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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of this year’s Mark Twain nominees Half upon a Time is the story of a girl, May, from our world dropped (literally) into the fairy tale world. Her grandmother was kidnapped, she is being hunted by a creepy guy, and everyone assumes she is a princess, a pretty rough day for May. She is joined on her attempts to rescue her grandmother by a boy named Jack, of beanstalk fame, the Wolf King, and even a real prince. The characters are charming and the story paces well. Fun read.