Saturday, August 31, 2013

Zombie Camp

Zombie Camp (Zombie Zappers, #1)Higgins, Nadia. Zombie Camp. (Zombie Zappers #1)

1622850033 (ISBN13: 9781622850037)
1 September 2013, Speeding Star
E ARC provided by Enslow Publishers

Leo is excited to go to Camp Smellerd, because he wants to figure out the mystery of the Guppy Scouts who went missing in the 80's and are now the mythical Smellerd Zombies. He has an especial interest in zombies because of his friend Roger, a half-zombie (he was licked, not bitten) who lives in a secret lab behind Leo's bedroom closet. When Leo gets to camp, however, he gets involved in an environmental project to clean algae bloom off Lake Moan. When fish headed zombies interrupt their cleaning, Roger arrives with information that helps them understand both what happened to the Guppy Scouts and also the ecosystem of the dead Lake Moan.
Strengths: Lots of zombie fighting and low key gore (even Roger's parts keep falling off and have to be bandaged back on), but also some scientific-ish plot devices. This is very short, and part of a series geared to getting reluctant readers to pick up books. This would certainly do it, and I can see struggling readers enjoying these and being successful with them. Zombie Field Day, Zombie Next Door, and Zombie, Down will all be released tomorrow. The cost per volume, $11.26, is more reasonable than some of these hi-lo books. If I were in an elementary school, I would definitely purchase these.
Weaknesses: Might be a tiny bit young for middle school, and since they are brand new, there are not Accelerated Reader tests available yet. I may delay purchase until next summer, since the primary audience for this would be 6th grade boys at the beginning of the year who need AR points. Sad, but true!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Guy Friday--The Great Trouble

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called EelHopkinson, Deborah. The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel
September 10th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
ARC from Baker and Taylor

In 1854, Eel is on his own. His father has died, as has his mother, and his stepfather is abusive. Eel has managed to hide his brother Henry from his stepfather, but he must work at several jobs in order to pay for his care. When he is accused of stealing money from Mr. Huggins, he hunts down Mr. Griggs to prove that he is working for several people, but Mr. Griggs is in the throes of cholera, and dies soon afterwards. Eel also tends animals for Dr. John Snow, and asks him for help with the sickness in the area. Dr. Snow, in turn, asks Eel to help him investigate by going door-to-door and figuring out when people got sick, and what their water supply was. Snow and Eel feel that the local pump is responsible, but no one believes them because the current thought is that disease is passed through bad air, and the water from the pump in question seems to taste okay. By diligently investigating, however, the two are able to get the pumped closed down and prevent even more deaths. Based on a real event.
Strengths: Like this author's Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906, this is one of the rare historical novels NOT about war that will be a fairly easy sell to students. Eel's ability to survive on his own, combined with the pressing need to find out what is causing people to die AND a little bit of gross description, makes this a compelling read. There is even a tiny bit of romance! The notes at the back about the real characters and events make this even more interesting. Liked this one a lot.
Weaknesses: Readers who are not familiar with the living conditions in London at this time may be a little confused at first. I've found that middle school students have never had exposure to Dickensian London, which is a real shame. Still, a short book talk before handing this to students will help a lot.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Arcade Catastrophe

13624316Mull, Brandon. Arcade Catastrophe. (The Candy Shop War #2)
16 October 2012, Shadow Mountain Publishing

After surviving The Candy Shop War, the children are back, and Lindy, (the former Mrs. White) is now a child living with Mr. Stott, and she has no memory of her past. When Arcadeland in a neighboring town seems to be having an unnatural pull on children, Nate starts to investigate the activities there with the help of Victor and Ziggy, who are concerned that the arcade might have something to do with the disappearance of John Dart. Children at the arcade are spending tons of money trying to win tickets in order to qualify for one of four stamps-- Subs, Jets, Tanks or Racers-- that then grant them unusual powers. Nate uses magic candy to win one of the stamps, but so does Lindy. This is a problem, because the arcade is run by Jonas White, who is clearly up to no good. The children compete in a treasure hunt competition, which is Jonas' way of stealing artifacts that belonged to magician Iwa Iza, that he hopes will get him into the magic world of Uweya.
Strengths:Even though there were five years in between books, I had to wait to read this because students were checking it out. I probably need to buy another copy of the first book, since it's in tatters. I understand the appeal-- magic powers, sneaking around, stealing treasure, etc. BUT....
Weaknesses: Still creeps me out, and not in a good way. The Peak Performance gum that Nate uses to win tickets... isn't that perilously close to steroids? Kids are still disobeying adults in ways that are dangerous, and reading this book was just as uncomfortable as the first one. Kids, if someone offers to make simulacra of you, IT'S NOT OKAY! They can imprison your soul! Run! Run!

Of course, the creepy factor makes this even better for my students. Sigh.

Wild Born (Spirit Animals, #1) Mull, Brandon. Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1)
10 September 2013, Scholastic.

Feel I should also mention this upcoming release even though it involves talking animals, my bĂȘte noire. For your students who rhapsodize over the Warriors, books, this will be perfect.

From Goodreads: "Four children separated by vast distances all undergo the same ritual, watched by cloaked strangers. Four flashes of light erupt, and from them emerge the unmistakable shapes of incredible beasts - a wolf, a leopard, a panda, a falcon. Suddenly the paths of these children - and the world - have been changed for ever. Enter the world of Erdas, where every child who comes of age must discover if they have a spirit animal, a rare bond between human and beast that bestows great powers to both. A dark force has risen from distant and long-forgotten lands, and has begun an onslaught that will ravage the world. Now the fate of Erdas has fallen on the shoulders of four young strangers ...and on you."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

World Wednesday-- Japanese Tsunami

Women's Equality Day was 26 August. This is a commemoration of the 19th Amendment in 1920. My grandmother was 27 before she could vote in her first election. I never take this for granted.

I think that the apron should become a fashion statement about the continuing inequality of women in a "post feminist" society! (But I'm actually wearing them this week for our "Reading: Recipe for Success" promotion!)

I Survived #8: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011Tarshis, Lauren. I Survived #8: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011  
27 August 2013, Scholastic Paperbacks
E ARC from

Ben and his mother and five-year-old brother Harry travel to Shogahama, Japan to stay with their father's uncle, Ojisan. Their father had died in a car accident in California, even though he had managed to stay safe while he was serving in the Air Force.  Ben still misses his father, especially the times when the two would play basketball. When there is an earthquake, the family is shaken up, and decide to try to flee in their car when a giant wave is sighted. They don't get far before Ojisan, Harry, and Ben's mother are sucked out of the car. Ben manages to get out of the car (he was wearing his seat belt) by thinking of the training that his father had to do in case his plane went down in water. He finds a couch floating by, and rides on it for a while, and also finds Ojisan's cat! When he realizes that everything is being sucked back out to sea, Ben clings to a tree, and finds a shelter in a local school when it's safe to come down. The family doctor is there, and takes care of Ben's wounds and helps him stay hopeful while waiting for his family to be found.
Strengths: These are great books to help reluctant readers understand various historical disasters, and are fantastic for linking with nonfiction books for the Common Core. I especially liked that this was from the point of view of a US student, although it certainly detracts from the emotional impact of having one's home destroyed.
Weaknesses: Only available in paperback. I know some of these have come out in hardback, which hold up so much better in a school library.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time Slip Tuesday-- Are You Experienced

Notice that you have a week until this comes out to go stand in line at your favorite books store and get a copy as soon as you can. Sonnenblick doing a time travel book. About Woodstock. Such happiness!

Sonnenblick, Jordan. Are You Experienced?
3 September 2013, Feiwel and Friends
E ARC from

Rich has always struggled with the demands of his much older, strict parents. He understands that his father has never recovered from the heroin overdoes death of his older brother in the fall of 1969, but thinks that his parents are still unreasonable. When Rich is arrested for playing guitar at a rally to support the legalization of marijuana, on the very anniversary of his uncle Mike's death, his father is angrier than usual. After visiting his father in the basement in the middle of the night, Rich is suprised to find that his father has a lot of memorabilia from Woodstock in the basement, including a guitar that appears to have been Jimi Hendrix's. When Rich picks it up, plugs it into an amp and strums a chord, he's knocked out... and comes to naked, in the middle of a road, being hit by a Cadillac. Yes, he's gone back in time and met his father, David, who is traveling to Woodstock with his brother Mike and Mike's girlfriend, Willow. They give him clothes and invite him to come along. Rich realizes that he must be back in 1969 for a reason, and learns many things about his father's life that make him understand the man his father has become. A note on the guitar from Hendrix leads Rich to believe that he has three days to stay in the past, and he makes the best of it, both in enjoying the rare opportunity to see history in action, and in trying to "fix" his father. Chance encounters with the musicians, as well as vivid descriptions of the festival, make this a poignant tale of a pivotal time period.

Strengths: The research on this is phenomenal, but the thing that struck me most was how the book made me FEEL. The late 1960s, for me, has such a specific feeling of hope and loss mixed together, and this captured that exactly. I don't want to give away major plot points, but Mike and Rich both understand that Woodstock is a turning point, and a turning point that will not end happily, even though they are enjoying themselves at the time. Sonnenblick's writing is brilliant, as always, and even deeper than his previous novels, which is saying a lot. Also, on the time travel front, he gives us a mystical, believable vehicle, and even quotes Jerry Garcia in the notes in the back: "The thing about Woodstock was that you could feel the presence of invisible time travelers from the future who had come back to see it!" Maybe Woodstock will be my first stop when I get the mechanism for time travel figured out!

Extra bonus points for giving firm reasons for the father of a current teenager being old enough to have been at Woodstock!

Are You Experienced?Weaknesses: While I understood why Sonnenblick chose to start with flashbacks, this would have been more successful for me without them. Time travel books are generally confusing enough, and a linear format could have still had the emotional impact. Also, be warned that this is definitely YA. While the sexual behavior is not graphic, it is strongly hinted at, and there is drug use all over the place. There are also three f-bombs. While not gratuitous (they are all used at critical junctures where the character is angry), they are there, if this is a concern. Also, not a weakness, but something that I missed-- Sonnenblick's biggest asset is his ability to tell sad stories in a funny way. This was such a serious story that funny moments would not have been appropriate, but I hope that this will not become a trend in his writing.

While I like the original cover better, I can see how current teenagers wouldn't understand the groovy font and color scheme. 

And yes, I will put a copy in my library. It's Sonnenblick, and there's a HUGE following in my library for him. As I said, the f-bombs are rare and not gratuitous, and the book is a fascinating glimpse of Woodstock. You would think there would be more on that event, but I can only think of Wallace's War and Watermelon. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blather and Pondering

 "It's never too late to be who you might have been." George Eliot

Took my college sophomore back to college yesterday. She's in the most awesome room (no kidding-- it's bigger than her sister's room at home!) in a beautiful part of the Kent State campus. She managed to schedule all of the classes that she needed, and has no classes on Friday. Really, could not have been smoother.

I have no pictures. She posted this one on Facebook. I'm looking into her room from the outside, which is a fairly poetic pose. She's a better mom than I am!

She has changed her major from nursing to business finance/business accounting, because she had an alarming habit of passing out in places like history class when they were discussing foot binding. This summer was hard for her, because she was home and not making any progress in her life. She wanted the future to be now.

How long has it been since you felt that way? That time just could not pass quickly enough? But I remember that so well. Right now, her dream is to run a self sufficient organic farm. I've told her the business background would help, and that while she shouldn't give up that dream, she should be aware that it might be difficult to acchieve.

I started out as a Latin major with an Ancient Greek minor, having thrown over my first idea of being a journalist, but was working very hard to become a poet. Before my sophomore year in college, I had published 15 poems, including one in Writers' Digest for which I was actually paid. My plans for the future included, among other things, a stint in the Peace Corps.

Because, obviously, they needed Latin teachers. Like everybody else.

I can't think of any career choices I could have made at 20 that would have ended with actual employment in my field of choice. Even now, when I play "what if", I can't come up with anything realistic and attainable. I want to work with Heifer International. Be involved with international business. And, perhaps, run that self sustaining organic farm. While it makes perfect sense that I am a school librarian, and I'm decent at what I do, I don't think that in a dozen chances to choose again at 20, I would have picked this as a career.

So who might I have been?

Who might you have been?

Is it too late?

Or is who we evolved to be the best "choice" after all?

MMG Nonfiction Monday

Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling: An Origami Yoda Activity BookAngleberger, Tom. Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling: An Origami Yoda Activity Book 
26 March 2013, Harry N. Abrams

Is this nonfiction? Not sure. I order all of my books fully processed, but this one came without a call number. I'm a little unsure where to put this, since it has drawing (741) bits as well as origami (736) bits. May just put it in the fiction section with the rest of the series, because more students might happen upon it that way.

Almost wish I hadn't bought it, since it does have boxes to write in as well as very tempting shiny paper to tear out to use for the origami. This would make an awesome present for a child who likes the series, and we'll just enjoy ours in the library until it falls apart.

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. It's also Nonfiction Monday, with the Round Up this week at Stacking Books.

278958Holm, Ann. I Am David.(1963)

A student gave me this book, and I got about halfway through it before realizing I had read it several years ago as North to Freedom.  This would be a good Holocaust book for students who are sensitive-- David escapes the camp early on, with the help of an officer there, and makes his way to Denmark. He is caught at one point by a farmer and made to work on the farm under poor conditions, but this is tame compared to many. It is written in an oddly detached style, and it seems a bit odd that David is so insistent he not tell a kind family that he was in a concentration camp. It was also a bit unlikely that he just happened to find a woman who knew his mother. The movie might be interesting, especially since the description explains that David has a sealed letter... that would have helped me believe his quest a bit more.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

If I Should Die

If I Should Die (Revenants, #3)Plum, Amy. If I Should Die
7 May 2013, HarperTeen

Kate is upset that Violette has not only killed Vincent, but is intent on burning his body so that he can never return. She seeks the help of Bran, the guerisseur who might have family secrets that will help them bring Vincent back. These seem to involve a giant, antique incense burner, but luckily, the revenants have a connection in New York City who just happen to have one, Kate travels to the city with Bran to work on the spell. It's successful, but even with Vincent back, there are problems. For one thing, Kate's grandparents have gotten sucked into the world, and are easily used as hostages by Violette. Violette will stop at nothing to rule, but Kate and Vincent are worthy opponents, and the series wraps up nicely. (Although I won't tell you exactly how!)
Strengths: This series is a fresh take on paranormal romance. Great covers, strong female character, circumspect enough for middle grade. There will be a reserve list for this one!
Weaknesses:Walks the edge of middle grade appropriateness-- there are some scenes that hint at some activity, but still okay. Kate is a little too invested in Vincent for my taste, but that's the appeal to the target audience. Undying love does not translate as an eternity of socks to fold for your average 13 year old!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Girl books from the UK

Ask Amy Green: Dancing DazeWebb, Sarah. Dancing Days (Ask Amy Green #4)
27 August 2013, Candlewick.

Amy and her best friend Mills are thrilled when Mills' sister Claire, who is starring in a Hungarian ballet company's production of Romeo and Juliet, comes back to Dublin. They do worry about how thin and upset she looks, and Amy (in true Agony Aunt fashion) finds her diary on a flash drive and starts to read it. It turns out that the ballet school is tougher than Claire thought it would be, and some of the girls are being very mean. Amy decides to go back to keeping a diary herself, and makes some notes about family situations and vents a bit about how Mills is treating her... and of course Mills reads it and won't talk to Amy anymore. With her aunt Clover, who is a teen reporter for Goss magazine, Amy goes to Budapest to interview Claire, and is able to help her out with some of the issues she is facing. Amy has her issues at home, too-- her young twin siblings are demanding, and her father is having difficulties with his new family as well.
Strengths: This series goes over well with girls who want a taste of life in Ireland. It has appealing characters (Clover is outrageously fun), just enough drama, but realistic situations with family and boys. It's fun to visit with Amy from time to time.
Weaknesses: It's hard to believe that Amy's family lets her go to Budapest with her young aunt-- here in the states, though, it would be roughly equivalent to sending girls from Ohio to Chicago, which doesn't seem as bad.

After IrisFarrant, Natasha. After Iris.
11 July 2013, Dial

I really wanted to like this one, but there was so much going on that I couldn't get a good feel for Iris and her feelings in the aftermath of her sister's death. With her parents both off at work and the family in the care of a  "nanny" named Zoran, it didn't seem realistic to me. It would probably appeal to fans of Hilary McKay's Saffy's Angel, so definitely take a look if that series is popular in your library.

From " Blue Gadsby’s twin sister, Iris, died three years ago and her family has never been the same. Her histrionic older sister, Flora, changes her hair color daily; her younger siblings, Jasmine and Twig, are completely obsessed with their pet rats; and both of her parents spend weeks away from home–and each other. Enter Zoran the Bosnian male au pair and Joss the troublemaking boy next door, and life for the Gadsby family takes a turn for the even more chaotic. Blue poignantly captures her family’s trials and tribulations from fragmented to fully dysfunctional to ultimately reunited, in a sequence of film transcripts and diary entries that will make you cry, laugh, and give thanks for the gift of families.

With the charm of The Penderwicks and the poignancy of When You Reach Me, Natasha Farrant's After Iris is a story that will stay with readers long after the last page. "

Friday, August 23, 2013

Guy Friday-- A Boy and His Dog

DukeLarson, Kirby. Duke
27 August 2013, Scholastic Press
E ARC from

Hobie is "the man of the house" while his father is flying bombing missions during WWII. Emotions are running high, and fifth grade boys find any reason to give each other a hard time. New kid Max Klein is accosted for being German, and Hobie is goaded into being more patriotic and less wimpy by giving up his beloved dog, Duke, to Dogs for Defense. Duke is sent to California and trained with Marine Marv. Hobie thought that his dog would stay stateside and come back to him, but when the boys in his class intimate that Duke will probably see combat,  Hobie tries to convince the Marines to send Duke back, especially when Hobie's young sister has trouble with the separation. When Hobie's father is captured by the Germans, things become even more difficult for the family, and Hobie regrets sending Duke. He and Max strike up an uneasy friendship when they find an abandoned dog, which becomes harder when Max sends the dog to Dogs for Defense as well. In the end, everything works out for the best.
Strengths: Larson is an excellent writer, and I do love her books, but my students have to be persuaded to read things likel The Friendship Doll or Hattie Big Sky. Duke, while about the home front, has many things to recommend it. Lots of details about what life was like, and the added interest of the dog. I'd still rather this be about Duke's experiences over seas-- readers will have to turn to the  C. Alexander London Dog Tags series for that.
Weaknesses: Anybody else REALLY bothered by the main character's name? Jamie Gilson has a whole series of books that include Hobie Hanson, You're Weird. It distracted me unnecessarily! Also, it doesn't seem very realistic that everything works out so neatly at the end, but it was probably too sad to have Duke die or be left.

Star Wars: Jedi AcademyBrown, Jeffrey. Star Wars: Jedi Academy
27 August 2013, Scholastic
ARC from

Boy, I thought this would be a slam dunk. Graphic novel AND Star Wars? However, my core Star Wars readersare VERY SERIOUS about Star Wars, and this was more of a comic romp. The fact that STB is older might have caused him to wrinkle his nose, but my core readers... they won't even read the Davids' books out of order, and if I am missing one in a series we have to get it from the public library. They tend to be a wee bit anal retentive. Perhaps for younger Star Wars fans, this would be a good match, but I don't see this working in my library, darn it.

"This incredible, original story captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun, and frustrations of middle school--all told through one boy's comics, journal entries, letters, doodles, and newspaper clippings. The setting? A galaxy far, far away...

Roan's one dream is to leave home and attend Pilot Academy like his older brother, father, and grandfather. But just as Roan is mysteriously denied entrance to Pilot School, he is invited to attend Jedi Academy--a school that he didn't apply to and only recruits children when they are just a few years old. That is, until now...

This inventive novel follows Roan's first year at Jedi Academy where, under the tutelage of Master Yoda, he learns that he possesses more strength and potential than he could have ever dreamed. Oh, and he learns other important things too--like how to make a baking soda volcano, fence with a lightsaber, slow dance with a girl, and lift boulders with the Force."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Al Capone Does My Homework

Al Capone Does My HomeworkCholdenko, Gennifer. Al Capone Does My Homework
20 August 2013, Dial
ARC from Baker and Taylor

When Moose's father is made assistant warden, it seems like a good thing until Moose discovers the multiple downsides: inmates have a "point system" where injuring a warden gives a lot of points; his sister Natalie is held up to even more scrutiny, and Officer Trixle thinks that HE should have been warden, so is waiting for any opportunity to discredit Moose's father. When the family's apartment has a fire while Moose is watching Natalie, Moose is wracked by guilt and determined to figure out what caused the fire, since he knows that Natalie couldn't have. This doesn't stop busy bodies from calling Natalie's school and getting her kicked out. Soon, Moose has all of his friends helping him investigate, and they also discover a counterfeiting business and a way to get Natalie to look people in the eye, as well as the rather alarming cause of the fire.
Strengths: Lots of research is in evidence-- can't say that many books cover Alcatraz Island during this time period. Good character development, fun ensemble cast, and of course, Al Capone, who still fascinates students.
Weaknesses: They changed all the covers, which always annoys me. This is the last book in the series; couldn't they have stuck with the same format? The first two books in this series are a bit hard to sell, although the teachers seem to like them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

World Wednesday-- Ghost Hawk

Ghost HawkCooper, Susan. Ghost Hawk. 
27 August 2013, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Copy recieved from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

Little Hawk is sent by his father out into the woods to survive with the few possessions he carries with him, for three months in the winter. Such a journey will make him a man, but is fraught with peril. There are heavy snows, and he must fast until he sees his Manitou, or spirit guardian. Little Hawk manages to survive, even fending off a wolf who has eaten much of his food stores, but when he gets back to his village, everyone but his grandmother has died of a disease brought by the English. Little Hawk's friend, Leaping Turtle, also comes back to the village, and the three survivors regroup and eventually combine forces with another village. Things are not going well, however, and the English are not treating thePokanokets fairly. At one point, Little Hawk and Leaping Turtle are on an errand in the woods and come across a young boy whose father has been trapped under a tree. John knows Little Hawk, but by calling to him and asking for help, he is instrumental in Little Hawk being shot. Little Hawk's spirit becomes trapped in the area, tied to the ancestral tomahawk he carried. John is devastated by the death, and spends the next several years as an apprentice trying, in small ways, to make things better for the indigenous people he meets. He also sees Hawk's spirit, and learns his dialect from him, so that he can communicate with Hawk's people and hopefully avoid other deaths. When his servitude is over, John marries Huldah and goes to join Roger Willams, who is trying to get people to deal fairly with the various tribes. Throughout his travels, Hawk is nearby, seeing how the English are treating the New World.
Strengths: This is well written and seems well researched, and the notes at the back are helpful in understanding Cooper's need to tell this story. She herself says that this is a fantasy set in historical time periods. I especially liked how John was trying to understand the point of view of the Native Americans while trying not to run afoul of his own people. This is a complex and nuanced treatment of the issues that Native Americans faced after the arrival of the English.
Weaknesses: While there haven't been that many books recently on Native Americans, I can't see this as being one that students will pick up for fun. The time period covered is very vast, and there's little indication of when exactly events are taking place. While I can see why Cooper chose to have a ghost as a narrator, the fantasy element complicates using this in a classroom as a historical book.

I know that Heise Reads and Recommends adored this, and Book Sandwich considered it fun to read, but also pointed out that Debbie Reese, of American Indians in Children's Literature, took issue with many things in this book, especially with the theme of a "white savior" in the book. I just thought it rambled too long, but definitely consider all of the angles before purchasing this one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Violent Books

Middle grade is tough. Students want to read all sorts of things that aren't all that good for them to read, especially violence. It's fine if they want to buy books or get books from the public library, but when I am HANDING them a book, it makes me uncomfortable if it graphically describes knifing another person. I'm better if the violence is attributed to or used against a supernatural creature (zombies, demons, etc.), because in those cases, it's self defense. There are some books where the human characters seem to be involved in, or even enjoy, too much violence. I'd love for people to chime in with their thoughts on this topic.

Flicker & Burn (Cold Fury, #2)Goeglein, T.M. Flicker & Burn
20 August 2013, Putnam Juvenile
Copy received from publisher.

Sarah Jane is back, still smarting from the disappearance of her family and from her father's betrayal. She's know the mediator for local disputes, but also the target of creepy Ice Cream creatures-- zombie-type characters who follow her around in a black ice cream van. She still is trying to deal with all of the mafia related problems, and uncovers some unsavory information about her grandfather when his brother, who was not in the outfit, shows up with his granddaughter, but she has to figure out why the creatures are trying to kill her, as well. She sends her friend Doug to investigate, and he gets hooked on the ice cream, Sec-C, that helps him break his addiction to food. It also bleaches out his skin and turns his tongue purple... just like the creatures. It turns out that yet another mafia person, "Ice Cream" Cohen, is involved, and Sarah Jane must save her friend while trying to keep everything together and find her family.
Strengths: Plenty of car chases, intrigue, mafia manipulations, and mystery. I like Sarah Jane, too, and there's even a little romance.
Weaknesses: The Ice Cream creatures made this jump the shark for me, and this got pretty violent. I really liked the first book, and there were parts of this I did like (the family interactions are fascinating and the best part of both books), but the zombies and Sarah's growing power to throw electricity from her eyes seemed... odd.

The Sacrifice Higson, Charlie. The Sacrifice. (#4)
11 June 2013, Disney Hyperion

Case in point. This series is a survival tale. Adults have turned in to zombies and children have to band together and fight them off. I read this, I did, but I got really confused, especially with Wormwood in the picture. This is a good example of books that my students adore that I'm... kind of tired of. Still, have to have some copies of this for the first day of school. This series is supposed to go for seven books. Sigh.

From the Publisher:
"The Sacrifice picks up after Small Sam and The Kid arrive at the Tower of London at the end of The Dead. Though Sam finds safety and friendship at the Tower with Jordan Hordern's crew, he can't settle down. The only thing he wants is to be reunited with his sister, Ella. Despite Ed's protests, Sam and the Kid strike out westward, through the no-go zone.
Meanwhile, Shadowman is tracking Saint George across north London, watching him build up his army. Shadowman knows that Saint George is an extremely dangerous threat, but no one will take his warnings seriously.
Some answers to the questions we've been wondering about--What is the Disease? Where did it come from? Is there a cure?--are addressed by an unexpected source: a diseased adult nicknamed Wormwood who has the ability to speak, though his ravings are difficult to decipher."

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Sanderson, Brandon. Steelheart (Reckoners#1)
24 September 2013, Delacorte
ARC from Baker and Taylor

A series about Evil superheroes who destroy the world, and people who rise from the dystopia to kill them. Don't know if it was the series aspect or the superheroes, but the deaths were pervasive and violent, and I think I will pass. Maybe I just got too many similar books at the same time, and could no longer stomach the gore. Take a look if you think it's something your library could use. I'll stick with lighter super heroes, light Anderson's Sidekicked.

From the Publisher: "
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge."

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I hope I didn't scare people off from applying to be Middle Grade Fiction panelists the other day. There are lots of applications in, but few people choosing MGF. *Sob*

I know that speculative fiction is super cool, and that Young Adult fiction is sexy, but middle grade fiction is a lot of fun. I know a lot of readers out there read and review a lot of MGF, and I'd love to see more of you apply! You can head over here to do so.

MMGM- Driven, Series Books

Make sure you check out What Are You Reading Monday at Teach Mentor Texts and  as well at Unleashing Readers. It's  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, and Nonfiction Monday (hosted this week at Perogies and Gyoza.

Driven: A Photobiography of Henry FordMitchell, Don. Driven: A Photobiography of Henry Ford

11 May 2010, National Geographic Children's Books

Confession: I love biographies, but, like my students, I have found even some of the 100 page biographies a bit lengthy recently. I was so impressed with Driven that I am going to try to get as many of the books in this series as I can afford. The reason? There's just enough information to make me feel like I have a good understanding of the person and his contributions to society without cluttering up the book with extraneous information. The pictures help me connect with the person and the time, and the coverage of Ford's successes and personal foibles is well balanced. I have tried for years to get students to pick up biographies for fun, and not had much success. With this book, the print is nice and large, pictures are well spread out, and the narrative style is very breezy fun. I want the Albert Einstein, Dian Fossey, Nellie Bly and John Glenn ones right now! I think that these will be easy to get into the hands of students.

Big Nate Flips OutPeirce, Lincoln. Big Nate Flips Out. 
5 February 2013, HarperCollins

By book #5 in a series, it's really hard for me to give a full review. In short, Nate has a fight with his friend Francis, mainly because Nate is so messy that the school camera, checked out by Francis but in Nate's possession, goes missing. Nate gets hypnotized into being neat, which is good in some respects but just not Nate. While I had trouble believing the drama surrounding the school yearbook (our middle school doesn't even have students work on ours), I always love to see what Nate is up to, and these go down smoothly. This will be very popular, and wear out unfortunately quickly.

Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker (Dork Diaries #6)Russell, Rachel Renee. Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker
4 June 2013, Simon and Schuster

This is book #6 in the series. There was an interesting interview with the author on NPR, which can be read here.

I ordered two copies of this book, have all manner of copies of the others in the series, and occasionally hand them to students. I'm not a literature snob. I'm all for children reading what they like. But this latest book had disturbing overtones of desperate females in midcentury teen lit, and rather bothered me. Nikki's entire self worth seems to be tied up in whether or not Brandon will call her, and she strikes me as almost as mean as her nemesis, Mackenzie. Reading the interview with Ms. Russell, I wanted to like this book more than I did, but it didn't seem to reflect what she set out to write, so I was just confused. The beginning scenes, with Nikki waiting for Brandon to phone or text, had shades of Dorothy Parker's A Telephone Call . That short story was published in 1930. Surely, girls and women have evolved since then, right?

Maybe I just got this one on a bad day.