Monday, February 20, 2017
I always get really excited when I find a new beginner chapter book series- especially a series for boys! Project Droid by Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser is sure to be a hit. Krulik is the author of George Brown, Katie Kazoo, and Magic Bone, so she is pretty much an expert in this genre.
Science No Fair! is the story of Logan Applebaum and his new "cousin" Java who just happens to be a robot. Logan's mom is an inventor, and her latest experiment is to try and design a robot that can pass for a real boy. In this first book of the series, Logan thinks a robot friend will give him an advantage in the school Science Fair, but the minute Java gets to school things start to go hilariously wrong. Java reminds me of Amelia Bedelia. He takes everything literally like "take your seat" and "butterflies in your stomach" with the latter resulting in him shaking Logan upside down to remove the butterflies. The Science Fair doesn't go quite as planned, but it's all very entertaining.
So far there are three Project Droid books, and they have been a huge hit in my library. It's also nice to have books to offer budding engineers!
This novel is a "new to me book" published in 2011. It's one of those that has been on my list to read for a while, but it always got pushed aside for newer books. Luckily, I saw it in the used book store this weekend and grabbed it. I'm SO HAPPY I did because it's wonderful.
Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff tells the story of 10 year old Annie Richards who is a little different than other kids her age. Annie's older brother died in a freak accident and as a result, she is determined to remain as safe as possible. To say she is overly cautious is an understatement. She wears band-aids over every scratch (in case of infection), ace bandages around her ankles (in case of a sprain), and full padding when she rides her bike (that she won't ride down hill). This is all BEFORE Annie gets her hands on a garage sale book about diseases and begins to wonder if she has a variety of rare illnesses. Of course this is all Annie's way of dealing with her grief. Her parents are struggling themselves so Annie has to find her own way to heal. Luckily for her, a friendly new neighbor teaches her to "put down her umbrella and look at the sun once again."
This story could have easily been a little maudlin, but charming Annie is very endearing. She is funny and her inner dialog throughout the story is quite entertaining. Her list of ailments is ridiculous, but it's all tied to her very real pain. I think this is an excellent book for any child dealing with loss as Annie learns that life does indeed go on after sadness. Everyone can certainly use a lesson on embracing the sunshine in his or her life.
I have a love hate relationship with Lisa Graff. I find some of her books to be incredible (like this one) and some not so much (Tangle of Knots). I will continue to read her books with the hope it will be one I like. :)
I don't often write about picture books, but I recently read A Bear and the Piano to my 1st grade class and they actually started clapping as soon it was over- CLAPPING!
This book, by David Litchfield, is about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and teaches himself to play. His dream is to become a famous musician, so he practices all day, every day. He eventually gets discovered by some human children who convince him to move to the big city to pursue his dream. The bear becomes the most famous musician of all time, but after years of success, longs to see his woodland friends again. When bear arrives home to the forest, his first piano seems to be missing. What actually happened to it is the part that had us all clapping with happiness!
This is VERY sweet story about following dreams and preserving special friendships.
Monday, February 6, 2017
There have been many times I've cried during a sad movie or even a television show, but very rarely do I cry real tears while reading a book. That all changed as I read When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin.
Ben Coffin is a twelve- year- old boy who has had significant struggles throughout his life. He's been in and out of foster care and often prefers spending time getting lost in his favorite books rather than being disappointed by the real world. As the story starts, his life seems to be turning around and he's finally starting to feel settled in a new home. While he still struggles to make friends, things begin to look better when he finds and adopts a lovable stray dog. This happy, mouth licking puppy that Ben names Flip, brings a smile to everyone he meets. People can't resist Ben's dog and through Flip, Ben tries things out of his comfort zone and gains confidence. One of his newest friends is Halley, the librarians daughter, and it's through his friendship with her and Flip that Ben begins to flourish and find true happiness. When tragedy strikes Ben's life yet again, it's his close bond with Flip that keeps him from falling apart.
I wanted to reach inside this book and scoop up Ben and give him the life he's always wanted. He is a sweet, compassionate, smart, and kind young man. No matter what life has thrown at him, he doesn't become mean or bitter. He always sees the good in everyone and is a much nicer person than I would be given his same circumstances. As the book goes on, Ben has to deal with some pretty difficult hurdles. Death, abuse, cancer and homelessness are just a few of the serious issues tackled in this book. I think what made me cry is that he is a good boy who just can't catch a break, and I felt so deeply for him. I was constantly rooting for him to have the life he deserved. It's a pretty talented author that can make a reader so invested in their character. While there are many awful things that happen to Ben, the author spreads it out over the course of the story so it's not horribly bleak. Griffin is also careful to keep the focus on Ben's positive attitude so the awful things that happen to him remain totally appropriate for young readers. Nothing is discussed in such detail that it would be too much for a 4th or 5th grade student. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
I'll admit, I didn't have high expectations for this story. The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse was sent free of charge along with my latest Scholastic order. I had never heard of it or the author Brian Farrey, but lately I've been surprised by obscure books. This one is no exception.
Princess Jeniah is twelve years old and about to become the queen of her land. Before her mother falls into a coma from illness, she begs Jeniah to heed a serious warning. Any leader who enters the kingdom's Carse (a mysterious forest/bog) will bring ruin to the land that has been happy and prosperous for hundreds of years. As far as the princess knows, no monarch has ever entered the Carse, and it's secret becomes too much for her to resist. Across the kingdom, a young recently orphaned village girl, Aon, also wonders about the secret of the Carse. Something about the strange patch of land brings Aon comfort. Unlike the princess, Aon has ventured into the mystical forest and when Jeniah discovers this, she begs Aon to help her solve the mystery of what is deep in the heart of the Carse. The truths Aon uncovers turn Jeniah's entire world upside down.
This book started a little slow but I'm glad I stuck with it. The mystery is really original!!! I don't want to give away too much, but a kingdom where everyone is happy and blessed seems a little too good to be true- and it is. Jeniah has to make some difficult decisions about loyalty and friendship. The characters are brave and kids will relate to them.
This is a fantasy/fairy tale book that will appeal to all students that enjoy this genre. It was easy to read and has a cliffhanger that left me in suspense.