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Sunday, April 29, 2012

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-sized Trophy

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) we don't have to wait for it at my school.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Warp Speed

I think I may be a little bias in writing about 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

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

Planet Middle School

Author/Poet, 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

The Underdogs

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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ruby Red

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (translated from German by Anthea Bell) is about two families that have the time traveling gene... everything goes awry when a boy and a girl from each family steal a chronograph (a device that controls where they are sent into the past) and run away to live in the past . The story take place in London where sixteen-year-old Gwyn has been feeling very peculiar. Her cousin, Charlotte (believed to be the one that has the time traveling gene) has trained all her life for the moment she will be transported in time. Unfortunately, it is Gwyn who is sent spiraling into the past without any knowledge of what to expect. Thankfully, the time she spends hiding out in the past is short-lived as she isn't prepared for it. When she finally admits her ability, her mother takes her to an important meeting between the two families. She joins Gideon (the arrogant male time traveler from the de Villiers family) in a perilous journey to the past. Will the duo be able to get the blood needed for the chronograph from each of the time travelers in their family? Who is the strange man that watches Gwyn from the street? My students are eagerly awaiting book 2, Sapphire Blue, which comes out October 30, 2012.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dark Eden

Patrick Carman has creatively infused technology and reading in his newest series - Skeleton Creek, Trackers, and Dark Eden. Before I started reading Dark Eden, I downloaded and explored the free app (the first segment is free). Dark Eden is different from the Skeleton Creek and Trackers series which are told with both video and text. Dark Eden is narrated by 15-year-old Ben, who like six other teens has a debilitating fear. The teens are sent by their therapist, Dr. Stevens, to Fort Eden to face their fears and be cured. Prior to going to Fort Eden, Ben was able to steal the files that Dr. Stevens had one each of the teens. When the teens arrive at Fort Eden, Ben escapes and hides out. He stays in a secret bomb shelter that has monitors which enable him to watch the others, one by one being cured. Based on the files he has read and the video feed he watches on the monitors, he knows something is terribly wrong with the process. As the teens are "cured", they return without their fear, but have other strange ailments. Rainsford, the old man that takes them to their special rooms for their cure, is not what he seems. Dark Eden is the first in the series - the story is told in segments for each of the teens. This was a bit choppy for me and the end seemed rushed, but I think 7th grade and up would love it! Other great books by Patrick Carman include Things that Go Bump in the Night, Thirteen Days to Midnight, The Land of Elyon series, Atherton series, Skeleton Creek series, and Trackers series.

The Mighty Miss Malone

Christopher Paul Curtis is one of my favorite authors so I couldn't wait to get my hands on The Mighty Miss Malone. The narrator of the story, Deza Malone, is from his book - Bud, Not Buddy - but you do not have to read Bud first to enjoy the story. The story takes place during the Great Depression as the family travels from Gary, Indiana to Flint,Michigan. Deza is a smart girl who takes her academics seriously. Her brother, Jimmie,is an amazing singer with a unique voice. At the beginning of the story, hard-working Deza explains how much her teacher, Mrs. Needham, has influenced her life. Times are tough for the Malone family as their father has trouble finding work. When a horrible accident changes Mr. Malone's life, he decides he must go to Flint to find work to help his family. When Mrs. Malone loses her job and months have passed without hearing from Mr. Malone, she takes the kids to Flint to search for their father. They must travel illegally by hopping on railcars and living with other homeless people on the journey. Once in Flint, Jimmie decides to use his voice to make money. He is determined to save his family. This poignant story describes the hardships that many children face even today as the result of poverty. Read The Might Miss Malone to find out how the Malones conquer hard times and the heartache of not knowing where your loved one is. Other wonderful reads by Curtis include The Watsons go to Birmingham, 1963; Bud,Not Buddy; Bucking the Sarge; Elijah of Buxton; and the Mr. Chickee's series. Click on the video below to hear the author tell you about this book.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


When middle school librarians in my district shared their “new must-haves for the library” list, Cinder (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer was on most of them. Cinder reminded of Cinderella merged with Star Wars and Contagion. In a futuristic world in new Beijing, Cinder is an orphan cyborg being raised by her manipulative stepmother. Cinder, like other cyborgs, is looked down upon by society for being part machine. Her saving grace is that she is a talented mechanic who can fix anything…she earns money for her family by offering her services at a local market. She has very little information about her past. Her only allies are her trusted android named Iko and her younger stepsister, Peony. A terrible lethal plague is destroying lives…when someone comes down with the initial spot on their skin, the government sends medical droids to pick them up and put them in quarantine. The handsome Prince Kai stops by the market to ask Cinder to fix his beloved android. He isn’t aware that Cinder is cyborg and becomes attracted to her (even invites her to his ball). When her little sister, Peony, becomes the victim of the plague and her mother blames Cinder, she is donated to the government by her stepmother to aid in the research of the plague against her will. While there, Cinder begins to learn about her past. A bewitching queen from Luna is determined to form an alliance with new Beijing by tricking Prince Kai into marriage and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Will Cinder be able to escape and find a way to help Prince Kai before it is too late? I borrowed my friend’s copy, but knew I had to buy myself a copy to keep and multiple copies for my library. Cannot wait for Book 2, Scarlet, coming in 2013.