Friday, November 18, 2016

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Historical Fiction, World War II, Disabilities, Courage, Family, Friendship, Horses

2015, 316 pages

Newbery Honor and many starred reviews

Horn Book Guide starred (Fall 2015)
Ten-year-old Ada, abused by her cruel, ignorant mam due to an unrepaired clubfoot, has never been outside her squalid London flat. With WWII imminent, her brother, Jamie, is evacuated to the countryside, and Ada determines to go with him. The emotional content feels completely true, especially in recognition of how far Ada's journey will be to both physical and mental health.

This is an absolute winner. It has a great story line and gives a vivid portrayal of a child's perspective of the war in England. Readers will be inspired by Ada's courage and the people who help her. Love this book! I give it 5 stars!

Monday, November 07, 2016

COUNTING BY 7'S by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Realistic Fiction, Geniuses, Eccentricities, Family, Friendship, Loss

378 pages; 2014

Horn Book Guide starred (Spring 2014)
After her parents' death, twelve-year-old Willow Chance, a genius obsessed with plants and medical conditions, is taken in by her only friend, high schooler Mai Nguyen, Mai's mother Pattie, and Mai's surly brother, Quang-ha. What sets this novel apart from the average orphan-finds-a-home book is its lack of sentimentality, its truly multicultural cast, and its precise, poignant tone.
Love, love this book! Sloan, author of Apple Blossom Possum (a very different type of book), is a top notch author. Counting by 7's would be a great book club or class discussion.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

ZERO TO HERO by Henry Winkler

Fantasy, Ghosts, Bullies

170 pages, 2012

A short, fun story that empathizes with the challenges of middle school social complexities.

"Billy Broccoli is new to the neighborhood, and wants cool friends and a spot on the baseball team more than anything. But the one thing he never wanted is his own personal ghost. So imagine his surprise when he ends up sharing a room with Hoover Porterhouse, a funny ghost with a whole lot of attitude.
When an obnoxious school bully sets out to demolish Billy, the Hoove comes up with a plan for revenge. It’s all in the Hoove's Rule Number Forty-Two: Stay cool. And like it or not, Billy and the Hoove have to stick together if Billy ever wants to get in style, get even, and conquer the school." - from the publisher

MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli

Fiction, Prejudice, Racism, Homelessness, Family, Strength

Newbery Award 1991; Boston Globe/Hornbook Award 1990
184 pages, 1990

Let's not forget to recommend this powerful, heartwarming book! It exemplifies the strength of innocence and truth. An uplifting story that will also make you want to cry.

"In this modern-day tall tale, Spinelli ( Dump Days ; Jason and Marceline ) presents a humorous yet poignant look at the issue of race relations, a rare topic for a work aimed at middle readers. Orphaned as an infant, Jerry Magee is reared by his feuding aunt and uncle until he runs away at age eight. He finds his way to Two Mills, Pa., where the legend of ``Maniac'' Magee begins after he scores major upsets against Brian Denehy, the star high school football player, and Little League tough guy, John McNab. In racially divided Two Mills, the Beales, a black family, take Maniac in, but despite his local fame, community pressure forces him out and he returns to living at the zoo. Park groundskeeper Grayson next cares for the boy, but the old man dies and Maniac moves into the squalid home of the McNabs, who are convinced a race war is imminent. After a showdown with his nemesis, Mars Bar, Maniac bridges the gap between the two sides of town and finally finds a home. Full of snappy street-talk cadences, this off-the-wall yarn will give readers of all colors plenty of food for thought. Ages 8-12" -Publishers Weekly May 1990

Sunday, October 16, 2016

COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles

Historical Fiction, 1960's, Cuban Missile Crisis
Grades 5-8
ALA Notable Book 2011; Starred Reviews

"The narrator of this first-rate novel is eleven-year-old Air Force brat (and middle child) Franny Chapman. With JFK facing down Communists and a father on active duty, Franny has cause to feel on edge. Eye-grabbing graphic spreads of Cold War-era images, lyrics, speeches, and headlines are shrewdly interspersed throughout the book, providing most of the social commentary and historical explication."  -Hornbook Fall 2010

This would be a fabulous book for classes studying U.S. History during the early 1960's. The primary resources interspersed bring this era to life. Very engaging and informative.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Humor, Mystery, Games, Libraries


"Grades 4-7. Here’s an instantly engaging and wildly creative mystery that is sure to have readers looking at their humble local library in a new light. Mr. Lemoncello is an eccentric game designer who has just funded a very special new library in his hometown. In honor of the grand opening, Lemoncello has selected a dozen 12-year-olds to participate in an overnight lock-in event at the library. But when the kids wake up, they discover a new and unexpected game is afoot: whoever can find a way out of Mr. Lemoncello’s library will win the grand prize. Avid readers will get a kick out of the references to classic and current children’s literature as the kids solve clues to escape and win the game. Main character Kyle Keeley works hard to beat his nemesis, the conniving bully Charles Chilington, who constantly reminds everyone that he is always successful. As Lemoncello says, knowledge not shared remains unknown, and the group learns that working together just might be the key to solving the mystery. An ode to libraries and literature that is a worthy successor to the original madman riddle master himself, Willy Wonka." -Booklist starred (June 1, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 19))

This is fantastic! I am in the middle of it, but can't wait to put the book into a student's hands....or maybe do a bit of a read aloud. A real winner!!! 

Friday, October 07, 2016


Ghosts Fiction, Dollhouses Fiction, Families, Divorce, Friendship
435 pages
Grades 5-8

"Zibby Thorne doesn't know what possessed her to buy an antique dollhouse--she doesn't even like dolls. But when her friends and family start having bizarre accidents clearly connected to the dollhouse, she can't ignore the menacing structure any longer.

Zibby is sure that one particularly creepy doll in a gray dress is somehow responsible for the trouble. She discovers the doll is controlled by the spirit of "sweet" Miss Honeywell, a vengeful governess who seeks to control Zibby and her friends from beyond the grave. They must find a way to stop Miss Honeywell before her wrath becomes deadly."
---The Publisher

A 'fun-scary' book that encompasses the difficulty of divorce and family love. A little long in the middle, but picks up and finishes with a satisfying ending.

WAR HORSE by Michael Morpurgo

Fiction, World War I, Horses, Friendship
Grades 5-8
67 pages

"We'll be friends, you and I. I'll call you Joey,' Albert said. 'I'll look after you. We'll always be friends, I promise.' Albert Narracott, a farmer's boy, makes this promise to his horse, Joey, in Devon, England. But this is before the First World War, and before Joey leaves for France to become a war horse. What happens to Joey in the British army? What will the Germans and the French do to him when they find him? And how will Albert find Joey again? Read this story and find out."
- The Publisher

GREAT book! Full disclosure I love horses, but this story about friendship, loyalty, and forgiveness will touch the heart of anyone.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

THE SON OF NEPTUNE by Rick Riordan

Fantasy, Mythology

"Percy is confused. When he awoke after his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain-fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight. Somehow Percy managed to make it to the camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he had to continually kill monsters that, annoyingly, would not stay dead. But the camp doesn't ring any bells with him.

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. When the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother claims he is descended from ancient heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery-although not good enough to help the Fifth Cohort win at war games. His big and bulky physique makes him feel like a clumsy ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely-enough, even, to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far north as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment in the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all of whom are destined to play a part in the most important quest of all: the Prophecy of Seven." ---from the publisher

Riordan reaches the level of J.K. Rowling. He is fantastic. Read this series.