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?