last Present by Wendy Mass, 246 pages, read by Sarah, on 11/03/2013

Willow Falls is an absolutely enchanting place to live.  Wendy Mass has written several novels concerning a magical old woman, Angelina De’Angelo, who has the power to see the future and change the past.  She often involves unwitting children in the town to help her with her schemes.  Birthdays are very important, and when Grace goes mute on her tenth birthday, they gang realizes that Angelina must be involved.  Through a series of time travels and great investigative work, the kids finally figure out the best way to help Grace.

This book was wonderful.  I would say so much more, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises!!  Characters from “Finally,” “11 Birthdays,” and “13 Gifts” team together to solve this mystery.  I have to say, that I figured it out before they did!!!  I highly recommend it for the Willow Falls’ fans.

02. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson, Marina Budhos, 166 pages, read by Angie, on 11/02/2013

Sugar is something we take for granted. It is always available at the store. It isn’t very expensive. We can add it to anything we want and it is in a lot of what we eat. And there are alternatives to regular brown or white sugar. This was not always the case. Sugar was an unknown until around a thousand years ago. However, once people got a taste of it they wanted more. It started out as a spice added to foods like any other spice, but then it separated itself from others and became a sweetener. As the demand for sugar grew, production also had to grow. Huge sugar plantations sprouted up throughout the Caribbean and South America. Millions of slaves were brought from Africa to work in the brutal plantations. More slaves actually than were brought to America. Sugar was a time sensitive crop the required back-breaking labor, hot fires, and lots of slaves.

This book starts with the stories of how Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos were connected to sugar and how they decided to write this book. Then we go into the history of sugar and the sugar/slavery connections. Next we see how sugar helped shape the world and abolish slavery. France, England, America, the Caribbean, India, Africa, Asia: slavery and sugar helped mold these places into what they are today. Slavery was abolished in many countries because of the sugar slaves. Gandhi started his peaceful resistance movement because of sugar slaves. It is amazing how many connections you can draw throughout history and the world all because of sugar. Aronson and Budhos did an excellent job highlighting these connection and writing a very readable nonfiction book.

30. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age by Cheryl Bardoe, 40 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2013

Mammoths, mastodons and elephants are all cousins. They all appeared around the same time, but for some reason 10,000 years ago mammoths and mastadons went extinct. Scientists don’t know why they disappeared. The two leading theories are global warming or over hunting by humans. It is hoped that by studying mammoths and mastodons and why they went extinct a way can be found to help elephants who are endangered. This is a very informative, interesting and well-researched read.

28. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Science

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker, 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/26/2013

Dead people are fascinating. Long dead people are a puzzle. Figuring out who skeletons were is a fascinating puzzle. This book by Sally Walker investigates the graves in and around the Chesapeake Bay. All the graves date from the 17th century and were some of the first people in the Jamestown colony. It is amazing what scientists can find out about people just from looking at their bones. Teeth have ridges: must have used some corrosive materials to clean them. Buried in a trash pit under a house: must have been an indentured servant who died. Small holes in bones: must have had rickets. Archaeologists are even able to figure out who exactly a person was just by where and how they were buried. This book highlights how graves are found and excavated, the steps taken to preserve the remains and what is learned from them. If you are a fan of CSI or Bones, you will definitely appreciate the science of this book.

24. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction, Science

Fossil Fish Found Alive by Sally M. Walker, 64 pages, read by Angie, on 10/24/2013

The coelacanth was a fish that many thought had went extinct 70 million years ago. No fossils of this fish have been found since then. Imagine the surprise when a live specimen was found in 1938. It turns out the coelacanth is not extinct at all but lives off the southern coast of Africa and India. Since 1938 researchers have been looking for and studying these amazing fish. There are still lots of things we don’t know about the coelacanth, but researchers and ichthyologists are still looking for answers. Sally Walker did a great job detailing the hunt for these prehistoric fish. The way this book was written really builds anticipation for each discovery. I loved the many photos and illustrations and the details included by Walker. Highly readable nonfiction.

23. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Anubis Speaks! A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead by Vicky Alvear Shecter , 116 pages, read by Angie, on 10/22/2013

Anubis finally gets to tell his story, or rather Ra’s story, in this entertaining and highly readable nonfiction book. The book details Ra’s journey through the underworld each night, what each hour of the journey entails and how Apophis tries to stop Ra. Along the way, Anubis also gives the reader a lot of detail on ancient Egyptian life, who the gods are and how they came to be and Egyptian myths and stories. Anubis must have been a pretty entertaining god because he is funny! I loved how he speaks directly to his audience and even includes them in the journey through the underworld. I thought his asides were hilarious. Books on Egyptian mythology are always popular and I think kids will respond really well to this one. I hope there is an entire series like this!

20. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M. Walker, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 10/20/2013

On December 6, 1917, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia was devastated by the largest man-made explosion. Two ships collided in the harbor, one carrying explosives. The shockwave and tsunami destroyed most of the town and left thousands dead, injured and homeless. Sally Walker takes us through the events leading up to the explosion, the aftermath and the recovery. She introduces us to several families whose lives were devastated and irrevocably changed that day. This is the kind of nonfiction I like to read. Walker gives us all the facts, but she includes personal accounts and writes in a narrative style that is extremely easy to read. I loved all the photos of the destruction that she included in this book. They really help illustrate just how destructive the explosion was. What really got me though was the stories of help from near and far, the doctors and nurses who worked around the clock, the soldiers and sailors who tirelessly searched for survivors, the workers who collected the dead and carefully cataloged them. All of these stories break your heart, but they also help you realize just how wonderful human beings can be when they see someone in need.

15. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Terracotta Army and Other Lost Treasures by John Malam, 32 pages, read by Angie, on 10/13/2013

Another great offering in the Lost and Found series. This one deals with lost treasurers such as the terracotta army and the dead sea scrolls. We also learn about the Mildenhall Treasure found in a Suffolk field. A chest of Roman silver hidden under the ground was unearthed by a farmer. It was a rare hoard of highly decorated silver that was 2000 years old.

15. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Pompeii and Other Lost Cities by John Malam, 32 pages, read by Angie, on 10/13/2013

I really like the format of this series. There is a two page spread on the history of the lost city and then a two page spread on how it was found. There are great little nuggets of history that will whet your appetite for more information. Everyone has heard of Pompeii and Machu Picchu, but little is known of Skara Brae or Akrotiri. It really made me want to find out more.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 10/08/2013

Frances and her parents move in with Elsie’s family in Yorkshire during the Great War. Behind the house, in the beck (creek), Frances starts seeing fairies. One day she tells her family what she sees and Elsie says she sees them too. The adults want proof so the girls create fairy cutouts and take pictures with the fairies. Somehow word gets out and none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle starts corresponding with the girls to learn more about the fairies. Edward Garner starts lecturing around the country on the Cottingly fairies. The girls are forced to keep up their charade in order to avoid getting into trouble. They take another set of photos, but even that doesn’t stop the attention. They kept their secrets about doctoring the photos until almost the end of their lives; finally coming clean as elderly women. Mary Losure does a great job of telling Frances and Elsie’s stories. This was a very interesting and entertaining little book.

07. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Children's Books, History, Joyce, NonFiction

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure, 184 pages, read by Joyce, on 09/12/2013

The enchanting true story of a girl who saw fairies, and another with a gift for art, who concocted a story to stay out of trouble and ended up fooling the world.

Frances was nine when she first saw the fairies. They were tiny men, dressed all in green. Nobody but Frances saw them, so her cousin Elsie painted paper fairies and took photographs of them “dancing” around Frances to make the grown-ups stop teasing. The girls promised each other they would never, ever tell that the photos weren’t real. But how were Frances and Elsie supposed to know that their photographs would fall into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? And who would have dreamed that the man who created the famous detective Sherlock Holmes believed ardently in fairies — and wanted very much to see one? Mary Losure presents this enthralling true story as a fanciful narrative featuring the original Cottingley fairy photos and previously unpublished drawings and images from the family’s archives. A delight for everyone with a fondness for fairies, and for anyone who has ever started something that spun out of control.