Monday, September 30, 2013


Velvet is a young orphan in London in the year 1900.  Her mother died long ago, and even though she feels guilty about her father's death, she is still relieved to be rid of the horrible man.  She supports herself by working in Ruffold's laundry.  She is on the verge of being fired for fainting in the super-heated steamy laundry when she gets the opportunity for a promotion.

Velvet doesn't know it at the time, but that promotion will change her life.  She will leave her backbreaking job, her tiny shabby bedroom, and her nights of going hungry behind for a life of relative luxury in the home of Madame Savoya, one of the most famous mediums in London.

Velvet is happy with her life of comfort in a nice house with beautiful clothes, a full stomach, and the attentions of a handsome young man.  She is grateful to Madame for saving her life and trusts her explicitly.  Other mediums may be false, but Madame would never perpetrate such a fraud.  Would she?

Mary Hooper's new novel is set in the world of spiritualism in the year 1900 when it was fashionable to attend seances and seek guidance from "the other side" with the help of a medium.  But are these mediums really communing with the spirits, or are they clever tricksters preying on grieving people?

This book has a great start, and the ending is good, too.  It just got a bit bogged down in the middle for me.  Velvet was just a little too vain and stupid there for a while, but all in all it was an interesting book set in a fascinating time!  And it got me interested in reading some of the author's other books.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lenny Cyrus, School Virus

Lenny Cyrus is the smartest kid in school.  His parents are scientific geniuses, and he gets a free period every day to conduct his own scientific research.  Too bad he's also the most awkward kid in school.  He only really has one friend, his neighbor Harlan, and he's been a prime target for bullies since elementary school.

The day Zooey Andrews saved Lenny on the playground changed his life. Sure, he's now the biggest bully target in school after being saved by a girl, but he's also been in love with Zooey ever since.  The problem is, she barely knows he exists.

When Lenny discovers the secret to shrinking matter down to microscopic size, he thinks he's found the perfect solution.  He'll shrink himself down to the size of a virus and change her mind from the inside!

While Lenny is battling hormones and white blood cells on the inside, Zooey is trying to prepare for opening day of the play she's written and directed, but nothing seems to be going right, not even her own body!

Read Joe Schrieber's new book for an inside look at human anatomy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Road Trip

At first Ben is pretty excited to go on an impromptu road trip with his dad to rescue a border collie pup.  His dad's border collie, Atticus, is coming along for the ride, and this new dog will be Ben's.  Everything changes when Ben's dad tells him a secret he's quit his job and that they can no longer afford the hockey camp Ben was supposed to attend later in the summer.

Now Ben is furious and unwilling to talk to his dad at all, so he calls his friend, Theo, to join them.  This is just the beginning of a crazy trip that will eventually involve an old school bus, a cranky mechanic, a fed up waitress, and the highway patrolman with the department record for writing speeding tickets!

This trip was supposed to be about rescuing a dog, but it looks like there are some people who need rescuing, too!  If Atticus, the dog, has anything to say about it, everyone will get exactly was they deserve!  Join Ben, his dad, and their collection of strays in this crazy road trip.

Read Gary Paulsen's latest book written with his son Jim Paulsen.

Prisoner B-3087

Yanek's story begins in Nazi-occupied Poland.  He and other Polish Jews are imprisoned in the Krakow ghetto and subject to food shortages, work details, and violence.

But that is only the beginning.  Over the next nine years, Yanek will be separated from everyone he knows and loves and shuttled to ten different concentration/extermination camps.  Through it all, Yanek holds fast to his determination to survive no matter what.

Yanek's story is based on the true story of Jack Gruener, a real Polish Jew who survived the hardships and atrocities Yanek faces in the book.  This first hand account of life in the camps is heartbreaking and painful, but it is ultimately a story of survival against the odds.

Read Alan Gratz's novelization of Jack Gruener's real experiences! Watch the video to see and hear the real life inspiration for this book.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Navigating Early

After the death of his mother, Jack's military father who's been off fighting WWII for years moves his son to a boarding school in Maine.  Jack misses Kansas and all the people he knows and loves.  He hasn't seen his father since he was a little kid, and he is still grieving over his mother's death.

Despite all this, Jack tries to fit in at his new school.  Everything seems pretty normal except for one kid named Early who is small and strange and rarely goes to class.  After a few chance encounters, Jack reluctantly befriends this odd boy who lives in the basement and abandons classes when he disagrees with the teacher.

In math class, their new teacher tells them about the amazing pi and how a professor at Harvard thinks the number will soon end.  Early becomes distraught and leaves class.  This is when Jack discovers Early can read numbers like a story, and the tale of Pi the adventurer begins to unfold.

Abandoned by his father over Thanksgiving break, Jack decides to join Early in quest along the Appalachian trail to find a great black bear that has been terrorizing hunters and campers.  As there journey progresses, they encounter people and events that strangely mirror Pi's tale.

Clare Vanderpool's new book is a fabulous tale of adventure and survival, but it is so much more.  It's a story about faith, myth, and forgiveness.  I feel like nothing I could say here would do the book justice.  It's just wonderful!  Read it!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wonder Show

Portia's life in the Midwest of the 1930's is not all she would like.  First, her mother dies, then her extended family of gypsies leaves, and finally, her father abandons her to the care of Aunt Sophia.  But Aunt Sophia doesn't know what to do with a girl whose heart is full of mischief and whose head is full of stories.

Once Aunt Sophia has had enough, she sends Portia to McGreavey's Home for Wayward Girls.  Here Portia is subjected to a life of misery and fear.  She hates this new life and wonders how her father will ever find her.  The one thing she remembers about Max is that he loved the circus, so when a circus comes to town, Portia decides to make her escape and begin looking for her father.

The Wonder Show is a strange collection of people with physical oddities.  They aren't like the marvels who look normal but can perform amazing feats.  No, the freaks include a bearded lady, conjoined twins, a giant, and a little person among others.  Portia's search for her family continues as she becomes a part of the circus herself.