December 26, 2012

Where Have I Been?

Well, honestly, I've been reading like crazy!

The Cybils shortlist is very nearly due, and I've been doing my very best to read every single nominee.  I don't think I've ever read so many books in such a short amount of time in my entire life!

Right now, I'm kinda itching for a picture book (I have 2 author submissions that I have read, just need to write reviews) or graphic novel, just something different from the middle grade fiction I've been immersed in.

Don't get me wrong, I've read some wonderful books and have loved the experience.  As a matter of fact, I was just thinking on the many ways being a Cybils judge has given me insight into myself as a reader.

I found that I enjoy books with sports as a backdrop.  No surprise there, since I have season tickets to my alma matter's football games!

I found that I really love books that deal with heavy, meaningful subject matter and situations.

Finally, something I already knew and has been reaffirmed for me - I love to talk about books!  I've really enjoyed the give and take of talking with the other judges and seeing their perspectives on different books.  Even if we don't agree, I learn so much from their perspectives!

Anyway, I should be back to reviewing in a week or two.  Please forgive my absence.  I just couldn't read and review, so I focused on the reading so that I could give my very best input to the shortlist.

Hope you've all had a very happy holiday season!

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

October 24, 2012

Review: May B

May B by Caroline Starr Rose

This is the story of a girl with dyslexia on the prairie, but it's no little house! When May's father hires her out to help a neighboring homesteader and his young wife, she must deal with their strained relationship and the wife's poor treatment of her. When the wife decides to return home and the husband follows after her, May ends up being abandoned in their sod house during heavy winter weather and it becomes a story of survival.

Strengths: The story is told with very few words in the first person, like a journal, a little Hemingway-like.

Weaknesses: Reading about May's loneliness gets a little old after a while.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!


October 23, 2012

Review: Dork Diaries 4


Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess by Rachel Renee Russell

This is a Cybils review.

I confess that I have not read any of the Dork Diary books, even though they are extremely popular in my library. The fourth book has Nikki volunteering to raise money for an animal shelter by entering an ice skating competition.  The problem is, she doesn't know how to skate.  Making the whole thing even messier is the fact that the shelter is owned by the grandmother of her crush, Brandon, and her nemesis Mackenzie is a fantastic skater.

Strengths: Fun, entertaining, light with wonderful illustrations (though I have to wonder about the hands - they always look like mittens!).

Weaknesses: Although the series is very popular, don't expect anything really meaningful here.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

October 22, 2012

CYBILS Nominations

Well, my reading dance card is pretty full right now!

Here is a link to the books that have been nominated for the Cybils this year:
http://www.cybils.com/2012-nominations-middle-grade-fiction.html

I'm working my way through them (it's easier to read than to write the reviews!). So far, I have one title I'm recommending move on.  Can you guess what it is?  You'll have to stay tuned to find out for sure.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

October 20, 2012

Review: Liar & Spy

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
This is a Cybils review.
I enjoyed reading Rebecca Stead's first novel, First Light, but thought the boy character in that story was not very well written. When I read the synopsis of this, which featured another boy main character, I was very worried it would be similar. However, the character in this book is very real and very believable. Liar & Spy is the story of Georges, whose parents named him after Georges Seurat. When his family moves into an apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, he finds a sign advertising a spy club and meets the aptly Safer. As the two boys track a mysterious neighbor, the boys learn a lot about each other, and themselves.

Pros: Realistic characters in very real situations dealing with family and friendship.

Cons: Much of this story happens in very subtle, subdued situations. As result, it's not the fasted paced read.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

October 19, 2012

Review: Interrupting Chicken



Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

As Papa Chicken reads his daughter bedtime stories, little red chicken just can't help but interrupt and tell what he thinks some classic fairy tale characters should do to get out of their problems. This is a funny story with wonderfully colorful pictures that reminds me of my own interrupting daughter! I highly recommend Interrupting Chicken as a fun picture book.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyages and happy reading!

October 18, 2012

Review: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece



My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

This is a Cyblis review.

This book tells the story of Jamie, a boy who's sister Rose died in a terrorist attack in England. As a result, his family is pretty messed up. He moves to a new school with his absent, alcoholic father and his older sister Jas (who was Rose's twin). He meets one friendly student, who is Muslim, but the rest of the students bully him and treat him like an outsider. The book was funny, touching, and very poignant at times. Jamie deals with a very wide range of emotions as he works to overcome the event that so shaped his life.

Pros: This book is very touching, sweet, and real. I couldn't put it down and ended up reading it late into the night. Also, Jamie's thought processes are perfect for a ten year old boy.

Cons: It's very real, and may be too real for some students as it deals frankly with some very sensitive subject matter (terrorism, race relations, alcoholism, loss, and others).

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

October 3, 2012

Cybils Nominations Now Open!

Yes, and you can nominate your favorite book published during the last year! Anyone can! Nominations are open between now and October 15th.

There are ten different genres, but each person can only nominate one book per genre. The genres are:

  1. Book Apps
  2. Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
  3. Fantasy & Science Fiction
  4. Fiction Picture Books
  5. Graphic Novels
  6. Middle Grade Fiction
  7. Non-Fiction Picture Books
  8. Non-Fiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult
  9. Poetry
  10. Young Adult Fiction
If you have a title you'd like to nominate, head on over to http://www.cybils.com/2012/10/nominate-here-for-the-2012-cybils.html, sign up for a nominating account by clicking the nomination form link, and enjoy!

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

October 1, 2012

Review: The Incredible Rockhead



The Incredible Rockhead by Scott Nickel

Graphic novels have become a new favorite of mine. I use to think they had weak stories and shallow characters, or where only for older students. Not so any more! Now I love them and look forward to finding new ones. Unfortunately, this just doesn't measure up as a great graphic novel. It's the story of Chip Stone, who is drugged by a crazed ex military type pretends to be the school nurse and gives him a shot. When he needs to, Chip becomes Rockhead, literally a boy with a great big rock for a head. Although this give him a strange super power that lets him crash his head into things, he still is just as insecure and clumsy as always. There are lots of rock, paper, scissors gags, especially toward the end of the story, but my favorite part were the special offers on some pages in the book that were just like the things I used to see in comic books of my day. Although this would appeal to readers who liked humorous graphic novels such as Captain Underpants, I just don't see it having a wide readership.

There is a fun website for fans of the book that has activities and downloads. It can be found by clicking here.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading.

September 28, 2012

Review: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl


Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl returns in this sequel. She is still with Piper, who continues to exploit her, but longs to just get away. When a robot mimics her, she gets the perfect chance to slip away from being on display. Mouse follows after her, and we learn a bit about his background. This story focuses on fewer characters than the first novel, and so is stronger. I always look forward to more Zita! It's great to have a good girl role model in books.  The illustrations are just as wonderful, maybe even a bit less cluttered than the first book. Highly recommended! This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

September 26, 2012

Review: mockingbird


mockingbird by Kathryn Erskin

I don't know what goes on in the mind of a child with Asperger Syndrom, but this book certainly made me think about it a lot. It's the story of Caitlin, who has Asperger's and is dealing with the loss of her brother, Devon, who watched out for her and helped her deal with the world around her. It is a very touching book, but really makes you think as well. I loved the way her mind worked, and couldn't put this book down, mostly because I wanted to see what Caitlin would do or say next. Highly recommended for the empathy it draws out of the reader. This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

September 25, 2012

Early Reading Literacy


I've given talks, workshops, and seminars on the importance of early reading and book exposure.  My own kids have access to books in the car, in the family room, and even in the garage!

I was delighted when I read this post, tilted Never Too Young to Be a Booklover! on a blog about picture books.  The suggestions are easy and fun. I sure hope, as we move to a digital world, that the magic of picture books isn't lost.

Enjoy reading it and please feel free to share your own ideas for fostering literacy with little ones by commenting below.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

September 18, 2012

CYBILS

The CYBILS, or Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards is a yearly book award given by the blogging community to deserving books and authors.  This year I will be a round one judge.  I'm pretty excited, as I will be judging middle grade fiction books.  Could I have gotten a better category?  I think not!

As you can tell, I'm a little excited.  I've read about these awards before, but only recently applied to judge. Here are my co-judges:
Round 1:
Art Spencer (Me!)
Book Voyages
@bookvoyages 
Round Two:
Michael Gettel-Gilmartin
Middle Grade Mafioso
@MGMafioso
Jennifer Donovan
5 Minutes for Books
@5M4B
Cameron Kelly Rosenblum
Feeding the Flashlight
@ckellyrose
Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

September 17, 2012

I Thought So!

Here is an interesting article on who is buying "Young Adult" books.  I've read and enjoyed a lot of YA books myself.

New Study: 55% of YA Books Bought by Adults

I suspected this may have been the case.  Most of the people I talk about YA titles with are adults.  I do find some MS/HS students who talk about them, but not as many.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

September 3, 2012

Review: Amulet Book 5: Prince of Elves



Amulet #5: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi

The Amulet saga continues on in book 5, Prince of Elves. This book takes us away from Emily and focuses more on Max. There is a lot of back story and history given in this book that helps to set up the coming war with the elves. This was a great addition to the series, and I felt as if there was more narrative in this title when compared to other books in the series. The addition of a map to the back of the book was a big help in determining where things were located in relation to each other. Kibuishi's illustrations are fantastically detailed and engaging. My students love this series, and I can understand why.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy. 


Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

August 10, 2012

Review: Lamberto, Lamberto, Lamberto


Lamberto, Lamberto, Lamberto by Gianni Rodari, translated by Antony Shugaar

This strange novel is the story of a rich Baron, named Lamberto of course, who discovers an ancient secret: if his name is spoken continuously his aging will stop and even reverse. He hires a group of people to live up in his attic and recite his name, so that he will return to a healthy, younger self. Problems arise as a greedy nephew and some bandits try to get their hands on his vast wealth. This modern fairy tale was quite fun to read, with zany illustrations and a less than comfortable (though to my mind, perfect) ending. Although I greatly enjoyed this book, I am not sure that it would appeal to my students. There is a great deal of Italian geography mentioned in the book, but mostly in lists rather than being described. Another problem I had in reading it was the detached manner that it dealt with some of the bandit's actions. Al in all, I think this book would be great for someone looking for something new or unique to read, but I'm not sure it's really a book that will have appeal to elementary students. There is some marketing that compares it to The Little Prince. I was very excited when I read that comparison, but honestly it's nothing like the innocence and depth of that great work of fiction. Read if you'd like a zany take on humanity, otherwise, skip this one. This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading.

August 8, 2012

Review: Sidekicks



Sidekicks by Dan Danko & Tom Mason, illustrated by Barry Gott

My tour of books named Sidekicks concludes with this superhero story of Guy Martin, also known as Speedy, who can run 92.7 miles per hour and making him the fastest man alive (causing superhero Fastest Man Alive Man to change his name to Almost Fastest Man Alive Man). He's the sidekick to Pumpkin Pete and is left to deal with villains when they destroy both the superhero and the sidekick halls. His less than super fellow sidekicks lend a helping hand. There are some laugh out loud moments in this book, but it's by far the weakest of the books called Sidekicks. Most of the super abilities are just plain silly. Overall, the book gets a "meh" from me. Read if you like superhero parodies, otherwise, skip this one. I did get a kick out of realizing that all three Sidekicks books made fun of the "villain monologue." This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

August 6, 2012

Review: Let's Hear It For Almigal



Let's Hear It For Almigal by Wendy Kupfer, illustrated by Tammie Lyon


This cute picture book is the story of a girl with hearing loss who gives up her hearing aids for a pink (cotton candy pink!) cochlear implant. Full disclosure time: my son has a cochlear implant. The author has a daughter with hearing loss as well. This book is full of self affirmation and joy over hearing that it's not hard to believe, like Almigal says, she's the luckiest girl in the world. The illustrations are cute and cartoonish, with enough realism and detail for the story. I really liked this book.  I do feel that the author brushed over the hard work it takes to get kids using an implant, and I wish the character were a boy, but this book would be great for any students who have classmates with implants to introduce them to the concept of what they are, as well as any students receiving implants. Highly recommended. This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!


July 16, 2012

Review: Little Brother



I remember the hoopla when Cory Doctrow released his book Little Brother online for free. At the time, I wasn't reading young adult novels, so I skipped it.  BIG mistake. I think this book should be required reading in high schools. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen due to some adult content int he book. Of course, that would make it more attractive to teens, but objectionable to many parents.

This is the story of Marcus, an average 17 year old with an above average knowledge of the internet and gadgets. When skipping school to play an alternate reality game one day, he and some friends are caught outside during a terrorist attack on San Francisco. Thinking he might be a suspect, Marcus is abducted by Homeland Security and interrogated and tortured in a secret government facility. Marcus takes various measures to ensure his freedom in a world where freedoms are being taken away left and right and everyone is considered a potential terrorist. He becomes a folk hero and a target of the Department of Homeland Security.

The book was suspenseful and full of history and computer science worded in easy to understand English. I highly recommend this book for all teen readers and above. Regardless of your politics, it sends a strong message about freedom and civil liberties.

This review is based on a freely downloaded copy available on Cory Doctrow's website.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

July 13, 2012

Review: Ordinary Magic


Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway 
Imagine if you were the only "normal" person in a world filled with magic. That's the story in Ordinary Magic, where Abigail is an Ord, someone who cannot work magic even though everyone else in the world has magical ability. Unlike other families, Abby's chooses to keep her rather than sell her or disown her.  Her family sends her off to a school for Ords where her sister acts as a liaison to the king and she learns how to protect herself and function without magic. Once at the school, she must face Ord eating Redcaps, and adventurers who want to make them into slaves.
I recommend this book to all fans of the fantasy genre, as this one turns it on it's head. The book was funny and exciting at the same time and kept you reading. I wanted to read more about Abby when I had finished the book, and it's perfectly set up for a sequel (it ends in a cliffhanger). Be careful as there are some slightly scary scenes in the book.
This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.
Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading! 

July 11, 2012

Review: Zita the Space Girl



Zita the Spacegirl, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke

I'm writing this review for two reasons. One is my new found love for graphic novels. For so long graphic novels were for young adults and above.  It's very refreshing to find them appropriate for elementary aged children. Secondly, I have a review copy of the second book and feel that I need to read this one first. So here we go!

This graphic novel tells the story of Zita, a girl who discovers a meteoroid with her friend Joseph. Inside they find a small box with a big red button on it. Would YOU push the button? Of course you would! Joseph disappears into a portal, and Zita is left to decide whether to follow him or not. Bravely she does and finds herself on an alien world full of, well, aliens. Zita sets off on a quest to rescue Joseph, meeting strange creatures and robots along the way. She makes friends of many of them and finds that she has only a very short amount of time before an asteroid will destroy the planet she's on.

The characters are well developed and distinct and the images are very colorful and full of soft lines. This was a great read that left me wanting more. Fortunately, I won't be dissatisfied because the next book is already done!

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading! 

July 9, 2012

Review: A Secret Keeps



A Secret Keeps by Marsha Wilson Chall, illustrated by Heather Solomon

A little boy goes to visit his Grandpa's for the weekend. His grandfather tells him that there is a secret waiting for him. All Grandpa will tell him is "Finder's keepers," and "A Secret if for keeping." After wandering around looking, he eventually does find the secret and the things his Grandpa says makes sense. This sweet story is a nice, quiet story that conveys the little boy's delight and his family's closeness. A great picture book for young children.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading! 

July 6, 2012

Review: Sidekicks



Sidekicks by Dan Santat

I didn't intend to, but it looks like I'm working my way through the books named Sidekicks (two down, one to go now!).  Fluffy the hamster, Roscoe the dog, and Shifty the chameleon are all trying to become the new sidekick for their master Harry who is actually the superhero Captain Amazing. The story part of this graphic novel is a bit disjointed, but the pictures are very engaging. A very good graphic novel that left me wishing for more.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Just a quick note to wish everyone in the US a happy and safe Independence Day.

Bon Voyage!

July 2, 2012

Review: Fall Mixed Up



Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka

Okay, I know it's summer, but I have written this review about four times and accidentally deleted it every time. I want to get it posted before I lose it again!

Every page of this picture book has many fall mix ups that readers will need to look carefully at and even re-read to spot them all. For example, it begins, "Every Septober, Every Octember, Fall fills my senses with scenes to remember." This was a fun, quick read (even spotting the errors was quick and easy) that younger children will enjoy, especially if they are fans of I Spy or other books to find things. Raczka's illustrations bring to life the mixed up world his words paint. I recommend this picture book for all readers.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 29, 2012

Review: Giants Beware!

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado


Claudette doesn't dream of being a princess like most young ladies, instead she dreams of becoming a giant slayer. So after some clever trickery, she sets off with her best friend Marie and her pastry chef wanna be brother Gaston to fulfill her dream. The illustrations in this smart, zany graphic novel fit the story very well. I highly recommend this book for fans of twisted fairy tales or funny graphic novels.  It's appropriate for middle elementary age students and above. Adults will find humorous references that students might miss. This was a great read!

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 20, 2012

Online Book Club


Earlier this month, I participated in my first book club. I've done a couple of them for professional books through work, but this is the first time I've done one for a book for pleasure reading. The book was Lois Lowry's The Giver, which has been on my "Want To Read" list for a very long time.

The experience was excellent.  Although we read the book a different rates, there were two threads of discussion on the online discussion board, one for spoilers and one for non-spoiler comments. This kept me (one of the slower readers) from any unexpected surprises.

Each member of the group was able to contribute their thoughts and questions and through these I was able to see things in the novel that I would not have be reading it only for myself. I feel as though I got a much deeper look into the book than I would have on my own.

This was the perfect book to use for an online book club, as it left so many unanswered questions.  Next month, we'll be reading the companion book Gathering Blue .  I'm looking forward to it.  If you'd like to join an online book club, there are plenty of options out there, from a group on Good Reads, to bulletin boards, to blogs. Or, please join me in reading Gathering Blue on Club Nook!

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 18, 2012

Sidekicks

Sidekicks by Jack Ferraiolo



There are actually 3 relatively new books with this title, so be careful which you choose! This book is young adult and above for an adult situation at the beginning of the book and a romance later on. It is the story of Scott Hutchinson, the secret identity of Bright Boy. Bright Boy is the sidekick of superhero Phantom Justice. Though cast as the hero, Scott begins to question his role in the world and just exactly who is right and wrong. this is a fantastic superhero story that takes some surprising twists and turns. I recommend this for fans of comics. A great read for boys, as well. The story really draws you in. This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 15, 2012

Mrs. Noodlekugel


Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrations by Adam Stower



Admittedly, I'm a big Daniel Pinkwater fan.  I know his work is not for everyone, simply for it's absurdity, but I like it. In Mrs. Noodlekugel, he introduces us to two children who live in a high rise apartment building with a strange little house in the backyard.  In the house we meet a cast of zany characters including Mrs. Noodlekugel, who is to be their baby sitter, and Mr. Fuzzface, the talking cat. This all too short book is the beginning of a series that holds much promise. A prefect book for younger children who are just starting to get into chapter books. This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 14, 2012

Sync YA Starts TODAY!

Sync YA begins today (got my text message at 6:45 this morning!).

The first set of downloads is The 11th Plague by Jeff Hirsch and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  Both are available for download this week only.  If you haven't used Overdrive for audio books, you'll need to download and install that first.

Click for the SyncYA website.

Enjoy!

Until next time, bon voyage and happy listening!

June 13, 2012

The Memory Bank

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman, illustrations by Rob Shepperson



This is a cute book that uses the text and pictures trick to tell a story.  Although there aren't as many pictures as there are in other books of this genre (for example, Wonderstruck by Brian Seltzer), the pictures do add a lot of depth to the story. This book tells about Hope, who's name is very appropriate. One day Hope's parents leave her little sister, Honey, on the side of the road. Hope continues to hope that she will be reunited with her sister, but retreats into sleep and dreams to be with her. One day, Hope gets a letter demanding to know why her dream balance is larger than her memory balance. After that she makes a trip to a magical world where dreams and memories are stored, The Memory Bank. This is a delightful book that I recommend for fans of light fantasy. This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 11, 2012

Say Something Perico


Say Something Perico by Trudy Harris, illustrated by Cecilia Rebora



This is the story of a parrot who never seems to know the right thing to say in order to be adopted from the pet store. He speaks Spanish and begins to learn some English in hopes of finding a suitable owner. After repeated rejections for what he doesn't say, he finally finds a family that appreciates him for what he does say. The back of the book has a dictionary of the Spanish words he says. This was a cute little story and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn a few Spanish words. The pictures are cute and fit the story well.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 8, 2012

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes


Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean, illustrated by Eric Litwin



This is such a fun little book. In it, a cat wearing white shoes walks through things that change the color of his shoes, but despite it all, he's cool and nothing bothers him. If you read this book, you really have to download the audio file from the Harper Collins website and listen to it that way (or you can download it without reading the book, but you are really missing some great illustrations if you do). What a fun way to introduce colors and an easy going, accept what may attitude. I highly recommend this book, but you have to sing Pete's song if you read it! There are more Pete the Cat books, and I look forward to reading the rest. A highly recommended picture book for young readers.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 6, 2012

Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans


Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Seaside Shenanigans by Chris Monroe



I have never seen this series of books before. It is a very clever idea. A monkey with a tool belt named Chico Bon Bon helps other animals out by fixing, repairing, and making things with his tools. In this book, Chico must help find what is causing problems at his friend Clark's uncle's resort. He fixes things that are broken just to find other things that need fixing pop up. The illustrations are great - colorful and cartoonish and include clever labels on one page for all the things inside the tool belt. This is a cute, fun book that I recommend to all tinkers of any age.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading.

June 4, 2012

Little Pink Pup


Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby



This cute picture book is the story of a runt pig who is adopted by a dachshund and treated as one of her own. Pink, the pig, is treated like just another member of Tink, the dog's family. It's a tender story told with pictures instead of illustrations (making this literally a picture book, pun intended!). I really enjoyed this story of animals acting in a way that not all people would. I liked the book so much, I bought a copy for my family. I recommend this book for animal fans, as well as families where everyone doesn't look the same. This book won the Washington Children's Choice Award in 2012.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

June 1, 2012

The Cheerleaders of Doom


Cheerleaders of Doom by Michael Buckley



OK, I admit it. I absolutely love this series. It makes me laugh out loud every time I read one of them. This series tells the story of 5 kids, all nerds for various reasons, who are super secret agents as well as middle school students. Their very weaknesses are what give them their powers. In this, the third book in the series, Matilda "Wheezer" Choi, who has asthma and super powered inhalers, is recruited to infiltrate a national cheer leading competition in order to track down a criminal mastermind who can travel to alternate dimension versions of earth in order to steal valuables from them. The team's arch enemy Heathcliff is back to help, but has ulterior motives as usual. The humor is decidedly tongue incheek, and it reads as if it's a twisted spy novel. I recommend this book for fans of humor and spy novels.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

May 30, 2012

The Big Awards


A thought on the big awards (Newbery, Caldecott, National Book Award, etc.).

I remember reading a blog post from an author who will remain nameless that they would not win the Newbery award. This author seemed a bit sad about that, and my immediate thought was - they totally have the wrong attitude. Totally wrong. In my opinion, no author of children's literature should aspire to win the big awards. The winners of these are selected by adults for reasons that make more sense to adults than to children. No, children's literature authors should aspire to win awards selected by children! The children's choice awards, both by state and nationally, are the real goals in my opinion. The children are, after all, the intended audience for these books. Who better to choose what's award worthy!

I hope that the author comes to understand just how important it ISN'T to win the big awards, and how important it IS to have children as fans.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading.

May 18, 2012

RJ Palacio Interview


I can't say too much what a lovely book I thought Wonder was.  I love books and reading, but I am rarely moved by them in the way that I was by this book.

Here's two resources related to this book:

A School Library journal interview with the author.


RJ Palacio introducing Wonder.


The author's website has a long list of ineresting trivia from the book and from her writing of it.

May 16, 2012

Free Comic Book Day

I spent 2 hours Sunday reading through my haul. For the first time, my son and I participated in Free Comic Book Day.  I'd heard about it before, but I really didn't know what it was about. We went to a local comic book store soon after they had opened and stood in a line that spanned the entire store. We waited patiently, my son wide eyed at all the comics, and excited when he saw his beloved Sonic the Hedgehog. When we reached the front of the line, we asked for a pack for my son and a pack for me, and we left in comic heaven. After getting our free books (every store passes them out differently, but we got about 8 comics in each pack!), we retired to Starbucks to review and start reading our take aways!

I know some people have problems with comics, but for some of my students, it's the graphic novels that get them reading for the first time.

Free Comic Book Day is offered on the first Saturday in May every year.

If you are interested, please check out the official website after the jump:
Free Comic Book Day, http://www.freecomicday.com/

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

May 14, 2012

Crush



Crush by Gary Paulsen

Wow. The king of adventure stories with a romance! In this delightful book, Kevin from Liar, Liar and Flat Broke is trying to ask out the love of his life. However, since he's nervous, he decides to take a scientific approach and study other couples, both successful and not. He learns a lot by observing others, as much of it about himself as about love or the people he's studying. I found Kevin to be a believable, likable character who's situation will ring true to most guys who have struggled with how to ask out a girl.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

May 11, 2012

Audio Book Sync Is On Again This Summer!


Every summer, the AudioFile, the audio book magazine, sponsors Sync. Each week they offer a free recent young adult audio book (downloaded through the Overdrive application), and a matching free classic audio book. This is a great way to introduce kids to the joy of audio books.  I've been a fan for many years. I began listening to audio books when I discovered that, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't keep up with all the books I wanted to read.  I began to listen to audio books during my commute to work. Later I listened when I was doing yard work as well.

This summers free offerings look great, and include three titles on my want to read list as well as a personal favorite - Skulduggery Pleasant.

Just make sure you download the books when they are available. If you wait too long, you won't be able to get them.  I signed up for the texting service this year, and they will text me when each new book is ready for downloading.

May 9, 2012

Small Medium Large






Small Medium Large by Emily Jenkins, illustrations by Tomek Bogacki

This is a great book to introduce young children to the vocabulary of size. With bright, colorful, and fun illustrations, this is a book kids would want to pick up and read. It is perfect for teachers, home schoolers, and anyone wanting to learn size words to use in math.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.


Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

May 2, 2012

Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


This one is definitely middle school and up for swearing and eeriness. Jacob, a normal 16 year old who thinks his grandfather is a bit eccentric, discovers that all the strange stories his grandfather had been telling him just might be true.  In an effort to find out, he travels to a small island off the coast of Wales to search for an orphanage that may or may not even exist. Scattered throughout the book are strange photographs, some clearly trick photography, that lend to the eerie feelings the story evokes. More fantasy than horror, when I reached the end of this book, I immediately wanted more.

This review is based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

April 30, 2012

I tried!


I am, admittitedly, a fan of Rockstar (so nicknamed by School Library Journal, I believe) Rick Riordan. The fact that this excellent author is writing 2 series at the same time is nothing short of amazing. When the first book in his Kane series came out last year, I read it. I really enjoyed the interaction between brother and sister Carter and Sadie. However, I just couldn't get into all the strange Egyptian mythology.  Not like I was able to get into the Percy Jackson series.  

A few weeks ago, I really, really, really, really tried to read the second book, Throne of Fire. But by the third chapter I gave up and began book three of the NERDs series. Am I a bad person for this? I really want to like the Kane books, but alas cannot.

*sigh* 

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

April 4, 2012

My Dog, My Cat


My Dog, My Cat written and illustrated by Ashlee Fletcher



This picture book tells several ways a pet dog and a pet cat are the same, and a few ways they are different. The simple, carefully colored pictures add a lot to the text without being overly distracting. What a great book to use for comparing and contrasting, even with the youngest students! It was a quick, fun read. This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

April 2, 2012

A Full Moon Rising


A Full Moon Rising by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Julia Cairns



This picture book features poems set around the world, all dealing with the full moon and way it looks or how it is percieved by people. A book with both poetry and science? Sign me up! Included in the book is a map showing where in the world each of the poems tell about. Also, there is a paragraph describing the science and/or social science behind each poem. I recommend this book for all fans of both the moon and poems.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 30, 2012

Wonder


Wonder by R. J. Palacio



This is her first book? Seriously? This is an incredible book, and instantly became one of my all time favorites. It's the story of August Pullman, a fifth grade student just entering middle school after having been home schooled since his education began. Middle school is hard enough for most kids, but Auggie has a special reason to be nervous. He has a facial deformity that gets him stares, shocked looks, and even fear from others. As Auggie starts school, he encounters difficult students, friendly students, and many life lessons. This book had me crying, laughing, and feeling for the characters. The author writes from the point of view of several of them, not just Auggie, and this really helps to develop a fondness for each of them, even though they are all very different. I loved this book and highly recommend it for everyone to read.

This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 27, 2012

Chomp


Chomp by Carl Hiassen



Carl Hiassen has a gift for writing some of the craziest, yet believable characters. Chomp doesn't disappoint. Wahoo Cray is missing a thumb from an alligator accident, his father is an animal wrangler with a headache that just won't go away, Derek Badger is a reality show star who's show is pretty much fake, and Tuna is Wahoo's girlfriend who's on the run from a bad home situation.  Add these characters, mix with a storm and a manhunt or two, and what sounds like chaos is a fascinating story. I loved the characters, and would love to see Hiaasen revisit them, but since his children's books are one offs, I don't expect he will. If you loved the rest of his books, you'll love this one. If you like colorful, larger than life characters, you'll love this book. I loved this book and think most of you will as well! Review based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 13, 2012

The Inquisitor's Apprentice

The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarity



A story set in an alternate history, full of Jewish culture and magic. I really didn't expect to like this book before I started to read it. There was nothing in the premise that I really connected with. And yet... Once I started, I couldn't stop. Sacha Kessler discovers he can see magic. Because of his gift, he is apprenticed to the New York Police's best Inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf. Wolf's job is to stop magical crime in a place and time where magic and ethnic groups and the industrial revolution have mixed to create a very vibrant and detailed New York at the start of the twentieth century. Sacha, Wolf, and fellow apprentice Lily Astral are tasked with protecting Thomas Edison, who invented a machine that will detect magic in people. Sacha is a great character, human and believable, and I think that's why I was drawn into this story. I do hope the author will make this into a series and give us more stories of Sacha and his friends. Besides writing, Chris Moriarity is a book reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Review based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 9, 2012

Amulet


Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi (books 1 through 4)



I'm glad I waited to read these until I had several. They are very quick reads. My students seems to have no trouble checking them out and reading them out of order, but it would drive me crazy. In this series of graphic novels a girl discovers an amulet in the attic of her grandfather's house, and discovers that this amulet has power, as well as a mind of it's own. She and her family are transported to an alternate universe where they meet robots, people who have changed into animals, bad elves, and other oddities. It's up to her to save this world, and maybe change our own world as well. The pictures are very engaging and the story moves at a steady pace. Each book is a quick read with little text, just enough to move the story along. Still, the story draws you in and keeps you asking for more. When is the next book coming out?????? Review based on library copies.

Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 7, 2012

Wonderstruck


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick



I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but this book really hit a cord with me (maybe in a large part due to the fact that my son is deaf). It's the story of a boy, Ben, and a girl, Rose. They are separated by 50 years, but their stories intersect. Ben's mother dies, he is struck by lightening, and he runs away to find the father he never knew. Ben's story is told in text, and Rose's completely in picture. It's a lovely story and I had trouble putting it down. I often have students asking if this is the sequel to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, especially with the popularity of the Hugo movie, but this story stands on it's own. Highly recommended. Review based on a library copy.

Until next time, bon voyage, and happy reading!

March 5, 2012

Surprise Island


Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler Warner and Mike Dubisch

Did YOU know there were graphic novel versions of the Boxcar Children series?  Neither did I! Surprise Island is the second in this venerable series and this version details a summer the Alden children spend on a private island, finding a couple of mysteries to solve. Unfortunately, it seems to me that a lot of detail is missing from this version of the story, but that's probably because I remember reading the books. Unlike most other graphic novels, this book features nice children solving mysteries. The pictures make a good fit for the story. I enjoyed the story, even though I missed some of the details of the book.  This series of graphic novels will hopefully bring new life to this wonderful series by making it accessible for a whole new set of readers. Review based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.


Until next time, bon voyage and happy reading!

March 1, 2012

RIP Mama Bear

Jan Berenstain passed away Friday, February 24th.  Here's an NPR interview with her son.

Sad news.

The Bridge to Never Land


The Bridge to Never Land by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Now, what would happen if the events in the wonderful Barry/Pearson Peter and the Starcatchers books where real?  And, what if these real events were accidentally found by a brother and sister from the US today?  That’s what the novel The Bridge to Never Land explores with the usual action and adventure this series has given us in the past.  Umbra is back, and chasing after our two protagonists who have discovered a large amount of starstuff.  It’s up to them to keep the starstuff from Umbra, and along the way they visit DisneyWorld and make their way to Never Land.  I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to all fans of the Peter and the Starcatchers series.  The book can even be read and enjoyed if you haven’t read the series.  A great book. This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.


Until next time, happy reading, and bon voyage!

February 28, 2012

What book world would you go into?

I've read several books about entering into the world described in a book lately. This got me thinking, what book would I want to enter, if I could. There are so many interesting worlds out there.  For me, the top of my list would be Narnia.  What book or series would you like to go into?  Post your answer in the comments below.

February 25, 2012

Escape from Planet Yastol


Escape from Planet Yastol by Pamela Service
This book tells the story of Josh Higgins, a geeky boy who discovers that the book he wrote for a writing contest, along with all other works of fiction, are actually real.  Some flat blue aliens come looking for him so that they can take a valuable mineral from the Yastol, the planet in Josh’s book.  Josh and his younger sister Maggie are dragged by the blue guys to Yastol and they must escape and somehow make it back home. There are simple illustrations throughout this book, which was a quick and easy read. According to the Number 1 on the cover, it appears the author is planning more books in this series. This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.


Until next time, happy reading, and bon voyage!

February 23, 2012

The Great Moon Hoax


The Great Moon Hoax by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon (Illustrator)
This unusual picture book shows a few days in the life of two newsies, boys that hocked newspapers by calling out interesting news. These boys are fascinated by stories of alien life on the moon.  The art style is interesting in this book, but the story is not one that would connect with most students.  Although my students might not choose to read this book on their own, when I shared it with them we had a very engaging discussion about truth in media, including the Internet, and whether the events of this book could happen today.  This is a book I intend to add to my library collection and use for instruction. This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.


Until next time, happy reading, and bon voyage!

February 21, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae


What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
What a great concept for a non fiction picture book!  Although only adults will get the connection to to more famous What to Expect books, the idea of telling about insect babies from the point of view of insect parents works very well.  The illustrations are cute and perfect for younger children.  Some of the information about insects is a bit gross, but that might just draw some students into this non-fiction picture book.  The facts are given in a tongue in cheek, yet informative manner and this quick read was a lot of fun. I recommend this book for all lovers of insects. This review is based on a publisher supplied electronic copy.


Until next time, happy reading, and bon voyage!

February 2, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

After a few years of trying (unsuccessfully) to find the time to record, edit, and post podcast episodes, I've decided to change Book Voyages into a traditional blog.  I'll continue to review books, but will be working on this blog to convert it from podcast back to regular blog.  Thanks for hanging in there during this transition.

Until next time, bon voyage, and happy reading!