16. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, read by Angie, on 04/15/2014

Mickey Cray has been brought down by a frozen iguana. It has caused a concussion, headaches and double-vision. It also means he hasn’t been able to work as an animal wrangler. Bills are piling up so his wife has gone to China for a job, leaving Mickey and son Wahoo home alone. Then along comes Expedition Survivor and Derek Badger. He is a reality tv survivalist who believes his own hype and wants to film an Everglades episode; he is also a big fake. Mickey and Wahoo hire on to the show and start saving Derek from one animal after another. He is almost drowned by an alligator, bitten on the nose by a snapping turtle, bitten several times by a snake and attacked by a bat he is trying to eat. Mickey and Wahoo are joined on their expedition by Tuna, a girl in Wahoo’s class whose father hits her and who needs a safe place to hide out. The Expedition Survivor shoot is filled with chaos, mainly because of its star. Things get even worse when Tuna’s dad shows up and kidnaps Mickey.

This was a fun book. Carl Hiaasen obviously knows his animal info and is passionate about it. I thought he did a great job of passing along information about wildlife conservation and the plight of animals without shoving it down our throats. I liked how it was just a part of the story. I really enjoyed Mickey Cray, he is a fabulous character and one that was fun to read. His relationship with his son Wahoo was also really good. I liked how they were more partners than father and son, but Wahoo wasn’t the caretaker. I thought Derek Badger was hilarious and just how a reality tv star would be. Of course everything is fake and the star is a diva. The only part I didn’t think worked quite as well as Tuna’s dad. I thought his motivations were unclear and a little over the top. Other than that I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was great!

03. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

The Shadow Collector's Apprentice by Amy Gordon, read by Leslie, on 03/31/2014

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In the summer of 1963, after his father has inexplicably disappeared leaving Cully with his three eccentric aunts on their barely profitable apple farm, Cully goes to work for a mysterious antiques dealer who has the strange hobby of collecting shadows.

Another good read for both boys and girls, from Amy Gordon.  A bit of mystery rolled in with suspense and history.  Some of it is a bit far-fetched for me, but not for kids.  They will enjoy this one as a Mark Twain nominee.

03. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, read by Leslie, on 03/30/2014

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When the original Star Spangled Banner is stolen, seventh-graders Anne, José, and Henry, all descendants of the Silver Jaguar Society, pursue suspects on airport carts and through baggage handling tunnels while stranded at a Washington, D.C., airport during a snowstorm.

A great first in a mystery series for young readers.  While easy for me to see where the plot is heading, kids will definitely enjoy the twists and turns the author takes them on.  A Mark Twain nominee, I can recommend this to both boys and girls.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Joyce, Mystery · Tags:

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham, read by Joyce, on 01/30/2013

 In the small city of Strattenburg there are many lawyers, and thirteen-year-old Theo Boone thinks he is one of them, but his inside knowledge of the justice system means trouble when a cold-blooded killer is about to go free and only Theo can stop him.
11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Joyce · Tags:

In Front of God and Everybody by K. D. McCrite, read by Joyce, on 01/30/2013

In the summer of 1986, eleven-year-old April Grace, who lives on a rural Arkansas farm with her family, across a field from her grandmother, has her sense of Christian charity tested when a snooty couple from San Francisco moves into a dilapidated house down the road and her grandmother takes up with a loud, obnoxious, and suspicious-acting Texan.
16. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, read by Angie, on 01/15/2014

The original flag that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner” is stolen from the Smithsonian after a gala event. Anna, Jose and Henry were all at the gala where the restored flag was displayed and where it was later stolen. They are also all snowed in at the airport waiting on a flight to Vermont. Anna, who dreams of being a news reporter, is determined to solve the mystery and she convinces Jose, Henry and their new friend Sinan to help her. She is convinced the flag is somewhere in the airport and the thieves are in the groups of passengers snowed in with them. They pursue their suspects throughout the airport and into the baggage area below.The three also learn that they have something else in common; they are all descendants of famous artists and their parents are part of a secret society that protects works of art around the world. This makes them even more determined than ever to find the flag and return it to the Smithsonian. They must work together, find their way out of dangerous situations, and corral one overactive dog named Hammurabi, to have any chance of saving the day. Will they be able to find the real thieves and solve the mystery before the storm lets up and flights resume?

This is a fast-paced, fun mystery. The mystery has enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. I did think there was a bit of stereotyping with the kids however. Anna is the dogged reporter determined to be useful and solve the mystery. Jose is obsessed with Harry Potter and books and has a quotation for every situation. Henry is always sticking his face in a video game and relating every situation to some game he has played. Sinan draws every figure of speech he hears. I liked the secret society aspect of the mystery and thought it was a good setup for a new series.

April Grace is a country girl from the Ozarks and proud of it. She lets her new neighbors know what she thinks of them from the beginning even if she does get in trouble for it. Isabel and Ian St. James are from California and snooty; they have bought a run down place down the road from April Grace’s family. The place is in such bad shape that April’s parents invite Isabel and Ian to move in with them until it is habitable. Cultures clash between the St. Jameses and the Reillys and hilarity ensues. But through it all the Reillys (at least mom and dad) handle the situation with grace and kindness; they are an example to their daughters and their neighbors. The St. Jameses are not the only new additions to the neighborhood. Grandma has a new beau; Jeffrey Rance is a hard-of-hearing Texan who looks to sweep Grandma off her feet and clear out her pocketbook. It is up to April to find the evidence to prove her dislike of Mr. Rance right.

Being from the Ozarks, I enjoy books that show good honest country people and don’t make fun of them for being hicks or hillbillies. In this book it is the citified St. Jameses who come off looking bad and the Reillys with their simpler ways and good living who shine. April Grace is funny and sarcastic and honest and really enjoyable to read. I loved how involved her parents were in their children’s lives and what good examples they were for April and Myra. They are definitely part of the lead by example school of parenting. This is a great book with a great lesson on treating others with kindness.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags: ,

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix, read by Courtney, on 09/10/2013

Found opens on an unusual note: a plane appears at an airport. It’s not on any manifest and there are no pilots on board. Stewardess Angela DuPre is the only who saw it appear and is the only one brave enough to set foot on the mysterious plane. What she finds is quite surprising: 36 babies on board with no parents or other adults in the vicinity. Once the infants are taken off the plane, it disappears.
13 years later, we meet a boy named Jonah who has recently begun getting mysterious messages in the mail that appear to be related to the fact that he is adopted. Things get stranger when his friend, Chip, reveals that he has also been receiving messages in spite of the fact that he’s not adopted. Or doesn’t think he is until he questions his parents. In shock over discovering that he has been adopted, Chip joins up with Jonah and his sister Katherine to figure out who is sending these messages and why. An unexpected interrogation by the FBI nets Jonah and Katherine a chance to find out a bit more. Chip and Jonah are among 36 kids who have all been adopted and are all located in the same geographic region. They realize this has something to do with the mysterious plane incident and subsequently begin to seek out other kids and witnesses who might know more.
As one might expect from Haddix, this is a fast-paced adventure story and the beginning of a series. This installment merely sets up what will undoubtedly become the main arc of the story, as the matter of how these kids got where they are currently is clearly not nearly as important as where they came from in the first place. There’s a lot of running around trying to piece together clues, only to have them explained in detail near the end. The first part of the book is intriguing and fun; the second becomes quite a stretch in terms of premise and execution. Unfortunately, the questionable premise is what will be driving the series and I’m not certain I can get over it enough to read the rest. Still, an entertaining diversion and a fun take on the time-travel genre.

09. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Jane · Tags:

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, read by Jane, on 08/18/2013

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths
Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret–behind the mirage of the “death farm” there is instead a place called Artime.
In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.
But it’s a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

06. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa · Tags:

Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor, read by Lisa, on 08/05/2013

In this affecting and beautifully written story of family and forgiveness, 12-year-old Raine spends the summer at a mysterious artists colony and discovers a secret about her past.

16. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, read by Angie, on 08/15/2013

In Quill everyone is sorted into three categories: Wanteds who go on to rule the country, Necessaries who do all the menial work, and Unwanteds who are sent to their deaths in the Lake of Boiling Oil. Alex has always known he will be an Unwanted and his twin brother Aaron will be a Wanted. But the shock of being sent to his death still hurts until he finds out that Unwanteds are not killed. They live in a magical world called Artime. There they use their creativity to learn magic and prepare for a coming war against the Wanteds.

I had mixed feelings about this book. As with any dystopian novel I want the world to make sense and this world just didn’t at times. For one thing, Quill has fallen into disrepair and segregation within 50 years. The world is crumbling around these people yet they have shut away all emotions and become evil robots basically. They have no problem sending their children off to die. Artime is a land of plenty and filled with magic and magical creatures. How do these two worlds exist side by side? I also didn’t like that being creative was evil to the people of Quill and they only defined creative as being of the arts. All the Wanteds seem cold and evil, but they are still able to think for themselves and solve problems (in creative ways?). I am not sure I buy that the world can devolve and diverge in such a short amount of time. And in the end magic triumphs rather easily over reason. Why let the world go on as it was for 50 years if it was that easy to solve everything?

That being said I really enjoyed the story. I love the characters and I enjoyed the magic of Artime. I like that the magic spells are those created from the arts: deadly rhyming couplets, invisible paintbrushes, etc. I thought that was really creative. I also enjoyed that the kids in Artime were real kids with real emotions and problems. Alex truly loves his brother and wants to be with him. In order to accomplish that he makes mistakes and alienates his friends. The other kids are equally flawed and perfect.

This was a quick, fun read and if you can get past the world-building one I am sure kids will enjoy. We read this book in my 3rd-5th grade bookclub and the kids loved it. It was one of their favorites that we had read. The world building didn’t bother them at all! :)

31. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Sarah · Tags:

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, read by Sarah , on 07/26/2013

Because of Mr. Terupt is a wonderful book that will leave you smiling (or crying, as the case may be!)  Mr. Terupt is a fifth grade teacher in his first year and his class is full of children with a range of personal issues that they are dealing with.  Some of the kids think he will be easy to fool since he is new, but Mr. Terupt proves to be very perceptive and deals with the kids in a mellow manner.  When he is finished, the kids know that he still loves them, and they know that their behavior will not be accepted.  Each of the kids form a special bond with Mr. Terupt, because they understand that he really cares about them.  Relationships break and form, kids learn more about themselves, and forgiveness is key to happiness.

Mr. Terupt reminded me of a couple of teachers I had the pleasure of working with.  My kids and I listened to the book on cd version and many times had to sit in the garage for “just a few more minutes!” to find out what was going to happen next.  I really liked how Mr. Buyea wrote from the viewpoint of each child in the class.  It was fun to listen to the different characters and see what each one of them was experiencing in the different situations.  We highly recommend this book!

30. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Poetry · Tags:

Hidden by Helen Frost, read by Lisa, on 07/16/2013

When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra’s father steals a minivan. He doesn’t know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of both girls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too.

Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth – that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they’ve hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain.

Pie

27. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Lisa, Mystery · Tags:

Pie by Sarah Weeks, read by Lisa, on 06/22/2013

From the award-winning author of SO B. IT, a story about family, friendship, and…pie!

When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it’s making them pie-crazy. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of donig something for the right reason.

With Pie, acclaimed author Sarah Weeks has baked up a sweet and satisfying delight, as inviting as warm pie on a cold day. You’ll enjoy every last bite.

23. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocolyptic, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, read by Angie, on 06/20/2013

Some kind of disaster has befallen the world and humanity must be saved. So the Builders create Ember, a city deep underground. They create instructions for the citizens to follow once it is safe to emerge. Unfortunately, the instructions are lost and the people of Ember never know there is a world outside of their small community. The expiration date is coming due on Ember; the power is failing and they are running out of supplies. No one seems that worried however, except Lina and Doon. Lina finds the instructions, unfortunately after her baby sister Poppy has eaten part of them. As Lina and Doon try to decipher the Instructions, they also uncover corruption and greed in Ember. In order to safe everyone they must find a way out of Ember.

I really enjoyed this book and my bookclub kids did as well. I also thought they did a really good job on the movie as well; one of the few times when I actually liked a movie made from a book. Lina and Doon are really interesting characters who are actively pursuing something unlike the majority of the characters in this book who are stagnant and just want to continue with the status quo. I liked the mystery of trying to figure out what exactly the Instructions were saying and I thought the adventurous escape was thrill a minute. However, my favorite part had to be the end where Doon, Lina and Poppy discover a world they have only dreamed of. This book won the Missouri Mark Twain award.

07. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, read by Leslie, on 05/27/2013

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)

Kate, Michael, and Emma have passed from one orphanage to another in the ten years since their parents disappeared to protect them, but now they learn that they have special powers, a prophesied quest to find a magical book, and a fearsome enemy.

This may be a series I read just to see how the next 2 atlases are found.  I liked this book, see the appeal for young readers, it’s got a little magic, a little mystery, a little time travel.  It is being called a new Narnia for tweens, and that seems accurate enough, with just a bit of Harry Potter tossed in.  I want to discover the identity of the mastermind behind it all.

05. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, read by Leslie, on 05/19/2013

The Unwanteds (Unwanteds, #1)

In a society that purges thirteen-year-olds who are creative, identical twins Aaron and Alex are separated, one to attend University while the other, supposedly Eliminated, finds himself in a wondrous place where youths hone their abilities and learn magic.

Someone touts it as “Hunger Games meets Harry Potter” on the cover, not really, in my opinion.  Yes, it has a magic element, a kindly, older mentor, and several sneaky boys.  Yes, there is a point where children are weeded out of their society and sent to what they think is their death.  However, I didn’t really find it to be a meshing of the two stories.  Another book that I don’t think I want to read the sequel to, it was a fine story, but beyond that, it doesn’t really pique my interest.  Kids may find it very fascinating, though.

Pie

05. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Pie by Sarah Weeks, read by Leslie, on 05/17/2013

Pie

After the death of Polly Portman, whose award-winning pies put the town of Ipswitch, Pennsylvania, on the map in the 1950s, her devoted niece Alice and Alice’s friend Charlie investigate who is going to extremes to find Aunt Polly’s secret pie crust recipe. Includes fourteen pie recipes.

A cute little mystery, a good book to get started on the genre if you’re young.  I did enjoy reading it, even if I did have the culprit figured out fairly early!  And I’ve got to admit that I want to try some of those recipes, they looked scrumptious.

29. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Janet · Tags:

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson, read by Janet, on 05/25/2013

The Familiars      This is a great adventure of three “Familiars” – animal buddies of wizards.  The unusual trio are a blue jay (Skylar), a tree frog (Gilbert), and an alley cat (Aldwyn).  The bird and frog know they have magical powers, but the cat uses his “street smarts” to pretend he knows magic. The wizards get abducted and the Familiars have to ge across many lands to rescue them.  There is continuous action and concern about the future through the whole story.  Many lessons in friendship, courage, and trust are woven into this excellent tale.

Pie

29. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah · Tags:

Pie by Sarah Weeks, read by Sarah, on 05/08/2013

pieAlice’s best friend, Aunt Polly, was a kind-hearted woman who made pies and forged friendships like no other.  When she dies, she leaves her award-winning pie crust recipe to her cat, Lardo.  Alice is left in charge of Lardo, Lardo disappears, pie making fever abounds as a pie baking contest looms closer, Charlie works with Alice to find the cat thief, and Alice comes to realize that her gifts are worth sharing.  Aunt Polly always brought out the best in people, even in her death.

This was a slower moving book but it had a great message.  I enjoyed the peek into the future in the epilogue.  This was a 2013-2014 Mark Twain Award Nominee.