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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Animals Welcome: A Life of Reading, Writing, and Rescue

I am sure every middle school librarian will agree - our students love Peg Kehret's books! They have read ALL of them and keep asking for more. I was so happy to read Animals Welcome: A Life of Reading, Writing, and Rescue as this talented author takes her readers into the latest part of her life. She shares her and her late husband's love of animals, her inspirations for writing particular characters, and the raw emotions of life changing events in her world. Each animal rescue or encounter is written in their own chapter. I was most amazed at her patience during the most trying times of rescuing some animals that seemed impossible to help. Now when I read a Peg Kehret book, I will think about the warm-hearted woman who loves writing, nature, and, most of all, animals. Thank you to Ms. Kehret and her late husband for making a difference in their area - one rescue at a time.

Sophia's War: A Tale of the Revolution

Avi does it again - captures a time in history for readers to enjoy and learn from - in Sophia's War: A Tale of the Revolution. The story begins in 1776, in British-occupied New York City and is narrated by a fictional strong young woman named Sophia who is twelve-years-old. She and her mother witness Nathan Hale's hanging and the horors of this war are forever with her. Her parents are forced, like others in the city, to house a British soldier. Unbeknownst to the new Lieutenant John Andre, Sophia has an older brother who is fighting with George Washington for the patriots. Andre gives Sophia a lot of attention and she believes he genuinely cares for her. When she finds out her brother is wounded and being held under deplorable conditions in a prison, she asks Andre for help. He turns his back on Sophia’s request and leaves without a second glance. Sophia will stop at nothing to help her brother. It is now 1780, and Sophia is given the dangerous job of spying for the patriots while serving in the house of a now married Major Andre. Read Sophia’s War to find out the roles John Andre and Benedict Arnold played in the American Revolution. Great read that is definitely going on my 8th grade reading list in the fall.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Three Times Lucky

Sheila Turnage’s first mystery novel for upper elementary and middle school is already getting great awards including the Newbery Honor Book. She successfully draws her readers in this tale of mysterious beginnings, suspicious murders, kidnappings, ransoms, and hurricanes. Mo (short for Moses), a sixth grader, narrates the story. She describes how she was found after a devastating hurricane wrapped in the arms of The Colonel who suffered memory loss and has no idea who he was before the storm. With the help of an eccentric woman named Miss Lana, The Colonel has raised Mo for the past eleven years. Lately Mo has been searching for her “upstream mother” by sending out messages in bottles. Mo and her best friend, Dale, help out at Miss Lana and The Colonel’s café. One day a detective from another area comes to the café asking questions concerning a mysterious death in his city. The little town turns upside down when a local man, Mr. Jesse, is murdered and Dale is the last person presumed to have seen him alive. Soon The Colonel is missing, next Miss Lana. It is up to Mo and Dale to solve the mystery before it is too late. The problem is that a hurricane is headed their way and no one can be trusted. Read Three Times Lucky – you won’t be disappointed!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World

I am so fortunate to have had one of my smart book club members (a 7th grader) who loves nonfiction tell me that I should read Sy Montgomery’s Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World. I learned so much about the amazing woman who gave the world answers to what it feels like to live in an autistic world. She, also, gave animals going to slaughter a comfortable end to their lives by designing systems that are cruelty-free. I appreciate the way Temple Grandin describes her connection to animals as a result of the way her brain processes information. She describes her mind as being made up of photographic images. I learned so much from this book and can’t wait to share it with my students. The video clip below is an introduction to the HBO movie of Temple Grandin’s life – many of the scenes are in this book.

The Always War

Margaret Peterson Haddix’s stand alone novel, The Always War, will appeal to sci-fi fans. In this dystopia, a war has dragged on and on between the east and the west. Gideon, a pilot, refuses to accept his military honor for courage. He is devastated to find out how many innocent lives were destroyed when he bombed the enemy. His neighbor, Tessa, is determined to help Gideon feel better about his situation. She follows him one day and notices someone else is after him. She must warn him. She follows him onto a redesigned aircraft that is headed to the place he bombed to apologize. They have another unwanted passenger on the aircraft. The problem – when they land at the place of the casualties – it looks like untouched forest land. Read the book to find out why the Always War exists and who is in control. Each chapter ends with the reader determined to find out what happens in the next. Other great books by Haddix include The Shadow Children series, Double Identity, The Missing series, and Running Out of Time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Raft

S.A. Bodeen’s most recent novel, The Raft, keeps her readers on the edge. Robie is trying her best to get back home to a small island called Midway a little early. When she boards the small plane she finds out there is the regular pilot and a substitute co-pilot named Max. The plane ultimately crashes into the waters in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The only survivors are Robie and Max and they have to endure the harsh conditions of floating on a yellow raft under the hot sun and cool nights. Their biggest threats are starvation and the dangerous sharks that lurk in the ocean. Will their arrival onto the island make things better? Read The Raft to find out. I could not put this one down! I loved The Compound so I couldn't wait to read this one.

A Girl Named Faithful Plum

Richard Bernstein describes his wife’s younger years in A Girl Named Faithful Plum: The True Story of a Dancer from China and How She Achieved Her Dream. In 1977, Zhongmei was an eleven-year-old growing up in a small farm town in China. She loved to dance and was determined to audition in the big city of Beijing for their elite dance company. Her family had to make huge sacrifices for her to travel days just to try out for this prestigious dance troupe. She quickly realizes the prejudices she must face because she is not a cultured city girl with connections. She works hard each and every day to learn how to be the best. She is forced to grow up quickly, just to fit in. The author does an excellent job of describing the government changes during that time period and how the big cities differed from the rural areas of China. I appreciate how far Zhongmei came from her humble beginnings with loving siblings to the exalted stage. I am placing this book on my 6th grade reading list next year – what a great tie in to World Cultures. Watch the video clip below to see Zhongmei’s dances.

A Girl Named Faithful Plum-Dance Excerpt from zhongmei li on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Keeping the Castle

Patrice Kindl’s Keeping the Castle, a historical romance novel being compared to Pride and Prejudice, is on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2013. Althea Crawley has the daunting task of finding a rich suitor so that she can cover the expenses of her family’s large, aging estate built on a precarious cliff by her great grandfather. Her father died right before her little brother, Alexander, was born. Thankfully, being male, he is an appropriate heir to the estate, but the family is in dire need of money to keep it up until he is of age to take it over. Besides Alexander, the Crawley castle is home to their mother and two unpleasant stepsisters who are also looking for husbands that can take care of them. While being courted by an appealing, eligible bachelor, Lord Boring, Althea learns to disdain his cousin, Mr. Frederick, who is always keeping their company. Mr. Frederick constantly finds things wrong with Crawley Castle and doesn’t hold back on saying exactly what he feels. Althea is determined to earn the affections of Lord Boring – he seems to be the answer to all of their problems. When a new single young lady comes to town, things become disrupted. This would be a great recommendation for fans of the television show, Downton Abbey. It is also great for libraries wanting to beef up their high lexile level selections.