30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah · Tags:

Barn Boot Blues by Catherine Friend, read by Sarah, on 01/26/2013

hw7.plWhat if your parents got a crazy idea that they can manage a small farm in the middle of nowhere, and they drag you away from the only life you ever knew in the bustle of the city?  That is exactly what happens to 12 year old Taylor McNamara just before starting school.  Will the chicken poop flying everywhere and the bloating sheep get her down?  Will she survive embarrassing moments of farm mishaps that leave their evidence on her stylish clothing?  Will her friends help her succeed in convincing her parents that the farm life is not for them?

Taylor was a believable pre-teen who only wanted to be accepted in her new school, be able to make friends, and survive the chore of taking care of 74 farm animals.  Her new friends are great; trying to help her in any way that they can.  Taylor’s parents sound like typical adults who try something new, discover it is going to be stressful, and forget about the kid for a while.  I like how the author let you in on the parents’ relationship throughout the story, too.  All in all, it was a good book that I would recommend for tweens (especially if they are interested in the perils of farm life!)

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

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby, read by Angie, on 01/22/2013

Hannah is a maid at a hotel. She is working to support her family since her dad got sick. Frederick is a clockmaker’s apprentice. He is glad to be out of the orphanage and wants to create an automaton man. Guiseppe is a street busker. He plays his violin in the hope of making enough money for food and shelter from his padrone. These three young people’s lives come together in a way no one expected. They become friends and go on a quest for a missing treasure. The hunt leads them down paths they didn’t expect, including theft and murder.

This book is told from the perspectives of the three young protagonists. We learn their stories in the alternating chapters. They are interesting stories, but I have to admit I found this book a little slow. While the three storylines are interesting, they don’t truly intersect until the very end. I also found the ending just a little too easy. This is a kid’s book so of course I knew everything would turn out ok, but I don’t like perfect endings. They are certainly not true in life and shouldn’t be in literature. This is a 2012-13 Mark Twain nominee.

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

The Familiars (The Familiars #1) by Adam Jay Epstein, read by Angie, on 01/16/2013

The Familiars is the tale of three magical familiars and their adventure to save their loyals (their humans). Aldwyn is a scrappy alley cat from the city who hides in a familiars store and becomes the familiar for Jack. He has to hide the fact that he is not magical like the other familiars: know-it-all blue jay Skylar and friendly tree frog Gilbert. When their loyals are kidnapped they decide it is up to the three animals to rescue them. What follows is a wild adventure through Vestia.

This is a wonderful fantasy book for middle grades. I enjoyed the journey aspect of the book as the familiars travel throughout the land encountering one narrow escape after another. Along the way they learn more about themselves and their abilities. This book is similar to other fantasy novels. You have the quest aspect, the trials and tribulations along the journey, and the discovery of abilities you didn’t know you had. It works really well with animals as the main characters. This is a great series for kids who like fantasy and animals. 2012-13 Mark Twain nominee.

16. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Leslie · Tags:

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby, read by Leslie, on 06/11/2012

The Clockwork Three

Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events. . . .As mysterious circumstances bring them together, the lives of these three children soon interlock, and they realize that each one holds the key to the others’ puzzles. Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

I thought this book was just okay.  I felt it was a little involved in details that didn’t matter to the story and it took a while to weave them all together and make the story seem coherent.  I also thought it was a bit ripped off from the book by Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

16. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham, read by Leslie, on 06/09/2012

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (Theodore Boone, #1)

A perfect murder
A faceless witness
A lone courtroom champion knows the whole truth . . . and he’s only thirteen years old
Meet Theodore Boone
In the small city of Strattenburg, there are many lawyers, and though he’s only thirteen years old, Theo Boone thinks he’s one of them.

I liked this foray into childrens books by Grisham.  It was not too complicated for kids to understand and like, it is especially appealing to boys.  Theodore has just the right amount of curiosity, not so much as to find himself in danger, he uses his mind to it’s fullest.  Much enjoyed.

16. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Hide and Seek by Katy Grant, read by Leslie, on 05/12/2012

Hide and Seek

Thirteen-year-old Chase, a geocaching enthusiast, must constantly rely on his wits to solve unexpected problems. This outdoor adventure and boy’s coming of age story is set in the remote, rugged mountains of northern Arizona.

A good book with a bit of mystery in it, good boy book.  I liked it and like the geocaching aspect to it.  It introduces a great hobby to kids.

15. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams, read by Leslie, on 05/04/2012

Palace Beautiful

When sisters Sadie and Zuzu Brooks move to Salt Lake City, they discover a secret room in the attic of their new house, with a sign that reads ?Palace Beautiful? and containing an old journal. Along with their neighbor, dramatic Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith), they take turns reading the story of a girl named Helen living during the flu epidemic of 1918. The journal ends with a tragedy that has a scary parallel to Sadie and Zuzu?s lives, and the girls become obsessed with finding out what happened to Helen after the journal ends. Did she survive the flu? Is she still alive somewhere? Or could her ghost be lurking in the nearby graveyard?

A very enjoyable read, girls especially will enjoy this mystery.  Well written, fast reading for me, the characters mesh well.  A very popular book with my kids.

15. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Leslie · Tags:

Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleave, read by Leslie, on 04/15/2012

Drizzle

Eleven-year-old Polly Peabody knows her family’s world-famous rhubarb farm is magical. The plants taste like chocolate, jewels appear in the soil, bugs talk to her, and her best friend is a rhubarb plant named Harry. But the most magical thing is that every single Monday, at exactly 1:00, it rains. Until the Monday when the rain just stops.

This book has been compared to the world of Roald Dahl, but not having read a lot of his books, I can’t say how close it comes.  I found it to be a little out there, although it is popular with my kids.  I guess the appeal of a fruit or vegetable that might taste like chocolate has some merit.  I thought it was just an okay book.

 

15. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs, read by Leslie, on 04/09/2012

Belly Up

12 year old Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it’s claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain’t the polar bear’s lunch.

A good book for kids to enjoy the mystery and trying to solve it before the book revealed the culprit.  Being used to adult mysteries, I did not enjoy it as much but kids are liking it when I recommend it.  No talking animals but a good example of needing to talk to adults about issues.

15. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, read by Leslie, on 04/07/2012

Because of Mr. Terupt

It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.

 

I found that this was a book I could definitely recommend to my 4th and 5th graders as a book any of them would thoroughly enjoy, and so far, they all have.  This can appeal to any young reader without offending any of them.  It definitely gives them something to think about when they can look at their classmates through different eyes.

29. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, read by Angie, on 10/27/2012

Amanda and Leo are born on the same day and they always celebrate their birthdays together. They are best friends until their 10th birthday when Leo says some hurtful things about Amanda. They don’t speak for an entire year. Then comes their 11 birthdays; their first birthday apart. Suddenly they are reliving that day over and over again. They have to figure out why and how to fix it.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well developed and great. I think Wendy Mass really knows 11 year olds because these guys seem pretty accurate to me. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was great. I really enjoyed how Amanda changed the day each time she relived it and the consequences of doing so.

13. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams , read by Angie, on 08/12/2012

Sadie and Zulu have just moved with their dad and stepmom into an old house in Salt Lake City, UT. They live down the street from Grandma Brooks and next door to Bella and her control-freak mother. While exploring their new home they discover a hidden room in the attic with a journal and the words Palace Beautiful written on the wall. The journal is written by Helen in 1918 and tells the story of her family during the influenza outbreak. The girls set out to discover what happened to Helen and her family since the journal ends abruptly.

This was a wonderful book and well deserving of the Mark Twain nominee. All three of the girls are delightful characters. Sadie grieving for her mom, Zulu throwing tantrums and Belle just wanting to be loved by her mom. I really enjoyed that the story was set in the 1980s but could take place at any time. Helen’s story worked really well intertwined with the girls. Very satisfying ending as well. Definitely recommend.

2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain nominee.

24. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs, read by Angie, on 07/18/2012

Henry the Hippo has gone belly up and Teddy decides that it is his mission to find out who exactly killed him. Henry is the mascot for FunJungle the zoo theme park where Teddy and his family live. It is supposed to be the perfect Zoo, but why did someone kill Henry and why are the adults trying to cover it up? Teddy and his friend Summer set about to investigate. There are chases through the zoo, suspicious characters, animals on the loose, smuggled emeralds, and other shenanigans.

This is a fun mystery that I think kids will enjoy. Teddy and Summer are smart and interesting. They think for themselves and they solve the mystery when the adults can’t. My only compliant about the book is the numerous environmental/conservation/animal education passages/messages in the book. They are sometimes rather long and they break up the flow of the plot. Most of it is good information and the message is good, but it is just this side of preachy and hitting you over the head. I wish it had been worked into the story a little more successfully. I get what the author was trying to do, but the execution didn’t always work. Wasn’t totally unsuccessful, but bordering on MESSAGE book at times. Aside from that I liked it and I think kids will too. I am not even sure they will notice the other stuff as much; they may just pay attention to the main plot of the book.

This is a 2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

21. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, read by Angie, on 06/20/2012

Mr. Terupt is a new teacher for the 6th grade class. Is his class excited? Not really. He has a new way of doing things and they aren’t really looking forward to breaking in a new teacher. We get to hear all about it from each of the students throughout out the book in alternating chapters. The students reveal what’s going on among their friends, at home, at school and with themselves all set against the backdrop of Mr. Terupt’s classroom. The kids learn about themselves, they learn to be strong, who they are and who they are going to become. They learn to think for themselves and to stand up for what is right and for each other.

I thought this was a wonderful book. I loved the alternating narrators; I thought that really gave the book a unique and full voice. Each of the kids had their own voice and characteristics and it was very easy to keep them straight. They all seemed like real kids with real problems too. They faced things that I think kids reading the book can identify with. I can’t wait for the next book by Mr. Buyea.

I liked the idea of the kids in this book learning by doing instead of being taught. There are some great projects in this class; projects that would definitely make school more interesting and fun. However, I do think it makes for an interesting discussion on whether the kids are given too much freedom too soon and whether Mr. Terupt should have stepped in to control some of their antics. Would that have averted tragedy? We will never know but it makes for great discussions. I feel like all the kids learn about themselves and each other in this book and they all become just a little bit better because of Mr. Terupt. Such a great lesson and a great read.

This is a 2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

16. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve, read by Angie, on 04/15/2012

Polly Peabody lives on a farm where the rhubarb taste like chocolate and fixes the hole in the ozone layer, where you can’t drown in the lake no matter what, where bugs and plants talk to her and where it rains every Monday at exactly 1 o’clock. Until the Monday it doesn’t rain and things start to fall apart. Her brother Freddy gets sick, her aunt wants to sell the farm, all the plants start to wilt and die from lack of rain, and funding for the farm dries up just like the rain.

I think this book could have been much better if the magical/fantasy portions of it had been left out or at least toned down. They didn’t seem to make a lot of sense and they took away from what I thought was the true point of the story…Polly’s journey of self-discovery, learning who she is and what she is really capable of. I am seriously you have talking plants, bugs that spell, spiders that talk, magic tasting rhubarb, magic rain…but only on this one farm in what is otherwise our normal world. It really didn’t make sense and there was no adequate explanation for it. I would have been ok with the magical abilities of the women in the family. That could have been explained by genetic mutation, which is touched on in the book. But it doesn’t explain the rest of it. Aside from the absurd magic stuff the rest of the plot was a decent coming of age story. Polly grows up quite a bit in the book. She learns a lot about herself and those around her. It could have used a bit of editing for both content and size…there were errors and it was too long/too much filler.

This is a 2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

12. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

Twenty Gold Falcons by Amy Gordon, read by Angie, on 04/12/2012

Aiden Farmer has just moved to Gloria. Her father has died and she has had to leave the farm she loves. She and her mother have moved into an apartment with her uncle Tony, an opera singer, and she attends a school she hates with people she can’t stand. The only thing she does like is the Ingle Building and its connection to her family. She is a a Balboni and they have always been connected to the Ingle’s. Then Aiden hears about a mysteries lost treasure in the Ingle Building. Years ago Mr. Ingle hid 20 gold falcons for the children and they were never found. Aiden and her friends Adam and Lisle decide to try and find the falcons. They are aided by a strange cast of characters from in and around the Ingle Building and from various clues left by Mr. Ingle. Along the way we learn more about the Ingle family and its history.

This is a fun mystery for middle grades. It has a lot of adventure and action. The kids are smart and they have to use their heads a lot to solve the clues to this mystery. I think the thing I liked the most about this was that they weren’t super special kids; they were just regular kids who have an extraordinary adventure. I think the unique cast of characters adds something to the story and I found I was sometimes more interested in learning about them then following the mystery. The ending was pretty satisfying if just a little too put together/happy ending. but this is a middle grade book so you expect the happy ever after bit. Overall, it was good and I would recommend it.

2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

02. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Melody · Tags:

Ghost Dog Secrets by Peg Kehret, read by Melody, on 03/30/2012

Ghost Dog Secrets is my favorite of this year’s Mark Twain nominees.   Peg Kehret is a master writer of children’s suspense and her latest does not disappoint.  Our hero, Rusty, sees a chained mistreated German Shepherd on his way to school and begins to feed the abused animal.  Rusty names him Ra and slowly gains his trust.  With his friend Andrew and the urging of a ghost collie, he rescues the dog.  But the dog’s abusive owner wants Ra back and will do anything to get him.  Great storytelling that doesn’t dumb down or gloss over complex and heartbreaking situations.  Great book.

 

25. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, read by Angie, on 03/14/2012

Mr. Terupt is a new teacher for the 6th grade class. Is his class excited? Not really. He has a new way of doing things and they aren’t really looking forward to breaking in a new teacher. We get to hear all about it from each of the students throughout out the book in alternating chapters. The students reveal what’s going on among their friends, at home, at school and with themselves all set against the backdrop of Mr. Terupt’s classroom. The kids learn about themselves, they learn to be strong, who they are and who they are going to become. They learn to think for themselves and to stand up for what is right and for each other.

I thought this was a wonderful book. I loved the alternating narrators; I thought that really gave the book a unique and full voice. Each of the kids had their own voice and characteristics and it was very easy to keep them straight. They all seemed like real kids with real problems too. They faced things that I think kids reading the book can identify with. I can’t wait for the next book by Mr. Buyea.

This is a 2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

11. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, read by Angie, on 03/11/2012

Melody is not like other children. She has cerebral palsy (CP), she can’t talk, she can’t walk, she can’t feed herself, she is completely dependent on those around her. However, she is extremely smart even if no one realizes it. She has a photographic memory; she remembers everything she has ever heard or seen. Melody has always been in the “special” class at school, but this year in 5th grade she is integrated into normal classes. She has also always been limited in her what she can say by her speech board, but that will all change when she gets a MediTalker to help her speak for herself. This is Melody’s story. It is about how she deals with life and how those around her deal with her.

I really enjoyed this book. I think Draper did an excellent job of showing what it is like to live with CP. I believe her daughter has CP so she does have personal experience to draw from. Melody is an inspirational character and one you really want to cheer for. She does not let her disability get her down even though she does have bad days. Her story makes you look at yourself a little differently and how you live your life and how you treat those around you.

As wonderful as I thought this book was I don’t think it is without flaws. I wonder about Melody’s situation in regards to real life. Would she really be in a special ed classroom until 5th grade when she is as bright as she is? She has a speech board but there are several times that she can’t tell her family things…why couldn’t she spell it out? Maybe this was just left out of the book but even as smart as she was wouldn’t she need some kind of language therapy or something to learn speech if she has never spoken or written language? Like I said maybe that is not written but it is implied but it really did seem like Melody was super smart (a little too smart maybe to be realistic) and didn’t need any help figuring things out; all she needed was something to help her talk.

The other thing I thought was really out of place was the ending with Penny. I thought that was thrown in out of no where and didn’t fit with the rest of what was going on at that point in the book. At that point the school drama was front and center and should have been the climax of the book. Then you throw in this chapter about Penny that just throws things off. I didn’t think it fit and I really didn’t think it was needed. I thought Draper should have stuck to the school issues and ended there.

Overall this was an excellent book despite my issues with it. It raises awareness of a disability that is not often discussed in children’s literature and it does it in a respectful and powerful way. I think kids will enjoy Melody’s story and be moved by it. 2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

11. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Half Upon a Time by James Riley, read by Angie, on 03/10/2012

Poor Jack. He is not having a good day. He failed his princess rescuing training, but who cares because there aren’t a lot of princesses anyway and royalty is a pain. His father has disappeared (Jack of Jack and the beanstalk). And he has to listen to his grandfather go on about all his adventures. Then a princess falls from the sky…a Punk Princess to be exact (it says so on her shirt). May isn’t like a normal princess, but her grandmother has been kidnapped and they must go on a guest to find her. Thus begins a journey into fairy tales (but fairies don’t have tails insists Jack) where we meet the Big Bad Wolf, Red Hood, Snow White, the Wicked Queen, Rapunzel and more.

I love stories that take things we think we know and turn them on their head. This one takes traditional fairy tale characters and tweaks their stories a bit. It puts them all in a world where they coexists and interact and which seems as real as our world…although it does take May a little while to come to grips with it. This is a fast pace adventure novel that throws one fairy tale after another at you. But it works. I think the characters and the plot are all woven together pretty well. I think Jack is a wonderful Hero; he is not the best Hero to be sure but he has courage and spunk even if he can’t pass all his tests. Phillip, the prince they pick up along the way, is your typical prince; he is perfect at everything he does. He gets on Jack’s nerves but it really works for the story and I enjoy his back story and how it intersects with Jack’s. If there is one character I wasn’t as fond of it is probably May. She seems inconsistent. At times she was wonderful and spunky and just the type you wanted in your heroine; at other times she was spoiled and too caught up in princesses/princes.

The ending of this book does not wrap up the storylines. There is another book coming out called Twice Upon a Time which will hopefully take care of at least some of the dangling threads from this one. This is a very creative series and a fun adventurous read. 2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.