Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Cyborg 009

This is classic super hero action with the super powers coming from cybernetic redesign of humans. 009 wakes up in a lab. He has been kidnapped and experimented on by Sekar and his scientists. His memory of his former life is suppressed and he cannot remember how he wound up in the lab. Together with the eight cyborgs who were created before him (000 - 008), he escapes and tried to stop their former captors from kidnapping anyone else and creating more unwilling cyborgs. 

The team comes from a variety of backgrounds and each has different strengths and skills. One of the scientists involved in their creation was only looking for a way to save his son - much like the scientist in Resident Evil that created the virus to help regenerate his daughter's cells, but then it turned into a mutagenic nightmare. 

If you enjoy super heroes, especially those who work in teams and have the interaction back and forth, then you will probably enjoy Cyborg 009.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Show Must Go On (Three-Ring Rascals, #1)

The Klise sisters have done it again! When Barnabas Brambles is hired as the manager of Sir Sidney's Circus, he believes that he can make lots of money while neglecting the animals and overworking the performers. What he finds out is that all the animals are smarter (and nicer) than he is and that acrobats do not make good train engineers. His plans to make thousands of dollars in just a week are foiled by his own greediness and the crazy antics of the Banana Brothers as they try to steer the train. The poor elephant has sore feet, the lion is sick to his stomach, the acrobats are tired from trying to get the train to the right city on time for the show, and the owner is coming to see how things are going. Mr. Brambles has bitten off more than he can chew. This is a humorous story of a scoundrel that learns to be a better man.

Readers will laugh at an elephant doing a swan dive off the St. Louis Arch, Barnabas being tricked by a "tiger" salesperson, and a lion getting his stomach pumped after eating moldy pizza. They will also love Bert and Gert's silly commentary and their invented words like "vully" which is a vulgar bully. Great as a read-aloud or for quiet reading on your own.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2013 Here I Am

Wordless picture books are always such fun to explore and imagine the narration. This story of a boy who moves to a place that is strange and different shows how it feels to be transplanted in a new culture. Since it is wordless, it invites discussion as readers work their way through what they feel each illustration means. We must pay careful attention to every detail - facial expressions, body language, colors- so that we can understand the flow of the story. Slowly we see the child who is sad at leaving his familiar home come to enjoy his new neighborhood and make friends. The author, Patti Kim, moved to the United States from Korea when she was only four-years-old, so she knows exactly how the boy in her book feels as he slowly gets used to his new home.

The Readers' Guide provided by the publisher is a wonderful tool for parents and educators. This would be great for a unit on cultural diversity or immigration. It could be used as a writing prompt for older students. Art classes could also use it to study how the moods are created on each page through the colors and images used.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published on September 2, 2013. The publisher has made a video trailer for the book.

Fall Reading 2013 Lulu and the Cat in the Bag

This is the third book in the series written by Hilary McKay. Lulu is an energetic and affectionate 7-year-old who loves animals. Her grandmother, Nan, thinks she already has far too many pets. When a bag left on the front porch contains the biggest cat Lulu has ever seen, her grandmother insists that Lulu can't keep it. When Lulu's friend Charlie tells Nan all sorts of trouble that his own cat has caused, she is even more determined that neither Lulu nor her cousin Mellie need a cat around. Nan slowly comes to like the cat, especially when she finds out that it chases the dogs out of the flower bed and won't let them dig the plants up. In the end, Nan helps Lulu find the perfect home for the cat in the bag. 

The Lulu stories are perfect for readers who enjoy animals and books about pets, but still want something a little shorter than Animal Ark or Puppy Place books. They are a great length for students making the transition into chapter books. My friend Ms. Goins recommended them to me and says they are very popular in her library at Porter Elementary.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It went on sale September 1, 2013. There are websites for the author, the illustrator, and the publisher, if you would like more information about the book or the rest of the series.

Fall Reading 2013 The Odd Squad: Zero Tolerance

Readers of Diary of a Wimpy KidBig Nate, and other heavily-illustrated journal type stories will enjoy The Odd Squad. Nick, Molly, and Karl became friends in their first book as they tried to deal with a bully at school and became the school's Safety Patrol. Nick is positive this year will be great with no bully picking on him, his two friends, and his status as a member of the Patrol. But a new girl named Simone shows up and soon has everyone under her dark power, including Molly. Nick decides the only thing to do is wrap himself in toilet paper and stuff himself in a trash can in the boys' restroom so it seems that he has been bullied again. Things just get more and more out of control until he finds himself riding a zip-line in his underwear and a stack of extra safety helmets in front of the entire seventh grade. I'm not sure what will make you laugh more - Simone's French accent, Becky's chewing gum, Karl's list of phobias, or Nick's insane plans to catch Simone in an evil plot - but you will be laughing when you read this.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it went on sale September 3, 2013.

This book is from Disney Hyperion and they have a video trailer for it and one for the first book, Bully Bait. There is also a Facebook page for the series.

Fall Reading 2013 Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons

This is an historical fantasy story about the childhood of the Amazon queen, Hippolyta. Although she is only 13, she is already a trained warrior as well as a princess. At her mother's request she travels to Troy to deliver her brother to his father, King Laomedon. That journey results in being staked out as a sacrifice to an angry sea monster, battling enemy soldiers, meeting gods in disguise, and trying to lift a curse on the Amazons. Hippolyta is brave, loyal, and a good fighter, but she must learn some lessons about controlling her temper and knowing when it is right to fight.

Readers who enjoy the mythology incorporated into stories like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles, or Goddess Girls would probably enjoy this series. There are books about Odysseus, Jason, and Atalanta by the same authors - Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris. We already have Odysseus and the Serpent Maze in the library. Ms. Yolen discusses the series on her website.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but the book was released on July 2, 2013.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Muddled-Up farm

This is an amusing story of a farm inspector that tries to set things right on a farm where all the animals make the wrong noise. It really upsets him when the cat says, "Moo," or the goat says, "Woof." He stays at the farm and works with each of the animals to teach them the right thing to say. When he finally thinks he has the problem fixed, the surprise ending will make readers laugh.

The story reminded me of other humorous farm books like The Cow That Went Oink and Cock-a-Doodle-Moo. It would go well with a unit on farm animals, communication, or humor. Primary grade students will enjoy reading it and laughing at the muddled-up sounds the animals make.

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

For more information you can go to the publisher's website.

Fall Reading 2013 Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists

Editor Chris Duffy chose the fairy tales to be included in this book by trying to have a mix of well-known tales, some non-European stories, and a mix of male and female protagonists. Each tale is illustrated by a different artist, each in their own style. Some of the things I really enjoyed were the female lumberjack in Little Red Riding Hood, the headdress on Snow White's evil stepmother that looked like horns on her head, the wordless version of Goldilocks, and the Bremen Town musicians on stage as a rock band at the end of their story. A few of the artists are familiar from books already in our library. Brett Helquist is the illustrator of the Series of Unfortunate Events and was responsible for Rumpelstiltskin in this anthology. Raina Telgemeier is the creator of the graphic novel Smile. Her version of Rapunzel is more like the movie "Tangled". The girl saves the prince and they leave the witch stuck in the tower. I also appreciated that the Editor's Note included a list of books and websites where you can find more tales like these and the short bios about each artist that listed some of the other projects they have worked on.

I would recommend this to any reader who likes fairy tales, either the traditional versions, or more modernized retellings. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it was published September 24, 2013. The publisher's website has more information about the editor of this project.

Fall Reading 2013 The Abominables

I really enjoy Eva Ibbotson's stories. There is always adventure and humor and the bad guys generally get taught a lesson about their horrible behavior. The Abominables has all of those characteristics. Con and Ellen are brave children who embark on a risky journey to help their friends, the Yetis, reach a safe home. Along the way from the Himalayas to Farlingham Towers in England, they meet all sorts of people - evil zoo keepers, greedy sultans, kindly monks, matadors, and evil hunters. Each challenge causes them to use all their intelligence and bravery to overcome danger and continue on to their goal.

If you have read any of Eva's other books like The Great Ghost Rescue you know this is a story you will enjoy. If you haven't tried out her writing yet, why not start with this one? After all, it's not often you get the chance to read about yodeling Yetis. (This was a previously unpublished book that was among her papers when she passed away in 2010.)

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will go on sale October 8, 2013.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Solar System Through Infographics

With all sorts of charts, timelines, graphs, and diagrams, this book shares tons of facts about the solar system we live in. A handy glossary of terms is included along with a list of other resources for further information. There are pages about the big bang theory (not the TV show), planets, stars, meteors and other space objects. Facts are presented in ways that make them easier to visualize. For example, "Imagine the sun was a bucket. You could dump one million Earths inside it." The timeline of famous space theorists includes photos of the scientists and tells their "Big Idea" about space. My favorite part was the graph showing how much your dog would weigh on each planet. If the dog weighs 100 pounds on Earth, he or she would weigh 253 pounds on Jupiter. So if you are trying to lose weight, you could move to Mars and the scales would say you weigh less than half of what you weigh here at home (all because of the planet's gravity). This is a fun and educational book for anyone interested in space. 

The author has a blog if you would like to find out what else she has written. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book goes on sale November 1, 2013.

Fall Reading 2013 Nursery Rhyme Delights

This collection of classic nursery rhymes is newly illustrated by Kristi Abbott using collage, mixed media, and typography. The e-book I received from the publisher through NetGalley was only a sample, so I haven't seen every page. What I did see was a very cleverly done representation of Humpty Dumpty that made me want to go get my own scissors, glue, and scrapbook paper. If the rest of the book is like the sample, then I can imagine parents and children enjoying the illustrations together and finding new details to look at each time they open the book. It might also inspire some other future collage artists to experiment with this process of illustration. The book is scheduled for release on October 15, 2013. Until then you can check out the author's blog to see more of her work.

Fall Reading 2013 The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen

Books about where food comes from are often filled with photos of harvesting and processing raw ingredients. This story takes a more imaginative approach and has chickens and a cow right in the kitchen. Patrick can't believe that there is a cow in his kitchen. I can't believe that his father doesn't even notice and just goes on making french toast like nothing strange has happened. (He reminds me of the father in One Cool Friend who doesn't notice that his son brings home a live penguin from the aquarium.) While his father cooks, Patrick has to gather eggs, milk the cow and collect maple syrup to complete their breakfast. Once he gets over his shock, he actually seems to enjoy it. He's very eager to get to breakfast the next morning and check for new visitors in the kitchen. 

My grandparents had a farm when I was a kid, so I grew up knowing where food came from. Many kids today only see food once it reaches the grocery store or a restaurant. This is a fun way to begin explaining how food is grown and supplied to people who may not live anywhere near a farm (orchard, ranch, etc.).

website for the book is currently being made.

Fall Reading 2013 Kenta and the Big Wave

This story by Ruth Ohi about a tsunami and its effects on people is based on true stories from the 2011 tsunami that hit the east coast of Japan. As cleanup began after the disaster, there were many reports of belongings from residents along the coast being found by people on the other side of the world. In this story, Kenta drops his soccer ball as he is escaping to the school high on the hill above his village. His ball is swept away by the sea and washed up far away, but a kind person mails it back to him. 

The illustrations show everyone evacuating the village and gathering at the school. The text tells of how Kenta's family and all their neighbors sift through the mess that is left behind when the water recedes and they begin to rebuild. The author's note explains that Japanese children have tsunami drills just like kids in the U.S. practice fire drills. The book shows how people cope with disaster and how the kindness of strangers can make a difference.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The author's website has information about her other books. 

Fall Reading 2013 Big Blue and Ivy in Bloom

Big Blue is a good story to illustrate why we can't just play and do what we want all the time. It is similar to Aesop's Fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper." When the book begins, Blue sings and flies and does all the things the other birds do. But when Blue decides to spend all his time napping and eating, his singing and nest building and flying are neglected. He eats so much that when he tries to fly, he just rolls along the ground instead. Blue learns the hard way that life isn't all fun and games. By the time he sees his friends again in the spring, he has straightened up and gotten rid of his bad habits. This also shows how important it is to balance the amount of food you eat with being active.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. You can find out more about the author on her website.


Ivy in Bloom:
In this exploration of the seasons moving from winter to spring, the author has used lines written by famous poets. Choosing a line here, a couplet there, she has strung together these pieces from different poems into a single narrative. The book follows Ivy from her wish that spring would come soon to the final scene of her barefoot on the swing in the spring sunshine. 

I especially liked the way each of the poems that were quoted are listed in the back of the book. A thumbnail picture of the illustration for the page is followed by the original poem with the quoted section highlighted. The poet is named and details about when he or she lived, their nationality, and where the poem first appeared in print are also given. Readers who enjoy the brief taste of each poem will be able to find more by the same writer thanks to this helpful bibliography.

This would be a good read-aloud or could be used as an introduction to poetry.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2013 Life Is a Bowl of Cherries and Birds of a Feather

Both of these books were written by Vanita Oelschlager. 

Life Is a Bowl of Cherries:
Idioms sometimes sound very strange. Some of them we say all the time because we have heard other people say them, but we have no idea what they mean. In this book, idioms that mention food have been gathered together. Each one is illustrated in a way that will make you laugh. For instance, "Flat as a pancake" shows a pancake singing in a flat voice and the toast is saying, "Somebody pour some syrup on him!" In the lower corner of the page an explanation of the idiom is given and it is used in a sample sentence. This is a good book for readers who enjoy learning how language works, or for readers who are looking for a laugh or two.

Elementary school teachers could easily use this in a lesson on idioms. It might inspire students to come up with their own illustrations for favorite idioms.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.


Birds of a Feather:
Figures of speech can be hard to explain, but it won't be hard for these idioms to make you laugh. Each one is illustrated in a way that shows what it means in a literal sense. The goose driving over very bumpy ground (goosebumps) or a child with an umbrella walking along as cats and hot dogs fall from the sky (raining cats and dogs) are just two examples of what someone might imagine the idioms mean. To help readers understand what the idioms really mean, there is an explanation in the lower corner of each illustration. The phrase is also used in a sample sentence.

Whether you are a reader who enjoys playing with words and discovering new things about language, or a reader looking for an amusing book - you will enjoy Birds of a Feather. This would be very useful for a language arts lesson on idioms and teachers might even ask their students to illustrate other idioms and create a class book.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The author's website has more information about her and her other books.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 DC Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia

This is a fun collection of 200 super-pets (both hero and villain)with all the information you would like to know about them. I was pretty confident that I knew my super heroes, but I found out about pets I had never heard of before. Did you know that the Green Arrow has a pet porcupine named Quiver? He looks really cute with his custom-sized bow. And I found out the Joker has a laughing hyena named Crackers.  His fur even matches the Joker's crazy green hair color. Each entry tells you the species, birthplace, food, weaknesses, allies, foes, and owner of each pet. There is a clearly labeled picture which points out their abilities, weapons, and costume. With so many super characters to keep track of, this is a handy guide for any fan.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it is available for sale right now. 

Fall Reading 2013 Masks, Volume 1

I enjoy comics, graphic novels, and manga, so this format was appealing to me. I also like the classic heroes such as the Shadow, the Green Hornet and Kato, and Zorro. Seeing them fight along with several other vigilante/hero types was an entertaining mix. I began to suspect who the mysterious master villain was from something one of the characters said, but it was fun to read along and see that I was right. The fighting and speaking style of each hero was kept true to their original appearances in various media over the years. Altogether, this was a fast-paced and action-packed adventure that captured the feel of the original pulp fiction these characters sprang from. There is also an abundance of bonus material including various covers, character sketches in black and white or color, and a written script for the book.  The writer is Chris Roberson and the artists are Alex Ross and Dennis Calero. 

I would recommend this for older readers due to some of the language (swearing) used by various characters and the publisher has rated it Teen+. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Beep Beep Goes the Bus Driver

If you like stories that take everyday events and turn them into something surprising, then this book by Vincent Scala is one you will enjoy. Nearly everyone has ridden a bus, but not a bus like this. This bus goes to the mountains, the zoo, the forest, even the moon. The passengers are not ordinary either. There is an abominable snowman, a talking goldfish, a pair of dodos and many other amazing creatures. But everyone makes it back home safely in time for dinner.

This could be used at the start of an art project where each person imagines the strangest person/creature/animal that would ever be seen on a bus, then imagines the craziest place that could possibly be their destination. Put them together, and "VOILA!" you would have a class book about a zany bus ride.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2013 Big Cat, Small Cat and Dog Number 1, Dog Number 10

This rhyming text by Ami Rubinger shows examples of opposites. It starts with the cats in the title, one big and one small. The next two are short and ... The pattern of alternating between a page where both opposites are named, then leaving the end of the next rhyme to fill in gets the reader involved quickly. The cats are very bright and colorful and will hold the attention of young readers.  Art enthusiasts might also be interested in the fact that they are computer-generated illustrations.

It would work well in a language arts lesson on opposites for  the primary grades.

This simple counting book with rhyming text is also by Ami Rubinger. The dogs are introduced one at a time and each one tells something about himself or herself. "Playing chase is so much fun! My name's Rover. I'm dog number ..." The number is always left for the reader to fill in. When the story reaches ten, the cats from Big Cat, Small Cat appear and count off by twos. Then together with the dogs, they make a group of twenty. Readers who enjoyed calling out the missing words and the vibrant computer-generated art in Big Cat, Small Cat will find this book just as amusing.

It would work well as a read-aloud for math lessons dealing with counting by ones or twos, or even a quick introduction to addition with the final sum of dogs and cats.

I read an e-book of each story provided by the publisher through NetGalley.


Here is a link to the publisher's website.

Fall Reading 2013 Dino-Wrestling

Lisa Wheeler has put together a vibrantly funny idea - dinosaurs and wrestling together in one book! Dinos gather for a night of Wrestlemania and get ready to cheer on their favorite champions. For lovers of wrestling there are bouts in every style from Greco-Roman to sumo, with the correct names for all the moves. And for dinosaur fans, each dinosaur is named and given a chance in the ring. Although I have to agree - why would TRex choose Greco-Roman when he has such short arms? The crowd has a great time watching each match until the final WWD showdown.

Whether dinosaurs or wrestling are your main interest, the vivid illustrations and rhyming text carry you through the rowdy evening of entertainment. This will be a hit for read-alouds, as well as for individual reading.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will go on sale on October 1, 2013.

Both the author and illustrator have their own websites, if you would like to see what other books they have done.

Fall Reading 2013 Mermin Volume 2: The Big Catch

What do you get when you cross a prince of the Mer Realm, his adviser-to-be Benni, and a bunch of school kids? Lots of laughs and action! Mermin is visiting human civilization from the underwater kingdom of his people. He and Benni are staying with Pete and Mermin is even attending Pete's school. A few of Pete's friends know that Mermin is not just an odd-looking transfer student, but the rest of the school is not in on the secret.

In this volume of the series, Mermin and Benni are being stalked by two men trying to start up a paranormal investigation unit. They try to capture Mermin with nets and cages, then bring out their heavy equipment - a giant robot built from old appliances. Mermin shows off his incredible strength in the fight scenes with the robot. (He is pretty amazing for such a little dude.)

There is a good balance of dialogue and action. Readers who enjoy Dragonbreath or other stories with aliens, mutants, and unknown species with superhuman powers will enjoy this book.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Give, Save, Spend with the Three Little Pigs

Using the classic folk tale of the Three Little Pigs as background, this story shows the pigs after they have made it to safety in the brick house. Other animals also want houses that will be safe from the wolf, so the pigs begin a business building brick homes. The author uses the pigs' discussion of what to do with their profits to illustrate what people generally do with their money - give, save, or spend it. Each pig wants to do something different; one wants to take a vacation, another wants to help out other animals, the third wants to save in case of future needs. As they talk it over, they decide they can do all three things and set up a system to do so.

It is a simple way to introduce children to the idea of financial planning and responsibility. There are suggestions for parents in the back of the book. The author, Clint Geenleaf, blogs for CNN Money and is a regular guest on Fox Business Network. He has three children of his own.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Publication is set for March 2014.

Fall Reading 2013 Always by My Side

This book by Susan Kerner is about the ways a father can be a part of a child, even when he is not present in their life. I am not a big fan of "mushy" books, so this did not appeal to me. However, I can see that it would be reassuring to a child whose father is not around - and that is the intended audience. The text and illustrations show children from different backgrounds in different settings. Sometimes there is a mother or grandparent with them, other times there are no adults in the scene. The father is never shown, emphasizing the fact that he is not part of the child's daily life in a physical sense. It reminds me of the Lonestar song, "I'm Already There" in its sentimental tone.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2013 Speeding Down the Spiral

This book by Deborah Goodman Davis is an interesting way to introduce readers to the Guggenheim Museum. Lizzie is disappointed when her father decides to take her and her baby brother Ben to the museum rather than the water park. They take the elevator to the top, then Lizzie is supposed to watch her brother while Dad answers an e-mail. When Ben's stroller rolls off down the ramp, Lizzie gets a very fast tour of the famous art displayed in the permanent collection as she chases after him. Once the chase begins, it is similar to stories like "The Gingerbread Man," with a growing assortment of people following along after Lizzie and Ben. The story structure will be familiar to readers and that will provide a basis for their exploration of the artwork shown in the book.

I can imagine an art teacher or classroom teacher using the book to introduce a study of the various artists it mentions. Picasso, Chagall, Warhol, and the others all have styles that the students can explore in their own artwork. It might also be fun to research the different artists and their styles and create a gallery walk with the students' artwork combined with the facts they discover in their research.

I read and e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

There is a website and a Facebook page for the book which share additional information, links to museum pages and art project ideas. If you have never visited the Guggenheim, you can learn more about the museum and its exhibits online.

Fall Reading 2013 Madison and GA: Tale of the Messed Up Talent Show

This is part of a series by Melissa Perry Moraja about Madison and her siblings. In this book, Madison learns that being popular is not all it's cracked up to be. She is flattered and excited when the most popular girl in school, Sophia, pays attention to her. Sophia is only doing this because Madison is stage manager for the school talent show, but Madison doesn't realize that. Even with the guidance of her guardian angel, GA, she doesn't realize how poorly she is treating her friends in her rise to the status of "Little Miss Popular."

Younger chapter book readers who enjoy school and family stories like Junie B. Jones or the more journal-entry type books like the Dear Dumb Diary series would probably find this to their liking.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

There is a website for the series, as well as a Facebook page. If you especially like Madison and GA, they have their own website.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Charming

Note - this is a Young Adult book and is recommended for older readers due to content.

Both smart and smart-aleck, this book by Elliott James is not your average fairy tale, fractured or otherwise. Charming is a family name that comes with a lot of baggage, even when you are currently hiding under an assumed identity. The author takes several current trends and stands them on their heads. Vampires, werewolves, knights, Valkyries, psychics - there isn't much of the supernatural world that is not mentioned, including the first naga I have seen outside an Anita Blake story. John Charming, a.k.a. Trevor Barnes, is a lone wolf - pun very intended. He is the son of a Knight Templar, his mother was bitten shortly before his birth by a werewolf, and he has been alive since before World War II. His attitude comes across plainly in comments like, "Popular young adult novels notwithstanding, vampires only sparkle when they burn."

The novel works for several reasons: it tells an engaging story and has characters that make you care about what will happen to them (even if you are hoping it will be something bad in some cases); it has snarky humor that appeals to those of us who are tired of the current YA love triangle trend and appreciate originality; and there is enough action to keep you turning the pages to see how each crisis works out. Readers who enjoy troubled heroes like Harry Dresden or Libriomancer's Isaac Vainio will find a similar protagonist in John Charming.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2013 Opera A to Z: A Beginner's Guide to Opera

Opera and music lovers will appreciate this alphabetical review of famous operas by Liddy Lindsay. It begins with a brief explanation of the history and development of opera and a few of the most famous composers. Then it begins a journey through operas from all four major eras, sharing a short description of the storyline and major characters in each. Each entry also lists the composer of the opera, the dates of his birth and death, and the date the opera premiered. There is an illustration to accompany the entry which shows a scene or central character. Where additional information is helpful, it is included in an aside at the end of the entry (the author has already explained that in opera a character can address the audience directly in an aside).

For readers who want even more information, there is a section where key terms are defined, and the major eras, genres, and vocal types are explained. Places where you might find an opera performance are shared along with a bibliography of the author's sources.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. *Update: we added a copy to the library in November 2013.

The publisher has a book trailer you can view.

Fall Reading 2013 Be Positive!

As with all the titles in the Being the Best Me series by Cheri Meiners, this is well-suited for young readers and those working with them. The book goes through various situations that children experience and points out the possibility for approaching each one with a positive attitude. There are games, activities, and discussion notes for children and adults at the end of the book. Be Positive! could be used on its own, or as part of a series of lessons built around the books. I would recommend it to parents, teachers, and other caregivers working with younger children.


For more information about the series, check out the author's website.

Fall Reading 2013 Weird!, Dare!, and Tough!

I just finished the three books in the Weird! series by Erin Frankel.

Weird! shows how bullying makes the victims feel. The author shows us how Luisa feels after each of the bully's comments. She is frustrated because no matter what she changes about herself, the comments continue and she can hear Sam saying, "Weird!" When she finally talks to trusted adults about the problem, they help her find the strength to be herself. Luisa tells readers, "The more I act like I don't care what she says, the more I really don't care. And the more she thinks I don't care, the more she leaves me alone. Now that's really weird!"

Dare! shows bullying from a bystander's perspective. Jayla was a victim of Sam's bullying, but now Sam has moved on to a new target and Jayla feels relieved. She is also afraid that if she defies Sam and befriends Jayla, then Sam will start bullying her again. Jayla says, "I remember the way it felt when I was bullied, when no one dared to stand up for me. I never thought I would be the one just standing by...This isn't the kind of person I want to be." Once she chooses to be Luisa's friend, she gains confidence in herself and sees that "together, we can all play a part in making things better."

Tough! shows how bullying from the bully's perspective. We see in the illustrations that Sam is picked on at home by her brother, and seems to be acting the same way toward classmates. She particularly focuses on Luisa because "she has it easy. Always getting the right answer. Always with her friends. Always smiling." Jealousy plays a big part in her choice of victim. From what she says, it also makes her feel in control to be the one belittling others or forcing them to go along with her.

Each of the books works well together as a stand-alone, or along with the other two titles. The series is recommended by Trudy Ludwig and Dr. Michele Borba, along with Kirkus, School Library Journal and other reviewers. Each book has a glossary of terms, a reminder of what each of the girls learned, an explanation of telling vs. tattling, and notes for adults using the books with children. There is also a downloadable Leader's Guide for the series at

I read them as e-books provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but they were released for sale on September 1, 2103.

Fall Reading 2013 Malala Yousafzai: Education Activist

This biography is very well-written. I especially appreciate the organization of the information. The book begins with a chapter on the assassination attempt on Malala. With that image in the reader's mind, the next few chapters give background information on Pakistan, Islam, and the Taliban. Because Malala is introduced first, readers have her face in mind and they can picture her in the context of growing up in that country and religion and with the threat of the Taliban ever present.

Once that background is set, the book then starts at the beginning of Malala's life and traces her journey to the present. Details about her family and friends, her education, and her activism are explained as the sequence of events unfolds. Sidebars with additional information about topics like the Pashtun ethnic group, health risks in Pakistan, or the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims are also helpful for readers who may not be familiar with the cultural factors of the country.

The nonfiction features throughout the book are very helpful for those doing research or a biographical report for school. There is a timeline of events, a glossary, a list of additional resources, and a concise 2-page spread of "Essential Facts" about Malala's life. The table of contents and the index make it easy to locate specific information within the book.

The publishers have identified this for an interest level of grades 6 - 12, and I would also recommend this for middle or high school students. An article about Malala's life in England was recently published in People magazine (October 2013). Here is a preview of her exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer.


I was provided with a copy of the book by the publishers for review purposes.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Young Chicken Farmers and Children of the Tipi

Any reader interested in raising chickens, or curious about what is involved in being a chicken farmer, will enjoy Young Chicken Farmers by Vickie Black. The author and her family have their own backyard chickens, so she is speaking from experience on the subject. The book covers all areas of the process from choosing a breed, to ways you can use the eggs that your chickens will lay. There are plenty of photographs to illustrate key points in the text, as well as a glossary of terms like brooder and roost. Mrs. Black also includes a list of resources to help readers decide on which breed to choose. The information about the author at the end of the book includes a photo of her family beside their chicken coop.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it was published last November. It has won several awards:
2013 Indie Excellence Award: Children's Non-Fiction,
2013 International Book Award: Children's Non-Fiction,
2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award: Young Reader Non-Fiction, and the
013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award: Animals/Pets.

The publisher has posted an interview with the author.

Children of the Tipi is written by Michael Oren Fitzgerald, the adopted son of Thomas Yellowtail, an American Indian spiritual leader of the 20th century. With that background, he handles the subject of the book with obvious respect. Mr. Fizgerald's goal is to help young people today understand the way of life of the tribes living on the plains during the time of the great buffalo herds. He uses quotes from members of various tribes along with historical photographs to do this. The photos illustrate toys and games, family life, and other interesting details. This would be an excellent book to use in a study of Native Americans, perhaps as a read-aloud. It would not be the best choice for research because it gives more of an overview of various tribes, rather than an in-depth discussion of one particular group.

Check out the publisher's website for more information about the award-winning author.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Matched - a review by Haleigh

Matched is the first book in a series by Ally Condie. The story is set in the future in a world where society tells you what job you can have, where you can live, and even who you can marry. It is dystopian fiction (similar to Hunger Games) and I would recommend it to readers with good comprehension, because it has some challenging parts. My favorite character is Ky. I have read the whole series and I plan to see the movie when it comes out.

The author has her own website which includes her blog, reviews of her books, and book trailers. It is a good place to find out more about the series and her other titles. Here is a link to the official trailer.

There is also a fan site for the movie based on the book. Disney has purchased the option to make movies of all the books in the series.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Notebook of Doom: Day of the Night Crawlers

This is the second in the series of adventures featuring Alexander and his friends (the first was Rise of the Balloon Goons). At first Al and his friend Rip think that Megaworms are attacking their town, but they turn out to be regular night crawlers. But what is making the worms come out onto the surface instead of staying in the soil? The boys have to rely on the trusty SSMP notebook and its information because their ally Mr. Hoarsely has gone missing. They get some unexpected help from a girl in their class, but they also get a weird new gym teacher named Coach Gill. The coach always wears a padded fencing outfit complete with a masked helmet - and she never takes it off.

The Notebook of Doom is a good series for readers who enjoy shorter chapter books and like the heavily illustrated style of Wimpy Kid or Big Nate. The action and humor are nonstop and the illustrations add to the laughs. Author Troy Cummings knows how to make monsters funny and he's also made a website for the series. Scholastic has a trailer for the series. *Update: We added the first 4 books in the series to our library 2/21/2014.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weeding in the Library

This is what I've taken off the shelves while trying to clear out all the old, outdated material in our collection. We had books from as far back as 1949 in our nonfiction and biography areas. Our latest project is focused on getting updated biographies of the first ladies - and now we will have plenty of room on the shelf for those new books. 

Fall Reading All Our Yesterdays

This is an intriguing tale of time travel by Cristin Terrill. It deals with the consequences of the choices we make and the way that some of those choices become turning points in our destiny. Em and Finn escape from their cells and travel back in time to stop their friend James from completing his research into time travel. Em finds a note she has left that shows they have tried this many times before in different ways and always failed. The narrative switches back and forth from her point of view to that of young Marina, who exists in that earlier time. Slowly we begin to see how things have unfolded and what results from each of those choices. There is also a very cool description of space-time comparing it to the surface of a trampoline. Some events barely make a ripple, some are important or strong enough to cause it to bulge out of shape, and some things hit with enough force to punch right through it.

So many YA novels today seem to deal with a love triangle of some sort, but this has a different feel to it - even though Em loves James and Finn. For older readers, the regrets that Em and Finn voice about their earlier choices will ring true; we all have things in our past that we regret or cause us to wonder "what if." For younger readers, this is a glimpse into what that regret can feel like, even though you probably haven't experienced it yet.

If you enjoy time travel adventures like the Infinity Ring series, or movies like "Clockstoppers," then you will probably enjoy this book. I would recommend it for middle or high school ages due to some of the language used. I should warn you, it is addictive. I read it through in one sitting because I just had to know how it ended.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it went on sale in stores on September 3, 2013.

The author's website features prequel webisodes (a video series that sets the scene for the book), as well as information about the author and her books. The publisher also has a teaser video.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fall Reading Zebra Stripes Go Head to Toe and Ladybugs Have Lots of Spots

The photos in these books are bright, colorful, and feature familiar things. The rhyming text points out the lines and shapes in the pictures in a humorous way. This would be an easy introduction to shapes for a math lesson, or for an early elementary art class. I would pair them up so I could compare and contrast the straight lines and squares in one book with the circles, spheres, and cylinders in the other.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.


The publishers has provided a biography for the book's authors.

Fall Reading 2013 Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

Max is twelve and "ready to be independent," according to his father. That independence comes about unexpectedly when his parents set sail for a new theater job and Max is accidentally left behind. He's not too worried at first. His grandmother lives next door and he is very capable. But there are so many things to worry about as time goes on - making sure the authorities don't find out he's living alone, the strange woman who tries to move into his house, the strange man who breaks into his house and ransacks the dining room, the lost child he finds in the park ... Those are just a few of the problems he tackles.

I enjoyed the way Max uses costumes and characters from his parents' plays to handle different situations. When he's looking for a lost dog, he dresses in pieces that resemble a dog catcher's uniform. When he's talking to the Baroness, he puts on a suit and stuffs a pillow under his shirt to look like a middle-aged detective. He may not want to be a stage actor like his parents, but he is good at assuming small roles for his own purposes. And he is very good at solving other people's dilemmas, even while he is trying to figure out his own.

I would recommend this to mystery readers who enjoy stories like The Mysterious Benedict SocietyThe Name of This Book Is Secret, or Chasing Vermeer.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be released in stores on September 10, 2013.

You may find out more about the author on her website.

*NOTE - We just added this book to the Fairview library. (August 1, 2015).

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Forest Food Webs in Action and Wild Animal Neighbors

I spent some of the long Labor Day weekend reading some interesting nonfiction titles.

Forest Food Webs in Action by Paul Fleisher is a well-written explanation of food chains and food webs. The photographs are clear and have concise captions that restate the main points of the text or offer questions to make the reader think more deeply. The chapters are organized around the parts of a food web - plants, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, decomposers, and humans. There is a helpful glossary in the back along with suggestions of where to find more information. The table of contents and index make it easy to locate specific facts. The text is written in a straight-forward, easy-to-understand manner and supported by the abundant photos.

This would be an excellent addition to elementary school libraries or classrooms. The text and photos work together to fully explain how food webs are formed. It would serve well in a unit on forest habitats and ecosystems or one about food chains and food webs in general. The suggestions for further investigation would be helpful to students doing research or teachers looking for other resources to pull in to their lessons.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it is already available for sale.

Lerner Publishing Group has a webpage with author information. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) gives the book their recommendation.

Wild Animal Neighbors  by Ann Downer is an informative and entertaining look at urban wildlife. The chapter titles read like headlines, "The Coyote in the Sub Shop," is one example. Each chapter features a different animal in a different city from around the world. There is a balance of facts presented about how the animal's habitat came to include the urban area, how the animals and humans are having an impact on each other, how some humans view the animals as pests or nuisances while others view them as neighbors, and ways humans are trying to solve the problem. There is a full page on each animal with a large photo and facts about its size, diet, whether they are native to the area they currently occupy, and whether they are considered endangered. I especially like that the book has several animals (raccoons, black bears, and coyotes), that live in the East Tennessee area, so the information on them is very relevant. The epilogue shares other animals that the author researched while putting the book together and offers suggestions for anyone wanting to learn more. I would recommend this to intermediate or middle school students and teachers. It would work well with units on habitats and ecosystems, man's impact on the environment, biodiversity, and related topics.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will go on sale November 1, 2013.

You can find out more about the author on her website or follow her on Twitter. There is also a FaceBook page for the book.