Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Salt Water Taffy graphic novel series by Matthew Loux

The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny
by Matthew Loux
Oni Press Publication
Source: Purchased

2210656Book 1: The Legend of Old Salty
ISBN: 978-1-932664-94-2

Eleven-year-old Jack Putnam and his eighth-year-old brother Benny are being dragged against their will on a summer-long vacation with their family. And not to somewhere cool like Disney World, but to a little port town in Maine named Chowder Bay, far away from anyplace fun. But what promises to be a very bleak summer quickly becomes a series of exciting adventures in one of the most mysterious places on earth!

Warring Seagulls! Giant Lobsters! Kleptomaniac Eagles! Ghosts from the Civil War! Chowder Bay has far more adventures and mysteries in store than these two boys could have ever imagined!

5151734Book 2: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas
ISBN: 978-1-934964-03-3

Eleven-year-old Jack Putnam and his eight-year-old brother Benny are being dragged against their will on a summer-long vacation with their family. And not to somewhere cool like Disney World, but to a little port town in Maine named Chowder Bay, far away from anyplace fun. But what promises to be a very bleak summer quickly becomes a series of exciting adventures in one of the most mysterious places on earth! This second volume finds the boys scaling a nearby mountain to confront a giant kleptomaniac eagle with an obsession with fancy hats!

6558126Book 3: The Truth About Dr. True
ISBN: 978-1-934964-04-0

This volume has Jack and Benny investigating the mysterious death of Dr True, a 19th century inhabitant of Chowder Bay who is most famous for 'Dr. True's Wonderful Elixir'. Was the town's famed hero, Captain Holister, involved? As with everything else in Chowder Bay, not everything is as it appears.

10108641Book 4: Caldera's Revenge, Part 1
ISBN: 978-1-934964-62-0

Part 1 of Jack and Benny's first multi-volume adventure The boys are having a hard time reading "The Hidden History of Chowder Bay," given to them by Captain Hollister. So, when a spooky whaling ship appears in the bay, it's no time at all before the boys abandon the tome and find themselves in the middle of the action, searching for the fiercest whale that ever lived: Caldera.

12306005Book 5: Caldera's Revenge, Part 2
ISBN: 978-1-934964-63-7

The finale of Jack and Benny''s first multi-volume adventure Jack is taken prisoner aboard the ghost ship Nutmeg, and it''s up to Benny and Angus to rescue him. With the help of an old friend, Benny unravels the mystery of The Hidden History of Chowder Bay, but will he get to Caldera and the Nutmeg in time to save Jack?


A graphic novel series perfect for readers who love adventures stories. Jack and his family end up in a small town on the coast of Maine for the summer. But Jack figures it will be rather quiet and boring.  It turns out that he is completely wrong. With his brother Benny at his side Jack has a series of adventures involving giant lobsters, hat-loving eagles, and a legendary whale. While the illustrations are black and white, I found that it suited to old-fashioned adventure feel of the stories. Both Jack and Benny are likable protagonists and the plots while mostly believable have fantastical elements.  A fun series that reluctant readers and adventure lovers are sure to enjoy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Dragon Girl, The Secret Valley by Jeff Weigel


Eleven-year-old Alanna and her older brother Hamel are orphans and doing their best to take care of each other until one day Alanna stumbles upon a cave full of dragon eggs. When the eggs hatch with no mother dragon in sight, Alanna decides to take care of the babies herself, even creating a clever costume so that the babies think she, too, is a dragon. With their large appetites and accidental fire burps, Alanna learns that dragon babies are hard work! And when a mama dragon finally comes to claim the babies, Alanna's costume is so convincing that she is swept along for the ride as they journey to Dragon Rock, a mysterious magnetic force that draws dragons of all shapes and sizes to a magical, untouched valley.


Dragon-lovers are sure to love this new series. I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel that revolves around a young girl's efforts to help some baby dragons survive. The black and white illustrations are delightfully expressive and detailed.  The dragons are an interesting combination of bird, lizard, and dinosaur making them fun to look at and the faux dragon information at the end is a fun touch as well. The story has a medieval feel to it but with a steampunk twist.  Alanna is a delightfully spunky heroine who is determined to help the dragons despite their fierce reputation, but when her brother meets up with a dragon killer knight it complicates things mightily.  The plot moves quickly with lots of action. A must for any dragon-loving graphic novel reader.

Monday, July 28, 2014

NONFICTION MONDAY: National Geographic Readers

I've long enjoyed National Geographic's books, especially the beautiful photography.  The leveled readers are especially well done.  Today I'm highlighting several Level 3 readers. Level 3 readers are for fluent readers.  These are books that I plan to use with my students to highlight nonfiction text features.  Not only do they have beautiful photographs but the information is interesting and well-presented.  These books work for both learning and pleasure reading.
National Geographic also has a Super Reader Program that encourages students to read, play games, take quizzes, and earn prizes. 
by Melissa Stewart
National Geographic, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4263-1474-2
Water is all around us; we drink it every day. In this level 3 reader, kids will learn about the water cycle, discovering how rain and snow flow into our lakes, rivers, and oceans, and later evaporate into the sky again. Vivid photography and accessible text make this book an ideal introduction to the science of water.
* * * * * * * *
by Alexandra Zapruder
National Geographic, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4263-1352-3
Anne Frank is one of the first of many National Geographic Readers that highlight important historical figures. This level-3 reader brings an understanding of her historical significance to a whole new audience. Young readers will learn about the brave and tragic life of the young girl whose diary kept while in hiding from Nazis is one of the most important and insightful books of the World War II era. National Geographic Readers: Anne Frank explores not just the diary, but her life and the important role she played in 20th-century history.
* * * * * * * *
by Melissa Stewart
National Geographic, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4263-1344-8
Discover the coolest robots of today and tomorrow in this colorful, photo-packed book. In this inviting and entertaining format, kids will learn about the science behind these amazing machines. This Level 3 reader is written in an easy-to-grasp style to encourage the scientists of tomorrow!
National Geographic supports K-12 educators with ELA Common Core Resources.
Visit for more information. 
* * * * * * * *
by Elizabeth Carney
National Geographic, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4263-1747-7
Discover the fascinating world of Mars in this colorful book packed with amazing imagery. In this inviting and entertaining format, kids will learn about the newest information on Mars, the Mars Rover, and our ongoing exploration of the Red Planet. This Level 3 reader is written in an easy-to-grasp style to encourage the scientists and explorers of tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014



A bust-your-gut-laughing graphic-novel anthology with original contributions from the most beloved names in the genre! * Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm * Jarrett J. Krosoczka * Dav Pilkey * Dan Santat * Raina Telgemeier * Dave Roman * Ursula Vernon * Eric Wight * Gene Yang *
Wowza! Calling all kidz! Do you like comics? Do you like laughing till milk comes out of your nose?! Look no further—do we have the book for you! All your favorite comic creators are right here in this handy-dandy hilarious book! This all-star tribute to classic Sunday comics includes eight sidesplitting, action-packed stories about every kid’s favorite subject—RECESS! With popular characters from Babymouse and Lunch Lady and brand-new soon-to-be favorite characters from superstars including Dav Pilkey! Raina Telgemeier! Gene Yang! and many more!Comics Squad also features Pizza Monsters! Secret ninja clubs! Aliens! Talking desserts! Dinozilla! Death-defying escapes! Bad guys! Good guys! Medium guys! Superheroes! Bullies! Mean girls! Epic battles! True love! Outlandish schemes! Evil plans! Fun! Jokes! Terrible puns! And other surprises that will tickle your funny bone! WARNING: THIS BOOK MAY CAUSE EXCESSIVE LAUGHTER AND POSSIBLE SILLINESS. No assembly required. (Pizzatron 2000 not included.)


A delightful compilation of short comic stories by some of the biggest names in children's graphic novels today, Recess is a must have for kids who enjoy the genre. When I heard about this book and the people involved with it, it seemed like such a natural idea.  I mean recess is a topic that all kids love and these authors/illustrators do such a great job with their works. I was eager to see the end result.  I was not disappointed in the least.  I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories and children undoubtedly will as well. Here's a bit more information about each of the stories in the book:

  • Gene Yang: Daryl wants to join the recess Super-Secret Ninja Club, but can he develop the skills over the winter holidays that will allow him to be accepted?
  • Dav Pilkey: Can the Dogman save books and reading from the nefarious plots of Petey the cat who desires to make the world stupid by destroying reading?
  • Jarrett Krosoczka: Can Betty survive Pizza Day with Lunch Lady home sick? Perhaps with the help of the Pizzatron 2000 or maybe not.
  • Ursula Vernon: Scratch the squirrel reluctantly follows his friend Squeak to what Squeak claims is a magic acorn.  After being wrong over 300 times, Squeak can't possibly be right, can he?
  • Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm: Can Babymouse find a way to follow the rules and make it out to recess before the week is over?
  • Eric Wight: Can Jiminy Sprinkles (a cupcake) make friends at his new school? Especially with the green vegetables who go out of their way to be mean to everyone else? Maybe with a new kind of recess game.
  • Dan Santat: Eddie has forgotten a school assignment and wants to find someone's homework to copy. Will Sophie be willing, even after he puked on her during the class play? 
  • Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier: Sonja and Josh are eager for a kickball rematch but the rain forces them to stay inside with the rainy day monitor, who just may prove to more than a 'boring' babysitter.
A fun collection that kids are sure to love.  I look forward to future collections.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

BLOG TOUR SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: The Fog of Forgetting by G.A. Morgan


In The Fog of Forgetting, the beginning of a new adventure-fantasy trilogy, five children wash up on the shores of an foreign land, unwitting agents of destiny in a realm struggling to withstand a force that could change their world -- and ours -- forever.

Move over, Narnia. The journey to Ayda has begun. 

Sneaking out for a quick boat ride on a summer day, five children find themselves engulfed in a curtain of dense, powerful fog that transports them from the rocky Maine coast to the mysterious island of Ayda. Rescued by Seaborne, a machete-toting wayfarer of few words, the children suddenly find themselves at the center of a centuries-old battle between Dankar, the ruler of Exor, and three siblings that rule the other realms of Ayda. At stake are the four stones of power and the elusive Fifth Stone that binds them all.

When 9-year-old Frankie is kidnapped by Dankar, her older sister Evelyn and the three Thompson brothers must learn to harness the powers of the daylights, ancient forces of earth, fire, water, and air, to navigate their way through the realms of Ayda, rescue her, and find a way home.

G.A. Morgan is a powerful new voice in the young adult adventure-fantasy genre, telling a story full of myth and mystery, action and peril. In Ayda, she has created a land rich with history and steeped in lore, one that exists not just in imagination but unnervingly, realistically, parallel to ours.

THE FOG OF FORGETTING will appeal to a wide audience from middle grade to YA readers who love action, adventure, and intrigue. And although you’ll forget time while reading this novel, the story reminds us that family is one thing that can never be forgotten.


G. A. Morgan spent all of her childhood summers on an island in Maine, where she discovered that many secrets lie deep in the fog. She was formerly the managing editor of Chronicle Books before moving to Portland, Maine, where she has written for a variety of editorial and commercial clients, including LL Bean, Thos. Moser, Hay House Publishers, and Bon Appetit and Maine magazines. She has written several illustrated nonfiction works under her full name, Genevieve Morgan, and is the author of a recent non-fiction book for teens called Undecided: A Guide to Navigating Life after High School (Zest Books/2014). She is currently working on Chantarelle, Book 2 of The Five Stones Trilogy, which will be available Summer 2015.

Add The Fog of Forgetting on Goodreads.


"Collect all four stones and seek the fifth."

1 Metria Stone

US Only

To enter visit this page. (Sorry, I can't copy the HTML on my page for some reason).

To enter giveaways for the other three stones visit the following blogs:

Books & Cleverness
The Scenic Life
On Starships and Dragonwings

Monday, July 14, 2014

MMGM: My Explosive Diary by Emily Gale


Meet Eliza Boom; assistant inventor, junior spy, and full-on fantastic; as she tells all in this first book of a chapter book series packed with jokes, doodles, and dear-diary secrets!

Eliza Boom is having a blast. Her father is an inventor who makes gadgets for spies, and Eliza is his unofficial assistant; very unofficial.

Eliza knows if she can just build that one indispensable thing that every secret agent needs, she can be a full-fledged spy herself, but somehow her inventions keep going wrong. Still, with her best friend (well, dog), Einstein, she's not going to give up.

When Eliza's father loses a top-secret roll of film, Eliza realizes that she might have accidentally given it to class bully Zoe Wakefield, the Queen of Mean. Eliza's got to retrieve the film, which Zoe is using as a hair bow, before enemy spies get to it. Luckily she's got Einstein as well as her own brand-new assistant (and friend), Amy, to help her.

Can these three would-be 007s get the film, stop the spies, and get revenge on the class bully? There's only one way to find out; and that's to read Eliza's diary!


I can't say that I really loved this book, but I can see young middle graders enjoying the silliness, especially if they aren't quite ready for Dork Diaries or Ellie McDoodle.  The numerous illustrations are vital to the story making this a graphic novel in my book. And graphic novels are really popular these days.

I did like some things about the book, the fact that Eliza is an inventor, for example.  We need more books with girls doing science and math related activities.  Eliza's persistence in inventing even when most of her inventions don't work right is admirable if a bit destructive.  The bully is quite irritating which she's supposed to be while Amy, Eliza's new friend provides a nice touch.

The whole spy aspect is absurd but I don't see it bothering the target audience, especially since the story is about a real little girl saving the day, not with superpowers but with her brains and courage.  A fun, light read perfect for younger readers and reluctant readers.

NONFICTION MONDAY: A World of Her Own by Michael Elsohn Ross


An inspiration for any young person who loves the outdoors, wildlife, or science, A World of Her Own tells the stories of 24 brave women from different cultures, epochs, and economic backgrounds who have shared similar missions: to meet the physical and mental challenges of exploring the natural world, to protect the environment and native cultures, and to leave a mark in the name of discovery. Among the many bold women profiled are Rosaly Lopes, who worked for NASA and discovered 71 volcanoes on one of Jupiter’s moons; Helen Thayer, the first woman to walk and ski the Magnetic North Pole accompanied by only her dog; Kay Cottee, the first woman to successfully sail nonstop around the world completely unassisted; and Anna Smith Peck, who set the record for the highest climb in the Western Hemisphere at the age of 58. These and other engaging profiles, based on both historical research and firsthand interviews, stress how childhood passions and interests, perseverance, and courage led these women to overcome challenges and break barriers to achieve great success in their adventurous pursuits and careers. A bibliography and annotated list of exploration resources and organizations make this an invaluable resource for young explorers, parents, and teachers alike.


A fascinating account of the lives of 24 women who worked hard to achieve their dreams despite the challenges they faced.  Basically this is a collection of 24 short biographies.  The amount of text makes these most appropriate for advanced high school readers who like stories about real people.  It's thanks to women like these that a lot of opportunities have opened up for women in many different fields.  These stories focus on women as explorers and adventurers.  To be honest, I would have a hard time doing what these ladies did, but I can admire them for their dedication and determination. This book would be great for reports as well as general interest.  More photographs and fewer editorial mistakes would have been nice but I still really enjoyed reading about the remarkable accomplishments of these ladies.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: Birds



A great way to help children understand the diversity of the natural world, World of Birds combines the delightful and spot-on illustrations of Kim Kurki with the expertise of the National Wildlife Federation.


A beautifully illustrated guide to birds that is perfect for budding ornithologists. While the book contains illustrations rather than photographs, the illustrations are detailed enough to help identify the different types of birds. The book is organized by habitat; fields, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts.  I liked this organization because if a reader knows what to look for in a particular location.  The author/illustration focuses on some of the most common birds and bird types.  She covers the major points of interest about each bird including: coloring and size (including male and female differences), habitats found in, feeding and nesting habits as well as unusual or especially interesting facts.  For example, cardinals are known to sing at any time of year not just in the spring like most birds. Similarities and differences between related species are also explored.  The book is beautifully designed and highly appealing.  I did find a couple of minor errors but nothing major.  A book well worth buying for the young bird-lover.


A delightful exploration of the incredibly variety of nests birds build for their babies, illustrated by a Caldecott Honoree.

Mama built a little nest
inside a sturdy trunk.
She used her beak to tap-tap-tap
the perfect place to bunk.

There are so many different kinds of birds; and those birds build so many different kinds of nests to keep their babies cozy. With playful, bouncy rhyme, Jennifer Ward explores nests large and small, silky and cottony, muddy and twiggy; and all the birds that call them home!


A beautifully written and illustrated book that is well suited to reading out loud.  Not only is the book quite informative about birds and the different types of nests they build but the poetry flows in a pleasing way. Each page explores a different type of bird and a different type of nest with a short poem and a brief explanation of the type of nest. The information is intriguing, I had no idea there were so many different types of nests.  I think my favorite was the hummingbird nest that is tiny, but built with spider webbing so the nest will stretch as the nestlings grow.  Jenkin's illustrations are amazing as they always are, the details in the nests and birds made for great enjoyment on my part.  A winner all the way around.



Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home. . . . These are Puerto Rican parrots. They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever. 

Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots’ story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day. 

With striking collage illustrations, a unique format, and engaging storytelling, PARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO invites readers to witness the amazing recovery efforts that have enabled Puerto Rican parrots to fly over their island once again.


It's not hard to see why this book has won several awards.  Not only are the illustrations beautifully done, but the text is very readable and informative.  Cut-paper collage is a form of illustration that amazes me.  The incredible detail and color that Roth uses in this book is awe-inspiring.  A great example of what picture book nonfiction should be.  The story is also one that needs to be told as it demonstrates the effect that people have on their environment for both good and ill.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

National Geographic Kids Chapters


Based on the hit feature in National Geographic Kids magazine, we bring you Lucky Leopards, true and inspiring stories of daring animal rescues that will engage and enchant readers of all ages. Packed with full-color photography, and written in fun and lively prose that empowers readers to keep turning pages, these heart-warming stories will leave kids hungry for more of the animal "awwww" factor.

National Geographic Kids Chapters picks up where the best-selling National Geographic Readers series leaves off. This new series offers young animal lovers, who are ready for short chapters with lively, true stories just right to carry in a backpack, share with friends, and read under the covers at night.

National Geographic supports K-12 educators with ELA Common Core Resources.
Visit for more information.


National Geographic Kids Chapters picks up where the best-selling National Geographic Readers series leaves off. This new series offers young animal lovers who are ready for short chapters lively, full-color true stories just right to carry in a backpack, share with friends, and read under the covers at night. Based on the hit feature in National Geographic Kids magazine, we bring you Animal Adventures! Featuring three amazing stories of explorer Brian Skerry and his incredible encounters with animals, written in fun and lively prose that empowers readers to devour page after page.


Some children love to read but only want to read nonfiction.  A lot of the nonfiction books in my school library are picture book length and while they are great, especially for reluctant readers, they don't always meet the needs of developing readers.  So this nonfiction chapter book series is a great addition and one I plan to add to my library.  Many children have a natural interest in animals and this series addresses that interest.  I also really like the appealing design, gorgeous photographs, and the introduction to people who actively help or work with animals.

Lucky Leopards focuses on efforts to rescue injured or lost animals.There are three stories contained in the book, one about two clouded leopard cubs taken from their mother by someone looking to make money from them, one about a stranded turtle, and one about a loon tangled in fishing line. The stories are interesting and informative with sidebars that explain more about the animals and their current environmental status.  I appreciate how they show the difference that can be made in the lives of these animals.  The book is colorful with a child-friendly design.  The book includes an index, additional resources, and difficult word pronunciations.

The Whale Who Won Hearts presents the adventures of an underwater photographer.  Despite being written for children, I found the stories fascinating and really interesting.  Each story highlights the benefits and challenges that are a part of being a wildlife photographer, especially an underwater one.  I appreciated the descriptions of the different animals and what it was like to be around them.  The stories included are about harp seals and their babies as well as the challenges of taking photos in ice cold water; trying to locate and take pictures of a wild leatherback turtle; the befriending of a beluga whale, and the adventure of swimming on a untouched-by-human-hands coral reef.
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