March 31, 2009
The Lightning Thief (AR 4.7 )
by Rick Riordan
This is a good book and the first book in the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I read this book while I listened to the audiobook.
It had bits of action spread around the book so you don’t have to wait through the entire book just to get some decent action. And it had some funny parts in it too.
I like Percy because he’s obnoxious and witty. I like his best friend too, nicknamed Goat Boy. You’ll have to read the book to figure out the nickname.
Boys would like this book best but if you’re a girl and like Greek mythology or action it would be a good book for you too. I’d also recommend it for people who are ten and up.
–Guest Reviewer (10 years-old), Son of SueBE
March 26, 2009
A Curse Dark as Gold ( AR 5 . 9 )
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Arthur A Levine/Scholastic
I love retellings of fairy and folktales but only the very best hold me to the end. After all, you know the story so you know what is going to happen.
Bunce has done a praiseworthy job in this Rumplestiltskin retelling. You know how the story should end, but can it end that way when so much has gone so wrong?
Curse is set in Shearing, a fictitious town built around a woolen mill, a mill that Charlotte Miller must fight to keep after the death of her father, the last man in the family.
Part-fantasy, part-romance, with a good dash of mystery thrown in, this retelling will keep you turning pages until the end, hard though it may be to go on.
I know that part of the difficulty was my own, a young reader wouldn’t have my experiences as a wife and mother. But as such, it was hard for me to watch Charlotte hide things from her husband.
This book is suitable for advanced middle grade readers. Although Charlotte marries in the course of the book and later has a son, it is up to the reader to connect the dots. Or not.
But the book would also satisfy young adult and even adult readers. Charlotte functions as a full adult in her society, making her own decisions, with the entire town of Shearing relying on her judgement.
This was one of my favorite books last year and one I was happy to read again so soon.
March 20, 2009
Bubble Homes and Fish Farts (AR 5 . 7 )
by Fiona Bayrock
By now you’ve probably realized that I love great nonfiction, but the type of nonfiction that usually hooks me is nonfiction that tells a story. An exciting event. A thrilling life. Something or someone with a story I just can’t put down. Books of facts are interesting and I page through them, but read them cover to cover?
I did with Bayrock’s fact-filled fun read.
The central theme in Bayrocks book is bubbles, some small, some large but all vital in some way to the life of an animal whether you are talking about the bubbles that bottlenose dolphins blow for fun or the bubbles in which African Gray Treefrogs lay their eggs. Sixteen animals in all, each with a two page spread and space in the author’s notes at the end. The list is divided among mammals, insects, arachnids and fish.
Carolyn Conahan’s watercolor paintings combine acurate depictions of the various animals with a playful sense of fun that sucked my husband in after he teased me for reading about farts.
The reading level may be upper fifth grade but there is only approximately 12 lines of text on each spread, not too much for a reluctant reader.
A good choice for fact junkies and nonfiction lovers of all ages.
March 19, 2009
The Composer is Dead
by Lemony Snicket
illustrated by Carson Ellis
music composed by Nathaniel Stookey (CD included)
Lemony Snicket is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The Composer is Dead is funny and teaches kids about some of the different parts in an orchestra. It teaches kids about different kinds of music and is written in the style of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
My favorite part is when the woodwind section kept on giving the inspector compliments about his jacket to distract him. Listen to the CD while you read the book because it includes parts that are not in the book.
Kids who like the Series of Unfortunate Events books will also like this one. It would also be good for kids who play in their school orchestra.
–Guest Reviewer (10 years-old), Son of SueBE
When the first bass notes laid the kitten’s ears back, I thought “This is notPeter and the Wolf.” Maybe not, but it is clever for those who like the tongue-in-cheek style of Lemony Snicket.
In music class, my son has already learned about the various instruments in the orchestra and he really enjoyed picking them out as he listened to this. For me, the audiobook was immensely helpful when the inspector recites a lengthy list of dead composers — many I knew, but others were new to me and I wasn’t sure how to pronounce some of the names.
A good choice for family listening/reading, and I can think of a music teacher or two who would love a copy.
March 17, 2009
How I Learned Geography (AR 4 . 4)
by Uri Shulevitz
Farrar Straus and Giroux
2009 Honor book for Caldecott Award
Shulevitz has created an autobiographical picture book based on his own boyhood memories of WWII when his family flees Warsaw, Poland for Kazakhstan, Turkestan. There he and his parents share a small, drab room with another refugee couple.
Their life is drab and dull in the colorful city of Kazakhstan — no books, no toys and not nearly enough to eat. One day his father brings his disappointed family, not the bread he couldn’t afford, but an enormous map with which he covers one wall.
The boy finds himself exploring a world of beaches and deserts, glaciers and fruit filled jungles. He sees cities and shady palm groves. And he does all of this within the four walls of their room.
This book is a must for dreamers and map-lovers of all ages. An excellent read aloud and an opportunity to share a spin around the globe with your young learner.
March 13, 2009
Heart of a Sherpherd
by Rosanne Perry
This week I’m going to focus on boy books. It seems to be a lot harder to get boys to read than girls but I also have to admit — I like boy books a lot. I like action. I like humor.
While this book has both, it doesn’t start with action and that may be why it took a little while to hook me. It starts with Brother playing chess with his grandfather. Encourage your boy reader to keep going! Eventually he’ll encounter rattlers, wild fire and even a miracle.
Brother does his best to be a real rancher. After all, his whole family is counting on him. While his brothers are away at school and training, his father is shipped off to Iraq. This leaves just Brother, his aging grandparents, and Ernesto, their shepherd to mind the sheep, the cattle, the horses and the whole ranch. Yet no matter how hard he tries, Brother gets the feeling he is letting people down. Grandfather encourages him to be his own man, to learn who he is and not worry about being good at the things the others are good at. Ernesto puts it more simply. Brother, he says, has the heart of a shepherd.
Perry does a great job of creating a real “boy voice” for Brother. Everything he thinks is colored by his family’s military background, he and his friends have fights where they pelt each other with flower blossoms, and they aren’t above a really good death scene during this mock combat.
This book also deals very realistically with what happens when a parent, indeed many parents in the same community, goes to war. But it is also a story about life and death, this country’s rural roots, and a boy’s spiritual journey and Faith. An excellent book for boys who are trying to grow into their own type of men. It may not be a must for boys, but I required a handful of tissues at the end.
March 11, 2009
The Graveyard Book (AR 5 . 1 )
by Neil Gaiman
I chose to listen to this year’s Newbery winner as an audio book because I was in a bit of a hurry to read it before my 10 year-old son. He had just gotten it as a birthday gift from his great aunt and uncle and somehow I had it in my head that this was YA. My mistake. It is solidly middle grade.
The good thing about listening to it is that I got to hear the author read the book. Gaiman has a great voice and did a wondrous job with the variety of accents. That said, the book contains some illustrations which I largely missed.
On to the book itself.
It takes a village to raise a child, but what if that village is actually a cemetery? One night a tiny boy toddles into the cemetery near his home. Hot on his trail is, not mum and dad, but the man who has just murdered the rest of his family. A ghostly couple saves the day, giving the boy shelter and taking him into their home — think mausoleum.
This book could be terrifically grim. After all, a family has been murdered. The boy grows up in a cemetery. He encounters various supernatural creatures — several of whom are quite un-lovely. But potentially gruesome features, like all those dead bodies, are dealt with in a spare, matter-of-fact way. No gore. No goo. Nothing terribly disgusting. Hmm. Might that revelation turn off some potential boy readers? I hope not.
After all, this is a fantastic boy book. Bod (not Bob although I do make the occasional typo) is curious, adventuresome and sometimes disobedient. He is a hero in the way that every boy (and many a girl) dreams of being — standing up for himself, his friend, and, let’s just say, the bad guys do not come out on top.
Gaiman’s talents in writing graphic novels shine. This is a fast paced story with well-developed characters. Any boy with a gross sense of humor will love it. Any boy who dreams of being a hero will see himself in Bod. Reluctant readers, be warned. This may be the book you simply cannot resist.
March 6, 2009
Flora’s Dare: how a girl of spirit gambles all to expand her vocabulary, confront a bouncing boy terror, and try to save Califa from a shaky doom (despite being confined to her room) (AR 5 . 1)
by Ysabeau Wilce
Flora Segunda returns in another daring adventure in this sequel to Flora Segunda. Just past her 14th birthday, Flora is technically an adult but her parents and teachers still think they have the final say in her life, including whether or not she will be allowed to learn Gramatica, a complicated symbolic language essential to anyone wishing to perform magick. Given her desire to be a ranger with the adventures and death-defying feats that entails, Flora must learn Gramatica even if it means fraternizing with the enemy. How dangerous can someone so handsome truly be? In her quest, Flora is attacked by a tentacle that writhes up out of a filthy toilet, discovers the cause of the earthquakes plaguing Califa and inadvertently time-travels.
The setting is unmistakably California and unmistakably historic but not quite as it comes seasoned with Aztec sounding vocabulary.
A must for fantasy lovers but for a slightly older crowd than Tamora Pierce’s Immortals series, due to both hormonal teen behavior and the numerous subplots that would confuse less-accomplished readers who might find them hard to follow. Though references to hormonally induced behavior are numerous, little actually happens “on screen.” A good choice for readers who aren’t quite ready for what they might encounter in adult books.
Wilce has taken the time to develop an intricate culture, simultaneously familiar and incredibly unique. A must for serious fantasy readers.
March 4, 2009
Wolf -Speaker by Tamora Pierce (AR 5. 1 )
Randomhouse, Atheneum , and Simon Pulse
This is book #2 in the Immortals series and I again listened to the audio book. Daine travels cross country with her teacher only to be separated from him by a magical wall thrown up to close off a particular valley while mischief is afoot. But what is going on that they want to hide? And can Numair, Daine’s teacher, rejoin her before something awful happens?
Another excellent pick for fantasy lovers although this one felt a bit different than book #1, Wild Magic. This may be because Daine deals with fewer humans and more animals, both mortal and Immortal, in this particular book. Characters include wolves, squirrels, an eagle, cats, dogs and bats.
I especially enjoyed the humorous situations Daine found herself in as she explores her magical abilities.
Themes include loyalty, betrayal, and honor.
There’s enough action to satisfy a boy reader if you can get him past the fact that the main character is a girl. May be a bit introspective for most boys, but, again, not so much that they couldn’t enjoy the book.
This would also be a good pick for advanced readers. Some listings place it with uppergrade titles and there are references to infidelity but it is done through insinuation more than anything specific.
March 2, 2009
Backbeard: Pirate for Hire (AR 2 . 7 )
by Matthew McElligott
This book is very funny, especially the reasons why the Pirate Council fires Backbeard and won’t let him be a pirate any more.
I also liked the part where Backbeard goes to the blacksmith but is too strong to be a smith. It was funny and kind of ironic since most people aren’t strong enough to be a blacksmith but he was too strong.
Who will like this book? Kids interested in being pirates and finding a job. Kids will also like that this book is about being fair.
–Guest Reviewer (10 years-old), Son of SueBE