Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha

The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant ThingsThe Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things by Neil Pasricha

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because the title was funny to me: The Book of Awesome...I wanted to see if it really was awesome!

The author Neil Pasricha made this book out of the blog he keeps ( Basically, the blog & book are about the little things in life that are really awesome--like popping bubble wrap and waking up early and realizing that it's actually Saturday.

I enjoyed this book and have recommended it to a few coworkers who were looking for a funny, quick read.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow

Saving ZashaSaving Zasha by Randi Barrow

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In 1945 Russia, dogs are rare--because of the war, many died from starvation or in battle. This is why 13-year-old Mikhail is shocked to one day find an injured man with a German Shepherd in the woods near his home.

Mikhail's family did all they could for the man, but he dies, leaving behind his dog whose name, they learned, is Zasha. Zasha is such a good dog that they decide to keep her, although it will be dangerous for them because some might view them as traitors for having a German dog (the Russians hated all things German during the war, and, even though the war is over, many people continue to feel that way). They must do all they can to keep Zasha safe from those who might do her harm or try to kidnap her--especially since they find out that she is expecting puppies!

Readers will appreciate Mikhail's love for Zasha--along with the trying times he and his family experience in post-war Russia. Those who enjoyed this book about dogs and World War II might also enjoy Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury.

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Wicked Girls: a Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch TrialsWicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Based on real people and events that took place during the Salem Witch Trials, this book is told from the point of view of three girls, ranging in age from twelve to seventeen; these are the girls that made the accusations of witchcraft. Told in free verse format, readers learn about the motivations behind the girls' "afflictions"--which led to 19 innocent people being hanged.

This book received starred reviews across the board (Booklist, School Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus) but I just didn't like it! Maybe it's because I listened to it? I just didn't like the characters or the way their story was told. My favorite part of the book was the note at the end that described the people upon which the characters were based. Readers who enjoyed this might also enjoy another Salem Witch Trials book Beyond the Burning Time by Kathryn Lasky.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

True...(Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

True... Sort ofTrue... Sort of by Katherine Hannigan

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

11-year old Delly is considered a bad kid by her family and teachers because of her behavior--but she doesn't really understand what is so bad about what she does. For example, if the weather is too nice to miss during the day, she simply skips school; when she sees a canoe on the river that she wants to ride in, she just takes it. Is that so wrong? She just understand doesn't why everyone calls her a bad kid...and hearing it over and over again starts to make her think she is a bad person through and through.

Things change when a new girl named Ferris Boyd arrives in town--she doesn't speak and won't let anyone touch her. Delly takes an immediate interest in her and decides that she wants to be her friend. She, Ferris, and Delly's younger brother R.B. end up spending a lot of time together in a tree house in the woods near Ferris's house. Being around timid Ferris and sweet R.B. help to make Delly more aware of her actions and the effects her actions have on others, and she starts to be not as much as a trouble kid as she was before.

I have to say that I didn't enjoy this book at all. As I listened to it, I knew that this was going to make it onto a list somewhere (themes of: 'bad kid' main character on a road to self-discovery, sibling rivalry/sibling love, making new friends/learning to get along with others, troubled friend with a troubled homelife, etc.)...but it's not that good! The first thing that struck me was Delly's ridiculous made-up vocabulary--some might find it charming, but I found it extremely irritating. I also didn't find Delly all that likable; she's bossy, acts before she thinks, and is wild. Finally, the fact that Ferris doesn't speak and the fact that animals seem to magically flock to her might appear to be related to an unsuspecting young reader. Even the ending of the book is unrealistic! I haven't read anything else by Katherine Hannigan, but I think I'll stay away from the rest of her books.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) by Maryrose Wood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story continues the tale of Penelope Lumley and her three charges, the Incorrigibles. The children are still learning how to behave like children--instead of wolves--and the group faces more challenges when they take a trip to London with the Ashtons while the mansion is being repaired.

Strange things keep happening to Miss Lumley and the children: the guidebook they have doesn't seem to be of the normal variety, they encounter a fortune-teller who gives them a cryptic warning, and they notice Mr. Ashton getting twitchy near the time of the full moon. Luckily, Miss Lumley finds a friend in Simon, a young man who helps them find their way when they first arrive in unfamiliar London. Throughout all of this, Miss Lumley can't stop thinking about her parents--where they are and who they are.

I was excited to get this because I really enjoyed the first book (The Mysterious Howling) but I have to say that I was disappointed. This story felt like it lacked the humor/excitement/special something that the first book did. This book ended with many loose ends, so I expect there will be another book in the works.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Ten Miles Past NormalTen Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Janie was younger, her parents moved their family from a house in the suburbs to a 'wanna-be farm' outside of town. (It's a 'wanna-be' farm because it's so small, only has goats, and has a small area to grow vegetables.) The fact that their farm is 'wanna-be' doesn't matter to the kids in Janie's classes at school her freshman year--the fact that she lives on any type of farm is definitely weird to them.

Janie has a tough time adjusting to high school life at first; she seems to blend in to the point of invisibility. In fact, the only time the other kids notice her is when she has hay in her hair or goat poo on her shoes. She sits through lunch alone in the library because her friends have a different lunch period...and she pretty much drifts through her day until she reaches the classes she has with a friend.

Janie, however, doesn't give up completely; she and her best friend Sarah join an after school Jam Band (where she learns how to play the bass!), they work on an important interview project with the help of Sarah's awesome older sister, and she actually starts to make some new friends. Freshman year isn't looking as bad long as she tries to forget about that popular blog her mother maintains about her family and the 'wanna-be' farm.

I enjoyed this book! I especially enjoyed how Janie has a strong sense of self and can see when a boy isn't as great as she thought he was when she gets to know him a little better--I think that is a great message for young girls. Those that liked this book might also like Itch by Michelle D. Kwasney.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shark Wars by E.J. Altbacker

Shark WarsShark Wars by E. J. Altbacker

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In ancient times, Gray is a young shark who is part of Coral Shiver (a clan).  Because Gray is such a huge shark for his age, he often sneaks off to find more food when he's not supposed to, putting his shiver in danger--and this eventually leads him to be exiled.  Luckily, his best friend Barkley (who's a dogfish) sticks with him, and together they try to find a new shiver to join.

The two of them soon find a small group of sharks and they decide to form their own new shiver--calling themselves Rogue Shiver.  Later, they inadvertently get involved in a conflict between two other evil shivers...and the Rogue Shiver get confused, not knowing who they can really trust anymore.

This story has a lot of action, which readers will be sure to enjoy.  A lot of issues weren't tied up at the end, but it's the first book in a series.  Readers who enjoyed this animal book might also enjoy Ragtag by Karl Wolf-Morgenl√§nder.

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Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Heart of a Samurai: a Novel Inspired by a True Adventure on the High SeasHeart of a Samurai: a Novel Inspired by a True Adventure on the High Seas by Margi Preus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the year 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro and his fisherman friends are washed ashore on a remote island after a storm destroys their boat.  Luckily, an American whaling ship finds and rescues them before they starve to death.

The captain of the whaling ship and Manjiro soon form a bond (which was unusual in that time because the Japanese and the Americans didn't normally like or trust each other) and he offers to take Manjiro back to America with him as his son.  This leaves Manjiro to decide whether he should accompany the captain to a new country and live a life of adventure...or to remain with the other young Japanese fishermen and return home.  After much thought, Manjiro chooses to go with the captain and see America.

This book is based on the Manjiro's life story--he is widely accepted as the first Japanese person to set foot on American soil.  Readers will learn of the prejudice he faced in America, as well as his happy reunion with his family in Japan 10 years after the shipwreck that changed his life.

Readers who enjoyed this book might also enjoy A Million Shades of Gray (by Cynthia Kadohata), which is another historical fiction / survival story.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine QueenThe Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the 1890s, 12-year-old Cissy enjoys attending school and spending time with her friend Kookie.  The highlight of their school days is receiving letters from their former teacher Miss Loucien, who left teaching to join a traveling theater group.  When there's a diphtheria outbreak in their town, Cissy and her classmate Tibbie are sent away with their current teacher to find the theater group so that they can stay with them until the outbreak has passed.  Happily for Cissy, Kookie tags along with them.

They find the theater group living in an old, abandoned paddle-boat that had washed up onto land from the Missouri River.  After some work, the group gets the boat back into the river and their journey really begins!

This is a fun story with a huge cast of likable characters.  Despite all of the crazy hardships faced by this group as they float down the river, they always work together and help each other out.  This book is a follow-up to Stop the Train, but readers don't need to have read that book to understand what's going on in this one.  Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy another one of McCaughrean's books: The Death-Defying Pepper Roux.

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You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does) by Ruth White

You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does)You'll Like It Here by Ruth White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

11-year-old Meggie Blue lives a happy, comfortable life in North Carolina with her mom, older brother, and grandpa.  However, the recent talk among her classmates about aliens makes her unhappy because it brings back bad memories from years ago of the crazy man who trespassed into her class looking for aliens.  An experience like this would traumatize any young child, but this was especially traumatizing for Meggie because she is, in fact, an alien.

Meggie's family first moved from the planet Chroma to Earth when Meggie was just a baby.  They had to leave their home planet because the pollution there was too overpowering.  They first lived in California, but then moved to North Carolina after the crazy man incident in Meggie's class.  Now that the people in North Carolina are growing suspicious of them, they decide that it's time to move on again, but this time they decide to move to an entirely different planet.

Interestingly, they end up on a planet called Earth...but a much different Earth from what they're used to.  The place they find themselves in is called Fashion City, a city run by "The Fathers," where adults are assigned to mindless jobs, clothing isn't allowed to be colorful, and taking "Lotus" pills to make one feel good and numb is encouraged.  The Blue family can't wait to get away from this awful version of Earth, but will they be able to escape before falling victim to the overbearing ways of the city?

I enjoyed this book a lot--I began the story without knowing the plot and was completely surprised to find out that the Blue family are actual aliens!  The Blue family is a nice group of people who genuinely care about others, and this trait shines through strongly when they're in Fashion City and want to help all of its citizens stuck in their dull, repetitive lives.  Those who enjoyed this alien story might also enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday (Adam Rex).

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seven Sorerers by Caro King

Seven SorcerersSeven Sorcerers by Caro King

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Nin normally hates Wednesdays, but the Wednesday her little brother disappears—along with all of his things—is the worst Wednesday by far.  When Nin realizes that their mother doesn’t remember that Toby ever existed, she knows something is very wrong. 

Nin soon learns that her brother didn’t just disappear; he was kidnapped by a Boogeyman and taken to The Drift, an alternate world where magic and strange creatures exist…along with Mr. Strood, the immortal man behind all of the kidnapping cases like Toby’s.  Determined to get Toby back (along with her mother’s memories of him), Nin sets off through The Drift with the help of Jonas, a boy who has been living in both the Drift and the regular world ever since he escaped from one on Mr. Strood’s Boogeymen.

This is an action-packed story filled with fantasy and adventure that both girls and boys will surely enjoy.  One of my favorite characters was Jik, a mudman Nin created—who can only say nonsense words rhyming with his own name.  Watch for a planned sequel to this book!

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Naming by Alison Croggon

The GiftThe Gift by Alison Croggon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maerad has lived a lonely life of slavery ever since her family was killed.  This changes when a man quite literally appears out of nowhere in the barn she’s working in and offers to help her escape.  Unsure of who this mysterious man is, but unwilling to let the chance at freedom pass her by, she agrees to sneak off with him.

Maerad learns that Cadvan is the man’s name, and that he is a Bard—he has magical abilities.  Using his abilities, he sees that Maerad has some powers of her own; in fact, he soon believes that she is actually The One from prophesies who is meant to fight the Nameless (a dark power opposed to the Bards and the overall balance of the world).  Together, they head off across the land towards the special schools that teach those like them how to harness their power for the good of the world.

This was an enjoyable story, and readers will be sure to become attached to Maerad, who is very much a normal girl with totally unexpected powers.  This is the first book of the Pellinor series, which continues with The Riddle, The Crow, and The Singing.

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Liar, Liar: the Theory, Practice, and Destructive Properties of Deception by Gary Paulsen

Liar, LiarLiar, Liar by Gary Paulsen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

14-year-old Kevin has a talent he’s very proud of: telling lies.  In fact, he thinks that by lying about everything, he makes his life easier; after all, he tells people what they want to hear and he often gets his way.

Then Kevin begins to push his luck when he goes from telling small lies to telling huge lies, and things start to get a little messy.  For example, to get out of doing his share of a school project, he doesn’t just tell his partner that he’s not feeling well—he tells her that he suffers from relapsing-remitting inflamobetigoitis…and she believes him!  He also lies to his older brother and sister, which leads to a fight—so they get their car taken away.  Things keep spinning out of control until Kevin is forced to tell the truth about everything he’s been lying about…but does telling the truth make his life any easier than lying did?

This is a short, funny book that readers will be sure to enjoy.  Kevin is a likable character whose rationalization for lying will (almost) have readers convinced that lying is okay.  Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy The Adventures of Jack Lime (Leck).

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

DeadlyDeadly by Julie Chibbaro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Prudence lives in a cramped New York City tenement with her mother.  She attends Miss Browning’s School for Girls—and hates it.  Instead of paying attention to lectures on how to properly

run a household, Prudence finds herself daydreaming about people and what makes them healthy or sick, especially since her brother died from injuries from a cart horse and her father is still missing in action from the Spanish-American War.

When she has the chance to work as a secretary for an engineer at the Department of Health and Sanitation, she’s thrilled—and this means that she’ll have to stop attending the School for Girls! 

Because she shows such an interest in the diseases she reads about as she types up her boss’s notes, he changes her job to also include accompanying him on trips to examine disease cases.  When one case turns up a healthy cook who inexplicably makes people sick with the typhoid through her cooking, Prudence faces some of the toughest challenges of her life when her department wants to quarantine this lady—who comes to be known as Typhoid Mary.

I enjoyed this book very much and read it fast!  It’s written in a journal format, which gives the story an added dose of realism to this scary subject.  Those who enjoyed Fever, 1793 (Anderson) might want to give this book a try.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi

The Search for WondLaThe Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Centuries in the future, Eva Nine lives in an underground sanctuary with Muthr (her robot mother).  She has never seen another human being and doesn’t even know if humans still exist on the planet they live on, called Orbona.  In fact, Eva has never been to the surface.  She lives a peaceful life (if not a little boring, although they have all the technology one could ask for) until a hunter flushes them out into the open—he wants to capture them so that they can be added to the Queen’s museum as display items.

Never having been to the surface before, Eva must rely entirely on her Omnipod (her talking handheld device that is similar to a computer).  However, her Omnipod is having trouble identifying nearly everything she sees!  Since her underground sanctuary has been destroyed, she can’t return there, and she begins to despair.  Things get a little easier when she meets Rovender Kitt, a lanky creature who is out exploring on his own—he agrees to help her reunite with Muthr.  The whole time Eva is on the surface, she clings to a picture she found in the sanctuary (of a girl, a robot, and a man in a hat) and hopes that she can find some clues as to who they are: she calls this picture her WondLa.

This is a good book that I enjoyed very much.  The pictures are so interesting, plus there’s a website readers can visit ( with interactive maps and more!  Watch for a sequel, as readers are left with a lot of unanswered questions.

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Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Okay for NowOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Doug isn’t happy when his father is fired from his job, which forces the family to move from their home in Long Island to a tiny town called Marysville so he can get more work; in fact, when Doug first sees Marysville, he decides that he hates it and calls his new house ‘The Dump.’

Not surprisingly, Doug’s dad doesn’t like his new job and takes it out on the rest of the family.  Things get worse when his brother keeps getting accused of stealing…and things get even worse when his oldest brother returns home from Vietnam in a wheelchair.

However, there are some bright spots in Doug’s life in unsuspecting places: he realizes that he adores the Audubon prints on display at the library, and the librarian teaches him how to draw them; he meets Lil Spicer, the daughter of the town’s store owner, and she helps him get a job delivering groceries for her dad; and his grocery delivering job helps him to meet and get to know people in town.  After living in there for a few months, Doug thinks that maybe Marysville isn’t so bad after all.

Readers will immediately like Doug, who played a minor role in the companion novel The Wednesday Wars (Schmidt).  Doug uses a believable voice that will be sure to resonate with male and female readers alike.  This is an excellent book that I enjoyed so much, I didn’t want it to end!

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Friday, June 3, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge

Okay, I've started reading!  Well, listening.  On the approximate hour commute to work, I listened to The Search for Wondla.

= 1 hour

With the office's permission, my coworker and I are listening to Heart of a Samurai while we work at our desks.


Well, my coworker and I did as best as we could while planning storytimes, working on other summer programming, working our reference desk shifts, and having lunch.  I think we averaged about 3 hours listening to Heart of a Samurai, which isn't too bad!

+ 3 hours = 4 hours

Now that it's nearing the end of my work day, I'll listen to The Search for Wondla on the commute home for another hour--so I think I'm doing pretty well so far, considering I'm working a full day!

Tomorrow, Saturday, will also be tough because I'm working the reference desk all day.  I plan to make a sign that explains why I'm reading all day long at the desk--I'll try to post it here afterwards.

*update # 2*

Here I am on Saturday, and I'm disappointed to say I'm not doing super-great with my reading today.  Here's where I stand as of 11:50am:

Last night visiting various blogs = 1 hour

Commute to work this morning, listening to The Search for Wondla = 1 hour

Visiting more blogs today = 1 hour

Total so far = 7 hours

I'll try my best to read a lot here at work!  We've been pretty steady with patrons today, so we'll see how far I get with my reading.  I am starting the book Seven Sorcerers.  And here is the sign I made to put out at the reference desk:

This image is from

*update # 3*

I must hang my head in shame, as the 48 Hour Book Challenge is over and I didn't do well at all.  :(  Here's where I stand:

Reading at work...probably only an hour and a half total with all of the interruptions, and that's being generous.

+ 1.5 hours = 8.5 hours

Then after work on Saturday, I drove from work to visit my parents (including picking up my brother from work, approximately 1 hour).  Then no reading there of course!  Then I drove my brother home before going home myself (another approximate hour) I can only add two more hours here:

+ 2 hours = 10.5 hours

And that's it, as I didn't read when I got home because it was already SO LATE.

I got a taste of just three books--and I didn't finish any of them!  I plan to, though, so watch for a review of each of these:

Thanks for all of the support, everyone!  I didn't beat my time from last year, but there's always next year!  (And hopefully I won't be working again those days!).

grand total for 2011 = 10.5 hours

Thursday, June 2, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge!

The time has arrived for the 48 Hour Book Challenge! It takes place June 3--5, and I plan to read/listen to as much as possible within these 48 hours. I participated last year and was only able to get up to 11.25 hours! AND I'm working again this weekend,so it's going to be tricky. I suppose all I can do is try!

Here's what I hope to tackle:

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi in audio book format

Living in isolation with a robot on what appears to be an alien world populated with bizarre life forms, a twelve-year-old human girl called Eva Nine sets out on a journey to find others like her. Features "augmented reality" pages, in which readers with a webcam can access additional information about Eva Nine's world.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus in audio book format

In 1841, rescued by an American whaler after a terrible shipwreck leaves him and his four companions castaways on a remote island, fourteen-year-old Manjiro, who dreams of becoming a samurai, learns new laws and customs as he becomes the first Japanese person to set foot in the United States.

Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith

Unhappy at being sent to stay with his grandmother at the inn she operates, The Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast, Scrub discovers that each room is actually a portal to space and the inn's visitors are aliens who are vacationing on Earth.

Seven Sorcerers by Caro King

When eleven-year-old Nin Redfern wakes up one rainy Wednesday morning to discover that her younger brother has ceased to exist, she must venture into a magical land called the Drift where she grapples with bogeymen, tombfolk, mudmen, and the spirits of sorcerers to try and rescue him.
The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick

Noah and his friends follow a trail of mysterious clues to uncover a secret behind the walls of the Clarksville City Zoo--a secret that must be protected at all costs.
Wish me luck--and good luck to anyone else reading for these 48 hours!

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy SummerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

11-year-old Delphine has always watched out for her sisters, and she continues to do so during the summer of 1968 when their father decides that they should spend a month across the country with their mother Cecile—whom they barely know. Thinking that they’d spend their time at Disneyland having fun and getting to know Cecile, the girls are disappointed when they quickly learn that she wants nothing to do with them and that they’re visiting only because their father insisted on it.

Cecile doesn’t let them come into the kitchen because that’s where she does her poetry work. She
also doesn’t want them around during the day, so she sends them to the local Black Panthers’ Community Center. At first Delphine doesn’t pay much attention to the activists, but then she finds that the ladies there are actually very nice. She uses some of the strength she learns from them to finally stand up to Cecile.

This is a great book—readers will definitely like the girls: Delphine, who seems older and wiser than her years; Vonetta, the drama queen; and little Fern, who carries her (white) babydoll Miss Patty
Cake around with her everywhere. Those who enjoyed the setting of this book might also enjoy My Life with the Lincolns (Brandeis) or Sources of Light (McMullan).

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I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson

I, Emma FrekeI, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

12-year-old Emma doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere—even her name is strange (‘Emma Freke’ sounds just like ‘I’m a freak’). She stands out in her mother’s side of the family because they tend to be short with dark hair, while Emma herself is tall with red hair. She thinks this probably has something to do with her father, whom she’s never met.

When she receives an invitation to a reunion for her father’s side of the family, she’s shocked. Although Emma’s mother tells her that her father will likely not be there, Emma is curious about this group of people she’s never met who make up half of her DNA. She decides to make the reunion trip—alone—to Wisconsin from her home on the east coast. Will she fit in any better than she does with her mother’s side of the family? Will they be nice? Will she regret the decision to attend this reunion for the rest of her life? Emma has tons of worries about whether she made the right choice to go.

This is a cute story about fitting in that I enjoyed very much. Emma is a very likable character with whom young girls will surely be able to identify. Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy The Last Best Days of Summer (Hobbs).

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Monday, May 23, 2011

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

The CandymakersThe Candymakers by Wendy Mass

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Every year, the Life is Sweet candy factory sponsors four 12-year-old contestants to compete in the Confectionary Association’s candymaking contest. Each contestant’s goal is to create a new and different candy that, if chosen as the winner, will be made available worldwide.

This year, Logan, the son of the Life is Sweet’s head candymaker, is old enough to participate and he doesn’t want to let his parents down. Also competing is Miles, a quiet boy whose oddly light backpack never leaves his shoulder; Daisy, who reads aloud from her romance novel whenever she’s alone; and Philip, a snobby boy who never misses a chance to make fun of someone. Will this peculiar group stay out of each other’s way long enough to make an awesome new candy?

I enjoyed this book very much, and I think both boys and girls will have a good time reading it. Plus, who doesn’t want to read about what goes on in a candy factory? Each contestant tells his/her own story, so the point of view switches in each section of the book, starting with Logan. Recommend this book to those who enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society books (Stewart).

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Pretty, Pretty Bunny by Dave Horowitz

Pretty, Pretty BunnyPretty, Pretty Bunny by Dave Horowitz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this book is very funny; some coworkers don't think so because it doesn't teach a lesson, but I just find it humorous!

The story is about a bunny named Narcissa who thinks she's the prettiest thing around. Not only is she in love with herself, she makes fun of whomever she encounters. For example, when she sees a beaver, she says "Boy, am I glad I don't look like *that* guy...Just look at those silly teeth--and what a goofy tail."

She goes on to make fun of a turtle and a moose before she settles down in front of a pond to gaze at her reflection. When a magic frog shows up and grants her a wish, she doesn't even hear what he says because she is too busy laughing at him. This makes him mad, so he places a spell on her that makes her look ridiculous--with a beaver tail and teeth, moose antlers, and a turtle shell.

Of course, she's devastated, and says to her reflection "How I *wish* I could do it all over again" and poof! the wish the frog granted to her comes true and she's back to normal, gazing at her reflection.

And that's it!

I just think it's funny, but I can see how others might not like this story. I think it would be a great flannel board story, so maybe I'll work on that this summer.

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The Greedy Sparrow retold by Lucine Kasbarian

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian TaleThe Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale by Lucine Kasbarian

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because the drawings and colors reminded me of Medieval pictures. It ended up being an Armenian tale, so it wasn't Medieval in any way, but I still enjoyed it.

The story is about a sparrow who has a thorn in his foot and asks a woman who is baking bread to remove it for him...she does, and then she tosses it into the oven. When the sparrow wants it back, she obviously can't give it back to him, so he demands some bread as compensation. He next asks a shepherd to watch his bread for him while he does something else...however, he's gone so long that the shepherd gets hungry and then eats the bread. When the sparrow returns, the shepherd obviously can't give it back, so the sparrow demands a sheep as compensation...and so the story goes. It ends up coming full circle, as he gets another thorn in his foot at the end.

An author's note explains part of the first line to the story 'Once there was and was not', meaning that "fantastical tales may be real or imagined" (copyright page). It's nice that this bit was included because I questioned that very line.

I liked this story about the greedy sparrow and am glad I picked it up. It's nice to read alone or in pairs, but is too long for a storytime.

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Take Care of Me from A to Z by Harriet Ziefert

Take Care of Me from A to ZTake Care of Me from A to Z by Harriet Ziefert

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was drawn to this book because the 2 stuffed animals on the front (a yellow bear and an orange beaver)--they're so cute! The rest of the book is made up of various brightly-colored stuffed animals using each letter of the alphabet as a suggestion of something to do with 'me'; for example, the letter R is "Read to Me" with a bear holding a book and the letter S is "Sniff me" with a rabbit holding a bottle of perfume.

It's cute but not particularly clever, so I don't know that I'd buy this for someone with a young child. It's nice to look at once though.

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Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve

DrizzleDrizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

11-year-old Polly lives on an unusual rhubarb farm where it rains every Monday at 1:00pm. Because Polly doesn’t have any friends (other kids think that she’s weird), her best friend is a chocolate rhubarb plant named Harry who communicates with her by moving its leaves.

The weekly rain is important to the farm because they live in a part of the country that is normally very dry. When the rain suddenly stops coming, everything begins to dry up and die. Polly’s aunt Edith isn’t upset by this because she wants to sell the farm and move away to a big city, but the rest of the family is devastated. Aunt Edith gives her a book of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self Reliance and encourages her to think about leaving the farm when she gets older, but how can she—especially after she learns about some of the family secrets hidden in the old tower of their house?

This is an imaginative story that readers will be sure to enjoy. Polly is a likable character who only wants to do what’s best for her beloved family and farm. Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Savvy and Scumble, both by Ingrid Law.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt

Young FredleYoung Fredle by Cynthia Voigt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fredle lives between the walls of the Davis’ kitchen until he is cast out and left to fend for himself. Luckily, when Mister and Missus find him on the kitchen floor, she places him outdoors rather than using a mousetrap. Never having been outside the house in his life, Fredle is both terrified and fascinated.

Fredle has never seen such things as the sky, dirt, or other types of animals (besides cats and dogs). In fact, he has never even heard many of these words until a mischievous field mouse teaches him. Fredle builds a nest under the porch, near where Missus set him down. He learns about the compost pile (he gets delicious food from there!), he meets raccoons (who, luckily, don’t eat him), and much more! When he finally returns home after traveling through the cellar—and meeting the cellar mice—he’s quite a changed mouse, and he can’t wait to tell everyone about his adventures in the place they call “outside.”

The companion book to Angus and Sadie (Voigt), this is a good book full of adventure. Readers will enjoy trying to figure out what Fredle sees for the first time using his descriptions (of a peppermint patty, flowers, grass, etc.). Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy The Tale of Despereaux (DiCamillo) and The Borrowers books (Norton).

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Middleworld by Jon Voelkel

Middleworld (Jaguar Stones, #1)Middleworld by Pamela Voelkel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fourteen-year-old Max likes tv, video games, and playing the drums, so he can’t understand how his parents can care so much about Mayan history that they often leave him home with the housekeeper to travel all over the world doing archeological digs. Their newest dig is in Central America, in the [fictional] country of San Xavier.

A few days after they leave for the dig, the housekeeper tells him that he has an electronic plane ticket waiting for him that will take him to meet up with his parents, and that his uncle (who lives in San Xavier) will pick him up. A little confused with the circumstances, Max obligingly travels to San Xavier…but when he gets there, he finds that his parents have mysteriously disappeared. Not sure if his uncle is trustworthy, Max takes to the jungle where he meets a girl named Lola, a native Mayan girl who knows how to survive in the rough conditions. Together they try to solve the mystery of his parents’ disappearance by making contact with the Ancient Maya.

This is book 1 of The Jaguar Stones Trilogy. The story is full of action, suspense, and Mayan gods and goddesses. Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Discordia: the Eleventh Dimension (Salmon) or the Peter and the Starcatcher series (Barry).

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Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day by Meg Cabot

Moving Day (Allie Finkle's Rules For Girls, #1)Moving Day by Meg Cabot

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In order to create some sense in her life, 9-year-old Allie Finkle decides to create a list of rules to live by, including such rules as: ‘Don’t stick a spatula down your best friend’s throat’, ‘Never eat anything red’, and ‘You can’t take your rocks with you.’

This list is even more helpful to Allie when she finds out that her family is moving to a huge, old house across town. She doesn’t want to move!...even though a Dairy Queen is right around the corner, she’ll be allowed to get a new pet kitten, the girl next door is her own age and awesome (unlike her current best friend that she doesn’t like very much and who is known to cry over everything), and her new teacher is very nice. Allie thinks this new house is haunted and has no desire to move in there, despite all of the cool things that promise to be a part of that new life. She’s going to do everything in her power to sabotage the sale of her current house using her new book of rules!

This is a great book and I liked Allie right away. She’s funny, honest, and has a good heart. Moving Day is the first book in this series; read more about Allie in The New Girl . Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy the Just Grace series (Harper) or the Clarice Bean novels (Child).

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flirt Club by Cathleen Daly

Flirt ClubFlirt Club by Cathleen Daly

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This story is told entirely by notes and journal entries. Annie and Izzy have been best friends for nearly their whole lives. They keep up with each other throughout their busy school days by writing notes back and forth and leaving them in each other’s locker—and use code names: Annie is “the Bean” and Izzy is “Cisco.” Soon after they begin their eighth-grade school year, they realize that they are hopelessly lacking in the flirting with boys department, so they decide to start a secret club to hone their skills.

As the girls come up with ways to flirt, they practice on boys they like—with surprising results! They soon realize, however, that boys are a lot more complicated than they originally thought…and that balancing friends and boyfriends isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be.

Readers are sure to enjoy the glimpses into the lives of Annie and Izzy, especially because many of their notes to each other are so funny! For example, the Bean writes “Write me back if you can, my little pork chop” and Cisco writes, “Promise me you’ll feed this note to a llama as soon as you read it. PROMISE.” Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Only Girls Allowed (Moffitt).

I have to add that I was kind of shocked at what these girls were doing with boys in 8th-grade...Izzy made out "with tongues" and was "felt up" by the guy she liked; she was also at a party (the parents were out of town) where other kids in her class were drinking beer and got drunk (she didn't drink any beer--she just held a cup full of it). These kids are 13 years old!! That wasn't what I was doing at age 13, that's for sure...and I don't think I'm in the minority. Are most 13-year-olds doing this sort of thing these days? I hope not! This whole idea makes me sad. If these girls were in high school, I wouldn't mind so much...but 8th-grade? I just hope young girls don't read this book and think that this sort of stuff is what "normal" 13-year-old kids do.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Dragon Games by P.W. Catanese

Dragon Games (Books of Umber)Dragon Games by P.W. Catanese

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Hap’s mentor Umber loves taking him along on adventure after adventure with his crew to learn about the extraordinary and dangerous creatures that live in Kurahaven, Sarnica, and beyond, even though Hap pretty much dreads it all.

Before Umber took Hap in, Hap had mysteriously been transformed into a Meddler (a being that has special powers such as having visions, being able to see in the dark, and not needing to sleep), although he has no memory of this. Because he hasn’t yet learned how to harness his powers, the fact that he is a Meddler is of no help to the crew as they encounter not only jealous princes and kings, but also bidmis (small, gnome-like creatures), crabs that trap lost souls, and baby dragons. This is one adventure that none of them will ever forget!

Dragon Games is book two of the Books of Umber series. Readers don’t need to be familiar with the first book, titled Happenstance Found, to enjoy this one. The first book deals mostly with Hap’s life before he became a Meddler and his life immediately following Umber’s rescue of him. The series continues with End of Time.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley

Invisible Order, Book One, The: Rise of the DarklingsInvisible Order, Book One, The: Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley

12-year-old Emily has had to take care of her little brother Will ever since their parents mysteriously disappeared. Living in Victorian London, she’s able to earn a little money by selling watercress. This is what she is doing when she suddenly finds herself in a battle between two groups of faeries—up until then, Emily doesn’t even know that she has the Sight. She ends up rescuing a small piskie named Corrigan after the battle…but by doing this, she is drawn further into the faerie world.

Emily soon learns that the faerie world has been planning to take over the human world and is determined to stop them with the help of Will and her friend Jack.

I enjoyed this book, as it has a bit of everything: history, fantasy, adventure, and suspense. The Rise of the Darklings is the first book in the planned trilogy of The Invisible Order. Those who enjoyed this story might also enjoy The Faerie Wars Chronicles (Brennen).

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Words In The DustWords In The Dust by Trent Reedy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet and caring Zulaikah is the second-oldest girl in her large family. They live in a small village in Afghanistan—a country that places a lot of importance on marriage prospects for their children. For Zulaikah, this reality is hard to take because she has a cleft palate, which makes her less desirable for a match in marriage. After watching her sister get married to an older wealthy man, Zulaikah wonders what her life will become other than helping to raise her younger siblings and doing chores.

Things change completely when two things happen: first, when American soldiers arrive in their village, one of them notices Zulaikah’s mouth and offers her father the chance for her to have free surgery to fix her problem; and second, when she meets a former university professor in her village who offers to teach Zulaikah how to read and write. All of a sudden, her future is looking much brighter—but will her father allow her to follow her dreams?

This is an excellent book. It’s fascinating how different a teen girl’s life in Afghanistan is from a teen girl’s life in the United States—but there are also many similarities, too. Those who enjoyed this book might also like Where the Streets Had a Name (Abdel-Fattah) and Jungle Crossing (Salter).

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Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Search for the Unknown by Jason Hawes

Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Search for the UnknownGhost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Search for the Unknown by Jason Hawes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In this spooky book there are eight short ghost stories, all based on case files and events experienced by the group on the show Ghost Hunters. The stories are told from the point of view of Lyssa, the new interviewer for all of their cases.

There are a variety of ghost stories in this collection, such as one about a case involving a ghost who would leave behind pennies each time it visited; another case helped a family who had a ghost without legs appear to walk up their stairs each night! And as a bonus, at the end of the book there is a guide that includes a quiz, a description of devices used on ghost hunts, and step-by-step instructions on how to conduct your own ghost hunt.

The reader doesn’t need to be familiar with the Ghost Hunters show or the crew that appears on it—I’m not and I enjoyed this collection of stories very much. Those that enjoyed this book might also enjoy the Haunted Mysteries series (Grabenstein).

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse

The Book of the MaidservantThe Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I picked this book up after reading Barnhouse's newer book _The Coming of the Dragon_, which I enjoyed very much. This book, however, wasn't as enjoyable for me.

This story revolves around a young girl named Johanna who is a servant to Margery Kemp, the well-known religious woman of the Medieval era. It follows them as they make the pilgrimage to Rome from London with a small group of others. Dame Margery, as Johanna calls her, is very extreme in her demonstrations of her faith as she is prone to wailing and loud sobbing. This makes it nearly impossible for the others to tolerate her, and eventually they refuse to travel any further with her--except they keep Johanna with the group to serve them. When a mean man in the group threatens her, Johanna runs off on her own and must find her own way in the strange new country.

I just couldn't get into this story. I found that I didn't care about Johanna or the others in her group--especially Margery Kemp, who was just obnoxious. I can't put my finger on what exactly I disliked about this book, but I wasn't sad when it was over. I'm glad I read her other book first, otherwise I would never have bothered reading it after having read this one.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little Chimp's Big Day by Lisa Schroeder

Little Chimp's Big DayLittle Chimp's Big Day by Lisa Schroeder

I initially passed on this book on the new book cart because I don't like monkeys that much, but a coworker said that it's really cute, and...she was right!

This story is told in a rhyming format and is about a little chimp who falls to the jungle floor when the branch he's sitting on snaps. He's left to his own devices in the jungle for the first time--he sees a bunch of neat things and sees other jungle animals...but he still misses his mom.

Sure enough, his mother finds him at the end of the story and all is well.

The pictures are really cute! This would make a good storytime book.

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In One Ear Out the Other by Michael Dahl

In One Ear, Out the Other (Monster Street)In One Ear, Out the Other by Michael Dahl

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I had high hopes for this book, but I didn't like it at all. The strange pictures are what drew me to it, but they couldn't make up for the lack of story.

The story is about a monster named Bud that never pays attention to anything and ends up feeling the results of it. This would make sense if the story told it that way, but this is the turning point in it: he says, "I have to keep these words in my head, and I know the perfect way to do it...I will use my socks!"

What? Okay...

And it continues: "Not only did Bud fix his listening problem, but he always knew where to find his socks."


A coworker and I couldn't figure out what his socks had to do with him finally listening to what's going on around him. It looks like he sticks his socks in his ear. How will that help him listen better? Is the author being ironic? Who knows? But I do know that I won't be reading this one again.

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Pick a Pup by Marsha Chall

Pick a PupPick a Pup by Marsha Chall

This book was on the new book cart and a coworker noticed it and had me read it. It's cute; it's about a boy who is going to adopt a dog but is worried about how he'll pick the right dog for him. His grandma, though, assures him that he'll know the right dog when he sees it.

On the way to the place where they'll adopt a dog, the boy pays close attention to all of the dogs they pass.

Sure enough, when they see of the the dogs up for adoption, a dog chooses the boy--problem solved! A happy ending.

This book would make a cute storycards story--or maybe even a prop story.

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Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

Memoirs of a GoldfishMemoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came across this on our 'new books' cart and it caught my eye. It's cute! It's about a goldfish who does his thing in a fishbowl (describing his days in a journal/diary format), but then his bowl gets more and more crowded--stuff, other fish, and other creatures are added to it and he isn't happy. But before he knows it, he's taken out of the bowl and put into a tiny bowl.

While there, he realizes that he misses how crowded his bowl was and starts to wonder about how everyone/everything is doing. Luckily, he finds himself scooped up again and placed in a new, big place--with everyone and everything he left behind! A happy ending...and he meets a new girl fish, too!

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Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

CosmicCosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liam is a totally normal guy; he likes stuff like computer games, video games, and amusement parks. The only thing is that he is really tall—taller than the kids in his class…even taller than most adults. In fact, most people think he is an adult, which can have its advantages (like getting to –almost— test drive a new car).

When Liam wins a contest to test a ride at a new amusement park, his dad thinks it’s a scam and refuses to follow up on it. Thinking about how people always mistake him for an adult, he pretends to be his dad while his friend Florida pretends to be his daughter so that they can redeem the prize. The plan works perfectly, only Liam and Florida get way more than they bargained for on this exclusive new ride.

I enjoyed this book very much and was disappointed when it was over. Liam is such a likable character—I wish I knew someone like him when I was that age! Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy The Tapestry series (Neff).

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Savvy by Ingrid Law

SavvySavvy by Ingrid Law

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought that I should read this book, seeing as it's on the 2010 Rebecca Caudill list and students really seem to like it AND the sequel (_Scumble_) came out not that long I finally got around to it. And I was disappointed!

The writing (in my opinion) just isn't that good. For example (I listened to this story, so maybe I noticed this more because of hearing it) the author uses more similes and metaphors in the first few pages of the book than one should have in the entire book. I swore to myself that if I heard one more 'something something WAS LIKE something something', the cd was coming out of the player and I would be done with it. Luckily I suppose, the similes and metaphors became more spaced out so I was able to deal with them as they came.

I also found the story to be inconsistent. I often found myself wondering, 'well, if this is like this, then why did this happen then? Wouldn't this happen instead?'

Finally, I just didn't find the characters all that likable. They're fine, but I didn't really get attached to any of them. And, just to be petty, I hated the fact that all the kids in the family are named something weird: the main character is Mibbs, and her brothers are Fish, Rocket, and [something I forget] and her sister is Gypsy. Even the other kids in the story are named Bobby (a girl) and Will Jr. Ugh! All of this just made me dislike the book more.

I'm glad I know more about what the book is about now, but I will not be reading anything else by this author.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

The Ring of Solomon (Bartimaeus #4)The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bartimaeus is a djinni—one of the most powerful spirits that exist. His home is The Other Place, but, being a spirit, he is able to be summoned by any magician and made to be his/her slave until he is dismissed and freed.

Bartimaeus suddenly finds himself summoned to 950 B.C.E. by a cruel man who commands him to complete tasks that are WAY below his intelligence (such as chasing off bandits outside Jerusalem) until he his freed…only to be immediately summoned by a young girl named Asmira. She commands him to attack King Solomon and steal his magical ring, as this ring will protect Asmira’s queen and homeland. Although this task is better than chasing bandits, Bartimaeus still doesn’t like it because it will surely end with the death of them both!

This book is a prequel to The Bartimaeus Trilogy. Readers don’t need to be familiar with the trilogy to enjoy the story, as it stands firmly on its own. Bartimaeus is a hilarious, cheeky character that is sure to bring smirks to readers’ faces. Those who enjoy this book (and series) might also enjoy Stroud’s other book Heroes of the Valley (2009).

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Enchanted Glass by Diane Wynn Jones

Enchanted GlassEnchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Andrew’s grandfather passes away, Andrew receives his large, magical estate in the will. He decides to leave his university job to care for it full-time; he realizes that there are magical things he has forgotten over time and wants to properly care for the property with all its magical beasties.

Soon after Andrew moves in, 12-year-old Aiden shows up, explaining that his grandmother, before she died, instructed him to come to the estate after her death. Andrew lets him stay, and it’s a good thing he does—Aiden has magical abilities, and he helps Andrew to remember

his own magical past. He also helps Andrew figure out the mystery surrounding the enchanted glass in the back door of the house.

This is a fun story that has both realistic and fantastical elements. Aiden does regular things like clothes shopping—and then uses his magical wallet that always seems to produce the exact amount he needs when he needs it. There are also fun characters like Groil (a giant who eats only vegetables) and Rolph (a were-dog who can turn from boy to dog at will). Readers who enjoyed this book might also like the Erec Rex series (Kingsley).

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Out of My Mind by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Out of My MindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story is about 10-year-old Melody. She has cerebral palsy and needs help in nearly every area of her life--she isn't even able to speak. She stresses that, just because she can't speak or make her body do what she wants it to do, doesn't mean that she's unintelligent or deaf. In fact, she is very bright.

Melody tells the reader about her life at home and at school--where she's in the special education class and has teachers that usually assume all of the students in that class don't really need to learn. Things change a bit when she starts having inclusion classes, which are a couple of class sessions during her day that she spends with the rest of the kids in her grade with an aide.

Things really change for Melody when she gets a device that she can input words and phrases into (along with music!) that allows her to communicate for the first time in her life.

This is a very touching story; there were just some aspects of it that seemed unbelievable or inconsistent to me...her mom's character, for example. But that wouldn't keep me from recommending this to others. And those that enjoy this book might also enjoy _Anything but Typical_ by Nora Raleigh Baskin.

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