Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Lilly Traps the Bullies

This is a good length for a beginning chapter book. It is short enough that it won't overwhelm readers making the transition from picture books into the longer format of chapter books. Other good points are that Lilly's friends include both boys and girls and there is a good mix of families (single-parent, two parents, a family with a grandmother living with the younger generations). I especially like that the friends make a point of saying they are not going to fight anyone, even the bullies - and then the bullies are frightened away by something that happens accidentally. The book was written by Brenda Bellingham. You can find more information about her on the publisher's webpage for the book. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it is available in stores.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Star Wars: Jedi Academy

Star Wars meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid in this school story by Jeffrey Brown. Roan dreams of being a pilot, but doesn't receive an acceptance letter to the Pilot Academy. He thinks he is doomed to attend the Tatooine Agriculture Academy, but a letter from the Jedi Academy arrives. The students at the academy are from all over the universe and have a mix of personalities and abilities just like any other school. Roan tries many different activities - drawing a comic strip for the school newspaper, joining the light saber fencing club, and building a baking soda volcano for the science fair. 

Fans of Wimpy Kid and Big Nate will enjoy the heavily illustrated style of the story, as well as the school-based humor and situations. Star Wars fans will appreciate the jokes about Master Yoda's funny way of speaking and how none of the students can understand Coach Kitmum (she's a wookiee). I hope Mr. Brown writes more Jedi Academy books about Roan and his classmates.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  It was just released in stores this week and it will be on our fall book fair (which begins September 9).  Update - we now have 3 copies of the book in the library.  :-)

Scholastic has provided a video trailer for the book.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Black and Bittern Was Night

Black and Bittern Was Night by Robert Heidbreder is a story told in nonsense verse about a Halloween night that almost wasn't. Readers will enjoy the idea that trick-or-treaters face the Skul-a-mug-mugs and drive them away. It is even more enjoyable that the adults in the story were so afraid of the skeletons that they canceled Halloween and hid behind locked doors. The illustrations maintain the playful tone of the nonsense words. These are not scary skeletons, and they can be defeated so that trick-or-treating may begin. One of my favorite scenes is the children with their cat facing off against some Skul-a-mug-mugs with their little skeleton dog. The nonsense words remind of "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll. (If you haven't heard of it, you might want to read Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland.)

The publisher's website has some background on the author. 

Fall Reading 2013 The Last Ride of Caleb O'Toole

Set in 1877, The Last Ride of Caleb O'Toole by Eric Pierpoint is a  piece of historical fiction depicting the hardships and dangers faced by the O'Toole children as they travel from Great Bend, Kansas to the Bitterroot Mountains. There has been a cholera outbreak and they have lost both their parents. Caleb's mother makes him promise to take his sisters to go live with their aunt in Montana. The author researched carefully and included all the known landmarks and pitfalls that travelers would have faced back then. The problems that the children encounter on their trip never seem to end. If they aren't being chased by bad guys, then there is a buffalo stampede, or illness, or a flash flood. Every time things seem to calm down, another disaster occurs. It will tire you out just reading it. Can you imagine what it must have been like for families that actually lived through that long trip west?

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical fiction, survival stories, or want a more adventuresome tale of pioneers heading west than they would get from Little House on the Prairie. The perseverance and courage that Caleb, Julie, and Tilly show are amazing and the action keeps you reading as quickly as you can, so you can see how each situation is resolved. It's a great book to include in a social studies unit on westward expansion, the Oregon Trail, and pioneers.

The author's website includes a map of the route Caleb and his sisters follow. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but the book goes on sale September 3, 2013. There is a two-part video of Eric Pierpoint at a book signing in Los Angeles: Part 1 and Part 2.

Books to challenge good readers

Since we have begun using Renaissance Place, many teachers are having their students take the STAR Reading test and using the results to assign reading levels. They ask the students to stay within the grade level range suggested by the test. A challenge with that method is finding books written at higher reading levels that are still appropriate for elementary school students. Many of the books written at 8th grade reading level and up are "Young Adult" and have explicit (adult) situations in them.

One way to find more "wholesome" content is to look for the classics - Mark Twain, Jules Verne, Louisa May Alcott, etc. They are more challenging because of the writing style and vocabulary, but don't have a lot of the inappropriate situations that modern YA literature can have. And as an added plus - many of them are available free on the Project Gutenberg website.

I've researched the Accelerated Reader list, looking for books that are leveled 8.0 and up, but have a recommended interest level of "middle grades" which is 4th  - 8th. I've created a list of links to the Gutenberg website for some titles that might fit our students. You can search their database yourself with the AR BookFinder. Click the Advanced Search tab and type in the reading level and interest level you are looking for, then see what pops up.

Some books with AR level 8.0 - 11.0:
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne AR 10.0
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain AR 8.1
Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maude Montgomery AR 8.6
Around the World in 80 Days by julkes Verne AR 9.6
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson AR 9.0
Call of the Wild by Jack London AR 8.0
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens AR 9.5
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens AR 9.5
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott AR 8.2
Grimm's Fairy Tales by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm AR 9.9
Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge AR 8.2
Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales AR 8.1
Heidi by Johanna Spyri AR 8.2
Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett AR 8.1
The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum AR 8.0
An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott AR 8.2
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain AR 9.5
The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald AR 8.4
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin AR 8.1
Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum AR 8.0
Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott AR 8.6
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson AR 9.4
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss AR 9.7
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson AR 8.3
The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault AR 10.4
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame AR 8.2

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cocker Spaniels - a review by Ashley

I loved this book! It's very informational. It gives facts on everything you need to know about them. I think 3rd grade and up is a good age to start reading this book. I enjoyed it so much and I really recommend this book. It has facts about their care, feeding, puppies, and size. I really like this book.

Ms. Costner's note: This book is part of the Checkerboard Library from Abdo Publishing. They have books on dogs, cats, sharks, snakes, and other animal groups.

Here is an interview he did with California Readers, a group that works to connect authors and artists with students.

Product Details

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Time Machine - a review by Trevor

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is about a man who creates a time machine and goes to the future. I recommend this book to readers who like science fiction. The thing I really like about this book is that this was one of the first science fiction books that came out in the 1890s. You might be able to find this book at the Blount County Library. Hope you enjoy.

Note from Ms. Costner:
H.G. Wells wrote several well-known science fiction adventures which have been made into movies. They include The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man,  and The War of the Worlds, along with The Time Machine. The Blount County Public Library does have copies of this book. You might also download a free copy at Project Gutenberg, along with some of his other titles.

Product Details               Product Details          

           

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Ten Birds Meet a Monster and Peek-A-Boo Monsters

Ten Birds Meet a Monster by Cybele  Young is a treat for the imagination. What kind of monster is it that the birds have found? What can they do to scare it away? Using spare clothing that is lying around, they try to disguise themselves as fearsome beasts, but the monster remains. The names of the beasts they invent sound like something from Willie Wonka - a terrifying crackatoothus or frightening vipper-snapper, for example. And there is some wonderful vocabulary to describe the birds. They are inventive, resourceful, attentive ... each gets a unique description. Readers will appreciate the surprise ending.

Even though the artwork is black and white, it is very detailed. There are stripes, checks, polka dots, and all manner of patterns and textures. Readers of all ages can spend an amusing interlude enjoying the birds and their antics.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it will be available in stores on September 1, 2013. The birds first appeared in the story Ten Birds in which they are trying to find a way across a river. These birds seem to do a lot of problem-solving.

                                     Ten Birds

Peek-A-Boo Monsters by  Charles Reasoner is a book that would make a good Halloween story for very young readers. It's not scary, so there would be no worry of bad dreams. Kids would enjoy it when the small monster up on the chair says he's scared. Preschool and kindergarten teachers could also use it for a very easy introduction to opposites - big and small, short and tall, ceiling and floor.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it is available in stores now.

Fall Reading 2013 The Rescue Team

The Rescue Team by Billi Tiner features a dog named Ellie whose owners drop her off at the animal shelter because they are having a baby and think they will not have time for a dog. The story opens with Ellie sadly waiting in the animal shelter for someone to adopt her. When Anne comes in, they seem to know they will get along well. And their hunch is correct, they bond right away. When a storm comes up one night, an abandoned cat seeks shelter on their porch. The two friends accept the cat into their family and Anne names him Toby. Ellie and Toby become an efficient team for finding lost children and pets. After a tornado strikes their town they even search for survivors in the damaged buildings. It is a very positive story about pets who have been rescued and given a home becoming rescuers themselves.

This story shows the power of affection and second chances. It would be great to use as an example of cooperation, too. Animal lovers and readers who enjoy stories of rescues and unlikely heroes will enjoy this book.

The author has a blog where she makes book recommendations, talks about her own books, and offers pet advice.

The Rescue Team was one of the free daily e-book deals from Kindle. What a deal!

15786701

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Hit the Road, Helen!

Hit the Road, Helen! by Kate McMullan is the story of the Trojan War as explained by Hades. It is very entertaining. He says that his brother Zeus is to blame for the whole war and that he lets Helen get blamed because he's such a coward. There are many funny things about the book. The steeds that pull Hades' chariot are named Harley and Davidson. He likes to watch wrestling on his TV, with matches between cyclops and other creatures. Cupid calls one of his arrows the Smoochie Woochie. Hades earns frequent flyer miles zipping around trying to prevent the war and then trying to end it. His wife convinces him to cash in the miles to take a cruise and they meet Thor on board the ship.

There is also a "Quick-and-Easy Guide to Myths" in the back of the book. It provides the names of many famous characters from the story, how to pronounce them and some information on who they are. There's a glossary for a few of the more challenging words and some ideas for discussion topics. There is a whole series of these books called Myth-O-Mania. Helen's story is the latest addition to the series, but there are also books about Hercules, Theseus, Medusa, and other mythological figures.

If you like funny versions on famous stories, or like to hear a story told from a very different point of view - you will probably enjoy this very much.  Or, if you like Kate McMullan's style in her other books like the Drag no Slayers'  Academy, then you should give this one a try. 

The author's website has tells about the series and her other books. There is also a video trailer for Hades' own story on YouTube. You can check out the publisher's website for more information  on the series.



I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but the book will go on sale September 2, 2013.

Swindle- a review by Trevor

Swindle by Gordon Korman

Swindle is about this boy who goes to a "haunted" house and finds a rare Babe Ruth card that has been hidden for a long time. Then he goes to a collector named Wendell whom they call Swindle because he says, "It's not very rare, but I can take it off your hands." Then he tells the news about it saying it is a very rare card. So then they make a team of kids and plan to do something about it. I will not not tell you any more stuff about it or that will spoil the whole story. So go on down to the library and get this book.

The author's website has information about the whole series and other books by him. Here is a short video with the author and the official trailer.

1653655

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Line

I just read, or rather, just looked at The Line by Paula Bossio. With no text at all, this book tells a wonderful story of a little girl and her exploration of a line she finds. It can be a slide, she can hang from it like a set of monkey bars, do anything she likes. But where has it come from and where is it going? How will it end? We are following along with her to find the answers to these questions.

This is a wonderful book for encouraging kids to use their imaginations. Since it's wordless, they can imagine what is going on in the girl's mind. They could write their own story to accompany the pictures. I've used Harold and the Purple Crayon for years to show students how lines and shapes can convey a sense of movement or emotion. This would work perfectly for that, too. They might even like to draw the activities they would try if they were in the story.

You can see a preview of some of the pages at the publisher's website

The Line

Fall Reading 2013 The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is the latest Newbery Medal Winner. It is based on a true story, but the author decided to write a fictional account told from the viewpoint of Ivan the gorilla. Ivan lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade along with some other animals - including Stella (an elephant) and Bob (a dog). When a new baby elephant named Ruby joins them, Stella makes Ivan promise that he will try to find a way for Ruby to have a better life. I can't tell you if he is successful, that would spoil the ending. I can tell you that it is a great story and I understand why it was the gold medal winner.

The author does a great job of making Ivan's character come alive through his thoughts and speech and actions. By the end of the story, you feel like you know him very well. This is one of those books like Charlotte's Web or Because of Winn Dixie that has you connecting with the main character and almost forgetting that they are not human. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys those sorts of animal stories. We received a copy of this book through a DonorsChoose.org project over the summer.

11594337
There is a website for the book that includes information about the real Ivan and the author. And here is a link to the author's Twitter feed. You can also watch the trailer.

Monument 14 - a review by Trevor

MONUMENT 14 by Emmy Laybourne

          I recommend this book to readers of the age 13 and up. I hope you enjoy this book. This book's setting is in the future (about a year) in Monument, Colorado. 7 teenagers and 7 kids get trapped in a superstore while outside there is a monster hailstorm and finally a nuclear plant blowing up. This book scared me a lot and made me want to cry sometimes. That is why it is in my closet. So I recommend that you stay with that book you are reading right now if you cry easily, or you get scared easily. I recommend that you read the first book before you try the second. So that's all I can say without spoiling all of it. Hope you enjoy it.
Cover Monument 14: Sky on Fire, Emmy LaybourneEmmy Laybourne Monument 14   

Emmy Layborne's Twitter and her website have more information about the series and the author.  Macmillan Books has a book trailer available, too.

Fall 2013 Sweepstakes, Giveaways, and Freebies

Hello, everyone!  There have been several contests and free offers lately and I thought I would let you know about a few of them.

Mini-Tablet a Day Giveaway:
For a chance to win a mini-tablet, you can enter daily in the contest sponsored by Mondelez Global. They are the parent company for Kraft Snack Foods and their giveaway is open until December 10, 2013.

Free Books:
Save Great Start codes from Kelloggs, Keebler, and Cheez-It packages and redeem them for free books. Just enter 3 codes (or 1 super code) at the redemption site and then choose your book. It will arrive in 4 - 6 weeks.

Cooking Video Contest:
Uncle Ben's Rice is sponsoring a parent & child cooking contest. Have someone record you and your child cooking a rice dish together and you could win a grand prize of $15,000. Check their website for the full contest rules. Plus - our school could win a $30,000 cafeteria makeover!

Mini Missions from Kellogg's Mini-Wheats
 Make the new school year special by participating in the Every Day is a Big Day program. Your family, your school, and your community can win valuable prizes. Just complete a mini mission each month to win 2 Scholastic books and be entered into sweepstakes drawings for other prizes. Check out the website for full details.

Give With Target
Vote here once a week to help Fairview. There are more details here on their corporate page. We can receive $1 per vote through September 21. So spread the word!

Staples Reward a Classroom
If you shop for office or school supplies at Staples, you can help your child's teacher earn classroom rewards. The Staples website explains how the program works.







Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Grandpa's Dog Can Talk and The Knot Monster

I have been trying out some of the free books available on Kindle. (If you haven't signed up for their Kindle Daily Deals e-mail telling you which books are on sale at a discounted price or free for the day, you might want to check it out.) Recently I read two of their children's books that were offered.
 
Grandpa's Dog Can Talk by Zoe Fox is the story of a young boy named Harry whose family has moved in with his grandfather. The move has caused Harry to change schools and he is having trouble with a bully. He doesn't want to worry his parents because they are taking care of his grandfather. While he is wishing for someone to talk to, he is very surprised to find that grandpa's dog, Llewelyn can talk. Many of us know how it feels to be the new kid in a class or at school. Sometimes having a listener to tell our problems to can help, especially if they also give good advice. The problem in the story was resolved a bit too easily to be realistic, but it would make a good discussion starter for talking to kids about making friends and dealing with bullies. You would just have to remind them that in real life, you may have to try more than once before a new friend is made.

Product Details
 
The Knot Monster by Jennifer Hazen Buss is about a girl named Ellie who hates to have her hair brushed. Every morning her mother has to get all the knots out. She tells Ellie there is a little purple monster that parties in her hair all night and that is what causes the tangles. Ellie's plan is to catch the monster to prevent it from making any more tangles. My mother called the knots in my hair "rats' nests" rather than knots. She'd say, "We have to get those rats out of there." If she had told me about a knot monster, I probably would have tried to catch it, too. Might be a quick story to illustrate problem-solving, as long as no one goes home and ties a sibling' s hair in knots.

Product Details

Fall Reading 2013 Untimed

Untimed by Andy Gavin is an interesting adventure through time. Charlie follows a strange, robotic man through a hole in space/time and meets Yvaine. Together they meet notable people from history including Benjamin Franklin and his son William. Unwitting changes to history result in timequakes, and the larger the change - the larger the quake. At the end of the story the stage is set for another adventure.

Gavin has thought up some unique twists to time travel: boys can travel the time stream in one direction, girls in the other, and the mechanical beings Charlie and Yvaine call Tick-Tocks can travel either way. Time travelers are hard for ordinary people to remember and nothing they write down survives to give away the secret of their existence. His addition to the genre is fresh and entertaining. I would recommend it to teens, but not younger readers due to some adult situations.

Check out the author's website for more information about the book and about Mr. Gavin. There is also a short trailer for the book.

I read an e-book version provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but the paperback version is available in stores and there is a Kindle version, too.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Movies 2013 "The Sea of Monsters"

Over the weekend I watched "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters." Of course, I wore my t-shirt with the slogan, "The book was better." It left out some things from the book, like the empathic link between Percy and Grover, but the movie was pretty good. There was lots of action, some time spent in Camp Half-Blood, and we finally get to meet Percy's half-brother, Tyson. (The way Tyson looks in the movie reminds me of Brendan Fraser's character, Link, in "Encino Man.") Other mythological beings also make an appearance - a hippocampus, Hermes, Charybdis, Polyphemus, Kronos, the Gray Sisters, and even a manticore.

If you are a fan of the books, or like fantasy movies, then you will probably enjoy "Sea of Monsters."

You can visit Rick Riordan's website for more information about all the books in the series, and the movie has its own website.



Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013) Poster

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Bill: The Boy Wonder

The second book I read this summer was Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of
Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nobleman at the
Children's Festival of Reading in Knoxville last month - and he autographed our copy
of the book. He talked about all the research he did to prepare for writing the story of
Bill Finger, the man who helped Bob Kane develop Batman. Fans of comic books and
super heroes will appreciate this look at the origins of the Batman comics and their unsung
co-creator, Bill.  Bob Kane claimed and received  sole credit for Batman throughout Mr. Finger's 
life. Imagine doing something as cool as coming up with a popular super hero and never 
being recognized for it!

That's all for now. If you have read Bill the Boy Wonder or Boys of Steel and would 
like to send me a comment or question, you can reach me at suzannercostner@gmail.com .

In this photo the author is showing another of his books, Boys of Steel: The Creators of
Superman, which we also have in the Fairview library. For an inside look at how these
 two awesome legends were created, check out the books this fall and be amazed.

The book has its own website that includes information about the author and illustrator, 
games and activities, and biographical details about Bill Finger. Mr. Nobleman also 
has a video book trailer that is available on YouTube. Mr. Nobleman also has a TED talk
about his research into the creators of Superman and Batman.

                     

Fall Reading 2013 Rescue in the Wild

Rescue in the Wild: A Smoky Mountain Stick-Boy Adventure

The author and illustrator of this series live in our area and will be visiting our school this fall. They were kind enough to come by last spring and bring copies of both books so we could become familiar with them before their visit. I enjoyed the characters, the plot, and the setting. Evan Mace is a typical East Tennessee kid. He has his best friend Mica, his younger sister Esther, and his faithful dog Boone. He and his parents live next-door to his grandparents (something I did when I was a kid). His dad is a park ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and that is the setting for the story - the park and Evan's home just outside the park's boundaries.

The story begins on the last day of school. Evan and Mica are looking forward to a summer of exploring and having fun, once they take care of their chores. There are only two problems - the local bully named Moose, and a new girl named Charu that has just moved in on the other side of Evan's grandparents. The boys' parents expect them to be friendly to the new kid and include her in their summer plans, which they are sure will ruin all the fun. Despite these hardships, the boys do have adventures and some good times.

Readers who live in East Tennessee will feel right at home in this story.

              

Thief in the Park: A Smoky Mountain Stick-Boy Adventure

I enjoyed this second book in the Stick-Boy series. It was fun to be reading along and say, "Hey! I've been there!" when they would mention a landmark like Metcalf Bottoms or Clingman's Dome. The friendship between Evan and Mica and Charu continues to grow as they help out some of their grandparent's friends who are visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. Of course, Moose has to play his mean tricks, but I think everyone will be satisfied with the just desserts he receives at the end of the book.

If you enjoy hiking and picnicking in the Smokies, then you will also be able to recognize many of the sites that Doc and his wife and friends visit. It may even get you in the mood to go see some of those places again.

For more information about the creators of this series, visit their website


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Francis, the Little Fox

Francis, the Little Fox is a book by VĂ©ronique Boisjoly. I like how the story shows Francis and his father going to the laundromat. Books that show fathers doing household chores or spending time with a child one-on-one are always welcome additions to the picture book genre. And this father even turns doing the laundry into an entertaining outing. Kids will laugh at Lily playing tricks on Francis and nod their heads when she feels guilty and cleans up the mess she makes. But the laugh-out-loud moment will be the discovery of the large underpants! Those are a surefire cause of giggles in the primary grades.

It's a bit like the Little Critter books (Just Me and My Mom, Just Me and My Dad, etc.), in the way that Francis is off with his father and the rest of the family doesn't come along. This would be a good book to take along the next time you have to visit the laundromat.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees

I enjoy Sandra Markle's style, so I anticipated liking this book and I was not disappointed. Treating the topic as a mystery and presenting the theories and evidence from different experts creates an interesting narrative. It also chunks the information into logical sections that are easy to deal with individually, while still maintaining the flow of the book. As in her other books, the photographs are clear and well-captioned. The way the photos alternate with the pages of text gives readers a chance to digest the facts while they study the image, before they move on to the next possible cause of the vanishing bees.

Teachers will appreciate the well-researched and presented topic. Students will benefit from the glossary, and other back matter. There are lists of organizations to contact, as well as additional books and websites to check for more information on beekeeping. The table of contents and index facilitate the book's use for school assignments and reports.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  The book will be in stores on October 1, 2013. 

Sandra has her own blog, where she talks about her writing. (There's a lot to talk about, she's written over 200 books.)  You can also catch up with her on her FaceBook page. We have quite a few of her books in the library, if you enjoy nonfiction you might want to check them out.   




Fall Reading 2013 Silver Six

The graphic novel, Silver Six, features a feisty young heroine named Phoebe. Phoebe lives alone with her robot, Max. In a fashion that would make Ferris Bueller proud, she uses tapes of her parents' voices to trick the landlord and other adults into believing she still has a family. Along with five other orphans, Phoebe attempts to discover why they all have certificates of ownership for an orphaned moon, what caused the shuttle accident that killed their parents, and what Craven industries has to do with it.

There is fast-paced action, space ships and other gadgets, and snappy dialogue that will appeal to young readers. An added attraction is the group of friends working together to defy the evil mastermind. What child doesn't dream of rebelling against an authority figure or perceived villain? The subtext of corporate greed, depletion of natural resources, and the exploitation of the powerless (in this case, the institutionalized orphans), will give more mature readers something to sink their mental teeth into.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories with younger heroes like Teen Titans or Young Justice.

View the book trailer for a sneak peak of the action.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but the book went on sale June 25, 2013.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Crazy About Basketball

I just read Crazy About Basketball by  Loris Lesynski. It is a wonderful collection of basketball poems! Some are about practicing, some about fueling up for a game, some about how it was invented, etc. There are fun facts scattered throughout the book along with amusing illustrations. I can imagine teachers using the poems to discuss comparative and superlative adjectives, verbs, rhyme, even nutrition. The class could write their own poems about a favorite sport and create a class book or have a poetry slam and perform their poems for an audience (maybe even dressed in their sports uniforms). Kids will read it just because they love basketball and the book captures the fun of the game. After all, Fairview did have an undefeated boys' team in the 2011 season - we know our basketball.  :-)

The author has a website where you can find out more about her books.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley but the book arrived in stores on July 4, 2013.

Fall Reading 2013 A Bag of Marbles

I just read A Bag of Marbles. It is a graphic novel adaptation of the book by Joseph Joffo*, based on a true story from his life during World War II. It tells how he and his brother traveled from German-occupied Paris to safety, and eventually returned to Paris after its liberation. Readers will enjoy the danger and tense moments, along with the way the brothers are able to outsmart soldiers looking for Jews. The people on both sides of the conflict are shown with good and bad traits, not just caricatures.

The map and notes at the end would be helpful for readers who want to learn more about that time in history, or teachers might use it in social studies class as part of a WWII unit. I'm not sure we could use it at the elementary level because there are a few times where characters swear, but it would definitely work with older grades.

*Joseph Joffo was born 1931. He is a French author who is best known for his memoirs Un sac de billes (A Bag of Marbles), which has been translated into eighteen languages. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be released in stores on October 1, 2013. You can find more information on the publisher's website.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Chloe and the Lion

My friend, Brenda Goins, recommended Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett. I'm very glad she did because it was very funny. I love picture books that play with the idea of how a story is created. In this one, the author and illustrator disagree on how closely the pictures should match up with the text. Next thing you know, someone has been swallowed by the lion in the story! I love the humor of this book, especially the parts like receiving a phone call while in the lion's stomach. (I guess it's a bit like "George of the Jungle," no one dies - they just get really big boo-boos.) The mix of art mediums was clever and added to the sense of creativity in the story. I recommend this to readers of all ages.

Disney/Hyperion has provided a video trailer for the book that is almost as funny as the book. The author has his own website where you can check out some of his other books. Or you can visit the website for illustrator Adam Rex and find out more about him and his art. I picked up a copy of this book for our library at the Children's Festival of Reading in Knoxville.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Jurassic Strike Force 5

Earlier this week I read Jurassic Strike Force 5 by Neo Edmund and Jl Giles-Rivera. (It was a collection of issues #1- 5.)

I enjoy comic books, graphic novels, and manga, so the format appealed to me. I think readers will enjoy the combination of aliens, dinosaurs, and heavy artillery. It's a bit like "Jurassic Park" meets the Dinobots, or maybe a version of prehistoric Ninja Turtles. The Reptilians are trying to conquer the Earth and the Strike Force members are trying to stop them (with the help of their human friends, Tyler and his dad). There are major action sequences, smart one-liners, and lots of firepower. Readers will also appreciate how Tyler's video game skills are put to use. If you know someone who likes action, sci-fi/fantasy stories, or dinosaurs, recommend this series to them. 

There is a bonus collection of extra cover art at the end. You can also visit www.comixology.com and download issue #0 for free.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it will be on sale September 10, 2013.

Summer Reading 2013 Creepy Carrots

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown is a 2013 Caldecott Honor-winning picture book. We have a couple of Mr. Brown's books in the library (You Will Be My Friend! and The Curious Garden), so I knew his style, but I really enjoyed this collaboration with Mr. Reynolds.

I'm a fan of classic thrillers like Alfred Hitchcock movies, so I think the illustration style used by Peter Brown is perfect for the story. Jasper's obsession with carrots proves that there can be too much of a good thing. He picks and eats them constantly until they start following him. He sees them out in the shed, in the shower, in his room at night. But are they really stalking him? And doesn't that sound more like celery, anyway? The black and white used for everything except the carrots adds to the late-night horror movie vibe - and I never realized how menacing orange could look until I saw those carrots.

Adults will enjoy the nod to all those psychological thrillers and kids will love a story where vegetables are not good for you. Many of them will probably identify with Jasper's problem of seeing scary things that disappear when an adult turns the lights on or comes into the room. It's a fun read-aloud for everyone. We received a copy of this book from a DonorsChoose.org project over the summer.

The website for Peter Brown has information on all his books and a video trailer for Creepy Carrots. Author Aaron Reynolds also has a website with more information. (His book, Carnivores, that is coming out this month looks good.) There are some funny videos about the book. There is one with the illustrator Peter Brown talking about his inspirations for the artwork. Another from the publisher also talks with Peter and he says that eggplant is his favorite vegetable, but he has not had any trouble with eggplants stalking him.

Creepy Carrots