Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 Words Wound

This book is an incredible resource for tweens and teens as they become more active in the online environment. It covers everything from cyber-safety to how others have dealt with cyberbullying. There are stories from real teenagers who have been tormented using online services. Their tales explain how their attackers used online accounts to harass or embarrass them and spread gossip and insults to others at school or in their community. But there are also accounts of kids standing up for others, forming FaceBook pages and Twitter accounts with the goal of supporting and uplifting other students. Lists of websites to go to for resources are also included. I thought the "Status Update" sections were a great idea. The readers answers questions about their online behavior and then their scores show if they are being safe, putting themselves in danger, etc. Those might be good sections to share with adults, too - since many of them are not as familiar with the various social networks and may not realize they are endangering themselves for identity theft or some other problem.

I would recommend this book to all young adults and also to all teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors that work with them.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The authors have set up a website for the book and there is also a Cyberbullying Research Center for further support.

Here is information on the authors (provided by NetGalley):

Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., is a professor of criminal justice in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. He has presented at the White House and has appeared on CNN and NPR and in Timeand The New York Times to discuss issues related to teens’ use and misuse of technology. Dr. Patchin is the author (with Dr. Hinduja) of Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard, Cyberbullying Prevention and Response, and School Climate 2.0. He lives in Wisconsin.

Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. He is recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work on the subjects of cyberbullying and safe social networking. He works with the U.S. Department of Education and many state departments of education to improve their policies on preventing and responding to teen technology misuse. Dr. Hinduja is the author (with Dr. Patchin) of Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard, Cyberbullying Prevention and Response, and School Climate 2.0. He lives in Florida.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 Etiquette and Espionage and Curtsies and Conspiracies

For readers who enjoy steampunk, this book's blend of steam-driven technology and the supernatural within Victorian England is very entertaining. Sophronia Temminnick is sent off to boarding school for "finishing." She is not very happy to be there until she realizes that the students are actually being trained as intelligencers (secret agents). It turns out that Sophronia has a natural talent for this type of activity. I enjoyed Sophronia's first semester at finishing school (which I read back in February), and eagerly awaited the next installment.


Sophronia's adventures only get more exciting as her time at finishing school continues. This time around there is a mysterious new valve that even Vieve doesn't quite understand, Monique's coming out ball, experiments in the aetherosphere, and boys from Bunson's school visiting aboard the dirigible. Mixed in are exams, lessons, visits with the Sooties, a chance meeting with Lord Akeldama, and the loan of Bumbersnoot to a fortune teller. Fun, fun, fun!


Check out the trailer for a small glimpse into this world. There is also a website for the books where you can submit an application to attend the Academy and details about each of the courses that are offered.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winter Movies 2013 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I've seen this twice now and there are several ways to view it - 2D, 3D or IMAX 3D. The rating of PG-13 is due to the violence (not language or nudity). After all, there are battles with Orcs, giant spiders, and elves. Legolas appears in this episode, patrolling the Mirkwood alongside Tauriel and the rest of the guard. When he searches Gloin, we see a portrait of Gimli - whom Legolas describes as a mutant goblin. The audience gets a laugh out of that, since we all know that Gimli and Legolas become friends during the Fellowship of the Ring. It also is amusing to note that Gimli calls Legolas "lad" in those movies, but here we see that Legolas is already grown while Gimli is still a child.

Parts of the movie that will probably stand out in your memory are the dwarfs floating downstream in barrels, the speed and grace of the woodland elves as they fight the giant spiders and Orcs, Bilbo tiptoeing through the halls of Erebor, the dragon waking in his piles of gold, and Gandalf trying to hold back the darkness when he confronts the evil at Dol Guldur.

Viewers who have already seen the earlier films will know what to expect from the incredible special effects and mood-enhancing soundtrack. Younger children might be frightened by the monsters or the fighting, or they may be accustomed to those sorts of fantasy elements.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Fall Movies 2013 Catching Fire

The second of the Hunger Games movies is as lavishly decorated and costumed as anyone from the Capitol could hope for, but I didn't like it as much as the first movie. It felt like a lot of middle movies from a series do, as if it were only there to get us to the third film. (Remember "Back to the Future II"? That sort of feeling.) Having said that, there were lots of things to like about it: the transformation of the wedding dress, Johanna stripping in the elevator, Peeta's portrait of Rue, Finnick's style...

If you haven't read the books, please be aware that the movie earns its PG-13 rating. There is violence before the tributes even reach the Games. It is not a film (or a book) for very young viewers and readers. Tweens, teens, and adults who enjoyed the books will probably like the film, too.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Winter Reading 2013 Fraidyzoo

It's a perfect day to go to the zoo, but what if Little T is afraid of the zoo? Not to worry - her family won't leave the house until they have figured out what she is afraid of. So they begin asking her about various animals she might see at the zoo (and even some that are extinct or imaginary), but she is not afraid of any of them. The lengths her family goes to are hilarious and imaginative - I think the cardboard box rhino might be my favorite. And the surprise when they finally reach the zoo made me laugh out loud.

This is a great book for talking about family, dealing with fears, or an upcoming trip to the zoo.

I won a copy in a give-away and it arrived on Christmas Eve.  What a perfect surprise. :-)


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 Day of Doom (The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers, #6)

The end to Cahills vs. Vespers is full of twists, turns, and changing allegiances to the final moment. Tension comes from all the unknowns - will the hostages be rescued; will they stop the Doomsday device in time; will Dan actually take the serum? Those are just a few of the answers we are searching for as we read. There are shootouts, fights, chases, airplanes, trains, double-crosses, deaths (I'm not saying whose), escapes, and a little romance, too. I enjoy the way bits of history are woven into each book. This time there is a link between the device invented by Archimedes and the famous explorers Lewis and Clark.

What makes this series fun is that there is something for everyone to enjoy: history, science, action, intrigue, romance (that whole Amy/Evan/Jake love triangle), computer sleuthing, and more. I'm interested in what the Cahills will face in the next series. We have all the books from The 39 Clues in the library.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 Back to Christmas

Marmel the elf is in charge of the labeling department at the North Pole. He has final say-so on which names make it onto the Nice List or the Naughty List. He's a bit aggravated because Santa has put new guidelines in place that let anyone be on the Nice List as long as there is even one nice thing about them. For the first time ever, there are no names on the Naughty List and Marmel is sure the elves in his department have been slacking off or gone soft. He moves the Krumwerth family onto the Naughty List, even though this puts them in danger of being on the Permanently Naughty List forever. He claims that they have no Christmas Spirit and even tells Santa that they don't deserve a chance to redeem themselves.

This is a story that makes a very good point about the Christmas Spirit - and does it in a fun way. We see the Krumwerth family on their cell phones and computers and video games, with a cleaning lady and a catering service to take care of all the Christmas preparations and we wonder if they even notice Christmas any more. But we also see Marmel fussing at the other elves, wishing for the good old days of putting coal into stockings and we're not sure he understands Christmas either. If one of Santa's elves can't show some holiday cheer, then who can?

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys stories about Christmas, Santa, or family holidays.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published November 30, 2013.

P.S. - The penguins pulling the South Pole sleigh are very funny.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 When Did You See Her Last? (All the Wrong Questions #2)

Lemony Snicket is still in Stain'd-by-the-Sea with his chaperon (a word which here means an adult who has no clue what is going on). He has not heard from his acquaintance Ellington Feint, and now a girl named Cleo Knight has gone missing. Snicket and Ms. Markson are hired to look into the disappearance. Among the cast of characters they encounter are the Bellerophon brothers, Mr. and Mrs. Knight, Zada and Zora, Dr. Flammarion, Nurse Dander, Polly Partial, Dashiell Qwerty, Hungry Hix, Jake Hix, and the Mitchum family. Which of these people might know where Cleo is? Why would any of them lie about that knowledge? Snicket must find out on his own, because his chaperon is convinced that Cleo has run off to join the circus. At the same time he is still worried about his sister, who is back in the city, and he is still trying to discover what the villainous Hangfire is planning.

If you enjoy stories where kids are the only ones who have a clue and the adults never listen to them (like in A Series of Unfortunate Events), then you will enjoy this second volume on the series of All the Wrong Questions. Or, perhaps you have not read other books by Lemony Snicket; but if you like mysteries, then you should give this series a try.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but we already have a copy in the library.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 Mert the Anxious Evergreen

This story is like a Hallmark Channel movie for kids. Characters include Mert (the tree from the title), Ol' Joe and his grandson Cole (owners of the farm where Mert lives), Sally (Cole's girlfriend from town), and a cat name John Begonsen. Mert longs to be a Christmas tree and discover Christmas spirit, but he also wants keep the farm and Hickory Flats safe from developers who would level everything for new construction. When Ol' Joe is injured and cannot help Cole tend the farm, Mert has plenty to be anxious about.

This is a sweet story to read together as a family and think of all the things you are thankful for at this time of year. If you are a fan of those movies on the Hallmark Channel - you will like this book.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published November 17, 2013.


Winter Reading 2013 Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

A city trapped in winter. Snow everywhere. A coldly beautiful queen with evil warriors to do her bidding. No - it's not the White Witch from Narnia, it is the Snow Queen. There is also a Marvelous Boy who was chosen by a protectorate of wizards from the east, west, and middle to find the One Other and deliver the sword that would stop the Snow Queen. And then there is Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, who does not believe in magic or wizards or misery birds. Yet there she is, mixed up in this untidy magical mess because her father is an expert on swords and has been hired to prepare an exhibition in the castle/museum where the Marvelous Boy is held prisoner. How can a girl still mourning her mother's death find the courage to help a boy she doesn't know? Why is her sister Alice becoming more cold and distant every day? Why does her father act so bemused by the museum's director, Miss Kaminski? Does magic really exist?

Fans of fantasy adventures like Narnia (C.S. Lewis), Leven Thumps (Obert Skye), The 100 Cupboards (N.D.Wilson), or the Gateway Chronicles (K.B.Hoyle) will be cheering Ophelia on as she tries to find her courage.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Publication is set for January 28, 2014.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 Stink and the Shark Sleepover

In the latest adventure of the Moody family, Stink is excited to learn that his parents have won a sleepover at the aquarium for the whole family. He is even happier to learn that his friends Sophie and Webster will also be there. The kids spend the evening with Miss D. enjoying the exhibits and having their questions about the different fish answered. The bad thing about the sleepover is that Riley Rottenberger is there with her FINS group (Friends in Nature Study). She continually bugs Stink and boasts that her team will win the scavenger hunt.

This is a great story for a read-aloud. Everyone can imagine the jellyfish floating in their tank or the sharks circling, laugh at Stink's sleepover pranks on his sister Judy, and get goosebumps from the story of Bloody Mary the Frankensquid. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy Judy Moody and Stink stories. If you have never tried the books with Stink and Judy, but you like Junie B. Jones or Ready Freddy - you should give this a try. Anyone who has "slept with the sharks" at the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg will understand how much fun Stink and the others have during the sleepover.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Publication is set for February 11, 2014.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter Reading 2013 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures, volume 1

I'm an Eastman and Laird fan, but the new stories are fun. With a young April training alongside them, the turtles fight Shredder, Dogpound, the Foot clan, Snakeweed, and the Kraang. There are the usual puns and jokes - and lots of pizza. Whether they are fighting off what looks like a zombie horde or trying to prevent Snakeweed from making more killer plants, there is no bad language. It's not always easy to find comics/manga that are free of swearing, even if they are rated for all ages. This is a series that is safe for younger fans and older readers can still enjoy it. The extra pages of artwork are a nice bonus.

I would recommend this to TMNT fans of all ages.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Publication is scheduled for January 21, 2014.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Fox Talk

I have 3 dogs and I know they can communicate with me, things like "Get me a Milkbone." "I don't want to take a bath!" or "I love it when you rub my belly." So I was very interested in what scientists had learned when studying foxes and how they communicate. I had not heard of this experiment with domesticating foxes in order to study them and try to see how dogs learned to understand and be understood by people. Can you believe that they have been studying generation after generation of foxes for 50 years? They have observed and discovered many things about the differences between wild and domesticated foxes and their behavior, body language and vocal sounds. The photos of the foxes playing, smiling, and chasing through tunnels were funny. There is plenty of extra information in the back of the book, such as an index, a glossary, facts about the author and photographer, places to look for further information, and even what to do if you would like to have a domesticated fox as a pet.

Animal lovers will enjoy the research results and photos shared in this book. Readers who have considered getting a pet, but wanted something out of the ordinary, might take this information and offer a home to a fox. There is a large web presence for the book: a Pinterest page, a Facebook page, a web page from the publisher, and the author's webpage. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published on August 25, 2013. 

FOX TALK: How Some Very Special Animals Helped Scientists Understand Communication

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fall reading 2013 The Eighth Menorah

Sammy's Hebrew school teacher has the class make menorahs to give to their families as Hanukkah gifts. The problem is that Sammy's family already has seven menorahs at home. Why would they need another one? His teacher assures him that his parents will love his gift, but Sammy is not so sure. As the holiday draws near and his class wraps gifts, practices the songs and prayers for the holiday, and has their Hanukkah party - Sammy continues to think about what he should do with his menorah. The solution he comes up with is both clever and caring.

This is a great book for a read-aloud at this time of the year. I always do a unit on winter holidays with my students and love finding new Hanukkah stories to share with them. Besides introducing some of the elements of celebrating Hanukkah, it also briefly describes the history of the holiday, and it shows a warm relationship between Sammy and his grandmother. It could easily be used to do a compare/contrast activity with another holiday.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of the book in a drawing (through the Mcbookwords Blog and Albert Whitman & Co.), and I am adding it to our school library collection.


Fall Reading 2013 The Werewolf at Home Plate

Karl longs to be a baseball star like his hero, Wolfenstein, but he doesn't make the team when he tries out for the Monster League. Just when he thinks his dream is out of reach - he finds out that 8 other kids have not made it onto their teams either. And so the Scream Team is born. Of course they have lots of obstacles to overcome - no equipment, no coach, no uniforms, and a team of all sorts of monsters has never been done. Can this band of misfits pull it together and actually make it into the League?

This story is fun to read and full of hilarious scenes - like the werewolf getting nervous and chasing his tail rather than paying attention to the game. It also has some good lessons to be learned about persistence, determination, cooperation, and using your strengths. Readers who enjoy books like the Black Lagoon series or the Bailey School Kids will want to add this to their reading list.

We have this book (which is the first in the series), as well as The Vampire at Half Court - a basketball adventure for Karl and the Scream Team. Visit Bill Doyle's website for more information about the author and his books. Jared Lee, the illustrator, also has his own website. The Scholastic Book Clubs have a video featuring the series.