Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sophia's War, A Tale of Revolution by Avi

Lexile Level 730

I loved this historical fiction.  It was a riveting picture of how Manhattan transformed as the British occupied it during the American Revolution.   Sophia, a girl of 12, is forever changed when she sees an American Patriot hung.  She believes strongly in the American cause and wants to be of some help.  How can a meer girl help the patriotic endevor when her own parents can't seem to assist? 
Avi's writing is beautiful and vivid.  I loved the descriptions and the inner workings of Sophia's mind.  You will learn a lot of the American struggle to win independence through an excellent story. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Witch and Wizard, by James Patterson

   ***There is also a graphic novel of Witch and Wizard available.

Witch & Wizard
Reading grade level 4.9
Interest level Middle school

James Patterson is known for writing adult mystery stories, but he is also gathering A LOT of attention in the teen world too!  His series Witch and Wizard is action packed and the reading is reachable for all readers. 
   The story starts right out with a bang!  The siblings are awoken in the middle of the night to be arrested for using witchcraft.  Yet, they have no idea what is going on or why they are being wanted.  Wisty and Whit find themselves against the New Order with only an empty book and a drum stick to help them. 
    I loved this fast-pasted story.  The brother and sister relationship was so strong. I rooted for the duo the entire story and can't wait to read the next book. 
Witch and Wizard: The Manga, Vol. 2
*There is also a graphic novel of this story. 

For a sample of the story, see James Patterson's web site

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Aimee Carter, The Goddess Series


At first, this series irritated me.  Nothing was as it should be.  The Greek gods were using different names.  I was completed confused.  I realized I was reading the series out of order.  After I changed to the first book, The Goddess Test, I was very intrigued.  Aimee Carter gives the Greek gods an updated look for this new modern era.  The main character, Kate, moves back to her childhood home with her dying mother.  As Kate tries to cope with losing her mother, she is befriended by Henry.  This dark and moody guy claims to be Hades, Greek god of the Underworld.  He promises her that if she can pass his seven tests, he will keep her mother alive.  Does Kate dare to make this promise..can she even believe him?  Her next step will take her on a journey no mere mortal can endure.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Frog Princess

The Frog Princess
ED Baker
Lexile Level: 710

One of my students recommended I read this book.  Anna, it took me awhile, but here is my review:

I loved this book!  I am fairly sure Disney took this idea for their movie. 
Once upon a time, in a fairy tale, a princess finds an enchantanted frog.  Emma is not an ordinary princess.  She doesn't laugh, walk, talk, or dress like a princess should- at least according to her mother.  One day when she escapes the castle to get away from a pesty prince, she meets another sort of prince.  This prince has been cursed.  He convinces Emma that she needs to kiss him to change him back.  The kiss does not go as planned.  Emma finds herself now on the bottom of the food chain, smacking down insects, and kind of falling for the frog prince.  
E.D. Baker writes a fun tale of adventure and friendship.  I highly enjoyed this story and am planning to read more of the Frog Princess Tales. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Juniper Berry, by M. P. Kozlowsky

Juniper Berry
Juniper Berry
Lexile Level: 700

I am not a fan of spooky, creepy books that make my skin crawl....but plenty of my readers are!  So, I recommend Juniper Berry to all of you that like books that linger with you in uncomfortable ways.  Juniper is a child of famous movie star actors.  They are a very close family, at least they were BEFORE they found acclaimed fame.  Now they forget Juniper even exists.  Lonely, Juniper sees the world out of her spy glasses.  She desperately wants to be apart of the world, but is locked away from it.  One day, she comes across a thin, wisp of a boy who is also looking for belonging.  Juniper and Giles find their answer, but it turns out to be more costly than they ever thought it could. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bitterblue, By Kristin Cashore

Sequel to Gracling
see previous post

I was fascinated by Cashore's strong characters in Graceling, so I was hoping I would find that kind of strength and smartness in Bitterblue.  I am slightly disappointed.  Bitterblue had moments where I was beginning to care about her and rooting for her, but mostly I was spending my energy hoping she would get a clue.  Gracling had so much action and passion, that Bitterblue seems dull in comparison.  You get glimpses of Katsa and Po's continued story- but you are watching from afar, so it loses it's impact- like watching a silent movie.  I gave the story 3 stars, because it is not all bad.  The plot is very developed and will keep you guessing.  There is a brief escapade that provides action and a touch of passion.  Not horrible, just not Gracling.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Half Upon a Time, James Riley

Half Upon a Time
by James Riley

I've been reading lots of fractured fairy tales this month.  I'm searching for stories that incorporate many different fairy tales, very humorous, and strong characters that you care about.  James Riley met all my needs in Half Upon a Time.  The story is told from James (no not the beanstalk guy- but his son!) viewpoint.  James failed hero training, AGAIN.  As his grandfather is scolding him, a princess from Punk falls out of the sky.  Now James and May are on a quest to find her grandmother.  Enjoy this tale soon,  it's perfect for SUMMER! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Princess Curse

The Princess Curse
Lexile Level: 790

I loved the take Merrie Haskell took with the fairytale "12 dancing princesses".  The main character, Reveka, works as an herbalist assistant.  The castle she works for has a secret.  Every night the 12 princesses go to bed, but in the morning- they awake tired with holes in their shoes.  Any person who tries to stay and watch the princesses, falls into a deep sleep.  Reveka is determined to break the curse.  What she finds instead is the leader of the Underworld.  (another twisted tale).  Can't wait till Haskell writes the sequel. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Humming Room,
Ellen Potter
Lexile Level: 800

  Ellen Potter delivers a delicate tale with haunted characters, strong personalities, and a setting that is as prominent as the characters.  The Humming Room is based on the classic The Secret Garden.  The main character, Roo, is tiny and forgotten.  She hides away from the tragedy that is her life.   When her father and step-mother can no longer "care" for her, she is sent to live with an unheard of uncle.  He lives on an island called Cough Rock.  Roo is uncomfortable living in an old hospital in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.  She finds that even in her clinical new home, Roo can find wild things.  Soon she fights to stay there and take care of a secret.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back and Deader Than Ever (Monster High Series #4)
Monster High 4, Back and Deader Than Ever
Lisi Harrison

This last book in the Monster High series (although I hear there may be a spin off) was disappointing.  Lisi Harrison's monster are finally out of hiding and are being accepted by the kids of Mertonson.  Problems arrise when Lala's father comes home to roost.  He causes all kinds of trouble for Lala and her friends.  The reason I wasn't crazy about this book is that Harrison doesn't seem to fully find resolution in this plot.  She cops out by fixing things in the epilogue, but you don't see how.  I only include it on the blog page because so many of my students have enjoyed this series so far. 

If you are crazy about the RADs of Monster High, check out the interactive web page to go with the book series.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Well Witched

Well Witched   

Well Witched, Frances Mardinge

                                                            Lexile level: 930

Ryan loves hanging out with his friend Josh.  He is always so in control of everything.  He can get out of any jam and always knows what to do.  So when they missed the bus, instead of fessing up to their parents about where they have been spending their time, he just finds another way home.  First all they have to do is steal some coins from an old, forgotten wishing well.  After all, who's really going to miss a few tarnished coins?   The creppy, waterlogged, well witch does...and she demands payback: Now Ryan, Josh, and Chelle must serve her . . . and the wishes that lie rotting at the bottom of her well. Each takes on powers they didn't ask for and don't want. Ryan grows strange bumps—are they eyes?—between his knuckles; Chelle starts speaking the secrets of strangers, no matter how awful and bloody; and Josh can suddenly—inexplicably—grant even the darkest of wishes, the kind of wishes that should never come true.

Frances Mardinge wrote a spooky, weird fantasy that children love and are grossed out by.  Enjoy!

*teacher's note:  the story takes place in England, so beware that terms may be different than here in the States.  You can always Google if confused. 

Uglies, Scott Westerfeld

            Uglies, Scott Westerfeld 
                                                     Lexile Level: 770 

In the future, the human world will nearly become extinct.  Our future generation will refer to us as "rusties."  They will look back on our petty jealousies, destruction of wood, use of oil, and are love of war and think there has to be a better way to live.  Their solution:  become pretty.  If everyone surgically became the same size, same height, same symmetrical proportions, than no one could be jealous, petty, or cruel. 
     Tally Youngblood can not wait to become a pretty.  She is one of the last of her class waiting in Uglyville.  Her sixteenth birthday is keeping her exiled from her friends already in Prettytown.  In her loneliness, Tally finds comfort with another ugly waiting to turn sixteen.  Shay isn't as ready to leave her youthful adventures to join the pretties in the silly parties and glamours life.  Soon Shay's reluctance to turn pretty makes Tally's life unpredictable.  She will soon learn what it really means to be ugly- and pretty. 
       Scott Westerfeld writes a wonderful sci-fi tale that makes us think about beauty and the price we are willing to pay for it.  I enjoyed this post-apocalyptic novel and look forward to reading Pretties.

Pretties (Uglies Trilogy, Book 2) [Paperback]
Pretties, Scott Westerfeld
Lexile level: 860

Tally Youngblood awakens in her apartment completely Pretty.  She no longer cares about being in the Smoke- nor does she remember David.  Her life is now about parties, cliques, and feeling happy all the time.  Yet, Tally's life is never at peace.  One night at a party, she sees a person that changes her reality with just a glance.  Tally begins to chase after her old life, one that involves Uglies and freedom from the government.  Can she escape Pretty Town?  Can she cure herself of the pretty brain that comes with her new face and body?

Specials, Scott Westerfeld
 I raced to the library in Oshkosh to get my hands on this book.  I had to know what happened to Tally and Zane.  Would she escape yet again?  This book morphs Tally once again into another being.  Unfortunately, the Tally that I loved from the first two books was gone.  This book lacked heart.  I wish that the trilogy had ended differently- but, as readers we don't always get our wish.  I know if you love the first two, you will read this book whether I recommend it or not.  But.... I told you so...                         

Friday, May 11, 2012

Carl Hiaasen


Carl Hiaasen is an amazing author. He is the wonderful author of "HOOT," "FLUSH," SCAT," and "CHOMP." All of his books take you to a facinating world were the main character saves animals. These books all take place in Flordia and they are all about saving the animals. Hoot is about an owl, Flush is about a fish, Scat is about the Florida Panther, and Chomp is about an American Allagator.
But be warned these animals aren't your house pets. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, James Patterson

Lexile 680

James Patterson begins this science fiction novel with a normal scene.  A 4-year old boy playing with Play-Dough, his mom calling him for dinner.  Of course, no science fiction novel stays normal for long.  Daniel's parents were shortly after killed by a large human-sized praying mantis, who goes by the name The Prayer.  Daniel is also not a normal 4 year-old boy, unless you call a boy capable of turning himself into a tick normal.  He escapes the same fate his parents suffered.  Now, it is his mission to complete his parents work- hunting aliens on Earth.  Daniel is very lonely moving from place to place killing disgusting aliens and dodging cops and truancy officers. When he goes after #6 on his list he has met his match-really more than he can handle.  In Daniel's darkest days, he finds truth about who he is and friends that can help him in get through his dangerous days. 

I loved the how quick paced this book is.  Science Fiction is not my favorite of genres, but I found Daniel's character very compelling.  I wanted to root for him, care for him, befriend him.  The short chapters send you through the plot's twists and turns at a fever pitch.  James Patterson is the master of suspense and urgency, this book lives up to that reputation. 

Peak, Roland Smith

Lexile Level 760- Grade 5.4

Roland Smith has done it again.  He has written an adventure book that totally sucked me into a world of danger, disappointment, and humanity.  I was looking for books that my reluctant boy readers would buy into and found you didn't need to be reluctant, nor a boy, to enjoy this coming of age tale.  Peak, yup that's the main character's name, gets into very hot water in New York City where he lives with his mother and step-father.  Narrowly escaping jail time, he is exiled to live with his father.  His father, out of the picture for seven years, wants to be called Josh and is NEVER around.  Peak figures out quickly that his father's reappearance is not because he wanted to help his son, but that he needs his son to help him.  Peak finds himself on Everest trying to reach the summit and be the youngest climber in the world to do so.  Can he actually do it?  Will his father help him when he needs it most?  Can Peak slip the Chinese soldiers who want to stop him?  Enjoy this fast paced adventure now....or you will miss the summit. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Flint Heart, by Katherine and John Patterson

Lexile Level: 1030

When a warrior wants to be leader of the tribe, he goes to the shaman to have a special necklace made.  The shaman warns him that the stone charm would harden his heart and he would lose the respect of the tribe.  Craving the power and the riches that comes with being Chief, the warrior kills many in his tribe, including the current Chief.  When the evil warrior finally dies, the magic charm is buried deep with him.  ....Until it is found by a kindly man and his son Charles.  The man immediately begins to take on a hardened heart and makes all around him miserable.  Charles and his sister seek out the fairies to find help.  Charles and Unity now find themselves on a mission to save ALL creatures from the Flint Heart. 

You will enjoy this new fairy tale.  The illustrations are beautiful and help give the characters charm.  I enjoyed this tale and will be reading it again soon!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Steel Trapp, by Ridley Pearson

The Challange, book #1
In this riveting thriller, 14-year-old Steven "Steel" Trapp sets off with his mom and their dog, Cairo, on a 2-day Amtrak journey to compete in the National Science Competition in Washington, DC. Steel is both blessed and cursed with a remarkable photographic memory--just one look and whatever he sees is imprinted for keeps. Trying to be a good Samaritan on the train, he instead becomes embroiled in an ingenious, international plot of kidnapping and bribery that may have links to terrorists. Federal agents track Steel and his new-found science geek accomplice, Kaileigh Augustine, as they attempt to put together the pieces of a complex puzzle. Using Steel's science contest invention--and with the help of Cairo--Steel and Kaileigh lead readers on an action-packed chase adventure as they attempt to prevent the unimaginable, before it's too late.

The Academy, book #2
When you have a mind that won't forget any detail or pattern you have ever seen, you stick out among "regular" students.  Steel's parents are sending him to a special boarding school that only allows students who are invited.  So, Steel was surprised to see his friend Kaileigh.  Sure, she was smart, probably smarter than he was.  How did she get invited?  Why did his father help?  As the questions about Steel's new school pile up, he becomes more and more obsessed in finding out what IS going on.  He begins to count the opening of doors, watching for upperclassman after classes, and hiding in an old church organ.  Enjoy this mystery that is quick paced and filled with excitment.