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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's Raining Cupcakes

What’s better than a book titled It’s Raining Cupcakes? A book titled It’s Raining Cupcakes that includes different types of cupcakes as the chapter titles and recipes – yum! One of my awesome 8th grade students recommended that I read Lisa Schroeder’s book and I really enjoyed this quick read for upper elementary – middle school students. Isabel has always dreamed of traveling far from her native Oregon, but hasn’t ever had the opportunity. The reason she hasn’t been far from home is because her mother is afraid of many things including flying on an airplane. Isabel is frustrated that her mom doesn’t ever stay happy Isabel’s life for long and gives up on her dreams without putting forth effort. Her mom’s newest dream is to open up a cupcake store. As her mother’s mind once again fills with doubt, Isabel searches for ways to help her. Isabel and her best friend, Sophie, enter a baking contest. Will the contest challenge their friendship? Will Isabel’s mom learn to push through her own fears? My favorite part of this book is Isabel’s close relationship with her grandmother. I love books that make you cheer for the main character. Other great, more mature reads by Lisa Schroeder include I Heart You, You Haunt Me and Chasing Brooklyn – my students love these books! Click on the video below to hear from the author.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Midnight Gate

I was given Helen Stringer’s The Midnight Gate as a preview book. I was disappointed that it was the second book of a series and I had not read the first book, Spellbinder. I would definitely recommend reading Spellbinder first. I know it would have helped me better understand why the main characters were in their current situation. The main character, Belladonna, is bullied by a mean girl named Sophie. While on a school trip Belladonna and her friend, Steve, are given a map and clues by a ghost at a monastery. Sophie, seeking revenge when Belladonna fights back, reports her to Child Protective Services. Belladonna, able to see ghosts, is secretly living with her dead parents. When CPS comes to investigate, they find that she is living alone when she should be living with her grandmother. Because her grandmother is missing, she is sent to live with foster parents who live in Shady Gardens, a building that had supposedly been demolished a few years ago. Dark shadows lurk around Shady Gardens. It is up to Belladonna and Steve to solve the riddle on the map and find the Queen of the Abyss before the Dark Spaces are able to enter the human realm. This has enough action and imagination to appeal to all fantasy lovers. The ending leaves us eagerly awaiting the next book.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Addie on the Inside

James Howe’s Addie on the Inside, a companion book to The Misfits and Totally Joe, is a touching novel in verse about the angst of the preteen years. Addie, a seventh grader who speaks her mind, is dealing with many issues. Her on and off again relationship with one of the most popular guys in school has her self esteem plummeting. Addie doesn’t understand why Becca, her childhood best friend, is picking on her. How will Addie survive when her grandmother moves out? She has been Addie’s confidant during these trying times. Things dramatically change when Addie covers her mouth with duct tape in a gesture to stay silent the whole day at school in honor of The Day of Silence. Howe poetically captures the voices of so many young adults trying to make it through those tough middle school years and the essence of emerging into the persons they will ultimately become. My favorite revelation in the book is when her grandmother discusses that “mean girls” always existed, but are now more powerful with today’s media networking – how true! No Name-Calling Week (, an anti-bullying campaign, was created as a result of Howe’s The Misfits. Other great books by Howe include the popular Bunnicula series, 13: Thirteen Stories that Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen, and the Sebastian-Barth Mystery series.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Gathering

The students at my middle school love Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers Trilogy: The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning. So, I couldn’t wait to read her most recent book - The Gathering – the first book in her Darkness Rising trilogy which ties into a supernatural Native American theme. In the introduction, Maya, a sixteen-year-old who was adopted by her parents, witnesses her best friend, Serena, drown. Maya wonders how Serena, captain of the swim team, could have died this way. Time has passed, but Maya still hasn’t gotten over Serena’s mysterious death. Although Maya and Daniel, Serena’s boyfriend, have always been close, they have a difficult time talking about her. When a new guy, Rafe, moves to their small private community, rumors begin. It seems like Rafe bounces from one girl to the next and is trying to get to know Maya. Although Maya is determined not to be next on his list, she finds herself attracted to him. Maya has the gift of healing animals and even feels what they feel. When her mother takes her to get her birthmark enhanced with a tattoo for her birthday, they meet an elderly woman who lived with the Navajo for many years. The woman fears Maya and calls her a witch. A visitor appears in Maya’s community asking questions concerning Serena. When the visitor turns up dead, Maya and Daniel know they must finally face the unknown. Will Rafe lead Maya to the answers she is looking for? This was an intense read that ultimately leaves you hanging until the next book, The Calling, which will be published in April 2012. This book is appropriate for 8th grade and up.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a novel in verse narrated by a young Vietnamese girl named Hà in 1975. The moving story is based on the author’s own experiences. Tragically, Hà’s father never returned from war and her mother is a single parent to Hà and her three older brothers. As Saigon falls, Hà’s mother makes the difficult decision to load her family onto a crowded ship headed to a land full of dreams. The family ends up being sponsored by a man in Alabama. Thanhha Lai does a superb job of capturing Hà’s emotional journey in a new home where everything is different – the language, the school, the people, the food, and the way they are treated. This book will help readers understand what many young people endure when coming to the United States for the first time. I appreciated the characters in the story that opened their hearts to this young girl and her family.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Good Long Way

A Good Long Way by René Saldaña, Jr. is a quick read that chronicles a twenty-two hour period of three Latino teens’ lives. The first teen is Roelito, a smart student, who awakens around two-thirty in the morning to a noisy fight between his older brother, Beto, and his father. He quickly stands between the two as the fight escalates. Beto threatens to run away and leaves Roelito worried about what may become of his troubled brother. The story then switches to Beto. Beto, a senior in high school, feels like his father is too hard on him and should give him more privileges. His hard-working father is tired of Beto staying out past his curfew and only wants what is best for his sons. Beto leaves the house without shoes on his feet. The third teen, Jessy, is tired of watching her father beat up on her mother every night. She wonders when she will be next. She doesn’t let anyone except Beto know the hopes and dreams she has buried deep inside herself. Saldaña’s stories are woven together and they could be anyone’s – real voices and tough situations. This would be a great recommendation for reluctant readers. My favorite parts of this book are the hopeful ending and positive message about forgiveness. Other great books by this author include Finding Our Way: Stories and The Whole Sky Full of Stars. Click on the video below to listen to the author read from his book.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Dragonfly by Julia Golding is on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2011-12. Two lands agree to unite their prince and newly crowned fourth princess in order to keep peace and prevent the attack of a charging army led by an evil conqueror named Fergox. Prince Ramil and Princess Tashi are unhappy about their upcoming marriage. Their relationship, off to a bad start when the prince is disrespectful to the princess, becomes even more complicated when they are captured by Fergox. Fergox is determined to convert Princess Tashi’s religion – she prays to a Goddess, not a God. Once he converts her, he plans to make her his newest wife. Disgusted by the idea, Princess Tashi is determined to fight to the end for her beliefs and her heart. Prince Ramil gets to know the Princess during their imprisonment and soon falls in love. Will the pair be able to escape and save both their people before Fergox’s army reaches them? Click on the trailer below.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex is a humorous read that will appeal to upper elementary to middle school students. It is on the Texas Bluebonnet List 2011-12. Steve Brixton has always enjoyed reading the Bailey Brothers Mystery series and The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook. He knows exactly what it takes to be a private detective. On a Friday, his favorite teacher suddenly assigns a research project due on Monday. He draws the topic of early American Needlework. Steve heads to the library to find a book to help him with his research. Of course I especially love this book, because the chaos that ensues is connected with the secret society of librarians. As soon as Steve checks out the book, An Illustrated History of American Quilting, an alarm sounds and a group dressed in all black is after him. This highly skilled group of librarians thinks that Steve is working for someone else to steal the treasured Maguffin Quilt. Will Steve be able to solve the mystery and get these forceful librarians off his back? Click on the book trailer below for more information.