Friday, July 15, 2016

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Can you imagine a “perfect” town? Well Gordon Korman shares what he thinks is a perfect town where everyone lives a comfortable middle-class life. Eli lives in this town Serenity and, when he and his friend break a rule, things begin to unravel. His friend is sent away to care for his grandfather and Eli and his friends begin to discover some deep dark secrets. This book reminds me of Powerless in some ways and it was a fun ride. Grades 4-8

Monday, July 11, 2016

Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine

This is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the 50’s. The protagonist is a boy named Tommy who has a few struggles. His mother, after having a baby, is struggling with postpartum depression. This is during a time when behavior such as hers was swept under the rug and wasn’t talked about. His father does nothing to help and Tommy ends up caring for his younger siblings and fearing his mother. All his rage comes out in anger towards his peers as he begins to really develop as a bully. This is a thoughtful book about how a bully can be developed and how they can think. It’s a sympathetic look and doesn’t really deal with the reactions of the victims, but it’s a powerful message as Tommy struggles to make things right. The underlying message is that he’s good down deep but needs help finding it. Interesting to see how students respond to it. Grades 5-8 and there is some violence from the mother. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley

This is a  historical fiction novel that takes place in Britain just before the bombing started in World War II. The heroine is a girl Ada who is forced to stay home because her mother is ashamed of her deformed foot. Her little brother is afforded all kinds of freedoms Ada isn’t allowed but Ada believes her mother when she tells her she is rubbish. Because of the impending war, all the children are sent to the countryside to be cared for so they don’t perish should London be bombed. This is the story of Ada and her brother escaping London to live in the country with a woman who wasn’t interested in caring for anyone else. It’s a sweet story in some respects but the mother is awful and the struggles of wanting your mother to love you when she won’t is a difficult concept for younger students who haven’t experienced the darker sides of life. Might make for interesting discussions though. Grades 4-8

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

This is a fantasy/mystery/ghost novel. London is infiltrated with ghosts and demons and only special investigators have the skills to rid the world of these horrors. One such group is Lockwood and Co, which is a trio of teenagers who are skilled but untested. Lucy is new to the group, Anthony is the leader and George is the jack of all trades that runs the behind the scenes. Together they attack a couple different ghosts and learn about working together as a team. The storyline, at times, felt disconnected but the characters came alive for me, so that made it better. It is also pretty gruesome, so those faint of heart won’t enjoy this. Grades 5-8

The Summer of Hammers and Angels by Shannon Weirsbitzky

This is a story of survival but it’s simple and seems to completely disregard reality, even though it is realistic fiction. It’s the story of a girl who, after her house is struck by lightning and her mom is hospitalized, struggles to repair the house in secret with the help of her friends. **Spoiler Alert** her whole town comes to help her in the end and save her house. It’s fake and feels so forced it was more of a let down than inspiring. I tried, but I didn’t warm to this at all. Grades 4-6

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This is a twist on fairytales and fantasy lands where dragons and evil threaten small towns and witches/warlocks are valued for protecting the kings. The powerful warlock called the Dragon protects the kingdom, but in return, he takes a girl to live with him for 10 years and then releases her back. It is a grim fate, one that everyone dreads and this is the story of one such girl that was taken. It tells its tale well but there is sex in it, making it inaccessible to lower grades, who might appreciate the tale. Oh well. Again, another book that won’t make the shelves of my classroom.  

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

This is a novel about the trials and tribulations of an 8th grader who, not only struggles with the average issues 8th grade boys have to deal with, but also the fact that he’s a vampire and no one knows it. Although it has a fairly vapid and stereotypical approach to life as an emerging teen, it does have some clever moments and was a short fun read. Grades 5-7

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is yet another dystopian teen angst novel so I don’t feel the need to rehash details about the storyline-basically the world is run by selfish evil people who control everything and a boy and a girl reluctantly fight to save the regular people as they fall in love. The storyline does provide some twists and the world created is dark and chilling. For the most part, it is well written and an absorbing read, albeit super violent. There are a couple scenes that raise the age level to 9th and they are scenes that aren’t quite necessary, in my opinion, so that’s a shame. Recommended for grades 9+ 

The Sherlock Files: The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett

This is a mystery series where 2 children from America move to England and, because of their ancestral relationship to James Watson, become involved in a group of people who investigate old files of Sherlock Holmes. In this book, the two main characters Xena and Xander work to solve a mystery of a missing painting. It has moments where it is clever and interesting but others where it’s a bit simple. Of course the audience is younger, so it should be. In all, a good book for 3-5 grades.