November 5, 2009

Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle . . . by Nan Marino

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:58 am by suebe2

armstrongNeil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me (AR 4 .1 ) by Nan Marino

Roaring Brook Press

Tamara Ann Simpson doesn’t know why no one else can see it.  Muscle Man McGinty is a liar and a braggart.  The last straw comes when he challenged every single kid on Ramble Street to a kickball game.  Kickball is serious stuff and Tamara is sure that, at last, Muscle Man will get what he deserves.

In the summer of 1969, everyone is focused on two things.  The upcoming moon walk and the war in Vietnam.  These events seem distant to Tamara as she tries to get by without her best friend, Kebsie. A foster child, Kebsie moved away while Tamara was out of town.  Tamara takes her frustration out on Muscle Man, the next foster kid to hit the neighborhood.

Laugh out loud funny lines alternate with tear jerker moments as the realities of imperfect families and the fragility of life come home to Ramble Street.

Tamara Ann may not always be likable but she is 100% realistic.  The reader too will wonder why every other thing Muscle Man says is a lie and why the adults seem so tolerant.  All will be revealed.

An excellent choice for a kid who may be having problems dealing with not so nice feelings and situations.


October 14, 2009

Alibi Junior High by Greg Logsted

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:40 pm by suebe2

alibiAlibi Junior High*

by Greg Logsted


13-year-old Cody Saron knows five languages and has two black belts.  He can identify a variety of weapons and knows how to fade into the background.  None of this prepares him for his greatest challenge —

Junior High.

Cody has grown up alongside his father, a CIA agent who travels the globe. When things get too hot, Cody is sent to live with his aunt and have a normal life.  But how normal is it if the only person you can be yourself with is your new neighbor, an ex-Ranger, wounded in Afghanistan?

Logsted has nailed the stresses that make up junior high.   Bullies in the form of both classmates and teachers, insane schedules, fashion faux pas and more.

What made the book for me was that Cody may be trained as well as his CIA father but he is still a real 13-year-old.  Sure, he can kick butt, but when he doesn’t know where his father is, he worries, he’s tongue-tied when talking to the girl he likes, and he has no idea how he is going to work around the rules made up by a seemingly deranged adult world.  The adults are not the heroes, everyone makes mistakes.  In short, this book may be Jr. James Bond but it is very real.

Whether your kids call 7th and 8th grade junior high or middle school, hand them a copy of Alibi Junior High.


*I checked this book out from the library.

October 2, 2009

Spy Cat by Peg Kehret

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:04 pm by suebe2

catSpy Cat (AR 4 .6 )

by Peg Kehret

This story starts out when the Kendrills get a new neighbor. The neighbor’s name is the Sunburgs.  Not long after they move in, Alex Kendrills’ best friend’s house is robbed.  Then the Sunburgs get robbed too and so do the Kendrills.

The burglars even try to take Pete, Alex’s cat, when he sneaks into the van to help himself to someone’s hamburger and fries.  When Alex’s little brother tries to save the cat, he gets taken instead and has to save himself.

My favorite part was when Pete decides to fight his way out of the van instead of leaving with the burglars, injuring the crooks in the process. Don’t mess with cats!

This book is best for people who like animals, especially cats.  It is also good for kids who like spies and other mysteries.  It is a funny book with lots of action, but it isn’t too scary.

–Guest Reviewer (10 years old), son of SueBE

July 9, 2009

Fortune’s Folly by Deva Fagan

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:34 am by suebe2

FaganFortune’s Folly

by Deva Fagan

(Henry Holt and Company)

 Fortunata (or Nata) doesn’t believe in magic or special powers.  Ever since her mother died, her father’s abilities as a  shoemaker have vanished.  Instead of the fantastic creations he was known for, he now makes outlandish footwear such as boots that look like bumble bees.  Nata just wishes he would clean his tools and get it right instead of waiting for elves she doesn’t believe in.

When a fortune teller tries her tricks on Fortunata, the girl quickly catches on to the prompts the woman uses.  While Fortunata may not believe in magic, she believes in using her brains to survive and telling fortunes let’s her put food on the table.

When she finds herself forced to tell the Prince’s fortune, the girl spins a fabulous tale, worthy of the handsome young man.  Only after she is done does she learn that if the fortune does not come true, it will cost her father his life.  Now she must make sure the impossible happens even if it means turning her love (the prince) toward another girl.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know I’m a sucker for fantasy.  This is a great one for tween girls.  There’s romance and adventure and this is one smart, spunky heroine.  Her father frustrated me beyond reckoning but I think that was Sue the Parent getting frustrated.  Tweens are already rolling their eyes at us grownups and would roll their eyes at my reaction too.

This would make a quick summer read for the fantasy lover in your family.


April 9, 2009

Diary of Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:43 am by suebe2

diary The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (AR 5. 4)

by Jeff Kinney

Amulet Books

This book is really funny.  It is probably a good explanation of what life is like in middle school, i.e. don’t expect lollipops and candycanes around each corner.

It is the sequel to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is the story of a boy named Greg. 

This book is really funny.  I like the part about the half-birthday parties for all the neighbors’ kids.  It showed that Greg made a fool of himself but it paid off later on.  

It would probably best suit 3rd grade and up.  Both boys and girls would like this book.

–Guest Reviewer (10 years-old), Son of SueBE

March 26, 2009

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:48 am by suebe2

curseA 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.


February 19, 2009

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 4:31 pm by suebe2


Savvy  (AR 6 . 0 )

by Ingrid Law

Dial Books

Named a Newbery Honor this year, Savvy left me wondering just how good the winner must be as well as what wacky Savvy I’d end up with. 

Thirteenth birthdays are tricky things in the Beaumont family because sometime that day each Beaumont discovers his or her Savvy, or special ability.   On Fish’s big day, he called up a hurricane, but boys tend to have more powerful savvies than girls.   Mibs has no idea what her talent will be, she just hopes it is something good.  It had better be because until she learns to control it, she will be home schooled.  Not that she has any friends — living in fear of other people finding out about your family tends to put a damper on friendship. 

The hope for a really good savvy grows stronger when a highway accident lands her father in a coma miles away and her mother leaves to be by his side.  When the Pastor’s wife insists on throwing Mibs a party, the girl realizes she will come into her power among people other than family, people she is afraid to trust.  She stows away on a bus bound for the city where her father is.  Mibs planned to go alone but her brothers and the pastor’s kids follow and the result is a road trip across two states that ends with new found friends and a respect for the abilities, secrets and trust to be found in others.

This book is an excellent choice for fantasy lovers although with a touch of light romance it will probably appeal more to girls than to boys.  Still, both male and female characters are equally strong and equally flawed.  For a slightly older audience than Nitz’s Griffin.  

This is a fast moving, fun and funny story about a girl learning not only who she is but also more than a little something about those around her. 


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