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: 

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: 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:

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!