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

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, 390 pages, 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, 269 pages, 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, 147 pages, 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.


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

Pie by Sarah Weeks, 180 pages, 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, Apocalyptic, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, 270 pages, 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, 417 pages, 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, 390 pages, 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.


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

Pie by Sarah Weeks, 183 pages, read by Leslie, on 05/17/2013


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, 360 pages, 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.


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

Pie by Sarah Weeks, 183 pages, 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.

21. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Janet · Tags:

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, 390 pages, read by Janet, on 05/20/2013

The Unwanteds     In the “perfect” society of Quill, those who don’t follow the exact rules or meet the highest qualifications are weeded out when they reach thirteen.  They are taken to the outer wall of the kingdom, through a gate always kept locked from the inside, and handed to some enormous Eliminators to be thrown into the Boiling Lake of Oil.  Alex and the others knew they were doomed, but were very surprised to be welcomed by a giant flying tortoise and Mr.Today.  They actually had escaped from a land of black and white with stiff rules to a colorful place where people were enjoyed and taught many magic and creative activities that would eventually save their lives.  Alex missed his twin, Aaron, who was a Wanted in Quill, but visited him in dreams, hoping to someday bring him here to Artime.  There are many surprises and lots of exciting experiences – good booki!

14. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Joyce, Mystery · Tags:

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn , 187 pages, read by Joyce, on 04/18/2013

Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?

Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.

Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.

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

Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach, 262 pages, read by Janet, on 05/05/2013

Missing on Superstition Mountain   Why were people warned to not go on Superstition Mountain?  Was there really a lost gold mine there?  Whose skulls were lined up on the ledge?  Simon, Henry, and Jack couldn’t pass up the temptation to explore and had a very exciting adventure.  Looking for historical information in the library introduced them to a new neighbor, Delilah, who also wanted to explore.  Unfortunately, she had an accident on the mountain, which led to finding a hidden canyon and another mystery.  This was an exciting book that was hard to put down (even as an aging adult).

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor, 247 pages, read by Leslie, on 04/30/2013

Sparrow Road

Twelve-year-old Raine spends the summer at a mysterious artists colony and discovers a secret about her past.

I really think that this is going to be my favorite Mark Twain nominee.  The characters were all so real and the storyline rolled out at a nice pace.  Sometimes authors try to stuff things into their stories as they are reaching the end so it feels too rushed.  I thought that Raine’s personality as an only child trying to deal with all the upheaval was well done, she is a very grounded character, not flighty like some authors might make their characters when dealing with similar plots.  Very well done.

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

In Front of God and Everybody by K.D. McCrite, 298 pages, read by Leslie, on 04/26/2013

In Front of God and Everybody

Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny–especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone’s patience.

I loved April Grace!  Having been the older sister, I can’t see her view of what’s it’s like to be the younger sister, but I loved her sarcasm when dealing with her sister.  And as a kid, she is rather invisible and dismissed by adults when overhearing and seeing things they think are secret.  Very good book, I can’t wait for the next one.

19. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863 by Laurie Calkhoven, 144 pages, read by Angie, on 04/18/2013

Will lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with his mother and three sisters. His father is a doctor helping out in Washington and his brother is a prisoner of the South. It is 1863 and the Civil War is raging. Will dreams of being a drummer boy for the Union Army and doing heroic deeds, but his mom won’t let him join up. Then the war comes to Gettysburg. The bloodiest battle of the War is fought right on Will’s doorstep and he is right in the middle of it. He finds that war is not heroic deeds and glory but bloody, chaotic and terrifying.

This was an amazing story of what it was like in Gettysburg during the battle. Calkhoven does a great job weaving historical details into her fictional characters’ story. She shows the true horror of war, but also the selflessness of some of the people. I really enjoyed how she showed the townspeople opening their homes for the soldiers on both sides and taking care of the sick and wounded. She also provides historical notes at the end of the book with details about the battle and the Civil War.

2013-14 Mark Twain Nominee.

21. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags: ,

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, 250 pages, read by Angie, on 03/21/2013

Foster wants to become the first kid with a cooking show on the Food Network. Her specialty is cupcakes and muffins but she can cook anything. She practices for her show every time she cooks. The only problem is she and her mom just moved to small town Culpepper and who is going to discover her in Culpepper? They had to leave Memphis fast to get away from her mom’s Elvis impersonating boyfriend and Culpepper is where they ended up. Culpepper is a quirky little town with a reclusive Hollywood diva, a young documentarian without a camera and a host of other fun characters.

I love small town books. They always have the quirkiest characters. I think this book has a nice mix of crazy and sane. I like Foster’s ambition and determination to make it big. I also enjoyed the fact that she had a little dimension. She can’t read and she tries to hide that fact with everything she can. Once her secret is out she accepts the help of those around her. I do wish there would have been a little more development for Foster, but overall this was a fun little book.

07. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah · Tags: ,

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, 250 pages, read by Sarah, on 03/06/2013

Foster is the best cupcake baker in West Virginia, but she is hiding a secret she is too embarrassed to admit.  She and her mother have just escaped a rough relationship and have started fresh in this little town named Culpepper.  The town boasts a prison, Angry Wayne’s restaurant, a church for sale, and a haven house for prisoners’ families to stay in while visiting.  Foster and her mother have won their way into the town’s hearts with their hard work, perseverance, and dedication.  Foster wants to be the first kid on the Food Network with her own show, so often she will practice her shtick with the stuffed catfish on the wall of their borrowed trailer.  Good stuff.

I really enjoyed this 2013-2014 Mark Twain Award nominee.  The author connects you to Foster immediately and you can’t help but root for her.  If you believe in yourself and work hard, then you can be successful at anything you put your mind to.

25. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Melody H · Tags:

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, 390 pages, read by Melody, on 02/19/2013

The Unwanteds is one of this year’s Mark Twain nominees.   It is the story of the land of Quill where every year there is a sorting of thirteen year olds.  Some become Wanted and go on to positions of power and influence, some become Necessaries who do the manual jobs, and some are Unwanted who are purged and sent to their deaths.  In actuality, the Unwanted are taken to a magical land where their talents of creativity and imagination which had doomed them are cultivated and nurtured.  But their world can not remain hidden forever.  I really liked the ideas of this book but found the premise to be much more promising than the execution.  The world building was very spare and the characters not very well developed.  A lot of fluff and very little bones.

24. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

The Underdogs by Mike Lupica , 280 pages, read by Angie, on 02/20/2013

Will lives for football; he is a football star. Unfortunately his town, Forbes, PA, is running out of money and decides they can’t fund the football team this year. Forbes has seen better days; the Forbes Flyers shoe factory has gone out of business and taken all the jobs with it. People are moving away and the town is slowly dying. Will writes to New Balance and asks them to sponsor the team; and of course they do. Now he just has to get a team together. He convinces his dad, former football player sidelined for a knee injury, to coach the team. Unfortunately, he only has 10 players. He recruits new girl Hannah and bullied by his father Toby to join. All Will wants is a chance to beat the Castle Rock team in the championship.

I have read this book twice now and there is still a lot of football in this book. This book is all about football; I know nothing about football nor do I really want to. So all the passages describing plays and the games went right over my head. I am sure for people who follow football this was a fantastic portion of the book. Thankfully it is easy to skim the football parts and still know what is going on. I enjoyed this book even with the football. It was a little predictable: Will is a football genius, New Balance actually funds the team and the CEO comes to the championship, they silence Toby’s bullying dad by making him assistant coach, the whole town comes out to support them, etc. All things you would expect; there were very few surprises in this book. However, I am not sure kids will care. This is a quick read with lots of sports action. The characters are likable and you really do root for the team even though you know they are going to win.