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.

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.


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: