Friday, July 25, 2008

The Unusual Suspects by Michael Buckley

I realized I skipped this book in my blogging. I finished several days ago. If you liked the first, you'll like this. It was a good book, with possibly more heart than the first book in the series. A nice take on fantasy and fairy tales, pulling them into modern day society. As a little girl, I loved fantasies (unicorns were pretty predominate in my decor) and mysteries. This book blends the two of them together and I enjoy it for a nice read. If you don't like fantasy, you won't care for this series. And if you are tired of reading books that turn into a series, you won't like this one either. All in all, though, I found it to be a good book and ventured out to the bookstore to find the next in the series. Alas, they were out.'s on to another book that's waiting on my shelf!

23 Things from School Library Journal

School Library Journal is running a 23 Things initiative. If you are interesting in learning about web 2.0 technology check out the blog.

If you are interested in finding blogs about books, check out the participating blog listing ( and Michael's link from Alice Yucht. Both have lots of good book blogs listed.

I tell you, between Michael's blog, "Tame the Web", Stephen Abram's "Stephen's Lighthouse", and David Warlick's "2 Cents Worth" (by the way...where's the darn cents symbol?), my curriculum is building and building for the teacher/librarian technology class I teach. They are tremendous resources if you are interested in this sort of thing!

Children's Choice Picture Books

I didn't want to create ten posts over each of the picture book nominees for the state children's choice awards, so I've just decided to do one monster post on all of them and give you the highlights.

By far, I think the favorite book will be Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds. It is fun and colorful and makes you hungry. =) The animals in the book are very reminiscent of Click, Clack, Moo. Including an ornery set of mice that seem to be running quite the racket! This is my prediction for the winner this year.

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen will also be a hit with the kids. All of them will love hearing about the fun extravagant (and unrealistic) details the main character is adding to his car. I think that you ought to hand out pencils and paper with this book, as every kid is going to want to draw their own car after reading it!

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen is sweet and touch and every librarian will love it. Kids will also like the idea of tame and well-meaning pet lion.

Fancy Nancy is already an instant class with little girls and if they have anything to say about it, this book will be high up there on the final list.

If you want a creative way to teach some math skill and work fairy tales in, The Three Silly Billies by Margie Palatini is perfect. Another fun and humorous book, this will be a great curriculum aide for teachers. Money counting here we come!

Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven will be another great curriculum enhancer. The story of a Little League All-Star team from the 50's, this book focuses on racial inequality and has so many options for tie-in literature! I can't wait to share this one with my social studies teachers.

Three books, while o.k. books just didn't seem to have the pizazz the others did. Lucky by Jean Craighead George is a nice state tie-in, but the writing leaves something to be desired. "Cute" and "nice" are the two words I used to describe Duck and Goose by Tad Hills. There's not too much to this story, but it's cute. A book that seemed to be selected more for the adults than the kids is Nothing to Do by Douglas Wood. The message is plain, sometimes we gotta take time out to stop and smell the roses. But I'm pretty sure that students won't grasp this idea too easily. It's something that really seems to be learned in hindsight.

Finally, my rant about Honey, Honey, Lion by Jan Brett. I like Jan Brett, I really do. But this book really disappointed me. Honey Badger and Honey Bird have a symbiotic relationship. And one day Honey Badger gets selfish and keeps all the honey for himself. He doesn't really pay attention to Honey Bird's upset squawks, so the next day, Honey Bird leads Honey Badger straight into a mean lion that chases him and scares him. In fact it mentions something to the effect of, "That's the closest any animal can get to an angry lion and live to tell about it." The rest of the animals are amused and call out to each other to watch out for Honey Bird. Hmmmmmmmmm....... Great lesson I want to teach my son. Share or you'll get eaten by a lion. If someone doesn't share with you, it's o.k. to be really mean to them. If someone has something scary and mean happen to them, it's funny because they probably deserved it. My son was really excited to look at the pictures and name all the animals, but after that, I took the book back to school. I wasn't going to read him the story. (I know...I'm a grouch.) I was really disappointed this was selected as a nominee.

That's all of them. Check back in May to see if my predictions are right: Chicks and Salsa and If I Built a Cart will be at the top of the results!

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

Another book...another series. *sigh* Fortunately, I think I will be able to resist the pull of reading the next book in this series. It wasn't a bad book. In fact, I think there will be plenty of kids who like it. It's just a bit too sci-fi for me.

I knew I was in trouble when I was getting towards the end of the book and there was still a major reunion missing from the story. I thought, "It's never going to get wrapped up." Then I saw the back of the book. (I sometimes skip the back of the book so that I can form my own opinion.) It mentions the sequel coming out in Spring 2009. Drat. I wanted resolution now and not to have to read another long book to get it!

The book is rather long and it has a very intriguing feel about it. I fluttered back and forth between comparisons: City of Ember...Gregor the Overlander. I also was reminded of a play that I performed at Spanish camp one summer (yes...I was a nerd). I have no idea what it was called, but it involved a couple going exploring in some caves and finding a race of people inside. While the story is definitely well-crafted, it just wasn't the first thing I'd choose to read. But young adult sci-fi fans will definitely enjoy it. I'd stick with recommending this book to my upper elementary (HAL 4th and 5th) and junior high students. I think it's too much (and too violent) for younger kids.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


My wiki on the state children's choice awards is up. It's not pretty yet, but it's up. If anyone wants to contribute, feel free! If you don't know the link or want to know the link, email me and I'll let you know!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Calder Game by Blue Baillett

It's been quite a while since I read the other books in this series. This one seemed uneven in it's writing compared to the first two though. Once again, Calder, Petra, and Tommy are off on an adventure that involves art and history. This time, they travel across the ocean to England.

Very early on, we learn that Calder is in trouble. That he has disappeared from the town where he was staying in England. Baillett's writing about the disappearance often comes across as overly dramatic and unnecessarily graphic. No reader would believe for an instant that Calder is anything but alive. So it seems very out of place to have the characters constantly thinking about death, blood, and murder. I found myself skimming quite a bit either to skip passages like that or to rush past all the word games that Baillett tries to play. She seems to be forcing meaning into words that don't belong.

Baillett's strongest writing occurs when she is describing the art work in the book. The Calder exhibit at the Chicago museum is the best part of the book. The excitement and vividness that she captures in this section make you believe the rest of the book will be as fun to read. Unfortunately, that chapter occurs at the beginning of the story and the writing never matches that level again.

Baillett would do well to focus her next effort on more of the artwork, less of the danger and word-play. She also needs to focus on the relationship between Tommy and Petra and Mrs. Sharpe and the children, for it is here that her writing is stronger.

All in all, not a bad read, but disappointing consider the hype with which the first book in the series was received.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Some minor changes

I'm taking a blogging class today and learning all about my blog. Anyone can comment now on the blog. =) You don't have to have an account to do it. I also have some other little elements that I've figured out. I have a counter and am showing blogger backlinks, etc.

The Dante Club

Update....The Dante Club has been moved to the bottom of the pile. I read the first several pages and it was so gruesome, I had to move on. I hope to actually get to it at some point as the writing seemed decent, but I wasn't really in the mood for it. =)

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

It's been a year since I read (and listened) to the first book in this series. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series. I have a fondness for high ability students and when I was younger always wanted to be the Nancy Drew of my neighborhood. Being smart and bold enough to solve mysteries.

This book continues the adventures of our whip-smart adventurers in order to save their closest ally, Mr. Benedict. All of the kids have grown up and finally found homes, but they still remain kids and face fears that typical kids do.

This book is full of heart and adventure with touching moments and scary events. I think I even enjoyed this book more than the first since the characters seem to have even more depth and emotional connection than the first. You can even read this book without reading the first one and still highly enjoy it!

This gets a starred review from me!

Changing Tides: A Gates Family Mystery by Catherine Hapka

In very similar fashion to the other Gates family mystery book, we follow the Gates family as they chase a historical mystery set in early America. This time, we are traveling back to the roots of America to the Jamestown colony. I am oddly fascinated with the Roanoke story and this book promised some allusions to it. Briefly mentioned as one of the clues, we focused much more on Jamestown than anything else. The clues were more easily solved in this book than in the second one, but still not something you could totally on your own.

Continuing to be enjoyable, I think these books will be great for my young history buffs. Maybe not the most meaty of books, but more educational than some of the other things they might pick up!