Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Fortunately, the Milk

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, so I had to try out his new book. Reminiscent of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, the father in Fortunately, the Milk has a very interesting tale to tell when he returns from an everyday errand down the street. The boy narrating the book explains that his mother is at a conference presenting a paper on lizards, so the dad is left in charge. When breakfast cannot be eaten because there is no milk for the cereal (or for dad's tea), he heads out to the store to get some. He is gone for "ages and ages." When the boy and his sister ask what took so long, the explanation involves - aliens, a spaceship, dinosaurs, a hot air balloon, a time travel machine, a volcano... You can see why the trip to the corner store took longer than expected, even when you leave out the bit about the piranhas. 

As usual, Gaiman's sense of humor pulls us into the story and has us laughing hard enough to make milk come out our noses (if we were unfortunate enough to have taken a drink while reading). The black and white line drawings by Skottie Young add a sense of manic energy to the action. If you enjoy Gaiman's other books, or stories that seem take on a life of their own, then you should definitely read this.

The publishers in the UK have provided videos of Neil Gaiman and the illustrator of the British version of the book (Chris Riddell) on the book's webpage. The book was published on September 17, 2013. HarperKids has a trailer featuring Neil Gaiman and there's another from Bloomsbury Publishing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Lilly Babysits Her Brother

Brenda Bellingham's books about Lilly are an amusing addition to the First Novels series. This time Lilly is allowed to babysit her younger brother Mac while their parents go shopping for Mac's birthday present. She is even allowed to have her mom's smart phone so that she can call if there is a problem. Her friend Minna is helping at the family store, so she can't babysit with Lilly, but her friend Theresa comes over. Everything goes well until Mac finds a dead bird in the garden.

The characters in the Lilly stories are likable and realistic. Lilly likes both her friends, but wishes Minna was there to help babysit. She enjoys having Theresa over, but when Theresa tells Mac off and gets him upset - Lilly just wishes she would go home. Mac is a typical four-year-old; he's excited about his birthday and wants a puppy, even though he knows he is allergic and can't have one. Their parents are average suburban parents - they both have smart phones, have checked in with the neighbors to let them know Lilly may need backup during her babysitting assignment, and have waited until the last minute to go pick out a birthday present. It's just the sort of easy realistic fiction that beginning chapter book readers can relate to.

I would recommend this to readers who still think the Junie B. Jones or Judy Moody books are too long and prefer something closer to the size of the Bailey School Jr. books. you can find out about the other Lilly books on the webpage set up by the publishing company.

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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy

Andy Briggs has done a reboot on the Tarzan legend for its 100th anniversary. Tarzan first appeared in a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912 and has never left pop culture since. For today's audience Briggs portrays Tarzan as the son of wildlife activists, whose plane crashed in Zaire and Tarzan has no memory of them. He has grown up with a tribe of gorillas and become king of the jungle in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jane comes to the jungle with her father and his friend Clark. The men have a "get rich" scheme of illegal logging in the rain forest and Jane is stuck in the logging camp with only one other person her age, a young man named Robbie who has stowed away on a freighter from the U.S. When Jane becomes lost, she encounters Tarzan and begins to piece together his story. The area is full of wildlife, rebel forces, poachers, and other dangers - but Jane comes to appreciate the wild beauty and even the brutality of survival.

If you enjoy adventure, eco-warriors defending the wild places of the Earth, heart-stopping danger, and daring heroes, then you should give Tarzan a try. This is no kind-hearted "George of the Jungle." Tarzan is 100% jungle predator. And the book has even captured the approval of Jane Goodall.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but the paperback and e-book were released last year..

The publisher's website includes a video with the author about the 100th anniversary of Tarzan stories. The author also has a trailer for this first book in the series.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Oddkins

Dean Koontz's fable is what would happen if "Toy Story" met The Velveteen Rabbit. When toymaker Isaac Bodkins dies, the magical toys he has created must make a dangerous journey to find the new toymaker that will take his place. The person they are looking for is Colleen Shannon, a toymaker who can accept her role and continue the work of making magical toys to help children. But there are dark forces at work to prevent Colleen from becoming the next owner of Isaac's factory. Evil toys trapped in the subcellar of the factory awaken and pursue the good toys across town, trying to catch them and rip their stuffings out. Isaac's nephew Victor plans to sell the contents of the factory, then tear it down and build a subdivision on the land. And a sinister felon wants to buy the factory and make more evil toys like the ones from the cellar. Can stuffed animals, no matter how determined, stand up to all these opponents?

Along their journey they learn things about themselves and about life - the importance of friendship, faith, and courage, among other things. Besides The Velveteen Rabbit, this also reminds me The Tale of Despereaux with his long journey and the way he comes to understand that he is not the most important thing in the world. If you liked either of those books, or "Toy Story," then you'll love this book.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it was published September 4, 2012.

Fall Reading 2013 The Naturals

Jennifer Lynn Barnes tells the story of teenagers with incredible perception, "Naturals," who are recruited by the FBI. The plan is to hone their natural gifts and create incredible agents, a real asset to the Bureau. Of course with teenagers you have hormones and rebellion and drama. And when you're dealing with teenagers who have also had some sort of tragedy or trauma in their past, you can count on an extra dose of personality quirks. Cassie is recruited due to her ability to profile people and she learns there's another Natural like her named Dean. Michael can intuit people's emotions. Lia is a walking lie detector and Sloane is a genius with math and patterns.

If you took a couple of teens with Monk's ability to read the clues in a scene and combined them with a teenage girl version of Charlie from Numb3rs, you are starting to get the picture of the team. Anyone who enjoys detective dramas, police procedurals, or thrillers will probably enjoy this story. There are plenty of surprises and tense moments to keep you from putting it down until you reach the end.  Barnes also leaves enough untold that this could easily lead into an entire series with these characters. Due to the graphic descriptions of crime scenes, this would probably be best for teens and older readers. Here's a trailer for the book.

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

Fall Reading 2013 Ariel Bradley: Spy for General Washington

Lynda Durrant's story is based on real events from the Revolutionary War. Ariel Bradley was only nine years old when General George Washington asked him to help gather information on British troops in the area near his family's farm. Ariel pretended to be a country boy lost on his way to the mill and wandered into (and out of) British and Hessian camps. The soldiers all saw him as a harmless boy. They didn't realize he was looking carefully around and getting an estimate of their troop strength and firepower. His reconnaissance helped General Washington plan a successful engagement with the British at White Plains, New York. Ms. Durrant has retold the story with details of what Ariel probably thought and felt while he conducted his mission.

If you enjoy American history or stories of heroic children, then you should read this book. 

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

Fall Reading 2013 Nowhere to Run (Unstoppable Book One)

Jude Watson has written the first book in the latest 39 Clues series. This time the Cahills are up against an adversary that seems unbeatable. He controls major media outlets and has begun a campaign to ruin their reputation and possibly cover up their deaths as being accidents during dangerous stunts. No matter where they go, he keeps Amy and Dan plastered on the newspapers, magazines and gossip websites with terrible headlines that make them out to be spoiled rich kids playing pranks for amusement. Meanwhile, he has his goons hunting them down and trying to kill them. The only hope for the Cahills lies in old journals Grace has stored away for them in a safe-house. As the crew swings back into action they travel to Ireland, then Istanbul and Nellie bravely takes on their opponent closer to home in Delaware. Jonah, Ian, Hamilton, Jake, and Atticus are also working to defeat this mysterious enemy. 

If you've followed the 39 Clues through the original series and then Cahills vs. Vespers, you won't want to give up now. Try out this latest series and prepare for more adventure, danger, and ancient cultures. Don't forget to join the online game at the Scholastic website. (The website is open for Scholastic Kids accounts only. Sign up for an account if you don't have one yet.)

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but we have a copy in the library. If you have followed the Cahills this far, you need to come check out this latest release. Watch some Reader's Theater with a few of the authors from the 39 Clues series.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Star Trek: After Darkness

I've been enjoying the Star Trek movie reboot and was pleased to have the chance to read some of the other stories set in that new Star Trek universe. After Darkness picks up after the recent movie and shows the Enterprise's crew as they begin their 5-year mission. In this collection the crew encounter several problems seen in the original Star Trek TV episodes; Spock experiences the Pon Farr, the crew meets his betrothed T'Pring, miners send out a distress call, Klingons and Romulans mistrust humans, and the crew encounters Gorn. Just an average day for Star Fleet personnel.

The way this new Star Trek takes elements of the older TV and movie events and weaves them into new adventures is intriguing. I know people either seem to love it or hate it, but it is fun to look for those bits of the past and recognize them. This opens up all new possibilities, almost like we have visited the City on the Edge of Forever. I would advise readers that this book has some PG-13 language in it, so parental guidance is recommended. (We will not have it in the library due to those words.)

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published November 19, 2013.

Fall Reading 2013 Curse of the Ancients (Infinity Ring #4)

In this fourth installment in the Infinity Ring series, Matt de la Pena has the time travelers visit the ancient Maya. Riq, Dak, and Sera use the Infinity Ring to travel to the Yucatan Peninsula in the middle of the sixth century - but once again they must solve the riddle on their computer tablet to find out what the Break in history is and how to fix it. They guess that it has something to do with a Mayan codex. But which one? And are they supposed to protect it or destroy it? It doesn't help that the tablet tells them they should do this in 1562, but the ring lands them in 562 instead. Sera is still traumatized by her accidental trip to the Cataclysm and Riq is still worried that he has influenced his own family tree and altered his personal future. Dak, of course, just wants some tasty cheese. They need to figure all of this out while looking for other Hystorians and trying to avoid Time Wardens. Sounds like a walk in the park, right?

With each book, it's like going on a time travel adventure yourself. All of the details about life in another place and another century are fascinating. Add in the mystery, adventure, and humor and you have a winning combination. Scholastic has a brief trailer to introduce the series (in case you haven't read and of the other books yet.) We added this book and Infinity Ring #5 to the library through the fall book fair.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Lulu and the Duck in the Park

Hilary McKay's books about Lulu are always fun. In this one, her love of pets causes some problems with her teacher, Mrs. Holiday. Lulu tries to help Mrs. Holiday get to know more animals than just the class guinea pig, but "Mrs. Holiday would not be helped." Then Lulu tries to convince her that the class pet needs a companion. Mrs. Holiday is finally so exasperated that she tells Lulu if she brings another animal into the classroom, that guinea pig will be traded with another class for their stick insects. But on the way back from their weekly swim lessons, the class witnesses two dogs terrorizing the ducks in the park. Nests are destroyed and eggs are smashed before the dogs are caught and put back on their leashes. And, of course, Lulu happens to find an egg that survived the damage and decides to take it with her to keep it safe. What will happen if her teachers finds out?

Lulu and her cousin Mellie are lovable young girls. They are not perfect, but even their quirks are funny to read about. Lulu's preoccupation with animals affects everyone else around her. Mellie's habit of losing things means that she can't find her sweater or her recorder for music class. But they are both warm and friendly and have wonderful adventures together. These books are perfect for readers just starting on chapter books. They are quick, humorous, and not at all overwhelming. Readers who enjoy stories about pets and friends and funny things that happen at school will enjoy reading about Lulu.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published on March 12, 2013.

Fall Reading 2013 Navy Seal Dogs

Michael Ritland's description of his work with military working dogs (MWDs) and the SEAL teams is fascinating. He tells about how he came to serve as a SEAL and then his transition to working as a canine handler and trainer. Many dogs and their handlers are profiled and examples of their missions are shared. The training required for the SEALS and their canine partners is laid out in impressive detail. Everything from the breeds best suited for this type of work, to early conditioning, to their performance in the field is explained. There is a section on the Warrior Dog Foundation that helps to care for "retired" military working dogs. An appendix covers the history of dogs in combat through WWI,WWI, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the resurgence of their use following 9/11. A glossary is provided for readers who are not familiar with military jargon; there is also a list of references.

This is not a training manual, or strictly military history. Ritland has made the explanation of how military working dogs and train and serve their country into a captivating story. The details he includes of how the various handlers came to that position during their military career and descriptions of their bonds with their canine partners are inspirational. Anyone reading this book will realize that you can't just join the military and then get to play with dogs all day. It is a mentally and physically demanding job and you must be highly-trained to qualify for a chance at the assignment. If you are interested in what today's military is like, or have ever wondered what MWDs do, then you should read this. You can also find more information on the  website for The Warrior Dog Foundation.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will go on sale on October 29, 2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

K.B. Hoyle's The Scroll Blog Tour

The Scroll Large Blog Tour.png

Summary for The Gateway Chronicles: 
At the age of thirteen, Darcy Pennington found out the world in which she lived was only one of many, and that the existence of other worlds meant she was far from ordinary. Her destiny, along with the destinies of her five best friends, is entangled with a realm called Alitheia. She journeyed to Alitheia for the first time, armed only with the knowledge that she was destined to help expel an evil Shadow from the land and she would someday be queen. Darcy never could have guessed how deep the rabbit hole would take her. Now, at the age of seventeen, Darcy finds herself thrust into a position of uncertainty after four extraordinary trips to Alitheia, each fraught with drama and adventure. Gifted with elemental magic and with an uncanny ability to get herself into trouble, Darcy has always managed to make it through, but when her heart is on the line, the stakes are higher than ever. Great hope, great joy, and great love have always been tempered by great sorrow and great loss in Alitheia, and Darcy wonders if the trials she is about to face in her latest trip will break her, and the land of Alitheia, beyond repair. 

The_Scroll_Hi-Res_Cover.jpgSummary for The Scroll:

Darcy Pennington may once have been an average teenager, but not anymore. Living each year twice, once in her world and once in Alitheia, has made her into someone who cares little for normal teenage activities. She’s got more important things to do, like save the mythical, magical world of Alitheia. But this time, Darcy can’t save Alitheia until she saves Tellius, the love of her life.
A window between the worlds allows Darcy to see Tellius from her home in Chicago. But, far from being reassured, she plunges into despair when she sees Tellius captured, imprisoned, and tortured. All her plans for her future life in Alitheia are put on hold as Darcy faces a singular goal: save Tellius, even if it means giving Tselloch something in return.
Intrigue is high upon her return to the castle, where old friends tell new lies, best friends hide crucial secrets, deceptive apparitions roam the halls, and betrayal lingers around every corner. The only way to unravel the mysteries and protect Alitheia is to bring Tellius home, but Darcy lacks the necessary magic for that.
As time runs low, Rubidius keeps to himself, and even Sam has her own secret this year. Darcy wonders if anyone else cares the way she does, and why it’s always a fight to get anything done. Still, she’ll do anything to rescue her future husband, including surrender herself to the fate she knows is coming anyway. Now, if only The Six could unveil the scroll, they might learn the greatest secret of all, before everything burns to ashes around them. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

kb_hoyle.JPGAuthor Bio:

K. B. Hoyle has been a classical educator for several years. She is a wife to a wonderful husband and mother to three rambunctious little boys. Her favorite literary genres have always been Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction, so that is where her journey began. At a young age, she knew she wanted to write stories that would inspire people, and she wrote her first fantasy novel at the age of eleven. Her goal as a writer is to take a look at existing truths in the world around her and repackage them in new, exciting, and fantastic ways.

Fall Reading 2013 Razia's Ray of Hope

Elizabeth Suneby's story of the Zabuli Education Center for Girls is a great example of children's literature sharing cultural diversity. Razia's dream to attend school and the various obstacles she must overcome are very realistic for girls living in Afghanistan. There are customs and traditions, pressure by groups like the Taliban, financial issues, and other problems that girls in the U.S. don't have to face. The reactions of Razia's family to her request to attend school are very normal for families living in her village - they are not extreme or fanatical. The school's founder understands the objections and answers them truthfully and respectfully in a way that the family can accept.

I especially like the activities at the end of the story that can help a class of American students see what the odds are for a girl like Razia to receive an education. The "Typical School Day" sheets that will be provided* at help students compare their school day here in the U.S. to a day for students in Razia's school. These comparisons make it much easier to grasp what a different lifestyle children in Afghanistan have from American children. This would be a good book to combine with research projects on education activists like Mulala Yousafzai and Razia Jan. (*Other activities are already available on the website.) I found a 10-minute-long video about Razia Jan.

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

Update: I picked up a copy at the bookstore today! (12/19/13)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Hostage Three

Nick Lake has written a richly layered book. This is the story of a wealthy young girl and her family being taken hostage by pirates. But that's only the surface. As Amy narrates the events that happen when their yacht is captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia, she also shares other memories. She tells of how her stepmother came into their lives. She explains why she was expelled from school on the last day of final exams. And she remembers her mother. All the mixed emotions of a young woman turning eighteen, grieving for her mother, angry with her father, resenting her stepmother, and lost in her own rebellious behavior is bottled up inside her. She leaks it out a drop at a time as she works her way through the days of the hostage situation and her dangerous friendship with one of the pirates. 

Besides all the emotional weight of Amy's memories, there is also the larger picture of the world around the yacht. From Farouz (the translator for the pirates), we learn of why many of the men became pirates in the first place. He tells about the wars, the rebels, the corruption, the famine and what people in the area have had to do to survive. One of the pirates is amazed at the medicine cabinet on the yacht because there are pain killers easily available. He explains that when his children are sick, there is no medicine. As much as we look at things with our own viewpoint, we still begin to see what could make a father desperate enough to start hijacking and kidnapping just to get some money for his family. It's a very clear difference between how the captors and the captives are accustomed to live.

If you like realistic fiction with intense drama and suspense, or real-life stories such as the one on which they based the movie "Captain Phillips," then you will probably appreciate this book. This is a story that makes you stop and reconsider the things you take for granted each day. There are scenes of graphic violence, swearing, and other mature topics. This is a book for teens and adults, not for younger readers. You can see some of the comments from reviewers on the book's webpage.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published in November 12, 2013.

Fall Reading 2013 Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea

Lisa Martin's story of two feline brothers named Anton and Cecil packs in a lot of adventure for the furry little guys. They live in a harbor town and see the ships coming and going all the time. Cecil is more daring and boards a ship one day to see what it is like. He chooses a fishing vessel that comes back to the harbor each night. He always has stories to tell of what he has seen each day. He even wonders what he might see if he went on a longer journey. Anton is very different. He is content to be stay on shore, especially because he can listen to music in the saloon in town. One day when he is watching a new ship prepare to sail for the first time, Anton is scooped up and taken aboard by the sailors to keep rats out of their pantry. When Cecil hears what has happened, he jumps on the next ship heading out to sea and searches for his brother. Most of the book describes all the danger, hardships, and even some good times that Anton and Cecil experience while they try to find their way back home.

Although there are fantasy elements, most of the description aboard the ship is done realistically. You can feel the stifling heat when there is no rain for days. Then you can smell the "sour, greasy odor" of the rat hiding in the Mary Anne's larder. This is not a book that would convince cats everywhere to decide they wanted to be shipboard cats. If you enjoy stories that feature animals like the Warriors series, then you would probably like this book very much. Check the book's website for more information.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book was published October 8, 2013.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett (An Origami Yoda Book)

I knew Origami Yoda and the rest of the Origami Rebel Alliance were cool, but I never knew they were cool enough to fight against standardized testing ruining school. When McQuarrie School loses its elective classes (art, chorus, yearbook, etc.) and they are replaced with awful videos that are supposed to help students ace their state achievement tests - the rebellion must swing into action. Led by Captain Dwight with Origami Yoda, the rest of the gang recruits rebels from all over the school and each rebel has his or her own origami figure. Luke Skyfolder, Anakin Skyfolder, Foldy-Wan Kenobi, etc. Their plan to defeat the evil EduFun Empire and return balance to McQuarrie is dangerous, but succeed they must.

The book leaves us with the rebels finally having won their first battle, but the war is not over yet. We will all have to wait for the next book to see if the Dark Side is strong enough to defeat the rebels. (I agree that the Dark Side is what causes people to value test scores so much that they remove everything enjoyable from school.) At the end of the book are directions on how to make Jabba the Puppett and an Ewok. If you have not read the series yet, we have all of the books in the library - even Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling. For more information and fun folding ideas, check out the website. Check out the trailer by the author. Tom also has a video showing you how to make your own origami Jabba.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Made You Look

Shari Graydon does an excellent job of explaining the principles of advertising - how it works, who it targets, and the history of it from ancient times to current practices. Explanations are broken up cartoon illustrations of the points being made, whether it is product placement in TV and movies or consumers complaining about offensive ads. Statistics about advertising are included and can make a big impression on readers. (Did you know that an estimated 40,000 TV commercials are seen by young people in North America each year? And that 10,000 of those are about food?) The text also relates advertising to familiar cultural icons such as Star Wars, Transformers, and Pepsi. Various types of ads like billboards, infomercials, Internet banner ads, spam e-mail, and merchandising tie-ins for movies are discussed. At the back of the book there is contact information for consumer organizations, ad resources, notes for each chapter, and an index. My favorite part is probably the "Don't try this at home" sections that have the reader try do things like count how many products are shown or mentioned within a single episode of a TV show. 

I would recommend this to parents who are concerned about the influence of advertising on their families, to students who are interested in the media and possible careers in advertising, or teachers who are covering topics like author's purpose or persuasive writing. This would be an excellent text to include in economics or consumer education classes. NOTE - This book was originally released in 2003, but has been updated to cover the latest in marketing strategies using today's media outlets.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it was published in paperback on July  4 , 2013.

Fall Reading 2013 Native American Heroes

Ann McGovern's book (previously titled The Defenders), has been updated and will be published on October 29, 2013. In it she tells about the lives of three famous leaders from different Native American tribes who all sought to defend their people's freedom and way of life. Osceola was a Seminole during the 1800s and he fought to prevent the US government from removing his people from their homes in Florida and forcing them to move to reservations out west. Tecumseh was a member of the Shawnee during the American Revolution and the early days of the United States. His tribe fought on the side of the British, hoping to prevent more colonists from moving onto tribal lands and pushing the Native Americans out. The Seminoles also fought on the side of the British during the War of 1812, again hoping that the British would keep Americans from taking their lands. Cochise was an Apache chief from the Chiricahua tribe. He had actually made peace with the white settlers until his tribe was falsely accused of kidnapping a child from a settler's farm. When he tried to meet with an Army officer under a flag of truce to explain the misunderstanding and offer to help look for the kidnapped boy, the officer tried to have Cochise's group arrested. When they ran from the tent to escape, Cochise was shot in the leg, but he managed to make it back to camp. The rest of his group was captured and some of them were executed. That set off the Apache Wars.

The author has included historical photos, other artwork, maps, and quotes from primary source documents to enhance the retelling of these events. This would be a good resource for students or teachers studying Native Americans or famous leaders. It is sad that there are so many stories of mistreatment and deceit between the government and these tribes (and many other tribes, too). The details of what led up to the conflict and what each side did to provoke or try to resolve the fighting are an important part of our history as a country. I would recommend this to all social studies teachers in intermediate or middle school grade levels.

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Always Dance with a Hairy Buffalo

Henry Winkler's Ghost Buddy series is another set of humorous school stories like his Hank Zipzer books. In Hank's stories, the problem is the way his ADHD interferes with having the good behavior his parents and teachers want. Billy's problems in the Ghost Buddy books are generally caused by the ghost of Hoover Porterhouse III who haunts Billy's house. This time, Billy needs to learn a Chumash tribal dance for a class performance at the local historical museum. Hoover's efforts to help just cause more trouble (as usual), but a Chumash ghost named Ancapa is lending her support to the class. Hoover tries to impress her, hoping she will become his friend, but he winds up disappointing her and making her angry. Billy tries to help, but it looks like Hoover may have blown his chance.

If you've read any of the previous books in this series, or some of the Hank Zipzer books, then you know there will be plenty of laughs and ridiculous situations. The characters will also learn some lessons, like - telling friends the truth is better than making promises you can't keep. You probably know people who will remind you of Billy, his family, and his classmates because they are dealing with everyday problems just like we do. The difference is - we don't have friendly ghosts hanging around. I would recommend this to anyone who likes funny stories about school, family, and friendships, or ghosts.

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

Fall Reading 2013 The Pullman Porter

Vanita Oelschlager's picture book relates the history of the Pullman Porters and their part in America's history. The porters served on railway cars designed by George Pullman for wealthy travelers. After the Civil War many African-American men who were looking for jobs to support their families were hired to work on the sleeping cars built by the Pullman company. These men worked up to 240 hours a month and earned as little as $10 in that time. They relied on tips from the passengers to help make enough money. Porters carried luggage, shined shoes, served meals, turned down beds, even watched children for the rich travelers. In the 1920s the porters began working to form a union, which was finally achieved in 1937. Leaders in the union helped with the Civil Rights movement and were later involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. Although the sleeper cars were not made by the Pullman company after 1969, the Pullman Porters have earned a lasting place in history.

The books text traces the story of Pullman Porters from beginning to end, sharing interesting facts and slipping in quotes from other sources. Beautiful mixed-media paintings illustrate the train cars, porter's uniforms, and other details. Songs mentioned in the book and other texts that are referred to are listed at the end for further investigation. This would be a wonderful addition to school library collections and very helpful for 19th and 20th century history lessons. I also found a short video about the Pullman Porters.

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

Fall Reading 2013 Will-o-the-Wisp

Will-o-the-Wisp is a graphic novel by Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchison. Aurora Grimeon is orphaned by the accidental poisoning of her parents (they picked wild mushrooms to put in pasta sauce and chose the wrong kind). She is sent to live with the grandfather she has never met on spooky Ossuary Isle. From the other residents of the island she learns that it was used as a cemetery there in the swamps, back before cremations became more common. Aurora slowly makes friends with some of her grandfather's neighbors like the Devereaux family and the local hoodoo woman, Mama Nonnie. For those of us who have never lived in the southern swamps, hoodoo and voodoo sound a lot alike. Mama Nonnie makes spells and charms for protection from evil spirits and bad luck. Since her grandfather is busy making molds of old bones for scientific study and other odd experiments, Aurora spends time with Nonnie and begins following her advice to protect herself and grandfather. It turns out to be a good thing that Aurora has listened to Nonnie when a vengeful spirit returns from the grave and begins killing the islanders.

If you like shows like "Grimm", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", or "Supernatural", then this is probably something you will enjoy. The publishers recommend it for teens/YA and I agree that it might be too creepy for younger readers. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be published December 3, 2013.  The publishers webpage for the book has more information and they have a trailer. There is also an interview with the author and illustrator talking about the story.

Fall Reading 2013 Urban Animals of Washington, D.C.

Isabel Hill's safari through Washington is a clever idea. She has put together photos of buildings throughout the D.C. area that show animals in the architectural details. One photo will show the scene, such as an art deco lamp beside an entryway, then a second photo will show a close-up of the animal that is part of the building. Locations range from government buildings, to churches and apartment buildings, and even the National Zoo (where you expect the animals to be inside the buildings, not on the outside). Simple rhyming text identifies each architectural feature and the animal that is represented as a part of it. There is a glossary of architectural terms at the back of the book and a listing of the buildings shown in the photos.

This could make a wonderful class project. After reading the book and studying the images, students could scout out locations in their own town with similar ornamentation and create a class book of their community's architecture. Any families going on vacation in Washington might have a safari of their own and try to track down all the buildings in the book.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book was published on September 16, 2013. You can find out more about Ms. hill's photography and projects at her website

Fall Reading 2013 Knightley and Son

Thirteen-year-old Darkus Knightley does not have an easy life. There's his name, for instance. Unfriendly kids at school tease him by calling him "Dorkus." Then there's his family. His parents are divorced. His father has been in a coma in a nursing home for the past 4 years. Darkus' mother has remarried and his stepfather is a cheesy TV show host. His stepsister Tilly is very rebellious and is constantly running away from school or dying her hair wild colors. Darkus, on the other hand, dresses like a middle-aged detective - like his father. He has been reading over all his father's case files in order to feel closer to him. He also visits his father at the nursing home and talks to him about the cases, although Mr. Knightley can't answer him.

The real action begins when a series of crimes committed by total strangers all have the common factor of a self-help book the strangers have read. About the same time, Mr. Knightley finally wakes up from his coma and begins pursuing the case he was working on before his medical problems. Darkus is determined to make up for lost time and insists on helping his father with the case. Tilly also wants to come along because her mother was Mr. Knightley's investigative partner before she died and Tilly wants answers. Together with Mr. Knightley's friend "Uncle Bill" and his housekeeper Bogna, they try to solve the mystery of why a self-help book would make people commit crimes and what the sinister organization known as "The Combination" has to with it all.

In a way, this story reminded me of the Mysterious Benedict Society; not because these kids have unusual mental powers, but because they combine their strengths to solve problems. (Darkus has an excellent memory for facts and a keen eye for details. Tilly is an accomplished escape artist and actress.) If you enjoy mysteries, detective stories, and a bit of danger and intrigue, then you should give this book a try. Another adventure is planned after this one, so there could be a whole series of mysteries for Knightley and Son to solve.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will not be in stores until April 29, 2014.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Numbed!

Author David Lubar has written another adventure for Logan and Benedict, his characters from the book Punished. This time the boys tangle with a robot named Cypher while on a field trip to the Mobius Mathematics Museum. When Benedict makes the robot angry, it zaps the boys and numbs their math skills. Suddenly they can't do even the simplest math problems - and there is a big math test in two days! To regain their math skills they have to return to the museum and get help from Dr. Thagoras (Cypher's inventor). As they struggle through two days of trying to relearn math they find out how often we use those skills in everyday life. Everything from knowing when Logan's mom will meet them at the mall's food court to helping his little sister count out enough change to buy 6 pencils at the school store becomes a real challenge.

If you enjoy playing with numbers, then you will enjoy this story. Even the chapters are labeled with math problems. Chapter 11 is marked "1+2+3+5" and other chapters have subtraction, multiplication, or division as part of their names. This reminds me a lot of the book, Math Curse, which turned everything into a math problem. Even if you are not really into math, the book is still very funny and you will be cheering for the boys as they work their way through un-numbing their math abilities. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The author's website tells more about his other books for kids and teens. We have several of his books in the library, including - Punished, Attack of the Vampire Weenies, and Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie.

Fall Reading 2013 Rose

This was a book with lots of good features. There is the basic story of an orphan being taken from the orphanage to serve as a maid in a wealthy household. The master of the house is an alchemist, so there is magic to make things exciting. Then there is the mystery of children disappearing from the neighborhood. And the character of Rose is a very likable girl. She works hard, has realistic plans for her life, and is loyal to her friends (old and new). Rose's relationships with other members of the household demonstrate her courage and generosity - whether she is saving the alchemist's apprentice, Freddie, from an experiment that's gone out of control, or helping her fellow servant, Bill, polish the chandelier - Rose always tries her best. She will need all her courage and determination to save the missing children before it is too late.

The story balances humor with danger and keeps pulling you along to see what will happen next. You find yourself admiring how Gustavus the cat has everyone treating him like royalty, or wondering what new tantrum the alchemist's daughter, Isabella, will pull. I had to laugh at how the matrons in the orphanage "were convinced that the orphans' morals would be forever destroyed if they so much as breathed the same air as a boy." If you like stories of magic and mystery, then you should give this one a try.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. On the author's website you can read the first chapters of some of her books, send her an e-mail, or leave a note on the message board.

Fall Reading 2013 Persephone the Daring (Goddess Girls #11)

The Goddess Girls series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams is a painless introduction to characters from mythology. In this story Persephone is named "Most Dependable" in a Teen Scrollazine poll. She feels that dependable equals boring, so she resolves to be more daring and change everyone's opinion of her. She and the other girls from MOA (Mount Olympus Academy) have a slumber party and play a game of Truth or Dare. Persephone chooses to take a dare since it will make her seem more "daring." To fulfill the dare she has to get the autograph of Orpheus at his concert. That leads to Eurydice (Orpheus' girlfriend) staying at Persephone's house when she comes to visit MOA with Orpheus. Hades and the other godboys feel that Orpheus is getting too much attention from the girls, but Hades especially thinks Eurydice is a bad influence because she is so fickle. Her flightiness gets her into one problem after another and the goddess girls realize she is not dependable at all - she is the complete opposite of Persephone. 

These books are funny and fairly quick reads. Each one focuses on a different character like Athena or Cassandra, but the rest of the MOA students are in the stories, too. Readers who enjoy school stories that deal with popularity, friendship, and other issues will find plenty of those situations. For those who like stories that re-imagine famous characters from mythology (like Percy Jackson or the Kane Chronicles), but want a book that is not quite so thick - these may be just what you're looking for.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 Follow Your Money

Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka do a great job of explaining basic economic concepts. They start by defining what money is and use a timeline to trace the development of money from the early barter systems to today's customs. The price of a product is broken down to show the costs for the manufacturer and seller and what will be left over as profit. The explanations use examples from the everyday lives of students - clothes, fast food, movies, cellphones, video games, etc. Each section uses several items from the category and includes illustrations and infographics to make the information easy to understand. There are even pages to explain sale prices, banking fees and interest, credit and debit cards (and the dangers of overcharging), and how the price of gas affects the prices of other goods and services. The section on snack foods brings up the concern over "fair trade" practices involving goods from other countries. And the difficult concept of taxes being added on to purchases and what taxes are used for is also covered.

This is a good book to use with students since it uses so many familiar examples to explain things. It covers the basics like how money works, taxes, and mark-ups or sales, but also introduces more advanced ideas like "fair trade" and the difference between net and gross profit. I would recommend this to anyone who is learning about simple economics.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley, but it is already available in stores.  The publisher's webpage for the book has more information.

Fall Reading 2013 Roomies

The story of Elizabeth and Lauren is told from their viewpoints in alternating chapters. To make it easier to keep straight, the chapters are labeled with the date and location - New Jersey for Elizabeth and San Francisco for Lauren. The girls have been assigned as roommates together for their freshman year of college and Elizabeth e-mails Lauren to ask her what she plans to bring for their dorm room. They exchange e-mails all summer as they finish out their last months at home before moving to campus. It is interesting to watch as their relationship develops, especially because they seem so different. Elizabeth is an only child of a single mother and is excited about having a roommate for company. Lauren has five younger brothers and sisters and had requested a single room, but now finds out that she will have to share the dorm room. They gradually move from the basics of "Are you bringing a fridge or microwave?" types of messages to actually telling each other secrets that they haven't shared with anyone at home. While they are getting acquainted in cyberspace, they are also dealing with summer jobs, boyfriends, friends who are going off to different colleges, and their families. The book paints a very realistic picture of what the summer after high school graduation can be like.

If you enjoy realistic fiction, this would probably be a good choice for you. The girls and their actions and reactions are an accurate depiction of what life for girls that age can be like. Since these are college freshman, there are some mature topics they discuss, so I would not recommend it for readers younger than middle school-age. An interesting tidbit about the book is that it was written by two authors, Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, which mirrors the two girls writing to each other in the story.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The publisher has also set up a webpage for the book and the author has a trailer for it, too. Publication date is set for December 24, 2013.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Southern Festival of Books October 11 - 13, 2013

I attended the Southern Festival of Books for the first time this weekend. The festival was held in downtown Nashville on the Legislative Plaza. This year was the 25th anniversary of the festival, which is pretty cool. The whole festival is free and open to the public. Authors and illustrators from the South and other parts of the U.S. speak to crowds of fans. They tell about what they are working on now, what they have just finished, and answer questions from all those readers who love their books.

I went to the festival with three friends: Ms. Goins from Porter Elementary, Ms. Dickenson from Eagleton Elementary, and Ms. Reynolds from Walland Elementary. We drove down Saturday morning and came back home Sunday evening. I took photos of the authors and illustrators we saw. I'm sad to report that we didn't get to meet Rick Riordan. The line for his session was wrapped completely around the block!

 Author Kevin Henkes: Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, and his latest chapter book - The Year of Billy Miller
 I found Waldo!

Philip and Erin Stead: the husband & wife team who won a Caldecott for A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Nathan Hale: graphic novel creator of books like Rapunzel's Revenge

Marc Tyler Nobleman: author of Bill the Boy Wonder and Boys of Steel

James L. Barry: illustrator for the the Warriors manga series

Susan Verde: author of The Museum

Daniel Kirk: author and illustrator of the Library Mouse series

Andrea Beaty: author of Doctor Ted, Firefighter Ted, and Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies

Jessica Young: author of My Blue Is Happy

Drew Daywalt: author of The Day the Crayons Quit

 Matthew Kirby: author of Cave of Wonders (Infinity Ring #5) and The Clockwork Three

Margaret Peterson Haddix: author of Just Ella, The Missing series,  and Into the Gauntlet (39 Clues #10)

Deron Hicks: author of Secrets of Shakespeare's Grave and The Tower of the Five Orders

 I also found the Diary of a Wimpy Kid van and had my picture taken with Greg Heffley, sort of.

Our Author and Illustrator Visit with Mary Faith and David Enyart

The local author and illustrator team of Mary Faith and David Enyart visited Fairview on October 3, 2013. They did a program with kindergarten, second, third, and fifth grades. (First and fourth grades were on field trips and will meet the Enyarts on October 23.) Mary Faith talked about writing the books Rescue in the Wild and Thief in the Park. She had a show & tell on what kind of supplies to take with you when you are hiking, including a survival blanket and a poncho.

Mary Faith also told us that they are working on a third book for the series. It will be titled Storm in the Park.
       David played some mountain music for us and danced his Jumping Jack (a.k.a. Limber Jack) around to the beat.

Then he showed us how he uses SketchBook Pro on his graphics tablet to do some of his artwork for the illustrations.

Everyone enjoyed the visit and many of the students asked for autographs.

Fairview sends out a big thank-you to the Enyarts!!

Fall Reading 2013 A Study in Silks

I am a huge Sherlock Holmes fan (books, movies, TV shows), so I was excited to hear about a new series of books by Emma Jane Holloway featuring his niece. Evelina Cooper is the daughter of Sherlock's sister, who eloped with someone from a lower social class and was disowned by the older Holmes. Evie is raised in the circus that her father grew up in before joining the military and earning a commission for bravery in the field. Eventually her Grandmama Holmes fetches Evie and sends her to a prestigious finishing school. She makes friends with Imogen Roth and they go to Imogen's home after graduation to participate in the social season. This London of 1888 is controlled by the Steam Barons. Each controls a district of the city where they provide the utilities. The barons prevent anyone else from developing other energy sources and they control all inventions and technology experimentation. They have even gone so far as to have magic outlawed and those accused are burned at the stake. When servants in Imogen's household are killed and Uncle Sherlock is brought in by one of the barons to investigate a related crime, the mystery begins to draw in Evie and her friends.

The world is brought to life through the descriptions of the steam-driven gadgets (including a gigantic squid), the colored globes on the gaslights that mark each baron's sphere of influence, and the interactions between the various characters from each of the social classes. The characters are well-developed - Evelina, Imogen and her family, Evie's friend Nick from the circus, the Steam Barons and their henchmen, the other members of the gentry, all have their quirks and individual strengths and weaknesses. There is also the intriguing combination of magic and mechanical constructs that several characters are developing.

There is something to appeal to different types of readers: magic, steampunk, love triangle, intrigue and mystery. I would recommend this to YA readers due to the adult relationships between some of the characters. There is a trailer for the series.

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

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall Reading 2013 The 47 Ronin

I saw previews for the movie before I heard of the book. I enjoy watching films like "The Last Samurai," or reading books with samurai in them like Ghost in the Tokaido Inn. For modern Americans, it may be hard to imagine that all the samurai loyal to a lord who has been disgraced would also share that dishonor, or that the shogun would disband the domain rather than appointing someone else to rule it. The strict adherence to their code of honor set the samurai apart from other professions, even other warriors. The story of Lord Asano's death and the revenge planned by his samurai has survived since the actual events in 18th century Japan and become a national legend.

There are many wordless panels where the action in the illustrations is all that is needed to tell the story. The black and white graphics prevent the violence from being overly gory in presentation, although the severed heads are quite dramatic. I would recommend this for ages 12 and up due to the violence and a word that most elementary school families would consider inappropriate. The publisher's website has more information about the book. You can check for more details about the movie. Author Sean Michael Wilson currently lives in Japan. Illustrator Akiko Shimojima lives in Tokyo and has been a professional manga artist for several years.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will go on sale November 5, 2013.

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