Friday, February 28, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 The Rithmatist

Sanderson's world of Rithmatists and Chalklings is well-imagined and intriguing. The departure from popular steampunk into his "gearpunk" world of clockwork and springs is full of the differences between those who have the power to make chalk obey their commands and the ordinary folks who ride the springrail train to travel across the American Isles. Everything from the group of islands that form this odd version of the U.S. to the Oriental flavor of the alternate Europe makes the reader stop and think.

Joel's father was a chalkmaker and worked at Armedius, the university where Rithmatists train. After his death, his wife and son remain at the school and Joel attends general classes, but is fascinated by the Rithmatists. He is assigned as a research assistant for one of the Rithmatist professors and becomes involved in the investigation of the kidnapping of several students. Who could be doing it? All of them were talented Rithmatists can could protect themselves with their powers. Is it a rogue Rithmatist? Have Wild Chalklings somehow made their way to the campus? At the same time he is trying to learn all he can about Rithmatists from Professor Fitch and find a way to get along with Melody, the student Fitch is tutoring over the summer.

With its school setting and the magical powers of the chalk drawings, it will probably appeal to fans of books like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. The mystery of the kidnappings and the gear-driven mechanical gadgets add more details and depth to the story. Even in this fantasy world the characters are easy to identify with - Joel studying Rithmatist history just like his father, Melody resenting her place in the Rithmatist classes, Professor Fitch being a great teacher but not able to compete against a younger rival. Fantasy lovers should definitely give this a try (and hope for a sequel soon).

I just placed a copy in the library, so I hope you enjoy it!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 Pinocula (The Creature from My Closet #3)

The latest adventure in Obert Skye's The Creature from My Closet series features a creature called Pinocula that is part Pinocchio and part Dracula. For those of you who have missed the earlier adventures, here's the 4-1-1: Rob Burnside has a bunch of stuff crammed into his closet and lately strange creatures have been emerging from the mess. First there was Wonkenstein (half Willy Wonka/half Frankenstein's monster), and then there was Potterwookiee (half Harry Potter/half Chewbacca). To figure out how to care for the creatures, Rob has to read the books that they came from. Finding a copy of <i>Dracula</i> turns out to be hard to do. Vampires have become so popular lately that all the books about them are checked out of the school library, Rob is banned from the public library for some earlier misbehavior, so he winds up borrowing a copy from his friend Trevor's mother. Then he joins a neighborhood book club to read <i>Pinocchio</i>. While he is busy trying to figure out how to deal with Pinocula and his half bat/half cricket pet named Jim, Rob also tells an increasing number of lies that snowball out of control. By the end of the book nearly everyone he knows is mad at him.

The illustrations that Rob includes in his account of the adventure are very funny and add even more humor to the story. Fans of <i>Diary of a Wimpy Kid</i>, <i>Big Nate</i>, and other journal type books will probably add this series to their "must read" lists. Readers who like stories where unexplained or magical things happen such as the Spiderwick stories or the Notebook of Doom series will also probably enjoy Rob's adventures.

We just added this book to the library from our spring book fair.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 Powerpuff Girls Volume 1

If you enjoy reading BabyMouse, you may also like the colorful adventures of the Powerpuff Girls. In this volume they face off against Mojo Jojo, a nasty swamp creature, Ace and the Gangreen Gang, Fuzzy Lumpkins and other foes. It's impressive that they can manage all that and still not miss bedtime. I think the author must enjoy sci-fi/fantasy movies because I noticed lines from Star Wars and Star Trek in the story. 

Having small female characters who are able to defeat much larger villains is empowering for young girls. Another positive aspect is the vocabulary that readers are exposed to - exoskeleton, unstoppable, inconceivable, primate, inherently, capacity, and outmaneuvered are just a few of the words used in the dialogue. Fans of the show will enjoy seeing their heroines and the villains of Townsville on the written page.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published April 29, 2014. The Cartoon Network has free online games and videos from the show that you can enjoy until the book is available.


Winter Reading 2014 Never Underestimate a Hermit Crab

This is a humorous look at hermit crabs. The author shares many unexpected things that hermit crabs do, such as imagine themselves as astronauts. The page on hermit crabs enjoying fashion reminded me of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems - just the whole idea of animals that don't need clothing. but think it is fun to dress up. The illustrations are funny and it is amazing how much emotion can be shown by critters hidden in shells.

If you know someone who has a hermit crab or is getting one, this would make a very amusing gift. It does include some basic tips on hermit crab care in the back of the book, as well as advice to get more detailed information if you will be caring for one. The trailer show some of the illustrations from the book, so you can get a sense of the artistic style.

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


Winter Reading 2014 The Last Akaway

There's been a renewed interest in spirit animals recently. Scholastic has their Spirit Animals series with the online game component and several different authors (similar to the way 39 Clues and Infinity Ring are organized). And now there is the first in a series featuring the character of Brody Boondoggle, along with his Grammy and big brother Jake. Brody and Jake are spending time with their grandmother and during a walk in the woods, Grammy and Brody find an akaway. What's an akaway? "Oh, about 50 pounds," said Grammy. "Maybe a little more after a big meal." (There are silly moments like that all through the book, many of them based on Grammy mishearing something the boys have said.) Actually, an akaway is a magical creature with the ability to connect kids to their spirit animals. Brody can see it, but Jake can't - which makes it hard to convince his brother that they need to help the creature. What follows is a quest to find a portal to another dimension, with the necessary villains to try and stop our heroes.

There is action, humor, typical brotherly teasing and arguing, a really cool grandmother (even if she can't hear very well), a jealous friend, bad guys to dislike, and magical possibilities. I think one of my favorite things about the book is the explanation that children don't connect with their spirit animals any more because they are so busy with video games and electronic devices. It makes sense that if you are not connected to nature and really aware of it, then you can't connect to your spirit animal. If you enjoy adventures and stories of kids trying to save the world or endangered species, then you'll have fun with Brody.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on February 25, 2014.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 Space Rocks

Space Rocks takes the alien invasion theme and turns it on its head. Chorkle lives on an asteroid that humans have decided to use for an iridium mining colony. Of course, Chorkle's people the Xotonians, aren't very pleased by the new arrivals. Suspicion, misunderstanding, and other problems arise as the two races stumble through this "first contact." (Sorry "Star Trek" fans, there is no Prime Directive for these space travellers.) The younger members of the mining colony do have a few things in common with Chorkle including a craving for Feeney's Original Astronaut Ice Cream* bars and playing video games like Xenostryfe III.  In spite of their presence in an outer space colony, the children are very realistic. They watch movies, play games, argue, race their rocket bikes and talk about their online friends from Although Chorkle is Xotonian, he seems to have the same kind of problems human kids do - disagreeing with his parent, dealing with bullies, not being good at sports.

Readers may notice a few similarities between the story and parts of "Lost in Space," such as the kids being included on the mission as part of the PR, unexpected wormholes popping up, etc. Between the possiblity of war between Xotonians and humans, space battles, a really vicious game of oog-ball, and discovering long lost technology, there is plenty of action to you turning the pages. If you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy with humor, action, and characters you can relate to (whatever their species), then check out Space Rocks.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published on February 6, 2014.


Chorkle, the alien, has his own Twitter account @chorklefromgelo .

* Mr. O'Donnell's wife made her own version of Feeney's Original Astronaut Ice Cream.

The second book, For the Love of Gelo! is now out.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 Olinguito Speaks Up

Olinguito resembles a stuffed animal with his round cheeks and his thumb always in his mouth, but there really is such an animal in the cloud forests of the High Andes. In this story he listens from his perch in the trees as the other animals talk. When he hears them teasing Tomas the turtle about the stories he tells, Olinguito come out of hiding to ask that Tomas continue his stories. Tomas tells of animals he knew in the Galapagos Islands, and others he has seen in his travels. Many of the animals he mentions are endangered or rarely seen. One famous friend he mentions is Lonesome George, about whom books have been written. When the animals realize Tomas's stories are true, they want more of them and then they encourage Olinguito to tell his own stories.

This book has so much going for it - the vibrant illustrations, the mention of rare animals, the bilingual text, the map and facts included in the back matter - are all reasons to share it with young readers. But there is also the emotional value of the shy character who comes to the defense of someone else when he sees them being teased and the respect he shows this much older character. Both of those are traits to encourage in children along with an interest in endangered species. There is a trailer that is narrated by the character, Olinguito.

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


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 (I Survived #9)

I've read some of the other books in this series and was interested to see how the author would handle the topic of World War II. She says herself that she wasn't sure it was a suitable subject for the grade level this series is meant for, but she received hundreds of letters from readers asking her to write about this time period. I believe that she has done a good job of conveying the dangers, fears, and conditions of the Nazi occupation of Europe without going into more detail than is age-appropriate.

By telling the story of Max and his sister Zena as Jewish children in Poland, the author shows the situation in the ghettos that Jews were forced to live in, the terror of soldiers coming to arrest people who were never seen again, the ban on radios and newspapers so there was no word from the outside world, the despair as neighbors turned on the families and destroyed their businesses and synagogues. But she also includes the partisan fighters hiding out in the Loda Forest and sabotaging Nazi supply trains and the common people (like the farmer who helped Max and Zena hide when they escaped the Nazis) who did what they could to help.

The extra information in the back about WWII, the Holocaust, and the partisan fighters is very helpful, and so is the timeline of events. The author also provides the URLs for some websites that have more facts. This would make a good novel study to accompany a unit on WWII, or just a good book for young readers who enjoy historical fiction.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book is available on our current book fair and we will be adding it to the library after the fair. *It has been added as of 2/21/2014!


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 The Qwikpick Papers: Poop Fountain!

Fans of Tom Angleberger (author of the Origami Yoda books) have another book to laugh their way through. Lyle, Dave, and Marilla form a club and name it The Qwikpick Adventure Society. (The club is named after the convenience store where Lyle's parents work. The club's meetings are held in the break room of the store.) When they realize that all three of them have free time on Christmas Day, they try to think up a really big adventure to go on together. A news article shared by another student during Current Events time causes them to decide on a visit to the local waste management plant to see the "Poop Fountain." On the big day they prepare themselves with a camera, PB&J sandwiches, pennies to throw into the fountain, a map, and a compass. To reach the plant they must cross fields full of cow pies, a construction site (where there is an incident with a bulldozer), and a farm full of abandoned pumpkins. Once there, things become even more interesting.

The style of the book is similar to the Origami Yoda stories with Lyle typing up an official report of the adventure, written comments inserted by each of the club members, and photos and drawings added to illustrate different points. The kids and the things they do are funny - like watching old movies left at the Qwikpick (gas station convenience store) from when there used to be movie rentals. Lyle mentions "The Princess Bride" as one of the videos. They also listen to old record albums in the store's break room and are proud to be the only kids at their school who know about the Electric Light Orchestra. All the details just add to the humor of the story and the sense that it could actually happen.

If you enjoy the Origami Yoda stories, Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars: Jedi Academy, and other books written in a journal or report style - or if you like the humor of Captain Underpants, then give this a try. Readers will laugh out loud and wait eagerly to see if there is another club adventure. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published May 20, 2014. Until then, check out the author's website or follow him on Twitter, He has also made a trailer about the book in which he shares reasons why you should never sneak into your local sewage treatment facility (like the kids in the book do).


Winter Reading 2014 The Mark of the Dragonfly

I love stories with strong female characters and Piper is definitely in that category. She has survived on her own after her father died, using her skills in repairing machinery to earn a living. In her world objects fall from the sky like meteors and "scrappers" who live in scrap towns scavenge for items they can sell. Piper repairs things that others find and bring to her. During one of these storms of objects, a trading caravan is destroyed and Piper rescues a girl she finds in the wreckage. Her journey to return the girl (Anna) to the city of Noveen takes her out of the scrap town and along the railway through the Merrow Kingdom and into the lands of the Dragonfly. Along the way she and Anna meet Jeyne, Trimble, Gee and other characters and we see the various cities and strangers through their eyes. There are the Sarnun who like to live underground and speak telepathically; the Chamelins who are shape shifters; and the humans who live as scrappers, miners, factory workers, etc. The tension between the two kingdoms serves as a backdrop for the action and as a motivation for the characters. Piper's father lost his job as an ironmonger because the Dragonfly king stopped selling iron to the Merrow Kingdom, the railway workers are worried about their jobs because there is a push for airships instead of trains, raiders attack the trains because their farmlands were ruined by strip mining... It's a fascinating and complex world that shows how decisions by those in power can have far-reaching effects.

If you enjoy adventure, worlds of fantasy, characters with courage and loyalty, and a plot full of intrigue and danger, then you should read The Mark of the Dragonfly.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on March 25, 2014.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Winter Reading 2014 Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse

As someone who loves to fly and wants to get her pilot's license, I am always interested in books about flying. The idea behind this marvelous picture book is like a blend of The Tale of Despereaux and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Lindbergh is a curious mouse who loves to spend his time reading books (something else we have in common). One day he looks up from his reading and discovers that mechanical mousetraps have been invented and all of the other mice have journeyed to America to escape the danger (and that reminds me of Feivel in "An American Tail"). Lindbergh sees bats flying across the sky and is inspired to create his own wings. The incredible illustrations show his progress from a sort of glider, to a steam-driven contraption, to his final model. Readers can also see his test flights and how he perseveres after each one to correct the design flaws and make improvements for the next attempt.

Anyone who enjoys stories with heroic little animals like Despereaux or the Library Mouse will instantly add Lindbergh to their favorites. Although it's a fictional story, it would be a great read-aloud for a class studying inventors or the history of aviation. It could also be used to study life-skills like problem-solving and perseverance. Whatever your reason for reading it, you will probably love it.

There is a video trailer for the book which gives you an idea of the illustrations and story line.

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