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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book A Day: Harry Potter

I know that I promised to post a review a day this summer. However, there are two reasons why I won't be posting a traditional "review" today. I've been reading books that fall into two categories: already published, and soon-to-be published.

(1) The books that won't be published until September and beyond, which I have been enjoying, I didn't want to review because you wouldn't be able to get your hands on them yet! I'll save their reviews until closer to the actual publication date.

(2) The books that are already published that I've read lately, well, to be honest, I haven't really all. And I don't really want to waste the time to tell you about books that I didn't like.

So, in honor of JK Rowling's birthday (and the birthday of her most famous character, Harry Potter), I thought I would show you the new book covers that Scholastic will be using for the paperbacks published on August 27th. 

What do you think???

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trailer Tuesday

Better Nate than Ever (Tim Federle)

Okay, I LOVE this book. LOVE. IT! 

Do you love to sing? Act? Dream of being on Broadway?

Do you watch Glee? Dance Moms? 

Do you just ever feel like you don't fit in? Want to find a place where you can be yourself?

Seriously, this book is for just about everyone, and will be the top of my list of recommendations in the fall. This is the perfect middle school book, as it has a little something for everyone...boys...girls...doesn't matter.

So, I thought that instead of gushing about how much I like the book, I'd show you a clip of the author talking about how he came to write it. And in this 4 minute clip, I think it's possible that I have fallen in love with the author as well.

I also included a clip of him reading the first few pages of the book...the perfect book talk.

Now, the one contention I have with the book is the cover. Why, oh why, did the publisher create such a "babyish" cover? The cover reads 3-5th grade to me (and I'm sure my students will think the same), but the book is the perfect 6th-8th grade book (Nate is in 8th grade). Please, please, please, do not judge this book by it's cover.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Cloud Spinner (Catchpool)

Title: Cloud Spinner
Author: Catchpool
Genre: Picture Books, Fairy Tales, Kings, Nature

Pages: 32
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ages: Kindergarten through 3rd Grade

This picture book is one of my favorites so far this year. 

From the Publisher: 
One small boy has a special gift-he can weave cloth from the clouds: gold in the early morning with the rising sun, white in the afternoon, and crimson in the evening. He spins just enough cloth for a warm scarf. But when the king sees the boy's magnificent cloth, he demands cloaks and gowns galore. "It would not be wise," the boy protests. "Your majesty does not need them!" But spin he must-and soon the world around him begins to change.

This is a great tale on taking care of the Earth and it's resources without being preachy. The illustrations beautifully compliment the story. Elementary teachers will definitely want this one on their shelves!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: Paperboy (Vawter)

Title: Paperboy
Author: Vawter
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Friendship, Coming of Age, Race Relations

Pages: 224
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Ages: 6th-9th grades

This book has been getting starred reviews from many sources this year. I was lucky enough to review it for the publisher and write a "booktalk" that is posted on the publisher's website (for educators and librarians around the country to use). 

Here is a copy of my booktalk:

Memphis, Tennesse, summer 1959. A soon-to-be seventh grade boy agrees to take over his friend Rat’s paper route for a month. And what an adventure our unnamed hero has. First, you must know that he doesn’t have very many friends because he stutters and most of the kids make fun of him. Second, he is an amazing pitcher to Rat’s catcher and the two boys have become great friends. When Rat leaves for July to visit his grandparents, his friend agrees to become the substitute paperboy, even though he is terrified to talk to the customers because of his stutter. There are quite a collection of customers in the neighborhood to be frightened of including a drunk housewife and a merchant marine. But it’s the neighborhood junk man who our hero should really be frightened of, especially after a run-in with this man puts the paperboy and others in danger. Will the paperboy learn to overcome his stutter and make friends? Will he survive his run-in with danger? No matter what, it will definitely be a summer he won’t soon forget.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Series Saturday: Review: Mind Games (White)

Title: Mind Games
Author: White
Genre: Fiction, Sisters, Psychic Ability, Thriller, Action, Series
Pages: 241
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ages: 7th grade & up

I discovered this series starter because I am a big fan of White's Paranormalcy trilogy (I know, I know...I'm not supposed to like paranormal books. But that series is really good!). 

From the Publisher: 
Fia and Annie are as close as two sisters can be. They look out for each other. Protect each other. And most importantly, they keep each others secrets, even the most dangerous ones: Annie is blind, but can see visions of the future; Fia was born with flawless intuition--her first impulse is always exactly right. When the sisters are offered a place at an elite boarding school, Fia realizes that something is wrong . . . but she doesn't grasp just how wrong. The Keane Institute is no ordinary school, and Fia is soon used for everything from picking stocks to planting bombs. If she tries to refuse, they threaten her with Annie's life. Now Fia is falling in love with a boy who has dark secrets of his own. And with his help, she's ready to fight back. They stole her past. They control her present. But she won't let them take her future. 

I really enjoyed this story, told from both sister's perspectives. It was a unique construct in a genre that tends to start to all look alike. I have been recommending this one far and wide this summer, and I received the following brief review from a former student:
So as far as the romance goes I think it's well written because it's frustrating to read. It actually makes you feel something. Fia's relationship with her sister, Annie is interesting because their roles are reversed. The younger sister is looking out for her older sister instead of the other way around. I think the way the book ended was perfect for the sisters. Throughout the book their troubles came from the fact that they focused too much on the other instead of themselves as a whole. So the book kind of made the perfect solution while still leaving some problems to be solved. 

Fans of mystery, action, dystopian, and even romance books will find something to enjoy in this title. It's a fast read because you want to desperately get to the end to figure out what is going to happen! I cannot wait for the next one. Oh wait, I have an advance copy of the second book (Perfect Lies, pub. February, 2014). I think I might just go read it right now!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday 5: Cancer

Because I'm starting radiation on Monday, I thought that I would use today's Friday 5 to recommend my Top 5 fiction books for teens where cancer plays a starring role. The upcoming 7 weeks (every day, 5 days/week) of radiation will end just about the one year anniversary of when treatments (chemo, surgeries, more surgeries, etc.) began. It has been a long hard road that you can read about on my cancer blog if you are interested. These are books that I read pre-cancer diagnosis, but still resonate with me for "ringing true" to what it feels like.

(1) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I shouldn't actually have to say anything about this book, because it is pretty hard to go anywhere without seeing this book, or it's awards, or hearing talk about the upcoming movie, or watching the author's many videos online. I have had a not-so-secret crush on John Green for ages, but I swear this did not influence how I felt about this book. It is simply AMAZING! And, as I always say, you cannot be my friend anymore if you do not read this book.

(2) After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick. Another author that I am a huge fan of and read every book that he's ever written immediately upon publication (if not before). Jeff, 8th grader and cancer survivor, is such an authentic middle school voice. Of all these books, Jeff is the character I can relate to most. Humor and heartache and typical teen boy angst all rolled into one. Darn near perfect in my opinion.

(3) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I promoted this book throughout 2012 in my webinars and seminars as the "funny man's" Fault in Our Stars. This is an excellent read, and the perfect story about trying to be the supportive friend of a cancer patient. And how, despite the best intentions, teen boys often screw it up. Love it!

(4) Drum, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. See, I told you I loved this author. In this book, which was actually the first book about Jeff (see #2 above), we actually learn of Jeff's initial cancer diagnosis through the eyes of his older brother Steven. Such a terrific look at family, love, and how life goes on. Told, of course, with the author's perfect mix of humor and warmth.

(5) A Time For Dancing by Davida Hurwin. This is the book that I always went to when those teen girls wanted something to make them cry. You know who you are. (Now, of course, I can also recommend TFIOS also...see #1). This is such an amazing story of friendship in the face of adversity. It still resonates with me all these years later. And a shout-out to someone for updating the cover!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Life After Theft (Pike)

Title: Life After Theft
Author: Pike

Genre: Fiction, Ghosts, Paranormal, High School
Pages: 345
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Ages: High School 

First, I feel like I must start this review with an admission: I don't like paranormal books. At. All. There are days where I think if I see one more angel/devil/vampire/ghost book come across my desk, I will lose it. Ask my students...they know. That being said, I know that it is popular and I love that YOU love them...just don't make me read them.

Now you're asking the question, "so, why did you even pick this book up?" Truth be told? I don't really know. It had a little to do with author name recognition (she's quite popular), and the fact that in the fall I have to give a seminar on all the latest and greatest books of 2013 for teens (and I'm sure if I wasn't at least knowledgeable about the title I wouldn't be doing my job). But, quite honestly, it actually sounded interesting to me. Shhhh...don't tell anyone!

From the Publisher:
Kimberlee Schaffer may be drop-dead gorgeous . . . but she also dropped dead last year. Now she needs Jeff's help with her unfinished business, and she's not taking no for an answer. When she was alive, Kimberlee wasn't just a mean girl; she was also a complete kleptomaniac. So if Jeff wants to avoid being haunted until graduation, he'll have to help her return all of the stolen items. But Jeff soon discovers that it's much easier to steal something than it is to bring it back.

I really enjoyed this book! No, I'm serious. The characters were well-developed, and the relationship between Jeff and Kimberlee was so authentic. Full of snark and wit and emotion, their banter drew me in. There is quite a bit going on in this book: bullying, acceptance, friendship, romance, and what it means to be happy. But I never felt like I was being hit over the head with "messages" or talked down to. 

Told from Jeff's point of view, I think this book has potential to appeal to boy and girl readers. Well, teen boys brave enough to read a book with that cover, I suppose.

Also, the Kindle edition of this book is currently on sale for $1.99. Bargain! You can't really go wrong on this one.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: Gone Fishing (Wissinger)

Title: Gone Fishing: a novel in verse
Author: Wissinger
Genre: Poetry, Families, Vacation, Fishing, Picture Books
Pages: 120
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ages: 1st-4th grades, families

This is so much fun from start to finish! Sam has been looking forward to this fishing trip with his dad for a long time. And then his little sister Lucy gets to come along (and surely she will ruin everything, right?!). The family adventure is told in poetic "chapters," each a different form of verse, interspersed with humorous black-and-white illustrations.

From the Publisher: 
Nine-year-old Sam loves fishing with his dad. So when his pesky little sister, Lucy, horns in on their fishing trip, he's none too pleased: Where's my stringer? / Something's wrong! / The princess doll does not belong! All ends well in this winsome book of poems-each labeled with its proper poetic form, from quatrain to tercet. Together the poems build a dawn-to-dusk story of a father-son bond, of sibling harmony lost and found-and most of all, of delicious anticipation. Charming line drawings animate the poetry with humor and drama, and the extensive Poet's Tackle Box at the end makes this the perfect primer to hook aspiring poets of all ages.

Not really too much more to say. This is a must read for anyone who loves poetry. Or fishing. A great beginning chapter book for new readers. A fun story that will resonate with anyone who's had a little sibling "ruin" the day. And, what fun it would be to use in an elementary classroom.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trailer Tuesday

Today's Trailer Tuesday/Book-a-Day combo is for Grace Mercy by Robin LaFevers.

This book was on SO MANY "best" lists last year, and deservedly so. This is definitely for high school readers and adults (I recommend it to my teacher friends ALL THE TIME), but it is terrific. And the sequel, Dark Triumph, is on shelves now. (Book 3 comes out in February, 2014).

Also, the reason that I chose to post this trailer this week is that you still have a few days to score a free copy of the audiobook from Sync. Click here for details! Hurry, tomorrow is your last day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Movie News Monday

Today's Book-a-Day suggestion coincides with news about the movie adaptation of the title.

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak is, quite honestly, a book that everyone (older middle school, high school, adults) should read at some point in their lifetime. It is a truly amazing, powerful, and unique book that stays with you long after you read it. The writing will grab you, and you will feel immediately like you have been placed inside the book. 

As always, I am happy to promote good audiobooks, and this one is one of the best. The narrator of this title does a truly remarkable job. In addition, it is quite nice to hear someone else pronounce all the German words if you are not someone who learned the language in school.

From the Publisher: 
A "New York Times" bestseller for seven years running that's soon to be a major motion picture, this Printz Honor book is an unforgettable tale about the ability of books to feed the soul. Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

The movie adaptation of this book, (which I pray will do the book justice because I fear that this one can go all kinds of wrong if done carelessly), was originally set to come out in 2014. Just last week it was announced that they have pushed UP the release date to November 15th, 2013. WOW! That's almost unheard of. You can read the article on Entertainment Weekly here. 

I'm looking forward to this!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: Destiny Rewritten (Fitzmaurice)

Title: Destiny Rewritten
Author: Fitzmaurice
Genre: Fiction, Realistic, Families, Dreams, Books/Writing, Fate, Secrets
Pages: 335
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ages: 4th-7th grades

From the Publisher: 
Eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis has been told for her entire life that her destiny is to become a poet, just like her famous namesake, Emily Dickinson. But Emily doesn't even really like poetry, and she has a secret career ambition that she suspects her English-professor mother will frown on. Then, just after discovering that it contains an important family secret, she loses the special volume of Emily Dickinson's poetry that was given to her at birth. As Emily and her friends search for the lost book in used bookstores and thrift shops all across town, Emily's understanding of destiny begins to unravel and then rewrite itself in a marvelous new way. 

This is a book review for 5th grade me. I grew up in the era where the only books in my elementary school library that interested me were Nancy Drew, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Little House on the Prairie, and everything written by E.L. Konigsburg. And I'm sure that I read more than one Choose Your Own Adventure. From here I went straight to Agatha Christie (mainly because there wasn't an entire publishing industry devoted to "teen" books). 

There are many other books that were probably sitting on the shelves that I honestly wish I had discovered at the time, and not when I was "old" (Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series for one), but believe it or not, I didn't devour everything on the the library shelves back then. I stuck with what was familiar and proven. (This might be why, when I have a student today that reminds me of "me," I am sometimes known to say, "you will read this because I said so"). 

I also grew up in the era of Danielle Steele novels turned into made-for-TV movies, and I hope it doesn't make me sound lame to admit that I'm pretty sure I watched most of them

All of these things explain why I LOVE this book by Fitzmaurice and am buying a copy of it for my going-to-be-6th grade daughter. 

I truly enjoyed Emily's narration of this read true, like an actual 11 year old. She introduces us to a cast of quirky characters (most of which are her family), and her daily journey. All she wants to do is write romance novels (her correspondence with Danielle Steele almost "steal the show" for me) and find her father. When it is discovered that her cherished book of Dickinson poetry, which accidentally found it's way into the Goodwill box, actually contains clues to her father's identity, she is propelled on a quest to retrieve it.

I love Emily, and I think that tween readers will also. You can't help but root for her...and maybe get a little angry at a mother that won't give up family secrets except via musings in book margins. (And there's a similar history of this in my family, so another reason why I feel so in tune with this book). Emily's story of self-discovery, family, friendship, and making your own fate is one that will resonate with younger readers. I know that 5th grade me would have found a new friend in Emily...and would have desperately wanted to help her find her book. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Series Saturday: Review: Selection (Cass)

Title: Selection; Elite
Author: Cass
Genre: Fiction, Dystopian, Contests, Prince/Princess, Marriage, Love

Pages: 327 (Selection)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (for both)

 Ages: Middle School and up

In this first installment of "Series Saturday," I thought that I would highlight a series that I recently discovered. This is not a new series, since the second book came out in April, but for some reason I never got around to reading it when the first book hit the shelves. And I think I know why...I have a natural aversion to girls in floofy dresses on the cover of the books I'm reading.

So, in my case, this was a terrific lesson in "Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover!" Dang, all this time I've missed out knowing these characters.

From the Publisher: 
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself'and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I finished the first book, and am waiting until school starts so I can "steal" our library copy of "The Elite." I am very excited to know where the story is going, and what is going to happen to America...and who she will choose. This book has a little bit for everyone: romance, action, political intrigue...and girls in fancy dresses if that's what you like. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Non-Fiction Friday: Review: Super Pop! (Harmon)

Title: Super Pop! Pop culture top ten lists to win at trivia, survive in the wild, and make it through the holidays.
Author: Harmon
Genre: Non-Fiction, Trivia, Top 10 Lists
Pages: 287
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Ages: High School and adult

There's not a lot to say about this because the title kind of lays it all out there for you. You should know exactly what you are getting in this book.

From the Publisher: 
SUPER-POP offers a maximum-pleasure, minimum-effort means of becoming better at trivia, more interesting at a party, and, if it really comes down to it, just a little bit more likely to fight off a shark with a pair of pliers. In the course of fifty top ten lists and more than five hundred entries, you'll learn how to outwit death, melt a frozen heart (answer: fire up some Andrea Bocelli), and find your spirit animal (delve into Planet Earth). So whether you're wondering what to watch tonight or how you'll ever impress that date tomorrow, Super-Pop has the answer. It's time to put pop culture to work!

This was a completely fun way to spend an afternoon. And I think this is a great book to browse, one category at a time, as you're sitting down next to the coffee table where you're likely to store it. What else are you going to do during those commercial breaks anyway?! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Throwback Thursday Review: The Alchemist (Coelho)

Title: The Alchemist
Author: Coelho

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Parable, Journey, Adventure, Dreams
Pages: 177
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars (audio version: 4 out of 5 stars)
Ages: High School, Adult, some Middle School students also (I'm going to buy a copy for my library for the fall)

Jumping on the "Throwback Thursday" theme, I thought that I would review a book that has been in print for quite some time, having first been published in Brazil in 1988. So, it's quite likely that you have heard about this title, and might have already read it.

Funny thing, though, I had never read it until just this last week. It was actually recommended to me by my son who beat me to it. So, of course I had to read it (since the teen boy is not a normally a reader and I find myself inclined to devour anything he suggests). I decided to listen to it on audio since I love my Audible subscription.

From the Publisher: 
"My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky." Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams." 
The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist. The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.

This was a short book, but I am quite glad that I listened to it on audio as it is narrated by the impeccable Jeremy Irons. Wonderful reading by an incredible actor!

I can see why this book has resonated with readers around the world for decades. Part fantasy, part fable, part self-help book all wrapped up into one. I think that the storytelling and scene-setting were very strong and you are almost immediately swept up into Santiago's world and rooting for him along his journey. 

In the end, I admire a book where the message is to dream big, listen to your heart, and find your life's mission. Amen to following your dreams!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: Code Name Verity (Wein)

Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Wein
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, War, Friendship, Spies
Pages: 343

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars...can I give it more?
Ages: High school, Adults of all ages, and maybe a sophisticated middle school reader (I have it in our library)

It's likely that I do not even need to mention this book to you because it was on more "Top 10" and award lists in 2012 than I can count. I had it at the top of last summer's high school reading list. It's even in paperback already (albeit, with what I think is a horrible cover compared to the hardback. Seriously, truly horrible...see below...did the publisher not really read the book? That cover does not set the right tone AT ALL). 

So why the heck am I mentioning it today? Well, a couple of reasons, not the least of which, it's just so good that you must read it!

The main reason I decided to make today's post about an "old" book is that I recently went back and listened to it on audio and I fell in love with it all over again. FELL. IN. LOVE. AGAIN. The audio production on this book is BRILLIANT! The narrators give a tremendous reading. A must to listen to! Perfect for long road trips, plane rides, or just sitting by the pool and relaxing. 

Grownups, PLEASE do not care that this book was published for "young adults." This is one of the best books that you'll read in a long time, and I recommend it to my teachers, friends, and neighbors all the time. Also, did you love "Fault in our Stars" and in desperate need of a book to make you feel like that? This is the one for you.

From the Publisher:
Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before its barely begun. When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, shes living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution. As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

This is an incredible story of war, friendship, fighting for what you believe in, love, hope, and truth. It will stay with you long after you read it. It is crushingly sad, incredibly hopeful, and yet, not sappy or sentimental in any way. And the historical detail in it makes you rush to the author's notes at the end to find out if Maddie and Verity were real people.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trailer Tuesday

Another Trailer Tuesday/Book a Day combo for you today. This one I read to prepare for a national webinar that I presented this spring for YALSA/ALA (American Library Association).

In January, Crusher, by Niall Leonard, was voted one of the Top 10 Audiobooks for teens of the year previous year. I agree. The audio is terrific, but this is also an excellent mystery for high school students, especially boys. The fast pace, and twist and turns, will keep you turning pages (or wishing your drive wasn't so short so you could keep listening). I was glad to discover this title, and definitely put it on my Summer Reading list!

From the publisher:
The day Finn Maguire discovers his dad bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in his father’s murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him.

Scouring the sordid, brutal London underworld for answers, exposing dark family secrets, and facing danger at every turn, Finn is about to learn that it’s the people you trust who can hit you the hardest. . .

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Who's On First? (Illustrated by Martz)

Title: Who's On First?
Author: Abbott (Illustrator: Martz)
Genre: Fiction, Picture Books, Baseball, Humor
Pages: 40

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ages: Kindergarten-2nd grade

Yes, Mondays are becoming "Picture Book" review days. There's just so many good books out there this summer for all ages. In honor of tomorrow's MLB All-Star game, I thought I would highlight this favorite from my summer reading list for the younger crowd. 

From the Publisher: 
"Who's on first. What's on second. I Don't Know's on third." One of the classic comedy sketches of all time is now transformed into a priceless picture book-and it's a great read for kids of all ages. Follow the mistaken identities, confusion, and lots of laughs as Rabbit and Bear act out this scene.  Illustrated in full color with slightly retro stylized illustrations.

This is the classic routine from Abbott & Costello. I actually grew up listening to re-runs of this and have always enjoyed watching old footage of the comedy greats performing this sketch. ("Third base!") Martz' illustrations really lend well to bringing this humor to all ages. Rabbit and Bear are such great were Bud and Lou. This is a book not to be missed!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Nine Days (Hiatt)

Title: Nine Days
Author: Hiatt
Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Mystery, Travel

Pages: 241
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Ages: 7th grade and up

The entire time I was reading this book I kept thinking, wow, this would make a good classroom read for our 9th grade social studies classes. Alas, we don't have 9th graders in our building anymore (and I do miss them), but I still think that this page-turner will find an audience!

From the Publisher: 
A contemporary thriller in the vein of James Patterson and Anthony Horowitz set against the bustling backdrop of Hong Kong, Vietnam, and the border of China. This heart-pounding adventure takes place as two teens, an American teenage boy and his friend, a Chinese girl from his Washington, DC-area high school, must find her father who has been kidnapped--and they only have nine days. Although the characters in the novel are fictionalized, they are based on a real Chinese family who were part of the Chinese Democracy Movement and inspired this story.

"Heart-pounding," "action-packed," "fast-paced." These are all terms that have been used to describe this book. At only 241 pages, this adventure/mystery almost begs to be read in one sitting. Ethan and Ti-Anna plan a covert operation to Hong Kong in an attempt to rescue Ti-Anna's kidnapped father from Chinese government agents. The two high schoolers believe they have a shot at this (when no one else can) because, as an American, Ethan is unlikely to be silenced by the Chinese government...and will also be reported missing if something goes wrong.

The compelling plotline drives the story, but there is also some terrific cultural and historical information to be gleaned. The underlying friendship between the two teens is the perfect balance to the adventure. And the mystery of what happened to Ti-Anna's father (and did the teens succeed) will keep readers' attention. After all, Ethan is "writing" this story as a letter to a judge, so we know right from the start that something might not have gone as planned...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Sea (Kling)

So, I was going to post the review for a different book today. 

But then I watched the movie "The Impossible" (starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) last night. And now I can't stop thinking about the movie...and the story...and the family that the movie is based on. I'm not kidding when I say that this movie really impacted me.

I decided to postpone my original review (the first in a segment I'm going to call "Series Saturday"), and go back to this one from 2010. Mainly because, like the movie, this book is based on the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Click here for the original post (which the author commented on, BTW!), or read below for my edited review...

Title: Sea
Author: Kling
Genre: Fiction, Survival, Romance

Pages: 336
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ages: 7th grade and up

Sienna Jones is known as Sea to her friends and family because of her love of the ocean and surfing.  Unfortunately, Sea doesn't go in the water any more because the plane her mother was flying crashed into the Indian Ocean and there were no survivors.  Sea doesn't do a lot of the things she used to because she is haunted by horrible nightmares of her mother's death.

But now, six months after the 2004 tsunami that devasted SE Asia, Sea has the opportunity to travel with her father to help survivors.  Sea reluctantly agrees to join the team.  In an Indonesian orphanage, she meets Deni, a scarred orphan young man who is more like Sea than anyone she has ever met.  She feels an instant connection to Deni and cannot stay away from him.  But what about her best friend/boy friend back home? 

I am a little late to the "love" party for this book.  (I actually read it right before school started, but am a little behind in my reviews).  This is a powerful debut novel that is equal parts adventure, survival, and romance.  It will make you sad, but it will also leave you hopeful.  Sea is a character that I know many of my readers will relate can understand where she is coming from, and will root for her to get to where she needs to be.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Dunk (Lubar)

Title: Dunk
Author: Lubar
Genre: Fiction, Summer, Humor, Friendship

Pages: 260
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ages: 8th grade and up

I am a fan of David Lubar. I often recommend his titles to my students. "Hidden Talents" is a classic "go to" recommendation for me; his "Weenies" short story collections are a good mix of  funny and spooky (perfect for the tween and young teen crowd); and I cannot tell you how much I LOVE "Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie." But somehow, I have never seen this book, which actually predates many of the aforementioned titles. So I decided to take full advantage of the public library and check this one out.

From the Publisher: 
Chad finds a whole new summer occupation--he wants to be the Bozo, the clown who sits inside the dunk tank and goads people into taking a shot. What could be better than using his razor-sharp wit against a random stranger? But Chad soon discovers he's entered a strange and twisted world where humor packs a loaded punch.

Seriously, how could you not like a book where the main character wants to be a dunk tank clown? Who comes up with a premise like that? Lubar has written a really witty character in Chad. But this book is actually more than just yelling funny insults at people as they pass by (although the insults are quite funny). 

Beneath the humor, there is quite a bit going on here: a story about taking care of your friends and family, having fun, falling in love, and growing up. It is also a terrific look at what it is like to live in a town that people flock to for summer vacation but you're stuck in all year long. This is a glimpse at the life of one such young man during the summer when everything doesn't go quite as he had planned. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Meant to Be (Morrill)

Title: Meant to Be
Author: Morrill
Genre: Fiction, Love, Travel, High School, Humor
Pages: 292
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ages: 7th grade & up

This is not a new title, but I think that this book also falls into the "neighbor girl borrowed and I never read" category, because I just discovered this book on my shelf last month. 

From the Publisher: Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that's also why she's chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB ("meant to be").

But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way.

I think this book is an enjoyable read, especially for all those teen girl fans of romantic comedies. I mean seriously...just look at the book cover. It practically screams "Rom-Com" movie poster! And even though the action in the book takes place over spring break, it's a great summer read because the travel details are part of the fun. 

This book is not the most surprising from start to finish, but you really can't help but like Julia, even when she's acting too smart for her own good. I really loved her and all her quirkiness...pocket Shakespeare? A pencil sharpener at all times? How could you not love this girl? And root for her to find the love that is "meant to be"?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Being Henry David (Armistead)

Title: Being Henry David
Author: Armistead
Genre: Fiction, Journey, Identity, Amnesia
Pages: 304

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Ages: High School

I read this book well in advance of it's publishing date, so I was able to include it on my Summer Reading list. In fact, I even marked it as one of my "top picks" for high school this summer.

From the Publisher: 

Seventeen-year-old "Hank" has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything --who he is, where he came from, why he's running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or "Hank" and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of--Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. 

When Hank finds himself in Walden, he must admit that he needs help and is luckily taken in by one of Walden Pond's park rangers, Thomas. Thomas has faced his own demons and is able to help Hank come to terms with his choices: keep running, or face the truth. And facing the truth means remembering what happened. It is obvious to readers all along that something tragic has happened to Hank, propelling him on this journey.

Armistead includes passages from Walden throughout the book, which adds an interesting contrast to Hank's quest. The Hank we are introduced to from the start is a sympathetic character that you want to be friends with. His relationships with everyone he meets and the life he carves out for himself feel like something he has earned and deserves. But his need for answers and desire not to ignore the memories as they come flooding back earn him our respect. 

This was filled with everything that you want in a book: adventure, mystery, a search for identity/answers/truth, romance, and a hope for redemption. I read one review that called this book "The Maze Runner meets High School Musical" and I felt, wow! That is so not what this book was. Or rather, this book is so much more than these labels. I wonder if the author was excited or saddened by these comparisons? All I know is that this book was unique and I feel like I am a better person for having traveled this journey with Hank.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Trailer Tuesday

This Trailer Tuesday (and all Trailer Tuesdays this summer) will also count for Book a Day reviews because it is a book that I included on my Summer Reading suggestions

I have already purchased copies for the library and will be booktalking this quite a bit when I return to school in the fall. I think that fans of dystopian series like Matched and The Hunger Games will enjoy this book. Happy Reading!

From the publisher:
Two of you exist.
Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: Matchbox Diary (Fleischman)

Title: Matchbox Diary
Author: Fleischman
Genre: Fiction, Picture Books, Family
Pages: 40
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Ages: 1st-3rd grades, and adults...(parents, grandparents, etc.)

Yes, I know, another picture book. I can't help it though because I really love this one! And since summer is often a time when we travel to grandma's house, this is a perfect book to bring along. Maybe it'll start conversations, or lead to your family recreating your own matchbox diary. I sure hope so!

From the publisher:
Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman and Bagram Ibatoulline tell a breathtaking immigration tale with appeal across generations. "Pick whatever you like most. Then I'll tell you its story." When a little girl visits her great-grandfather at his curio-filled home, she chooses an unusual object to learn about: an old cigar box. What she finds inside surprises her: a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather's diary, harboring objects she can hold in her hand, each one evoking a memory. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write the olive pit his mother gave him to suck on when there wasn't enough food; a bottle cap he saw on his way to the boat; a ticket still retaining the thrill of his first baseball game. With a narrative entirely in dialogue, Paul Fleischman makes immediate the two characters' foray into the past. With warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, Bagram Ibatoulline gives expressive life to their journey through time and toward each other.

I really can't say it any better than that. This is simply a beautiful and timeless book that all families should read together.

Book to Movie News: Maze Runner

Many of us at Evergreen are very excited for the upcoming Maze Runner movie! If you haven't read this series, you should take the summer to devour it in time for the February 2014 release date.

Recently, MTV (and then everyone else) published stills from the movie production. Click here to check them out!

And to say up to date on all the Maze Runner news, keep up with author James Dashner on his blog.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Thou Shalt Not Road Trip (John)

Title: Thou Shalt Not Road Trip
Author: John
Genre: Fiction, Road Trip, Family, Friendship, Love, Religion

Pages: 329
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ages: 7th-11th grades

This is not a new title but somehow I missed reading this when it came out. (That could have something to do with the neighbor girl borrowing it and maybe not getting it back to me right away). This is a definite must-read for summer, especially for anyone that will be traveling by car...with your crazy family.

From the publisher:
When sixteen-year-old Luke's book, Hallelujah, becomes a national bestseller, his publishing house sends him on a cross-country book tour with his older brother, Matt, as chauffeur. But when irresponsible Matt offers to drive Luke's ex–soul mate, Fran, across the country too, things get a little crazy. On the trip, Luke must loosen up, discover what it truly means to have faith, and do what it takes to get the girl he loves.

This book should resonate with teens, especially ones looking for an upbeat read this summer. Luke thinks he has all the answers but quickly finds out that he is in over his head (and who doesn't feel like that all the time?!). There is humor, adventure, and a little romance thrown in for good measure. The settings are great, and the quirky characters they encounter along the way add to the fun.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: Flame in the Mist (Grindstaff)

Title: Flame in the Mist
Author: Grindstaff
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure
Pages: 452
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ages: 4th-8th grades

I reviewed this book for the publisher and I'm posting below the booktalk that I wrote for their website. High fantasy is not my thing, and I thought this book might have been a little long for the intended audience, but I still think that if you like fantasy/adventure stories, you will enjoy this! And somehow I think I left it off my summer reading list, so I wanted to make sure that I let you know about it.

Jemma lives in a land of darkness, shrouded by an evil mist that keeps out the sun. Her family has ruled the land for centuries, using their dark powers to retain control. But Jemma has always looked and felt like an outsider, like she doesn’t belong. With her flame red hair and her outrage at the ghastly things that go on in the castle, she knows that something isn’t right. And on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, she finds out the horrible secret that her family has been keeping from her. Now, forced to flee into the forest and the danger that lurks there, Jemma is on the run with only her pet rats and an ancient book to keep her company. With the help of mysterious people she meets along the way, Jemma might just have a chance at making it out alive. But can she fulfill her prophecy and defeat the evil forces working to destroy her and the kingdom?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: Planet Thieves (Krokos)

Title: Planet Thieves
Author: Krokos
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Space Travels, Aliens, War

Pages: 253
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ages: 5th-8th grades

I am the first person to say that the outer space/alien science fiction genre is NOT my thing. So, when I find a book in what I call the Star Wars/Star Trek genre that I really enjoy, I know that most of my students will like it also, especially those that already are fans of the genre.

From the publisher:
Two weeks ago, thirteen-year-old Mason Stark and seventeen of his fellow cadets from the Academy for Earth Space Command boarded the SS Egypt . The trip was supposed to be a short routine voyage to log their required spacetime for summer quarter.But routine goes out the airlock when they're attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last sixty years.With the captain and crew dead, injured, or taken prisoner, Mason and the cadets are all that's left to warn the ESC. And soon they find out exactly why the Tremist chose this ship to attack: the Egypt is carrying a weapon that could change the war forever.Now Mason will have to lead the cadets in a daring assault to take back the ship, rescue the survivors, and recover the weapon. Before there isn't a war left to fight.

I discovered this author through another of his series starters, "False Memory" (which I loved and am anxiously awaiting the sequel to next month). This book is fast-paced with a sense of adventure that will keep the pages turning. I'm not sure that there was anything surprising in this book, but it was a good ride and time well spent. I can see that there will likely be a sequel, and rumor has it that the movie rights have already been snapped up! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Sequels/Series That you Love

For today's Book A Day, in honor of the 4th I thought I would highlight 4 books!

These are all sequels or next-in-series titles that you will enjoy (but you have to check out the first book if you haven't already)!

Outpost by Aguirre, the sequel to Enclave (book 3 coming this fall). I really like this dark, gritty dystopian series. Terrific for fans of The Hunger Games, and maybe those that aren't squeamish.

Formerly Shark Girl by Bingham, sequel to the VERY popular (at Evergreen) Shark Girl. Find out what happens next for the girl that survives a shark attack.

P.K. Pinkerton and the Petrified Man by Lawrence. Another sequel. This is another good mystery for the 5th-8th grade reader. A great gunslinging, shoot-'em-up, action-packed western.

Perfect Scoundrels by Carter. I LOVE ALLY CARTER AND EVERYTHING SHE WRITES. This is the 3rd book in her Heist Society series. Please, please, someone make these into movies!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: How My Summer Went Up in Flames (Doktorski)

Title: How My Summer Went Up In Flames
Author: Doktorski
Genre: Fiction, Summer, Road Trips, Love gone wrong, Friendship
Pages: 302
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Age: 7th grade and up

From the publisher:
Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious.
To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…

I really liked this book. And I LOVE Rosie's snarky personality, especially her observations of her male road trip companions. In addition to snark, Rosie is honest, sassy, and impulsive. Some of this clearly gets in the way of her common sense. But all of it makes her an endearing narrator that you can't help but root for. 

This book is a great ride from start to finish!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Nugget & Fang (Sauer)

Title: Nugget & Fang
Author: Sauer
Genre: Fiction, Picture Books, Friendship

Pages: 40
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ages: K-2nd grade

I know, I know, this is a picture book. But it's really cute, and I'm sure that some of you have to babysit little brothers and sisters (cousins, neighbor kids, etc) this summer and need books that you can read to them. And honestly, nothing says summer like a shark as a main character.

From the publisher:
In the deep ocean, tiny Nugget and big, toothy Fang get along swimmingly-until Nugget's first day of minnow school. There Nugget learns that minnows are supposed to be afraid of sharks! To regain Nugget's trust, Fang takes desperate (and hilarious) measures. But it's not until his big sharp teeth save the entire school that minnows learn this shark is no foe. 

I don't really have a whole lot to add to this summary other than the artwork really lends itself to this book and I think that it's a fun one for any kid who's a fan of Finding Nemo. Enjoy!

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