Monday, December 12, 2016

It's Monday What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 12/12/16


                                                         The Littlest Bigfoot by [Weiner, Jennifer]

      Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite adult authors, so I was excited to read her first attempt at a children's book. I was not disappointed. Here's the funny thing about The Littlest Bigfoot- no matter how I try to describe it, the plot sounds crazy, but I promise it's fabulous.

      Alice is a twelve-year-old girl who just doesn't fit in no matter where she is. Physically she is a big girl with crazy hair that can't be tamed. Her wealthy family pretty much ignores her existence even though she yearns for her mother's love and acceptance. Also, she has been to SEVEN different schools, but is always asked to leave because of her clumsiness, forgetfulness, or accident prone ways. As sweet as Alice is, she can't seem to find even one friend no matter how hard she tries. Her last hope is a new type of experimental school in the woods where kids are expected to learn outside of the box and find their inner strengths.

      Across the pond from the school is Millie whose life is very similar to Alice's. Lonely Millie doesn't fit in among her friends and neighbors and her family just doesn't "get" her. Millie's dream is to be a famous singer and travel the world, but her family won't even let her leave their village. O.K., now here is the crazy part- Millie is a BIGFOOT! Yes, a bigfoot, as in a yetti  chewbacca looking kind of creature. Millie is obsessed with No- Furs (humans) and longs to get rid of her fur and be part of their world. Inevitably, Millie and Alice meet and become the kind of friends each girl has been longing for all of their lives.

     For as strange as the premise might sound, Weiner has crafted the story in such a way that it is completely believable that Millie's tribe exists with their Etsy store and old Friends reruns to keep them entertained. Her descriptions of how they have cleverly managed to stay hidden for hundreds of years makes me wonder if the Yare might actually be out there somewhere. This book is fascinating and extremely entertaining, but at it's core it's simply a story of friendship and finding a place in the world without feeling like a misfit. I'm hoping I can convince my students to give a try because it is well worth it!

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 12/5/2016


Hello blog readers! Sorry it's been so long. I've been taking a graduate course that has been stealing all of my precious reading time but now I'm back! I've read a few new books that run the gamete of ages and I discovered a new non-fiction series that I'm CRAZY about.


        Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz tells the story of a young girl's struggle with OCD. When we are first introduced to twelve-year-old Molly, we discover that her mother has left town indefinitely, and Molly is convinced that winning her school poetry slam will bring her family back together. Molly worries a lot about her family and she tries to keep everything as neat and perfect as she can in an effort to control her life. As time goes on, Molly's little "quirks" like lining up her pencils and keeping her things organized by color, soon morph into serious obsessive compulsive behavior. Soon Molly struggles to get through her days. She lines up her glass figurines with a ruler, washes her hands over and over, and if she doesn't keep counting by fours, she fears something will happen to her little brother, Soon Molly starts to melt down, and she loses all control. She must find a way to ask for help even though she's scared of what her family and friends will think of her.

      If I ever wondered what it was like to spin out of control with OCD, this book answers that question. As Molly's illness progresses, I could feel her frustration and anxiety- so much so that I had to walk away from the book a few times.  The writing is so powerful that I began to feel anxious while reading. Also, there were so many details, I had to read this book slowly and carefully to catch everything. Ms. Swartz did an excellent job of showing Molly's OCD progress little by little. Additionally, the role of supporting characters surrounding someone who has a mental illness is very important. Molly's friends, siblings, and father slowly start to realize that Molly's behavior is not typical,and they have to find a way to help her. Overall, this is a touching story about a young girl who realizes she's in trouble and her journey to get help and triumph. 


       This is Kate Beasly's first book and like her sister, Cassie (Circus Mirandus) it's hard to believe this is her debut novel. I read Gertie's Leap to Greatness right after Finding Perfect and was surprised by the similar theme. I must have been in a mother's abandonment/ daughter trying to be perfect phase. Gertie's mother left when she was young, and she is convinced that if she can be the best fifth grader of all time, her mother will return. Everything seems to be lining up just right for her until Mary Sue Spivey moves to town and does everything just a little better than Gertie. Their teacher seems to favor her and even Gertie's best friends gravitate towards Mary Sue. Of course it doesn't hurt that Mary Sue's father is a famous Hollywood producer. Since only one person can be the best, Gertie must make it her mission to dethrone Mary Sue. 

     Gertie has gumption. That's the word I kept thinking about as I was reading about her. She is determined and funny and nothing can stop her plans once she sets her mind to it. I kept imagining her as a grown up Junie B. Jones. All of her antics come from a place of desperation and a pure heart. This story was fun and easy to read even though I felt badly for Gertie that she just couldn't seem to triumph over Mary Sue. As with most books set in the south, there is a colorful cast of supporting characters as fun as Gertie. There is an interesting side story about her father's work on an oil rig that will spark discussion about the environment if it's used as a class read aloud. Looking forward to more books from BOTH Beasly sisters!



      I've had these book on my list for a while, and now I am so angry I didn't read them earlier! These are AWESOME books- especially if you are a fan of heist movies. My son, a reluctant reader, enjoys movies like Ocean's 11 and Now You See Me, so I knew these would be right up his alley. He is reading Loot right now and is really enjoying it.

     Loot, by Jude Watson,  is the first novel of the series and it starts with the death of Alfie McQinn, thief extraordinaire. Alfie's last words to his son  March are a bit of a mystery that March and his friends will have to solve if they want to stay safe. March knows it will involve following in his father's footsteps to pull off a HUGE jewelry heist that no one, especially a group of kids, has done before.

     I couldn't put this book down. It was like reading a movie script. With every page, the suspense grew. Reading how the complicated heist plans fell into place was exciting and satisfying. It was light and funny so it's perfect for a young age group. Even though it's technically about committing a crime, it is a highly entertaining caper.

     Sting is the second in the series and just as wonderful. I highly recommend both books for boys or girls.

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      I recently discovered this fantastic non-fiction series called Brands We Know by Sara Green.
There are currently 20 books in the series with more in the works. These books tell the history of some of the most recognizable brands in America with colorful pages and easy to read text. The 3rd- 5th grade students at my school are going nuts for them. They are interesting and extremely up-to-date.

      I've learned so much just glancing through them. The man who invented Nike originally sold them out of his car. Nerf was nothing more than a small orange ball for years, and Mario of Nintendo fame was at first called "jump man."

      I highly recommend purchasing the set for a classroom library, or if you have a non fiction reader at home that loves to learn new and interesting facts.

Monday, October 10, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 10/10/2016


Sorry it's been a little while.... back to school madness has finally calmed down. :)
I've read a few really neat books that I'd love to share.


Maxi's Secrets by Lynn Plourde begins with eleven year old Timmy telling us that Maxi, a beloved pet dog, dies before the story ends. Like most "dead dog" books, Timmy assures us that his time with Maxi taught him more lessons than he can count.
Timmy is about to start a new middle school which would be fine except for the fact that he is the size of a first grader. Timmy gets called names, put inside lockers, and is often mistaken for an elementary school student. How does he deal with it? He comes home each day to the biggest, most loyal, sweetest dog named Maxi. Timmy can deal with all of his school problems by thinking about after school hugs and puppy breath, but he soon realizes that something is wrong with Maxi- the puppy is deaf. Surprisingly, it's Maxi's disability that helps Timmy to meet his neighbor, Abby, and to make some real friends.
Even though there are moments of sadness in this story, it is overall very inspiring and also funny. Timmy is able to find humor throughout his most difficult moments of being bullied for his size. His ability to laugh at himself makes him a very likable character. Maxi is his loyal friend who loves Timmy no matter what and it's through his adventures with Maxi that Timmy learns some life "secrets." Each chapter end with a little gem such as "it's possible to hear someone even if your ears don't work." I think this author does a great job of keeping this story light while writing about some tough times. Some stories about bullying are incredibly depressing and difficult to read but not this one. Plourde keeps her young audience in mind and it's all incredibly appropriate and at times even joyful. Grades 4+


Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern was big surprise. I had never heard of it or read any reviews for it. I was shopping in a small independent book store when saw it and thought it looked sweet. I am so glad I picked it up. I LOVED it!
Benny Barrows is a fourth grade student who is still searching for a best friend and struggling to learn to ride a bike. His older brother George is autistic and can be a handful, and worst of all, his dad has a terrible accident at the beginning of the story and is struggling to recover. Benny feels like he is surrounded by bad luck all around him. His school begins a kindness reward program and Benny is convinced that if he does enough nice things, his luck will turn around.
Benny is an incredibly kind and caring character. He treats others with respect hoping to gain a "kindness reward" without ever realizing that he has a bigger heart than any character in this story. The way he cares for his brother George is a great example for young readers. Benny finds some surprising friendships along the way and unlocks an inner strength he didn't know he had. His serious talent for Lego stop motion movie making adds even more depth to a well developed character.
 Like the author of Maxi's Secret, McGovern manages to take some tough topics and make them totally appropriate for younger readers. Recommended for ages 9+


Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp is another gem I found at the independent book store this weekend. Madeline Finn is having a difficult time learning to read. She really tries, but the words just run together on the page. She gets really nervous to read aloud and her confidence is waning because she is desperate to become a "Star Reader." Just when she is about to give up,  Madeline Finn finds a program at the library where she can read to a lovable dog named Bonnie. Bonnie doesn't make her feel scared or nervous like some of her classmates and the dog's patience soon helps Madeline to get through her books a little faster each time she reads them.
This is an excellent book for younger students who might be struggling with reading. There are a lot of Madeline Finns out there who are feeling sad and frustrated, but with enough love, patience and practice, students can surprise themselves like she did!  Ages 4-8

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 9/5/19


It's a new school year and I am back to #IMWAYR! I have a new title to share and one that's "new to me."

I have always been a big fan of Barbara O'Connor and was thrilled to hear she was releasing a new book. I picked it up this weekend and didn't put it down until it was finished. LOVE!!!!!!

Eleven-year-old Charlie has been sent to stay with relatives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or as Charlie calls it, a hillbilly town full of kids who eat squirrels. Her dad is in jail "being corrected" for fighting all the time, and her mom is struggling with depression. Feeling abandoned, Charlie is certain that she will hate every minute of her new situation and does her best to make her feelings clear to everyone she meets. Her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus are thrilled to have her with them and their neighbors, the Odoms, have a son that is sorely in need of a friend. Unfortunately, Charlie isn't as thrilled as everyone else. No matter how much the town and the people start to grow on her, all she wants to do is to go home to her mother. Her new friend, Howard Odom, does his best to help her control her famous temper, but Charlie has a lot of anger inside that keeps finding its way out through her fists. Charlie continues to feel out of place until one day when she finally catches the town's stray dog to make him her pet. As her love for her new dog Wishbone grows, so does her love for her new family and friends. When it's finally time to return home, Charlie has a big decision to make.

This story has heart. Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus just want to love the hurt right out of Charlie if only she will give them a chance. Sometimes it drove me crazy that she wasn't nicer to them, but Charlie felt as badly as I did. It is sweet and funny, and I especially liked all the ways Charlie knows how to make a wish- she has been making the same one every day for a year. 11:11 on the clock, eating pie a certain way, or wishing on a black horse while shaking her fist three times are just some of the silly traditions Charlie tries to make her wish come true. While the people of the town don't have much, it's clear they are full of love for her and do their best to make her feel safe and cherished. This is a story of friendship and finding your wish come true in unlikely places. It's easy to read and I think my students will enjoy it.

                                                              Crenshaw by [Applegate, Katherine]

I'm a little late to read this one as it's been the talk of the book world for a while. Crenshaw is Katherine Applegate's first book since winning the Newbery Award for The One and Only Ivan. Get out your tissues for this one!

Jackson is a ten-year-old boy who lives with his parents and younger sister. His father has MS and they have fallen on hard times. Rather than ask for help from charity, the family is struggling to make it on their own by selling their belongings and even spending time living in their minivan. His father pan handles on the corner and his mother works two jobs. Most days there is very little to eat but Jackson has grown used to being hungry. His parents try to be cheerful and make the best of the situation not ever acknowledging how difficult this kind of life is for a young boy. Enter Crenshaw. He is an outspoken, seven-foot-tall, talking imaginary cat that only appears when Jackson needs a friend the most. While the boy does his best to keep quiet, be a good boy, and go along with his parents plans (whatever they might be), Crenshaw teaches Jackson that it's important to speak up and share his feelings. Jackson's voice is important, and he doesn't have to carry the weight of his situation silently.

This book was so moving. When Jackson described how little food they had to eat, and what it felt like to be smelly, I felt awful for complaining about silly things. This story is about a very serious topic but like The One and Only Ivan, there are moments of humor and inspiration. It's written in a way that makes it appropriate for young students and not too gut wrenching. Even though Crenshaw isn't technically real, his words of wisdom are important advice for all of us. This story is full of teachable moments, and it's an important book in this world of excess. I think this is a beautiful novel and deserves the many awards it's already won.

Friday, August 12, 2016

And the Summer Reading Continues....

As summer draws to a close, I realize I'm not even halfway through my book pile! I'd better get a move on. Meanwhile, these are some titles I read this week. I found some new favorites  for sure.


Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is great fun. Any fans of Mr. Lemoncello's Library will LOVE it. 12- year- old Emily's favorite pastime is to play "Book Scavenger." It's an online game where books are hidden all over the country and the players have to decipher clues to find them. Emily is a huge fan of the game's creator, Garrison Griswold, and is excited to learn that her family is moving close to his headquarters in San Fransisco. After an unfortunate series of events put Mr. Griswold in the hospital, Emily finds a book that she thinks might be the clue to starting his newest secret game. Of course there are others trying to get their hands on this mystery book, so Emily must race to find the clues and solve the puzzle. There is a great treasure awaiting the winner and Emily hopes to uncover it.

This book could have easily been called "Book Adventure" because that's what it becomes. Forget Pokemon Go- Book Scavenger is tons of fun.  Emily and her new friend James travel all over the city decoding ciphers and dodging the bad guys to get to the next clue. There are many references to famous books- especially Edgar Allen Poe books which is nice since most young readers probably don't know much about him. Also, one of the coolest features about this book is that the author has set up a REAL game of book scavenger ( where readers can hide and find copies of this book all over the country. As soon as I finish blogging, I'm going to check it out! This book is for anyone who likes solving puzzles. There is also a bit about new friendships and family dynamics. Overall a wonderful story. The next one in the series will be released soon and the adventure will continue.

                                                           Sunny Side Up by [Holm, Jennifer L.]

Sunny Side Up is written by veteran author Jennifer Holm (The Fourteenth Goldfish). It's a graphic novel about Sunny Lewin who arrives in Florida in 1976 to spend the summer with her grandfather. It sounds wonderful, but Sunny is stuck in a retirement community with her grandfather's really old friends who aren't exactly running to Disney World everyday. Luckily, Sunny meets Buzz the groundskeeper's son so she finally has a friend her own age. Buzz introduces Sunny to the world of comic books and superheroes, and she wonders if she can become a superhero to help fix a family secret- the secret that sent her to Florida in the first place.

This will be a popular book in the library because graphic novels are easy and fun to read, and it also happens to be a good book. The seventies references are fun as the book flashes back and forth between the last two years. Sadly, reader's will see her once close family start to fall apart as her brother deals with a drug problem. Ultimately, that is why Sunny wishes she could have the power to fix all the things that are wrong back home. I've read a lot of books this summer about this topic that I don't think are appropriate for younger readers, but this one seems just about right. Holm doesn't delve too much into the brother's issues, but just enough so that we see the effects of drugs on a family. I would still only recommend it for ages 10+.

                                                         The Haunted Library #1 by [Butler, Dori Hillestad]

What a cute series!!!! The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler is a perfect beginner chapter book for grades 1-3. It's the story of Kaz, a ghost boy, who accidentally gets blown away from his family by the wind and lands in the town library. There he meets Claire, a human girl who has the ability to see ghosts. Quickly, Kaz and Claire realize he isn't the only one haunting the library and they work together to find the identity of the mystery ghost.

So far there are nine books in this charming series. It's not scary at all, but will satisfy young readers who think they want to read a ghost story.

                                                          A Clatter of Jars by [Graff, Lisa]

As I started reading A Clatter of Jars, I thought,"This reminds me of Tangle of Knots." Well, no kidding because it's the sequel. (I don't think my brain is at full capacity in the summer). My problem is that I didn't like Tangle of Knots. I almost put this down right away, BUT I pushed through and I'm glad I did. In the first book we are introduced to the Talented Kids. This is a group of children that have a special talent. Some have smaller talents like knowing exactly what cake is someone's favorite or being able to talk to frogs, or pick any lock etc.. and some have the awesome ability to mimic any talent they encounter. In this book, all of these kids gather together at summer camp. Things quickly go awry when Lily realizes that someone is trying to make copies of their talents in order to sell them to Fair (talentless) people. Soon all of their Talents get mixed up, and Lily and her friends need to solve the mystery to set things right again.

Some of Lisa Graff's books are my favorites ( Umbrella Summer, The Thing About Georgie), but something about this series just doesn't capture my interest. There are a lot of characters and many things to keep straight and it was all a bit confusing. After pushing through, I was interested to see how it all ended and there were some very funny moments. The premise of the story is really neat, but it just doesn't seem to flow together. I think it would be tough for younger students to read and understand. Some strong readers might really enjoy it so I will certainly put it on the shelf.

I look forward to this author's next books, just not anymore in this series.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Summer Reading Part 2: The New Classics


      As teachers, we all love to read the "oldie but goodie" books to our students. Caps for Sale, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc.. These are tried and true tales that children love. This week I read a few stories that I think will  join the ranks of these books. These titles, I hope, will become a staple of my collection and I'm guessing teachers will read them to their classes for years to come.


The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is fabulous! I have encountered so many fellow readers this summer who have gushed about this book. The story is completely original. Fresh off the assembly line, Roz, a robot, crashes onto a deserted island. Not knowing how she got there or that she doesn't belong, Roz does everything she can to survive the wilderness and adapt to her surroundings.
At first the animals run away from her in fear, but they slowly learn that she is good and kind and simply wants to help them however she can.

Oh Roz! She is so sweet and nice that I kept forgetting she was a robot. Of course metal and the natural elements of the island don't really mix so she often finds herself in a pickle, but she keep trying. She analyzes her surroundings and determines the best course. Even though she isn't technically alive, she experiences love, friendship, and even fear. It is very well written and easy to read. I think both students and teachers will love it. Grades 3 and up.

If ever a book deserved a Newbery Honor Award, it is this one. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is an incredible story that tells the tale of two children during WWII who struggle through less than ideal circumstances. Ada is 9 years old and suffers from a club foot. Because of her deformity, her cruel mother locks her away with no crutches, no education, no friends, barely any food and certainly no love or comfort. Ada have never been outdoors, never felt the sun, never experienced Christmas and doesn't even know when her birthday is. As the war begins, Ada and her little brother escape to the country where children are being sent to keep them safe (Ada has to sneak out and crawl to the train station). They are placed with a childless woman, Susan, who despite her initial protests, grows to love the kids and provides a wonderful home. 

While Ada and Jamie's life prior to Susan is horribly sad, I never felt depressed while reading because Ada has such a strong spirit. Reading about how much even the smallest gift or kindness means to Ada I am reminded over and over how horrible her mother was. Regardless, Ada is determined to find a happy life. She can be difficult and doesn't trust Susan at first, but she SLOWLY begins to come around and appreciate this new chance at happiness. She is a spitfire who yearns to ride horses and run like other children. Susan does everything she can to help Ada's dreams finally come true while navigating air raid drills and preparations for the war. I read a description of this book that is perfect- "Ada's journey is both heartbreaking and triumphant." Again, for as sad as this book could be, the tone didn't feel that way. It was interesting, hopeful, and healing. I REALLY liked this book and I think I am going to read it aloud to my students come September.
                                                            Raymie Nightingale by [DiCamillo, Kate]

Kate DiCamillo is a favorite author of teachers around the world. Her writing is beautiful and her stories are always entertaining. Children often check her books out from the library, but I've always felt that a student would get more from her books if there was teacher and classroom discussion. It's just that her books are so rich in meaning that students often miss key teachable moments on their own. When my son read Because of Wynn Dixie, he kind of skipped over the bottle tree not realizing about how important it is to the story. Raymie Nightingale is the same kind of story- underlying meanings and deep soul searching themes that kids might miss without a little guidance. I like this sentence from the Kirkus Review "somehow such modest prose carries the weight of deep meditations on life, death, the soul, friendship, and the meaning of life without ever seeming heavy, and there's even a miracle to boot."  

Raymie is a young girl whose father just left the family. She has convinced herself that if she wins the local beauty pageant, he will come home. Of course to win a pageant, she had to learn to twirl a baton. She attends a local twirling class and meets two unexpected friends. The frequently fainting Louisiana with the crazy grandmom and tough talking daughter of a cop, Beverly. The unlikely trio embarks on a mission to save beloved pet and they learn the value of friendship.

I enjoyed this book. It was funny and sad and there was never a dull moment. I really think my students will like it as well, but I do worry that it's just a tad too deep for them to really "get it." This one, in my opinion, is better read along with a parent or teacher. 

                                                                  Fort by [DeFelice, Cynthia]

This book is a perfect summary of what I wish for my son. I wish that he would have a summer of camp outs, building forts, sharing secrets, laughing hysterically, and finding adventure. Fort by Cynthia DeFelice is a description of that ideal boy summer. Wyatt and Augie pay a trip to the local junk yard and find enough sheet metal to build a spectacular fort in the woods; however, their dreams of perfect summer nights are soon dashed by the local town bullies. The boys quickly launch Operation Doom to teach the bad seeds a lesson.

Reading this book in the summer was perfect because I could easily picture everything that was happening in the story. I think my students will relate to this book and the boys, especially reluctant readers, will thoroughly enjoy it. One of my favorite parts is when the boys befriend a teenager with special needs. They show him kindness and he repays them in an unexpected and hilarious way.

 I wish I was still young enough to run off into the woods with my best pals! 4th grade and up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summer Reading Part #1


I have a pile of books to get through this summer (both adult and children) and I'm slowly making my way through them between swimming lessons, summer camps, and beach days!

I am THRILLED to have found this great new series, Fairy Tale Reform School, by Jen Calonita. I think elementary school students (especially girls) will really love it. The first in the series is Flunked. This is the story of Gilly, the poor shoemaker's daughter, who gets caught stealing items that she hopes will help feed her very poor and hungry family. Gilly gets sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are former villains. The headmistress is Cinderella's stepmother, the school therapist is the Evil Queen from Snow White, and there are several other now reformed famous villains teaching the students the error of their ways. Throughout her stay, Gilly learns there is a mysterious plot to destroy the school and she and her new friends try to get to the bottom if it. Are the royal princesses to blame? The Big Bad Wolf? A secret enemy from long ago?

This book is a lot of fun. There's magic, mystery and lots of enchanted items. I especially enjoyed all of the fairy tale references because I felt like I already knew so much about the recognizable characters (Rapunzel hair care products anyone?). The story moves quickly and the dialogue is very funny. It questions whether bad people can really change and just how much trust one can have in a former bad apple. Super enjoyable!


I've always been a HUGE Joan Bauer fan and have found I can never go wrong recommending her books to my students. Soar is no exception.
Jeremiah's life revolves around one thing- baseball. He lives and breathes it, but unfortunately, due to a serious heart condition, he can't play. Hillcrest, his new town, is known for baseball, so Jeremiah does the next best thing to playing- he starts coaching. Shortly after he arrives, the town is rocked by a scandal and the townspeople start to give up on baseball. It's up to Jeremiah to save the town and the team.

Jeremiah is a fantastic main character. His life is full of multiple struggles, yet he remains positive in the hopes that his can-do spirit will rub off on his team. He is courageous and funny and an extremely likable character. I found him to be incredibly inspiring. Jeremiah refuses to give up, and I actually cheered out loud a few times while I was reading. Even though it's a baseball story, I think both boys and girls will enjoy it.


Pax by Sara Pennypacker has been on my reading list for a while. It's critically acclaimed and in serious contention for major book awards.

Peter has been caring for his fox, Pax, since Pax was a kit. They are the best of friends. When his dad enlists in the army, Peter is forced to leave Pax on the side of the road on the way to live at his grandfather's house (no animals allowed). Peter lives one day without Pax and realizes that he can't spend his days without his beloved pet. He packs his school bag with essentials and begins a 300 mile trek back to his old home to find Pax. Meanwhile, Pax is confused by his new surroundings, but remains confident that Peter will come back for him some day.

This story is told with alternating narration between Peter and Pax. It was really fascinating to read Pax's chapters because I never really gave much thought as to what a fox might be thinking. He feels sad and betrayed to be left on the road, but he never gives up on his "human" Peter. I think Ms. Pennypacker wrote in beautiful detail what it must be like to be a domesticated wild animal now forced to survive on its own. Pax never knew how to be a true fox and must learn from others like him how to survive. Meanwhile, Peter's journey is interrupted by an injury and he is forced to spend time with a reclusive army veteran while he heals. This old woman, Vola, teaches Peter valuable lessons about life and grief and he teaches her a few things as well.

I'm not going to reveal if Peter ever finds his fox, but the ending is satisfying. I liked this book, but I'm not certain my students will fully appreciate it. It's emotional and there are some deep lessons throughout, but I'm not sure a young reader will pick up on them without a little help. Also, it's a bit slow at times, and I found myself skimming through some of the "Pax" chapters. There will definitely be some kids who really like it, and I will keep it front and center in the library come September in the hopes the right reader will give it a chance.

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 6/20/16



One of my absolute favorite books of last year was What Do You Do With an Idea by Kobi Yamada. It's a picture book that tells the story of how a child keeps a brilliant idea growing and growing until he realizes all ideas have the potential to change the world. It's incredibly inspiring and teaches a most wonderful lesson about protecting ideas from fading away and how to nourish them and keep them alive. I think ALL ages can benefit from hearing/reading it.

Last month Yamada published, What Do You Do With a Problem, and it is as wonderful as the first book. This is the story about experiencing a problem and how it grows bigger and stronger until it becomes completely overwhelming bringing feelings of no escape. Then, like in Yamada's first book, the story shifts and the boy faces the problem and finds that he has been given an opportunity- a chance to be brave and face the dilemma and find a solution. I think it's an uplifting book that will help many children who feel like their problems, big and small, will swallow them whole. This story will be useful for many young students. 
Unfortunately, I read a review of this book from School Library Journal calling it simplistic and heartless as some problems are too tragic to be solved on one's own. This review REALLY annoyed me. It's a sweet, simple book designed to teach courage and hope. Yes, if a child is suffering horrific abuse or lives in a war zone (as the review stated), this book most likely won't fix their problem, but give me a break. Why does everything have to be a politically correct guide to life? Calling a picture book designed to help children "heartless" is probably the most ridiculous review I've ever read. I will FOR SURE put this one on my library shelves because I find it valuable just the way it is!


I was thrilled when I read this book because I think I just found a new favorite series for my elementary school students (especially the boys). The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett is a series I've been looking for to fulfill the wish list of my youngest reluctant readers. 
Miles Murphy has a very special talent- he is a prankster and a very famous one in his home town. Now, after having to move to a new city over the summer, Miles is a bit lost. His new school, in the cow capital of the world, already has a class prankster, and he seems to be even more successful than Miles ever was. Is the school big enough for TWO ingenious prank players? As one can gather from the title, when the two join forces their pranks have the potential to become epic.
O.K., so this isn't The Lightning Thief, or City of Ember or even an Alex Rider adventure, but it's funny and cute and it kept my own little reluctant reader laughing until the very end. Sometimes a book is perfect if it can be simply light and entertaining. They don't all have to be Lord of The Rings.


I picked this book just from the cover, barely skimming the description. Looking at Finley Flowers New and Improved by Jessica Young, I saw what was supposed to be a 4th grade girl on the cover dressed in "inventor" clothes. I  scooped it up thinking it would be perfect for budding female engineers in this age range. I assumed she was an inventor extraordinaire, and I had FINALLY found a book with a strong female scientist and a cute name. Well I should have know better than to assume. I was, however, actually half right. This is an adorable new series for girls, but outside of this book, Finley isn't especially focused on S.T.E.M. Also, even though she is supposed to be in fourth grade, I think this series would be better suited for 8-9 year old girls. That being said, Finley is a great character! She is funny, bright, and determined. She's also a great friend. This book focuses on her school's invention convention and Finley's struggle to make the perfect contraption to win the fair. It was really endearing. 
Looking at the other books in the series, I think Finley Flowers books are a great choice for 2nd grade and up.

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 6/6/16


I can't believe it's been a month since I posted, but I promise you I have been reading like crazy! I got caught up in this "Twilight-esqe" series called The Shade that has 27 books in all! I'm not kidding- 27 books!!!! I made it to book 8 and then I had to be done. A reader can only take so much angst between one couple and lets face it- no one will be Edward and Bella.  After that I was reading a few books from my favorite adult authors (Karen White, Jane Green, and Diane Chamberlain) but now I am back to books for my library. Sorry boys- all girl books today!


Summerlost is by Ally Condie, the author of the acclaimed Matched series, but this book is NOTHING like that series. It would be like J.K. Rowling writing a romance novel as a follow upto Harry Potter- totally different. I liked Summerlost. Not loved, but liked. It is a tender story about a girl who just suffered a great loss in her family. After the tragedy, Cedar moves to a new house in Iron Creek and begins to work at the town's famous summer Shakespeare festival where she meets her soon to be best friend, Leo. Leo doesn't quite fit in with the other boys, but he's a perfect fit for Cedar. Soon, she and Leo embark on a mystery to discover what happened to a famous Hollywood actress that once graced their summer stage.

This is sweet story about grief and healing and the power of friendship. I also enjoyed the relationship between Cedar and her little brother Miles as they have to navigate a new path after the tragedy. It was refreshing to read about siblings who like each other, and I feel like all the characters are interesting and fresh. Additionally, the story kept my attention and I was happy to keep reading (but it wasn't one that I had to stop everything until it was finished). The mystery is a little slow moving, but I do think ages 9+ will really enjoy this book.


This is my kind of story! The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly is an excellent debut novel. One twin, Scarlett, dies under mysterious circumstances and the other twin, Ivy is forced to take her place in a creepy old boarding school called Rookwood- complete with  an evil headmistress who favorite past time seems to be disciplining with her cane! Upon arriving at the school, Ivy finds a piece of Scarlett's diary that begs for her sister's help. Fearful of someone reading her words, Scarlett has hidden pages all over campus and Ivy has to solve the clues, find the pages, and discover the truth about her sister's final days at Rookwood. Of course the headmistress wants to keep the truth buried, so Ivy must watch every step she takes.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. The gothic setting, the spoiled boarding school classmates, and of course the twin mystery. I loved that shy Ivy begins to come out of her shell as she impersonates her feisty sister. There were a lot of twists and the ending was a complete surprise.

This is the first book in a trilogy. The other two have already been published in the U.K. so I might have to order them from there because I'm dying to know what happens next. I contacted the author and she's not sure when the other two will make it to the U.S.
I highly recommend this to students who like this kind of story. I promise it's not too scary at all!

Monday, May 9, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 5/9/16



I might be the only librarian on the planet who did not enjoy Natalie Lloyd's A Snicker of Magic, so I didn't have high hopes for her newest book The Key to Extraordinary. I'm glad I fought against my instincts and gave it a try because I liked it very much. 

Every woman in Emma's family had a dream which revealed their destiny. Some were spies, some musicians, and some were great leaders. Emma's destiny dream leads her on a treasure hunt through the local graveyard to save her special town which is being threatened by a selfish businessman.  Located in the hills of Tennessee, her town is like something out of a dream. It has enchanted flowers that carry whispers of voices from the past, haunted graveyards with singing ghosts, rose petal rain drops and many more ethereal elements. It also, of course, has a local cafe were all of the eccentric characters gather to enjoy a cup of magical hot chocolate.

I really enjoyed the mystery part of the story and the quirky characters (especially the adventurous Emma and her motorcycle riding ex-boxer grandmother), but just like Lloyd's first book, the strong theme of magic was just a bit too much for me. The flowers start to sing and nobody seems to find it the least bit strange. Perhaps I'm just not whimsical enough for a book where anything goes! I'll have to work on that before her next novel. Grades 4 and up


This is one that I think most young boys will really like. It's a new version of books told in journal form and I dare say I might like it a bit more than Wimpy Kid because it's totally appropriate for younger children. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by L. Pichon is, in a word, brilliant! My 10 year-old son had an opportunity to review this book for a fabulous website called litpik ( It's a terrific site where students read and review new books (they can even get the books for free). I think his words perfectly explain my thoughts. This is his review: 

In The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, Tom has three hobbies:

1. annoying Delia (his sister)
2. being in a band (Dog Zombies)
3. eating caramel wafers

Tom has a lot of things in his life that bug him. He gets stuck sitting next to annoying Marcus Meldrew and way too close to his teacher Mr. Fullerman. His sister drives him crazy and his Dad dresses like a homeless man when he picks him up from the bus stop. Tom's teachers give him too much homework, but he always finds a creative way to get out of doing it. Also, he is totally in love with a girl named Amy and if he could just score tickets to his favorite band's concert,  he's sure Amy will like him back (because of course they will invite him on stage to sing their final song). Tom's imagination helps him all throughout the story. Everything that can go wrong in Tom's life usually does like a terrible camping vacation with his family, an interesting class trip or what happens when he finally does get tickets to see Dude 3. Somehow Tom always manages to find a way to come out on top. This story is told in journal form with doodles and pictures on every page that makes this story really easy to read.

I really liked this book. I laughed out loud so many times. Tom's drawings are hilarious, and I liked the story being told with so many doodles. I think it made it much easier to read. I also liked that Tom was always trying to find a funny excuse for not doing his work, but his teachers still really liked him. He wasn't disrespectful or rude, just funny. There were so many great parts like the fire drill, the choir practice, and the class assembly. I never knew what was coming next, but I knew it would make me laugh. Also, one thing that was great was that I could relate to all of the things Tom goes through. All kids try to get out of homework! 

Thanks Wyatt for the review! Grades 3 and up

As soon as I saw the cover of this book I picked it up without bothering to read the jacket. I tend to  LOVE scary books for young adults because they aren't especially violent or gory. I'm a big Mary Downing Hahn and Willow Davis Roberts fan. Is "creepy" a genre? If it is, it's my favorite!
In The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, Sunshine is a 16 year-old girl who recently moves to Washington with her adoptive mother, Kat. As soon as she arrives, she knows something is wrong in her new house. She hears a child's laughter and footprints and her room is rearranged each day after school. It's clear to Sunshine that her house is haunted, but besides her harmless ghost, there seems to be another scarier presence that puts her mother in danger. With the help of her new friend Nolan, Sunshine must discover the truth behind what lurks in her house but the truth is a bigger surprise than she ever thought possible.

I finished this book in one sitting because I knew Sunshine was somehow extraordinary and connected to these spirits but I couldn't solve the mystery on my own. I didn't find it to be predictable at all and was surprised by the big reveal. One of the best features of this book is that Sunshine is the one narrating the story and she is a very funny girl. Her humor helps to offset the scary parts of the novel.

I would love to recommend this to my elementary students but I think it might be just a bit to intense. I'd have to say Grade 6 and up. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 4/25/16




Lost in the Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Spencer Plain always believed his parents were bear activists, but what he didn't know was that they dedicated their lives to creating a secret bear city-Bearhaven. In this hidden world, bears live like humans. They speak, go to school, play video games, and even have their own underground train. When Spencer's parents go missing, he must work with the bears to try to find their captors.

This is a terrific story that works for both younger and older readers. The world of Bearhaven is definitely fantasy, but it's explained in a way that makes it seem entirely possible.  I like that it educates readers about animal cruelty (the reason Bearhaven came to exist in the first place) without being scary. The details of this secret city help bring it to life. Great debut novel from this author with the squeal expected this summer. Perfect for 8 years old and up!


When I first started Once Was a Time by Leila Sales, I assumed it was going to be completely set in WWII Germany. Charlotte's father is a scientist working for the London government on a top secret project. After a few pages, I settled in for a nice historical fiction book (I obviously didn't read the book jacket) when WHAMMO- I was pleasantly surprised to read that Charlotte travels through time to the year 2013. Unfortunately for Lottie, she is alone and left to speculate about what has happened to her family and best friend Kitty back in war torn London. As Lottie tries to find her answers, she discovers that life isn't actually all that different in the future. There are still mean girls and tough pre-teen choices to make.

I think this book is adorable. Lottie and Kitty's friendship is a wonderful testament to what true friendship should look like. Also Lottie's attempts to fit in 70 years into the future are really cute. Of course my favorite part is Lottie's passion for books and the library. She continues to be a voracious reader in a world of iPhones and internet, and it's her love of books that leads her to the answers she is searching for throughout the book.

My only criticism is that the end wrapped up a little too neatly (and a bit far fetched). I had to question the actual science, but I can overlook that because it was a satisfying conclusion.
I'm guessing this book is going to be one of the most popular this year!

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 4/11/16



Space Case by Stuart Gibb is a very exciting book. It's sequel, Spaced Out was published last week, but I had to read the first before I can read the second. I wrote in an earlier post that my son, who is a reluctant reader, liked this book and now I know why. It's got everything little boys love- space travel, robots, science, mystery and quite a few sentences devoted to using the bathroom on the moon.

Dash Gibson's family was selected to be one of the first families to live on the moon in a brand new colony. Unfortunately, living in space isn't as exciting as he had hoped. The base is small, the food is terrible, there isn't really a lot for a 12 year-old boy to do until the colony's top scientist dies, and Dash sets out to prove he was murdered. Of course NASA doesn't want the world to know that the new colony might be dangerous, so Dash must quickly and cleverly discover the truth on his own.

Set in 2040 this book was really neat. Just reading about the technology had me humming The Jetson's theme song. I've sometimes thought about what it would be like to live on the moon and this book gave me a clear picture of what that might look like. Additionally, there was one humdinger of a cliffhanger! I'm glad I read this today so I can buy Spaced Out tomorrow to see what happens next. While the story is quite intriguing, and I would love to recommend this to a young audience, there are some themes that might be a bit scary (the murder mystery being number one). I would have to say this one is for 4th grade and up.

If  I suddenly found a magic pencil that could give me all the answers to every question that came to my mind I would simultaneously want to ask it everything and be too scared to ask anything at all! In All The Answers by Kate Messner, Ava Anderson finds a pencil like this and must decide exactly what kinds of things she really wants know. Should she use it for test answers? to reveal who has a crush on her? to discover if her friends and family are all in good health? These are all questions that the pencil can respond to, but Ava, already a  natural worrier, gets even more anxious now that she has access to all the answers. Sometimes knowing the outcome is not always a good thing.

This book is very sweet. Ava is a responsible girl who doesn't want to abuse the pencil for silly questions and this makes her a charming heroine. She must learn that pushing through her fears and living through uncertainty offers a more meaningful life than one with automatic answers. This story was easy to read and the mystery of the pencil's origin was very surprising. I think students ages 9-12 will enjoy this book very much.

Monday, March 28, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 3/28/16



I absolutely truly loved Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Mother-Daughter Book Club author). Mystery has always been my favorite genre so this book has been on my list for a while.

At over six feet tall, 12 year old Truly has always stood out in a crowd and being the new girl in the small town of Pumpkin Falls certainly makes her feel even more awkward! Truly is the middle child of five and her family has always been close- until Black Monday. That's the day her father was injured in Afghanistan and lost his arm. His easy smile and good-natured personality disappeared, and lovable Truly would do anything to make him happy again. That includes not complaining when he moves Truly and her siblings to his teeny-tiny hometown to take over the family bookstore. At the Lovejoy's store, Truly finds a mysterious letter tucked inside a copy of Charlotte's Web that sends her and some new friends hunting for clues all over town. Who wrote the letter? Who was it for? Where will each clue lead the Pumpkin Falls Private Eyes next?

I love that Truly is such a positive heroine. She is funny and likable and brings together a group of kids that all really need each other. Also, the town of Pumpkin Falls reminds me of Stars Hollow (for all the fans of Gilmore Girls). It's full of quirky characters like Mrs. Bellow the town busy-body and Mrs. Winchester who always happen to have a kitten or two in her coat pockets. This story makes me want to move to a quaint New England town and start my own charming bookstore on Main Street! Another refreshing thing about this story is that these tweens are rarely on their phones or using the internet. They work to solve the mystery by meeting in person and walking all over town. I almost forgot that this book takes place during modern time.
Perhaps my favorite part of this story, besides the mystery, is the many references to children's books (which makes sense as much of the story takes place in the bookstore). I'll be dusting off my copy of Owl Moon to read in the library this week!

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's Monday! What are you Reading? #IMWAYR 3/14/16

Just finished reading the new Gordon Korman book Slacker. Like the other Korman books, this one is easy to read and will be high interest. 

Cameron Boxer is an eighth grade student whose life is devoted to playing video games above all else. When his parents decide that he needs to change his ways and get involved at school, he does what any other self respecting gamer would do- he invents a fake school club to appease them. If the club doesn't really exist, unbeknownst to his parents, he'll still have plenty of time to be a slacker. Of course, his plan backfires and The Positive Action Club becomes the most popular extra curricular at the school. Cameron soon has a decision to make that will effect his gaming, his friendships, and his town. Should he spend all of his time trying to dismantle the club from the inside or actually try to make a difference in his community? 

The video game language will definitely appeal to boys and most kids can relate to Cameron's slacker tendencies. There's also a feel good ending with a positive message. Additionally entertaining is that each chapter is told from a different character's perspective. Besides Cameron, there's insight from the guidance counselor, the star football player, Cam's friends, and Daphne who takes the P.A.G. very seriously. 

This is a good choice for reluctant readers.