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.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus #4)

This volume in Rick Riordan's "Heroes of Olympus" series picks up with Percy and Annabeth in Tartarus, their friends on board the Argo II trying to reach the House of Hades and meet them at the Doors of Death, and Gaea with all her minions still bent on destroying the world. Some characters from previous adventures show up - Khione (the Greek goddess of snow), Calypso (goddess/nymph on the island of Ogygia), Kelli (empousa, vampire cheerleader), Arion (Hazel's magical steed), the Titan Iapetus a.k.a Bob, etc. Many of the monsters they have defeated before have regenerated and are back with a vengeance. As they battle their way through the Mediterranean, their friends back home prepare for war. Octavian, the Roman augur, pushes for an attack on Camp Half-Blood, but Reyna holds the soldiers of Camp Jupiter back from that final confrontation. We see only bits and pieces of the action on the home front through the dreams of those on the quest to reclaim the Athena Parthenos; here a quick view of Grover and Rachel Dare delivering a message to Reyna, there an image of Chiron dressed for war, but they never have enough information to know exactly what's going on - just enough to keep them worried and pushing on with their mission.

One of the strengths of the stories is that Percy and his friends grow and change with each new situation or adversary they overcome. They are challenged by circumstances, their godly parents, and their own desires so that they master their innate powers, learn new skills, and gain confidence and maturity as they push forward. Their enemies always underestimate their courage and determination - so obviously the bad guys don't seem to learn much from their mistakes. Maybe that's a drawback to being eternal creatures that get regenerated time and time again - maybe they come back the same every time, with no wisdom gained from all their years of existence. 

If you've been following Percy since The Lightning Thief, then you will enjoy this installment and be looking forward eagerly to the final book in the Heroes of Olympus and rooting for your favorite heroes. While you are waiting to see how it all ends, you can enjoy visiting the websites for the books or the author, or watch the trailer. I just added this book to the library to celebrate my birthday and there is already a waiting list to check it out.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3)

I read the first of the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder) a couple of years ago and recommended the series to my nieces, because they both enjoy fantasy and scifi. I haven't gotten to the second book (Scarlet) yet, but I was offered the chance to read the first chapter of Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3). This time around the fairy tale inspiration is Rapunzel. Instead of being locked in a tower, Crescent is locked in a satellite far above Earth. She is employed by powerful people on Luna who take advantage of her programming skills. If you've read Cinder, then you have heard her briefly. She is the one who tells Cinder that the Empress is a danger to Prince Kai.

Marissa Meyer has created an intriguing world that mixes fairy tale roots into a high-tech future Earth. Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel all exist in this scifi world and all seem to have the Lunar Empress as an enemy. The plotting by the Lunar government to take over Earth, of the Earthen governments to defend themselves, and of the girls to escape their enemies all keep the story moving quickly and keep the reader's mind busy. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing who wins.

I would recommend this to readers of science fiction and fantasy, and also to those who enjoy novel-length reworkings of classic fairy tales into modern or futuristic settings. The author's website has more information about the books, including the title of the fourth book - Winter.

I read an e-book (e-chapter anyway) provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published February 4, 2014. Here's the book's trailer.

Fall Reading 2013 Striker

I am not a big sports fan, but the backstory for this book was interesting, so I gave it a try. In the book, Cody has been recovering from the removal of a tumor and the cancer treatment that followed the surgery. He has finally convinced his parents that he feels well enough to play soccer again. Before he became sick he loved to play, but it has been a year since he was on a team. Once he joins the new team, he has all sorts of issues to deal with besides his mother's concerns that he will get hurt. There are parents trying to run the team for the benefit of only their own children rather than for all the players. A few of these "special" kids are bullies and constantly pick on the others, especially Cody - because he is a striker and that is the position they want to keep for themselves. 

Even though I have never played soccer and the terms for the various moves and positions were not familiar, I enjoyed the story. Maybe it's just that I have a thing for underdogs, but I think it's more likely that the story is well-written. The author, David Skuy, has written several other sports stories. This is his first soccer story; the others were about hockey.  For more about David and his books check out the author's website.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on March 1, 2014.

Fall Reading 2013 The Riverman

On the surface, The Riverman is a story of relationships and that first experience of falling for someone. Alistair falls in love with the girl down the street when she asks him to write her biography. Fiona tells him incredible stories about a land called Aquavania and a sinister character known as the Riverman. Alistair interprets all this as a cry for help. He believes that Fiona knows the identity of a child predator and is reaching out to him as a trusted ally, so he is determined to help her. Parents, neighbors, schoolmates, and friends become less important as he focuses on Fiona.

Aaron Starmer has come up with a tale that keeps you guessing and questioning to the end. Who is the Riverman? Does he really exist? Are the stories that Fiona tells Alistair things that have actually happened to her, or just fantasies? We only see Fiona through Alistair's descriptions and we only know of Aquavania and the Riverman through what she tells him. The question of perception and understanding is at the heart of the book - and we reach the end of the story without having all our questions answered in a conclusive way.

If you dislike stories with ambiguous endings, then you may not enjoy this - you will find no hard and fast answers. But if you enjoy stories that make you think and puzzle and ponder, then you should give it a try.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be published on March 18, 2014.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Junie B. Jones, First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (And Other Thankful Stuff)

Junie B. Jones is one of my favorite kid lit characters. She is her own person and views the world in her unique way that always makes me laugh. This time around it is "the month of Thanksgiving" and her class is preparing for the feast. There is a contest to see which room comes up with the best list of things they are thankful for - with a pumpkin pie made by Mrs. Gladys Gutzman, our favorite lunch lady, as the grand prize. But the kids in Junie B.'s class say that pumpkin pie makes them vomit ad they are not thankful for that! What they are thankful for is important things like toilet paper and Nipsy Doodles. Poor Mr. Scary has his hands full trying to convince them to give the pie a chance and to think very hard about what they are going to include in the list. He even has them take a bag home to bring in something they are thankful for and then share it with the class during show & tell. Junie B. brings in something she loves very much. In her journal that morning she writes about the assignment and gives a "helpful hint. It is not my brother Ollie," she writes. Hmmm, what could it be?

It was very sad to hear the news this week that author Barbara Park had passed away. I am thankful for all the wonderful books she wrote and all the fun I have had enjoying them with my students. The publisher has a trailer for the book.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fall Reading Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Volume 2

The second volume of Legends of the Guard contains thirteen stories that showcase the writing and illustration styles of the contributors. Once again the patrons of the June Alley Inn have gathered to tell tales that they hope will clear their outstanding debt for room and board. As each mouse has a turn to share a tale never before heard, their listeners (and we as readers), have the chance to enjoy the adventure, danger, romance, and heroism they describe. Although we may disagree with June about which tale is the winner, she is right to declare them all entertaining.

The notes about the creators are just as entertaining and enjoyable as the stories themselves. It is fascinating to hear what other projects they have done, where they got their start in the business, and what they are working on now. Just reading through their creative credits and seeing titles like Labyrinth,Iron ManSpider-Man, and The Avengers gives you the sense of being near greatness. The anthology style of this collection also lets readers get a taste of writers and illustrators they have not encountered before and perhaps find some new favorites.

I would recommend this to Mouse Guard fans, readers of graphic novels and manga, or those who enjoy stories that feature animals like the Warriors or Seekers series, or The Tale of Despereaux.  Check out the website for the series to find out more about the world of Mouse Guard.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on December 31, 2013.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Kung Pow Chicken: Let's Get Cracking!

Cyndi Marko has created an hilarious hero for the primary grades. In Fowladelphia, the "City of Featherly Love," live Gordon and his little brother Benny. But they are not your average young chickens. They fell into a vat of toxic sludge in their Uncle Quack's lab and now they are Kung Pow Chicken and his sidekick Egg Drop. Filled with one-liners about getting leotard wedgies from their costumes and little old ladies tossing their cookies, this adventure has a superhero that is part Spider-man, part Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and part Captain Underpants. The dynamic duo pedals around on their Beakmobile (Big Wheel) and keeps the city safe from villains like Granny Goosebumps (who is a bad egg). 

This is the first book in the Kung Pow Chicken series. The series is a part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches. It is written for readers in lower elementary grades, but has humor that will appeal to older siblings and adults, too. There are full-color illustrations on every page to show all the superhero action. The story is face paced, entertaining, and full of laughs.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be published on January 7, 2014. *A copy has been added to the library from our spring book fair as of 2/21/2014.


Fall Reading 2013 Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust

Loic Dauvillier has crafted a story that captures the experience of a Jewish child in occupied France during World War II. The hostility and abuse suffered by those marked with the Jewish star is shown, but without gory details to frighten young readers. The exclusion from activities, the belittling insults, and generally negative treatment are seen through the eyes of a child. But the kindness of neighbors and strangers is also acknowledged. Dounia's parents hide her, a neighbor takes her in, and others in the resistance play a part in keeping her safe until the war is over.

Dounia's questions are the same ones that students ask when this period of history is studied. Why were the Jews treated so badly? Why did some people who knew them turn on them while others helped them? What were the camps that Dounia hears about? Students can relate to her confusion about why it is all happening. They can also see that not everyone went along with the German demands to turn over Jewish citizens and that there were many who risked their lives to help.

This is a good introduction to the subject of what happened during World War II. I can easily see this being used with 5th graders. The way Dounia waits all those years and finally tells her granddaughter about what happened is very true to what many survivors did.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be published on April 1, 2014.


Fall Reading 2013 The Year of Billy Miller

Kevin Henkes read from this book at the Southern Festival of Books, so I was lucky enough to hear it in the author's own voice. Billy Miller is a typical second grader - he worries about being smart enough, he's afraid of being called babyish by a classmate, and he gets annoyed with his younger sister. Going through the year with Billy seems very familiar because we all have similar school memories - an annoying kid seated near us, a good friend, making a diorama, writing something to share at parent night - we've all been there. Billy is endearing in his belief that he can't put into words what he's feeling, but he still tries to show it through his actions. For example - he is making a face at a classmate and then worries that the teacher thinks he was mocking her. Instead of trying to explain, he decides to bring the teacher a gift to show her that he is a nice person. The adults in Billy's life are all supportive and nurturing, but they also have other characteristics, which makes them human rather than two-dimensional. 

This would make a wonderful read-aloud for a class (or for bedtime), and would also be good for readers who enjoy realistic fiction and stories like Beezus and Ramona. The author has his own website where you can find out more about him and his books. You probably recognize his name from stories like Chrysanthemum or Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. He has a way of capturing the whimsical and the warm fuzzy feelings without going overboard on the sweetness. Amazon interviewed Mr. Henkes and he talked about his new beginning reader series and about The Year of Billy Miller.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

You can always count on Greg Heffley to make you laugh, even when he's being serious (maybe ESPECIALLY when he's being serious). This time around Greg is having a hard time because Rowley has a girlfriend and has no time for Greg. He checks out his options for a replacement friend, but isn't impressed with any of the candidates. Greg also discovers a Magic 8 Ball and thinks that might help him sort out his life. Mrs. Heffley tries to tell Greg that he should just be nice to everyone and that will make him popular. Greg decides that she is not qualified to give advice - because girl friendships work differently than boy friendships. (I'm not sure how he can think she's unqualified for advice since she reads all those parenting books.) Along with the usual strange behavior of Fregley and Greg's dislike of any family gatherings, there is a reappearance of his Body Blankie, the threat of summer school, and his need for a science fair project. 

I saw the webcast of Jeff Kinney on November 4th. He said he is under contract for at least 2 more Wimpy Kid books. He also shared that he uses paint chips to help choose the color for each book and that the cover will never be pink. I'm curious what Greg's friendship status will be like in the next book, whatever color it might be. In the meantime, we have three copies of Hard Luck in the library and I know we will enjoy them. You can see Mr. Kinney introducing the book or watch the official trailer.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 A Medal for Leroy

Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, has written a warm, wonderful piece of historical fiction. His story is inspired by the life of Lt. Walter Tull, the only black officer to serve in the British Army during World War I. Leroy is modeled after Lt. Tull in broad strokes; he grows up in a London orphanage, joins a soccer team, then volunteers for military service. Leroy's story is told by Michael who learns about it from a written account left by his great-aunt. Michael's explanation of his family's story unfolds gently as he describes his life growing up in London after World War II. He describes hearing his mother crying in her room, or his great-aunt tossing flowers into the English Channel, and we realize how deeply his father's death in the war has hurt them. This is not a book for readers who want a blood-thirsty account of battlefields; it is about family as much as it is about war and loss.

This would be a good book for classes studying World War I or II and looking for historical fiction to complement the social studies unit. It would be especially good for those readers who don't enjoy graphic descriptions of violence and gore, but prefer a character-driven story with emotional weight and self-discovery on the part of the characters. There is a video on the author's website in which he talks about why war comes up in his books so often. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on January 14, 2014.


Fall Reading 2013 Bad Machinery: The Case of the Good Boy

John Allison's characters are a mix of personalities - just as school-age friends are in real life. To American readers they may sound a bit odd since they speak with British expressions and slang mixed in to the conversations. The main plot is the appearance of a very smart "dog" that Mildred wants to keep, but her parents won't let her. Shauna's father brings the dog (Mildred has named him Archibald) home to use as a watch dog so that people will stop breaking into his van and trying to steal his tools. Archie does odd things, like drink from a cup just as a human would, but everyone just thinks he is a very smart breed of dog. Meanwhile, small children all over town are disappearing and wildlife experts have been called in to track some mysterious footprints. Does Archie have something to do with the disappearances? What sort of dog is he? Will Shauna be able to keep him? The boys in the story decide to solve the case of the missing children by themselves - using Sonny's younger sister as bait for the beast. There are also other things going on such as a trip to the carnival, parent night at school, a magical pencil, and some bullying that needs to be sorted out. 

Except for the mysterious beast, the situations are familiar and will probably remind readers of instances from their own lives. Most of us have been stuck in the middle when two of our friends were not getting along, or known someone who really wanted a pet but couldn't get their parents to agree, or been forced to take along a younger sibling on an outing with friends. I would recommend this for ages 12 and up, due to the use of some language and scenes of kids at school smoking cigarettes on campus.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book is due for publication on March 12, 2014.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Mumbet's Declaration of Independence

Gretchen Woelfle has written an account of Mumbet's desire for freedom and her legal battle to achieve it. Since there are no historical records left by Mumbet (a.k.a. Elizabeth Freeman) herself, the author has taken information recorded by the daughter of Mumbet's lawyer and used it to imagine what Mumbet was feeling and thinking. It is interesting to note that tours of her owner's house focused on his accomplishments and role in history, but recently Mumbet's story has come to the forefront. In a time when the United States was fighting for it's own liberty, she decided to go to court and claim her own rights. The illustrations show the clothing and furnishings of the period and also show Mumbet as a woman in her role of servitude. The pictures underscore the point that she was not big or powerful - she simply stood up for what she knew was right.

The author's note explains that much of what is known came from letters, journals,and an essay written by someone else. There are no primary source documents from Mumbet because she could not read or write. Those facts make your wonder what other stories have been lost over time because those involved didn't have the luxury of an education and no one else recorded what happened.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical stories or books with strong female characters. It would be good to include in social studies units on slavery, colonial life, or the American Revolution. There are websites for the author and the illustrator if you would like to know more about them  and their work. The publisher has a trailer for the book.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through Netgalley. It will be published February 1, 2014.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Chitchat: Celebrating the World's Languages

Jude Isabella's book is packed with information about language. There are explanations of how humans differ from animals in the way we communicate, how languages become extinct, and how new words are added. The activities are a fun way to explore the concepts - I liked matching old words like betwixt and forsooth to their definitions. Comparisons are made between languages to show how they differ. For example, the Yu'pik language has 70 words to describe ice and Guugu Yimithirr has no words for left or right. The origins of new languages like Esperanto, Klingon (Star Trek), or Na'vi (Avatar) are also explored and so are new words like "muggle" or "woot." The impact of modern communication tools like the Internet is mentioned, but the author also explains the Rosetta Stone and how it made reading Egyptian hieroglyphics possible.

If you enjoy learning about language and communication, then this book is a good choice for you. Whether you are interested in how many languages are spoken across the world, or wonder which language is spoken by more people - you will find the answer here. The activities are a great way to test your own knowledge or check out what your family and friends know.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book was published September 1, 2013.


Fall Reading 2013 Endangered and Extinct Mammals

Jennifer Boothroyd has created a book with simple text and clear photographs that will appeal to young readers. Animals that have been extinct for thousands of years and others that were only declared extinct last year illustrate the point that extinction is a current concern. A balance of land and water mammals, both familiar and unusual, are included. Extra facts about the animals are included in text boxes for the photos. The short text and large photographs make it an ideal read-aloud to start off a unit on endangered animals; or it could be used for student research or supplemental reading in lower grade levels. The glossary and suggestions for further reading would be especially helpful with research projects. Several grade levels have curriculum standards about classifying animals into groups as thriving, threatened, endangered, or extinct - so teachers in those grades would appreciate this addition to the school or classroom library.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be published February 1, 2014.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Lost Planet

Imagine waking up with a serious wound to the back of your head - no memory of what happened, where you came from, or even your own name. That is how the story starts in Rachel Searles' new book. Chase awakens on the lawn of a house and is brought inside by Parker and his guardian, Mina. They realize that he has no memories of anything personal and decide he has amnesia. The two boys sneak off in a small spaceship to visit a neighboring moon and things go out of control quickly. Before long there are intergalactic criminals after them, bounty hunters and trackers on their trail, the Fleet military wants to question them...more adventure and danger than two boys should ever have to survive. With interplanetary plots, military secrets, androids, aliens, and advanced weaponry to deal with - will the boys ever find out who Chase is and what happened to him?

If you like nonstop sci-fi type action like Titan A.E. or Treasure Planet, then check out this story. For more information, check out the author's website.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. I twill be published on January 28, 2014.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 How to Catch a Bogle

If Charles Dickens had written a script for Ghostbusters, it would have resembled what Catherine Jinks has given readers. Victorian England in 1870 was a setting ruled by class distinctions and not a great place to be an orphan. Luckily for Birdie, Alfred Bunce has taken her as his apprentice and she helps him to trap and kill bogles. In the course of their work they meet Miss Edith Eames, a lady of quality who is interested in the scientific study of folklore. She offers to take Birdie in and give her an education, which Birdie thinks is an awful offer when she is doing honest work as a bogler's girl. They also run into Dr. Morton, a physician with an interest in the occult. There is a cast of supporting characters including housemaids, pickpockets, gravediggers, and even asylum workers that all fill the complex world of Bethnal Green and the surrounding London neighborhoods. The food, clothing, and figures of speech all transport the reader back in time so that you almost expect Oliver Twist to pop up and speak to Birdie.

Readers who enjoy historical fiction mixed with a bit of fantasy, or stories like The Spiderwick Chronicles that have creatures from folklore, will have a good time reading about Birdie and Alfred and their bogling business. The publishers have provided a video trailer for the book, which shows how Birdie lures the bogles in for Alfred to slay. You can also visit the book's website and find out more about the author, download the lyrics to one of Birdie's songs, and more. Or visit author's site to find out what else she has written. This is just the first in a planned trilogy, so stay tuned for more adventures with Birdie and her friends.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier

Ying Compestine has written the story of what it must have felt like to discover the army of terra-cotta soldiers in Emperor Qin's tomb. (You may have seen the terra-cotta soldiers in the second Tomb Raider movie.) She and her son (co-author Vinson) became interested in the tomb after a trip to Xian where they visited the Terra-Cotta Museum and talked with one of the farmers who found the first terra-cotta soldiers. The setting of the story is similar to what Ying experienced growing up in China during Chairman Mao's regime; the description of living conditions, the disrespect for intellectuals, and the government policies in place at that time are all accurate historically. The character of Ming is easy for readers to sympathize with. His mother has died, he and his father live in a village controlled by a corrupt political officer, his father's job is in danger and there is little money for food. As we read, we want him to succeed almost as much as he wishes for it himself. What makes the story much more exciting is the terra-cotta soldier known as Shi. He is discovered by village farmers digging a well and they bring him in to sell him to Ming's father, who works for the museum in Xian. But when Ming arranges all the parts of the statue, something incredible happens - maybe incredible enough to change everything.

The book has mystery, danger, excitement, and characters of legend. Photographs of artifacts from Emperor Qin's tomb and from Chairman Mao's time are scattered through the story. Ying has also included several Chinese recipes at the end and there is a great Q & A section where she and Vinson tell what the writing process was like and why they chose to write a novel about this topic. Readers who enjoy historical fiction with a little fantasy mixed in will probably enjoy this very much.  

We have several of Ying's books in the library, including The Runaway Wok and D is for Dragon Dance. Visit her website to find out more about her. The publisher has provided a trailer for the book. I also found a 50-minute-long documentary on the terracotta warriors.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on January 7 ,2014.

Fall Reading 2013 Relic (The Books of Eva #1)

Worried about global warming? Wonder what the world would be like if the polar ice caps do melt and everything is flooded? Heather Terrell's book offers a glimpse into that possible future. It's a world where everything has been washed away in the "Healing" and a few founding families have made it to refuge in a place called New North. Alongside the descendants of the Founders, live the Boundary people - Inuits who have survived in that region from before the floods. Eva's twin Eamon has been training to undergo the Testing, a time when 18-year-olds leave the safety of the Aerie (their city in New North) and look for relics of the world from the days before the Healing. When Eamon dies in a climbing accident, she takes his place, even though a Maiden hasn't been a Testor in over 150 years. The relics she finds cause her to question everything that she has been taught, just as the Testing makes her look with suspicion at everything around her. What is the truth? Where does everyone fit in? Is there a massive conspiracy by those in power? And what can an 18 year old girl do about it?

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy action, danger, and stories where the characters shake up the everyday existence in their worlds and try to find out what is really going on. You should read this if you like books with strong female characters and where the protagonist defies rules and expectations to do what is right. The publisher also compares it to The Hunger Games, since Eva is like Katniss in her ability to change her world. The author's website has more information about Heather Terrell and her other books.  Soho Press has an interview with the author about the book.

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

Fall Reading 2013 Ick! Yuck! Eew!

Lois Miner Huey is an archaeologist and researcher into the past. Her book shares with readers some of the lesser known facts about life in early America. As she points out, many of us may have visited historical landmarks and seen the well-kept lawns and re-enactors in their period costume - but none of us have had our senses assaulted with the way things would have smelled or looked back then. In those days people believed that bathing was bad for their health, so they smelled awful (or smelled of perfume and cologne over the odor). Between the privies, chamber pots, animal poop in the streets, and all the other things that modern sanitation prevents - it was an awful stench. Then combine that with the dirt, germs, diseases, even the lack of toothbrushes and you start to get an idea of what the atmosphere was like.

This is a book that will appeal to history buffs as well as to readers who enjoy the strange and gross. Forget being slimed on Nickelodeon, think of having someone in a barbershop pull your tooth with no painkillers or a doctor putting leeches on you to suck out your blood! Now that's gross. The glossary, author's note, and lists of books, websites, and historic sites provide additional information and places to find out more (if you haven't had your fill of bedbugs and puke weed). I would recommend this book to anyone who likes their history "down and dirty." To dig up more facts about the author, visit her website.

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

Fall Reading 2013 Doll Bones

Holly Black, cocreator of The Spiderwick Chronicles, has written a fascinating story about a group of friends who set out on a quest to lay a ghost to rest. Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for years. Their favorite game is a make-believe world of adventures that they people with their favorite action figures and dolls. The most powerful character in their game is the Great Queen, which is actually a china doll in Poppy's mother's curio cabinet. But Poppy insists that the doll holds the bones and ghost of a real girl and that the ghost wants them to return her to her grave for a proper burial. The trials the friends endure on their quest to fulfill the Great Queen's wishes are hard, frightening, and carry them far from home. As much as it is a story about friendship, childhood, and the power of shared dreams and secrets, this is also a story of how difficult growing up can be.

If you enjoy the other worlds glimpsed in stories like The Spiderwick Chronicles, or ghostly tales like All the Lovely Bad Ones, then you should give Doll Bones a try. For more information about Holly Black and her other books, visit her website.  There is also a trailer from the publisher. *A copy of this book is in the Fairview library.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Don't Push the Button! Blog Tour

Hello, everyone! Welcome to Bill Cotter's blog tour for his fabulous picture book, Don't Push the Button! I posted some thoughts on the book this summer, and then I heard about the blog tour and couldn't wait to help spread the word.

I asked Bill, "How did your students inspire you to create the book?"
Bill replied:
"My favorite part about teaching in a pre-k program was that at any free moment we were reading a picture book to them. Books were perfect when the teachers needed something for the kids to concentrate on during snack time, when they were waiting for others to finish washing hands after art, or if a parent or sitter was late picking them up. I found myself reading several books on a daily basis. 

It was extremely beneficial to be able to sit down with kids and observe first hand how they reacted to different kinds of stories, characters, colors, textures, you name it. I tried my best to absorb these experiences and boil things down to the main elements that young kids react to: bright colors, simple design, a catch phrase, a character talking directly at them, and a way to physically interact with the story. "Don't Push the Button!" came out of me trying to create the most fun book experience possible using these elements.

I feel like the best proof that this works is this video that a fan sent to my publisher. View video.

The interactive part of the book was very much inspired by the teaching philosophy of where I worked, the Church Street School for Music & Art in New York City. Being physically engaged with the activity is crucial for a student at this young age. Every song that the kids learn has accompanying hand gestures. The gestures help them learn the words and vice versa. In art class we are constantly making the student verbalize the different materials and textures they encounter. I feel like the experience is better solidified in the child’s mind if there are more than one of the senses are being engaged. "

A big "Thank you!" to Bill for including us in his blog tour.
Remember - Don't Push the Button!