Tuesday, September 30, 2014

EARLY CHAPTER BOOK REVIEW: Rise of the Earth Dragon by Tracey West


The DRAGON MASTERS series is "How to Train Your Dragon" meets the DRAGON SLAYERS' ACADEMY!

This series is part of Scholastic's early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow!

DRAGON MASTERS has it all! Dragons, a Dragon Stone, a king, a wizard, and magic! In the first book in this fully-illustrated series, 8-year old Drake is snatched up by King Roland's soldier and taken to the castle. He is to be trained as a Dragon Master. At the castle, he is joined by three other young Dragon Masters-in-training: Ana, Rori, and Bo. The Dragon Masters must learn how to connect with and train their dragons--and they must also uncover their dragons' special powers. Does Drake have what it takes to be a Dragon Master? What is his dragon's special power?


Rise of the Earth Dragon is a delightful early chapter book for the dragon-loving young reader. Drakes makes an appealing main character, especially his appreciation for worms.  It's a shock for him to discover that he's been chosen as a Dragon Master, especially since King Roland's intentions don't seem to be good ones.  But he is thrilled to meet his dragon even if he is very unsure about how to communicate with the Earth Dragon he names Worm.  The black and white illustrations break up the text nicely making the book more appealing for reluctant readers.  Those same illustrations offer a fun take on the whole dragon thing. I especially appreciate the length, at barely 90 pages the book works well for kids who want to read fantasy but are not ready for the longer ones. Highly recommended for most libraries, class, or homes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MMGM: Doll Bones by Holly Black


Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .


I have to admit that for almost half of this book I wasn't sure if I liked the book or not.  The three main characters spent much of the time arguing and the leaving home in the middle of the night struck me as really dangerous for three twelve-year-olds.  But the mystery of the doll and whether the ghost was real kept me reading and by the end the story had won me over.  It was interesting the way the stories intertwined.  The subplots involving growing up, playacting, and adventuring mixed nicely with the 'ghost' story that set Zach,, Poppy, and Alice out on their quest in the first place.  It reminded me that growing up can be a painful process as children deal with changes in friendships, physical changes, and relationships with parents.

The issue that I had serious concerns about was the children's leaving home to go on their quest.  As a teacher librarian the thought of three children on their own scares me more than a little.  I did appreciate the librarian in the story and how she dealt with the kids.  I also appreciated the fact that the children slowly realized that discomfort is a common element in many adventures.  And boy do the children experience discomfort.

NONFICTION MONDAY: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming


“[A] superb history.... In these thrilling, highly readable pages, we meet Rasputin, the shaggy, lecherous mystic...; we visit the gilded ballrooms of the doomed aristocracy; and we pause in the sickroom of little Alexei, the hemophiliac heir who, with his parents and four sisters, would be murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.” —The Wall Street Journal
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost;The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.

"An exhilarating narrative history of a doomed and clueless family and empire." —Jim Murphy, author of Newbery Honor Books An American Plague and The Great Fire

"For readers who regard history as dull, Fleming’s extraordinary book is proof positive that, on the contrary, it is endlessly fascinating, absorbing as any novel, and the stuff of an altogether memorable reading experience." —Booklist, Starred

"Marrying the intimate family portrait of Heiligman’s Charles and Emmawith the politics and intrigue of Sheinkin’s Bomb, Fleming has outdone herself with this riveting work of narrative nonfiction that appeals to the imagination as much as the intellect." —The Horn Book, Starred


I've heard about the murder of the Romanov's, I mean, who hasn't, what with the Disney movie Anastasia and everything.  But there was a lot I didn't know.  This book has filled in a lot of the blanks.  There will always be things that aren't known, but Fleming does an amazing job of making the events leading up to and including the murder of the Romanov's quite understandable.  The book is divided up into chapters that address both the Romanov's life before and during the revolution but also takes a look at some of the people behind the revolution, including Vladimir Lenin, who became the first face of Communist Russia (Soviet Union).

It's not a particularly happy story as it involves great suffering, poor leadership, and a great deal of ignorance. Tsar Nicholas II contributed a great deal to the events that lead up to the revolution by making very poor decisions about how to handle his people's discontent.  Unfortunately choosing to follow in his father's brutal steps, Nicholas shut down the rebellion, but only for a time.  Add to that World War I and more suffering and death, and what to the soldiers seemed like an uncaring Tsar only increased the anger and hatred that culminated in the revolution. 

What I found especially interesting were the descriptions of the chaos that created the opening the Bolsheviks needed.  Reading about the last days of the Romanov's was sad, but it was also sad to think about the tens of thousands of others who died during World War I as well as the civil war between the tsar's supporters and the Bolsheviks.  It just reminded me that war hurts everyone it touches.  Ironically, even Lenin eventually realized that the Bolsheviks communist vision had failed.  When Lenin died and Stalin took control, Russia ended up with a government even worse than what they had had under the tsar.

A vividly portrayed and eminently readable account of an important and intriguing series of events that we can still learn from today.  Highly recommended.  I heartily agree with the talk about this title as a possible Newbery winner.

Check out other Nonfiction Monday recommendations here.



I am very much honored to be a part of this year's upcoming Cybils.  I am a round two judge for the Middle Grade Fiction category.  Here are the other judges for Middle Grade Fiction:

First Round
Mark Buxton

Earl Dizon

Rosemary Kiladitis

Kyle Kimmal

Deb Marshall

Brenda Tjaden

Karen Yingling

Second Round
Alex Baugh

Terry Doherty

Jennifer Donovan

Heidi Grange

Holly Mueller

THIS WEEK ON OCTOBER 1st NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR ALL CYBILS CATEGORIES! It's helpful though if you make sure that the books you nominate meet the requirements for the appropriate category.  For more information see the Cybils website.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan


'A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.' So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. 'If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.' Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume--a must for home, library, and classroom shelves--as stunning as it is entertaining.

Rick Riordan 2012ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from author's website)

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children's fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Today over thirty-five million copies of his Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, and Heroes of Olympus books are in print in the United States, and rights have been sold into more than 35 countries. Rick is also the author of The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones, another #1 New York Times bestseller.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.


First off I have to say the book is beautifully put together.  The stories are wonderfully told with Percy's voice coming through loud and clear.  The large size of the book makes it a great choice as a gift for those who are really into Greek mythology.  Rocco's illustrations are stunning and match the stories very well.

The problems I have with the book have nothing to do with the writing or the illustrations or the design of the book.  It's been so long since I've read the original Greek myths that I'd forgotten what they were like. These stories are not, in my opinion, appropriate for younger children.  The book looks at the twelve main Greek gods: Hestia, Demeter, Persephone, Hera, Hades, Poeidon, Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, Ares, Hephaestus, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysus.  None of these characters are worth admiring, their stories are stories of greed, unfaithfulness, revenge, inappropriate relationships (I mean marrying your sister?!) and other such nastiness. While told in a very entertaining way and "Percy" is careful about referring to certain things like the numerous children born to Zeus and his many 'girlfriends,' the content of the stories makes the book more appropriate for older readers.

I appreciated that Percy expresses his distaste for the 'wild' behavior that the gods and goddesses often exhibit and the 'grossness' of some of it.  I also never realized that some of these stories just don't make much sense, but I guess these kind of stories aren't meant to make sense, they are about 'gods' that are really nothing more than humans with supernatural powers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Earthquake Shock by Marlane Kennedy



When disaster strikes, the only thing you can count on is yourself!

It had seemed like the perfect California day. But as Joey Flores walked home from the skate park with his friends, the ground began to tremble, and Joey knew they were headed for trouble....

The earthquake that followed devastated their neighborhood, collapsing a nearby overpass with Joey and Fiona on one side and Kevin and Dylan on the other. Now Joey and his friends must rescue each other, endure the aftershocks, and find a new way home as the earth cracks beneath their feet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (see website)


This first book in a new series about surviving natural disasters features four kids making their way home from the local skating park.  The four kids get separated when the earthquake causes the overpass they are near to collapse.  Joey and Fiona try to find Kevin and Dylan before seeking out what is left of their homes.

I found the story simple enough for child readers but detailed enough to feel believable.  Readers who enjoy survival stories involving natural disasters are bound to enjoy this series.  It's an easy series to read and well done for the chosen audience.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

BLOG TOUR w/GIVEAWAY: Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull by Bill Harley


This Halloween Charlie and Tommy have big plans. They hope they can get out of taking their little sisters around and go trick-or-treating in Alex's upscale neighborhood instead. There they'll get tons more candy, they'll be on their own, and afterwards they'll get to attend the sleepover at Alex's house. But when Charlie finds out that the entertainment at the party is to consist of the "Scariest Horror Movies Ever," he is struck by panic. Charlie loves candy, he loves sleepovers with his friends, but he absolutely hates horror movies. There is yet another wrinkle in Charlie's Halloween plans. He is determined to win the big prize (ten movie tickets) that will be awarded for the best costume, but when he finally comes up with a genius prize-winning idea, he runs into an unexpected obstacle

How will Charlie be able to enjoy Halloween this year?


A two-time Grammy award-winning artist and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the RI Council for the Humanities, Bill uses song and story to paint a vibrant and hilarious picture of growing up, schooling and family life. His work spans the generation gap, reminds us of our common humanity and challenges us to be our very best selves. A prolific author and recording artist, Bill tours nationwide as an author, performing artist and keynote speaker.


Charlie is such an appealing character.  He feels like such a normal kid (if there's such a thing) who enjoys being with his friends, gets frustrated with his siblings, and wants to enjoy Halloween.  But he hates scary movies and he is concerned when the party he and his best friend Tommy have been invited to will be showing really scary movies.  But he loves the idea of going trick or treating without his little sister, Mabel, so he agrees to let his brother 'de-scarify' him. Unfortunately, his brother's stories just freak him out worse. And his costume plans don't seem to be coming together too well either.

This is a fun series that children who enjoy the Judy Moody and Stink stories, or Ellray Jakes, or Horrible Harry, or Clementine will be very likely to enjoy.  This one is bound to be especially popular because it deals with Halloween.


*Illustrations are provided courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.


Thanks to the publisher I have one copy of Charlie Bumpers to give away.
US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday 9/22- Picture Books to YA & The Write Path
Tuesday 9/23- Geo Librarian & Kid Lit Reviews
Wednesday 9/24- Kiss the Book 
Thursday 9/25- Blue Owl


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Find Peachtree's Fall 2014 catalog here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

TEMPLE RUN Giveaway!


Temple Run, the fastest-growing mobile game app, is taking its biggest leap yet, jumping into children's books!

Ages 8-12

Temple Run Book One Run for Your Life!: Jungle Trek
Chase Wilder    
On Sale: 09/23/2014      
Trade Paperback

You're a lucky kid--for your birthday, you're having a destination party: a campout and scavenger hunt in an exotic locale. Depending on the choices you make, you will reach safety in time to enjoy your party, or you will be kidnapped and held for ransom, buying Guy and Scarlett time to make off with the treasure. You decide!

20342660Temple Run Book Two Run for Your Life!: Doom Lagoon              
Chase Wilder    
On Sale: 09/23/2014      
Trade Paperback

You are an intern and will be accompanying the curator of an antiquities museum during school vacation on a dive to a newly discovered historic shipwreck. Depending on the choices you make, you will either be stranded at sea, drown, explore the wreck, or discover buried treasure. You decide!

http://sites.egmont.co.uk/templerun-usa/images/cover-temple-run-downloaded.jpgTemple Run Downloaded Apptivity Book
On-Sale: 09/23/2014      
Trade Paperback

Temple Run Downloaded is a cool, fast, addictive mobile game, and fans can relive the excitement with this activity book shaped like a tablet. Race down ancient temple walls, along sheer cliffs, and avoid evil monkeys as you challenge your brain to solve these fun puzzles. Temple Run Downloaded includes mazes, brain teasers, puzzles, 4 gatefold pages, and 4 sticker pages, with exclusive info about this favorite game and characters. Full color illustrations throughout.


Thanks to the publisher I have all three books to giveaway to one person.
US/Canada only

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 21, 2014

MMGM: Paperboy by Vince Vawter


An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything.

The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble--and puts the boy's life, as well as that of his family's devoted housekeeper, in danger.

Vince VawterABOUT THE AUTHOR (from author's website)

Vince Vawter, a native of Memphis, retired after a 40-year career in newspapers, most recently as the president and publisher of the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press. In 2002-2003 he was president of the board of directors of the Hoosier State Press Association. He previously served as managing editor of The Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and news editor of the now-defunct Memphis Press-Scimitar. He lives with his wife in Louisville, Tenn., on a small farm in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.


It took me a few chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I zipped through it, wanting to know what would happen to our stuttering hero.  The lack of quotation marks through me off a little bit, but once I got used to it I was okay with it.  However, I'm not sure younger readers will be able to adjust as easily.  This book I think is more appropriate for older middle grade readers, 5th grade and up would be my recommendation.  Of course since a lot of younger readers don't really like historical fiction also makes a difference.  It's really too bad because there is so much great historical fiction available.

I loved the fact that the hero had a disability that isn't often talked about in children's literature.  The only other book I can recall reading recently that included stuttering is The Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz about his own struggles with stuttering.

The relationships in the book were one of the things that I found most fascinating, especially between the main character (whose name we don't learn until the end because he has a hard time pronouncing his own name) and Mam, his family's black maid.  It was interesting to watch as the boy's eyes slowly open in regard to the way blacks are treated in 1959 Memphis and his dislike of it.  He loves Mam and doesn't appreciate the way she's treated.  And yet it isn't the main part of the story.  The story revolves around the boy's taking over his friend's paper route for a month.  The paper route doesn't worry him, it's the having to talk to people to collect the fees that worries him.  What makes the story especially interesting is his interactions with the people he runs into.

The boy's interactions with an alcoholic lady who he finds beautiful, but sad, Mr. Spiro whose house is full of books, and especially his interactions with Ara T. the local junkman all stretch the boy's abilities to communicate.  I enjoyed watching him grow up and develop his courage.

There are a few things though that I think make it more appropriate for older middle grade.  A few examples of bad language and the interactions with the alcoholic lady top that list, but the boy also finds out that his father isn't his biological father and wrestles with that somewhat.  There isn't anything really bad but the book works better for more mature young readers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

T.A. Barron's ATLANTIS RISING being released in paperback! With new prequel about the villain!

TA Barron’s Atlantis Rising to be Released in Paperback Along With Companion E-book, Never Again: The Origin of Grukarr
Revealing Villain’s Painful Past

NEW YORK, NY, September 10, 2014 – Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron, the first book in an exciting new trilogy about the origin of the legendary isle of Atlantis that Publishers Weekly calls “inventive and entertaining,” will be released in paperback on September 25, 2014. Aimed at readers ages 9 and up, Atlantis Rising inspires readers to examine real-life issues of bravery, honesty, loyalty, and conservation—themes T.A. Barron consistently explores in his work. 
Atlantis Rising follows the adventure of a young boy, Promi, and his friend, Atlanta, in their quest to save their magical homeland from ruin. The two young characters battle Grukarr, the evil Deputy High Priest, and set off a chain of events that lead to the creation of Atlantis.

The scoundrel Grukarr, however, takes center stage in the simultaneously released companion story Never Again: The Origin of Grukarr. Ever wonder what makes a villain so despicable? Fans will discover how Grukarr lost his humanity and what event spurred him to become the sinister villain that Promi battles in order to save the magical world of Ellegandia. The e-book will be available for free at www.tabarron.com leading up to the release and appears in print for the first time in the paperback edition.

“Every character, including the villain, has a back story,” says Barron. “Grukarr’s upbringing is an important reminder that people are a culmination of their experience. I hope this story of Grukarr's secret past will make him even more intriguing to my readers.”

T. A. Barron is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of the Merlin saga, which has sold millions of copies worldwide and was recently optioned for a major motion picture by Disney. He is the winner of the 2011 de Grummond USM Medallion for "lifetime contribution to the field of children's and young adult literature." Always a believer in the heroism of every child, T. A. Barron founded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which honors outstanding young people who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet.  He lives in Colorado with his family. For more information, please visit www.tabarron.com

Atlantis Rising by T.A. Barron
371 pages
ISBN Number: 9780147512215
Published by Puffin Books on September 25, 2014

Never Again: The Origin of Grukarr
By T.A. Barron
45 Pages
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