Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is “grounded for life” by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack’s way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder.

Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Review: I LOVED this book! It brought me back to a time when life was simpler and children made their own adventures instead of being entertained by computer and video games, when actually building an surplus airplane in the barn and flying it from a make shift runway that used to be the garden was possible. I loved the quirkiness of the town and the intimacy of the people in it. Jack Gantos' writing just sucked me into his world of the 1960's

Who to recommend it to... Although this book is listed for readers grades 5 - 9 according to, I'm not sure they would enjoy this as much as an adult would. This novel offers no epic battles, there's no scandalous romances, there's no fairies, vampires or werewolves, just imaginative fun and quirky characters. I would recommend it to people, children and adults, who enjoy books like Gary Paulsen's How Angel Peterson Got His Name.

Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) by Mary Pope Osborne

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House Series, Book #1) by Mary Pope Osborne

Target Audience: Age Range: 6 - 9 years, Grade Level: 1 - 4

Summary from
Jack and Annie's very first fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!  Where did the tree house come from? Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur's dinner?

Review: Here's another series book off the shelve that I'm ashamed to say I've never read. Both my children have devoured this series but by the time I found this series they were reading independently. The stories are simple yet adventurous and the illustrations will appeal to a younger audience. The stories feature a boy and girl, Jack and Annie, which makes the series appeal to a wider audience. I've especially seen students up to grade 8 who arrive from other countries picking this series up as an easy-to- read, lower vocabulary, only 80 pages, yet interesting story they can enhance their reading skills with. Otherwise I'd recommend the series to both boys and girls in younger grades (1 - 3)

Coming Home (Heartland #1) by Lauren Brooke

Coming Home (Book #1 of the Heartland Series) by Lauren Brooke

Target Audience: Age Range: 9 - 12 years, Grade Level: 4 - 7
Heartland is a horse farm with the special mission of healing abused or neglected horses and finding them new homes. Fifteen-year-old Amy works alongside her talented mother, a gifted horse trainer who uses techniques similar to those of the trainer in The Horse Whisperer. While rescuing an abandoned stallion in a thunderstorm, Amy's mother is killed when a falling tree hits their car, and everything at Heartland--and everything in Amy's life--is thrown into turmoil. Amy's older sister, Lou, leaves her job to come to Heartland to help, and Amy begins to cope with the new circumstances of her life, relying on her work with her beloved horses to help her face the future without her mom.

Review: Another book off the shelf at the library! This series has been on my "should read" list for a while. I am one of those girls who grew up loving horses but the first of this series came out in June of 2000, well after my childhood years. I found this well-loved book among our shelves and couldn't resist finally having a chance to read it. I immediately appreciated the technical knowledge of horse-training used in the story. Amy's mom uses horse behavioral techniques I've seen Monty Roberts, a real horse whisperer, using at horse show demonstrations. It gave the book a authentic feel that fellow 'horse nuts' will appreciate. The main character, Amy, overcomes many personal struggles like the loss of her mother in a car accident and her fear of losing the farm she loves. She also struggles with the relationship she has with her practical older sister, Lou, who shows up after the funeral to get the affairs of the farm in order. Girls who like the "Saddle Club" series will enjoy following the realistic, slightly more mature, storyline of this series. I may have to find book 2 myself to see what happens next!

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining (The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes #1) by Anne Mazer

Target Audience: Age Range: 8 - 12 years, Grade Level: 3 - 7

Summary: Abby Hayes is a fun and quirky fifth grader looking to find her own "super-special" talent. Squeezed between two outstanding older siblings and her protégé brother, Abby is determined to make her mark. She takes solace in the words of inspiration from the 73 calendars she has in her room, and records the quotes in her purple notebook. Kids will love Abby's humorous and hip approach to everyday issues

Review: I thought it might be nice to look at a few of the older series that we have on our library shelve. The Abby Hayes series started with "Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining in 2000 and continued through a dozen more adventures. Abby herself is a likeable character (Sometimes a little too up-beat and squeaky clean for some middle-schoolers). She is trying so hard to find her special place in a family of over-achievers. Written in journal form and cleverly illustrated; these stories should appeal to younger girls who are starting to make the transition from easy-readers to a longer chapter book.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
by Meg Medina

One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

Moving to a new apartment and enrolling in a new school is the last thing Piedad "Piddy" Sanchez wants to do. She's leaving her neighbors, her friends and the school where she was a strong, well-liked student to start a new life in Queens, New York. Little did she realize that from the first day of school her expectations would change from trying to fit in to trying to survive. She receives a note from someone she hasn't even met, Yaqui Delgado, who wants to kick her ass. From that moment we see Piddy's personality start to change to protect herself from her tormentors as she is repeatedly threatened then videotaped getting savagely attacked.

Author, Meg Medina, writes a poignant story of the emotional trauma and isolation that occurs in extreme bullying situations. With her inner strength and the support of her family and friends she finds the courage to face her bully on her own terms. I can definitely see young adults relating to Piddy's story and would highly recommend this book to upper middle school to high school students.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

Target audience: Grades 3 -7 

Summary from 
When a young couple finds a boy asleep on their porch, their lives take a surprising turn. Unable to speak, the boy Jacob can't explain his history. All John and Marta know is that they have been chosen to care for him.
And, as their connection and friendship with Jacob grow, they embrace his exuberant spirit and talents. The three of them blossom into an unlikely family and begin to see the world in brand-new ways.

This is a beautiful, heart warming tale that will appeal to both children and adults. Martha and John find a small boy sleeping on their porch at their farm one morning with a poorly written note in his pocket saying simply, "Please take care of Jacob, he's a good boy. We'll be back for him when we can." Their choices from that moment changes both the boys life and their own forever. I couldn't put this book down! With so many books out now dealing with the dysfunctional part of human nature, this book shows us that compassion and acceptance is the best antidote. "The Boy on the Porch" restores my faith in human nature.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Target audience: Grades 3 - 7

"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."
"Hullo," I said to myself. "That's not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."
Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.

The highly imaginative Neil Gaiman has done it again with "Fortunately, the Milk"! When Mom leaves for a conference the last thing she said is, "... We're almost out of milk. You'll need to pick some up." Soon the kids run out of milk for their breakfast and the dad needs it for his tea, so he finally decides to put down his newspaper to go to the store and pick up milk. He eventually returns with a fantastic and imaginative story of why it took him so long to return... with the milk. Filled with fun "Shel Silverstein"-like illustrations, this story is sure to please kids of all ages!