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Monday, May 30, 2011

The Lost Hero

Don’t you just love reading long books that last and make you feel like you got your money’s worth out of them? You know, the ones you wouldn’t mind reading one more time in case you missed something. Well, Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero (Book One: The Heroes of Olympus) is that kind of book. At the beginning of the story we are introduced to three friends who are on a school field trip to the Grand Canyon. They go to the Wilderness School, a school for problem children. Jason finds himself on the bus with no memory of his past and has to rely on what the others tell him. Piper, daughter of a famous Hollywood actor who has been missing for a few days, had just started a relationship with Jason and he doesn’t even remember it. Leo, who lost his mother in a fire when he was younger, uses his hands to fix things and hides the fact that he has a gift with fire. Storm spirits attack the trio. Annabeth, searching for Percy Jackson, saves the demigods and brings them to Camp Half-Blood. While at Camp Half-Blood the three learn who their God/Goddess parent is and each has a talent they have inherited as a result of their lineage. The trait that throws everyone is Jason’s ability to understand Latin. The demigods at Camp Half-Blood learn that Jason is to lead a quest to save Hera who is imprisoned. The trio will face various trials in their quest to fulfill the Prophecy. I especially loved the shocking ending. Riordan stays true to the writing style he used for his popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I’ve only read the first two books in that series: The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters. Reading The Lost Hero made me want to go back and finish the previous series.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising

Vampires, zombies, and Frankenstein…oh my! Jason Henderson’s debut novel, Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising, has all of these and more. Fourteen-year-old Alex Van Helsing has had a rough start at his new all-male Switzerland boarding school. Constantly attracting trouble, Alex’s new roommates are out to sabotage him. His strange literature teacher, Mr. Sangster, teaches the class about the origination of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In class, the students are intrigued by Alex’s infamous last name which is the same as the popular vampire hunting character in Dracula. As if Alex’s roommates weren’t enough to deal with, he is drawn out of his dorm at night by a vicious vampire. He quickly finds out that the dangers around him come from the Scholomance – the historic school for vampires. Is Mr. Sangster more than just a literature teacher? Can Alex continue his family’s legacy and help a vampire-hunting organization called Polidorium? Read this action packed novel to find out how Jason Henderson does a masterful job of connecting this story with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This is going to be a popular new series for middle school and high school students.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

13 Treasures

You are invited into the Faerie realm as soon as you begin to read 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison. Tanya has had to hide a dark secret her entire life – she can see faeries. At the beginning of the story, her mother, ultimately fed up with Tanya’s misbehavior (caused by taking the blame for the faeries’ mishaps), brings her to her grandmother’s house to live. Tanya’s grandmother, Florence, is not happy about this situation and the feeling is mutual. Florence’s house is also occupied by Amos, the aged former caretaker of her home; Warwick, Amos’s grown son who is the current caretaker; and Fabian, Warwick’s son. The faeries are as relentless at her grandmother’s as they were at her house. Tanya and Fabian have been warned to never go into the woods beside the house. Tanya questions Florence when she finds an article from fifty years ago that tells of a fourteen-year-old girl named Morwenna Bloom who went missing in those woods. Her grandmother tells her that she has never been found. Although her grandmother offers no more information, Tanya finds out that Amos was accused of being the last person with Morwenna when she went missing. Florence gives her a special bracelet with thirteen charms, believed to ward off evil spirits, which has been in the family for many years. When Fabian’s actions cause Tanya’s dog to run into the forbidden woods, their lives will change forever. Entering the woods to find the dog, the teens find themselves face to face with the missing Morwenna Bloom who hasn’t aged at all in the fifty years she has been missing. She begins to lead them somewhere when they are found by Warwick and she disappears. The teens are determined to find Morwenna once again in order to clear Amos’s tarnished reputation. Readers are taken into a secret world unlike any other…things are not as they seem. When the teens get in over their heads, the only hope for Tanya is a young girl, named Red, who can also see faeries. This is a great read for upper elementary through middle school fantasy readers. This novel which reads like a movie is the first in a trilogy – the second book, 13 Curses, comes out June 7th. Click on the book trailer below for more information.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I was so excited to see this new book by Walter Dean Myers. It was written with the help of a teenager named Ross Workman. When Ross was thirteen, he wrote a fan e-mail to Walter Dean Myers expressing his interest in writing. The author challenged Ross to write a story with him using alternating voices…Kick is their final product. The first chapter is narrated by Sergeant Jerry Brown, a cop who is interested in working with troubled teens and giving them a second chance. The second chapter is told by Kevin Johnson, a thirteen-year-old star soccer player. The narrations alternate between the two main characters each chapter. After crashing a car with his friend, Christy, in the passenger seat, Kevin is charged with reckless driving, driving a stolen vehicle, and not having a license to drive. Things do not add up. Kevin is staying silent to protect Christy. Christy’s father is pressing charges against Kevin. Sergeant Brown takes an interest in Kevin’s case because Kevin’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. Kevin needs to straighten up and that includes how he handles his anger on the soccer field. If Sergeant Brown cannot get Kevin to come clean about what happened that night, Kevin will end up in Juvie. I think the idea of an award-winning author working with a teenage writer is ingenious. I hope that all of you future writers will read this book and say, “Hey, I could’ve written that!” Click on the video below to hear from both authors.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I love the conversations we have with our friends about books that have made lasting impressions in our lives. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell was one of those special books that I was encouraged to read after a friend (teacher & future librarian) shared her enthusiasm for it. I was searching for a book that my middle school Book Talk Club members had not yet read and this was a perfect selection. This 1961 Newbery Medal Winner is based on a true story. An island located off the coast of California was inhabited by Indians in the early 1800s. A ship carrying Aleut hunters arrived on the island to hunt otter. The Aleut met with the Chief - father of Karana, Ramo, and Ulape – and agreed to share part of their kill with the Indians. When the Aleut did not fulfill their part of the bargain, the natives fought back. The Aleut hurriedly leave with all of the otter pelts and the results of the battle that ensued are tragic. The Indian community lost so many of their men including the Chief. After many months, the survivors decide to leave the island by way of a ship sent by one of their former islanders. When young Karana sees that her little brother is being left on the island after going back to get his spear, she leaps off the ship to be with him. The ship has to continue on its journey, because the seas are too rough to return to the island. When tragedy strikes, Karana is left all alone. This is a moving story about survival, perseverance, and human nature. I gave my friend a hard time when I reflected on the sad parts of this book – they were heart-wrenching, but I am so happy that I read this timeless tale. Take the time to read Lois Lowry’s connection to Scott O’Dell on Amazon. Also, read about what happened when Scott O’Dell’s family scattered his ashes off the coast of California. Both are wonderful stories!