Thursday, December 1, 2011

No Passengers Beyond This Point by Jennifer Choldenko

India, Mouse, and Finn have just lost their house due to a financial crisis, and now they are on a plane, alone, on their way to Uncle Red's house in Colorado.  Soon after take off, strange things begin to happen, but the three siblings are distracted by their own frustrations.

India doesn't want to leave her friends and school, and she can't believe her mother is making her babysit her younger brother and sister on the way to Colorado.  They are so annoying!

Finn is worried about everything and sad about leaving his manager position on the basketball team.  Things will never be the same, and they barely even know Uncle Red.  He just doesn't see how everything can work out with so many problems in their path.

Mouse notices everything, and while her older brother and sister are worried and annoyed that she will drift away, she is frustrated because no one is listening when she tries to point out important signs and information.

When the land, they aren't in Colorado.  They are in a place that seems too good to be true.  They soon discover that what seems like paradise really isn't and that they might just want to go back to their normal lives.  But is it too late?  Time is strange in this new place, and it's running out fast.

This book is told from the perspectives of the three kids, so you get different versions of the story.  It gets a little confusing as you read, but it will all make sense in the end, even the reasons why it is a little confusing. :)  Visit Gennifer Choldenko's website for more information.  I recommend this for everyone, especially if you like a little fantasy in your life!

The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Tessa has never known a world without war.  For longer than she or her parents have been around, the country has been at war.  This has left the people depressed, poor, and struggling to survive.  Tessa is happy to hear that a childhood friend and neighbor, Gideon, is winning a medal for his military service because she hopes this will inspire her community and give them something to live for.

But Gideon isn't happy about his award at all.  He is filled with guilt about what he has done and determined to do something to make things right.

As Gideon, Tessa, and an orphan named Dek set out on one final mission, they begin to realize a shocking truth about this always war that has consumed everyone's lives for generations.

This is a quick read and interesting perspective on war and intelligence.  The Always War will make you think about war and truth in a different way.  As you read, look for place names that sound familiar but are a little off.  See if you can figure out the real places Dek, Gideon, and Tessa discuss and visit.  I recommend this for everyone, 6-8.  Enjoy!

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This is a reimagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which just means the author took the basic ideas of the original story and looked at them in a different way or in this case, fleshed out part of the story.  Oppel looks at Victor Frankenstein as a teenager.  Victor and his twin brother, Konrad, are best friends, but that doesn't mean there isn't a touch or jealousy and competition in their relationship.  This competitiveness only increases for Victor when he thinks of the lovely Elizabeth. 

Life is relatively peaceful until Konrad becomes unexpectedly ill, and all medical efforts fail.  Victor remembers a dark library hidden in the house with alchemy books and papers.  He struggles to create an Elixir of Life to save his brother and to glorify himself.  Victor and Elizabeth must battle vicious creatures and cunning enemies to meet their goal, but Victor finds the danger exhilarating. 

This book was a heart pounding thrill ride that manages to be character driven at the same time.  Oppell looks further into Victor's motivations than the original story does, and he creates a character who is believable and disturbing.

The best compliment I can give This Dark Endeavor is it inspired me to read the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'd never read it, but I thought I knew the story based on a jumble of movie clips and cultural references.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong and that Shelley's novel provokes questions about loneliness and personal responsibility.  We also have Shelley's book here in the library.  Both are challenging reads, so I would recommend them for 8th graders and 7th graders who are strong readers.

This Dark Endeavor was also named as part of the 2012-2013 Lone Star List!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Elephant In the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

Lizzie and Karl live with their mother in Dresden, Germany, during WWII.  Dresden hasn't been bombed by the Russians or the Allies yet, but everyone knows it won't be long.  Lizzie's mother is a zookeeper who has taken a special interest in Marlene, a young elephant whose mother recently died.

When the zoo director informs his staff that if Dresden is bombed that the animals will have to be killed to avoid the danger of wild animals running through the city, the family finds new sleeping arrangements for Marlene in their back garden.  The city is bombed while they are taking Marlene for a walk, and they begin a journey across the country to safety.

This is a story about family, friendship, and love inspired by real events in Belfast, Ireland, during the war.

Pie by Sarah Weeks

Alice's Aunt Polly makes the best pies anywhere.  All you have to do is take one bite, and you'll agree.  Aunt Polly says the secret is love.  She loves baking pies and watching people enjoy them.  Alice has spent hours with Aunt Polly talking and watching her bake pies.  She feels more loved and special with Aunt Polly than anywhere else, so it is a terrible shock for Alice when Aunt Polly dies.

Everyone one in town seems determined to find Aunt Polly's secret pie crust recipe and become a famous pie maker, but Alice just feels lonely.  When she gets a call from Aunt Polly's lawyer, her mother is thrilled, thinking Polly has left Alice her secret recipe and the key to wealth.  

But Aunt Polly has left her something else entirely, her cranky cat, Lardo.  There is still another another surprise:  Aunt Polly left the secret recipe to Lardo!  Now there are mysterious goings on and mysterious characters running around town, and Polly is determined to get to the bottom of all this and to be a good friend to Lardo.

Pie is sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, and sometimes delightful, just like a good slice of one of Aunt Polly's creations.  Maybe you can learn to make pies, too, using the recipes spread through the book.  Maybe I'll try the peach.  Mmm...delicious!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

From the first day of 6th grade, Rafe Katchedorian knows middle school is going to be terrible, but as he and his best friend, Leo the Silent, sit in the code of conduct assembly, genius strikes.  Rafe will break every rule in the code of conduct, and Leo will set up a point system. 

Now, if Rafe could just get Jeanne Galletta to notice him and his mom's loser boyfriend to leave, life would be good.

Will Rafe break all the rules and rule the school, or will it be permanent detention?  Read his story with Leo's illustrations to find out.

If you are a Wimpy Kid fan, you'll love this one!

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Liam has always been tall for his age, but now that he is twelve and shaving twice a day, he doesn't really look like the other kids.  His parents want him to fit in with the other kids, but Liam just wants to get out of his home town and see the world. 

One day Liam decided to take advantage of his height.  Everyone always thinks he's an adult, so why shouldn't he get the benefits of being an adult?  He teams up with a classmate named Florida, and they pretend to be father and daughter. 

Everything is great until Liam gets the opportunity to take his daughter on an adventure.  The adventure is more than either one of them bargained for.  Can Liam keep up the pretense that he is Florida's father?  Should he?  As Liam strives to be more "dadly," he and Florida get to know each other better, and they learn to appreciate each other and the importance of a good dad when you're in a tough situation.

I loved this book!  It was funny and touching.  Think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but the chocolate factory is a trip to outer space.

Ashes by Kathryn Lasky

The year is 1932.  They place is Berlin, Germany.  Gabby Schram is a normal 13 year old girl, but life in Berlin is definitely not normal.  There is a new man rising to political power in an obscure part of the country, but he some people, including Gabby's parents, worried.  Others think Hitler will restore pride and prosperity to Germany.  Gabby isn't sure about Hitler, but she knows she doesn't like the brown shirts, Hitler's private army who are crowding the streets of Berlin. 

Life is changing for Gabby and everyone else in Berlin, and Hitler's new army makes her feel ashamed of many things, even her long blonde braids.  Gabby doesn't trust her sister's new boyfriend, and she worries for Mr. Einstein who is a colleague of her father's at the university.  Even her beloved teacher turns into someone Gabby doesn't recognize. 

Is Germany changing for the better, or will Gabby's beloved Germany be turned to ashes?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

On a school trip to the Chicago Museum of Art, Ruthie and Jack fall in love with an exhibit of miniature and highly detailed rooms.  Ruthie is content to gaze for hours into the tiny rooms, but Jack is little more active.  When he finds a door to a back room open, he quickly darts inside and finds a beautiful key. 

He and Ruthie soon discover that the key has special powers that will allow them to get a closer look at the rooms than they ever imagined.  They will discover the magic of the rooms and their secret history.  The key might also give them the ability to help some people in the process.

If you like stories with a touch of history and magic, this is the book for you.  The best thing about this book is that the sixty eight rooms are real, and you can visit them if you go to Chicago.  Watch the video below for more about the Thorne Rooms and images of all the rooms!

Lincoln Through the Lens

This is an intersting photo biography of Abraham Lincoln who didn't have his first photograph taken until the age of 37.  It's a perspective on Lincoln's life that includes photographs of the president and the people who impacted him.  The narrative also features Matthew Brady, the Civil War photographer who took the portrait Lincoln credited with winning him the presidency. 

Each layout includes a photo or photographic spread on one page and text in large readable font on the other.  Each layout is also a separate piece of the story that you can read in a few minutes.  This is a great introduction to one of our greatest presidents.  You might want to pair it with Russell Freedman's Newberry Award winning Lincoln:  A Photobiography.

Get the Chills This Month in the Library!

Check out these spooky reads!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

Come into the library to remember the events of September 11, 2001, and to learn more about that day and its aftermath.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

Sam Wilson is a teenage hacker with the skills to hack ANY system.  He knows the internet and programming better than anyone else, and he has no problem with playing around with servers and networks to get what he wants.  And right now he wants a Neuro, a device that will allow him to interact with the internet by using his brain waves.  So what if he has to take down major communications in the eastern U.S. to make it happen?  Honestly, he's a little proud of himself.

Life is good until Homeland Security shows up.  Sam's just a kid; he doesn't want to go to jail!  He thinks that's the worst of his problems until something even worse threatens him, the nation, and the world! 

If you are looking for a thrilling adventure that will keep you hooked from page one, then Brain Jack is the book for you!  This book is non-stop action and adventure that will keep you in suspense until the very end.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Graphic Novels Survey

Click on the link below to participate in the library's graphic novels survey!  Now is your chance to let me know which graphic novels you want in the library!  Participating in the survey will enter you in a drawing to win the September issue of Shonen Jump! 

Save the Graphic Novels Survey

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Payback Time by Carl Deuker

Mitch True dreams of becoming a famous reporter.  He wants to uncover secrets, report the facts, and change the world with his investigative reporting. 

So far senior year isn't going as planned.  He didn't get elected to be the editor of the school paper.  Instead it's Ashley, one of the worst writers on the staff.  To make things worse, she's assigned Mitch the sports column!  He is furious to be denied serious news in favor of sports.

But things aren't all bad.  Mitch soon finds that his photographer will be Kimi, a cute and smart girl.  Together they discover something strange going on with the football team.  There's a new guy named Angel who is on of the best players Mitch has ever seen, but he's obviously holding back on the field, and the coach seems to hiding something, too.

As Kimi and Mitch dig into this mystery, things get more dangerous by the minute, and the facts just won't add up.  Will Kimi and Mitch solve the mystery, become famous, and get accepted to exclusive colleges, or will they destroy themselves and others? 

P.S.  Deuker does a great job describing the football and volleyball games Mitch attends.  If you're a sports fan, you'll love this one, but the mystery is so good the rest of us can enjoy it, too!

Check out Carl Deuker's website for more information about the author and his books:  Carl Deuker's Official Website.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

So far, 8th grade has been a total tragedy for Hamlet Kennedy.  Let's count the ways:

1.  Her name is Hamlet, and you can imagine what kind of jokes that leads to.
2.  Her parents are Shakespeare obsessed!  They even dress and speak like rejects from the 17th century.
3.  Now, Shakespeare is making an appearance in her middle school!
4.  Her seven year old sister, Dezzie, is a super genius who will be attending art classes at Hamlet's middle school, so she can get into college.
5.  Hamlet is barely passing pre algebra.
6.  The boy she likes doesn't know she's alive, and the one she doesn't may have a crush on her.
7.  The meanest girls in school are determined to torment Hamlet in every way they can.

Hamlet just wants to be a normal girl who goes unnoticed, but life doesn't seem to want to work out that way.  If things get any worse, she's sure she won't survive this tragedy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

Pancho is grieving and angry over the death of his sister, Rosa, when he arrives at St. Anthony's, a group home for boys.  He doesn't want to get involved with anyone.  He just wants revenge for Rosa's death, and he then he will be prepared to accept the consequences.  At St. Anthony's he meets D.Q, a boy who is struggling with his own problems and refuses to leave Pancho alone. 

D.Q. convinces Pancho to come to the city with him for his cancer treatments.  He promises Pancho that if he will just stay with him during the treatments and recovery, he can sneak away and take care of his own plans.  Pancho agrees, but the more time he spends with D.Q. and his friends, the more he begins to question himself. 

Who will Pancho decide to become?  Will he continue on his path of anger and destruction, or will he choose another road? 

I loved this book!  It is a great discussion on what it means to be your own person and choose your own destiny.  (8th grade)

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett

Steve Brixton loves a good mystery and one day hopes to be a detective.  He is a keen observer and is confident in his detecting skills.  He's even smarter than his mom's new boyfriend.

But one day he is mistaken for a real detective by a group of secret agents who believe he is working for a the criminal mastermind, Mr. E.  Steve has his best friend, his mind, and knowledge of mystery novels to help him survive and uncover the truth to crack this case!  Will he clear his name and catch the criminal, or will he become another victim of Mr. E and his evil plots?  Read the book to find out!

This book has humor, illustrations, and mystery!

P.S.  If you liked The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, it's your lucky day!  This is the first book in a new series written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex.

P.P.S.  Notice there is a good review on the cover by Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy Kid series!

Watch the video below to discover who the secret agents are and some of their top secret secrets!