Monday, December 2, 2013

Check THIS site out!
A friend of mine in Library school created this site for those interested in reading more historical fiction!  Gives great summaries of the books along with videos too!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Newberry Award winner 2012-2013

Book description from

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

My 25 cents:                                                                                                                                               I heard this was the Newberry winner and thought the cover was cute.  Seriously, that is why I decided to read it.  It is a great story, told by Ivan the gorilla.  It definitely made me think about animals in captivity. It is easy to read as there are some "chapters" that are only a page long.  The text is spread out to make it easy on the eyes as well.  Ivan is a lovable gorilla that has a hear the size of the Empire State building!   Read this-you won't be sorry!!  Here are just two examples of the humor in this story:
(Ivan has just told the reader that Mack, the owner, discovered people will pay money for a picture drawn by a gorilla, even if they don't know what it is.....(Ivan is speaking remember....)
"Now I draw every day.  My works sell for twenty dollars a piece, twenty-five with a frame, at the gift shop near my domain.
If I get tired and need a break, I eat my crayons."
The chapter called "Three Visitors":
Three visitors are here; a woman, a boy and a girl.
I strut across my domain for them.  I dangle from the tire swing.  I eat three banana peels in a row.
The boy spits at the window.  The girl throws a handful of pebbles.
Sometimes I am glad there is glass there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Face First by Priscilla Cummings

Book description from

After a catastrophic automobile accident, twelve-year-old Kelley wakes up to find her face and body severely burned. To recover, she must suffer through skin-graft operations, painful dressings, and hand exercises that seem akin to torture. Worst of all, she must wear a plastic mask so that her facial skin won't grow back puffy and hard. How will she ever face the world again?

My 25 cents:  
Mrs. Stuhr told me how great this book was so I decided to give it a try.  I was very, very happy that I'd read it.  This is a great story about a girl that has to live with a facial imperfection.  She is full of fear and doubt in the beginning but realizes later on that there is more to life than what you look like on the outside. It reminded me a lot of the book WONDER that I blogged about earlier as well.  The character in this book has a lot to work through, but when she opens her mind and heart she is able to find peace.  I would highly recommend this book for kids and their parents!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Start saving your money!!
The BOOKFAIR is coming to our school!!
Teacher previews will be Tuesday morning, November 12th and then
EVERYONE can shop starting Tuesday afternoon all week, before and after school through Monday, November 18th!  The bookfair will even have extended hours during Parent/Teacher conferences on Thursday, 11/14 and Monday, 11/18 until 8 p.m.!!

ALL purchases help our schools!!

Great for gift giving for family, friends and teachers!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker
Children's Choice 2013-2014 nominee

Book description from
Tugs Esther Button was born to a luckless family. Buttons don’t presume to be singers or dancers. They aren’t athletes or artists, good listeners, or model citizens. The one time a Button ever made the late Goodhue Gazette - before Harvey Moore came along with his talk of launching a new paper - was when Great Grandaddy Ike accidentally set Town Hall ablaze. Tomboy Tugs looks at her hapless family and sees her own reflection looking back until she befriends popular Aggie Millhouse, wins a new camera in the Independence Day raffle, and stumbles into a mystery only she can solve. Suddenly this is a summer of change - and by its end, being a Button may just turn out to be what one clumsy, funny, spirited, and very observant young heroine decides to make of it.

My 25 cents:
This was a happy, quick read!  This tale of a determined young girl to solve a mystery and become a hero reminded me of Peck's stories, A Long Way from Chicago, with it's chapters that kind of are each their own little stories of her wacky experiences along the way.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Iowa Teen Award Nominee 2013-2014

Book description from                                                                                                 An emotional novel based on a true story. Nya goes to the pond to fetch water for her family. 
She walks eight hours every day.

Salva walks away from his war-torn village. He is a “lost boy” refugee, destined to cover Africa on foot, searching for his family and safety.Two young people . . . two stories. One country: Sudan. This mesmerizing dual narrative follows two threads—one unfolding in 2008 and one in 1985—with one hopeful message: that even in a troubled country, determined survivors may find the future they are hoping for.

My 25 cents:
This is probably one of the BEST books I have EVER read!  I can tell you this, if you read this book, you will be thankful for the life you have and the water you (probably!) take for granted!  I truly could not put this book down and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I kept thinking "I could never survive if that were me"...but Nya and Salva don't really have a choice if they want to live.  Read this, you won't be sorry.

(OH!! and it's only 120 pages!)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Call Me Hope by Gretchen Olson

Book Description by
As 11-year-old Hope struggles to live under the pressures of her verbally abusive mother, she's tempted to run away but instead chooses resilience. She creates a secret safe haven and an innovative point system (giving herself points for every bad thing her mother says to her); finds comfort and inspiration from Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl; and gains a support team. Ultimately, Hope able to confront her mother about her hurtful words and help her begin to change. This is an engaging, satisfying novel, about an important and not widely-understood issue, that will touch and inspire readers.

My 25 cents:
I picked this book up because so many students want to read A CHILD CALLED IT, which is about child abuse of author Dave Pelzer, I thought this might be a book those readers would want to read as well.
This book is an excellent story because while the abuse is verbal, that is left to the imagination of the reader more than explained in great detail.  The main character in this story is a true hero that works her way through this issue with dignity and courage.  I found myself rooting for her to hang in there and be strong!  Great story, recommend it for older elementary and middle school students both.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Little Wolf's Book of Badness by Ian Whybrow

Book description from
All Little Wolf wants to do is stay at home with Mum and Dad and Baby brother Smellybreff. Instead he's packed off to Cunning College to learn the 9 Rules of Badess and earn his Gold BAD Badge from his wicked Uncle Bigbad. He sets off on his journey, sending letters home as he adventures in the big wide world.

My 25 cents:
This poor little wolf's parents send him off to learn how to be "bad".  What makes this book such a fun read is the journal format that the author used to tell the story.  In fact, Little Wolf states that the journal is really letters to his parents, but he can't send the letters because his uncle ate the mailman and they won't come around anymore now!  I find it similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books with lots of graphics on each page as well.  It's a fast read, and we have the other Little Wolf books in our library as well. Beginning chapter book readers and upper elementary will enjoy the humor in this series.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.
This is an nominee for Iowa Teen Award this year.

Book description from
The day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school is also the day a series of brutal murders breaks out over the city, killings mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper spree of more than a century ago. Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him--the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target. In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

My 25 cents:
I was not real excited about reading this book as I tend to like modern day, more realistic fiction.  I was pleasantly surprised though that I was drawn in by the suspense and anxious to find out what was going on with the "new" Jack the Ripper killings. The setting for this story IS present day and the author did a great job of telling just enough about the original Jack the Ripper spree in the 1800s without making that the focus of this story.  It looks like this is the beginning of a series of books, so our library will for sure be getting the next ones. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Design
This is another Iowa Teen Choice nominee for 2013-2014.

Summary from
Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out. 

My 25 cents:
This is an easy summer read.  The main character is a strong, independent girl that has chosen to live with her dad after divorce, even though that means moving around a LOT!  Sometimes every two months??  Really makes the reader think about how people see you and how you need to think about how you want to be "seen" as a person.  Probably upper middle schoolers will enjoy this better than elementary readers. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

WOWZIE!    Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys
2013-2014 Iowa Teen Award nominee~

Summary from

Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life--until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

My 25 cents:
First of all, I am not a fan of historical fiction.  I usually am bored or feel like I need to go learn about the time or event they are talking about and then read the story (okay, because truth be told, I was not a great history student??!).  So I was not planning on liking this book because I knew it was historical fiction (based on the Author's extended family's real events).  But--I COULD NOT PUT THIS DOWN.  I read it in two days-338 pages.  The story is AMAZING and in a way so sad because these things really happened in our world.  The strength of the main character (15 years old) and her younger brother is remarkable and kept making me stop and think "could I have survived that? would I have thought to do that?".  I think this is a FABULOUS book for older elementary, high school students and even adults!  

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian
This 2013-2014 Iowa Children's Choice nominee

Book description from
Summer’s finally here, and Derek Fallon is looking forward to pelting the UPS truck with water balloons, climbing onto the garage roof, and conducting silly investigations. But when his parents decide to send him to Learning Camp, Derek’s dreams of fun come to an end. Ever since he’s been labeled a “reluctant reader,” his mom has pushed him to read “real” books—something other than his beloved Calvin & Hobbes.  As Derek forges unexpected friendships and uncovers a family secret involving himself (in diapers! no less), he realizes that adventures and surprises are around the corner, complete with curve balls.

My 25 cents:
Derek hates reading and now his teacher expects him to read over the SUMMER???  Because of the "diary" format of this book, complete with cartoons in the margins to help show what certain words mean (drawn by author's son!)--this book is a fun, quick read!  It's not just complaining about parents and school (though there is plenty of that!!) there is a little "mystery" to this story as well.  Looks like there are two more books in this series too--My Life as a Stuntman and My Life as a Cartoonist.  This book will be a big hit will upper elementary and middle schoolers both! Boys and girls alike will relate to this story and read the entire book in no time!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm 
Nominee for 2013-2014 Iowa Children's Choice.

Book description from
In Jennifer L. Holm's New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor winning middle grade historical fiction novel, life isn't like the movies. But then again, 11-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935 and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she's never met. Florida's like nothing Turtle's ever seen before though. It's hot and strange, full of rag tag boy cousins, family secrets, scams, and even buried pirate treasure! Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she's spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. Filled with adventure, humor and heart, Turtle in Paradise is an instant classic both boys and girls with love.

My 25 cents:
Okay, first of all can you imagine waking up one day and your mother saying, "I have a new job, you need to go live with _______________"(some family members that you have never even met before?!!).  This was not unusual in the times of the Depression as families had to do what they could when work came available.  Something I found odd though is that the story never really tells why the main character is named Turtle, except for the small explanation more than 1/2 way through the book that "mama said I had a hard shell like a turtle...."  Really?

I will say that  given the summary on the back of the book, I wasn't sure the story was going to be very....exciting.  I was happily wrong!  Based during the depression, readers get an idea of how different things were during this difficult time and may find themselves asking themselves (as I did) "what would it be like to live like that"?  Simple story about learning family is family and that's what matters!
Troublemaker by Andrew Clements (author of Frindle
provides us with another school story that we can relate to!

Book description from
Clayton Hensley is accustomed to trouble: There’s a folder of incident reports in Principal Kelling’s office that’s as thick as a phonebook and growing daily. Most recently, Clay’s art teacher told the class to spend the period drawing anything they wanted, and Clay decided to be extra “creative” by drawing a spot-on portrait of Principal Kelling…as a donkey.
It’s a pretty funny joke, but Clay is coming to realize that the biggest joke of all may be on him. When his big brother, Mitchell, gets in some serious trouble, Clay decides to change his own mischief-making ways…but he can’t seem to shake his reputation as a troublemaker. From the master of the school story comes a book about the fine line between good-humored mischief and dangerous behavior—and how everyday choices can close or open doors.

My 25 cents:
When I picked this book up to read, I had a couple of surprises.  First of all, the main character draws his principal as a donkey, but refers to the picture as a different name for a donkey...a little surprising so just be aware.  I was expecting for this story to knock my socks off like some of his others stories.  This one I think was a little more on the "serious" side. Is a well known troublemaker able to shake his reputation and turn over a new leaf?  It's a good story, but more serious than his other school tales.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The 2012-13 Iowa Teen Award WINNER was 
 I AM NUMBER FOUR!  Did you read it? I have not yet!

and the winner for the 2012-13 Iowa Children's Choice Award is
RUNAWAY TWIN. (That one I reviewed here!!)  This is the 6th time author Peg Kehret has won the award!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Surprise Kick by Ted Kershner

Zach Riley

       Book Description from 
Cody Ross had a hard time thinking about anything but soccer. Even at school, all he could think about was the World Cup trophy his best friend Mudman had created. Only it wasn't for an actual tourney . . . it was for the video game Soccer Slam. Now, Cody's parents think it's time for Cody and Mud to get out from behind the controllers and play with a real soccer ball. When the boys join the local team, they discover Mud is a great player--way better than Cody. Cody's a little jealous of Mud's abilities. Will Mud's talent end their friendship? Or will Cody learn sportsmanship and teamwork, and a few new moves along the way?

My 25 cents....This is an action packed sports story that boys and girls alike will probably enjoy reading.  It has black and white illustrations throughout that are a nice addition to the story.  It is a shorter book, only 80 pages, but definitely one with a message for everyone.  Our library has 3 other titles in this series as well--all are sports themed.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tracking your Nightmare by Baron Specter
(Graveyard Diaries #1) 

Description from
Jared Jenson lives next to Woodland Cemetery at the far corner of Marshfield. He used to think it was funny that he and his best friend, Stan, live by cemeteries, but now it's starting to creep him out. In his dreams each night, he sees people dragging bodies through the cemetery . . . until he is dragged for real! Ghostly grave robbers think he is supposed to be buried in the Potter's Field grave. Can Jared, Stan, and the rest of the Zombie Hunters track down Jared's nightmare and free them all from the grave robbers before it's too late?

My 25 cents:
First in a 6 part series, five students from small town Marshfield who all happen to live next to different cemeteries in town-make up the Zombie Hunters group. This is a great series for those who want "scary books" but aren't ready for the gruesome scary ones?!  The story and the diary entries make this a suspenseful, exciting read.  Other cool titles include:  Approaching the Undead, How Not to be Killed by a Zombie, To Werewolf of Not to Werewolf; All in a Night's Work and Vampires Are Not Your Friends.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Book Description from                                    It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.  Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.

My 25 cents:
This was a story that I didn't want to stop reading.  The author was a teacher for 4th and 5th grades and really knew what goes on in the classroom.  It's about what seems soooo important that turns out really isn't and little things that really are!  Each chapter (some only 1 page) is a different student telling part of the story.  That was a little confusing in the beginning, but don't get too hung up on that-you will know the character by the end.  I think every reader can relate to at least one of the students in this story!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Book Description from
For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by, and the beauty of her very own papaya tree. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

My 25 cents:
Imagine learning that you must up and leave the only place you have lived for ten years and your father has been missing, as a prisoner of war, for the last nine years.  This was a fantastic story about change.  It wasn't all prettied up to make things look easier either.  Ha and her brothers were forced to face some difficult situations when classmates were not always accepting of their cultural differences.  The author wrote this story from personal experience and at one point says "No one would believe me, but at times I would choose  wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama".  One thing that might be of interest to some readers is that this story is written in prose, so it reads rather quickly!  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wonder by P.J. Palacio


Book description from
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. 
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. 

My 25 cents:
This was one of the best books for teens I have read so far!!  I can't say enough about this book for older elementary and middle schoolers (and parents too!!).  This book is about inner beauty and acceptance and why it matters to everyone. The main character, Auggie, is a strong, independent 5th grader heading to school for the first time-after being home-schooled up until now.  He just wants to be one of the guys but has to work extra hard to find those that will accept him despite his facial appearance.  One thing I thought was really cool about this book (though I know there are students who will argue with me this point....) is readers never do get to "see" what his face looks like.  It's not important--what is important is the question "could you be friends with Auggie despite his appearance"?