Monday, December 28, 2009


The word leviathan means something that is the largest or most massive thing of its kind. The Leviathan in Scott Westerfeld's novel is a huge airship - something like a blimp or a dirigible - only this huge ship is alive!

Leviathan is a steampunk science fiction novel. Steampunk novels remind you of Jules Verne, who wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Although the world seems old-fashioned with steam-powered locomotives or ships - it is also futuristic with new and marvelous inventions or creations.

Leviathan is also an alternate-history science fiction novel. It is takes place in the weeks during the beginning of World War I. The event that sparked the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In this story, Alek is his son. Now that his parents are dead, their enemies are after him! He escapes with a few of his father's loyal men in a Clanker machine called a walker. This is also the story of Deryn Sharp, who is hiding her real identity as a girl so that she can fulfill her dream of flying in airships, especially the living airship Leviathan.

Leviathan is an action-filled novel with exciting battle scenes. It is also lavishly illustrated with fascinating and detailed drawings of this original world. Click on the title above to see examples of these marvelous illustrations.

Click here to read the first chapter of Leviathan online.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Born to Fly

Bird McGill loves anything about airplanes. Her dad is a pilot and has taken her on several flights. He even lets her take the controls sometimes. Her dream is to fly the P-40 Warhawk, for which her dad has given her the manual.

World War II is going on. When the news of the Pearl Harbor bombing spreads, Bird's dad is called up to fly for the Army Air Corps. At the same time, she reluctantly befriends a Japanese-American boy. Together they discover that there is a traitor in their small town. How they eventually uncover him makes for a real adventure story. Bird is a fearless heroine who will capture your heart.

The author, Michael Ferrari, is a sixth grade English teacher who wrote this story for his two daughters and also for the young girl he saw at a World War II air show. The girl's brother told her that girls could never be fighter pilots. He never met Bird!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Reading it is like reading an art object, for the book is filled with lovely paintings. Grace Lin, the author and artist, has created not only a beautiful book but a beautiful tale.

A young girl named Minli lives with her mother and father in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain - where nothing lives or grows. Minli listens to the folktales her father tells, especially the stories of Fruitless Mountain, the Jade Dragon and her children.

One day Minli encounters a magical goldfish with the power of speech. Following his directions she sets off on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon, hoping he can restore fortune to her family. Along the way she meets Dragon, the only one of his kind that cannot fly.

The author, Grace Lin, skillfully weaves the traditional folktales in and out of her story of Minli's quest. This is a small treasure of a book and it is hard to put it down.

When you visit the Media Center, stop by the aquarium. You will find Dragon - who cannot fly - surrounded by goldfish. Can you quess who might possess the magical ability to speak?

Click here to see a virtual tour of Grace Lin's art studio, where she creates her works of art.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mike Steller; Nerves of Steel

I really really really enjoyed this book! Mike Stellar; Nerves of Steel by K. A. Holt is probably one of the best new science fiction books for kids this year. It's also a funny and fast-moving mystery/adventure story all rolled into one.

In the year 2074, Mike still has to go to school and do reports for English class, but he also has lots of cool tools like peapod communicators, readers, comm-bracelets and my personal favorite - grass shrinkers - no more mowing the lawn! Mike and his best friend, Stinky, sometimes spend more time hacking computers than studying.

Mike's parents work with the project to send a ship to terraform and colonize Mars. Things didn't go well the last time a ship was sent out. It disappeared and along with it, Stinky's older brother Hubble. Some people suggested Mike's mom was responsible for the failure and things are tense again as the new flight is readied.

Suddenly Mike finds himself on the flight with his parents. They are going to Mars! On the ship Mike meets a very unusual girl named Larc. Back on Earth, his sister Nita disappears and suspicious things begin to happen all over the ship. Most seriously, Mike's parents might be sabotaging the mission. Mike and Larc set out to discover the truth!

Click here to find out how real transforming of Mars might work.

Watch the Mike Stellar book video below:

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

Super logical Emma-Jean Lazarus (who earlier Fell Out of a Tree) returns. Now it is spring and the 7th grade dance, where the girls ask the boys, is coming soon. Whenever she is around Will Keeler, she gets a little heart flutter. Will she get up the nerve to ask him to the dance?First she has to figure out who her friend Colleen's secret admirer is AND try to keep their boarder (who is in love with her mother) from moving to California.

Emma-Jean and her friends are always busy, getting into misunderstandings and drama. Follow them through the spring at William Gladstone Middle School and laugh along!

Lauren Tarshis is the author of both of the Emma-Jean books. She often comments that if you knew her when she was in fourth-grade, you would have thought she was the least likely person to become a writer! Lauren Tarshis struggled very hard to learn to read. Look around your classroom and find the person you think is unlikely to do something special - I promise you - you will be surprised at what the future holds.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity is the first book in the new Brixton Brothers series of exciting and thrilling mysteries.

The first mystery is - who is the other Brixton brother - since we only discover Steve Brixton in this book! Steve LOVES the series about two brothers who are boy detectives, The Bailey Brothers, who sound suspiciously like the Hardy Boys to me . . . Steve turns to the Bailey Brother Detective Handbook for advice on everything from escaping from second floor windows to escaping from kidnappers.

On an innocent assignment to the public library to research "American needlework" for his teacher - Steve is attacked by a librarian SWAT team, pursued by the evil Mr E and other bad guys, mistaken for a detective by the police, and finally placed on a wanted list by the government. And that report on needlework is due on Monday!

I also like the illustrations by Adam Rex, who wrote another funny book, The True Meaning of Smekday. Click here to find out what Smekday is all about!

Mac Barnett, the author of The Brixton Brothers, reveals the top-secret information he discovered about librarians in this video clip.

The Middle of Somewhere

Ronnie Sparks is motivated. She's twelve-years-old and already has plans (and some of the money) to buy her own car. When her mom gets hurt and has knee surgery, her life expectantly changes. Her grandfather appears and takes her and her brother Gee (who has ADHD) on the road in his new RV. Their adventures and challenges make for a rousing story.

Ronnie, Gee and her grandfather take a wild ride across Missouri and Kansas, where their grandfather is wind prospecting - finding places to situate wind farms. They meet some interesting characters along the way and get themselves into some sticky situations. They find out some revealing things about each other, too!

J.B. Cheaney is the author of The Middle of Somewhere. J.B. Cheaney has written several other books you might enjoy. My Friend The Enemy is set during World War II. Both The Playmaker and The True Prince take place in Elizabethan England, during the times of Shakespeare. These two books are filled with danger and intrigue!

Monday, November 9, 2009

When You Reach Me

Wow! This is really an unusual book. Pay close attention to the story and the details and the clues. It all comes together at the end and you will say "wow" too!

Our story starts when twelve-year-old Miranda, who is also our narrator, starts receiving a series of very strange and disturbing notes. How does this note writer know these things? What is going on? These things have not happened yet!

Miranda lives in an apartment in New York City. Her very favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. This is one of the important clues. If you have read A Wrinkle in Time, you know it is about time travel.

Miranda's mother is going to be a contestant on a famous TV quiz show - The $20,000 Pyramid. After school and after work, Miranda and her mother practice and practice the game.

Things are not going well for Miranda herself. Sal, who has been her best friend for years. is avoiding her. Annemarie, who has not been her friend, starts hanging around with her. The homeless man on the street by her apartment is frightening her. And then, there are those mysterious notes!

This story by Rebecca Stead is amazing and extraordinary. It is also very hard to describe, as most extraordinary books are. To get a taste of the author's style, click on the title above to read the first chapter online in a book reader.

And pay attention to the book cover - more clues are found there!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Extra Credit

Abby Carson is stunned when her teachers tell her that she might get held back in sixth grade. It isn't that she can't do the work, she doesn't like to, so she hasn't been doing it. Now she's willing to do almost anything to move on to seventh grade. She makes a deal with her teachers. She will do ALL her assignments for the rest of the year and take on a special extra credit assignment, which is to correspond with a student in another country at least three times, create a bulletin board, and do an oral report for her class. She chooses a country with lots of mountains, because she loves to climb (and she lives in flat farm country) -- Afghanistan.

The story is told both from Abby's point of view and that of her penpal, Sadeed. Their lives are very different, as you will see, but they do build something of a friendship in a short time. One of the things I liked about this book is that you learn about the similarities of the two kids as well as their differences.

Andrew Clements has written quite a few books for young readers. This one seems different to me than some of his others. He helps kids learn about a part of the world that is often in the news, but rarely visited by Americans other than soldiers, through the eyes of someone their own age.

If you would like to read the first chapter online, click on the title Extra Credit above. You can also hear a sample of the audio book here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nubs; the True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle

Major Brian Dennis found Nubs when he was stationed in Iraq. Poor Nubs had never known a loving owner and someone had cut off his ears to make him look more fierce. But Nubs had a good heart and he quickly bonded to Major Dennis. Nubs even began helping at night with guard duty.

Unfortunately, Major Dennis and his team were often ordered to move out on patrol. Sometimes when they returned, they couldn't find Nubs. Other times he was injured from attacks by older or larger dogs. Finally, Major Dennis was ordered to the Iraqi battalion headquarters over 70 miles away. What would happen to Nubs?

How far would you go to find a friend? Nubs was determined to find his friend and so he set off in the middle of winter to cross Iraq. Don't worry - this dog story has a very happy ending!

Click on the title above to watch a short video of Nubs.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Graveyard Book

Just in time for Halloween! This year's Newbery Award winner was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Nobody Owens, called Bod by his friends, lives in a graveyard. Yup - he is being raised by the ghosts who live there. There are lots of dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a living boy - but the biggest danger of all lies outside of the graveyard, where a living, evil man still waits to threaten Bod.

This summer I heard Neil Gaiman talk about where he got the idea for this terrific book. When his son was a toddler, the Gaiman family didn't have a yard. Neil would take his boy across the street to the graveyard where he could ride his tricycle and Neil would try to write books. One day he realized that his son wasn't afraid of the graveyard - he thought it was a great place to play. What if a boy was raised in a graveyard? A boy like Bod Owens . . .

Click on the title above to watch and listen to Neil Gaiman read the first chapter "How Nobody Came to the Graveyard."

And click here to watch The Graveyard Book video!

Friday, October 16, 2009

If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States

There are really more than 300 million people living in the United States. Such a big number is hard to think about; but, what if our whole country had only 100 people? Each person would represent more than 3 million people in our real country. Author David J. Smith also wrote If the World Were a Village.

If America Were a Village is a fascinating book! Here are some interesting facts from the book:

If America were a village, 80 people would like in the city or suburbs while only 20 would live in the country or on a farm.

If America were a village, there would be 81 cars. If the world were a village, there would only be 13 cars.

If America were a village, there would be 74 TVs and 73 cell phones. 27 people would be in school. 13 people would be younger than age 9. 4 people would be older than 80.

I think the most amazing fact is that only 5 people would have more than half of all the wealth.

Test your knowledge or our country and then compare it to the world! You will probably be surprised at some of things you will find out.

Click on the book title above to view a short video from If the World Were a Village.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I love the bat books by Kenneth Oppel - Silverwing, Sunwing and Firewing - but for something completely different check out Darkwing!

Darkwing is the story of the very first bat. Sixty-five million years ago as the dinosaurs were beginning to die away, a small tree glider, a chiropter, discovered that he could actually flap his wings and fly!

At first his colony thinks he is different and tries to drive him away. In time, they discover that his new skill may be the only things that can save them in this dangerous world where carnivores are beginning to roam.

Kenneth Oppel has a wonderful website. Check out his Darkwing pages and video by clicking on the title link above. Also read his pages and watch the videos on all the bat books at his website

Find more videos like this on ReadKiddoRead

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rescuing Seneca Crane

Kari Sungren and Lucas Stickney are best friends. They also manage to get themselves involved in thefts of valuable art, the kidnapping of a teen-age concert pianist, and assorted other mysteries.

Seneca Crane is a famous teen-age pianist. Kari and Lucas have traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland for the internatinal music festival. Kari's mom is a journalist and she is writing a big article about Seneca. As Kari and Lucas get to know Seneca, they stop envying her for her jet-set life style and realize that her life is hard work and very little fun. Then, Seneca gets kidnapped! Kari and Lucas have a hunch who the kidnappers are.

Rescuing Seneca Crane
is the second book in the Kari + Lucas Mysteries. The author, Susan Runholt, loves both traveling the world, art, and music. The Kari+Lucas mysteries all share these things in common - they all happen in different places in the world and they involve art or music.

Click on the title above and you can read the first chapter of both books online!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Much Ado about Grubstake

Jean Ferris is my new favorite author! See my earlier posts about Once Upon a Marigold and Twice Upon a Marigold. In Much Ado About Grubstake we meet sixteen-year-old orphan Arley and a colorful cast of characters who live in the town of Grubstake, an almost abandoned mining town in the Old West. There's a saloon, a boarding house, the mercantile and the newspaper included, too. Find out what happens when a city slicker comes to town and tries to buy out all their mining claims!

This book is funny and touching, adventurous and will show you how important friends can be.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Everything for a dog

Everything for a Dog is writen by Ann M Martin, one of our favorite authors. This story is very interesting in the way it is presented. It's told from three points of view--that of a dog and two boys. The dog's name is Bone and he is looking for a forever home of his own. Henry wants a dog of his own more than anything in the world, while Charlie is grieving over the death of his brother. You'll be really surprised at the way the author brings the three separate stories together!

Anyone who loves dogs will love this tale by Ann Martin. I look forward to reading another of her books--A Dog's Life. Bone, the dog in this book, makes an appearance there as well.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thirteenth Child

Thirteenth Child is a the first book in a new series by Patricia C. Wrede. The new series is called Frontier Magic and that is certainly a good description of this original book!

Eff and her brother Lan live in the year 1855 in a very different United States - one where everyone can do some magic and students even study it in school. Eff and Lan are twins. Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, which is very powerful in magic. Eff, on the other hand, is the 13th child in her family and some people believe that is very unlucky. Eff and Lan are quite a combination!

Eff, Lan and their whole family moves west to the frontier where powerful magicians are in great demand to protect the settlers from the beasts of the wilderness: spectral bears, swarming weasels, mammoths, dire wolves, saber cats, terror birds, Columbian sphinxes and especially the steam dragons.

I really like the cover art on this book. it reminds me of the black silhouettes that people used to cut out before their was photography. On this cover, every silhouette detail reveals a clue about the story.

Click on the title link above to read an excerpt from Thirteenth Child.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Season of Gifts

Grandma Dowdel from A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago is back! This time she meets new neighbors; a new preacher; his wife and three children, who really need her help - whether they realize it or not. The story is comical and sweet and the cast of characters is nothing short of hilarious! Somebody's always in trouble and somehow Grandma comes up with a way to get them out.

Richard Peck is one of our favorite writers and this series will make you laugh out loud! We also love Here Lies the Librarian!

The Leanin' Dog

Dessa Dean badly needs a friend. Her mama died and she hasn't been able to leave the cabin since that horrible time. Her daddy must go out to hunt for food to keep them alive through the winter. Then, one day, the thing she wishes for appears in the form of the Leanin' Dog, who not only becomes her friend, but her guardian angel as well. This is a sweet story told in a style that reminds me of Little House on the Prairie.

K. A. Nuzum is a real cowgirl from Colorado! Like Dessa, she grew up in a house without a dad and loved dogs and other animals. Click on the title link above to enter her Leanin' Dog poetry contest and find recipes from mama's cookbook

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith

Roland Smith is one of my favorite adventure writers. He worked as a zookeeper and wildlife biologist before he became a writer. Animals still are important in most of the books he writes.

Cryptid Hunters is about the search for animals that are strange or mysterious. Some cryptids, like the Coelacanth, were thought to be extinct until they were discovered again. Other cryptids are really unbelievable - like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

In this book thirteen-year-old twins Grace and Marty have come to live with their Uncle Wolfe, a cryptid hunter. Along with his research team, they all go in search of a living dinosaur called the Mokele-mbembe and find lots of mystery and thrilling adventure along the way.

The sequel to Cryptid Hunters has just been released. It is called Tentacles. This time the group is in search of a giant squid! If you would like to watch a short video interview with Roland Smith, just click the title link above.

Therapy Dogs by Linda Tagliaferro

We have exciting news here at Maltby this year! We have our very own facility dog or therapy dog. His name is Caesar and he is a beautiful black Labrador Retriever. We are the first public school in Michigan to own a therapy dog! He spends his days in the counseling office, in classrooms, the computer lab, and visiting the media center. Caesar loves to have students read to him. Caesar was trained for his job by For Better Independence, a non-profit group that trains many different types of service or assistance dogs.

Therapy Dogs by Linda Tagliaferro explains what these specially trained dogs do for people and how they are trained from the time they are puppies. Some dogs help people or kids feel better when they are in the hospital or a nursing home. Some dogs can even help with physical therapy or if someone is in pain from a medical procedure. Other dogs can just offer a warm, furry shoulder to hug when things get upsetting at school.

Caesar is becoming a little famous around our town. He has even been on television. If you would like to see a video clip of Caesar and the kids at our school, click on the book title above.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What the Dickens

Dinah, her brother and her sister, are trapped in their house during the worst storm ever. Their parents have gone missing and they are under the care of their young adult cousin, Gage. To occupy them, Gage tells them stories of the skibbereen, also known as tooth fairies, in particular one inventive tooth fairy called What the Dickens.

Master story teller Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked (and several others), takes you through this fantastic world and will make a believer out of you.

To read the first chapter online, click on the the title above.

Once Upon a Marigold, Twice Upon a Marigold

Marigold is a princess in this fairy tale with a modern twist. Not your typical beautiful princess, she spends most of her time in her room and on her balcony with her dog. It is there that Christian sees her through his telescope and falls in love. Christian, who lives in a cave with his troll father, is not what he seems. Laugh with them as Christian wins her hand and they battle with the evil queen.

Stay tuned for Twice Upon a Marigold, the sequel by Jean Ferris.

The Rising Star of Rusty Nail

Franny Hansen is a ten year old girl living in Rusty Nail, Minnesota in the 1950's. She is a typical girl, except that she is an extremely talented pianist. Her talent can only go so far in Rusty Nail, until she comes into contact with a mysterious "Commie." While some of the neighbors think this Russian woman is a threat to their way of life, Franny sees in her an opportunity to learn and become a better pianist.

Lesley Blume has created a story that can be laugh out loud funny as well as touching. She also shows us what life was like in the 50's and by letting us see a glimpse of the life of someone who was victimized by the McCarthy era "witch hunts," we can see how sad that time truly was.

Click on the title above for 6 Insider Secrets!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Imagine an America settled by colonists and pioneers who all know how to use magic! Magic is necessary to protect the settlers against powerful animals such as woolly rhinos, mammoths, and steam dragons. Patricia Wrede has created this amazing and original fantasy world for the first book in her new series Frontier Magic.

Eff Rothmer has a twin brother, Lan, who is the seventh son of a seventh son - destined to be a truly powerful magician. Unfortunately she is also the thirteenth child of her family and she suffers from the superstition that she is a jinx or perhaps something worse. Eff is relieved when her family moves West, when her father accepts a position as a professor of magic at a new college near the frontier. Eff loves the excitement of moving closer to the great magical barrier created by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, which keeps out all the truly dangerous magical creatures. She makes a good friend in William. And she adores her new magic teacher Miss Ochiba, who teaches non-traditional magic. Unfortunately there are real dangers out on the frontier. And Eff worries that she is a danger to others since her magic seems so unreliable.

I really like the cover illustration for this book. It reminds me of the black paper silhouettes that people used to make.

To read the first chapter of Thirteenth Child, click on the book title link above.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Margaret Haddix wrote a very popular series that began with a book called Among the Hidden. This new book, Found, is the first book in her new series called The Missing. And it is quite a thriller!

Thirteen years ago a very mysterious event occurred at an airport. Suddenly, a jet plane materialized at a gateway. Aboard the plane there were only thirty-six babies. No crew. No adults. This bizarre occurrence was covered-up by the government, which secretly placed the babies in adoptive homes. The adoptive parents did not know that there was anything unusual about their new children.

Jonah was one of these adopted children. Now a seventh grader, Jonah began receiving strange messages in the mail. The first one read - You are one of the missing. The second one was more threatening - Beware! They're coming back to get you. Jonah's friend Chip, who didn't know he was adopted, also receives the messages. Chip, Jonah, and Jonah's sister Katherine decide to investigate and they locate more thirteen-year-old adopted children right in their area. Events soon turn terrifying.

If you click on the book title above, you can watch a short video about Found.

This is a great beginning to a new series and the second book in the series has just been published. It's called Sent. Check it out at the media center!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

11 Birthdays

Author Wendy Mass writes funny books. Some of my favorites include Leap Day and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. 11 birthdays is her newest book.

11 Birthdays has two main characters - Amanda and Leo. It seems like they have been the best of friends since the day - the same day - that they were born in the hospital. Every year for the past ten years they have celebrated their birthday together. Last year something went wrong when Amanda overheard something hurtful Leo said about her. So this year for the first time they are having separate parties. And Amanda is not happy.

But then something very strange happens - Amanda keeps waking up and reliving this terrible eleventh birthday. Amanda tries changing the events of the day but nothing works! Every morning she keeps waking up and the same day starts over again. Anhd what about Leo? Is the same thing happening to him?

Wendy Mass really likes to meet other authors and get her picture taken with them. If you click on the title above, you can view her huge collection of author photos. This is fun if you've always wondered what some of your favorite authors look like. You might be surprised!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Flying machines! Sword fighting! Villains! Poison! Diamonds! Princesses! Castles! Prisons! Airman by Eoin Colfer has all this and more.

Eoin (pronounced Owen) Colfer is the author of the Artemis Fowl books. This book is equally exciting and full of action. Written in the style of Jules Verne, this steampunk science fiction story is perfect for fans of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Count of Monte Cristo, or The Princess Bride.

Conor Broekhart is the hero of this story. His life has been full of legendary adventures from being born in a balloon during a terrorist attack to saving the princess from a burning tower. He dreams of becoming a brilliant scientist and a daring aeronaut. Suddenly his good fortune disappears when he is imprisoned by the evil Marshall Bonvilain. Conor rises to the challenge, building an incredible flying machine in hopes of escape.

To read the first chapter for free online, click on the title Airman. I guarantee that this is a page turner you won't want to put down!

To watch a video book trailer click on this link, click here

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow

Twelve-year-old Jake Ransom's parents were archaeologists who disappeared on an expedition to find a new Mayan temple. Jake and his older sister Kady were left in the care of their kindly guardians, but they missed their parents terribly. The last gift their parents sent home to them were two halves of a gold coin, each with a mysterious symbol on it. Jake and Kady wore them every day, including the day they traveled to the British Museum for the grand opening of a collection of Mayan items collected by their parents. That evening there was an attack on the museum that threw Jake and Kady into danger and adventure beyond their imagining.

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow is the first book in an exciting new series. Although this book had a good satisfying ending, it also left me wondering where Jake would find adventure next and how Jake would continue to put the clues together about his parents' disappearance. If you are a fan of movies like The Mummy or Indiana Jones - this is the book for you!

The author, James Rollins, has written several adventure thrillers for adults. Just like his adult books, this one involves scientific curiosities and ancient civilizations. If you click on the title above, you can visit the author's website and watch short video clips about how he created the character of Jake Ransom, as well as some clues about Jake's next adventure.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

If you have not yet read Harry Potter - you really need to! It doesn't count to say "I saw the movies."

The author J. K. Rowling has written one of the best fantasy books of all time. It is a modern classic. Everything great about storytelling is here in this series of books.

If you have been living in a cave on a deserted island with absolutely no television, movie theaters or Internet, I'll tell you what this book is about. Harry Potter is the story of an orphan who was living with uncaring relatives until he was old enough to find out the truth about himself - he was a wizard! Or at least a very young wizard of eleven years who needed to go to a special school named Hogwarts to learn to be a very great wizard. Indeed there is a prophecy that he would become the wizard who was needed to save the world. Fortunately he found some great friends to help him - Hermonie, Ron and others. And he had some great teachers such as Professor Dumbledore and Hagrid. He learned to cast spells, defeat monsters, and face the evil Voldmart. He learned what was really important in life - to have friends and family who love you.

One of the many things I love about Harry Potter are the spells. They are also a great way to learn some Latin words. Here is a link to the Encylopedia of Spells

If you click on the Harry Potter title above, you can also explore J.K. Rowlings' offical website, which is full of secrets.

Lumos! And enjoy Harry Potter. The book is ALWAYS better than the movie!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The White Giraffe

After the sudden death of her parents, eleven-year-old Martine Allen finds herself on an airplane to South Africa, where her Grandmother runs a wildlife reserve called Sawubona. Amost immediately she finds herself involved in several mysteries. Why is her Grandmother so cold toward her? Why didn't her mother tell her about growing up at Sawubona? Why does her Grandmother want to keep Martine from Grace, a local sangoma or traditional healer? Who is responsible for the threatening the animals? Does the rare white giraffe really exist? And is she the girl of the prophecy - the girl with the gift that was predicted so long ago?

The world of Sawubona is beautiful and amazing. Martine soons falls in love with the land, the people, and most of all - the animals. As she discovers clues to the many mysteries around her, events begin to turn dangerous. Martine also discovers the gift that lies within her.

The author of The White Giraffe, Lauren St. John, also grew up on a wildlife reserve in Africa. Her books are so full of rich details that you will think you are actually in Africa! If you click on the title above, you can listen to an audio interview with the author and to excerpts from this book and its sequels Dolphin Song and The Last Leopard.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Operation Redwood

Julian Carter Li is having a terrible time. His mother had to leave for a photographic work assignment in China. Since his father had died several years ago, Julian had to stay with his aunt and uncle until school ended for the year. Although he liked his younger cousin, his aunt and uncle were very strict with him and he began to understand that he was not welcome in their home. His suspicions proved true when he discovered their plans to send him to math camp for a month, followed by Chinese language camp.

Julian also discovered that his uncle Sibley was the CEO of an investment company that planned to cut down old growth redwood trees in northern California. Old growth trees can be thousands of years old. Julian becomes an email buddy with Robin, a girl who lives next to the threatened redwood forest. With the help of his best friend Danny Lopez, Julian forges a plan to escape from math camp to spend a month with Robin and her family in the redwoods. Julian, Danny, and Robin soon find themselves defending the redwoods from destruction and their plan takes a dangerous turn.

I really enjoyed this book because I used to live and work in California near the redwoods. There was even a redwood tree in the courtyard outside my school library! Redwood trees are so old and so tall, that other bushes and trees live high in their leaves. Like Julian, I can't understand why someone would cut down a tree that is thousands of years old. If you want to learn more about the redwoods, click on the book title to visit the website of the author S. Terrell French.

The oldest and tallest redwood trees actually haves names! Hyperion is the tallest known redwood. To look at amazing pictures of Hyperion and other champion redwood, follow this link;

Operation Redwood would be a great book to read in a tree house!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

Emma-Jean is strange. She is undoubtedly the smartest girl in the seventh grade. She also thinks that every question or problem can be figured out logically. She finds herself in an unusual (for her) situation. A fellow student pours out her heart to Emma-Jean, who sets out to solve the problem logically. This sets a series of events in motion that spiral out of control. Fortunately, everyone learns something along the way.

Just remember: the dictionary says "strange" means extraordinary, remarkable and singular.

This is the first novel by Lauren Tarshis, the editor of Scholastic Storyworks magazine. If you click on the book title above, you can read about how Lauren became a writer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Trouble Begins

The Trouble Begins by Linda Himelblau

Du is a young Vietnamese boy who comes to the U.S. with his grandmother to join the rest of his family. He wants to fit in, but because he doesn't speak much English, he is misunderstood by kids at school where he is a new fifth grader. His family just wants him to be a "good boy", but they don't understand what he is going through either. It seems everything he does gets him in trouble. This enjoyable story, told from the point of view of a young immigrant, can help make you aware of what it might be like to be new to a totally foreign place.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Every Soul a Star

Author Wendy Mass weaves together the stories of three young teens, a campground called Moon Shadow and a total solar eclipse.

Ally has lived for most of her life at the remote campground her parents own - a place where amateur astronomers gather every year for the Perseid meteor shower. For years the whole family has been planning for the rare event of a total solar eclipse. Jack, who is slightly overweight and lacks confidence in himself, accompanies his science teacher and a tour group to the campground for the eclipse. Bree, a popular pretty middle schooler, finds her world turned upside down when her family decides to buy and run the campground. Ally's family has decided that their children need to spend time in the city, where they can go to normal schools. Both Ally and Bree are devastated at the thought of leaving the home and life they each love.

They only have twenty-two days until everything will change when the eclipse occurs. After that, nothing will be the same. Along the way we have a little sadness, adventure, a momentous discovery, humor, and friendship. And then it arrives - the incredible experience of a total solar eclipse. Join the story in Every Soul a Star.

Click on the title above to hear Wendy Mass read the first chapter of Every Soul a Star. Later, check out to find out more about the people who travel the world to watch a solar eclipse. I was also fascinated by the SETI at Home project, where over three million people are using their home computers to analyze signals from space, searching for intelligent life.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival

The Jeremy Potts Academy for Higher Learning and Survival is located in Moosejaw, Canada. The students wear traditional Scottish kilts and take some really unusual and dangerous classes. Newton Goddard Starker believes that this is the perfect school for him. After all, for hundreds of years every member of his mother's family has been killed by lightening.

Newton is raised in a very protective environment (and one that does not attract lightening) so it is natural that he finds himself something of an outsider. Following his mother's death (zapped, of course), Newton is determined to succeed and survive at his new school. Jeremy sets out to overcome his fears and deal with his sadness. Along the way he makes some real friends and acquires an adorable and strangely intelligent, truffle-hunting pig named Josephine.

Hang on! This is a fast-paced and funny ride with lots of unusual characters. I really hope the author, Arthur Slade, brings Newton back for Year Two.

Click on the title link to visit the author's website and listen to the Jolted podcast.
Click here to view the book trailer video.

The London Eye Mystery

The London Eye is the name of the huge observation wheel on the banks of the Thames River in London. The London Eye is not really a Ferris Wheel but a unique structure. Eight hundred people can ride in the thirty-two capsules as they make their slow thirty minute circuit up and around. Londoners call this experience "flying the wheel." The Eye is a fascinating location for a puzzling mystery!

The main character, Ted, is also unique. As his parents say, his brain runs on its own operating system. Ted and his sister Kat take their visiting cousin Salim to ride The Eye. They watch him get on, but he doesn't get off! It seems an impossible mystery. How did he disappear?

Ted and Kat come up with thier own list of theories but their parents and the authorities don't really want to listen to them. When Salim remains missing, Ted and Kat decide that they have to investigate. The London Eye by Siobhan Dowd is a terrific mystery for people who like puzzles.

Go Big or Go Home

Will Hobbs is certainly one of our favorite authors of good outdoor adventure books. Go Big or Go Home is his newest book and it will appeal to fans of extreme sports as well. Cousins Brady and Quinn are enjoying another summer filled with mountain biking, caving and fishing when something new comes crashing in. And it really crashes in!

Brady had crawled out his bedroom window to watch the Perseid meteor shower when an ear-shattering explosion filled the night and a flaming meteor crashed into his house and right through his bed. Underneath the wreckage Brady found the culprit - a fist-sized meteorite.

Possession of this meteorite sends Brady and Quinn off on more adventures, especially as something seriously dangerous begins to overtake their lives. Eventually the boys discover that the meteorite has brought a threat to Earth.

Go Big or Go Home is a fast, exciting read. I know you will enjoy it.

Click on the title link to read an interview with the author, Will Hobbs, and learn where he got his ideas for this book.