Friday, October 31, 2014

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Spooky Reads by two great middle grade authors!


What if the monsters from your favorite horror books were real?

Eddie Fennicks has always been a loner, content to lose himself in a mystery novel by his favorite author, Nathaniel Olmstead. That’s why moving to the small town of Gatesweed becomes a dream come true when Eddie discovers that Olmstead lived there before mysteriously disappearing thirteen years ago. Even better, Eddie finds a handwritten, never-before-seen Nathaniel Olmstead book printed in code and befriends Harris, who’s as much an Olmsteady as he is. But then the frightening creatures of Olmstead’s books begin to show up in real life, and Eddie’s dream turns into a nightmare. Eddie, Harris, and their new friend, Maggie, must break Olmstead’s code, banish all gremlins and monster lake-dogs from the town of Gatesweed, and solve the mystery of the missing author, all before Eddie’s mom finishes writing her own tale of terror and brings to life the scariest creature of all.


It's always great when I find a new favorite author.  And it's even better when they already have several books out that I can read all at once.  For me Dan Poblocki is one of these authors.  Last week I highlighted two of his newer books, The Ghost of Graylock and The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe, both of which I found to be excellent.  So I was eager to read another one by him.

The Stone Child revolves around a young man named Eddie and his family who have recently arrived in Gatesweed so his mother can hopefully get back to writing.  But from the first minute he hears about the supposed Olmstead curse, Eddie realizes that there is something very wrong with this town. When he discovers an encrypted book that appears to have belonged to Nathaniel Olmstead, his favorite scary book author, he is fascinated and determined to discover what is going on.  With the help of some new found friends he sets out to do just that, but the sudden appearance of some of the monsters from Olmstead's books add new tension to the quest.  Especially when it appears they will have to face off the the scariest monster of all, The Woman in Black who appears to be watching their every move.

One of the things that I have especially enjoyed about Poblocki's books is the rapidly rising tension that he creates as the problem gets bigger and bigger until the climax explodes across the page.  The characters are also appealing and likable.  The only problem I had with the book is that the story revolves around a myth about the Garden of Eden. As I am quite religious I found this a bit uncomfortable as it contradicts my own strongly held beliefs.  But once I set that aside and looked at it as just a myth created for the story, it was okay.

Poblocki is also really good at creating believable plots despite the large number of fantasy elements. I found it remarkably easy to get pulled into this story.


When twelve-year-old Florence boards the crowded horse-drawn coach in London, she looks forward to a new life with her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall, an old manor house in the English countryside. Anything will be better, she thinks, than the grim London orphanage where she has lived since her parents' death.
          But Florence doesn't expect the ghost of her cousin Sophia, who haunts the cavernous rooms and dimly lit hallways of Crutchfield and concocts a plan to use Florence to help her achieve her murderous goals. Will Florence be able to convince the others in the household of the imminent danger and stop Sophia before it's too late?


Mary Downing Hahn has long been known for her middle grade ghost stories, but until now I've never actually read one.  I discovered that I have truly been missing out.  Not only did I find the story engaging and interesting, I also found that the book reads quite quickly with the plot carrying the story along at a nice clip.  That means her books are good for students who want middle of the road scary and books that aren't too long.  In other words, this book and others like it would be great for reluctant readers.

I found all the characters interesting and full of contrast which for a book that is plot-based is quite well done.  The spooky elements involving Sophia (the ghost) and her powers are different than those I've read before, her ability to control Florence to a shocking extent was especially intriguing.  The contrasting personalities of Florence, her cousins, James and Sophia, as well as her great aunt and uncle made the book especially enjoyable and memorable.

More Halloween Picture Books!


The leaves fall, the wind blows, and one little pumpkin seed tries and tries to be scary. But he doesn’t scare anyone . . . not the snowflakes in winter, not the bees in spring, not even the watering can!

The wind tells him to be patient—he’ll be scary soon enough. But waiting is hard. Will the little seed ever be really, truly scary?

This simple story is more than a fun Halloween read—it is a heartwarming tale perfect for any child who can’t wait to grow up.


There are a lot of things that I really liked about this book.  First, the theme of the book focuses on the need for patience in waiting until the appropriate time to do the things we want to do.  The little seed wants to be scary, but has to wait until he is grown until he can do so.  This idea is presented in a friendly, cute way.  The second thing that I really liked was the wind who acts as the seed's mentor, helping to be patient and wait for the right time and who cheers him on in positive ways. Children and adults both need mentors like this to help us become our best selves as well as helping us endure the process.  The third thing that I really liked about the book is that is walks through the major stages of the pumpkin seed's growth which makes it a nice fictional addition to units on seeds and plant growth.  A fun book all around.


Ready for a treat? How about a trick or two? Dog and Bear are back in three new Halloween stories that are sure to delight their many fans and win them new ones. Join them as they search for the perfect costume, hand out candy to trick-or-treaters (or not!), and then go trick-or-treating themselves in this latest installment by award-winning author Laura Vaccaro Seeger.


I've long been a fan of Dog and Bear.  They are a cute pair of friends that are perfect for sharing with preschoolers and kindergartners.  This book takes a look at Halloween as Dog and Bear search for costumes, discover a fascination with a mirror, and learn the meaning of trick or treating. I found each of the three stories to be sweet, funny, and simple.  Sure to be a hit with the youngest readers.


It's time for Hailey's favorite holidayHalloween! She plans her costume. She also carves jack-o'-lanterns with her family. Finally, it's time for Hailey to trick-or-treat with her friends. Find out how people celebrate this spooky time of year!


Hailey's Halloween is a cute introduction to both the traditions and history of Halloween.  While Hailey searches for the perfect costume she explains to the reader the basic history of the holiday. The animated illustrations are bright and appealing and the story and information blend well together. There are also side notes that add more information for those who want to share more.  There is also a recipe for face paint included at the end.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014



A young witch's sweet tooth leads to Halloween mischief in this companion to the New York Times bestselling A Very Brave Witch, which School Library Journal called a humorous, not-scary-at-all read-aloud.

It's Halloween night, and one very brave witch has decided to teach her little sister all about humans and what they enjoy, including some yucky stuff called candy. But when it seems the little Witchling thinks candy is yum, her big sister flies off to set her straight and then she gets stuck in a tree! Good thing the little Witchling isn't afraid to be brave!


This picture book makes for an entertaining look at Halloween from a different angle.  When I look for read-alouds I always look for something different that the students hasn't heard before.  In this book the main character is an honest-to-goodness witch who has been taught her whole life that humans are dangerous.  But she learned in A VERY BRAVE WITCH that she was braver than the other witches.  In this book she seeks to teach her little sister about the humans so she won't be so afraid of them either.  But to her surprise, her little sister thinks candy is yummy, so she swipes her older sister's broom and goes off to find more.  After some amusing adventures, Witchling and her sister return home to bed.  A fun read aloud that looks at Halloween from a different perspective.


From the author of the popular Goodnight, Little Monster and a character designer for Pixar films comes a delightful rhyming romp through an old haunted house. Vibrantly painted illustrations lead three children through the house, where new creatures await in each room. Readers can count along as they see Pa goblin and his wee goblins four and witches and ghosts, and so many more. Just the right blend of spooky fun, this book is a can't-miss treat for Halloween.


At the Old Haunted House is a counting book perfect for sharing at Halloween.  All the monsters gather at the old haunted house for a party.  Each group (ghosts, vampires, cats, bats, etc.) prepares for the party by doing an appropriate activity (the cats howl in an old dead tree, the vampires show their fangs and hiss).  Luckily the monsters are actually pretty cute and appealing in the illustrations.  This is a fun way to practice counting while celebrating Halloween.


When he entered a dusty costume store,one that he hadn't seen before

He got what he'd bargained for . . . and more.

Enter the Monsterator if you dare.

Put a coin in the slot . . . but beware!

Join Master Edgar Dreadbury as he discovers the Monsterator, a machine that changes people into monsters in this spooky Halloween adventure from Keith Graves.


While there are many monster books out there for children, this one is unique in that the main character actually turns into a monster thanks to the Monsterator machine.  And the twist at the end is an interesting one that most of the children I read the book to did not see coming.  The winning element though seems to be the chance to chose what the monster looks like (the flaps that cover the main character at the end were a big hit with the second graders I shared this with).  Unfortunately the flaps make this impractical for a library, but a surefire hit with young readers.  I was a little worried at first that the book might be too scary for younger readers, but that did not prove to be the case at all.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

NONFICTION MONDAY: Ghostly Evidence by Kelly Milner Halls


Do you believe in ghosts? Enter the realm of the paranormal with Kelly Milner Halls. Explore what ghosts are, where they're found, and meet some famous ghost busters. Check out the high-tech equipment modern ghost hunters use, and see their most convincing evidence that ghosts are real. Finally, take a look at a few famous hoaxes. This book is a little bit spooky and a whole lot of fun!

Kelly Milner HallsABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Milner Halls specializes in high interest, well researched nonfiction for young readers. Her books include TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS, SAVING THE BAGHDAD ZOO, IN SEARCH OF SASQUATCH and ALIEN INVESTIGATION. But she is also an avid YA fan and loves realistic fiction including GIRL MEETS BOY, the anthology she edited for Chronicle (January 2012). Her first short story is in that anthology. She hopes it won't be her last. When she's not writing or doing school visits, she works for her friend and mentor Chris Crutcher in Spokane.


While I am not a big believer in ghosts and the paranormal I did find this book quite interesting. With a wide variety of different opinions existing on the subject of the paranormal it's a topic that is bound to attract many readers of all ages.  This book provides an introduction to the topic for young readers. The author starts by exploring the topic of what exactly is a ghost and what types of manifestations people claim to have had, everything from apparitions to shadow figures and mists. One of the things I enjoyed the most was the variety of stories she shared from all over the country including ships, houses, hotels, and prisons.  She leaves it up to the reader to decide what to believe but shares a variety of opinions from self-proclaimed ghost hunters, mediums, and skeptics.  The stories I found most interesting were the ones from children's book authors Lisa Yee and Bruce Coville.  These kinds of stories really leave one wondering because of their strangeness yet lack of concrete evidence.

The author goes on to look at famous haunted places including the Alamo and Gettysburg battlefields.  The occupation of ghost hunter and medium are both explored as is the equipment that they often use.  Real-life hoaxes and some of the tricks that have been used to con people are also discussed.  It never ceases to amaze me how much time people spend conning other people out of their money.  The last chapter is basically a look at stories and experiences that really don't have a clear explanation, including some the author herself had while researching the book.  Overall, an interesting look at a controversial topic that middle grader readers are sure to enjoy.

For more great nonfiction reviews, check out the Nonfiction Monday blog.

Friday, October 24, 2014

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Dan Poblocki--Thrillers for Middle Graders


Does an abandoned asylum hold the key to a frightful haunting?

Everyone's heard the stories about Graylock Hall.

It was meant to be a place of healing - a hospital where children and teenagers with mental disorders would be cared for and perhaps even cured. But something went wrong. Several young patients died under mysterious circumstances. Eventually, the hospital was shut down, the building abandoned and left to rot deep in the woods.

As the new kid in town, Neil Cady wants to see Graylock for himself. Especially since rumor has it that the building is haunted. He's got fresh batteries in his flashlight, a camera to document the adventure, and a new best friend watching his back.

Neil might think he's prepared for what he'll find in the dark and decrepit asylum. But he's certainly not prepared for what follows him home. . . .

Scary, suspenseful, and surprising, Dan Poblocki's latest ghost story will keep you turning pages deep into the dead of night.


Dan Poblocki was born in Rhode Island and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

He is the author of The Stone Child, The Nightmarys, The Ghost of Graylock, and The Mysterious Four series. The Book of Bad Things is forthcoming: Aug 28, 2014.

Dan loves reading and writing, playing video games, eating cupcakes, snuggling with his cats - Pedro and Tavi - and telling ghost stories late at night to anyone who'll listen.

Dan hates doing laundry, cleaning his apartment, riding on crowded subway trains, and people who honk car horns excessively.


While I am not usually a fan of thrillers (I used to be, but they got to me to much), this one sounded so good that I had to give it a try.  And I was not disappointed.  The story starts off with a bang as Neil and his friend Wesley, as well as his sister and Wesley's brother go out to the island where the supposedly haunted former asylum is located.  After some rather freaky things happen and Neil gets injured the kids are left wondering what is really happening.  When Neil and his sister start having the same nightmares about drowning in the lake, they decide to investigate further and end up getting themselves into a rather scary situation.  I liked the way the suspense grew and grew up until the climax.  It was interesting to have the mystery pieced together as Neil and his sister slowly discovered some rather surprising information.  And the twist at the end with the villain kept me turning the pages as fast as I could.  A thoroughly enjoyable read for those readers who are tough enough to handle a rather frightening story with plenty of twists and turns.  I thought the writing was really good too.


Has Gabriel created a monster?

Gabe and Seth used to play make-believe games in the woods behind Seth's family farm. It was the perfect creepy landscape for imagining they were up against beasts and monsters and villains.

Just as Gabe's decided he's outgrown their childish games, though, it appears that their most monstrous creation could be real.

Is there a ghoulish man-eating creature prowling the woods for victims? Or is Seth just determined to make Gabe think so -- no matter who gets hurt in the process?

Gabe's not sure which answer would prove more unsettling, but he's determined to learn the truth.


I'll confess right off that I found the ending of this one rather shocking, which I guess shouldn't be too surprising since it is a thriller.  But the ending didn't completely satisfy me and one aspect of it really made me unhappy.  The ending does fit with the story and the main character's actions but I still prefer happy endings and this book doesn't really have one.  I won't say more than that because I don't want to spoil it further for those who may want to read it.

The story is well told and intriguing, especially how real the play acting becomes to both Seth and Gabriel.  I found it fascinating the way Poblocki slowly brought the role-playing game and 'real' life together in a shocking conclusion.  I did enjoy the way different parts of the story came together while slowly building the tension while revealing more about what was really going on.  The climax is a doozy.  I would definitely have to put this author at the top of the game for thrillers for the middle grade crowd.  However, I would not recommend this series for those young readers who get easily scared or tend to have nightmares.  But for those that relish the freaky and tragic, I can recommend this book highly.


The Code Busters Club 

giveaway is Books #1-3 in paperback and 
Book #4 in hardcover (4 books to one person)

The Code Busters Club series by Penny Warner
Ages 8-12
“[A] fun series sure to appeal to graduates of Encyclopedia Brown and Ivy & Bean.”—Shelf Awareness

“This intriguing tale has vivid characters and such a tantalizing cliffhanger that readers won't be able to resist cracking the next Code Busters.”—Kirkus Reviews
Trade Paperback
2011 Agatha Award Nominee

Bad guys beware!

Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. may be really different, but they all share one thing in common: they love playing around with codes. In fact, they love codes so much, they have their own private club, with a super-secret hideout and passwords that change every single day. 

When Cody and Quinn notice what could be a code on the window of a nearby house, the one owned by their strange neighbor, the guy they call Skeleton Man, the club gets to work. And it is a cry for help! 

Now the Code Busters are on the case—and nothing will stop them from solving the mystery and finding the secret treasure that seems to be the cause of it all!

This exciting interactive mystery offers more than fifteen codes for you to decipher, including the Consonant code, Morse code, and American Sign Language. Test your brain with the Code Busters and solve the mystery along with them. Answers are in the back, if you ever get stuck.

For more code-breaking fun, visit and join the club!

Winner of the 2012 Agatha Award

When Cody, Quinn, M.E., and Luke receive a cryptic message directing them to Alcatraz Island, the promise of a new adventure, and possible treasure, sets them on the trail to the famous prison to solve a decades-old mystery involving the Alcatraz lighthouse, a jewel thief, and his fabled missing haul. If the Code Busters can unravel the secret of Diamond Dave's biggest theft, they could be in for a fortune!
2014 Agatha Award Nominee
2014 Anthony Award Nominee

Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. love playing around with codes. In fact, they love codes so much they have their own club, with a secret hideout and passwords that change every day. 

On a class trip to the Cornell Mission, The Code Busters learn about Hippolyte de Bouchard, California's only known pirate. 

Now the Code Busters are on the trail of a new prize: pirate gold! But with a fortune at stake, the codes are bound to be hard. Will the Code Busters be able to figure them out, or will this mystery prove to be too difficult to solve?
On Sale: 10/14/2014

Egyptian secrets take center stage in this interactive mystery where boys and girls can solve codes and puzzles right along with the multicultural cast of characters.

Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. love playing around with codes. In fact, they love codes so much they have their own club, with a secret hideout and passwords that change every day.

After learning about steganography, the study of concealed writing, the Code Busters discover that artists have been hiding secret messages in their artwork for centuries. 

A clue hunt on a class trip to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum leads the Code Busters to an artifact that doesn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the collection. Could it be a forgery? The Code Busters code-cracking skills and new knowledge of hieroglyphic messages will help them get to the bottom of this mystery, but they better think fast before the criminal tries to frame them!


1 set of the Code Busters Club series
US only

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 23, 2014

HUGE Preorder Giveaway of Kimberley Griffiths Little Upcoming YA Debut FORBIDDEN!

On November 4th, HarperCollins unveils Forbidden, a seductive YA debut from award-winning middle grade author Kimberley Griffiths Little. Forbidden transports readers back in time to the deadly deserts and sweltering heat of Ancient Mesopotamia for a tale of danger, duty, and forbidden love. Jayden is on the brink of womanhood and betrothed to her tribe’s prince, cold-hearted Horeb. But when tragedy strikes, Jayden meets Kadesh, a mysterious visitor from the south who makes Jayden doubt everything she knows. Torn between loyalty to her tribe and the chance to escape her fate, Jayden must make a choice that will change her life forever.

Kimberley is also offering a HUGE preorder giveaway from October 6th to November 4th (release day!) to celebrate. See below for full details on how to enter. 

  • You must preorder Forbidden through an online retailer or your local bookstore, then email a photo of your receipt to
  • Fill out the rafflecopter below
  • US/Canada Only
  • Ends at midnight EST on November 3, 2014
  • Optional entries: share the trailer on your own site or social media, follow Kimberley on twitter, and tweet about the giveaway (can be repeated daily for extra entries!)
  • Winners will be announced and contacted November 4th (release day!)
  • If the winner does not respond with their mailing address within one week, a new winner will be chosen.
(1) GRAND PRIZE WINNER: 1. NEWLY RELEASED Kindle Fire HD6 Tablet with 6" HD Display, Wi-Fi, Front and Rear Cameras, 8 GB -- choose your color! (Black, Magenta, White, Citron, or Cobalt) 2. GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson 3. CHAOS OF STARS by Kiersten White 4. Satin Belly Dance Skirt 5. Belly Dance 150-Coin Hip Scarf 6. Red Silk Veil (not pictured) 7. Red Middle Eastern Earrings 8. Belly dance DVD: Sensual Belly Dance with Blanca, a professional dancer (technique, choreography, and performances) 9. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured) 10. Set of 10 Book Club Cards 11. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)
2. Red Middle Eastern Earrings
3. Red Silk Veil (not pictured)
4. Belly dance DVD: Sensual Belly Dance with Blanca, a professional dancer (technique, choreography, and performances)
5. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured)
6. Set of 10 Book Club Cards
7. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)
1. Red Middle Eastern Earrings
2. "Will YOU risk it all?" button (not pictured)
3. Set of 10 Book Club Cards
4. Jeweled bookmark (not pictured)
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Forbidden: In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden’s tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden’s turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe’s leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family’s position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden’s heart.

Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden’s heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb’s increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden’s every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying.

With a forbidden romance blossoming in her heart and her family’s survival on the line, Jayden must embark on a deadly journey to save the ones she loves—and find a true love for herself.

Set against the brilliant backdrop of the sprawling desert, the story of Jayden and Kadesh will leave readers absolutely breathless as they defy the odds and risk it all to be together.



Award-winning author Kimberley Griffiths Little was born in San Francisco, but now lives in New Mexico on the banks of the Rio Grande with her husband and their three sons. Her middle-grade novels, When the Butterflies Came, The Last Snake Runner, The Healing Spell, and Circle of Secrets, have been praised as “fast-paced and dramatic,” with “beautifully realized settings.” Kimberley adores anything old and musty with a secret story to tell. She’s stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland; sailed the Seine in Paris; ridden a camel in Petra, Jordan; shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria. You can visit her online at

Share your thoughts on the trailer in the comments!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW: Chum by Adam Glendon Sidwell


Thirteen-year-old Levi Middleworth insists he's got a Destiny, even if half the internet's tried to bully it out of him with a viral video. When a Hollywood executive in a trim green suit invites Levi to star on a reality TV show aboard a hi-tech pirate ship, Levi thinks his Destiny's finally come a knockin' a bit of fame is exactly what he needs to finally make some friends his eighth grade year. But almost as soon as they set sail, the games aboard the ship turn savage, and he and his new bud Holly must do everything they can to find themselves some Chums little round-headed autonomous toys since failing to do so means getting thrown to the sharks. With the help of Levi's long-lost television hero and a tech-savvy pirate crew, Levi has to rethink his quest for fame in an attempt to save himself, his fellow contestants, and every human being on the beach from a feeding frenzy of grisly proportions.

Adam Glendon SidwellABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Goodreads)

In between books, Adam Glendon Sidwell uses the power of computers to make monsters, robots and zombies come to life for blockbuster movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Transformers and Tron. After spending countless hours in front of a keyboard meticulously adjusting tentacles, calibrating hydraulics, and brushing monkey fur, he is delighted at the prospect of modifying his creations with the flick of a few deftly placed adjectives. He's been eating food since age 7, so feels very qualified to write this book. He once showed a famous movie star where the bathroom was. Adam currently lives in Los Angeles, where he can't wait to fall into the sea.


Chum is a rather wacky adventure story involving a reality show, a ship, pirates, and sharks.  Levi ends up on board the Philanthropist, a ship that houses the reality show that he believes he is a part of.  Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more going on that what he originally believed and fame soon becomes the last thing on his mind.  I found this to be an entertaining story, I also found it difficult to accept that Levi and the other contestants would leap into something like this with so little effort to check it out.  I guess it's not surprising that a thirteen-year-old would do this, but the adults!?  And I guess it's not too much of a leap that Levi would accept the word of the director even though it's evident early on that the guy is not on the up and up.  But if you are willing to suspend belief for a while its a light fun read.  And middle graders tend to be more willing to let certain things go in pursuit of an interesting story and that definitely exists here.  I mean the combination of a contest, TV cameras, pirates, and sharks is mighty appealing.   And Levi is a sympathetic character as he tries to redeem himself from an embarrassing video that was posted on the internet.  Despite a few editorial errors the writing works and I think young readers will enjoy this book.
Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Story Time kit by Kristin Aagard