Thursday, March 29, 2012

Charity Hopping Around the World Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my Charity Hopping 
Around the World Giveaway 

The giveaway hop is being hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer, Reading Away the Days & Reading A Little Bit of Everything.  The other blogs hosting giveaways are listed below.

Purpose:  To promote a charity that I support.

Item being given: $20 Amazon Gift Card open internationally.

Charity being highlighted: Latter-day Saint Charities

Latter-day Saint Charities helps people become self-reliant and improve their quality of life through initiatives such as clean water, health, and food production. Latter-day Saint Charities also relieves suffering by providing life sustaining support during emergencies.

Currently they are receiving donations for:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Top Chapter Books of All Time (Stand Alones)

Here's a list of some of my favorite stand alone middle grade chapter books.  This list is not exhaustive by any means.  I still have many books in my to be read piles, some of which will undoubtedly become favorites.  But this list gives a glimpse into my reading preferences. Once again these are in no particular order.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

I've loved this story from the time I first read it.  It personifies friendship for me. I wanted friends like Charlotte and Wilber.
The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

I really liked the way Kirby merged the stories of Giuseppe, Hannah, and Frederick.  All three main characters were sympathetic and yet very different with very different problems. Giuseppe, who is trying to find a way back to his beloved family, and the magical violin that offers hope but also danger.  Hannah desperately trying to earn money to care for her family receives help from an unexpected source. Frederick bound and determined to be independent, but finds he needs help to complete his automaton.  A well-written, well-plotted, enjoyable debut.
  Fish by Gregory Mone--

The exciting adventure of a resourceful boy who discovers his hidden gift as a fortune-hunting pirate.

I'm not usually a big fan of pirate stories.  I guess I have a hard time seeing pirates as 'good guys' or heroes, but this book I really enjoyed. 

Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson

A mermaid haunts Adrianne's dreams . . . is she coming to warn her, save her, or drag her down into the depths of the briny sea forever?

I loved Adrianne as a character, she's feisty, brave, and true to what she knows is right despite the derision of others. See here for a more complete review.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him.

I've heard complaints about how realistic this book is and I admit there are several plot elements that aren't necessary to the story and are in fact hard to believe, but Doug still won me over.  I found myself cheering for him throughout the whole book.

No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman

Nobody understands Wallace Wallace. This reluctant school football hero has been suspended from the team for writing an unfavorable book report of Old Shep, My Pal. But Wallace won`t tell a lie-he hated every minute of the book! Why does the dog in every classic novel have to croak at the end? After refusing to do a rewrite, his English teacher, who happens to be directing the school play Old Shep, My Pal, forces him go to the rehearsals as punishment. Although Wallace doesn`t change his mind, he does end up changing the play into a rock-and-roll rendition, complete with Rollerblades and a moped!
This book is just plain funny.  It's fun to watch the chaos Wallace causes by changing the play.  And the effect he has on follow-the-rules-to-the-letter Rachel. Lots of fun.

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm
It isn′t easy being a pioneer in the state of Washington in 1899, but it′s particularly hard when you are the only girl ever born in the new settlement. With seven older brothers and a love of adventure, May Amelia Jackson just can′t seem to abide her family′s insistence that she behave like a Proper Young Lady. She′s sure she could do better if only there were at least one other girl living along the banks of the Nasel River. And now that Mama′s going to have a baby, maybe there′s hope.
May Amelia has such a unique voice I fell in love with her character almost immediately. Of course I have a soft spot in my heart for feisty heroines who don't wait around for the men/boys to save them. May Amelia fits that definition to a tee.

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

What would happen to a fairy if she lost her wings and could no longer fly? Flory, a young night fairy no taller than an acorn and still becoming accustomed to her wings — wings as beautiful as those of a luna moth — is about to find out. What she discovers is that the world is very big and very dangerous. But Flory is fierce and willing to do whatever it takes to survive. If that means telling others what to do — like Skuggle, a squirrel ruled by his stomach — so be it. Not every creature, however, is as willing to bend to Flory’s demands.
This book is beautifully put together.  The book design and illustrations are gorgeous and the writing is spot on.  I found it delightful to travel with Flory on her journey of discovery and the twist at the end was very fitting.

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Touch Blue and your wish will come true.
"Why take chances?" says eleven-year-old Tess Brooks. "Especially when it's so easy to let the universe know what you want by touching blue or turning around three times or crossing your fingers."
But Tess is coming to know that it's not always that simple.
The state of Maine plans to shut down her island's schoolhouse, which would force Tess's family to move to the mainland--and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. And Tess needs a plan of her own--and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess's wish come true or will her luck run out?

I loved Lord's first book, Rules so I was eager to read this one.  It did not disappoint. In fact I found I loved this one even more than the first one. One thing that I especially appreciated was how strong the setting was.  I felt like I could almost feel the ocean breezes.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. 

I love this book.  Not only are the illustrations fabulous, but the story is very appealing.  While the story is based on folktales, it holds together beautifully as a unique blending of folktale motifs.

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright

Skilley, an alley cat with an embarrassing secret, longs to escape his hard life dodging fishwives brooms and carriage wheels and trade his damp alley for the warmth of the Cheshire Cheese Inn. When he learns that the innkeeper is looking for a new mouser, Skilley comes up with an audacious scheme to install himself in the famous tavern. Once established in the inn, Skilley strikes a bargain with Pip, the intelligent mouse-resident, and his fellow mice. Skilley protects the mice and the mice in turn give to Skilley the delectable Cheshire cheese of the inn. Thus begins a most unlikely alliance and friendship. The cat and mouse design a plan to restore Maldwyn wounded raven and faithful guard in the service of Queen Victoria to his rightful place in The Tower, but first they must contend with a tyrannical cook, a mouse-despising barmaid, and an evil tomcat named Pinch. Will the famous author suffering from serious writer s block who visits the Cheshire Cheese pub each day be able to help?

I found this book delightful.  I wasn't sure at first because I am not a huge fan of Charles Dickens, but Dickens is a minor character.  The story focuses on Skilley, the cat, and Pip, the mouse.  I appreciated the emphasis on trying to correct mistakes.  There was a lot of wisdom in this story.

Here are some other books that I particularly love.  I just don't have time to summarize them.  
Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
This Island isn't Big Enough for the Four of Us by Gery Greer and Bob Ruddick
Punished by David Lubar
The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker
Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Cleaning Giveaway Winners

The winners of my Spring Cleaning Giveaway are...

Noël Kincaid
Elven Marie Johnson
 Shelby Lauren
Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all who participated.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Top Children's Nonfiction Chapter Books

I've been thinking for awhile about how I wanted to celebrate my one year blogiversary.  It actually passed in February but with everything going on at work and personally I didn't have time to really celebrate.  I am still pretty busy, but I've come up with an idea for what I want to do to celebrate.  For the next two weeks I will be posting about my favorite books of all time. Then I will host a giveaway where I offer my readers the chance to win a copy of one of my favorites (your choice).

Please keep in mind that these lists are not definitive.  There are many more books that I love and enjoy reading.  The books on these lists though are ones that I enjoy rereading when I have the time and that I love sharing or talking about. So, let's get started.  These books are in no particular order.

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow  
by Susan Bartoletti
Scholastic, 2005  (ISBN: 0-439-35379-3)

Bartoletti does a superb job of introducing the reader to some of the young people involved in Hitler's Youth Program.  Some of the young people are for Hitler and some were against, but for each, we get a glimpse of what it might have been like to live in Germany before and during World War II.  The stories and photographs present a compelling picture of a time when emotions were running high.  Books like this help children realize that history is not boring and dry, but fascinating and powerful.

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
by Jim Murphy, Houghton Mifflin Harcout, 2003 (ISBN: 9780395776087)

 There is nothing quite so fascinating as a scientific mystery, especially when it involves something like disease.  Murphy provides a fascinating account of one particular yellow fever epidemic that killed thousands.  Crises like this bring out both the best and the worst of people and Murphy doesn't shy away from the ugliness that such epidemics create.  The fact that mosquitoes carry yellow fever was not discovered until long after this series of events, but its interesting to read about the different opinions about the sources and treatments of the disease.

Chasing Lincoln's Killer
by James L. Swanson, Scholastic Press, 2009, (ISBN: 978-0-439-90354-7)

Few history books read like a novel, this one does.  Swanson follows the events of Lincoln's assassination through the death and trials of those involved.  The illustrations and photographs add the perfect touch, providing evidence of the events surrounding the murder and chase of Booth and his accomplices.

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2011 (ISBN: 978-0-375-84198-9)

I knew about Amelia Earhart and her abilities before reading this book, but I knew much more after finishing it.  The author provides not only a detailed account of her mysterious disappearance and the theories surrounding it, but a thorough explanation of her past, both good and bad.  Both Amelia's strengths and weaknesses quickly become apparent, both her accomplishments and her failures.  This creates a detailed picture of a woman who left her mark on history for better or worse.

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
by Sally M. Walker, Carolrhoda Books, 2009 (ISBN: 9780822571353)

I never realized before reading this book how much could be learned from bones and a few remnants of the past.  In this account, Walker takes us through the work and discoveries of those studying the past of Jamestown and the people who lived there.  Stories of sickness, war, and even servitude and murder are illuminated through the work of dedicated scientists.  This book is perfect for sharing with older students who see science and math as scary and intimidating.

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley
by Sally M. Walker, Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 2005 (ISBN: 1-57505-830-8)

The first submarine to ever sink a ship was the H.L. Hunley, built and sunk during the Civil War.  This book is the story of the creation and the first and also last mission of the H.L. Hunley.  The submarine was found in 1995 and she had quite the story to tell.   The book is divided into two parts.  The first part explains the history of the vessel as it was first known.  The second part details the careful work of scientists in studying the remains of the ship and her occupants.  A great way to introduce students to the fascinating world of archaeology. 

Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia
written by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009 (ISBN: 978-0-618-91645-0)

A great book that is part of a great series (Scientists in the Field), this book falls the work of Tom McCarthy as he travels through Mongolia trying to find and study the elusive snow leopard.  This is science in action, both the interesting and challenging aspects.  This series of books is a great way to introduce literature in the science curriculum.  These books give students the chance to see what science is like in the real world, rather than just words in a textbook.

Blizzard: The Storm That Changed America
written by Jim Murphy, Scholastic, 2000 (ISBN: 0-590-67310-6)

Weather and natural disasters can create powerful stories as people struggle to accept and survive what Mother Nature throws at them.  Jim Murphy tells the story of one such event. In March 1888, a major storm strikes the East Coast, wreaking havoc in both urban and rural areas.  I enjoy the way Murphy integrates general information about the storm with some of the experiences of individuals, it helps the story come to life, to feel more real.

Lafayette and the American Revolution
written by Russell Freedman, Holiday House, 2010 (ISBN: 978-0-8234-2182-4)

Lafayette, a French nobleman, came to America to help the colonists fight the British.  He did this on his own.  Lafayette was one of the few volunteers who had military training.  He quickly became one of Washington's trusted officers, despite his young age.  All this I've picked up while reading about the American Revolution.  But this book gave me a much better picture of a man uncomfortable with a life of leisure and societal expectations.  Not only does this book give the reader insights into an interesting individual but it gives the reader another look at the events that led to the founding of the United States of America.

The Many Faces of George Washingon: Remaking a Presidential Icon
written by Carla Killough McClafferty, Carolrhoda Books, 2011

George Washington is considered the father of our country.  Without his leadership and determined belief in democracy, the United States most likely would not exist as we know it today.  It's sad to think that we have almost no accurate images of the man.  This book provides the account of efforts to create models that accurately depicted our first president.  Not only is the book beautifully written and designed, but it addresses a topic I haven't seen covered anywhere else.

These are some of my favorite nonfiction reads, but I am always looking for great books to read.  If you have one you'd like to recommend, please do so. Thanks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Scary School Author Derek the Ghost Guest Post and Giveaway

Last week, I reviewed Scary School by Derek the Ghost.  A book I ended up liking more than I expected. See here for my full review.  Today, I am lucky to be able to share with you a great guest post by none other than Derek himself.  To win an ebook copy of the book just fill out the form below.

The Importance of Middle-Grade Fiction
Why Reading my Book Series Scary School is Guaranteed to Turn your Kid into a Well-adjusted, Ivy League-bound, World-beater Dynamo

By Derek the Ghost

            Let’s start off with this question. Why is reading important for children? Wait. I have better question. Why is absorbing a story in the form of text considered a superior means of story-absorption as opposed to pictures and sound through a television or movie screen?

            Back in the olden days before TV and movies, reading was the numero uno form of self-entertainment. However, like TV of today, using books to take in fictional stories was considered a highly frivolous activity. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only form of reading not considered frivolous was reading the bible.

            So why did the cultural paradigm shift? Television and movies became the dominant form of story dispersion, and suddenly books became the underdog. When books became the underdog, they went from frivolous to intellectually elitist practically overnight. You could argue the same thing happened with theater.

            So, are you actually smarter because you read, or is it just our culture’s perception of reading that merely makes you appear smarter?

            Here’s the answer. You’re actually smarter. 

            It goes without saying that reading requires a basic education. But more importantly, it requires that the brain function in a heightened state of stimulation called Alpha Mode. During Alpha Mode there’s an innumerable amount of split-second decisions taking place. The brain is constantly deciphering letters and interpreting their meaning while at the same time forming imagery to correlate with each phrase. It requires a lot of sub-conscious brain energy and millions of electrical reactions.

            Because reading requires so much brain energy, the brain becomes tired quickly and wants to switch to Beta Mode. Beta Mode is when you are spacing out, vegging out, or just hanging out. You are essentially on autopilot, just taking things in, but not actively participating. When you are driving a car, you are usually in Alpha Mode. But when you suddenly look up and realize you’ve driven ten miles past your freeway exit, that’s right… you switched over to Beta Mode, buster.

            The good news is that reading is like running. When you first start running you can only run a short distance before getting tired. Reading is the same way. The more you read, the more “brain exercise” you’re getting, and staying in Alpha Mode for longer stretches without getting tired becomes much easier. This effect bleeds over into all facets of life. You’ll be able to study longer and more effectively, retain more information, and work more thoroughly and patiently for extended hours. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did this better than anyone.

            Now let me ask you this: Why were kids who had never read anything longer than a 150-page Goosebumps book so eager to read a 750-page Harry Potter book? And why were they able to do it so effortlessly, when reading just one chapter of a schoolbook feels like a Herculean labor?

            Because they loved it. Reading Harry Potter was as enjoyable to most kids (if not more so) than playing video games or watching cartoons. The pleasure of reading those books caused kids’ brains to squirt dopamine into their system, making them feel euphoric and self-confident. There’s something books provide that all their other forms of entertainment cannot – a deep, almost familial bond with the characters. Only books can create that on such a profound level. Remember Kathy Bates in Misery? That’s the dark side of it, but I don’t think anyone went bat-#$#@ crazy when Friends was cancelled.

            The great thing about Harry Potter was the after-shock it created in the middle-grade and YA book market. Kids were addicted to the book. The pleasure they got from the suspense, humor, mystery, and triumph had shot buckets of dopamine into their systems and no other form of entertainment could match that natural high. So, the middle-grade and YA book market exploded with kids seeking their next fix. When the Harry Potter fans grew up, they were naturally attracted to edgier, more adult fare that reflected their changing selves, and the YA market skyrocketed, heralded by Twilight and now The Hunger Games.

            Which brings me to my book series, Scary School. With these books, I had only one goal. I was not trying to write to the best middle-grade series ever. I wasn’t trying to win any Newberry medals for literature.  All I wanted to do with the Scary School series was make kids laugh. That’s it.

            With my background in comedy writing, I felt that I could maybe write the funniest (not the best) middle-grade book ever. Go big or go home, right? I wanted to have at least three laugh-out-loud moments on every page. Did I succeed? You’ll have to tell me, but the most often used words in the reviews of the book have been “hilarious” and “laugh-out-loud funny.” So far so good.

            What will happen when your kids read Scary School will be something very magical. It may very well be the first chapter book your kid reads as well as the first chapter of a life of profound and meaningful achievement. It may also be something a reluctant reader gives a shot because it actually looks fun with that zombie skateboarding kid on the cover. Maybe the only reason your kid gets it is because I’m signing copies at the local bookstore, so you think it would be neat for your kid to have a signed book. Let’s play out that scenario:       
            I sign the inside jacket of Scary School Book One and write him or her a special message with a funny drawing. Your kid is much more excited to receive it than you thought he/she would be.
            That night, you hear laughter from across the house late at night. Your kid is supposed to be asleep but is staying up in bed reading Scary School. You figure that’s okay, so you let him/her keep reading, and you keep hearing laughter until midnight. The laughter is forging an imprint on your kid’s brain that reading=fun.

            After finishing Scary School, you child will seek out more books to try and recreate that boisterous experience.

            In the process, the child will continuing growing up, always reading and seeking that next great story. While other kids are watching TV and living their lives in Beta Mode, your child’s brain will be in Alpha Mode 1,000% more often. The heightened brain stimulation for long hours will increase your child’s cognitive functioning far past his/her peers. Not only that, your child will be armed with amazing moral and practical lessons learned throughout the Scary School book series that helps him/her adjust to new situations, treat people with respect and kindness, and fuel him/her with a yearning to make the world a better place.

            This leads your child into doing community service, building the next great invention, and becoming class president.

            Harvard and Yale both offer your child full scholarships, but he/she chooses to cash in on his new invention money and attends Oxford because Scary School taught him/her the value of seeking adventure and meeting different kinds of people from all over the world.

            You don’t miss him/her as you otherwise might have because in the future there’s holographic communication where it seems like you’re actually sitting and talking in the same room together.

            After graduation, your child comes back home where he/she is probably a DA, a famous architect, a prodigious scientist, or CEO of that hot new startup. He/She comes over for dinner one night and puts a knapsack down on the sofa. It falls over, and amongst the futuristic gadgets, you notice an old, dusty copy of Scary School – that book your child read in one all-nighter back in middle school. That book purchased on a whim because the author happened to be signing at the store. You open it up, and read what is says where I signed the inside of the jacket:

Dear (your kid’s name), Have Fun at Scary School! – Derek the Ghost


For more info the Scary School series, fun and games, and even tour the school and meet the students and faculty, please visit  Scary School #2 – Monsters on the March will be released June 26, 2012 online and in bookstores everywhere.  

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop Winner

The Winner of my Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway is...


I have email the winner. She has 48 hours to get back with me or I will choose another winner.  Thanks to all for participating. Be sure to check back often.  I have giveaways every month and I will have another one next week to celebrate my one year blogiversary.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dusty Bookshelf Challenge 2012: Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School by Andrew Clements

Book 1: We the Children (978-1-4169-3886-6)
Book 2: Fear Itself (978-1-4169-3887-3)
Book 3: The Whites of Their Eyes (978-1-4169-3888-0)
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010-2012
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from personal copies. 

Book 1:
Benjamin Pratt’s school is about to become the site of a new amusement park. It sounds like a dream come true! But lately, Ben has been wonder if he’s going to like an amusement park in the middle of his town—with all the buses and traffic and eight dollar slices of pizza. It’s going to change everything. And, Ben is not so big on all the new changes in his life, like how his dad has moved out and started living in the marina on what used to be the "family” sailboat. Maybe it would be nice if the school just stayed as it is. He likes the school. Loves it, actually. It’s over 200 years old and sits right on the harbor. The playground has ocean breezes and the classrooms have million dollar views…MILLION DOLLAR views. And after a chance—and final—run-in with the school janitor, Ben starts to discover that these MILLION DOLLAR views have a lot to do with the deal to sell the school property. But, as much as the town wants to believe it, the school does not belong to the local government. It belongs to the CHILDREN and these children have the right to defend it! Don’t think Ben, his friend Jill (and the tag-along Robert) can ruin a multimillion dollar real estate deal? Then you don’t know the history and the power of the Keepers of the School. A suspenseful six book series, book one, We the Children, starts the battle on land and on sea. It’s a race to keep the school from turning into a ticket booth and these kids are about to discover just how threatening a little knowledge can be.
 Book 2:
Time is ticking as the countdown to Ben Pratt’s school’s total demolition continues. Ben has been given a handful of clues that could help them save the school, but they are all written in maritime riddles. “After five bells sound, time to sit down.” What the heck does that mean? It’s hard to know where to begin when Ben and Jill don’t even know what they are looking for. All Lyman, the snake posing as the school janitor, needs to know, though, is that they are looking, and that could mean the end of the 30-million-dollar development deal that pays his salary. (Which, by the way, is MUCH larger than what a typical janitor makes.) As Lyman lurks in the shadows—and sometimes not in the shadows—Ben and Jill have to add another to-do to their list of things to accomplish in the next twenty-one days: (1) Figure out the clues left by past Keepers of the School groups, (2) figure out how these clues will help them save the school, and (3) stay one step ahead of Lyman. That’s the mission…which seems, at times, impossible. The second book in this riveting and mysterious six-book series is as action-packed as the first one, culminating in a faceoff between Ben, Jill, and Lyman. “After five bells sound, time to sit down” makes for a good riddle, but Ben and Jill also knows when it’s time to stand up…for Oakes School and for themselves.
Book 3:
This could be the last great Memorial Day weekend on Barclay Bay, and Ben knows it. This time next year, he might not be able to stand in the yard of the Oakes School and watch the harbor shake off winter—boats buzzing just beyond the bulkhead and families spreading picnics in the fields. If the school gets torn down and replaced by an amusement park, the town will never be the same. But that’s only if the school gets torn down. Ben and Jill are determined to keep that from happening. And the evil janitor Lyman has taken note. He’s following their every move—and undoing their progress along the way. Good thing Ben and Jill have a secret weapon. (Who knew that annoying Robert Gerritt would be such a spy wiz?) But Lyman has a secret weapon as well: a vicious guard dog. These kids are smart, but can they outsmart Lyman—and his beast—as the clock tick, tick, ticks toward total demolition?
I found this series quite intriguing.  I've always loved books that revolve around puzzles and mysteries. This book is full of both.  Ben and Jill are quite likable protagonists.  Lyman makes a good villain, just creepy enough to add tension to the story.  He is unfortunately rather one dimensional, no really grey areas, just black. And I did have to wonder how the adults could be so clueless about what was going on, but as a teacher librarian, I realize that I don't know everything that goes on in the library or in the school.

In terms of plot, the story moved along nicely as Ben and Jill struggled to figure out the clues they had been given.  The clues are intended to lead the children to resources that will aid them in fighting the demolition of the school.  It was interesting to follow the thoughts and actions of Ben and Jill as they worked through each puzzle and tried to keep ahead of Lyman, no easy task.  I didn't find the story completely believable however for several reasons. One, the demolition crew would not actually be allowed to start preparing for demolition until the children were gone for the summer, it would not be safe.  Also, would items hidden a couple of hundred years ago really stay hidden for that long? I doubt it.

My favorite part of this series is the setting.  The author does a superb job creating a school with character and a fascinating history.  The woodwork sounds gorgeous. And the idea of secret hiding places in the school is a fun idea to contemplate.  What a great place to play hide and seek. :)  But once again there is the issue of the building clearly being a historical treasure.  I'm not sure the school district would sell a place of such historical significance.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this series, there were just a few things I had to overlook.  I'm not sure children would even notice those things however so it makes a fun read for students who like school adventure stories.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Talk Tuesday: Same, Same, but Different byJenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

written and illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Henry Holt and Company, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8946-2
32 p.
Grades PreK-2
Reviewed from personal copy.

BLURB: Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. They are pen pals. By exchanging letters and pictures, they learn that they both love to climb trees, have pets, and go to school. Their worlds might look different, but they are actually similar. Same, same. But different! Through an inviting point-of-view and colorful, vivid illustrations, this story shows how two boys living oceans apart can be the best of friends.
I enjoyed reading and sharing this book. Not only is the language simple and straightforward, but the illustrations compliment the writing perfectly. The illustrations are bright and colorful and highlight the similarities and differences between the two boys.  I've really come to love collage as an art form and this book demonstrates the characteristics that make collage so unique.  I had a fun discussion with a group of kindergartners about the different materials used in collage and how that effected the feel of the book. It was great.

It was interesting to listen to the comments of the children as they looked at the pictures illustrating some of the differences between the places that Elliot and Kailash live.  The elephant on the same street as cars, pedestrians and carts especially caught their attention.  This book provides a nice way to introduce to children the idea that people in other places are both the same and different as they are.

Head on over to The Book Butcher for more great recommendations for Book Talk Tuesday.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Cleaning Book Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my Spring Cleaning Giveaway.

 This giveaway is being sponsored by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.  Make sure to visit here to see the list of great giveaways.

I've spent several hours looking through my numerous stacks of book trying to decide which books really aren't my thing or that I'm simply not likely to ever get around to reading.  I'm hoping that these books can find new homes.  I have a bunch that I'd like to giveaway, but I can only afford to ship three.  So here's how this is going to work.


  1. You must be 13 or older to enter.
  2. Unfortunately, shipping costs force me to limit this giveaway to the U.S.
  3. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
  4. There will be THREE winners.  First winner gets first choice of the six books listed below, second winner gets second choice, and third winner gets third choice.
  5. I will notify the winner within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway.  The winner then has 48 hours to respond before I chose another winner.
Here are the books I am offering:

Llona Reese is used to living on the run. After the Vykens killed her parents, she knew they would eventually come for her too. But she never felt ready to face them---until now. Defying the Auran Council and everything she's been taught, Llona must learn to use her power over light as a weapon if she wants to survive.
 What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world. KARMA is the story of how a young woman, straddling two cultures and enduring personal loss, learns forgiveness, acceptance and love.

The world knows Jack London as a writer who lived his own thrilling, real-life adventures. But there are parts of his life that have remained hidden for many years, things so horrifying even he couldn’t set them down in writing. These are the Secret Journeys of Jack London.

We meet Jack at age seventeen, following thousands of men and women into the Yukon Territory in search of gold. For Jack, the journey holds the promise of another kind of fortune: challenge and adventure. But what he finds in the wild north is something far more sinister than he could ever have imagined: kidnapping and slavery, the murderous nature of desperate men, and, amidst it all, supernatural beasts of the wilderness that prey upon the weakness in men’s hearts. 

Abigail Thaddeus lives with her grandparents in an old, spooky, ramshackle mansion. While her life is certainly unusual, Abigail finds it just plain boring. That is, until she receives an anonymous letter that sends her on a quest to research mythical creatures.


Wolf Mark by Joseph Bruchac, is about Luke who discovers his Abenaki family's secret a skin that will let him walk as a wolf and must save his father from kidnappers.



Friday, March 16, 2012

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my Lucky Leprechaun giveaway. This giveaway is being hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, Books Complete Me, and Author Cindy Thomas. See here for a list of the other giveaways.

I thought long and hard about how to do this giveaway.  I wanted to do something different but still relatively simple. So, for this giveaway I am offering, 

a Middle Grade or YA book or books from 
The Book Depository up to $20, 
the book needs to have green on the cover (we are celebrating St. Patrick's Day after all).


  1. You must be 13 to enter.
  2. You must live somewhere The Book Depository ships to.  Check here.
  3. One entry per person. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.
  4. Don't feel like you absolutely have to pick a cover with green if you can't find one you like.  But look below for some ideas. Feel free to add comments with further ideas and I'll add them. Thanks.
  5. Winner will be contacted within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway.  The winner has 48 hours to respond or prize will be given to someone else.

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