Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Nevermoor - The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow was born on the eve of eventide which is something like the turn of a new decade. If you are born on eventide you are doomed to die on your 11th birthday. You are also an unlucky child and are responsible for all of the poor luck and misery that surrounds you because you are the ultimate scapegoat. Morrigan is marked for sadness and her family, for the most part, ignores her. 

Morrigan's family solemnly prepares for her death on the eve of her birthday, but she is ultimately rescued from the Hunters of Death by a mysterious man named Jupiter North. He whisks her to the magical land of Nevermoor where he introduces her to a whole new world. She discovers friendships, family, freedom and acceptance. She is also enrolled in a series of tests for the Wundrous Society. She has to prove her talents and abilities to the society but she has no idea what they are. Her mentor, Jupiter, assures her that she has nothing to worry about. However, the trials she has to face leaves her in much doubt. Some sinister characters are sabotaging her efforts along the way. She has also been warned that she doesn't belong and will be sent back home if she can't prove herself. 

The world Morrigan lives in is fantastical but you will recognize many elements of her life which parallel a realistic world. There are lots of delightful customs and details that are fun to learn about in the Nevermoor society. From dragon flying to ever changing decor to match your mood, there are many whimsical descriptions of Nevermoor life. 

The author plans on writing 7 books in this series and I found that it is the closest to being Harry Potter like without exactly mirroring that series. Movie rights have already been purchased and publishers are talking about this book being the next popular series.  As I read this book, I also thought it was perfect for Harry Potter fans.  I look forward to seeing if this title becomes popular. I know I will be promoting this series. 

The author is from Australia and now lives in London. This title won't be eligible for a Maud Hart Lovelace nominee since the author is outside the United States. But I still highly recommend this book. The reading level is 5.6 and has 481 pages. Both boys and girls will like this book. I give it a 4 out of 4. 

  • Print Length: 481 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 31, 2017)

Watch the following video where the author reads from her book!

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea

The kids in a 6th grade class get a teacher who was asked to come out of retirement for the year. Mrs. Wood is a great teacher and has a no nonsense approach and knows how to manage a classroom. She also excels at the daily read aloud time and it becomes the highlight of the day for some of the students.  Meanwhile the statewide testing focus causes her administration to ask her to start practice test sessions early in the school year and require cutting out non essentials such as birthday parties, read alouds, and even some recess time. The students feel the pressure from their own lives and school and when the time comes to take the test, team up and devise a plan to cheat in order to all get perfect scores.  This results in some consequences they hadn't planned on. 

The author, Rob Buyea, used to teach fourth grade and so I expect that his realistic stories about school will be described correctly.  His experience with testing is not like my school.  All our tests are done on the computer and not paper and pencil.  And even when it was with paper and pencil, none of the tests were exactly in the same order. It would have been impossible to cheat the way the ids in this story do. Our students don't receive results of their tests until way into  the summer. The results don't have as much impact on them. It does however impact the teacher, and the report card of the school. 

Buyea uses the multiple points of view in his previous books and does the same in this book as well. Each student has some issue in their own life which shades how well they are doing in school. From no time to study because of sports, bullying, dyslexia, to always wanting to perform perfectly.  The consequences for each student helps family and school understand more about the difficulties the students are dealing with at school and home. 

This is a fun and fast read. You have to keep the characters straight but it is pretty easy if you remember to read the chapter headings. I give this book a 3 out of 4 rating. It is a 4.7 reading level.

  • Print Length: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (October 3, 2017)

Monday, May 28, 2018

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

This book is a fast read because it is hard to put down. The main character, Aven, was born without arms. She was put up for adoption and a couple from Kansas fell in love with her at first sight and adopted her. Aven's parents raise her to do things by herself and figure out ways that she can do everything, even without arms.  Aven's mother nicknames her Sheba because she explains that every foster parent did everything for her before she was adopted...just like the Queen of Sheba. Aven becomes very capable, and has a hilarious sense of humor and enormous confidence. She is just a likable, positive and perky character. 

When Aven is in 8th grade, her father gets a job in Arizona working as a manger for a rundown western theme park.  The family moves and Aven finds that making friends is more difficult than she imagined. She grew up with her friends in Kansas and so she was not a curiosity in their eyes.  Because lunchtime is difficult, she avoids it but discovers a few other kids who also avoid the crowd for various reasons.  Aven takes them on as friends. She helps Conner who she meets in the library look for support for his Tourette's syndrome and she befriends an overweight boy who eats outside everyday.  She does this with plenty of humor and charm. 

Meanwhile there is a mystery to solve at the theme park and as Aven meets its quirky characters, she has some questions about who owns the park and just why her father was asked to manage a park that is practically bankrupt. The conclusion surprised me and I found the book to be an encouraging read. 

If you liked Wonder by Palacio, then this is what you should read next. The book is for readers from grades 5-8. The reading level is 4.6. I would recommend it as a read aloud and it would be a great Division 2 book for the Maud Hart Lovelace Award.  I rate it 5 out of 4. 

Print Length: 274 pages
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books (September 5, 2017)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lemons by Melissa Savage

I am always excited to read a book by a Minnesota author. This book is a winner! Lemons is about a 9 year old named Lemonade Liberty Witt whose mom taught her the motto that "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Her single mother has instilled a postiive outlook and attitude to her daughter. However, when her mother dies, Lemonade goes to live with a grandfather she has never known. The story revolves around why the  relationship had been estranged and how Lemonade adjusts to a new family. 

Lemonade connects with a 11 year old neighbor named Tobin Sky who is searching for bigfoot. The town they live in is called the "Bigfoot Capital of the World". He invites Lemonade to join his detective agency.  Together they go on detective adventures when neighbors call with potential sightings.  Of course, as a reader, I wondered where this would lead. Will this book be fantasy or realistic fiction?  I am not going to say how it turns out, but be aware, you will find yourself wondering where the plot will lead. 

What a wonderful book!  The setting is during 1975.  The author purposefully chose this era in order to eliminate all of the modern communication technology, such as cell phones and the internet, which would probably change the dynamic of the story. This story is funny, heartwarming, and maybe a little crazy at times.  It really shows how children can make it through tough times in their life. 

I would love to see this as a Maud Hart Lovelace nominee. It is great for both boys and girls, a good read aloud, a fourth grade reading level and good for Division 1. I rate it 4 out of 4. 

  • Print Length: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication Date: May 2, 2017

Anne of Green Gables

The Great American Read is going on this summer on PBS.  Did you watch the show on May 22nd? Here is the link in case you want to catch up.  The Great American Read  You can vote for your favorite books out of the 100 titles that are featured all summer. One of the books I voted for was Anne of Green Gables b y L. M. Montgomery. 

Who doesn't just adore Anne!  I have a kindergartner student this year who is a Anne of Green Gables act and look alike!   Her hair isn't ginger but should be.  She has a continual positive monologue with boundless energy just like Anne in the novel.  

Years ago when I worked in a nursing home, the director of nursing decided to have a read aloud everyday.  She chose Anne of Green Gables.....unfortunately everyone fell asleep.  She said all of the descriptions made for a soothing sound. But I did think what a good choice....written in 1908 with a lot of girlhood memories for the residents. 

I didn't read Anne until I was an adult and adored it and read the entire series.  When the new graphic novel came out which is written by Mariah Marsden and illustrated by Brenna Thummler, I heard it was terrific.  I was doubtful because I wasn't sure if the story would really translate well into graphics.  So, I read the book.  I loved it....and I laughed and cried. It brought back the storyline to me really well.  Another teacher read the book after my recommendation and felt the same.  The true test was giving the book to a teacher who hadn't read the book. Unfortunately, it fell flat for her.  She had a hard time figuring out the characters and didn't feel all of the emotions that I experienced.  I suspect that this graphic novel is best read by someone who has already read the novel. 

Here is a page from the book that I really was a two page spread. 

I also heard that there was a new Anne of Green Gable movie that came out in 2016.  I watched it on Amazon Prime and loved it.  Don't read the reviews because most hated the new version and kept referring to the 1985 version with Megan Follows as their favorite. Now, I admit, that version was awesome but I also really liked the new version. I think if you watched the 2016 version first, it would become a favorite too. 

So, try one of the Anne of Green Gables books or movies and enjoy the wonderful story of a poor orphan who succeeds trials and troubles with her boundless energy and positive attitude.

  • Print Length: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (October 24, 2017)
  • Publication Date: October 24, 2017

Monday, May 21, 2018

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Fourth grader, Amy walks into her school library one day and discovers that her favorite book is no longer available for check out because it has been banned by the school board. She discovers that there is a list of books that were also removed.  Not only were they removed, but they were not even given a chance to go through a formal reconsideration committee. So Amy starts to hunt down copies of these banned books and even spends her own money to buy a few. Other kids start to find out that she has the banned books and ask to borrow them. Her locker becomes known as the BBLL or Banned Books Locker Library! The kids realize that they can do something about the problem especially when more and more books are also removed. They fight back in a clever way which makes for a satisfying conclusion. 

I connected to this book immediately because Amy loved the same book I did when I was her age. It was From the Mixed up files by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. And of course, as an elementary librarian, this setting is my everyday life! This book is a fun, fast, and easy read and feels like a situational comedy where everyone learns great lessons at the end of the show.  I rate it 4 out of 4 and recommend it as a great addition to any elementary library.  It would be a great read aloud and be a great title for the Maud Hart Lovelace nominees in the future.  

  •  257 pages
  • Tor Books (August 29, 2017)
  • 4.5 Reading Level

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach

I picked this book up when I was on vacation. It reminded me of a previous vacation to Yosemite National Park a few summers ago. I can't resist books with connections to places I have visited. 

The story starts out with the main character,  12 year old Lizzie Durango,  describing the wolves she has been studying at the zoo where she lives.  Her father is the head zookeeper at a California wildlife park not too far from Yosemite National Park.  She is right at home at the zoo with their house actually on the zoo property. 

The wolves are a new exhibit and they fascinate her. One day she discovers a strange boy is actually living behind the elephant enclosure and befriends this runaway named Tyler.  They become fast friends and discover that as the wolves began to get sick and die, something mysterious might be happening instead of natural causes. 

Through some sneaking around they find themselves in the middle of Yosemite National Park having to survive in the wilderness at night with practically nothing but a bit of water and some scraps of food. A side mystery is the legend of naturalist John Muir's lost cabin that no one has ever found in Yosemite. They are hopeful that they can figure out where it was in the park. 

I enjoyed this book and found the details very interesting about wolves and John Muir and Yosemite.  They mystery ended a bit flat for me and I found myself that all there was to it?  The characters were a delight and the general plot made this book a fun read.  I will still recommend the book despite the ending though!

Age Range: 9 - 1410 - 14
Grade Level: 4 - 6
Reading Level:  4.65.2

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher:Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (October 11, 2016)
Rating:  4 out of 4

This book reminded me the of mystery series set in a zoo by Stuart Gibbs where Teddy Fitzroy who lives at FunJungle solves mysteries there.