Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 50 Below Zero

I enjoy Robert Munsch's humor; The Paper Bag Princess is one of my favorites. So I tried out his new board book, 50 Below Zero, today. This was a much shorter story, since it was a board book, but it was still fun to read. The places that the child-narrator keeps discovering his dad are wacky and unusual. His solution for keeping his sleepwalking father safe is ingenious. And the last scene is the very best - it will make everyone laugh. (I can't tell you more because it wouldn't be as funny if I spoiled the surprise.)

This would be a good bedtime story, or a quick "pick-me-up" for someone who is feeling sad. It's hard to stay sad when you are laughing at a father asleep on top of a refrigerator like a cat.

Fans of Mr. Munsch and his books should visit his website. There is information about his books and his life. Someone has also posted a recording of Mr. Munsch reading the picture book version of 50 Below Zero on YouTube. (The picture book is longer than the board book.)

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

50 Below Zero

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 The Man with the Violin

The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson is based on a real event. A newspaper reporter wanted to conduct an experiment. He had the famous violinist, Joshua Bell, play music at a Metro station in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Bell played for nearly an hour, but only 7 people stopped to listen for more than a minute. He noticed that every child that passed by would try to stop, but the adults would always pull them on by. Ms. Stinson has written a story about boy named Dylan. He is a fictional character, but she describes what it would have been like to be a child listening to that beautiful music and having your mother tell you that you couldn't stop and hear more. She does a wonderful job and the illustrations show the way Dylan notices so many things that his mom and the other grown-ups do not. I especially like the way Dusan Petricic, the illustrator, shows the music flowing around all the people there in the station.

In the book trailer video, the author and illustrator tell us more about how they brought the story to life. On YouTube there is a video from the Washington Post, the newspaper that conducted the experiment. There is also a note from Joshua Bell at the end of the book, and the chance to download two of the songs he played that day.

I would recommend this to anyone who has ever tried to slow down and enjoy something, but been hurried along by their parents (or someone else). If you enjoy music, or stories of kids being right and adults not listening, you'll like this.

Summer Reading 2013 The Secret of Zoom

Score another good recommendation for my friend, Grace Campbell. When I told her I was choosing books from the library to take home and read over the summer, she said I should read The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell . The title is misleading because there are actually many secrets in the story. What caused the lab accident that took Christina's mother? What is her dad so afraid of that he won't let her leave the house? Why is the head of the orphanage having the kids sort out plastic toys from the town's trash and even buying up all the toys from yard sales? He doesn't let them play with the toys, so what are they for? And what is zoom? The search for answers is difficult and dangerous, but Christina doesn't give up - and the ending surprises everyone in town.

If you like mysteries, adventure, inventions, or secrets - you should read this book. We have it in the library.

The author's website has information about all her books and a some details about Lynne herself.

The Secret of Zoom

Summer Reading 2013 Spelling Trouble

We have some of Frank Cammuso's "Knights of the Lunch Table" books in our library and they are very popular. So I tried out Spelling Trouble which is the first book in his series - The Misadventures of Salem Hyde. Salem will make you laugh out loud with her sassy attitude and determination. Although her parents cannot do magic, Salem and her mom's aunt can. After Salem turns a teacher at her school into a dinosaur, Aunt Martha decides that Salem needs a magical animal companion to help her learn control. Salem requests a unicorn, but she gets a cat named Whammy. Whammy has an attitude of his own, so it takes awhile for the two of them to become friends.

This is a good book for readers who enjoy humorous graphic novels or funny school stories in general. The illustrations are black and white, but they are drawn with such clear facial expressions and sound effects that you don't need colors for the story to come alive.

I would recommend it to anyone who likes The Knights of the Lunch Table, Big Nate, and other books of that sort.

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

Salem has her own FaceBook page and here is a link to the author's website.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 The Cypher (Guardians Inc. #1)

I finished The Cypher (Guardians Inc. #1) by Julian Rosado-Machain while I was eating breakfast this morning. The story reminded me of The Grimm Legacy with the teenager getting a job as a library assistant and then finding out it's not a typical library. Thomas and Gramps are both hired by Guardians, Inc. and have to sign nondisclosure agreements. Once they begin their jobs, they quickly find out why the agreements are necessary. Most humans don't realize that magical creatures like fauns and gargoyles exist (some of them right in Central Park).

I enjoyed the plot and the action was lively - martial arts, magical attacks, robots - a nice variety. Thomas is a very believable character. His feelings and actions are what you would expect from a teenage boy being picked on by bullies at school, or trying to flirt with a pretty girl, or finding out that he has a very rare talent. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Thundersword.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoyed The Grimm Legacy, The Colossus Rises, or the Percy Jackson or Sisters Grimm series.

Check out the website, the trailer, or the FaceBook page for more information.

Summer Reading 2013 I Hate Picture Books!, The Snatchabook, and Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween

I read several picture books this weekend:

I Hate Picture Books! by Timothy Young tells the story of a boy packing up all his picture books to get rid of them. He tells the readers how much trouble each book has caused him. What a great idea! I love his explanations. And as he gives each one, you can see him in the illustration of the book he is talking about. When he's sent to his room, suddenly he's in Max's room from Where the Wild Things Are, etc. I was impressed by the illustrator's ability to recreate the style from each of the different books mentioned. Readers will love identifying each book from the pictures.

This is a great book for kids of all ages to read, or for an older reader to read aloud to a child or a group. Parents or teachers might even convince children to draw the picture books that they "hate".

The book was just released in March 2013, so you may not have heard of it yet. You can check out some information about the author and other books he has done at the book's website, or watch the trailer.

In The Snatchabook, by Helen Docherty, there is a very important mystery to solve. Where are all the books disappearing to? And once it is solved, how do you prevent it from happening again? It is a fun picture book with a satisfying ending. Readers of all ages will enjoy the rhyming story and whimsical illustrations. This is a book I will make sure to purchase for my school library.

The author's website features a Snatchabook illustration. There is a website for the illustrator, too.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be in stores October 1, 2013. *Update: We added a copy to the library from our spring book fair 2/12/2014.

In Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween, Scaredy does it again! Each of his books is perfect to prepare for a new experience or to overcome anxiety about an upcoming event. This time he is making sure Halloween will be fun and not frightening. His tips on choosing a costume, making refreshments, and what size of treat bag to use are both funny and helpful. As usual, the book is full of lists, charts, maps, and captions.

This is the perfect book to read with someone who is a bit nervous about going trick-or-treating or attending a Halloween party. They will have a better idea of what to expect and lots of safety tips for the evening. And you can find out more about his other adventures at his website.

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween


Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Feel Confident!

Feel Confident! by Cheri Meiners gives many good examples of ways to gain self-confidence or how it might be shown in different situations. The explanations are from everyday life and include a variety of settings such as home, school, sports, etc.

I've been collecting all the titles in the "Being the Best Me!" series for our library. They are good books for lessons in guidance class, or for classroom teachers to use.The notes at the back for parents and educators make it a good resource to use in a stand-alone lesson or as part of a unit on character development or life skills.

I read an e-book version supplied by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be released in stores on September 30, 2103.

Parents or teachers who would like to know more about Cheri should check out her website. It has sections on the awards she has won and links to interviews and online articles.

Summer Reading 2013 Don't Push the Button

This morning I read Don't Push the Button by Bill Cotter. It reminded me of the Pigeon books by Mo Willems because the main character, Larry, addresses the readers directly. He cautions them not to push the button. Then he realizes that no one is watching and just can't resist letting readers try it out. Even though the button is just an illustration and not an actual button, young readers will enjoy pushing it and seeing the results on the next page.

The book is funny, engaging, and an easy read. It could be used for a quick lesson on the basics of cause and effect, talking about how actions have consequences. It is also a good choice for an older brother or sister to read to a younger sibling.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011

The "I Survived" series is popular in our school, so I was happy to see that a new title is coming out this fall.  Book # 8 is I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011 and it will be released on August 27, 2013. The story of Ben Kudo and his experience in surviving the tsunami is very well told. It is tense and action-packed without being too scary. One of my favorite parts is when Ben's brother needs stitches, but he's afraid of needles. Ben, his mom, and the doctor, convince little Harry that the stitches will give him a scar - and he will be like Darth Vader, because he has scars. Suddenly, Harry is ready to sit still and get stitches!

The back of the book has explanations of the "triple disaster" - the earthquake, the tsunami, and the problems at the nuclear power plant. There are also suggestions for where to find more information. Someone who is interested in disasters or famous events in history would enjoy this whole series. Some of the stories, like this one, are from fairly recent times and others are from further back in history. Now that I have read this one, I am curious what the next one will be. We have the series in the library if you would like to try one.

On the author's website she says that she loves hearing from her readers. Why don't you contact her and tell her which book is your favorite? Or give her a suggestion of a famous disaster that you think would make a great addition to the series. Scholastic has a video interview with the author on their "I Survived" web page. *We have a copy of this in the Fairview library.

tsunami md

I hope you have had a good summer and that you won't have any disasters to tell me about when you come back to school.       :-)

Summer Reading 2013 The Good Garden

Kate Smith Milway's book, The Good Gardendoes a good job of showing what life is like for subsistence farmers and the slow process of bringing change to places like the hillside villages in Honduras. The inclusion of websites to explore and facts to supplement the story are very helpful for classroom use. I've read  her book One Hen,  which is set in Ghana, with some of the classes at Fairview. We found the differences between our lifestyle and what was portrayed in the book very intriguing. 

The story is told without being maudlin or condescending, which some authors seem to have a hard time with when they portray other cultures. I felt that having Maria Luiz help the new teacher with his garden and then try some of his methods out of curiosity was a good way to explain the value of the methods without being "preachy". It also shows that everyone in the family can contribute, even the children.

Our school works closely with Mountain Laurel Gardening Club and we have several raised planting areas around the school for class gardens. I can imagine using the book along with other resources as part of a gardening unit, with our students working in the garden as part of the lessons. We could try out some of the farming techniques shown in the book and see how successful they are in Tennessee.

The author's profile is on the Good Garden website. If you click on the "educators" link, you can watch a video of the real Maria Luiz that the girl in the book is based on.

Summer Reading 2013 Goblins

Yesterday I read Goblins by Philip Reeve. I had read Reeve's No Such Thing as Dragons last year, so I was glad to see another fantasy title by him. The characters were entertaining and the variety of different kinds of characters kept things interesting. Who wouldn't be amused by the son of a cheese maker who decides he wants to be an epic hero? Or a goblin king who wears pink frilly flannel underwear?

The story shakes up the usual ideas of good guys and bad guys. Would you rather trust a goblin who has taught himself to read, or sorcerers who sell fake potions to earn traveling money? (I know which one I would pick.) I liked the way it pointed out some common flaws that are usually overlooked by adventurers in this type of story. For instance, when they decide to go rescue the princess that all the songs say has been kidnapped by a giant - why don't any of them stop and think how long that song has been around? If the song has been around their whole lives, wouldn't the princess be old enough to be the hero's mother by now?

In a way, the characters were a bit like those in Star Wars. Henwyn reminds me of Luke Skywalker as described by Yoda. His mind is never on what he is doing. He is always busy imagining great quests or wishing for excitement. Princess Eluned is the wiser, more experienced one, someone like Leia who has seen more than just the family farm. And I suppose the Lych Lord could be the emperor with his dark powers and attempts to have Henwyn follow in his footsteps. Skarper would make a good Lando Calrissian, with his love of treasure and his occasional good deeds. Hmmm, I wonder if Mr. Reeve is a Star Wars fan?

Readers who like fantasy stories like No Such Thing as DragonsRedwall, or Inkheart will probably enjoy Goblins. The author has his own website if you would like to find out more about him and his books.

I read an e-book version provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The hardcover book will be released by Scholastic on August 27, 2013. Update - I picked up a copy at the bookstore over fall break and now we have it in the library.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Aesop's Fables

When I was a kid (yes, I really was a kid once), my parents signed me up for the Weekly Reader Book Club. I remember that one of the books I enjoyed was a small collection of Aesop's fables. I loved the stories of the fox tricking the crow or the lion and the mouse. So I was pleased to see that Scholastic has a new edition of Aesop's Fables that they are releasing August 27, 2013.

This is an easy-to-read collection. The brief length of the fables makes them attractive because you can read a few, then come back later and read a few more. The wording is kid-friendly and having the morals at the end of each entry is very convenient. I would recommend this to anyone interested in learning where we get phrases such as "sour grapes" or "crying wolf".  And I'm sure that teachers will be glad to have more examples of fables to share when the class is studying them in language arts.

The author who retold the fables for this book has created 55 books for children in her career and has her own website. You will probably recognize some of her books because we have them in the library, or maybe you even have them at home. I hope you enjoy Aesop's Fables and remember, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch!"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 A King's Ransom

Every time I read one of the 39 Clues books, I am amazed at all the cultural and historical details the authors weave into the story. In   Amy and Dan Cahill travel to: Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Their hunt involves facts about Marco Polo, medieval world maps, the theft of art by Nazis during WWII, Neuschwanstein Castle, Johannes Kepler, and Tycho Brahe. 

The series reminds me of several famous books/movies for adults. There are the gadgets, computers, exotic locales, and the villains with their sinister organization that you might expect in a James Bond or Lara Croft adventure. Then you have the codes and historical references that are similar to what Robert Langdon deals with in Dan Brown's books, or the clues Nicholas Cage pieces together in the "National Treasure" films. 

When you put it all together in one place you get a series with action, adventure, and mystery, plus the added bonus of the online game. It's a win-win situation. Check out the website to play the online game and find out more information about the books, their authors, and new  series Unstoppable that is coming in October 2013. 

Book 2: The King's Ransom

Summer Reading 2013 Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series

I just finished Demigods and Monsters: Your Favorite Authors on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series.

This collection of essays about Percy Jackson and the Olympians is very entertaining. Each of the contributing authors chooses an aspect of the series that appeals to him/her and then discusses it. The topics cover everything from how the concept of heroes has changed over time to assigning grades to the parents in the books. Since the authors are already writers for young adults, they know how to make their essays appealing and fun. This is not a glamorized collection of book reports written by adults, but instead it is more of a conversation with friends about things in the series that caught your attention. For those whose interest in Greek mythology has been awakened by reading about Percy and his friends, this is a good introduction to how the old myths relate to the newest version of mythological characters described by Riordan.

I would recommend this book to tweens, teens, and adults. More mature elementary students might enjoy it, but there is some mild language and references to Greek gods seducing mortals. Parents might like to look it over and help younger students decide if they are ready for it - or you could read it together.

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

For more information about Percy Jackson or author Rick Riordan, check out the website here. Don't forget - "The Sea of Monsters" opens in theaters on August 7, 2013. The movie has its own website where you can watch a trailer, see photos, and even take a test to find out if you are a half-blood. I found out that I am from the Athena bloodline (which makes sense because she is the goddess of wisdom and I love books and information). Which cabin do you think you would be assigned to at Camp Half-Blood?

Summer Reading 2013 Anything But Typical

Being in middle school is hard enough when you're busy making the transition from child to teenager. Imagine having to deal with making friends, finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, keeping up with homework assignments and your class schedule while also living with a disability like autism. You respond differently to things, you express yourself differently, you may have trouble looking people in the eye - and being different means the other kids leave you out of many things, or even pick on you. That is the experience that Nora Raleigh Baskin shares with readers in her book, Anything But Typical.

This book pulled me in so deeply that I cried over a few of the events. It's amazing how the story is told from the point of view of a middle school student who is male and has autism, even though the author is an adult female. Jason's explanation of how and why he does things helps the reader see how difficult our everyday world must be for someone who processes things differently. Even the simplest things like how clothes feel against your skin or the noise of a large public place can be a problem.

I think this book takes the reader for a walk in Jason's shoes and lets us see through his eyes. When you reach the end of the story, you will probably be more open-minded and understanding of how difficult it is to live in a society where you are not "typical". It reminded me of the book Wonder by RJ Palacio in the way it puts you inside the head of someone that is "anything but typical" and lets you see the world through their eyes.

Anything But Typical won the Schneider family Book Award in 2010. The American Library Association says, "The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." You can find more information about the award and past winners on its homepage. The publisher's website has videos of the author talking about the book. She also has her own website, if you would like to learn more about her or her other books. We have 2 copies of the book in the library.

Anything But Typical

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping

Have any of you gone on a trip this summer? Camping? To the beach? Maybe Disney World? In Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping, Scaredy has to leave his nice, safe tree and make a trip. The Scaredy Squirrel stories are funny, but also point out some important truths. In this adventure, Scaredy needs to plug in an extension cord so he can watch a show about camping on TV, because actually going camping is too much bother. The way he over-prepares for everything applies to this trip, too. He plans his route, he thinks of all the dangers he may find, he packs important supplies... And things go wrong - of course! But Scaredy realizes that some things are worth the bother after all.

This is a great book to use as an example of planning a trip or project. There are all sorts of nonfiction text features within the book. Scaredy  uses lists, charts, maps, a schedule, a diagram, and captions appear on many items.

Scaredy Squirrel reminds me of other timid characters like Wemberly in Kevin Henkes' Wemberly Worried. If you like those sorts of stories (Disappearing Desmond and Shy Charles also come to mind), then you will probably enjoy Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping.  The part where he is afraid there will be penguins in the woods if he goes camping  made me snort I laughed so hard.

If you want to learn more about Scaredy Squirrel, he has his own website and there is even a Scaredy Squirrel fan page on  FaceBook.

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping

Summer Reading 2013 Binky Takes Charge

I decided I was in the mood for a little pet humor, so I read Binky Takes Charge. For those of you that have not yet encountered Binky and his adventures, he is a space cat. As a member of F.U.R.S.T. he lives in a space station (a human house) and prepares to defend it against aliens (insects). F.U.R.S.T. stands for Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel. It is an organization made up entirely of cats, until this adventure. Suddenly F.U.R.S.T. has become P.U.R.S.T. and includes any pets who show the ability to fight aliens.

Poor Binky! He has been planning how to train a new kitten in his home, but the humans bring a puppy named Gordon. Binky can't believe it. Gordon doesn't even know how to use a litter box. How can someone that has accidents on the carpet fight aliens? He begins to suspect that Gordon is actually an alien spy.

The illustrations are very funny. They show Binky writing up his training plan, waiting to greet the new recruit, and the very disgusted look on his face when he sees the puppy.  Then we watch as Binky tries to train him to be a space cat, the activities that make Binky think Gordon is a spy, and the final solution. The colors are not the super bright tones used in comic books, but that does not make the pictures dull. The expressions on the faces of Gordon, Binky, and his friend Gracie will make you laugh out loud - and so will the idea that Gordon is leaving secret messages for the aliens in his puppy poo.

As you know, my house has dogs - not cats. But Binky goes on my list of cool cats along with Skippyjon Jones and Pete the Cat.

For more information about this book and other Binky adventures, check out the publisher's website. Click here to visit the website of the author.

Binky Takes Charge

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Movies 2013 "The Lone Ranger"

I saw "The Lone Ranger" last weekend and did a lot of laughing, but there were also some sad parts (I heard some people sniffling at one of the sad moments). It is rated PG-13 due to the violence and some suggestive material. If you have seen any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it is very similar in suitability for younger viewers and for the same reasons.

For those who haven't seen the movie trailer, here is a little background. John Reid is returning to his hometown after finishing law school, His brother, Dan, is a Texas Ranger. Dan deputizes John and takes him along when a posse goes after some outlaws. There is an ambush and John is found by Tonto. They have problems along the way as they try to find the men responsible for killing the rangers and Tonto's tribe.

Folks who grew up with the Lone Ranger TV series and who are hoping for a traditional western story might be a little surprised or disappointed. Viewers who enjoy Johnny Depp's crazy character of Captain Jack Sparrow will probably like his version of Tonto. Armie Hammer plays the part of the Lone Ranger. You may recognize him from the Snow White movie "Mirror Mirror." He is the prince that the evil queen (Julia Roberts) tries to marry, so she can have his money to pay her bills.

If you enjoy chases, escapes, shoot-outs, and wild stunts like jumping onto and off of speeding trains - you may want to buy a ticket.

There is a website for the movie with games, a gallery of photos, information about the characters, and more.

The Lone Ranger (2013) Poster

Summer Reading 2013 How to Make Friends and Monsters

I read How to Make Friends and Monsters by Ron Bates yesterday. The characters and situations were so entertaining that at some points I was talking out loud to the book. (Yes, just the way some people talk to the theater screen or TV screen.)

Would you like to go through life with the name Howard Boward? Can you imagine the grief you would get from other kids at school? They call him "How-lame" or "How-weird" and even less complimentary things. He is great at school work and he's a science genius - but he has no friends. When his mom gives him a book called How to Make Friends, Howard decides to take it literally and creates a friend for himself out in his lab. You can imagine all the problems that might cause, but Howard does learn about how to make and keep friends.

If you have ever felt invisible because you're not one of the "popular kids," or ever thought that nobody understands you and appreciates you - then you will understand Howard. This book reminded me a lot of the Origami Yoda series and the way Dwight tries to fit in at school.

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy Origami Yoda, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and other humorous school stories about kids trying to fit in and make friends. It was released last year as a hardback, but is coming out July 22, 2013 in paperback format.

Go to the publisher's website for more information. There is also a FaceBook page for the book.  The publisher has provided a video trailer for the book.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Scorched

Scorched by Mari Mancusi will be released on September 9, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire  (publishers of tween and teen titles).

Trinity helps her grandfather with his museum, which once was a popular tourist destination for those interested in dinosaur bones. His latest acquisition is supposed to be a dragon egg, but Trinity is convinced her grandfather has been tricked out of his money. Then Connor appears and tells her he has come from the future to prevent dragons from destroying the world. Suddenly government agents are after her, Connor's twin Caleb shows up with his own agenda, and everything just gets more and more complicated. Who can Trinity trust? She needs to make the right choices to prevent the world from becoming the post-apocalyptic version of itself that Connor and Caleb know.

So much post-apocalyptic fiction seems hopeless, or desperately technological, but this one blended the fantasy element of dragons into the sci-fi mix of gadgets and time travel. And since the boys have come back to try and prevent the apocalypse, there is an element of hope.  There are so many elements to appeal to readers - the attraction between Trinity and Connor (or the attraction between Trinity and Caleb), the Dracken who are trying to save the dragons, the government conspiracy with agents trying to steal the dragon egg and do experiments on it, the rivalry between the twins Connor and Caleb... Whether you like fantasy or sci-fi or action stories, there will be plenty for you to enjoy. And you will be looking forward to the next book in the series.

This would be a good book for folks who enjoy The Hunger Games and similar stories. NOTE- This is written for young adults, definitely not for younger readers. The story line is complex and there is a lot of violence. 

Check out the publisher's website for more information. The author also has her own website, if you would like to find out more about her. And, there is a trailer for the book, too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How To Read a Book

This is an amusing video from Hilary Commer. I hope it helps all those folks who have spent too much time in front of a screen this summer.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer Movies 2013 "Monsters University"

I went to see "Monsters University" with my nieces while we were vacationing at the beach. It was worth the drive - and running through the rain from the car to the theater.  :-)

If you haven't seen any previews yet, let me give you a brief overview. The action takes place before the events  in "Monsters, Inc." Mike and Sulley are just beginning their college days and meet for the first time. Let's just say they don't become best friends right away. They both want to be in the Scarer program. Mike studies really hard and can answer any question the teachers ask in class. Sulley comes from a famous family  of Scarers, so he thinks he can pass easily without even bringing a pencil to class. We get to see what happens as the school year goes by.

It is rated G and is fun for the whole family

You can play around on the MU website or watch a trailer on the Disney website.

Here's my ID from Monsters University. (Like all ID photos, it's not perfect.)

Summer Reading 2013 Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg is the winner of the Sid Fleischman Humor Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You can visit the SCBWI website to find a list of other books that have won the award.

Milo has all the typical middle school problems - he's the new kid at school, he has an odd name (Milo Cruikshank), he has a secret crush on a girl who doesn't even speak to him, he's failing math and has to have tutoring sessions 2 afternoons a week, and he and his friend Marshall can't beat Warfighter 4 on the XBox. So, as you begin reading, you think this will be another story written as journal entries about funny things that happen to the main character. But as you read, you find out that Milo is dealing with another problem - something much more serious, something everyone is trying to ignore. I can't really say more without it being a spoiler, so I'll stop there. I can tell you that it does have a lot of funny moments and there are also some sad scenes, but it is worth reading to the end so you can see how Milo works everything out.

If you like books like Diary of a Wimpy KidBig NateDear Dumb Diary, or Dork Diaries - this book is written in a similar style. For more info visit the author's website or watch the trailer. We have a copy of this book in the library.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Custer's Last Battle

I read a commemorative edition of Paul Goble's book, Custer's Last Battle. It has a foreword by Joe Medicine Crow, whose grandfather was one of Custer's scouts and was present at the battle. This edition also has an introduction by the author that explains how he pieced together details from many different first-hand accounts to create the book. Mr. Goble used published accounts of Native Americans who had taken part in the battle and blended them into a narrative told by his fictional character, Red Hawk. This approach makes the story seem to be a tribal tale told over and over, working with what the teller himself experienced and what he has been told by others who were there. The illustrations are also done in a style that mimics tribal artwork Mr. Goble had seen in museums. The style is called "ledgerbook art" because it was originally created in books or ledgers made to record the accounts  of traders out west. 

I would recommend this book to students interested in American History, Native Americans, or military history. It would work well in a social studies unit on westward expansion or for art teachers covering Native American arts and crafts. We already have several other books by the same author; The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, Buffalo Woman, Her Seven Brothers, and Iktomi and the Boulder.

If you are interested in the art form used in the book, the Milwaukee Public Museum is one of the places that Mr. Goble first saw examples of "ledgerbook art."

For more info on Paul Goble, check out the publisher's websiteThe e-book copy I read was provided as an advance copy from the publishers through NetGalley. This edition will be released August 31, 2013.

Cover of Custers Last Battle

Summer Reading 2013 Captain Nobody

This morning I finished reading Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford. You may recognize the author's name from his book, The Big One-Oh  (we have both books in the library).

Here are some questions for you:
1. Have you ever felt that your parents overlooked you and that your brother or sister received all the attention in your family?
2. Have you ever felt that you and your closest friends were often treated as invisible by everyone at school?
3. Have you ever wished for a secret identity? Or maybe just wished for a way to be less ordinary?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you can understand how Newton Newman feels. His brother is a famous high school football player. His parents are both very involved with their careers. He and his two closest friends are the youngest kids in their families, so they get stuck with hand-me-down clothes and even used Halloween costumes. But when his friends help Newt create a superhero costume and he decides to wear it to school - things begin to change.

Anyone who enjoys stories about friends and family (Judy Moody and Stink, Ramona and Beezus, etc.), or anyone who likes humorous stories with a bit of adventure in them should read this book. Captain Nobody was a Volunteer State Book Award nominee in 2011-2012.

For more info, you can check out the publisher's website. The author also has his own website and he has created a site just for Captain Nobody. And there's a trailer for the book.

Captain Nobody

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, Says be a Buddy, Not a Bully

Yesterday I read a good book for dog lovers titled - Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, Says be a Buddy, Not a Bully. In the tradition of Marley or Dewey the Library Cat, Toby stars in several books written by his human family. On Toby's Terms and Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, and His Hospital Friends were his earlier literary appearances. Be a Buddy, Not a Bully was just released last month and is sure to be popular in schools. In the story, Toby's owner, Charmaine, takes him to school to talk to the students about bullies. She uses an example of an unfriendly dog who destroys Toby's favorite toy while they are at the park to help the kids understand how bullying hurts others. There is a class discussion of what bullying looks like and how to respond.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories about real animals (like Marley or Dewey), or books about dogs and pets in general. Here is a video of the author talking about her book.

Click here to see more info at the publisher's website. Toby will soon have his own movie, based on his book On Toby's Terms. There are also a couple of FaceBook pages featuring Toby. His page for "Team Toby" posts notices to help reunite lost dogs with their families. The page for "On Toby's Terms" shares links that might be of interest to dog lovers and also covers Toby's media appearances.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna

I just read an e-book version of The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna by Demi. We have several other books by Demi in the library, such as a biography of Mother Theresa and a book on Saint Nicholas. This book would be a good addition to our religion and mythology section - especially since we don't have many books on Hinduism. Check for more information at the publisher's website.

This is a good introduction to the mythology surrounding Krishna, Vishnu and the rest of their pantheon. Demi's books are always interesting and well illustrated. This one is no exception; I especially liked the way the illustrations were done in a style to reflect the culture of the story. Krishna triumphs against every demon sent to harm those around him or to kill him. Even when he is a small child his size doesn't prevent him from finding a way to beat each foe. There is plenty of action to keep your attention, even though you can guess how it will end long before you ever reach the last page. I would recommend this to anyone interested in world religions and mythology, or anyone who enjoys stories like "Clash of the Titans."

Fantastic Adventures of Krishna, The

Summer Reading 2013 and

Another of the books I read this summer is Rise of the Heroes (Hero.Com #1) by Andy Briggs. In the story, some kids discover a website that will let you download super powers to try out. I enjoyed the interaction of the characters. Their very realistic reaction to finding super powers on the Internet was amusing; rather than investigate or try to find instructions, they simply begin downloading powers.

The website also offers the users a choice of missions where they can use their powers. When the kids foil a bank robbery, they become the enemies of a super villain who vows revenge. There are all sorts of other problems: the powers only last a certain length of time, they need the computer to download more powers, they have to pay for any more powers after the free trial period is over, and they are trying to keep their parents from finding out about all of this.

The action is fast-paced and makes it a quick read. I think boys and girls would both enjoy it, because the male and female characters are believable - and the girls have just as much intelligence and use their powers just as well as (or better than) the boys. Anyone who enjoys super hero stories (whether they are comics, books, or videos), will enjoy this series and the companion books from Villain.Net. We have both these books in the library.

Find more info on the book at 

Of course, if the good guys have a website to recruit young new heroes - the bad guys need their own recruiting site. The other side of the story is told in the Villain.Net series, beginning with Council of Evil. For more info on the book, check out The way the author, Andy Briggs, has written the stories so they overlap and the characters know each other and make appearances in both series is really clever.

And if you would like to see more of what the characters see when they visit the website, try it out yourself.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 Who Could That Be at This Hour?

Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All the Wrong Questions, # 1) is an interesting book. As a sort of prequel to The Series of Unfortunate Events, it introduces us to the narrator from those books when he is only a child. He tells us that he asked all the wrong questions when he began his training as an agent and he takes us through the mission as it happened. While we read, we begin to ask questions, too. Where did he come from? Who are his parents? Why is he in this situation? We are trying to solve two mysteries at once - that of the narrator and that of the case he is working on.

During the mission, he spends some time in the local library and he also talks about many books. It would be entertaining to guess which books he is referring to during the story. That really makes three mysteries to solve. So, if you enjoy a good mystery or just like Snicket's style, you should read this new series. For more info check out the series website and don't forget to watch the trailer.

(I think all the Lemony Snicket books are great for vocabulary, a word which here means - learning new terms and how they may be used in conversation or writing.)

Lemony Snicket #1 book cover