Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Winter Reading 2015 A Plague of Bogles


Alfred Bunce has given up bogling and moved to another part of town, but it seems that bogling is not through with him. When Jem hears that someone is selling tickets to a show supposedly exhibiting Birdie and her ability to lure bogles, he heads straight over to tell Alfred all about it. Soon, it seems that there are bogles in every corner and under every drain. Mr. Bunce, Birdie, Miss Eames, Jem, and Ned are very disturbed by the "plague" of bogles, since it is extremely unusual for the monsters to have lairs so close together. Complaints are coming in from spots all over the area - a boys' school, a churchyard, a tavern, the sewer - and more keep being found. But at the same time, Jem is determined to find Sarah Pickles, who once sold him as bogle bait. While looking for clues to why the bogles are behaving so strangely, he is also questioning everyone he meets about Sarah. Between Birdie's rebellion against living quietly with Miss Eames and the manager of the bogle show, Mr. Lubbock, trying to cash in on Alfred's bogle hunts, there is never a a moment just to relax with some cider by the fire. How can one bogler and a few children possibly keep all of London safe?

Fans of How to Catch a Bogle will be delighted with the second book in the trilogy as we see all the characters we loved and meet some new ones, too.

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

Winter Reading 2015 We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March


This is an account that personalizes the events in Birmingham during 1963 by telling the story from the viewpoints of 4 different children/teens that were involved. By using 4 viewpoints, 2 male and 2 female, from various economic groups, the book shows the diversity within the protesters. When this topic is covered in social studies classes, many students come away with the feeling that all the participants were generic and interchangeable, as if they had no identity or life outside the protest. Levinson shows that the son of 2 professional parents living in a nice brick house with a pool was just as much a part of the movement as were the children of working class, less affluent families. The book also shows that many parents did not want their children to participate because they feared the kids would be injured or killed, or other consequences would fall upon the family. Looking back at those events, it seems amazing to many young readers today that authorities would use such brute force tactics against young, peaceful protesters, or that the state and federal government would sit back and do nothing for so long.

The use of historical photos and quotes from the participants helps to recreate the emotions that were prevalent at the time. Additional books and websites are recommended for those who want to learn more about this time period in our history. This would make an excellent source for research or background knowledge.

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

For more information you may visit the website the publisher has established for the book.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Winter Reading 2015 Alistair Grim's Odditorium


Fans of fantasy set in a Dickensian milieu will love the Odditorium. Grubb is a chimney sweep who hides in a trunk to escape some bullies and winds up inside Alistair Grim's Odditorium. The strangely shaped building is a mystery that has Londoners eager to get inside and explore. What has Grim been doing in there as it was built over the last 5 years? Why won't he allow anyone inside? And what is the reason for all the secretive trips he takes? It is during one of these trips that he gains a resident chimney sweep who turns out to be very handy.

There are tons of magical creatures and objects (odditoria) in the story: fairies, goblins, trolls, dragons, samurai, ninja, banshees, sirens, talking pocket watches, witches, and the sinister Prince Nightshade. The blend of magic and technology will appeal to fans of The RithmatistThe Glass Sentence, or steampunk/fantasy blends. You really need to give this book a try.

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

Fall Reading 2014: A Challenging Job


would be a good book to give a young reader who is fascinated with the ocean. Bob is determined to help ocean animals and preserve their habitat. He has ocean friends like Doc (a sea turtle), Kodi (a seal), and Earl (a clam). His constant companion is a hummingbird named Xena. With some supervision by his mentor, Miss Mary Marine, Bob helps with several problems around the island - getting a sea gull out of a fishing net, showing a young seal how to hunt for fish in deep water, and warning everyone of a coming storm are some of his assignments. 

I didn't rate it more highly for several reasons. This is not a story I would have chosen to read as a child. I preferred fantasy and science fiction, but I know that many children do enjoy stories with talking animals. It's a story told in rhyme, and I think I might have liked it better as prose. And that fact that his "guardian" is so negative and keeps telling him that he is going to fail is not a likable feature.

Those interested in oceanography, ocean animals, or conservation may find they like it quite well. They may enjoy the rhyming text. 

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

Fall Reading 2014: Maggie Malone Gets the Royal Treatment


Once again the MMBs (mostly magical boots) whisk Maggie off to spend a day in someone else's shoes. This time she becomes the darling of the world, Princess Mimi - and on the day when Mimi will be a bridesmaid in a royal wedding. She finds out that like as princess isn't always as picture perfect as everyone thinks, especially when your cousin is the odious Princess Penelope. But Maggie has her own problems to solve. There will be a royal court (like Homecoming Queen) at school and Maggie gets drafted along with two of her friends to serve as handmaidens for a princess-in-training. The would-be princess, Lucy, is demanding, bossy, full of negative comments and never says thank-you for anything that the girls do for her. It may take a little magic to fix this before it becomes a royal mess.

I really enjoy the Maggie Malone stories, because she always learns how much we really don't know about another person unless we are actually living their life. She always seems to make a positive change in the life she visits, and then finds out that the she can use similar tactics on a situation in her own life. They are fun to read and have a unique twist on making wishes come true. 

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 Reindeer Dust


This is an amusing story of a Christmas Eve beset with problems meteorological and nutritional. What would happen if Santa were too busy to feed the reindeer and then they also got caught in a fog bank? I love the idea of Santa being as hurried and frazzled right before Christmas as the rest of the world. The expressions on the reindeer faces when they see he hasn't filled their food trough are so sad (but the reindeer wearing leg warmers is hilarious). Then it's William to the rescue as he studies the weather and comes up with a plan. Kids will enjoy the whimsical illustrations and rhyming text. This could be the beginning of a new holiday tradition. Read the story of excellent problem-solving by a really smart kid, then have your own kids mix up some reindeer dust of their own. Families who enjoy having the Elf on the Shelf visit for the holidays will probably want to use this recipe to show the reindeer some love.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.  You may also visit the book's website.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fall Reading 2014 How to Outswim a Shark without a Snorkel


I really enjoyed this book. Fans of Ana's first adventure will be glad to see her in action again. They may not be so pleased to hear that her arch-enemy, Ashley, will be spending the summer as a volunteer at the zoo and Ana gets stuck working with her. It almost seems unfair. Ana had finally faced down her fears about public speaking and garnered some fame for her presentation about reptiles, even having the good luck of a baby alligator urinating on Ashley in front of the audience. And then, just when we're relaxing and thinking Ana has it made for the summer, here is Ashley to ruin it all. 

There are some positive aspects to the situation. The first one is Logan - the college student working in the new exhibit where the girls are volunteers. (Did I mention that Logan is cute?) Also, Ana's friend (boyfriend?) Kevin is around for the summer. Her new friend Bella is filling the void in Ana's life that was caused by her best friend Liv's family moving out of the country. And her brother Daz even seems to be acting semi-human for a change.

But when things start to go wrong around the exhibit, Ana is sure that Ashley is doing it all to sabotage her. Fed up with being blamed for something she didn't do and determined to pay Ashley back, Ana talks Daz into helping her with a revenge plan. Will she go through with it? And will she fulfill the "kissing pact" she made with Liv and get her first kiss from Kevin before school starts? No pressure or anything, right? 

If you haven't read How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied, you'll want to get it, too. These books are funny, honest portrayals of what life can be like when you are a 13-year-old girl trying to survive middle school. What makes this book especially cool is that my school participated in the blog tour for the first book and one of the interview questions that my students asked Jess was, "Did you ever consider having the setting be someplace besides a zoo? Like maybe an aquarium or something?" And Jess said, "Wait until you see the next book."

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

Fall Reading 2014 Zippy the Runner


Zippy is a zebra who loves to run. He runs all the time and constantly enters races, but he never wins. At first his friends are very supportive, but after he loses the hundredth race, they ask him why he doesn't just give up. His answer is a wonderful one for young readers. He explains that he runs because he loves it and because there is always a next time when he will have a chance to win. Children need to hear that it is alright to do something they enjoy, even if they don't earn trophies or award for it. Zippy also helps a friend train for a race and the friend thanks him for his support. Zippy may not cross the finish line ahead of everyone else, but his perseverance gives everyone else hope.

This would be perfect to read with a child who is having difficulty learning a new skill, or who is feeling discouraged about not being the winner in every activity. It could be used in a classroom or guidance lesson on life skills such as perseverance, too.

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