Sunday, October 9, 2011

#122 Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel


Dyamonde Daniel is new at school. Although she has met a few kids, she just doesn't have a best friend yet, and that makes her feel sad. When the next "new kid", Free, is introduced to her class, Dyamonde can't understand why he is so crabby. He never smiles, and seems really mad at everyone.

After talking to her teacher, Dyamonde decides to ask Free why he is so unhappy. Her outgoing nature and straightforward questions take Free back, but soon they become close friends.

Dyamonde is the kind of child I would have loved to be friends with! I'm excited to see that there are several more books starring Dyamonde. It's a great new series by Nikki Grimes. Check it out!

Nikki Grimes website is:http://www.nikkigrimes.com/books/bkmake.html



And here is a book trailer for Nikki Grimes' next book about Dyamonde Daniel: Rich.

#120 100 Days and 99 Nights


This is the story of Esme and her family, and the 100 days and 99 nights her Dad has to be gone for his military term of duty. It made me think of all the children I know who have had parents serving their terms, and right away I thought how much I'd like to share it with them.

Esme is a fun kid. She has a large collection of stuffed animals (think beany babies) that she has arranged in alphabetical order on her bed. Each chapter is named for one of the animals, and we get to hear a little bit about where she got it and why it's special. Many of these animals tie into her love for her family, and the places they've lived because of her father's service in the armed forces.

Reading this story really helps see the life of a child with a parent away in a nw light - and really helps you understand what they're dealing with. I enjoyed it a lot - and I think you will too!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

#121 Please Write in this Book

I realize I've been away from this blog for way too long! I guess I got a little busy with the technology - but it is now officially time to get back to books!

I'm starting with this year's Maud Hart Lovelace nominees. Please Write in this Book by Mary Amato is a delightful, quick read.

The kids in Ms Wurtz's class have found a book in the writing center. Ms. Wurtz has written a note inside asking them to please write in the book. The writing begins with a flourish, but quickly becomes a fight between the boys and the girls.

As their writing continues, they suddenly realize that they need to resolve their issues and work together or Ms. Wurtz will take the book away. This is when they get creative, and .... well I'd better not give that part away.

I wish I had been smart enough to do this back when I taught 4th grade. I think the students would have loved it. Maybe I should try hiding one in the library and see if anyone finds it there. What do you think?

Check out these other great books by Mary Amato:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#119 Sidekicks

Sidekicks is the first graphic novel by Dan Santat - a popular illustrator in his own right. It seems that Captain Amazing, the hero of Metro City, is getting too old to fight crime.

He has ordered a new pet, a chameleon, to keep him company while he rests up and selects a new sidekick. Of course, his dog and mouse are very jealous of the strange new visitor, so there is some rivalry right away.

His pets each decide that they should apply to work as his sidekick, in order to help him out and, more importantly, to get to spend more time with him. They even find a former pet, Static Cat, who has been off chasing criminals, but is willing to coach them.

What follows is an adventurous ride where they all try to fight crime and impress Captain Amazing.

You can catch Dan Santat here at his website: http://www.dantat.com/DANTAT.COM/Welcome_to_the_website_of_DAN_SANTAT.html. Enjoy!





Monday, August 8, 2011

#118 Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano

...but she does love Being in Recitals!

My mom was a piano teacher. I will never forget waking up Saturday mornings listening to other kids play our piano...and hearing my mother telling them what they missed, or how to make the song sound better. I took piano lessons too - but never from my own mother!

Moxy Maxwell is getting ready for her first piano recital, where she is playing a duet with her little sister. This fun, short story really brought me back to the days of piano lessons and recitals.

I didn't think Moxy would be afraid at all: in fact, I thought she would just keep banging out her part and never want to stop. That's what Moxy's teacher things will happen too. You'll need to read this fun book to find out if it does!

Here is author Peggy Gifford's website: http://www.peggygifford.com/publications.html



#117 The Last Invisible Boy

The Last Invisible Boy touched something deep inside me. Although there are funny, gross and just plain silly parts to this book, overall it is just an exceedingly sad story of Finn Garret...and how he becomes invisible. Rather than tell you all about it, I think you'll get the idea by watching this video.

When I finished reading it I was feeling better, so it's not one of those that just makes you cry outloud - but if you're feeling sad, or if you've had to go something really awful, (like losing someone you love - like Finn), then reading this book just might make you feel a little better. At least it will help you figure out how to move on again.

You can find out more about author Evan Kuhlman on his website here: http://www.evankuhlman.com/.





#116 Drizzle

While wandering through the Oakridge media center I found this great new fantasy by Kathleen Van Cleve and just had to check it out! I am so glad I did - and you can bet I'll be ordering it for the PME library right away!

You'll read my favorite paragraph on page 46. Here Polly (who lives with her family on a magical rhubarb farm) has just entered the library with her Aunt. Aunt Edith has shared with her an incredible room filled with books, and she says this to Polly:

"I'm jealous...To be able to read these books for the first time? What better cause for jealousy? You have hours of joy ahead of you. But at least I have the honor of bringing these treasures to you. That's something."

Is there any librarian who wouldn't feel the same way?

Then later in the book Aunt Edith gives Polly more wonderful words of advice - about feeling good when you've achieved something:

"There's a feeling you get when you achieve something all by yourself that will bring you more peace and contentment than anything money or love can provide. Men or women, it's all the same. It is that moment when you can look around and say 'I did it' - and know no one can take it away from you. You don't need to brag about it, you don't need to try to get credit for it, because it is you, who you are, who you are meant to be."

Drizzle is a marvelous book - with one of the greatest endings any fantasy could ever hope to have! It is filled with likeable characters, incredible insects, amazing plants, and a farm that can make your dreams come true!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

#115 Young Fredle

Fredle and Axle, young kitchen mice, love adventures. One day on their travels through the kitchen cupboards they find the most incredible food - a peppermint patti! They begin to nibble it, and find it to be the most delectable food they've ever eaten. However, they eat until they're stuffed and can barely crawl back to their nests. Suddenly Fredle finds himself pushed out of his nest (which is what happens to sick little mice) and carried outside by the Missus.

Once outside, Fredle finds a place to hide and begins to discover all of the amazing things in the world. He meets new mice who live differently than his family: the cellar mice, the field mice and mice who live in the woodshed. He even meets the wild raccoons (and cleverly escapes from them!) and he becomes friends with the dogs, who help protect Fredle from the cats.

This is a marvelous adventure! It think it helps all of us realize how much we love our own homes, but also how valuable it is for us to learn about how others live, and to see that there are similarities as well as differences in our families and lives.

Young Fredle was written by newbery medalist Cynthia Voigt. Learn more about her, and her other books, at http://pme100.blogspot.com/.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Do you only read kids books?

Several times over the past few months people have asked me if I read anything else besides "kids books".

The answer is "yes!" I am an avid reader and continually read books for adults as well as books for kids. I love a good novel, but I also try to keep up with the many, many nonfiction books related to education, leadership and business. I check books out of the public library, read books on my iPad, use the public library "Overdrive" app, share some kindle and Nook books with my daughter and sister, and read whatever I can get my hands on!

Here's a taste of the books I've read over the past few weeks that I won't be reviewing, but that I highly recommend (not for kids though, but for adults). No review here, but a one-sentence explanation of why I chose to read it.


  • Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo - My daughter bought it for my husband for Father's Day and we all passed it around.
  • Drive by Daniel Pink - He is a great author, and I love the topic of motivation, especially as I work with teachers and students in school.
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell - I heard Malcolm Gladwell speak at a conference a year ago. I intended to read this right away and just never had a chance.
  • The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil - What can I say? Everyone needs a good beach read, right?
  • Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares - I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and didn't want to miss the final installment.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett - Everyone's been talking about it, and I knew the movie was coming out, so I figured I'd better get on it!
  • Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue - I had the electronic book on my iPad and was ready to start a new book. I had seen this one around and wanted to read it.
  • House Rules by Jodi Picoult - I think I have read every book Jodi Picoult has written: she is definitely one of my favorite authors!


Whether you're a 4th grader, a parent, a teacher, a librarian or a friend, I wish you wonderful books to read in your future! If you're not sure what to read, take a chance on one of these!

#114 Hothead

As is probably obvious by the number of sports books I review, I love sports! It is especially fun to find a book written by a professional, such as this one by baseball all-star Cal Ripken, Jr. I always figure that when an author like this gives the "low-down" on the game, it is probably about as realistic as it could possibly be. This happens to be Ripken's first book, and one that I enjoyed immensely.

Connor Sullivan is the all-star shortstop on the Orioles, his Babe Ruth team. He is a leader in hitting and fielding, and baseball is the biggest thing in his life. That life is pretty shaky, however, because there are some family issues that are really causing concern for Connor, and that concern is changing the way he reacts to stress.

Connor has become a hothead: Mt. Vesuvius, to be exact. When he strikes out or makes an error he slams his glove, throws things, and walks off the field. He even yells at his best friend, Jordy, and the coach is ready to kick Connor off the team.

One of his classmates (a girl!) works on the school paper and has decided to do a big story on Connor. Should her story be about his athletic performance though, or should she do a big story on his tantrums? She even has the pictures and video highlights of those.

There is definitely a lot of baseball in this book, but it offers a lot more than that. So, whether you are a baseball fan or not, check this one out!





#113 Beyonders: A World Without Heroes

Brandon Mull's most recent book, Beyonders: A World without Heroes was a fun and exciting read! The story gets started with a bang. Jason, a typical 13 year old (although a very studious one) hears a strange sound and is mysteriously pulled through a hippo into another world. Immediately he sees a crowd gathering because a group of musicians are on a raft speeding towards a waterfall...and certain death. Rather than simply watch in horror, Jason decides to try to rescue them.

In each chapter of the book we find Jason meeting another strange character in this new land. Although he wants more than anything to get back home again, he puts aside his own wishes because he sees others in need, and he has perhaps the only way to save them.

The chapters are short, and in each chapter Jason and Rachel (another Beyonder who arrived about the same time Jason did) must solve some clues in order to find another syllable in the word that can overthrow the wicked ruler. Rather than give up and take the easy way out, Jason and Rachel locate all of the syllables and prepare to....WAIT! I can't tell you any more!

As seems to be happening more and more lately, I reached the exciting conclusion of the book only to find that there is a huge cliffhanger and the story will continue in the next book...which won't be out until spring, 2012! The only good thing about that is that this will give you plenty of time to get it read before the sequel is published. If you haven't been to Brandon Mull's website, be sure you visit that as well: http://brandonmull.com/site/archives/298. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#112 The Mysterious Benedict Society

We first meet Reynie, an eleven year old boy who is orphaned, and has always felt a little "different". He sees a newspaper article seeking children with special gifts and decides to take the test. Many other children are there to begin with, and all of the questions seem impossible, but somehow Reynie is able to figure out every question and move on to the next part.

Reynie finds out that not very many children are able to pass, and soon he meets up with the only other children who do: Georgie "Sticky" Washington, Kate Wetherall and Constance Contraire. Each has their own special gift, and the four realize they must depend on eachother as they enter The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. The principal, the evil Mr. Curtain, has learned to send subliminal messages to children through his terrible machine, the Whisperer, and is determined to control not only the students at the Institute, but throughout the world.

So Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance become spies in the Institute. They snoop around, trying to avoid the Executives while learning as much as they can. They communicate with Mr. Benedict through Morse Code, and the excitement builds as they realize Mr. Curtain is getting closer and closer to his goal.

I really enjoyed reading this book! I especially loved the peculiarities of each character. You can visit the website all about the books and their author here: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/mysteriousbenedictsociety/index.html. The website is a blast all by itself (very similar to Roald Dahl's site I thought), and the videos and games are really funny. There are also two other Benedict Society books to read once you've finished the first. Check them out!

Friday, July 15, 2011

#111 Keepers of the School: Fear Itself

We first met Ben and Jill in the first Keepers of the School book, which I read way last fall, titled We the Children.

Ben and Jill have such a mystery to unravel. It seems that a long line of custodians have been caring for the school for many years. This is an unusually beautiful school, way up on a hill overlooking the ocean. It was donated to the community by an old sea captain, the one who left the custodians to care for it.

In the first book the custodian died, giving Ben an order to look after the school for him. He also warned Ben that the assistant custodian could not be trusted. In this book that appears to be true, as Lyman (the custodian) begins to follow them around and threaten them.

We meet a new character who is a retired custodian. I think he will be a major player in the next story. The kids also talk to a lawyer who happens to be a relative of the captain. My guess is that there is more to her character as well.

There is quite a time limit on solving the mystery and saving the school, because demolition on the building is set to take place just after the last day of school.

If you haven't had a chance to read the first book, you'll definitely want to read that one first, and then enjoy this sequel. Hopefully the third book will be out before too long as well!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#110 Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily DIsasters

This is the story of Justin Krzeszewski (is it any wonder they call him Justin Case?) Justin worries about everything, and is often heard saying "Just in case..." This story is told in diary form, throughout the entire 3rd grade year.

The year starts out with lots of disappointments. Justin gets to his new classroom and finds out that he has the nicest new teacher, and his best and second best friends are in his class! This doesn't last long, however, as Justin finds out on Friday, when the principal hustles him down to a different classroom with the meanest teacher ever, Mrs. Termini.

Throughout the year we find out all about Justin's fears, his sports, his violin lessons and his friendships. We also learn a lot about his little sister Elizabeth, who is in kindergarten.

Justin is an awesome third grader and I think many students will totally agree with his outlook on life. I found myself laughing out loud throughout the book and I'm looking forward to his next adventures...perhaps as a 4th grader!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

#109 The Throne of Fire


The wait for this book was extremely long! I read the first book in the trilogy, The Red Pyramid, months ago and I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Throne of Fire.

Carter and Sadie Kane are back and continuing the quest they began in the first book. They now have trainees in their family home, the Brooklyn House, and are teaching them all that they know about magic, but they know that the world will be coming to an end if they can't locate the three scrolls and bring Ra, the sun god, back to his reign. The chaos snake, Apophis, is building his strength and will destroy the world if they can't find a way to stop him. However, many of the gods believe that what the Kane's are doing is wrong and that they should be stopped, so not only do they have the regular enemies against them, they also have those who should be their friends who now are fighting them as well.

A hilariously funny new character is Bes, the dwarf god, who is summoned as their driver and protector. Rick Riordan does such a great job with this character that I find him to be one of my favorites. At the end of the book Bes has been stripped of his ren - all his memories - and has totally lost his wild personality. I'm looking forward to the third and final book to see if Carter and Sadie can restore his memory and make him whole again.

I love the way Carter and Sadie alternately tell the story, and how they tease eachother as they narrate. My only frustration in finishing The Throne of Fire is that I will now have to wait until spring 2012 for the third and final book.

Here's a quick fun trailer for The Throne of Fire. Don't miss Rick Riordan's website: http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

#108 The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Dit is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new postmaster because he has heard that the family has a son just his age. He envisions a great friend to play baseball, go on adventures and enjoy the summer with. Imagine his surprise when the family moves to town and Emma arrives. Emma is a bookworm - a shy, quiet know-it-all who doesn't seem at all interested in playing baseball or joining Dit on his adventures.

Eventually, however, she begins to join him, and he finds that the two of them are able to have a little fun (even if she can't catch a ball or take fish off of a hook!)

In 1917 Dit and Emma think the biggest difference between them is that he's a boy and she's a girl, but many of the people who live in their little town see a much bigger difference than that. You see, Emma is black, and in 1917 that causes people to treat her unfairly.

Big things happen when the town barber is accused of a horrendous crime and Emma and Dit are determined to prove that he is innocent. There is much to learn about good and evil, and about black and white. Above all, though, is the friendship that Dit and Emma develop - turning what could have been the worst summer of his life into one filled with adventure and friendship.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had was Kristin Levine's first book for middle grade students. I certainly hope it won't be her last!

Friday, July 1, 2011

#107 The Lemonade Crime

Reading The Lemonade Crime was like coming home to old friends. It is the sequel to The Lemonade War (which I loved) that starred brother and sister Evan and Jessie.

You'll remember that Jessie is two years younger than Evan, but is also in 4th grade because she is so smart. They had a huge fight in the first book that lead to the challenge of who could make the most money selling lemonade. That book had an awesome ending, but one loose end was the question of who stole the money from Evan. Everything pointed to Scott Spencer as the guilty one, but the book ends without any answers.

This book begins with Jessie serving Scott with a warrant for his arrest. Scott has been bragging that he bought a new video game system with his own money, and everyone believes that the money he used to buy it must be the money he stole from Even. But is there any proof?

The kids decide to try him in front of a jury of his peers, so Jessie plans an elaborate scheme and sets a courtroom up in the playground. She even has a judge, witnesses, a jury, an audience, and lawyers.

Learning about the law is cool - and of course Jessie is all over that one! - but cooler still is realizing how much this event has affected Evan, Scott and their friends. Jacqueline Davies has come up with another spectacular book here. If you enjoyed the The Lemonade War you'll just love reading this one!

Monday, June 20, 2011

#106 True (...Sort Of)



Little Delly Pattison is curious, mischievous and full of life! In Delly's words, you could say she is Dellyventurous, or even fantabulous! But Delly would describe herself as horribadible...and it seems that everything she tries just ends up getting her in trouble. Whenever she tries something for fun it just seems to blow up in her face.

My favorite Delly expression is "Happy Hallelujah!" and when she says this you know that she is filled with the biggest amount of enthusiasm and happiness a person can muster.

But all of this enthusiasm does mean trouble for Delly, and things have gotten so bad that she ends up having to sit out at recess and is almost kicked out of school. The thing that saves her is the new kid in school, a little girl named Ferris Boyd. The most amazing thing is that Delly helps Ferris as much as Ferris helps Delly - and the events that take place teach her not only patience, but also teach her to be compassionate and sympathetic to others. In fact, Delly ends up becoming a real "hummin bin" - which is like a human being, only better. Hummin bins are kind, creative, gentle and good.

Katherine Hannigan is the author of one of our favorite books, Ida B. I think True (...sort of) is destined to become a favorite as well. It is perfexcellent!






Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#105 The Wednesday Wars


Holling Hoodhood is in 7th grade, and the only one in the class who doesn't go to religion classes on Wednesday afternoons. Consequently he has to stay in school and help his teacher. At first he cleans the chalkboard and pounds the erasers, but after a few weeks of this his teacher, Mrs. Baker, decides that he should read Shakespeare.

The thing is, Holling kind of likes Shakespeare, and he even takes a part in a community play (even though he has to wear feathers and yellow tights!)

Holling's family has to face some tough situations in the book. It is 1967. His sister is dating a long-haired hippie and becoming a flower child. The Vietnam War is going on, and there are as many people in support of the war as there are against it. Holling doesn't always know what to think: and I think this gives the readers a good chance to consider all of the ramifications of war.

This story takes place over the course of one school year. Mrs. Baker turns out to be incredible: teaching Holling to run, bringing professional baseball players to play catch with Holling and his friends after the game, and taking the whole class camping on the last day of school. She wins my vote as teacher of the year!

I'm not sure if kids will understand everything that happens in the story, but I do think you will be entertained by it. You might just want to share it with your parents though. I know they'll love it as much as I did!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#104 Technically, It's Not My Fault: Concrete Poems



Whether or not you like poetry, you have to admit that this is a great name for a book!

Concrete poems are poems written with a shape to them. These poems actually have an image to go along with the words. It makes reading the poems a fun laugh-out-loud experience, and really helps add meaning to the poems. It even made me feel like writing some concrete poems of my own. You may feel the same way!

One of my favorites wa the title titled The Thank-You Letter. It reminds me of a thank you letter I might have written when I received a gift I really didn't want. The poem is written with footnotes (little extra notes at the bottom of the page). Each one is numbered, and there are little numbers among the words so you can read them within the sentences if you look up and down. Another one I thought was pretty funny was How We Ended Up With Plain Pizza. It sounded just like my family!

When you're done reading this book, why don't you write a few concrete poems of your own? You could send them to me and maybe we could make our own book. We could call it something like It Really IS My Fault! Just think how many kids would want to read our book!

Monday, June 6, 2011

#103 Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything


Cheesie Mack had me laughing out loud from the first page to the last! I am now a huge Steve Cotler fan (he's the author of this book: I guess I should say that he's Cheesie Mack!)

I read this book on my iPad - which was really fun because Cheesie makes many references to his website, and on the iPad you can just click on the link and you're there! It's a fun way to read a book, that's for certain!

Cheesie and his best friend George have a mystery: George found an envelope with a necklace and a 1909 penny (oops, I mean "cent") in it. They decide that they should return it to the rightful owner. But...the rightful owner lives in the scary haunted "toad house" - and delivering it would mean actually meeting the lady who lives there.

Now at first the penny seems pretty meaningless, so George and Cheesie decide not to mention it, but when they realize it is very important to Ms G. J. Prott they decide they must give it to her. However, what should they do when they discover the penny is worth thousands of dollars? What would you do? (And more importantly, have you checked your pennies lately? What if you had a special 1909 penny?)

You will absolutely have to visit www.cheesiemack.com to enjoy more from the story. It's great.

And - a great big welcome to my new readers! I'm glad you've joined the students at PME: your comments have been awesome! Keep on reading!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

#102 The Kind of Friends We Used to Be

I will never forget 6th grade...and the moment my best friend joined the popular kids at a different lunch table and left me wondering how our friendship had changed and what made those kids so much cooler than me.

This is the story of Marilyn and Kate. Best friends forever. But now something has changed. Now they are both remembering their friendship and trying to figure out if it's more important to be who you are or to fit in with your friends.

Marilyn's new cheerleader friends can be so mean to others - always judging what they do and laughing at the other kids. They even make fun of Kate - and Marily isn't sure if she should stick up for Kate or not.

Kate is trying out new things - like playing the guitar - and becoming friends with people who share her interests. But when the two girls need to talk or need help with a project (like Marilyn's campaign for student council) they realize their friendship is still very real.

#101 The Healing Spell


Well, here it: I've passed 100 and I'm continuing on. It has been a fun journey, and I guess I'm just not ready to quit!

Livie believes that she is responsible for her mother's coma, because she was the only one with her mother when it happened. They were in her little boat, arguing once again, when her mother fell out.

Now Livie's mother has been brought home from the hospital, but Livie does not want to go anywhere near her. She tries to help out around the house, but she just doesn't feel like she's even a part of the family. She decides to visit the traiteur's house out in the swamp. Livie believes that the traiteur (who is something like a healer who uses herbs to make potions) will be able to come up with a healing spell that will bring Livie's mother out of her coma. Little does she know that the spell is intended to heal Livie and to bring their family closer together than ever before.

The bayou is an amazing place for this story - and it is certainly one that will fill you with hope and faith. If Livie can just open her heart perhaps the healing can take place. Enjoy The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Celebrate!!

It is time to celebrate!! I have read 100 books during the 2010-2011 school year and achieved my goal!! Just for fun I went back and tried to select my top ten books of the year (but I'm afraid I couldn't narrow it down to 10!) In no particular order, here are my favorite books of the year:
  1. How to Steal a Dog
  2. Faith, Hope and Ivy June
  3. Everything for a Dog
  4. Fablehaven (the whole series!)
  5. Found (the whole series!)
  6. Wild Girl
  7. Saving Zasha
  8. Finding Danny
  9. Jip: His Story
  10. Fish
  11. Pond Scum
  12. Shooting the Moon
  13. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
It has been a great year of reading!! I think I'll read a few books that aren't written for 10 year olds, and then I'll get right back at it. This is a habit I'd like to continue!!

Have a great summer everyone!

#100 Dancing Through Fire

Anyone who has read even a little of this blog knows that I love to read. Dancing through Fire by Kathryn Lasky is a perfect example of why I love to read. I don't know anything about dance. I never took a class, never stood en pointe, and I never dreamed of being a prima ballerina. However, in this book, I began to experience a little bit of what it would be like.

Sylvie is 13 years old. She lives in Paris in 1870. She wants nothing more than to grow just 3/4 of an inch so she can be tall enough to move to the next level in the dance company. But this is not just a book about ballet. We soon learn about the dream Sylvie's mother had of being a prima ballerina but how she gave it all up when she married Sylvie's father (who died shortly after Sylvie was born).

Times are hard enough for Sylvie and her mother, who does laundry for wealthy women in Paris. But things get even worse when the war begins and it becomes impossible to buy food. Sylvie discovers that there are members of the ballet, including her own petite mere, who are involved in the war effort, and Sylvie begins to realize that her dreams can be more than just on the stage.

This book is one in a series of Portraits - books that are written about a famous piece of artwork. Kathryn Lasky wrote the story of Sylvie based on a famous painting by Degas. It's a wonderful way to learn about art and history, and to enjoy a great book!

Visit Kathryn Lasky's website here: http://www.kathrynlasky.com/KK/Home.html

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#99 Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo

You can't imagine how sad I feel: here I am at the 99th book...and it was a good one!

Leven is a kid living a really rough life in Burnt Culvert, Oklahoma. He gets picked on at school and forced to do all the work at home (where he lives with his terrible aunt and uncle). However, we learn early on that Leven has some pretty fantastic gifts - like the ability to see the future and even change it for the better.

Lev is soon found by Winter, a girl with some pretty special abilities of her own, Clover, a cool little sycophant, and finally by Geth, who had been a great king but has been reduced to a little toothpick. Together they need to avoid Sabine and the dark shadows and travel across the world to find, and ultimately to destroy, the gateway to Foo.

This fantasy will grab you right away and keep you laughing! They new-found friends have some great adventures together. Geth continually reminds them all that everything depends upon fate, and together they help Leven overcome his feelings of doubt and realize that he has the power to save humanity.

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo is the first in the series of five books. I know I can't wait to read the next one! Special thanks to Jacob for recommending this series to me: I know you will love it as well!

Check out the author, Obert Skye, on his website here: http://www.abituneven.com/.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

#98 Shooting the Moon

Jamie Dexter has grown up in an army family. Her Dad is the Colonel, and she is a self-described "army brat". She's a delightful girl: a tomboy, a card-shark, a hard worker, and very eager to please.

Jamie and her older brother TJ have played "army" for most of their lives. She thinks there is nothing more wonderful than going off to war, so when TJ enlists she is as much jealous as she is proud. She can't understand why her parents don't feel the same way.

Once in Vietnam TJ sends regular letters to his parents, but to Jamie he sends rolls of film with the direction that she should develop them. She learns to use the equipment and solutions and finds that TJ's pictures to her tell the story of all that he sees. These pictures, along with her relationship with Private Hollistar (one of the soldiers she meets at the base), provide her with another side of war, and gradually Jamie realizes that the war is not at all what she thought.

Shooting the Moon is a beautiful story. It is told in a way that will make you laugh, with characters you wish you could meet in real life. You won't want to miss this awesome book!


#97 The Maze of Bones

I am probably the last person to finally read book 1 in The 39 Clues series! I finally read The Maze of Bones by my favorite author Rick Riordan.

As I imagined it would be, this turned out to be a fascinating beginning to a series that I can't wait to continue reading! For those of you who haven't already read it, the story is about Dan and Amy Cahill (and their many, many relatives) off on the adventure of a lifetime. At the start of the story we learn that Dan and Amy's beloved grandma Grace has died. They attend the funeral with this huge family, and then are invited to the reading of the will. Here's where the mystery of the 39 clues begins. Each person in the room has a choice: accept a clue and embark on a challenge to discover the most important treasure in the world, and become "powerful beyond belief", or accept an inheritance of a million dollars.

Now I'm not so sure I wouldn't just take the money and run, but Dan and Amy turn in their money for the first clue. This sends them off on an exciting adventure to France to try to solve the mystery of the first clue, and perhaps even discover the 2nd clue.

Check out the whole series: www.the39clues.com.

#96 The Sisters Club: Rule of Three

Sisters Alex, Stevie and Joey usually get along famously. Although they each have their own interests, they support each other and cheer each other on. However, when both older sister, Alex, and middle sister, Stevie, decide to audition for the same part in the upcoming play their great friendship seems to fall apart.

This book was written by Megan McDonald - most famous for the Judy Moody and Stink books. I think The Sisters Club will join those other series as being especially loved by students!

Each girl has their own creative, upbeat and fun personality, and Megan McDonald does a great job bringing them alive for us. Oldest sister Alex is the actress (think: drama queen) in the family. Middle sister, Stevie, does most of the narrating of the story. She is the singer in the family, but she also loves to be creative with cooking - and in this story she bakes hundreds of cupcakes. I love the way she puts her personality and her mood in the cupcake batter and in the cupcake names! Little sister Joey is doing her best to keep up. Her passion is Little Women, and she is constantly quoting from that book (which was one of my favorites too!) Throughout the book we get to read journal entries from Joey and plays written by Alex. They really add a lot to the story, and definitely let us know how each sister is feeling.

Whether or not you have sisters, check out Rule of Three - and the other books from this fun series by Megan McDonald!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#95 Sabotaged

I've been waiting anxiously to read the 3rd book in the Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Sabotaged: I had really enjoyed the first two.

This book begins with Jonah and Katherine accompanying Andrea to the time period where she had been kidnapped. Andrea is Virginia Dare - the first English child to have been born in Roanoke County.

As they are traveling through time, Andrea takes out the elucidator and reprograms it, and then loses it, so the children arrive in a different location and different time period. It doesn't take them long to figure out that Andrea has been tricked by someone, (who they call "Second") and is using them to change history.

The three children soon find two tracers, and then rescue the man the Andrea (Virginia Dare) believes to be her grandfather. The action is fast-paced - and the adventure continues right up to the last page.

These books have a tremendous history lesson for all of us: they really make the past come alive. I found that I remembered very little of this time period, right around 1600, and it was fascinating to consider why the events happened the way they did.

Here is an interview with Margaret Peterson Haddix that tells a little more about her writing process:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

#94 The Toilet Paper Tigers


Are you in Little League? Corey Johnson and his friends are - and they're looking forward to another fun season, until they find out that their coach, the lovable Professor Pendergast, forgot to show up on the day of the draft (so they got all the players not picked by any other team)! Worse than that, he doesn't even know a thing about baseball! How can they win?

To make matters worse, PP has left the coaching duties to his annoying granddaughter, Kristy Pendergast, who is visiting from New York. Kristy is sure that she can whip the team into shape to win their games - but so far it looks like they can't even get to first base. Their uniforms have pictures of toilet paper on them, their catcher is afraid of the ball, their right fielder falls asleep during the game, and Kristy seems to have mixed up and offended everyone! She even took a picture of the boys in the locker room while they were changing...just to have something to blackmail them with.

This fun baseball book is typical Gordon Korman humor. It's a great book to read just as you're beginning your summer baseball. And it will make your team look like they could win the Little League World Series!

Enjoy Gordon Korman's website at: http://www.gordonkorman.com/. Now - PLAY BALL!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

#93 Cabin on Trouble Creek


It is 1803, and many families are traveling from the east to the new undiscovered west and staking their claim on the wild land. Eleven year old Daniel and his younger brother Will make this long journey with their father. They begin to clear the land and build a rough cabin, and then father leaves Will and Daniel to complete the work on the cabin while he travels back home to pick up their mother and their brothers and sisters.

At first the days go by quickly, and Will and Daniel work hard, but have some fun too - trying to catch fish and learning to trap rabbits. They think the rest of the family will be joining them in about 6 weeks - but pretty soon winter comes and they realize they won't see the family again until spring. Neither one dares to think what might have happened to them.

This great adventure is based on a true story about two similar boys who stayed alone for 8 months waiting for their family. They chopped wood, kept the fire burning, and even had to defend themselves from a bear! As I read the book I couldn't help thinking about my own son at age 11, and I wondered if he would be able to survive this life.

You will learn a lot about life in the frontier days, and you will pick up some great tips about being in the wilderness and finding food, tracking animals and listening.

I think this book, although not a brand new one, will be enjoyed by many of you! Check it out today!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

#92 Captain Nobody

Have you ever felt like nobody even knows you're around? Newt Newman feels that way. His parents are super busy, his big brother is a football star, and even in school Newt and his friends JJ and Cecil are ignored. Newt is disregarded so much that during the biggest football game of the year he gets squeezed out of his seat and kicked out of the stadium when he can't find his ticket. He tries to explain that he is Chris Newman's brother, but all people say is "I didn't know Chris Newman HAD a brother!"

At the end of the big game, however, Chris scores the winning touchdown and is knocked out from a hard hit to the helmet. He falls into an unexplained coma, which keeps Newt's parents even busier, and Newt is left alone. It's Halloween - and Newt pulls on a costume to go out with his friends. When asked who he is, he replies "Captain Nobody!" and this begins his week of fame as a hero himself. You see, as Captain Nobody, Newt is brave enough to help a lost neighbor, prevent a robbery, and even clear out a highway so an airplane can land on it. Why, he's even brave enough to climb way up to the top of....oh wait, I'd better keep that part a secret!

Newt has so many great qualities that it's hard to imagine he could be ignored. He literally takes care of his parents all by himself - making breakfast and keeping track of their schedules. Newt is a fantastic artist with a wonderful imagination. If he was a student in our school I'm certain he would be a popular kid!
The story gets better and more exciting with each chapter - and the ending is terrific! This book is a 2011-12 Maud Hart Lovelace nominee, so it is one you'll be sure to want to read!

Here's the Captain Nobody website: http://www.captainnobody.com/ for you to enjoy as well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#91 Pond Scum


Move over Walt Disney: make way for Alan Silberberg! Pond Scum is one of the funniest and most clever books I've read this year!

The animals in this book have banded together, lead by General Santo Domingo, and are doing their best to drive all humans away from the pond, and the rundown house that sits near it. Whenever the real estate agent comes to show a new family around, they dive-bomb the people, and play all sorts of tricks to scare them away.

But when Oliver's mother sees the house, she thinks it is perfect - and they move in. Now Oliver is not the kid who runs around checking out the pond: he's more likely to be sitting in front of the tv for hours at a time...but that's not easy when you only get one fuzzy channel. So Oliver climbs up onto the roof of the house and attempts to put an antennae on it, and this is when the excitement really begins! He crashes right through the roof into the attic, where he finds a stone so shiny and mystical looking that it must be magic. (And of course, it is!)

Now Oliver has already found his first pet - a salamander named Mooch - and when he finds out what that jewel can do (make him become whatever animal he and the rock are touching) it isn't long before he's a salamander, tramping around the pond with Mooch. And not long after that he's flying around with his new friend...

Well, that's enough of that: I'm giving away all the fun! If you've enjoyed Disney movies with their goofy characters and their silly plots, then this is definitely the book for you. Enjoy!!


Sunday, April 24, 2011

#90 Keeping Score

Keeping Score will definitely be numbered among the best books I've read this year. Maggie-O (named for Joe DiMaggio) lives with her family in a community where baseball is the number one pastime. It's the early 1950's, so everyone listens to the games on the radio, and the Dodgers are the team to cheer for.

Maggie and her brother love to spend time at the fire station where their Dad works. When told she doesn't know anything about baseball because she's a girl, Maggie learns to keep score, and pretty soon she is recording every single Dodgers game. However, this isn't a story just about baseball. Jim, the fireman who taught Maggie how to keep score, ends up being called up to active duty in the Korean War, and Maggie starts out sending him regular letters.

When Jim's letters stop Maggie gets worried, and finally she learns that Jim witnessed some terrible events in Korea and has come home traumatized and unresponsive. Maggie is sure that, with the help of their shared love of baseball, she can get Jim to talk. But, like the Dodgers, there doesn't seem to be any hope for Jim either.

Yes, this is another historical fiction book. Maggie's determination and unfailing hope throughout the book make for a wonderful story, whether or not you are a baseball fan...for this is much more than a book about baseball. I loved it. I think you will too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#89 The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

Life for Popeye in his little house in Fayette, South Carolina is bo-o-ring. Every day is the same and nothing ever happens. Until one day when Popeye runs down the road and sees a motor home stuck in the mud. Living in that motor home is one very big, very wild family. The oldest, and bravest of all, is a boy named Elvis.

Elvis and Popeye decide that they need to have an adventure before Elvis's motor home (the Holiday Rambler) gets pulled out of the mud. While waiting and watching for something to happen, they see a little boat floating down the river. The little boat has a little message inside. Who could have written it? And what does it mean?

Now that Elvis and Popeye have found their adventure, will they be able to see it through to the end? And will Popeye's summer turn out to be more exciting than he could ever dream of?

If you're looking for a little fun on a boring summer day, look no further than The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis. They just may help you appreciate the little adventures in your life! Here's a little video link if you want to learn more: http://youtu.be/BoEEsSh_jPI.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#88 The Titanic: An Interactive History Adventure

If you could take a trip on the Titanic, and experience the incredible ship in 1912, would you be a passenger in 1st class, 3rd class, or would you be a crewmember? How would you react when the ship collided with the iceberg and panic set in? Would you help others? Would you be the first one to climb into a lifeboat? Or would you jump into the cold icy waters?

This book allows you to experience this historic voyage in many different ways. It's one of those "You choose" stories, where you determine which move you would make a turn to the corresponding page in the book. All of the events really happened to real people aboard the ship - and you get to experience it.

I know many of you love reading the stories of the Titanic. This is one exceptional book that will make you feel as if you were there. There are three stories, 35 choices and 15 different endings, so you'll want to read it again and again. I encourage you to check it out!

#87 Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable

I have to admit that I almost quit on this book after the first 25 pages. It wasn't that I didn't like the story, for I actually found that to be engaging, creative and adventurous. I think it was because I didn't like the character of Kate, and I especially didn't like the tension between Kate and her mother. (To be really honest, I thought Kate was a spoiled brat, and I really had a hard time reading the mean things she said about people.)

I did keep reading, however, and when I finished the book I decided that it does have some very redeeming qualities that make it worthy of spending time with.

Kate and her little brother Matt are very close, so she is understandably very upset when he disappears while in her care. They have loved sharing the tales of Abadazad together - so when the strange old woman who lives next door tells Kate that she lived in Abadazad, and that her brother has been kidnapped and is there, she realizes that she has to rescue him.

The story is told through Kate's diary, pages from the Abadazad books (supposedly), and graphically through comics. The comics are scattered throughout the book, and they really do help tell the tale.

I think it was when Kate arrived in Abadazad that she began to soften a bit, and I found myself liking her more and more. Now, this story is tough: tough to read, and tough to understand, so it isn't one that I would share with a little brother or sister. But, if you like fantasy, and if you like graphic novels, this is one you should take a serious look at. It is the first book in a series - so don't be surprised by the lack of an ending! I'm sure the author is hoping that it will get you reading the next book!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#86 The Mirror's Tale

Burt and Will are twins - and do they ever take advantage of it! However, their father, the Baron of Ambercrest, is tired of their tricks and decides the best way to teach them to behave is to separate them. He'll keep one twin at Ambercrest and send the other to the Crags, a rocky outpost on the edge of the kingdom.

Once he gets to the Crags, Burt discovers a mysterious mirror, and we begin to learn more about the history of the evil witch and Snow White. The talking mirror convinces Burt that he is more powerful than his brother and should be the heir to the throne. Will Burt listen to the mirror, or will his love for his brother bring him back to his senses?

This is a great, fast-paced adventure that will be enjoyed by boys and girls alike. Give it a try!

The author, P.W. Catanese, has written many stories that tell what happens after the fairy tale ends. You may enjoy some of these as well!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#85 The Candle Man

Theo has lived the most unusual life: he is trapped in a home with his guardians and never allowed to go out anywhere, except to the cemetary. On his birthday, however, he receives a very strange package, and he doesn't have any idea who has sent it.

During the night, robbers break into the house. Scared and not sure what to do, Theo reaches out and touches one of them: and to his surprise, the man melts away into an oily substance! Before he knows what to think, Theo is kidnapped. He then learns a little bit more about who he is, and why he has been held captive for so many years.

This story can be a little creepy at times, but it is light-hearted and funny too, and that makes it a lot of fun to read. You see, Theo's guardians are part of The Society of Good Works (although they are really the bad guys). His kidnappers are part of The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance (you guessed it, they are the good guys, sort of!) There are some great creatures (like the smoglodytes and the garghouls), exciting adventures, and wild chases through the tunnels under London.

This is the first book of a trilogy, so even though this story does have an ending, you'll need to read a few more books to get to the final chapters of the adventure.

#84 The Orphan of Ellis Island

In The Orphan of Ellis Island, Dominic is a young boy without a family. He has been moved from foster home to foster home, and he is feeling scared and alone in his new school. He joins his new class on a field trip to the Ellis Island Museum, but when the guide asks them each to tell where their family came from Dominic becomes scared. He doesn't want to admit to his class that he doesn't know where his family came from, and, in fact, doesn't even have a family. So he runs and hides in a janitor's closet. While hiding, he falls asleep.


When Dominic awakes he finds that he is all alone in the museum. As he looks for help, he begins to look through the displays and this is when the real adventure begins. Dominic is transported into the past to Italy in 1908! There he meets three boys, and for the first time in his life he begins to feel like he is in a family.

But will Dominic ever get back to the future? And will his experiences in Italy teach him anything about who he is and where he came from? To find out, you must read this book!

I read it because one of the great PME 4th graders recommended it to me through Destiny. I hope you'll continue to recommend those books: and I'll keep on reading!

If you're interested in learning more about Ellis Island, you may want to check out this website: http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/1723?locale=en. here you will find more information about the author, Elvira Woodruff, and about the immigrants who arrived through Ellis Island.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

#83 Fish


What fun - to find another great book! Fish is the story of a farm boy named Maurice. When pushed too far out into the river one day Maurice discovered he could swim, and from then on he was called "Fish". The family comes upon hard times when their only horse dies and, due to his lack of ability to work on the farm anyway, Fish is sent off to the city to work as a delivery boy for his uncle.

On one of his first deliveries, Fish ventures out to the docks and into the world of pirates. He is supposed to deliver a bag of gold coins, but they are stolen, and Fish boards the pirate ship to try to get them back. Before long he is swabbing the deck, learning how to fight (actually, how to "not-fight") and living the pirate's life. This story is filled with adventure!

The gold coins Fish was delivering hold the clues to a huge treasure, but danger lies ahead as Scab (one of the pirates) plots to overthrow Captain Cobb and take over the ship. Can Fish and his friends uncover the plot and save the ship from mutiny? I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced book, and I just know that you will too! Check it out today!

Learn more about Fish, pirates, and the author at this website: http://fishthepirate.com/.

Fish by Gregory Mone



More Videos & Games at Video CoCo

Saturday, April 9, 2011

#82 The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate


I wonder how many of you have come to the end of a book and felt as though a friendship had ended? I nearly cried today, because I finished reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and I'm going to miss her so much.

The story takes place in Texas in 1899, and Calpurnia Virginia Tate (Callie Vee) is 11 years old. This is definitely not an action-packed adventure. In fact, it is a little slow-moving. However, it is so delightfully well-written that it is a joy to read. I found myself reading parts of it over again, and even reading some of it outloud, just to hear the beauty of the words.

Callie Vee is the only girl in a family of 7 children. At the beginning of the summer of 1899 she strikes up a marvelous friendship with her grandfather (who lives with them) and they spend their days making scientific discoveries. She loves the outdoors and nature, and is overwhelmingly frustrated by the fact that, because she is a girl, her life has to be a life of cooking, sewing, needlework and the like. Callie is devastated to realize that her dream of attending a university and becoming a scientist may never happen simply because she was born a girl.

It is in her relationship with her grandfather, her brothers (who have wonderful names!), and her best friend Lula that we really get to know and love Callie. One of my favorite paragraphs is this (and of course, it just had to be one about books!):
One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day long and eat peaches. And if any young knights in armor dared to come calling on their white chargers and plead with me to let down my hair, I would pelt them with peach pits until they went home.
http://www.jacquelinekelly.com/



Monday, April 4, 2011

#81 Born to Fly


Born to Fly takes place in 1941. Bird McGill loves airplanes, and she has learned all she possibly can about them from her father. He even takes her up in Mr. Watson's yellow Piper, and lets Bird take the controls and even land the airplane. They share this great love of flying together - and he has told her that she can be a pilot, or anything else she wants to be.

When a Japanese-American boy named Kenji moves to their school everyone thinks he's a spy or a traitor, but he and Bird become close friends. Together they discover a real spy, but even as they try to warn the people of their town, no one believes them. Bird is terrified to tell the truth about the night the the P40 Engine Factory is bombed, but if she keeps quiet what will happen to Kenji and his uncle?

This was truly one of the best adventure stories I've read in a long time, and it is based on the actual events in history after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is a story you won't want to miss!!

This is Michael Ferrari's first book. You can learn all about him and the book at: http://michaeljferrari.com/

Sunday, April 3, 2011

#80 The Magician's Elephant

I had the good fortune of meeting Kate DiCamillo and hosting her for an author visit just after Because of Winn-Dixie had been published. Over the course of three days we wrote together and laughed together, and I felt so lucky to have had that opportunity to get to know her. She has just finished writing Tale of Despereaux and was waiting for it to be published. I don't think any of us realized what a big hit it would be - or what an awesome author we had in our midst!

The Magician's Elephant is a wonderful little book about hope and friendship. It includes an elephant, a little boy named Peter, a little girl named Adele, a magician, and a strange series of events, wishes and magic that bring them all together.

http://www.katedicamillo.com/

You can hear Kate reading the first chapter in this video. Then check out the book and read the rest of it!

#79 Bran Hambric: The Specter Key


When I began reading The Specter Key I didn't know that there had been an earlier Bran Hambric book. I think it would have been better to read the first book (The Fairfield Curse) first. I didn't really understand what had happened earlier in Bran's life, so sometimes I was a little confused about the details in the story. Even though I felt like I was missing some of the story, I was still able to enjoy this one a lot!

The story begins with mystery and danger, and it really sucks the reader in quickly. While visiting the bank vault where he was first discovered as a boy, Bran finds a safe-deposit box in his dead mother's name. In this box he finds a very mysterious item that puts him, and everyone he loves, in great danger. Soon Bran's best friend Astara is in an accident and appears to be dead - but through the help of a great little character named Nim, Bran discovers that she is still alive but has been kidnapped. Bran will do whatever it takes to save her.

It isn't long before we meet Bran's father (a terrible man named Thomas), and a strange recluse named Gary. As Bran works to save Astara it is never quite clear who he should trust, and his friends sometimes seem as dangerous as his enemies.

Check out the book trailer video:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

#78 The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero is the first book in Rick Riordan's new series The Heroes of Olympus. Those of you who are Percy Jackson fans will be happy to know that many of the characters from that series find their way into this series as well: it is really a continuation of the story.

The book begins by introducing us to the main three characters: Jason, Piper and Leo. Piper and Leo are about to discover the shocking truth that they are demigods, which explains a lot about the events of their young lives. Jason has been stripped of his memory and, although he is at camp with Leo (and holding hands with Piper!) he has no idea who he is or how he got there. From the very first chapter you will be glued to this book. I literally could not put it down, and it consumed the first two days of my spring break - but it was worth it!

The only disappointment? The next book in the series is not due out until fall of 2011. I may have to go back and re-read the Percy Jackson series while I wait!

If you haven't been to the Rick Riordan website you'll want to be sure to do so. You can find it at:
http://www.rickriordan.com/my-books/percy-jackson/heroes-of-olympus/the-lost-hero.aspx. Besides learning more about all of the books he's written you will also find some very fun activities to go along with the stories. Perhaps you are a demigod, and didn't even know it? You're in luck: the website has a great test to find out if you are.

Watch the video below to hear Rick Riordan tell you more about this exciting new book:

#77 School of Fear


There isn't a whole lot to be scared of at the School of Fear, except your own fears. You meet some pretty unusual characters in this book, beginning with Madeleine, who is so afraid of bugs that she never goes anywhere without her bug spray and veil. Then there's Theodore, a pudgy boy who is deathly afraid of dying (get it? Deathly afraid?), Lulu is scared of confined spaces, and Garrision is terrified of water. The four of them are sent by their families to the School of Fear - a summer school where they are going to face their fears and learn to overcome them.

If you enjoyed the Lemony Snicket books I think this is one you will also like to read. There are wonderful descriptive words and incredibly unusual names, and surprises around every corner. Of course, any author with the name Gitty Daneshvari is sure to come up with some pretty crazy names, wouldn't you think?

Once you've read School of Fear, there are three more stories in the series. Here is a book trailer video on the second, called Class is Not Dismissed. As far as I can tell the titles of the next two have not been released yet. You might as well read them all though - and then get ready, because supposedly Time Warner has already made a movie deal - so School of Fear will be on the big screen and coming to theatres near you!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

#76 Amelia Rules: The Tweenage Guide to NOT Being Unpopular

This is the first Amelia book I had read, so it took me a while to get into her character. This is a graphic novel as well, so that slowed me down too. I find it interesting that even though I loved comic books as a child, I have a difficult time reading graphic novels. I hope that doesn't mean I'm getting old!

Back to the book: the story begins with Amelia and her friend Rhonda working together on a school project about the future. They really get excited about it, and their project turns out great! Unfortunately, that's when the teasing starts, and Rhonda and Amelia begin to wonder what it is that makes a kid popular.

Now it's always a little hard for me to figure out these graphic novels and the message they're trying to give, but I think there's a message here about being kind to people, doing what you love, sticking by your friends, and not worrying about what others think. I guess you'll have to check it out and see if you get that same message.

In the meantime, enjoy Amelia's website http://www.ameliarules.com/home.php/ and this fun book trailer:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#75 King of Shadows


Although I've been trying to read the newest books in our collection, there are still many books out of the thousands we have that I haven't had a chance to read. King of Shadows by Susan Cooper is one of these.

It was so wonderful to have a snow day today so I could curl up and read this book from cover to cover! I was glued to it! Nathan is an actor who is hired to travel to England to play the role of Puck in Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. He is a great little actor and is perfect for the part.

Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed in a theatre called Globe Theatre in the late 1500's and early 1600's. In the story a reproduction of the Globe Theatre has been erected so this entire cast of young boys (ages 11-18) have been brought in from all over the United States to put on two plays in the way they would have been performed 400 years ago.

Suddenly Nat feels a little dizzy, however, and the next thing he knows he's feeling sick and is sent to bed. When he awakes he is still in England - but he is in the England of 1599! What a surprise when he is taken to the original Globe Theatre and not only expected to play the same role of Puck, but also given the chance to meet William Shakespeare face-to-face, to act with him, and to live in his home.

Through this great fantasy we find Nat living out the realities of England in 1599 - a very dirty and disgusting place (with no running water, electricity, or any of the comforts he is used to). However, Nat plays his part and becomes quite attached to his new friend, William Shakespeare. But why has he been transported through time, and what will happen as they days continue. Will he ever get back to the future again?

As I said, this was a page turner - and I loved every minute of it! It is a challenging book to read, especially with the old English language and the many parts of the Shakespeare plays, but if you can take your time and make your way through it you will be very glad you did!