Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre

"We spent the summer figuring out a Civil War mystery and finding Gold!" page 80

Age Range: 9-12
Grade Level: 4th - 7th
Reading Level: 4.4
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (September 29, 2015)
Rating: 4 out of 4

When the county announces that it is taking her house, Lou and her best friend, Benzer, endeavor to save the house by solving a mystery about a cache of Civil War gold stolen by her notorious ancestor.

Lou prays for an exciting summer and then she discovers that her family will have to leave their home because of an eminent domain issue with the city wanting to claim her family's land. This was not the excitement she was hoping for. Her best friends join her in figuring out how to protect Lou's home and in the process they discover a diary from the Civil War written by an ancestor she is named after - Louise Duncan Mayhew. Murder, thievery, heroes,The Underground Railroad, and the possibility of hidden gold are in the family history. They also begin to understand the role that slaves played in the Civil War and in their own family and how some of the prejudice still exists in their town today. 

The story takes place in the south in Tennessee and it has a humorous and madcap type of storyline. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from the diary of Louise Duncan Mayhew which gives you background to the history of the Civil War from a personal point of view. One of the characters I especially liked was the grandmother.  She is a funny, independent, and modern grandmother with plenty of comments and funny opinions. 

A touch of history, a lot of summer fun, and lessons to learn make this a good book for kids to read.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

"Dear Godmother, nobody listens to me...I am sick and tired of everything." page 13

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 3rd Grade 
Reading Level: 4.1
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (March 28, 2017)
Rating: 4 out of 4

Unhappy queen-in-training Cora receives a pet crocodile from her fairy godmother, which disrupts her mundane daily routine.

This book is a picture book masquerading as chapter book. The audience is for younger students but it looks like a book for older students.. I put it into the Fiction section of my library but I think I will put it into my JR Fiction section instead.  It is really a "chapter book".  This is a kind of book that I call fiction on training wheels.  You get a lot of picture support, not too long of a story and the book is aimed at the lower grades in content.

This book is a cute story about a princess who longs for a dog but is told no repeatedly. The nanny says dogs are too dirty, the Queen says she is too busy to have a dog, and the King is too busy to answer her request. So, she writes to her Godmother and the next day a box with holes punched in the top appears in her room.  It is a crocodile....her new pet. The crocodile substitutes for the princess and she runs off and enjoys her day doing exactly what she wants to do. Meanwhile, the crocodile causes chaos in the castle. Changes are about to happen in Princess Cora's life after this crazy day. 

This would be a great read aloud for younger classes and perfect for the princes book requests!  I rate it a 4 out of 4. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

"Through her years of using Book Scavenger, she'd become accustomed to keeping an eye out for the odd detail." page 185

Age Range: 9 - 14 years
Grade Level: 4 - 6
Reading Level: 5.5
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition, Fifth Printing edition (June 2, 2015)
Rating: 3 out of 4

When 12-year-old Emily teams up with James to follow clues in an odd book, they hope to figure out its secrets before the men who attacked Emily's hero, publisher Garrison Griswold, come after them. 

This book is a dream story for those readers who love puzzles and codes. The entire book is based on a game played in San Francisco where Emily finds a book clue in a book scavenger game that hasn't even started yet. The inventor of the game was mugged and the first book clue was accidentally stashed. The criminals are after Emily and her book!

San Francisco, Edgar Allen Poe and the Beat Generation of authors are focuses of this book. Since most 4th - 6th graders have limited if any knowledge of these topics, I think it may be a stumbling block for some comprehension and interest in their reading. At least I found it true for me as an adult.  I wish the book had connections more in line with the grade level it targets.  

I got a good start to this book, but I found the ending to get long and wished for a quicker wrap up. Overall, I liked the main characters and the quirky family Emily lived with. I also felt that the teacher character in the book left us hanging. Perhaps he was a red herring and his appearance was to trick the reader into thinking he had more to do with the mystery. It looks he appears again in book #2.

I rate this book a 3 out of 4 because of my concerns about the background knowledge. I think such a game might be fun for a puzzle hobbyist!

Mr. Quisling is up to something mysterious, and Emily and James are on high alert. First, there's a coded note, and then Emily and James uncover a trail of encrypted messages in books by Mark Twain hidden through Book Scavenger. Book #2

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Top 17 Middle Grade Books I Read This Year

These are the TOP 17 Middle Grade Books I read this year. 

I went through my list of books and chose the top 17 middle grade books. (Not necessarily 2017 copyright.)   Lots of great reading this year.  I read a total of 95 books in 2017.   I started keeping track of adult books later in the year and so this total includes all my reading after a certain point. My goal is to read more adult books this year so it is a good decision to keep track of them too!  Below are links to my book reviews.

Circus Mirandus
Connect The Stars
It Ain't So Awful Falafel
Maxi's Secret
My Diary from the Edge of the World
One Amazing Elephant
Real Friends
Space Case
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart
The Flinkwater Factor
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Someday Birds
The Unwanteds
Wolf Hollow

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was my favorite adult book this year. I raved about it and gave my copy to many people to read. I have linked my review in the title above.  This is must read book!

Star of the North Book Nominee 2017-2018 Videos

I have four videos to share with you that are part of the Star of the North Nominees for 2017-2018. 
This is a selection of 10 quality new picture books that are shared with elementary kids in Minnesota. They get to vote on their favorite and the winner is proclaimed the Star of the North Book Winner for the year. 

I created three  videos with my favorite website called Adobe Spark.  I used the video feature to create two of the videos.

Last year, STEAM teacher, Mr. Jones did a video on Emmanuel's Dream which was a nomination for last year's list of books.  Our students loved it and are still asking for this book. One of the Rochester media specialists asked him to do another one for One Plastic Bag.  He did and we are pleased to use his video this year. 

Lost. Found. Narrated by Diane Yliniemi

Good Night Owl Narrated by Diane Yliniemi

The Night Gardener Narrated by Diane Yliniemi

One Plastic Bag Narrated by Mr. Jones - STEAM Teacher


Sunday, January 7, 2018

My Newbery Contenders: Refugee & Wishtree

If I was on the Newbery committee this year, (I am not!) I would pick Refugee and Wishtree as winners! Both were well written and had a great story. Both books moved me and contain important themes about immigration and community.  Refugee is for grades 4 and up. Caution sensitive readers because it is intense. Wishtree is great for 2nd grade and up.  It would make a great classroom read aloud.

Here is my review of Refugee Refugee Review

Here is my review of WishtreeWishtree Review

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

"Compared to being kidnapped, held at gunpoint, and time traveling, this plane ride is going to be one of the least scary things you've ever done." p 230

Age Range: 10- 13 years
Grade Level: 4 - 8
Lexile Measure: 820 (Grade 5.1)
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books (April 5, 2016)
Rating: 5 out of 4

In 1940 England, Charlotte must decide whether to stay with her best friend or journey to another time and place.

This book combines the historical setting of  World War II  England with time traveling. I say it is a mash up of the books The War That Saved My LIfe and A Wrinkle in Time. I usually like time travel books but sometimes they can get too technical or confusing. This book doesn't go that far. Charlotte ends up  traveling from 1940 to current day in a small town in Wisconsin.  She has been raised by a father who is a scientist researching for the military on how to use time travel for military purposes. One night Charlotte and her best friend are kidnapped and threatened with their lives. Charlotte happens to see a time travel hole and dives in and ends up in Wisconsin. Even though no one can figure out where she came from she eventually finds herself in a very loving foster care home.  Of course, she tries to figure out how to get back to her past which includes much research in the local library. She makes the best of her situation but she is always tuned into how to get to her past. 

The conclusion of this book is most satisfying and makes this book such a great read.  I rated it 5 out of 4 because I just couldn't put it down and loved how the author ended her story.