Children's Books

Welcome to the Youth Services Children's Books blog. We encourage you to give feedback and share.
NOVEMBER 6, 2013
Pop Culture Bios-Super Singers: Bruno Mars
    Bruno Mars has become on of the hottest singers on the planet. The book Pop Culture Bios-Super Singers: Bruno Mars takes the reader on Bruno's journey to stardom. Packed with photos of Bruno from childhood until now, this biography tells of Bruno's beginnings and how his hard work as a singer and songwriter has paid off. One neat feature about this book is that many of the pages have a definition of a word that is featured on that particular page. Any fan of Bruno will enjoy learning about his life. With just 32 pages this is a quick read that will help the reader expand their vocabulary. This book is best suited for readers in grades 4-6 and can be found in our Juvenile Biography section.

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OCTOBER 17, 2013
My Happy Life, by Rose Lagercrantz
Dani, the main character in My Happy Life, is just starting school, and she is excited but nervous because she does not know anyone in her class. Dani is happy with her life, and when she cannot sleep, instead of counting sheep, she thinks of all the things in her life that make her happy. When she meets Ella in her class at school, the girls quickly become the best of friends. Dani and Ella do not always get along, but they are quick to apologize and make up. When Dani finds out that Ella is moving away, Dani struggles with trying to find the good in her life. She has a hard time making friends in her class and being happy without Ella. Slowly but surely, Dani begins to make friends with her classmates, and she even begins writing down happy times in her life in a book she titles My Happy Life. Then one day, she gets a letter and a special bookmark from Ella, who says that she is unhappy without Dani. The decide that Dani will visit Ella in her new home, and the story ends the night before Dani leaves to visit Ella. Dani is once again excited and happy about her life. My Happy Life is a sweet story about friendship and finding the good in every life circumstance. With only a few sentences per page and a simple storyline, this story is the perfect choice for a beginning reader who also might be facing difficult times in his or her life. My Happy Life is most appropriate for children in grades 1-3.

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OCTOBER 15, 2013
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Sugar is a curious ten-year-old girl living with friends who have taken her in after her father was sold into slavery five years ago and more recently, her mother died.  It is 1870 in Louisiana and Sugar is on the same planatation where she was born.  The Thirteenth Amendment has now outlawed slavery.  However, Sugar does not feel a sense of freedom.  Perhaps it is because she is still cutting sugar cane from the fields to help support herself.  Sugar has a friend in Billy until his father, the plantation owner, forbids their friendship.  Sugar keeps herself moving forward is full of life and optimism.  Talk has it that some "Chinamen" are coming to work on the plantation.  Some of the folks feel threatened by this.  Sugar wants to meet these people from China and find out about their traditions.  She befriends Beau and Master Liu and an unlikely friendship develops.  The beauty of multicultural friendships is nicely portrayed in this story.  Balanced in are the diffiulties freed slaves found right after emancipation as they transitioned into a new way of life.  This book is most appropriate for readers in grades 3-6.  It has an A.R. level of 2.9.

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OCTOBER 3, 2013
Perfectly Princess #1-Pink Princess Rules The School
        Pink Princess Rules the School is the first book in the series Perfectly Princess. The series deals with young girls who pretend to be a princess with a   favorite color. The main character in this book is Juliet. Juliet loves the color pink and is excited about her upcoming girls only pink princess birthday party. Her excitement is heightened when she receives a princess crown from her aunt two weeks before her party. She is excited to show all of her friends her new gift right away and wears the crown to school. This prompts the girls to start wearing pink to school and packing lunches that contain pink food items.  
       The girls’ behavior bothers the boys in the class who say that all the pink hurts their eyes. Soon they come to lunch dressed as pirates and throw a mutiny. In the aftermath Juliet learns that not every girl’s favorite color is pink and that there just may be a way to include her male classmates in her birthday party after all.
       One cool feature about this series is that the color of  the  book’s pages match the color in the book’s title. The back of each book in this series also include craft ideas and recipes. The recommended ages are 7-9.The reading level for this book is 2.8.
 

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SEPTEMBER 26, 2013
Unlucky Charms by Adam Rex
This novel has a delightful mix of details that you’ve likely not encountered before: an evil cold cereal factory, a threatening invasion by malevolent fairies, a variety of magical creatures, the legend of King Arthur, a few genius kids, some utterly diabolical characters, a few crazy schemes, a good mystery, and laugh-out-loud humor. The second book in the “Cold Cereal Saga” trilogy, the many characters are immediately plunged into adventures in a place where the fairy world and earth has begun to intersect.  Besides the delightful humor (which may go over the heads of younger readers, though it won’t prevent them from enjoying the story), I loved that all of the characters were so real they practically jumped off the page.  Among my favorites were several younger and very bright children who made excellent and informed decisions and figured strongly in the plot.  I also liked the juxtaposition of magic with the mundane modern world, such as having the real Queen of England kidnapped and made small enough to ride in a backpack. This book will likely cause young readers to want to know more about the Arthurian legends, British history, the space/time continuum, and more. Full of adventure and high tension, and while there are still problems to be solved in the not yet released book three, this book was a satisfying read. It could be enjoyed by a reader as young as third grade (especially as a read aloud), but will also be enjoyed by some readers as old as eighth grade. I’d suggest starting with the first book in the series, Cold Cereal. I wish this series had existed when my sons were young!
 

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SEPTEMBER 19, 2013
Kelsey Green, Reading Queen by Claudia Mills
This book is the first in a new series, Franklin School Friends.  It brings all of us together that love to read.  Kelsey rather read than do anything.  Her best friend, Annika, loves math and is very good at seeing everything mathematical.  Another best friend (can’t have too many best friends) is Izzy.  Izzy loves to run and is always on the move.  These three third-grade girls make a nice combination of friends.  They help each other out in their areas of specialty.  The principal, Mr. Boone, of Franklin School presents a challenge to his students.  It is a reading contest.  The class with the most books read by the month of April, wins!  That class will have a pizza party with Mr. Boone.  If the whole school can read over 2,000 books, Mr. Boone will shave off his beard.  The students who read the most books in each class will have their name on a permanent plaque in the school library.  Kelsey is sure she will be the student from her class with her name on that plaque.  Kelsey finds some unexpected competition.  She, also, tries to help other students that may be holding the class back from becoming the winners.  Are her friends doing their part to help?  This story has some valuable lessons that can be talked about as a family read.  It is most certainly a “must read” for all lovers of books in grades 1-3.  A.R. book level is 4.7.
 

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SEPTEMBER 5, 2013
Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle
Have you ever wanted something so bad that you will do anything in order to obtain it? This is just what Nate, the 13-year old main character in Better Nate Than Ever, is willing to do to obtain his dream of becoming a star on Broadway. With the help of his best friend, Libby, Nate devises a plan to travel by himself from his hometown near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New York City in order to audition for a part in the Broadway version of E.T. Nate makes it to NYC, though he hits some bumps along the way. His friend Libby is smart enough to know that Nate will need help, so she tells Nate’s brother of his plan, who then contacts their Aunt Heidi, who lives in New York City. After Nate lies on the audition form that he is 21 because he doesn’t have a parent signature, he runs out of the audition to find that Aunt Heidi is waiting for him. She is a former actor, and so she helps him navigate through the audition. Nate does well, and gets a call-back for the next day. The only problem is that Nate’s parents still do not know that he is in NYC, so Heidi must call Nate’s mom, her estranged sister, to tell her what is happening. His parents are understandably mad, and his mom drives to NYC during the middle of the night. This fast-paced novel keeps the reader wondering if Nate will get a part or if his dreams will be crushed. Better Nate Than Ever is appropriate for children ages 9-13, and has an AR level of 5.9.

One of the underlying themes throughout the story is Nate’s struggle with his sexuality. He talks about being teased at school and by his older, sports-minded brother, for liking Broadway musicals and show tunes. It is not until Nate meets his Aunt Heidi’s roommate, who is gay, that he begins to accept himself for who he is and as he is, though Nate never tells the reader if he is or is not gay. Parents may want to be aware of this theme before their child reads the book.

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JUNE 18, 2013
Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird by Stephanie Spinner
Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird is a captivating true story about an experiment done by a Harvard biology graduate in the late 1970’s. The student, Irene, walked into a pet store to buy an African gray parrot for one of her experiments as a graduate student at Purdue University. Little did she know that the parrot, Alex, would change the way we think about intelligence and brain size. Irene and Alex soon became good friends and Alex exhibited a great amount of intelligence, contrary to what many scientists believed at the time. Scientists that had studied larger animals, including chimps (Washoe) and gorillas (Koko) believed that animals with brains the size of humans had the most capacity to learn and remember. Alex disproved this notion. He was cunning, witty, and sometimes even demanding. Irene ran the same tests on him over and over and even let other scientists test him so that there was no question in his ability. Alex was eventually introduced to a new parrot, Griffin, after a few years. Interestingly enough, Alex would often mock the new bird by telling him to “Say better!” (speak more clearly) and by saying the wrong answer to trip him up. Before Alex’s death, he passed tests that confirmed that he was as smart as a five-year-old child. Before Alex, only chimps and gorillas had tested at that level. Alex truly transformed the way we think about brain power and learning capacity. In addition, Alex earned African gray parrots the respect they deserved. He improved the way that many pet owners treated their parrots and also confirmed that African gray parrots must lead social lives, in the wild or as pets. Griffin went on to receive “schooling” at a pre-school with small children. He was tested and he had the same ability as a three year old. The only thing that makes this story more interesting is Meilo So’s breath-taking illustrations. The colorful images will fascinate any child. Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird is also broken up into short chapters to make readers feel like they are tackling a chapter book, while still appealing to their need for pictures. This non-fiction piece has an AR of 4.1 and is most suited for fourth graders.
 

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JUNE 18, 2013
A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts by Pamela S. Turner
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
 
 
Pamela S. Turner brilliantly captures the dedication and work of scientist and conservationist George Schaller in A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts. It proves to be a difficult feat; Schaller did not dedicate his life to one animal, location, or even species. He truly traveled the world in search of solutions to some of the most challenging issues facing our world. He tracked the eating, mating, and roaming habits of some of the world’s greatest beasts in an effort to understand their faltering numbers and their role in the larger ecosystems they were at the top of. From tracking poachers to changing government policies, Schaller led a remarkable life filled with understanding and devotion.  Turner utilizes each chapter to represent almost a decade of Schaller’s life and his research in a particular area—from Alaska to India. The chapter is also usually dedicated to one animal in that region that Schaller research intensively, ranging from panda bears to snow leopards. Some of my favorite parts of the books were the pictures of some of the beautiful animals that became Schaller’s comrades, as well as the direct quotes and words of wisdom from Schaller and his wife, Kay. I also enjoyed the hard statistics at the end of the book, including the 190,000 square miles of wilderness that Schaller helped protect and the 36,600 journal pages he filled with data observations. It added factual evidence to the heartwarming—but sometimes subjective—work that was described throughout the book. The best part about the book, though, is the end. Turner devotes four or five pages to updating readers about the successes of Schaller’s work and the population size of the animals he studied. She also leaves the reader with a multitude of resources and opportunities to get involved in wildlife conservation. A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts is a great read for students that have to choose a biography of someone that made a difference in the world. It has an AR of 7.2 but could easily be shelved in the YA Non-fiction so it offers readers that are stuck in between juvenile and teen an opportunity to explore exciting non-fiction. Watch out for this book as a prize book for our Summer Reading Club. It’s even autographed by Pamela Turner!
 

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MAY 26, 2013
Horrible Harry and the Secret Treasure by Suzy Kline
In the latest installment to the Horrible Harry series, Harry’s friend Mary decides Harry’s job solving mysteries is not so difficult after all. She decides that she wants a chance to become a detective and figure out a mystery for herself. Mary’s mission is to figure out the secret treasure that Harry has been carrying around in his giant suitcase. Mary’s reward is a cat magnetic that she wanted but couldn’t afford from the school’s bookstore. She and her classmates in Room 3B get to work looking for clues and piecing them together. As the group is investigating Harry’s suitcase, they find that they cannot open the suitcase, and they spot a suspicious phrase taped to the front of the suitcase: “Go see pink llc”. Their first clue is a pink key that opens the suitcase, and their second clue is the strange phrase. Song Lee, one of Harry and Mary’s friends, knows that the phrase must be scrambled, so she sets to work trying to unscramble it. They find several more clues, including the clue that Harry goes to visit his grandfather every Wednesday after school. They eventually discover that the scrambled phrase, “Go see pink llc” actually spells out the word Glockenspiel, which is a musical instrument that Harry’s grandfather is teaching him how to play, and which is what Harry has been carrying around in the giant suitcase. With the help of her friends, Mary cracks the case and receives her cat magnet as a reward. Horrible Harry and the Secret Treasure is the perfect story for a new or reluctant reader who loves to solve mysteries. This story has an AR level of 3.5, and is appropriate for children 6-8 years old.

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MAY 26, 2013
Hold Fast, by Blue Balliett
Imagine if your father, who is a responsible and hardworking man, never came home from work one day, and you had no way to contact him to see if he is ok. Early, the main character in Hold Fast, experiences exactly this scenario. Early is the oldest daughter of Dashel (Dash) and Summer (Sum) Pearl, and the older sister of brother Jubilation (Jubie). Before Dash disappeared, the Pearls had a happy life together, planning to buy their own home, and reading poetry by Langston Hughes. Days after Dash disappears, strange men break into and ransack their apartment, looking for something, though they will not tell Sum, Early, or Jubie what that something is. After the men leave, the family decides they will not be safe in their apartment, and go to the police station to report the crime. The Pearls end up at the Helping Hand shelter, where Sum and Pearl work tirelessly to try to piece together the few clues that they have. They know that while Dash was working at a Chicago library, he also took on a second job buying and selling old books. They slowly discover that the buying and selling of old books was not what it seemed. The Pearls go to the library where Dash works to try to find out anything they can from Dash’s boss and co-workers. While some are sympathetic, Dash’s boss, Mr. Pincer, is not, and he refuses to help Sum and Early. All hope seems lost that Dash will ever be found alive.

Though it is a dark time in Early’s life, she does not give up on her dreams, which is a theme woven throughout the book using Langston Hughes’ poetry. The Pearls were always lucky enough to have a place to call their own before Dash disappeared, and had to adjust quickly to living life in the shelter: always having to wait in line for meals and to use the telephone, and never having any privacy. Early imagines a program where children living in shelters can write letters about what their family would be able to do in a home if they had one. Once written, the letters would be sent to powerful and wealthy people who might be able to do something to make the children’s dreams come true. She is able to start such a program with the help of a volunteer at the Helping Hand shelter and bring hope to seemingly hopeless situations. Hold Fast by Blue Balliett is a heart-wrenching, beautifully told story about the power of perseverance and never giving up on one’s dreams. It has an AR level of 5.2, and is recommended for children eight years old and up.

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MAY 21, 2013
Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff
Jayna is a young girl living in upstate New York with her brother, Rob.  Their parents were killed when they were rather young children.  They stayed in separate foster homes but always got to see each other on Sundays.  When Rob became a legal adult, he took Jayna to live with him.  The story takes place during World War ll and Rob is in the U.S. Navy waiting to be deployed from his land base to a destroyer ship.  Jayna will stay there in New York under the supervision of their landlady, Celine.  Jayna has the nickname of “Gingersnap” given to her by her mother.  She can’t remember much about her parents and often has Rob tell her over and over what he can remember.  They think the nickname “Gingersnap” came from the fact that Jayna has red hair.  Both Rob and Jayna are used to living on very little materially.  They have learned to celebrate every special occasion by making and designing their own soup recipes.  These recipes are included in the book.  The day comes when Rob goes to sea as a cook on the destroyer ship, Muldoon.  Jayna takes comfort in her pet turtle, Theresa, at the pond in the garden area of her home.  One day, devastating news comes to Jayna.  Her brother, Rob, is missing in action.  She had dreaded this news ever coming to her door by telegram.  She goes through their belongings and finds a blue book written in French with a name and address on it of a lady who lives in Brooklyn, New York.  Jayna and Rob believed this book could have belonged to their grandmother.  Jayna sets out on her own with the money Rob left her to find this lady or any information about her in Brooklyn, New York.  The courage and determination to find some information and family that might still be available to Jayna is a strong passion.  The real adventure begins.  Not to give everything away, it is a wonderful journey which is inspiring and uplifting to young people.  There is a voice that prompts Jayna from time to time.  Who or what is this voice?  This book is most suited for readers in grades 3-5 with an A.R. level of 3.8.

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MAY 21, 2013
Violet Mackerel’s Remarkable Recover by Anna Branford
Seven-year-old Violet Mackerel has a terrible sore throat.  It feels like a cactus is down her throat.   She has had this before.  Her mother takes her to the doctor and discovers Violet has tonsillitis again.  The doctor suggests that Violet’s tonsils should be taken out!  In the meanwhile, the doctor gives her some purple lozenges to help with the pain.  The operation is understandably a bit overwhelming but as it is all explained, Violet feels better.  The doctor says that sometimes your voice is a bit changed after this operation.  Violet dreams of being an opera singer and the change in her voice will go from ordinary to making her a star.
Violet finds the purple lozenges interesting and on the way home, develops “The Theory of Giving Small Things.”  This means giving small things might help people in extraordinary ways, as Violet thinks of it.  The next few days Violet tells everyone about her upcoming tonsillectomy.   People say they are jealous of all the ice cream Violet will be eating.  The morning Violet is to go to the hospital, she awakes with not butterflies in her stomach but what feels like rhinoceroses.  She has second thoughts.  Mother asks Violet, “What will we do with all the ice cream?”  You must read this story to see how the rest of things go for Violet.
Find out what extraordinary events occur for Violet.  You can decide if you think her theory is true.
This book is a delightful story particularly for those who have had problems with their tonsils. It is best suited for readers in grades 1-3 with an A.R. reading level of 5.3.

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MAY 15, 2013
The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine
The Absolute Value of Mike is a witty and comical book that introduces the topic of understanding. Mike is sent to his great aunt and uncle’s house for the summer while his Dad, an engineering professor, travels to Romania for work. His mission to help his great-uncle, Poppy, build an artesian screw. This is an important mission because if Mike succeeds, he will finally be able to overcome his math disability and impress his dad. When he gets to Poppy and Moo’s, though, it isn’t anything like he expected. He finds out that Poppy and Moo recently lost their son and that Poppy is having a difficult time dealing. Instead of working on the artesian screw, Poppy spends most of his day sitting in his chair mourning. Mike can relate to Poppy’s grieving, as he lost his mother, but at the same time has no patience for his laziness and lack of responsibility. To top everything off, Moo is behind on the bill payments and Mike’s dad won’t forward him any money or even respond to his IMs. Mike quickly discovers that there is a bigger mission at Poppy and Moo’s. Karen, a local pastor, is attempting to adopt a young boy named Misha (which can also mean Mike) from Romania before their adoption restrictions change. The catch is that she has to raise $40,000 in three weeks! Through the midst of meeting some crazy (and entertaining) characters, Mike takes charge of the adoption project and starts to commercialize all of the townspeople’s talents in an effort to raise the money. Through it all, Mike learns to accept that he just isn’t an engineer (but that he has other strengths) and Poppy learns to let go. Erskine is a great writer who knows how to capture character’s personalities while still tackling huge issues like acceptance and mourning. I still enjoyed one of her earlier works, Mockingbird, more though. The Absolute Value of Mike has an AR of 3.9 and is most suited for third and fourth graders.
 

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MAY 14, 2013
City Chickens by Christine Heppermann
There are many reasons why a chicken might be left homeless. Some may be rescued from a cock-fighting ring or come from a research facility or from a classroom that hatched chickens from eggs. But most animal shelters don't have room for chickens. This book tells the story of a rescue in Minneapolis that takes in chickens, rehabilitates them, and finds permanent homes where they will be loved. This non-fiction narrative includes photographs of the many chickens whose stories are recounted, and the shelter known as Chicken Run Rescue. It touches on conditions of chicken factories, but does not pause long enough to upset children with stories of abuse, rather focusing on the happy adoptions. Though sometimes a struggle to find homes for all of the birds, Mary Britton Clouse and her husband Bert find it fulfills a life-long dream to run the rescue. The book includes instructions for caring for city chickens and a note to educators suggesting alternatives to hatching chickens. This book has a high A.R. level of 6.5 but only 48 pages long, so it would be a great choice for a reluctant reader. My only gripe about the book is the tiny print chosen for the photograph captions which is difficult for older eyes to read.

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MAY 5, 2013
Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad by David Adler
Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroadis one of our newest non-fiction books. The book is centered on Tubman’s biographical information, including quotations from her and people that knew her, but it also focuses on general historical movements during the time. The book traces Tubman’s journey to freedom as well as her many successes in rescuing others from Maryland, including her brothers, sisters, and elderly parents. More importantly, the book informs readers of significant actions that were taken during Tubman’s lifetime, including the Fugitive Slave Law, the raid on Harper’s Ferry, and the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. With this background information, readers are able to better comprehend how Tubman’s actions were influenced. Snippets of biographical information for other important abolitionists are also introduced throughout the book, including information about Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Peter Still. While Tubman is undeniably covered often in history classes, the book still has new and relevant information to offer on the subject of slavery and even about Tubman. Some examples of this include disguises used by slaves, newspaper clippings from African American newspapers, and pictures of popular supporters/ landscapes that Tubman might have witnessed. One interesting fact, that might not be known by many, is that Tubman helped the Union army significantly in the Civil War. My only critique of the text is that seems to jump from one historical figure to the next, sometimes failing to conclude one person’s story. This might be frustrating for readers that enjoy a more linear plot.  Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad is a great read, especially for those interested in the Civil War and the Underground Railroad. With an AR level of 7.2 and many detailed descriptions of the brutality that slaves faced, though, this book is probably most appropriate for eighth grade and up.

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APRIL 24, 2013
The Story of the Blue Planet, by Andri Snaer Magnason
 
Imagine living in a place where there are no adults. In the book, The Story of the Blue Planet, best friends Brimir and Hulda live in such a place, The Blue Planet, where only children and wild animals live, and where children never get old. The children go to bed when they want, eat when and what they want, and do what they want every single day. The Blue Planet is dangerous, but also beautiful. Every year, a ray of light bursts forth from a cave on the island and thousands of sleeping butterflies emerge from the cave to follow the sun for the whole day, and then return to the cave to sleep for a whole year. The children on the island look forward to this special event all year.

One day, an adult named Gleesome Goodday lands on the island. At first, the children believe he is a monster, but he convinces them that he is good. He is a vacuum salesman who promises to make their dreams come true and to make their lives better. After learning that Brimir has dreams about flying penguins, Mr. Goodday changes Brimir into a flying penguin. The children on the island start to realize that their lives are not as exciting and wonderful as they had previously thought and they ask Mr. Goodday to help them fly like the butterflies. Mr. Goodday offers them a way, in exchange for a little piece of their youth. The children agree, and Mr. Goodday takes his vacuum cleaner and vacuums up the butterflies to create Butterfly Powder. After the children get a sprinkle of Butterfly Powder, they are able to fly around the island and see things they have never seen before. However, once the sun goes down, the Butterfly Powder no longer works. The children ask Mr. Goodday to fix the sun so that it never sets; he does, in exchange for a little piece of their youth. The children continue to ask for other things to make their lives “better”, and they continue to lose little pieces of their youth, until Brimir and Hulda get into a flying competition, get mad at each other, and end up being blown to the other side of the planet. They try everything they can to get back, including fighting wolf trees, grizzly bears, spiders, and butterfly monsters. Brimir and Hulda successfully defeat each of the animals, but then meet the Ghost Children. The Ghost Children live on an island where the sun no longer shines because Mr. Goodday fixed it over Brimir’s and Hulda’s island. The Ghost Children are cold, hungry, and they no longer see the butterflies anymore. They help Brimir and Hulda get back to the island, and the friends vow to save the Ghost Children. After a great struggle, Brimir, Hulda, and the rest of the children on the island trick Mr. Goodday into becoming the king he always wanted to be, and into giving the children back their youth. The children are then able to get Mr. Goodday to allow the sun to set once again over the island, saving the Ghost Children. The Story of the Blue Planet is full of adventure and is an exciting book for children ages 7-10. 

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APRIL 24, 2013
Swimming with Sharks, by Betty Hicks
 Rita enjoyed swimming until she was placed on the Dolphin swim team. Her friends Jazz, Rocky, and Henry, were placed on the more advanced Shark swim team. Rita cannot decide if it is better to win races on the Dolphin team, or if it is better to lose races but be with her friends on the Shark team, but feels like her world is falling apart. With her confidence shaken, Rita admits defeat and gives up trying to perfect her flip turns after coming in last in her meet, even though Jazz offers to help her. Jazz even buys Rita a nose clip to keep the water out of her nose during a flip turn.  After making a pros and cons list, something her older sister Carly does when she needs to make a decision, Rita decides that she will quit swimming and forgets about the nose clip. However, after her younger sister Tia learns to ride a bicycle, and after reading the story A Wrinkle in Time, where the main character Meg has to fight the evil Dark Thing, Rita is determined to learn the flip turn. This time, she asks Jazz to help her and uses the nose clip. Rita improves and is confident that she will do well in her next race, which she wins! She is confident for her next race as a Shark, but right before the race, she realizes that she has forgotten her nose clip! Rita comes in last place again. However, after the race, Rita discovers that the Sharks have a diving competition after the swim meets, at which she excels. She enthusiastically decides that she will compete in the diving competition instead. Excellent for a reluctant reader who also enjoys sports, Swimming with Sharks is appropriate for students who read at a 2.8 AR Level, and who are 7-10 years old.

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APRIL 22, 2013
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
Beautiful and simple is this book on the life of Nelson Mandela by children’s author, Kadir Nelson.  The author is known for his inspiring and uplifting books for children.  Growing up in South Africa, Nelson Mandela saw the poor and powerless.  He became committed to helping protect them.  Nelson was sent away from home at a young age to get an education.  Nelson studied and became a lawyer.  The government of his homeland became harsh toward some of its own people.  It split people into three groups—African, Indian, and European.  This was called apartheid.  Nelson organized the people to reject this system.  Speaking out caused Nelson Mandela to be arrested and jailed.  When released, Nelson had to go underground to continue the fight for freedom for all people.  He visited Liberia, Ethiopia and Morocco and saw the freedom he longed for in his homeland.  Upon his arrival back to South Africa, he was imprisoned again.  This time, days, months and years passed.  Others carried on the fight for freedom including his wife and children.  Finally after twenty-seven and one-half years, Nelson was released from prison as a free man.  He was elected as the new leader of South Africa and the world celebrated.  This book is truly inspiring for all ages but most appropriate for readers in grades 3-5 with an A.R. rating of 4.8.

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APRIL 16, 2013
I Funny : A MIddle School Story by James Patterson
Jamie Grimm is new in town, moving in with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Steve for a reason that is not readily disclosed at the onset. However, Jamie is in a wheelchair and there are hints that his parents were killed. Jamie is not ready to let the reader know the specifics. But we know that cousin Steve is a bully who locks Jamie out of house and dumps him in a sand dune without his chair. Jamie takes it all in stride, using humor to mask his pain, and at some point decides he wants to be a stand-up comedian. While helping out his Uncle Frankie at his diner, Jamie constantly tells jokes as he cashes out the customers. It's a customer with a Russian accent that says, "You Funny", which is when Jamie starts to say "I Funny". Uncle Frankie tells him about the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic competition and suggests Jamie enter.  The problem is, Jamie is petrified in front of crowds. He doesn't think he can possibly do it. Still, he decides to show up for the competition without telling anyone, so that if he freezes on stage no one will know.  Jamie ends up winning and a video is circulating online causing him to become a sort of local celebrity around school. Stevie tells him the judges just felt sorry for him, that Jamie only won due to pity, and Jamie really doesn't know if that might not be true. Still, he practices jokes on schoolmates, customers, and his family he refers to as "the Smileys" because they never smile and have no sense of humor. Then it's on to the state competition in New York City. This time, though, he has the support of his friends, school, and community. There is a happy ending and Jamie even ends up with a girlfriend he calls "cool girl". Readers will be routing for Jamie from beginning to end. This is by the author of Middle School Get Me Out of Here and Middle School: The Worst Years of My LIfe. Although it is humorous, it also deals with grief and Jamie's injury and rehab. The A.R. level 3.9. Filled with black and white illustrations, this is a great choice for reluctant readers, or those looking for something after Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Kids may not recognize older comedians' names or caricatures in illustrations, but they will still understand the context. Highly recommended.

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APRIL 15, 2013
The Knights' Tales Collection by Gerald Morris
Comprised of four books, The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great, the Adventures of Sir Givret the Short, The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True, and The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated, the audiobook compilation is among the best narrations I have heard in a long time. These retellings of the King Arthur legends are perfect for the younger audience, and narrator Steve West had me laughing throughout. The clever stories are full of notable characters like Sir Lancelot and King Arthur, which kids will recognize, as well as damsels in distress, dragons, sorcerers, and dwarfs. West makes the most of every word, providing wonderful accents, sarcasm, and humor. (The weeping Queens in the first book had me weeping with laughter). The short stories are excellent, with good morals and lessons to live by, like giving your word and not going back on it, manners, and how to treat friends. Full of very individual characters, West depicted each with varying accents (English, Scottish, French) and depicted the voices of the knights, damsels, and dwarfs so that no two sounded alike. The books are also available as individual stories and include black and white illustrations providing much detail that children will enjoy pouring over. The A.R. level ranges from 4.5 to 5.0 between the books, and would be great for reluctant readers since they are small and thin (and include illustrations) and are not intimidating in the least. The stories are so fun, kids and adults alike will enjoy this collection. Highly recommended.

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