Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Ellen Potter’s The Humming Room, inspired by The Secret Garden, is on the Texas Bluebonnet Reading List 2013-14. Roo Fanshaw , tiny for her twelve years with dull green eyes, often hides from the outside world. Most would consider her a wild child neglected by her parents. Hiding beneath her parents’ trailer saves her life when her parents are murdered. She is sent to live on Cough Rock Island; the home of her rich uncle that she never knew existed. His estate is a former hospital where they sent children who were dying from tuberculosis. Roo leaves the house as often as possible to hideout in a nearby cave – her love of nature draws her there. Something in the house is making a humming noise and Roo is determined to find out where it is coming from. Who is the mysterious boy who seems to glide on the water surrounding the island? Roo hears rumors that her uncle killed his beautiful young wife. Will Roo be able to uncover the dark secrets even though her uncle remains aloof? Readers will enjoy Potter’s descriptive writing style. Other great books by Potter include Slob and the Olivia Kidney series.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me was the 2010 Newbery Medal Winner – it was so intriguing. Her most recent novel, Liar & Spy, has moments of mystery and revelation as well. Readers will enjoy her short chapters and interesting characters. Georges (pronounced George) has a big shift in his life during seventh grade when his family is forced to sell their house when his father loses his job. They move into an apartment where Georges meets an unusual boy named Safer and his sister named Candy. Safer has been spying on a mysterious tenant in the apartment who he has identified as Mr. X – a man who wears black all the time and is always leaving his apartment with a suitcase. Georges is at first happy to have a new friend, because his former best friend ignores him and hangs out with kids in the popular crowd at school who have been bullying Georges. Safer’s behavior becomes more erratic which starts to add stress to Georges’ life. Even worse, his mother is never home and he misses her a lot. What is the reason for Safer’s obsession with Mr. X? Read Liar & Spy to find out how everyone has fears and that it takes courage to fight back. Another great book by Stead is First Light. Click on the book trailer below from 60 second recap.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Lisa McMann is well known for her high school novels - the middle grades are going to really enjoy her fantasy novel, The Unwanteds. Kirkus Review correctly states, "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter." I would maybe add meets The Giver as well. The beginning of the book starts off in a plain land called the Quill - no creativity, no color, and no imagination exists in this land. It is forbidden. The annual event called The Purge separates thirteen-year-olds into three categories: Wanted, Necessary, and Unwanted. The Unwanteds will surely be put to death. When main characters - twins Aaron and Alex Stowe are divided, the outcome is no surprise to anyone. Aaron is labeled a Wanted while Alex is sent to the Death Farm with the other Unwanteds. Once Alex arrives, he finds out that the Unwanteds were chosen, because they were creative and threatened the Quill's culture of blandness. He and others are allowed to not only survive, but also attend a school of magic and learn warrior skills. Everything changes when Alex is convinced that two of the Unwanteds are going to return to Quill to avenge the wrongdoings of his twin Aaron. Choosing to help his brother creates an unexpected backlash and huge war. I can't wait to read Book 2, The Unwanteds: Island of Silence.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince - the first book in her new trilogy (The Ascendance Trilogy). The story begins with an orphan boy named Sage who has just stolen some bread to help feed those in need at his orphanage. He is quickly nabbed by a man named Conner (a regent of the king’s court) and his men. Conner offers to buy Sage from the orphanage. Sage, along with two other orphans from different places, is brought to Conner’s estate. They find out they are to learn the ways of a prince in order to take over the kingdom. The king’s youngest son, Jaron, has been missing for years; presumed dead in another altercation. When the king, his wife, and eldest son die, the regents want desperately to find an appropriate replacement. Conner knows his only hope to obtain power is to find an imposter to fulfill the role of Prince Jaron. The orphans must train under scrutiny and hope to be selected for this role, or be put to death if they fail. My students and I are eagerly anticipating book 2, The Runaway King, being published on March 1, 2013.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Gordon Korman is one of my favorite authors of middle grade novels. His newest humorous book, Ungifted, was so entertaining - kids will love the storyline and interesting characters. Donovan has been impulsive his entire life so it was not a surprise when he “accidentally” knocked the globe off the metal statue at his middle school. Thankfully no one was killed or injured by the massive careening out-of-control sphere. The result was costly – damaging the entrance, floors, and inside of the gymnasium. Donovan is quickly nabbed by the superintendent who writes his name down on a piece of paper. The superintendent’s secretary mistakenly thinks the paper identifies the qualified candidates for the gifted and talented academy in the district. When Donovan is notified of his transfer to the prestigious school, he quickly realizes that this is his chance to hide out and not have to face any consequences; all the while the superintendent is looking for the name of the perpetrator. Donovan has never shown any type of giftedness in his life so “hiding out” in a school of geniuses is not as easy as it seems. Told from different perspectives, readers will find themselves cheering Donovan on and hoping for the best for the new friends he has made. Other great books by Gordon Korman include No More Dead Dogs, Schooled, Pop, Swindle, Framed, Show Off, Medusa Plot, Born to Rock, Everest series, Island series, On the Run series and Titanic series.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
UnWholly is the highly anticipated sequel to Neal Shusterman’s action-packed Unwind. I was fortunate enough to get an autographed copy of the ARC last spring and it was the top prize my students wanted at our Biggest Reader Party in May. Shusterman’s Unwind was published in 2007 – it is still the talk of the library – I have seven copies, all are checked out and there is a hold list for it. Normally, second books in a trilogy are my least favorite…never seeming to add up to the first book. My students are correct, UnWholly is just as great as Unwind. In this dystopian world, adults are valued more than children. Parents can choose to have their children “uwound” until the age of seventeen. When a teen is unwound, their body parts are harvested so adults can live forever. Some teens are tithed to the government and believe that their lives serve a greater good in helping others. UnWholly begins right where Unwind ended. Some new players include a boy named Starkey, a stork (a baby left at someone’s doorstep – the family must raise them) who rebelled in the household he was raised in, escapes unwinding and is now determined to give all storks a voice and betray at the Graveyard; Cam, a modern-day Frankenstein created from the top parts of elite unwinds – a symbol of the future; and Miracolina, a tithe, who will stop at nothing to fulfill her destiny.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Joan Bauer’s Almost Home is also on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2013-14. Joan Bauer is a master at creating characters that readers can relate to and remember long after they finish reading her books. Every so often I come across a book where I find so many quotes I want to highlight and share with others – this is one of those novels. This emotional story is about a little girl named Sugar who becomes homeless through a series of events that spiral out of control. She loses more than any child should including the school that has the best teacher who truly “gets” her strengths, the grandfather who was her only reliable father figure, the secure home she has grown up in, and ultimately the mother she has taken care of for so long. Don’t worry though – Sugar has the strength of a warrior and Bauer ensures that she has safety nets to catch her when things become unbearable. Everyone needs a dog to come home to, a teacher who never gives up on you, and genuinely good people who become family by choice. I absolutely loved this one! Language arts teachers will appreciate Sugar’s messages via letters and poems throughout the story. Other great stories by Joan Bauer include Close to Famous, Peeled, Squashed, Thwonk, Best Foot Forward, Stand Tall, Rules of the Road, Sticks, and Backwater.
Alex Flinn’s latest novel, Bewitching (Kendra Chronicles), is on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2013-14. Readers of Flinn’s Beastly (made into a movie) will remember Kendra as the witch that placed a curse on arrogant Kyle Kingsbury. Kendra has returned in Bewitching and readers will be thrilled to learn her background story and her most recent spell-casting shenanigans. Flinn manages to successfully twist many fairy tales into this interwoven story. One of the main storylines involves a girl named Emma who has been raised by her stepfather from the age of three-years-old. Everything changes when her stepfather’s biological daughter, Lisette, comes to live with them. Lisette’s mother died recently and her father feels sorry for her. Is there an evil stepmother? You bet – Emma’s mother is awful to Lisette, but this isn’t your normal Cinderella story – maybe the stepsister isn’t all that bad. Twists and turns abound in this action-packed fantasy. As bewitching as Kendra is, some things don’t work out the way she had hoped. Fairy tale lovers will enjoy this one! Recommended for 8th grade and up. Other great books by Alex Flinn include Nothing to Lose, Fade to Black, Breathing Under Water, Cloaked, A Kiss in Time, and Breaking Point.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Author Ellis Weiner and illustrator Jeremy Holmes have created a witty interactive chapter book that keeps their readers engaged and entertained. The Templeton Twins Have an Idea is told by an amusing narrator that questions the reader at the end of each chapter. The story is about John and Abigail Templeton, twelve-year-old twins, who have recently lost their mother. Their father, a professor constantly trying to invent things, decides to move the family to a new university to get away from all of the sad reminders of their mom. Unfortunately, their father is being pursued by a crazy former student who declares the professor has stolen his idea of a flying helicopter stored in a knapsack. When the twins find themselves kidnapped by the madman and his very own twin brother, they must use their smarts to get away. The storytelling will definitely appeal to Lemony Snicket (Series of Unfortunate Events) fans. The best part is that readers will learn a thing or two without even realizing it. The format of the text and creative illustrations will appeal to many readers.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Sally Nicholls' Ways to Live Forever was recommended to me by some of my 8th grade boys. One of them said, "That book is the best book I have ever read!". The story begins with a list written by the eleven-year-old British narrator, Sam. Number 4 on his list says "I have leukemia". Number 5 on his list says "by the time you read this, I will probably be dead". The story takes us through Sam's daily life battling cancer. Told in journal format with lists and illustrations - reluctant readers will stick with it. Sam describes his friendship with another cancer patient named Felix. The two boys are determined to make every minute of their lives count. This tear-jerker gives readers a glimpse of how an entire family is affected when a child is diagnosed with cancer. This reminded me of a middle school version of John Green's The Fault in our Stars. Great book with teachable moments! Just found out the movie will be coming to North America spring 2013.
Rose Cooper's Rumors from the Boys' Room (part of her Blogtastic series) is another book that I cannot keep on my library shelf. The girls keep checking it out and asking me what other books I have by this author. What surprises me most is that it is just as popular with the 8th graders as it is with the 6th graders. This novel is written in the same format as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Sofia writes all her notes in her preblogging notebook. Under a secret pen name, Sofia reveals the gossip of middle school on a blog. When she begins to get some of the information wrong, another secret blogger begins competing with her. Filled with middle school angst (mean girls, cute boys, crushes, and changing family dynamics) - readers will love the humorous cartoons that accompany the text. Other blogtastic novels by Cooper include Gossip from the Girls' Room and Secrets from the Sleeping Bag.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Diana Lopez's Confetti Girl so I couldn't wait to read Choke. Windy and her bestfriend, Elena, are eighth graders who are constantly picked on by the two most popular girls at school. Windy wants so much to be part of the popular crowd. When a new girl named Nina stands up to the popular girls and is friendly towards Windy, all of the other "in-girls" start to want to be friends with her, too. Windy enjoys her new status so much, she begins to leave Elena out so she she can stay part of the popular group. Nina asks Windy to become her breath sister and even buys her a matching scarf. Windy decides to play the choking game with Nina despite all the warning signals in her head. Windy realizes that Nina has encouraged others to play this deadly game as well. Will Windy learn that Nina isn't who she seems to be before it is too late? This is a must read for anyone who has played or thought of playing the choking game. Lopez includes informative websites on this serious issue.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson - the story of one young boy's determination to survive and save the only family he knows.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Gary D. Schmidt crosses over to the fantasy genre with his What Came from the Stars. This novel is told in two alternating stories. One in a faraway galaxy where the Valorim people make a last ditch effort to save their culture's arts from the evil Lord Mondus by creating a chain that holds all the beauty of their world and casting it across space where it ultimately lands in sixth grader Tommy Pepper's lunchbox. The second story describes the hurts that Tommy, his little sister, and his father have endured due to his mother's death. Only Tommy knows how badly things ended the last time he saw his mother. He feels like he caused her accident. When Tommy slips the chain necklace on, he can miraculously paint pictures with moving objects and play the beautiful music that his mother loved. Even more special is that he sees his mother and hears her voice clearly. Horrible things begin to happen in his seaside town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Someone from a distant planet is searching for the necklace and will stop at nothing until he gets it. He is leaving destruction in his wake and things become desperate when people end up missing as well. Will Tommy give the necklace back to stop the devastation or will he fight back like a warrior with the help of his close friends? Other great books by Gary Schmidt include Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, First Boy, Trouble, The Wednesday Wars, and Okay for Now (one of my favorite books).
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Tim Green's Pinch Hit is told from two perspectives in alternating short chapters that leave the reader anxiously turning the page to find out what happens next. Trevor is a rich actor that has been given every opportunity in life except the chance to play baseball on an organized team. Sam, the son of a loving single father, is a star baseball player hoping to win a place at USC's Elite Training Center. Both boys knew they were adopted. When they meet by chance, they realize that they are twins. Trevor convinces Sam to switch places with him so he can have the chance to play baseball like a normal teenager. Both boys learn things about themselves in the different households as things begin to unravel. The storyline reminded me of Parent Trap - both boys and girls will love this one. Other great books by Tim Green include Unstoppable, Deep Zone, Best of the Best, The Big Time, Rivals, Football Champ, Baseball Great, Football Hero, and Football Genius.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Tom Angleberger is known for his popular Origami Yoda series which includes Darth Paper Strikes Back and The Secret of the Fortune Wookie - my students (especially the 6th graders) love them. Fake Mustache is an action packed humorous story that begins with two boys (Casper and Lenny) shopping at a novelty store. It's Casper's birthday and he purchases a valuable, unique handlebar mustache. He, also, purchases a "man about town" suit to wear. The next day Lenny sees on the news that someone who looks just like Casper dressed in the suit and wearing the mustache has robbed a bank. When he goes to Casper's house, he finds a lot of money. He calls the police and everything backfires. Casper's new mustache gives him the power to brainwash people - he keeps robbing banks and assumes power in the community. He, also, convinces everyone that Lenny is the criminal. Lenny is the only one who knows the truth and must stay one step ahead of Casper or be destroyed. The only who believes him is a has-been movie star named Jodie O'Rodeo. Can the two of them convince society that the mustache is cursed and Casper must be stopped before it is too late? This entertaining read will make you want to go out to buy your very own fake mustache!
Sunday, September 30, 2012
My students and I cannot wait until Ally Condie's book three, Reached, is published. We are counting down. Just wanted to share the fun we had at yesterday's festival. Ms. Lester (fellow librarian and good friend) and I having fun posing in the Reached bubble. Purchased 15 amazing autographed novels by Ally Carter, Leigh Bardugo, Jeff Hirsch, Rae Carson, Anna Banks, Sophie Jordan, Ally Condie, Lex Thomas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Kami Garcia , Margaret Stohl, Marissa Meyer, and Tara Hudson for my end of the year Biggest Reader party. Austin Teen Book Festival rocks!
Shadow and Bone Friday night when I realized that I would get to see the author, Leigh Bardugo, at the Austin Teen Festival on Saturday. Despite feeling under the weather, I read half of it Friday night and the rest last night after returning from Austin. Hands down, it is the best fantasy novel I have read in a long time. It reads like a movie - which is awesome considering it is going to be made into one. I really hope they don't stray from the original story which is filled with sorcery, good, evil, love, and loss – no Hollywood enhancements needed here. The setting is the harsh mountainous Russian landscape at the height of war which has left the region divided. Alina and Mal, orphaned children refugees, are taken in by a Duke and raised together. The two become inseparable. The Grisha, a powerful group of sorcerers and healers, come to test Alina and Mal. When they both fail to show signs of being Grisha, they are sent to serve in the King’s army. During a hopelessly dangerous mission to cross the Shadow Fold, a deathly stretch of water that must be crossed to hunt for valuable resources, their regiment is attacked by flying lethal creatures called Volcra which seek human flesh and blood. When all seems lost and Mal is seriously injured, Alina sees a flash of white light and passes out. The surviving soldiers realize that she has special powers that only the Grisha can possess. They bring her to the Darkling, the handsome powerful leader of the Grisha, and he takes her to the kingdom to learn how to enhance her magic. He needs it to defeat the Fold and save the people. Things are not what they seem. Will Alina be able to use her gift for good or will evil prevail? Can Alina stand up to the Darkling’s affections and fight to be reunited with Mal, the boy who knows her better than anyone? Book two, Siege and Storm, comes out in 2013.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. Currently, I only have one copy and as soon as a student went to turn it in, a friend would be right behind him or her asking to check it out next. If you get a chance to read it, you will understand why. It is filled with information on how famous people in history died and includes little known trivia that pertains to the person discussed. This book is definitely not for the squeamish as it doesn't hold back in giving you the disgusting details involved with death. Thankfully, many of the diseases mentioned don't exist today thanks to antibiotics and vaccines. The big surprise at my school - the girls love reading it as much as the boys!
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Tera Lynn Childs' Sweet Venom is told from three points of view. Gretchen, Grace, and Greer are descendants of Medusa - triplets separated at birth. Gretchen has been taught how to fight the monsters from mythology that escape into the human realm. She is one tough cookie who will stop at nothing to find Ursula, the woman who has mentored her and has recently been abducted. Everything was normal for Grace until her family moved to San Francisco. Now she sees monsters...if it weren't for meeting Gretchen and having her train her for the tough battles ahead, she wouldn't make it. Both girls realize they are part of a prophecy, and there is a third sister named Greer. Greer, a pretty girl with a snobbish personality, has been raised with affluent parents. Parents who had her undergo hypnotherapy when she said she could see monsters as a little girl. Can these three huntresses with different personalities conquer the monsters that keep appearing? With a bounty on their heads, the job won't be easy. My students love this one! Look for book 2, Sweet Shadows, to see what happens next.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
April Henry's Girl, Stolen is a suspense novel that will keep readers wanting to know what will happen next. The main character is a teenager named Cheyenne who became blind as a result of a deadly accident that killed her mother a couple of years ago. Cheyenne, seriously sick, stays in the backseat of her stepmother's car while her stepmother goes into a pharmacy to fill her prescription. A teenage boy, Griffin, steals the car not knowing that Cheyenne is in the backseat. As he drives the car home, Cheyenne tries to fight back. She is unsuccessful and quickly realizes that she needs to think straight and use all of her senses in order to survive. When he brings Cheyenne home to his criminal father and his two hooligan partners in crime, he begins to feel protective of Cheyenne. Griffin's father thinks they have a prize in Cheyenne when he finds out that her Dad is the president of Nike. He is determined to use her for ransom money, but doesn't plan on returning her alive. This thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Dead is the New Black is Marlene Perez's first book in her Nightshade High School series - this book was brought to my attention by the girls at my school. Daisy Giordano, an average teenager, comes from a unique family. Her mother is a psychic who works for the local police department solving crimes. Her sisters also have telepathic powers which make Daisy feel like the black sheep of the family at times. The school year at Nightshade High School starts off strangely when head cheerleader, Samantha Devereaux, comes to school with pale skin, wearing all black, and dragging a coffin backpack. When Daisy hears about a difficult case her mother is working on, she decides go to the morgue to see the teenage victim’s body…the girl has a white streak of hair and distinctive tattoos. The body turns up missing the next day. Daisy recruits her crush, Ryan, who is the police chief’s son to help her investigate why weird things are happening in their town. Could Samantha’s new appearance be linked to the missing dead girl? When Daisy joins the cheerleading squad she notices that all the cheerleaders except for Samantha are starting to change – starting with gray streaks in their hair. Is there a vampire who sucks the souls out of young people in the Nightshade community? Could it be Samantha? Read Dead is the New Black to find out. Currently, there are six books in her popular series.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Stuart Gibb’s entertaining mystery, Belly Up, is on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2012-13. Teddy Fitzroy is your typical mischievous boy who lives in a trailer on the grounds of a new African-modeled zoo and amusement park in Texas called Fun Jungle. Both of his parents work for the rich owner, J.J. McCracken. Although it has only been open for a few months, their popular mascot – an ornery hippo named Henry – is found dead in his water hole. How beloved was Henry? Think about what Mickey Mouse is to Disney…you get the picture. The visitors of the busy attraction are saddened over Henry’s death. Those that worked behind the scenes at the money-making amusement park were not going to miss Henry’s disturbing behavior especially his poop slinging. In fact, any one of them could be his murderer? But why kill him? While spying on Henry’s autopsy, Teddy hears Doc say that someone caused Henry’s death. He teams up with J.J.’s daughter, Summer, to conduct their own investigation and the two find themselves in dangerous situations. Twists throughout the book will keep the reader guessing all the way to the end! If you like this one, read Gibbs’ newest book, Spy School.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Rae Carson's debut fantay, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, is the first book in a trilogy and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award for new authors of young adult literature. The beginning of this book was a little slow for me, but I am so happy that I stuck with it...after the first quarter of the book, it took off and I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. Narrated by sixteen-year-old Elisa who doesn't have good self esteem despite bearing the Godstone - a special jeweled stone that she was born with in her belly button. Those that possess the Godstone are considered chosen by God and it only exists each century. Overweight Elisa cannot believe that she is being married to a handsome king named Alejandro when her older sister, Alodia, is the smart and pretty princess. Alejandro takes Elisa to his kingdom, but keeps it secret that she is his wife. Once she is noticed as having the Godstone, she is kidnapped by a band of rebels hoping to save their people from imminent war. Elisa grows under their captivity and soon learns her destiny. This fantasy has sorcery, love, adventure, and war in it - a real page turner! Can't wait for book two, The Crown of Embers, coming on September 18th. Watch the book trailer below to listen to the author tell you more about her trilogy.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
David Lubar's Weenies series appeals to a lot of kids, especially those that prefer to read entertaining short stories. Attack of the Vampire Weenies is a collection of thirty-three often dark, mostly humorous stories that will have the reader quickly turning the pages for more. What more could a kid ask for - vampires, ghosts, deathly situations, and the most unexpected events? Bizarre? You bet - just like his other books in the series: In the Land of the Lawn Weenies, Invasion of the Road Weenies, The Curse of the Campfire Weenies, The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies, and the newly released Beware the Ninja Weenies. Other great books by David Lubar include Kidzilla and other Tales, Hidden Talents, Dunk, Punished, True Talents, and My Rotten Life.
Monday, August 6, 2012
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe is the first book in The Fallen World Trilogy. Sixteen-year-old Kaelyn narrates the story in journal format (which will appeal to reluctant readers) – she is writing to her former best friend, Leo, because she has regrets about how their friendship ended and not saying goodbye when he left their island community to live in New York. It is the beginning of the school year and Kaelyn pledges to Leo to become extroverted and make friends easier. Kaelyn’s father has been working long hours at the hospital because unusual things are happening. A few people on the island begin to have a spot on their skin that itches, then acquire a cough that doesn’t go away…they eventually become incoherent, say whatever is on their mind, and ultimately die. The problem is that they are contagious and this mysterious virus is spreading like wildfire on the island. Kaelyn’s school year abruptly comes to an end when schools and businesses are closed. When the government closes off all access to and from the island and sporadically drops off limited supplies, the people’s instinct to survive cause them to become hysterical and take matters into their own hands. It becomes a battle of time to find out how to stop the virus and keep the lawlessness under control. Kaelyn’s whole world is rocked as even her family cannot avoid the deadly virus. This science fiction novel is for teens – they will love it. Book Two, The Lives We Lost, will be available on February 12, 2013.
Heather Dixon's debut novel, Entwined, is for all of you who love fairytales. Azalea, the oldest daughter of eleven girls, loves to dance and has been prepared by her loving mother the Queen for her first ball hosted by her parents. Prior to attending the Christmas Eve ball, she visits her sick mother. The Queen gives her a special handkerchief and makes her promise to take care of her rambunctious younger sisters if anything should happen to her. Her pregnant mother dies during the night and the stern King is left to deal with his grief and another baby – his twelfth daughter. Each of the princesses’ names begins with the consecutive alphabet letter of their birth order beginning with Azalea and ending with the baby Lily. As is customary, the King declares the entire palace to be in mourning – no dancing, no courting, and only to wear black for an entire year. The princesses are consumed with grief not only with the loss of their beloved mother, but also for their love of dancing which has been taken away by their strict father. When the girls stumble upon a forbidden magical pavilion on the estate, they finally find a secret place to dance the night away while their father is at war. The handsome host of the mysterious ball calls himself Keeper. Although Azalea is no stranger to magic, the forces that are behind the Keeper and the pavilion are darker than any she has ever encountered. Will Azalea have the strength to save her sisters and her father when the consequences of their nightly dances become evident or will Keeper win at the last dance – entwined? If this sounds familiar to you, it should - it is a modern retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan which has gotten so much positive buzz. This quick read fictional story narrated by a gorilla named Ivan was inspired by a real silverback named Ivan. Ivan describes vague memories of being captured as a baby with his sister who didn't make it alive to the United States. He was raised like a child by a man named Mick and his wife until he became too big to take care of. When Mick's wife leaves him, he creates an animal display at a mall to show Ivan and other circus type animals for profit. Applegate creatively gives voices to the animals in the story. Ivan in the story, like the real Ivan, has spent twenty-seven-years in a cage on display. He knows he was meant for more than this and ultimately steps up to be the protector that silverbacks are known to be when a baby elephant named Ruby is added to Mick's animal show. Ivan uses his artwork to find a way to become "The One and Only Ivan". Other great reads by Applegate include Home of the Brave (a novel in verse)and the popular Animorphs series.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White is the first in a supernatural trilogy complete with paranormals, danger, and romance. Imagine a world where faeries, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, and shapeshifters exist. Teenager Evie doesn't remember anything about her childhood or where she might have come from. All she knows is that she has the gift of seeing through paranormals' disguises - she can see what really lies beneath their magic and it usually isn't pretty. Her gift makes her one of the top paranormal taggers for the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA). The most difficult issue that Evie ever had to deal with was her fallen relationship with a faerie named Reth. That was until a handsome shapeshifter named Lend is captured while trying to get information from the IPCA. Someone is trying to kill all the paranormals. That somebody wants Evie to join her. Lend, who leads a normal life disguised as a teenager, brings Evie home when she helps him escape and has her blend in his community as a normal teenager. Will Evie be able to be a normal teen for once in her life? Read what happens when powerful dark magic and the desire to belong consume Evie. A real page turner! The second book in the series is called Supernaturally. The third book, Endlessly, comes out on July 24th.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Clete Barrett Smith's debut novel and the first in a series, Aliens on Vacation, is on the Texas Bluebonnet 2012 reading list. This entertaining story is narrated by almost seventh grader, Scrub, who is having to spend the summer with his odd grandmother at her home which is also her business called Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast. Scrub notices right away that the tourists staying at his grandmother's home are not normal. Scrub isn't the only one who has noticed that things are not what they seem at the Bed and Breakfast...Sherriff Tate is asking a lot of questions. Things get difficult for Scrub when his grandmother asks him to help out with business. If having to disguise these extra-terrestrial beings who come to the house via a transporter from their home planet isn't hard enough, Scrub has to take three rambunctious children aliens on a campout for an entire night by himself. What happens when they run into Sherriff Tate and local boys on a scouting trip in the woods? Read this humorous story to find out. Can't wait to read Book #2, Alien on a Rampage.
Monday, July 9, 2012
Dead End in Norvelt by talented Jack Gantos is the 2012 Newbery Medal Winner. Gantos takes his readers on a journey to his childhood in a small town called Norvelt. Boys will especially love the wacky things that Jack does in the story beginning with accidentally shooting his father's souvenir Japanese sniper rifle from WWII. The year is 1962, families are preparing for the possibility of an attack by the Russians in the midst of the Cold War. Jack gets horrible nose bleeds from any little disturbance he experiences. His parents' disagreements don't help the situation. When he is asked by old Miss Volker who has crippled hands from arthritis to help write the obituaries for the town newspaper, he learns the history of Norvelt and her desire to preserve the historic neighborhood. When the oldest members of Norvelt start dying off within days of each other, this humorous book becomes a mystery. Could Miss Volker be involved? Other suspects include the funeral home owner, Mr. Spizz (the man who controls a lot of Norvelt), and even Jack himself. Read this award winning book to find out how a curious young boy learns a lot about himself and his unusual little town while doing nice things for his elderly neighbors. Other great books by Gantos include his Joey Pigza series, Rotten Ralph series, Hole in my Life (autobiography), Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade, and Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Wonder by R.J. Palacio is that kind of book. Meet Auggie short for August - a sheltered boy who has been homeschooled by his mother because of the many medical procedures he has had to have due to a rare genetic condition that caused Auggie to be born with a severely misshapened face. Even after all these surgeries to help Auggie lead a a normal life; his mouth doesn't completely close when he eats causing food to fall out, his eyes droop down upon his cheeks as if he has been in a fire, and his ears are fused down close to his head so that he has difficulty hearing. Auggie's parents make the tough decision to have him start fifth grade at a small prepatory school. Auggie is filled with anxiety and dreads the reactions he will get from the other students. When his mother has the Principal arrange a tour of the school led by other students who will be Auggie's classmates, he actually starts looking forward to the experience. When school starts, Auggie goes through what many children who look different from others go through - the blatant stares, the teasing and taunting, and the isolation. He must find the strength to be better than the friends who let him down and learn to lean on the ones who know how to make things right. The story is told from different points of view which I absolutely loved. The author stated the following in an interview with Random House's Random Acts of Reading Blog: "I hope that readers will come away with the idea that they are noticed: their actions are noted. Maybe not immediately or directly or even in a way that seems obvious, but if they’re mean, someone suffers. If they’re kind, someone benefits. And the choice is theirs: whether to be noticed for being kind or for being mean. They get to choose who they want to be in this world. And it’s not their friends and not their parents who make those choices: it’s them." This is a must read for every educator - the author's webpage has discussion questions as well as ideas for precepts which are presented by Auggie's English teacher as a way for the students to reflect on life and their own contributions.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
I usually don't read horror novels, but Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin is on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2012 and the students at my school who have read it absolutely love it. This is labeled as YA (Young Adult) and portrays the violence that exists in an apocalyptic world where the dead rise again as human hungry zombies unless killed in a specific manner. Although that may be the initial draw to the story for readers, it is the emotional storyline, well-developed characters, and representation of our human need for meaningful relationships that makes me want to read the next book. Fourteen years have passed since First Night – the night that dying people rose from the dead as zombies…the night Benny Imura, just a toddler, was saved by his older brother, Tommy. Benny remembers seeing his mother scream and their zombie father attacking her while Tommy was running away with him. Benny has never understood how Tommy, now a respected Zombie Hunter, could have acted so cowardly that fateful night. Although he has very little respect for Tommy, he agrees to learn his brother’s business – ending zoms’ lives once and for all. Tommy teaches Benny to remember that the zoms were once someone’s loved ones and deserve to be at peace. Despite Tommy’s lessons, Benny idolizes Charlie Matthias and his sidekick, Marion Hammer – two tough guys who control the area – they are the real heroes to Benny. When Benny and his friends collect the most recent Zombie Cards (one of the limited forms of entertainment for the teens) to add to their collection, Benny stumbles upon the card of The Lost Girl. Things begin to spiral out of control, people who matter to the brothers are killed and Benny’s good friend, Nix, is kidnapped and will be forced to compete in Gameland – a place where young kids are forced to fight zombies for others’ entertainment. This book had me cringing, cheering, and at times crying – I loved the characters and their determination to survive. Book 2 is Dust and Decay. Recommended for 8th grade and up. Click on the video below to hear Jonathan Maberry tell you more about his amazing book.
Friday, June 8, 2012
My students love Sarah Weeks' novels - I can't wait to share her book, Pie, with them. This endearing novel is about doing the right thing, building community, helping others,and leaving your mark in this world. Alice's Aunt Polly was known for baking her delicious pies for others in the town without charging them a dime. When Aunt Polly dies suddenly, Alice's world is torn apart - not only because she misses her Aunt so much, but because the whole town is acting strange and some people want to fill her Aunt Polly's shoes and win the prestigious Blueberry Award. Aunt Polly had won the last 13 annual Blueberry Awards for her tasty pies. Even Alice's mother is bitter about Aunt Polly's giving ways and is determined to become an even better pie baker than her sister. When Aunt Polly's will is read, the town discovers that the secret pie crust recipe has been willed to Lardo (Aunt Polly's fat white cat) and Lardo has been willed to Alice. It is up to Alice and her cute classmate, Charlie, to find out who has broken into Aunt Polly's bake shop, stolen and drugged Lardo, and will stop at nothing to obtain the secret recipe. Alice learns something about herself in solving this mystery. I love that Weeks included a pie recipe at the beginning of each chapter - yum! Other wonderful reads by Weeks include As Simple as It Seems, Jumping the Scratch, Regular Guy, and So B. It.
Ever wonder how Frankenstein came to be? Talented author, Kenneth Oppel, creatively gives his readers a prelude to the monster Frankenstein in This Dark Endeavor. Victor Frankenstein and his high-achieving twin brother, Konrad, love to fence and play make believe with their distant cousin, Elizabeth, who lives with their family at Chateau Frankenstein. Although the twins are identical, Konrad has always been better than Victor at everything they do. When Elizabeth accidentally opens the secret doorway to the Dark Library in the estate, Victor becomes enchanted with the books about apothecary and alchemy. His interest peaks when his father catches them and forbids them from entering the library again. When Konrad becomes bedridden with a mysterious illness that no doctor can find a cure for, Victor decides to find the answer in the forbidden Library. When he finds a mysterious burned book that holds the secret Elixir of Life, he recruits Elizabeth and his friend, Henry, to help him find the one man in the village who can help them read it. Will they end up sacrificing everything to obtain the cure for Konrad? Will the jealousy Victor feels over Konrad's and Elizabeth's relationship affect their journey to find the one thing that may be able to help Konrad? This dark, chilling tale will keep readers turning the page for more. Other great books by Oppel include Airborn,Darkwing, Firewing, Silverwing, Skybreaker, and Starclimber.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
The Book of Wonders is an exciting debut novel from author Jasmine Richards. The author transports the reader to an Arabian nights world packed with adventure. When thirteen-year-old Zardi and her friend, Rhidan, meet Sinbad the pirate they learn that Sinbad's mother, Sula, may know where Rhidan's family is. Rhidan with his unique silver hair, violet eyes, and magical silver amulet was found as a baby - never knowing why his parents abandoned him or where they came from. Zardi is devastated when her older sister is selected as the praisemaker - an unwed young girl kept for a season locked in a tower only to be released like an animal to be hunted down by the Sultan as part of his warped game. Zardi and Rhidan must go on a dangerous journey filled with deadly snakes, a hungry cyclops, and a metal warrior in order to release the magic djinni who may be able to save Zardi's sister before it is too late. All I can say is - "Wow" - couldn't put this one down! It is going on my 8th grade list in the fall.
Friday, May 25, 2012
L.B. Tillit's Unchained, part of the Gravel Road series, is simplistically written to appeal to reluctant readers and is filled with raw emotion. I know I won't have any problem getting my 8th graders to check this out. "I wasn't born mean." is the first sentence of the book. The story is narrated by TJ – a broken boy who is a product of his hopeless circumstances and neglectful upbringing. TJ explains why he is who he is and describes how he has slowly gotten involved with the wrong crowd on the north side of town. When his father dies suddenly, TJ is taken away from his mother and sent to live with a caring foster mom in the south side of the city. His mother cannot have him back until she is clean from drugs. Although TJ is at first resentful of his new situation with his new brothers and sisters, he quickly thrives and learns how being loved is supposed to feel. Two years pass and his mother is supposedly ready to get him back. TJ has to leave the only safe environment he has ever known. Once back in his old neighborhood, he is forced to go back to the gang who took care of him before his father’s death. Everything falls apart and TJ finds himself in the crossfire of gang activity . This book really made me think about kids who are sent back to biological parents, hopeless situations, and dangerous neighborhoods – things are beyond their control. How do they survive it? I couldn’t put this book down and the kids won’t be able to either. It is a mature book – 8th grade and up.
Greg Leitich Smith’s Chronal Engine is a must read for anyone interested in dinosaurs and time travel. Three siblings (Twins Emma & Kyle, Max – narrator of the story) are sent to live with their eccentric grandfather for the summer in Texas while their single mother travels to Mongolia for work. Their grandfather's grandfather, the man who built their grandfather's ranch house years ago, built a time machine named the Chronal Engine. Max is the only one a little excited about being there, because he loves everything about dinosaurs and the ranch is located on land known for its dinosaur history. The trio quickly become friends with a girl named Petra who lives there. Their strange grandfather gives them odd instructions one night right before having a heart attack that he knew he would have. When Emma is kidnapped, the foursome our quickly swept up in a time travel adventure through the Chronal Engine into a world of killer dinosaurs. This action-packed adventure is going on my 7th grade reading list in the fall. Another great book by Leitich Smith is Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Lisa Harkrader’s newest chapter book, The Adventures of Beanboy, is in that format. Seventh grader Tucker MacBean is a huge comic book fan which doesn’t make him high on the popular list at school. He and his best friend, Noah, frequently visit Caveman Comics for the latest H2O comic. Things have not been so great at home for Tucker – his father lives in another city, his mother is working during the day and taking college night classes, and he is responsible for taking care of his special needs little brother, Beecher, after school. Tucker decides the answer to his family’s burdens would be to win the H2O comic contest (the prize is a college scholarship – just what his mom needs), but he needs to attend Art Club after school to be successful. Tucker is relieved when his mother tells him that she has found someone to take care of Beecher after school. Tucker is surprised to find Sam Zawicki, a girl at his school who acts like his arch enemy, is Beecher’s new babysitter. Why is Sam always so angry with everyone? Did Sam’s brother steal from their middle school cooking class like everyone believes? When Tucker stands up for what is right, he becomes even more powerful than his favorite superhero. The comic part of the story portrays Tucker’s creative imagination and how his newly created character evolves. Another good book by Harkrader is Airball: My Life in Briefs.
Under the Mesquite is Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s debut novel in verse. The author drew on her own experiences as a Mexican-American adolescent who had to grow up quickly because of her family’s dire circumstances. This beautifully written story describes Lupita’s transformation from the time the family moves to the United States and her mother begins to battle cancer. Lupita, who loves to write and act, faces cruel criticism from her Hispanic friends when she works hard to do well in her high school theater arts program. Problems at school are minor compared to the ones Lupita faces at home. She makes huge sacrifices in her own life when she takes on the role of parent to her seven younger siblings when her father goes with her mother to seek treatment far from home. This emotional journey presents all the tribulations that families endure in fighting a horrible illness: financial burdens, family turmoil, and most of all the thought of losing someone you love so much. I absolutely loved this novel – can’t wait to read future books by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.
Carl Hiaasen, another favorite middle school author, went the adventure route with his newest middle grade read – Chomp. Wahoo (yes that is his real name) has been raised by an unconventional father, an experience animal wrangler named Mickey Cray. Mickey owns and protects different animals, reptiles, and birds. Wahoo has had to take on a lot of responsibility in caring for the animals because his father suffered a head injury from a mishap with a frozen iguana. When Wahoo’s mother a Chinese language teacher takes a job in China to help ease their financial burdens, Wahoo decides it is time for his Dad to get back to work. He accepts a high-paying job with a popular television reality show called Expedition Survival. The phony star, Derek Badger, is more than Wahoo bargained for. As if handling high-maintenance Derek Badger wasn’t enough, things become even more complicated when a young, abused girl named Tuna joins Wahoo and his father on their assignment. Will the trio survive the Everglades while Tuna’s gun-wielding father stays one step ahead of their every move, determined to bring his daughter home? Other great books by Hiaasen include Hoot, Flush, and Scat.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! by Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury (illustrated by Matthew McElligott) is on the 2012-13 Texas Bluebonnet reading list. This book will definitely appeal to upper elementary - middle school students. Victor Godwin, a hardworking A-student, has been gathering statistics about the perfect Science Fair project so he can win this year's contest. His world changes drastically when a new tenant, Benjamin Franklin, moves into his apartment building. The history books say that Benjamin has been dead for 200 years, but no one knows about the Modern Order of Prometheus - a secret society from the past that worked at creating immortality for its members. When Benjamin is awakened from his "sleep", he searches for his Custodian and the reason he has been awakened at that time. Victor has the difficult responsibility of keeping Benjamin's energy levels in check and helping him find the Modern Order of Prometheus. Told in text, illustrations, historical references, and scientific details - this entertaining read will have students wanting to find out more about science and history. Readers will want to read Book 2: Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers. This book will be on my 6th Grade Reading List this fall.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Jordan Sonnenblick’s newest novel, Curveball: The Year I Lost my Grip is a touching story about athletic Peter Friedman’s challenging freshmen year of high school. After a baseball career-ending injury to his pitching arm, Peter must find a way to admit to his best friend, AJ, that baseball is no longer part of his future no matter how much AJ believes that recuperation and spring training will fix it. Peter’s talented grandfather, a professional photographer who has captured all of his baseball games with his camera, has also begun to act differently – gives Peter his beloved camera equipment, leaves sticky notes labeling everyday items and how to use them, and asks Peter not to mention his peculiar behavior to his mother. With pressure from his mother, Peter takes a photography class and ultimately meets a girl who steals his heart and unintentionally gets them assigned as photographers for the sports section of the high school yearbook. Will honoring his grandfather’s request put his grandfather in jeopardy? How will AJ take the horrible news about Peter’s future in baseball? My students and I love all of Jordan Sonnenblick’s books: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, Notes from the Midnight Driver, Zen and the Art of Faking It, and After Ever After. Recommend this book for 7th/8th grade and up.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Crystal Allen's debut novel, How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy, is a book in my library that kid after kid kept asking me for and I hadn't said one word about it. I knew there must be something special about it. While the library was closed for testing, I was finally able to get my hands on the one copy we had. I totally get why my middle school students are talking about this entertaining, heart-wrenching, and lesson-teaching book. Lamar, a thirteen-year-old boy who recently lost his mother to cancer, is an amazing bowler. Bowling is the one sport the doctor will allow him to participate in due to his severe asthma. Lamar's history as a jokester has prevented him from landing a girlfriend thus far. Sergio, Lamar's rich best friend, has no problem getting the girls. Lamar is convinced by bad-boy, Billy Jenks, to work as a team swindling other bowlers. Lamar finally has some money in his pocket and a beautiful girl on his arm. Unfortunately, his older, basketball star brother pushes him to the edge and Lamar decides to get revenge. As a result of his actions, he loses his good reputation and the things that matter most. Will Lamar be able to fix the wrongs he has created in his and others' lives? I have ordered multiple copies (it is going on my 8th grade reading list in the fall)...now we don't have to wait for it at my school.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Lisa Yee's newest book, Warp Speed, because I love her other books: Millicent Min Girl Genius, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, and So Totally Emily Ebers. I love that you can read each book on their own, but they are companion books(the characters appear in the other books). Marley Sandelski is the bullied,nerdy kid from Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time. Marley feels invisible to everyone, except the Gorns-the bullies who chase him everyday. He loves Star Trek, lives in an old, shabby movie theater with his blind mom and agoraphobic dad, and only belongs to one group at school...the audiovisual club. His geeky best friend nicknamed Ramen loves Star Wars. Things begin to look up when a new girl named Emily Ebers becomes his partner for a fashion project and he inadvertently gets recognized when he uses his speed during the Tiggy Tiger Turkey Trot race. Will Marley finally conquer the bullies? Will he choose to be part of the popular track team and give up his favorite things in audiovisual class? This is going on my 7th grade reading list next year - a must read!
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The Fourth Stall, Chris Rylander’s debut novel for children, describes a mini-mafia in a middle school run by 6th Grader Christian (goes by Mac – short for Macgyver) and his best friend, Vince (the brains behind the business). The location of their lucrative business is the fourth stall in an abandoned bathroom frequented by student customers needing help with various situations. This profitable business has earned Mac and Vince thousands of dollars over the years. The two have saved so long for the chance to see their favorite sports team, the Chicago Cubs, play in the World Series. Mac and Vince lose control of the business when a third grader named Fred asks them for protection from the dangerous Staples. People have heard outrageous stories about Staples and the horrific things he has done, but no one really believed he existed until now. Staples is determined to bring down Mac’s empire. Mac recruits the diverse “bad guys” of middle school to help defeat Staples before it’s too late. Guys will especially love this one…can’t wait to read book two.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Nikki Grimes, totally gets kids - all the challenges they face while growing into the person they will eventually become. Her newest novel in verse, Planet Middle School, is narrated by Joylin - a tough, athletic middle school girl - who loves to play basketball with her childhood buddy, Jake. Things become complicated when her body begins to change, her best friend begins to care about what others think, and she begins to have feelings for the new handsome boy at school, Santiago. It's also a story about how much children crave and need approval from their parents. Her younger brother, Caden, denies his own interests to get his father's attention. Read Planet Middle School to find out how quickly things are put in perspective for Joylin when Jake is in a serious accident. I love novels in verse...I especially love the ones written by Nikki Grimes. Other books you must read by Grimes include Bronx Masquerade, What is Goodbye?, The Road to Paris, Dark Sons, and A Girl Named Mister.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
My students and I love Mike Lupica’s books. The Underdogs is not only a book about football, but about the economic downturn that many of our cities have faced in recent years. Will Tyler loves football and is determined to have a team despite so many families moving out of town because factories have closed and jobs have been lost. Without money, there are no resources for sports. When he writes a letter to New Balance for sponsorship and gets a positive response, his dreams seem to be coming true. Unfortunately, Will has a hard time finding guys to play on the team. When Hannah, a classmate and star soccer player, tells Will she wants to play on his football team, Will and his father have some difficult decisions to make. Read The Underdogs to see if heart and determination are enough to bring a dying town to their feet. Other great books by Lupica include The Batboy, Hero, The Big Field, Million-dollar Throw, Summer Ball, Two-minute Drill, Heat, Miracle on 49th Street, and Travel Team.