Thursday, February 28, 2013


Callie is a 7th grade drama student, but she's not in the play, she's part of the stage crew.  While other students are learning lines and performing songs, Callie is trying to make a fake cannon fire, and struggling with her many crushes.  First it's Greg, her friend Matt's older brother, then it's two cute twin brothers, Justin and Jesse.  All the while, the show must go on and Callie balances her budding love life, or at least flirtation, with the demands of a large scale musical.

On one hand, I really enjoyed this book.  Telgemeier might turn me into a graphic novel fan yet.  But on the other hand, the characters read way too old to me.  This is 7th and 8th grade we're talking about, yet they were constantly talking about graduation (from 8th grade) and running this musical, which seemed quite outlandish for a middle school play.  But, I would think that middle school readers would enjoy reading about characters that seem to have some freedom and independence.  The whole thing seems rather glamourous, really.  

Callie was a great character.  She's awkward at points, but driven and focused on the play, and you get a nice backstory explaining why she prefers the background.  Justin and Jesse were interesting characters because they did get a little more freedom from their father by the end of the book, which is was a step in the right direction.  Their sexuality is a plot point, and some readers will embrace that, while others balk, but I thought the whole subject was treated very well.  

All in all, I thought Drama captured what middle school readers would want their school play experience to be.  

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee

Now that Dwight is at Tippet Academy, McQuarrie Middle School is without their favorite jedi, but Sara has a way to fix that with Fortune Wookiee.  Now students consult the Fortune Wookiee, who is then translated by Hans Foldo.  But Principal Rabinski will have none of it and has banned origami at school, except in the library (gotta love those librarians!).  Meanwhile, Dwight is acting strange, and by strange, I mean normal.  His friend Caroline begs the students at McQuarrie Middle School to help make Dwight normal again, and by normal I mean strange.  The action really intensifies in the the latest Origami Yoda book.

While this book has everything that the previous books had-humor, heart, and sneaky lessons-I really thought that this one went a little farther.  There were more super-secret stories in this case file, what with Remi, Kellen, Rhonadella love triangle.  Plus I loved the ethical dilemma between Tommy and Harvey about whether they did the right thing for Dwight.  He seemed to fit in at his new school and he wasn't getting into trouble, but he wasn't Dwight anymore.  That's some deep stuff.

Also, the ending is great cliffhanger for the next volume in the series.  I'm hooked.  And did anyone else out there immediately start thinking about Common Core standards when you read that last chapter?  I think our own students might need an Origami Yoda.

I've been blown away by this series.  I remember purchasing the first one when I was still a working librarian and thinking it looked like an odd little book.  It's definitely an odd little book, but it has such heart that I can't resist.  Plus, I actually told my husband that reading these books has made me want to watch Star Wars.  That's just music to my hubby's ears!  Maybe this weekend while we're digging out from two major snowfalls in one week.

Yep, two big snows, one long week.  And I even had a snow day yesterday and I didn't post.  Mostly because on snow days I nap, read, drink hot chocolate, shovel the drive, and repeat.  Not a lot of screen time for me!  Judging by the forecast, I better put together a snow day reading list, because we're in for more snowy days.

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Darth Paper Strikes Back

Another year and more problems for Origami Yoda to solve, but the biggest problem might be how to keep his creator from getting suspended.  Dwight's become a "disruption" according to the principal and she wants him out, especially after an ominous warning to a cheerleader.  But Tommy and Kellen can't live without Origami Yoda's advice, so they start another case file for the School Board.  Again, Harvey is there is foil their plans, but this time he has help in the form of Darth Paper.  And just when it seems like Harvey has fully embraced the Dark Side, he surprises Tommy and actually tries to help.

Fans of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda will love this sequel.  Harvey definitely takes his position as the villain up a notch and readers will love the back and forth.  Plus, you can learn how to make another origami Star Wars character.

I especially loved when other books where mentioned.  For instance, one "couple" (as much as you can be a couple in 7th grade) broke up because the guy let the ending to Holes slip.  Talk about a deal breaker.  And Tommy gave Robot Dreams to his "girlfriend" Sarah, while Tater Tot gave her a tacky teddy bear.  For all those 7th grade boys out there, Robot Dreams might just be the perfect gift for a 7th grade girl.   Also, Jennifer, the cheerleader that initially told on Dwight, fails her English class because she blew off a book report on Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.  I loved seeing other titles in this book because maybe some readers will be curious and check out those books too.  (Robot Dreams, read Robot Dreams!)

When you get right down to it, this is another example of kids pulling together to help a friend.  It's funny, entertaining and will subtly teach a lesson.

I'm already well into The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, so expect that review tomorrow.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Period 8

Sometimes I get overly critical.  If you are a die hard fan of Chris Crutcher, you might want to stop reading.  I'm having a critical day.

Mr. Logsdon is the cool teacher.  He has a group called Period 8 and he invites students to come to his classroom over their lunch hour and talk about life openly.  It is a place to be honest, but not everyone is being completely truthful.  First Paulie, the supposed good guy, cheats on his girlfriend Hannah.  This happens as Mary Wells, the school good girl, goes missing.  Student body president, Arney, makes a big show of knowing Mary better than anyone and saying that he's sure that she's fine, but he'll look into it, and while everyone is feeling vulnerable, he throws out some backhanded comments and lectures everyone about respect and getting to know their peers better.  There are other characters that muddy the waters and other events that seem only to complicate what is already a full story.

Even the tag lines for this book are in competition:  "They told him it was safe.  They lied."  What was safe?  Period 8?  High school?  The world in general?  "The ultimate bully and the ultimate good guy tangle in Period 8".  Okay, Paulie is not the ultimate good guy and I can't get into the bully because that would be giving away the ending, just know that he's crazy, but could easily be contained.

Get ready for even more criticism.

But first some confessions.  This is the first Chris Crutcher novel that I have read and I wonder if that is half of the problem.  Maybe all of his novels are a mix of convoluted characters and intense plot lines.  I  had a lot of trouble not only following the plot but also believing some of the less important details, which we'll get to later.

Also, I read a very poorly formatted ARC from Edelweiss on my Kindle.  There were several grammatical errors, like in most ARCs, but on every other page, the title and author would appear in a strange font.  There are also a lot of point of view changes in this book, and the ARC did not do a good job of transitioning from one narrator to the next, but this is something that will be more apparent in the actual book.

And now I will seemingly destroy a book that is likely to win acclaim by all.

Some of the things that bothered me the most we insignificant, like Period 8 itself.  It seemed that all of the kids were hanging out during lunch.  But 8th period would meet around 1:30ish.  I guess that I can't understand that because I was always stuck with 4th period lunch at 10:45, so such a late lunch time is unfathomable.  And the very idea that Logs (what they call their hip teacher) would cultivate a lunch group like this is also strange.  It's not a school club, yet it seems rather exclusive, like you have to be invited to attend and it almost gives the air the preferential treatment.  Maybe this isn't all that weird, but the whole thing with Period 8 struck me as odd.

While the plot moves quickly and really does suck you in if for no other reason than you are so confused you have to keep moving to make sense of all of this non-sense, it's too much.  (Kinda like that last sentence.)  This is an example of a book that tried to do too much.  There's the Paulie-Hannah Relationship plot line, the Mr. Logsdon Retiring plot line, the Mary Wells plot line, the Something's Up with Arney plot line, and then these random mini plots like Kylie's breakdown, and Bobby finally sticking up for himself.  I realize that the overall message here is that everyone is fighting a different battle, but there were too many battles here, and I have a feeling that resolving them was a little more than the author could take.

I think the thing that ticked me off most about this book is the chaos of it all.  There were narrators coming and going at random intervals, some scenes in italics for little reason, characters that seemed bipolar, but weren't actually, just troubled.  It was too much to follow and not enough of a payout.

All that said, I flew through the book.  I had to know what happened, because this whole time you are wondering who's the psycho?  Who's the bad guy?  Turns out almost everyone you think it could be.  So, while I found it completely confusing and frustrating, I kept going because I had to know what the heck was going on!

Maybe I'm so critical because I had a Mr. Logsdon in high school.  I had a teacher named Mr. Hart that was awesome and would just talk with students like we were equals, which is rare in high school.  Mr. Logsdon's character was a good one, but didn't quite ring true.  I can't exactly put my finger on it, but maybe when you have an amazing, down-to-earth teacher in your life, the literary ones pale in comparison.

I'm probably not the best judge of this book.  About half way through I started questioning little details that shouldn't have to be questioned, I was frustrated but intrigued, but not intrigued enough to put away my frustrations.  I think I just need to tear apart a book, and maybe this one has been treated a bit unfairly.  I personally wouldn't recommend this book, but that doesn't mean I don't think you should get out some other reviews on GoodReads or other blogs and make your own choices.

And if you feel like telling me why I'm wrong about this book, that's fine too.  I have an open mind, so feel free to leave a comment.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 22, 2013


Raina tells the tale of her adolescence mostly through her dental work.  In 7th grade, Raina found out that she would have to have braces to correct an overbite, then she fell and knocked out her front teeth, leading to years of painful braces and headgear and procedures.  And while that is an important part of the story, that's not really star of the show.  Raina is also growing up, losing old friends, making new friends, developing her interests and personality.  At it's core, this story is about growth.

I didn't actually realize that this book was set in the 1990's until the San Francisco earthquake story.  I honestly thought it was more contemporary than that, but as a child of the 1990's, I really appreciated some of the throw backs, like Exclamation perfume.  They still make that stuff by-the-way, in case you miss smelling like 1994.  

Since this is a graphic novel, some parts are actually graphic and had me a little queasy.  For example, Raina gets a deep gum cleaning, which sounds horrible, and the picture is likely not as bad as I thought, but it made me light headed for a second.  

Raina's short, ill-fated, flirtation with the 6th grader was spot on.  She liked him, but couldn't take her friends teasing, so she bowed to convention and they stopped being friends at all.  We've all had that moment, but you can tell that Raina regrets it, like most of us, and that's a learning experience.

I can see why this book is so popular.  The graphic format was not too overwhelming for a non-graphic reader like me and the book was both cringe-inducing and heartfelt.  Telgemeier has a second graphic novel out called Drama, and I just read this morning that she is signed on for two more graphic novels, so I definitely look forward to her future books.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Good night that is a disturbing cover.  But the book inside is worth the price of having this cover in your house.  Also, is it weird that I took me at least two days to realize that she is wearing a hat?  I guess that I just thought it was her hair, but when I realized it was a hat, it made things even more weird somehow.

As you can guess, Tina Fey's memoir is hilarious.  She lays out everything from her childhood and parents to her time at Second City in Chicago, and finally SNL and 30 Rock.  She explains her writing process in the endnotes as sitting down and talking to a friend, and that is exactly what this book feels like.

I never know how to review a book like this because 1) it's not a children's book and 2) it's really hard for me to review memoirs.  So personally, I liked it.  Fey gave insight on what it was like to play Sarah Palin, she revealed what it is like for her as a working mom, and she dedicated whole chapters to one long joke.

Moving on, let's talk about my favorite parts.  I loved the chapter on her dad, Don Fey, the ultimate well-dressed alpha male.  I thought her quote from Colin Quinn, "you don't come home with a shamrock tattoo in that house", was a great description and likely very true.

I also loved all of the insight on 30 Rock, and I don't even watch that show.  I knew that it was a hit with critics and developed a weird, hipster cult following, but I didn't know that was not the goal.  Fey says over and over that they were trying to write the next great American sitcom.  They wanted the crazy success of Seinfeld or Home Improvement, but they realized pretty early on that was not going to happen, so they leaned into the weirdness and made it work.  I think that I'll try to catch an episode here or there and see what I'm missing.

Since Fey is probably most well known for playing Sarah Palin, it's interesting to read how that all got started.  And that her Republican parents thought she was going too far in the sketches.

All in all, if you are a fan of Tina Fey, 30 Rock, SNL, any of it, you'll really enjoy this book.  It's very light, really funny and has some great memorable moments, everything a good memoir should be.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Illinois Reader's Choice Awards

I really got behind this year.  That's what happens when you only read the books that interest you and have no assigned reading.  When I was in the glamorous, jet-setting world of children's librarianship, I read the Monarch List, Bluestem List and Caudill List.  This year-nothing.  I did read a couple of them by accident, like The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, but for the most part I ignored the lists and read more YA.  It's not a bad thing, but I'm not getting a well-rounded reading education this way.

As for the glamorous, jet-setting world of children's librarianship, I think I might be romanticizing it because I have been gone too long.  When I look back on it now, I see myself in darling dress outfits, resembling something from the latest Kate Spade line, with cute glasses and pearls, singing to my story time and taming them like Mary Poppins, while reading them Mo Willems books and they all giggle politely and we move on to perfectly ordered crafts where no one eats the glue.  I'm pretty sure that is not at all how my career went down, but I'm going to hold on to that dream for a little while longer.

Back to the award lists.  There are four reader's choice awards in the state of Illinois:  Monarch, Bluestem, Caudill and Abraham Lincoln.  Let's take a closer look.

The Monarch Awards began in 2002 for readers in grades K- 3.  These books are mostly picture books, but do include some beginning readers and easy chapter books.  It's the quickest list to read and gets your momentum going.  Click HERE for the 2014 list.

The Bluestem is the newest award on the block and it is going through some growing pains.  The first list came out in 2011, and it was meant to bridge the gap between the easy Monarchs and the increasingly mature Caudills by targeting children in grades 3-5.  Since the other awards are established, those books are typically only two to three years old, but since the Bluestem is new, there are those nominating very old books for that list, and they are also nominating books that have already won Caudills, or are even currently on the Caudill list.  It's a weird little list right now, but hopefully it evens out and starts to have an identity of its own.  For the 2014 list click HERE.

The Caudill is the most popular Illinois Reader's Choice Award and it is aimed at students in grades 4-8.  It recently celebrated it's 20th birthday and has awarded well known books like The Hunger Games, The Giver, and Holes.  It's a children's literature sweet spot.  However, the books have been leaning more junior high lately, leaving those 4th graders out in the cold, hence the creation of the Bluestem.  I really think that once the Bluestem takes off, the Caudill will become a grades 6-8 award.  Click HERE for the 2014 Caudill List.

And finally we have the Abraham Lincoln Awards for high schoolers.  I never bothered with these when I was a fashionable, sophisticated children's librarian, but now that I read YA with a vengeance, I've found that I've already read half that list.  The great thing about the Lincoln is that readers even have a say over what goes on the list.  At least five books that make the final reading list are reader selected, unlike the other lists which are run by a panel of librarians that I suspect push slow, morality driven books on readers in hopes that it beats a lesson into their precious heads.  (Sorry, I hate a preachy book, and the Caudills tend to be a 50/50 mix of entertaining books and absolute lesson-driven dribble.)  For the 2014 Lincoln List, click HERE.

As you know, I like to make grand reading resolutions on this blog, many of which are complete hogwash and I forget about once I see that there is a new Anna Godberstein novel that I must read.  So, I am setting a very attainable goal this time:  5 books from each list.  Totally easy!  Let's check out my progress so far:

Monarchs-I haven't read one of these yet, but it will honestly take me longer to put five of them on hold than to read them.  Check back soon for a Monarch update.

Bluestems:  Since some of these go way back, I'm actually half way there.  I read Because of Winn-Dixie only a few summers ago, and I know that I read Number the Stars in school.  I don't reread war books, so I'm going to count my adolescent reading of that novel.  I am also pretty sure that I read Knights of the Kitchen Table, which is old enough to drink by the way, and not the best choice for this list.  Jon Scieszka is brilliant, but he has better stuff.

Caudills:  I've got one:  Okay for Now.  It's sneaky book because it looks meaningful, but it's hilarious. Then there's Wonder, which is on my to-read list, plus it's a Caudill and Bluestem, so bonus!  I'll have to think about what else I'll read, but I will get my five books in.

Lincolns:  5 books-check!  I'm done!  Every Day, Cinder, The Night Circus, Divergent, Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  Even though I've technically made my goal, there are some others that I would love to read like Ready Player One, Everybody Sees the Ants, Wintergirls, and the forbidden (for me by my hubby) The Fault in Our Stars.  What I once ignored is now my favorite award.

Book award season is just starting in Illinois.  The 2013 winners will be announced next month and these new lists will keep me busy.

What lists will you be reading?

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

I told you that Origami Yoda was going to win my Valentine's Day reading vote.  Actually, I didn't read it on Valentine's.  I was otherwise engaged.  But miracle of miracles, my public library actually had it, so this was my Friday night.  Honestly, I am very glad that I didn't read this book on my Kindle because it is full of drawings and illustrations that would have been lost on my 2nd generation machine.  I might have to update my technology, especially since my dog knocked my Kindle off the side table and ever since there have been three black dots along the side.  It's not a big deal, but it makes everything look like it's been written on three hole punched paper.

Tommy has put together a case file on Origami Yoda, a little paper puppet that sits atop the finger of Dwight, a strange and unusual guy, and dispenses wise advice to everyone in his class.  Just like Yoda in the Star Wars movies, the answers are not straight forward, but they do make sense.  While one student is off learning the twist with her grandmother, another is being told to soak his pants, and poor Dwight provokes the school bully, but in the end, it all comes together, and Tommy gets the answer he seeks regarding a girl.  Each chapter is told by a different student that asked Origami Yoda for advice, so the plot moves along quickly and the reader never has a chance to get bored.  Since some of the chapters are written by girls, it also is a book that has wide appeal.  Most of the book is boy funny, but there is some insight into the female brain as well.

I loved this little book.  I think that this is a great series for Diary of a Wimpy Kid readers.  It's funny, quick, has great illustrations and it has more heart than Wimpy Kid.  Plus it captures 6th grade so perfectly, with the boy/girl division starting to weaken and fear of the older kids being a major concern. There are two more in this series so far, with an art book coming out next month, so I really hope that Tom Angleberger can keep going with these characters.  Angleberger has a couple of other books as well that were already on my to-read list, so I am pretty excited to see how those turn out too.

While I was reading this, my husband wondered aloud how the author got permission to use Star Wars characters so freely.  Honestly, I don't see that as a problem.  All of the boys in the book talk about Star Wars like they are the single greatest piece of cinematic adventure ever created (and quite a few real people would agree, I'm sure), so I believe that this book could bring even more fans to the movies, which is a win-win for everyone.

I highly recommend The Strange Case of Origami Yoda to middle grade readers.  It is full of humor and fun, but sneaks that message in perfectly so you barely notice it, but it's there and it will have an effect.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cinders and Sapphires

Lady Ada is returning from India, where her father has left his government post in disgrace, only to discover that he is remarrying with little notice.  While on the ship, she meets a young man that makes her swoon and begins to show her that India might not be the beautiful place she remembers.  Rose is a housemaid at Somerton, Lady Ada's home, but her beauty and composure hint at greater things and her mother holds quite the secret.  Lady Ada's new family, the Templeton's, are a very interesting group.  Simon seems to be an Oxford playboy, but he's is hiding a very dangerous secret.  Michael is a troublemaker who wants nothing but to see the world, but his mother wants him close to home.  Charlotte is cruel and conniving and will do whatever it takes to see herself lifted up and her enemies trampled.

Add to this full story the antics of the household staff and their backstabbing, side stories, and dreams and this is one series that is sure to last for quite some time.

The only thing that could have made this book better would have been a cast list and a pronunciation guide.  The cast of characters is absolutely huge.  While the main characters are Ada and Rose, there are dozens of others that will have some role over the course of the series, and with each chapter coming from a different narrator, you can become confused pretty quickly.  My best guess is that there were at least seven different narrators.  That's a lot of different points of view.  I have a feeling that this will be like a soap opera in that some books will focus on different plot lines and characters while almost ignoring the others.

Also, because this book is set in England, I could have used a pronunciation guide.  I had a professor in library school that did a short lesson on British pronunciations and I remember that he wrote Featherstonehaugh on the board and asked us to pronounce it.  The whole class said "Feather-stone-ha".  He told us it was "Fan-shaw".  See how a pronunciation guide would help?  It would completely change my reading.

I think that Cinders and Sapphires could have some appeal for adults.  It's a quick, full period drama with plenty of deceit and action.  Also, I get the feeling that the adults in the story are not just furniture, but they will have important roles in the series, so it's not only the kids that get to have all of the fun.

I can't sign off on this review until I mention the obvious-it's Downton Abbey for the YA set.  Not that I've ever watched the show, but you can pretty well tell that was the intention.  Give this to readers that long for a more refined type of drama.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!  This is the day to celebrate your sweetie and maybe your sweet tooth too.  But I'm looking forward to a night off from the kitchen and plenty of time with a good book.  In lieu of presents this year (did you hear that honey, IN LIEU OF PRESENTS), my hubby has agreed to make dinner and wash the dishes, so that means that I get a whole night of reading.  Plus, since my hubby will be otherwise engaged, he also can't watch Game of Thrones, so I won't have to ignore battle cries all night either!  Bonus!

So, what should I do with all of this newfound free time?  I'm thinking that a Kindle book purchase is in my future tonight.  But what to buy?

First up, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff.  What?  Too obvious?   Really this book has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, but rather it's all about a killer on the loose.  Very romantic, I'm sure.

For a little more romance, then try the new Heist Society book from Ally Carter, Perfect Scoundrels.  I know that I said I was getting tired of this series, but I say that about every series.  Katarina and Hale are supposed to get a little closer on this heist which could make things very interesting.

And now for something completely different!  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger.  Not because it has anything to do with Valentine's Day, but because I've wanted to read it for ages.


And this little dark book would be great for all those boycotting Valentine's Day.  The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs comes from the interesting mind of Newbery-winner Jack Gantos.  It combines love, family, and taxidermy-not necessarily in the order.

Finally, I own The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and it's been sitting on my shelf for months, but due to the depressing nature of the book, I'm not allowed to read it.  It is a subject matter not approved for Tiffany, according to my hubby.  But if you can't cry your eyes out on Valentine's Day, when can you?  True, it would ruin Valentine's, so not tonight, maybe not ever.  

What to do, what to do?  I'm thinking The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, personally.  I've been on a full YA bender lately and a little middle grade fiction is the perfect thing to cut through the drama.  And who wants drama on Valentine's Day!  I just want chicken alfredo and a clean kitchen.  Did you hear that honey, that's all!  And a Kindle book and two hours of uninterrupted reading.  That's not too much to ask, is it?

What will you be reading this Valentine's Day?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Scarlet is searching for her grandmother who has been missing for over two weeks, but the police in Rieux, France have stopped their search saying she simply ran away.   When Scarlet returns home, she finds her estranged father tearing the house apart looking for something.  He has been tortured by her grandmother's captors and now he is trying to find the information they want to save his life.  With this knowledge that her grandmother is in danger, Scarlet enlists the help of an unlikely source, a street-fighter named Wolf, to help her find her grandmother and bring her back safely.

Meanwhile, Cinder, the Lunar turned cyborg, is busy escaping from prison with vain and pompous, Thorne, and trying to reach Dr. Egar in Africa.  But she decides she needs to make a stop first, in France, to find the woman that helped rescue her from Luna.

Marissa Meyer does a fantastic job with this new retelling of Little Red Ridinghood, and further adding to the Lunar Chronicles.  The chapters alternate between Cinder, Scarlet and occasionally Emperor Kai.    Cinder is still trying to come to terms with her Lunar heritage and her gift.  The guilt that she feels when controlling people is very well drawn.  The reader also gets the sense that Cinder is a very reluctant hero.  She never knew her true identity, and now so much is expected of her and that is very frightening.  On the other hand, Scarlet is a fiery character that will do anything to protect those she loves, and she is anything but reluctant.  The reader can only hope that Kai will make the right decision and that book 3 will somehow end well for him.

Fans of Cinder will be very pleased with this sequel.  It builds well on the previous action and adds a few more elements for book 3.  There are a couple of short stories that take place on Luna available from Amazon and I think that I will check those out soon while I wait for the finale of this series.

I know that it convoluted, but I love the fairy tale retellings with a sci-fi flare.  I also loved the different headings moving into each part of the book.  I thought those worked well as foreshadowing.

And now, a brief rant.  How is it that February is the shortest month of the year, yet it is the busiest?  It's been a crazy month so far, and unfortunately, it's far from over for me.  Sorry about the lack of posting.  I am probably the only person that actually cares that I post four-five times a week, but I am really trying to stay in a routine.

I hope that your February is flying by and that you have plenty of time for good books.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Passive Reader's Advisory

I'm currently taking an online class through ALA and one thing that we were asked to share were passive programming ideas.  I took things one step further with a fun passive reader's advisory activity.

The image above shows an example of a flyer that I created to get kids into reading.  I would pick a book, any book, write up a little blurb and then use a substitution code for the title.  As you can see the code is written at the bottom for those interested in solving the title.  Then I'd wait for kids to start asking me for the book.

Usually, I didn't make it too hard.  I would display this sign on a shelf row end cap, and display the book on that same end cap, but the flyer worked so well that I sometimes had to place holds for the books.

Also, I liked to make this seem like some mysterious person was recommending these books.  I sometimes said things like-your teacher doesn't want to you read this book-or-this book is so funny you might laugh so loud the librarians will shush you!  Stuff like that makes kids want to read the book.  Also, the mystery and codes make the books seem almost forbidden.

I usually displayed little known funny or exciting books this way.  Or, if I accidentally had two copies of a book I would try to get them out a little more with this method.  My favorite book that got this treatment was The London Eye Mystery.  It was a oops-2-copies book, but a great read.  A boy walks onto the London Eye and his cousins wait below for him after the ride is over, but he never gets off.  Where did he go?  You're hooked already!  Well, I put together a code flyer for it, and both copies were checked out immediately.  Then I had a young man come to the desk and ask about it.  I coyly asked him how he heard about this book, and he said in a "duh" kind of voice-that flyer over there tells all about it.  Ha!  The flyer works!

So, if you are tired of boring book displays that practically shove books into patrons faces, try this sneaky approach.  You'll find that they are willing to work for it.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall

Florence is an orphan who has been sent to live with a long-lost uncle in the English countryside, but something is not right about the estate.  Her cousin James is ill and stays in his room all day and her aunt is still in mourning over the death of Sophia, James' sister, which was nearly a year in the past.  Soon, Florence starts feeling watched and she starts to see and come under Sophia's influence.  Before she knows is, Florence is doing Sophia's bidding, and it is certain that Sophia was not the girl that her aunt described.  How can Florence stop a ghost from continuing to hurt her family?

Mary Downing Hahn has found a formula and she sticks to it.  I remember reading Wait Till Helen Comes when I was young and being scared out of my mind.  That's actually how I booktalk it to readers.  Once they learn I couldn't sleep for a week because of it, they can't wait to read it.  Hahn's books are just spooky enough for young readers that they are appropriately scared, but can't quite make out the ending.  Now, adults can see this coming from a mile away, but Hahn doesn't write for adults.

While this book is completely predictable, I would still recommend it to young readers.  The English countryside is well described and everyone gets exactly what they deserve in the end, so readers will feel good about the action.  Although, the ending does leave a little room for Sophia to come back-not enough for a sequel, just a enough to keep readers thinking.

The nice thing about Hahn's books is that they age well.  Add a spooky new cover and it's ready to go for a whole new generation of readers.  Also, her books are strangely addictive.  I knew from the beginning what would happen, but yet, I kept reading to see exactly how Sophia got what she deserved and see what other wicked characters were taken care of as well.  Also, young readers love to be spooked, but by tidily handling all of the bad guys, Hahn makes it so that everyone can sleep well at night.

In short, if you have a fourth grade readers that likes to be scared, but you don't want them to have nightmares, steer them toward anything by Mary Downing Hahn.

Happy Reading.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'm not neglecting you!!

I promise that I am not neglecting you.  I was away for nearly a week tending to some family business and now I am back to a flurry of work and emails and review books and general craziness.

The good news is that my time away actually turned into a great time to read for long stretches at a time.  There was lots of just waiting around for something to happen.  So now I have several books ready to be reviewed and posted.  Now I just need more than 2 minutes to be able to post.

I miss writing everyday, so I hope I will be back with greater consistency by next week.

Until then, enjoy an unhurried day for me!

Happy Reading

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tuesdays at the Castle

Celcie is the youngest of four children and daughter of the King Glower the Seventy-Ninth.  She lives in an enchanted castle with her family and on Tuesdays it seems that the castle decides to change and shift as it sees fit.  It will add extra hallways, change rooms, rearrange the floor plan, and if it does not like someone, it will make it known by shrinking rooms and locking doors.  The family must respect the castle and learn to understand it's judgement.

When Celcie's parents leave to attend her brother's graduation from a wizarding college, they are ambushed as part of a traitorous plot and declared dead.  Representatives from neighboring kingdoms arrive at the castle to pay their respects and diplomacy starts to strain as Rolf, Celcie's brother, is crowned king and more plots are set into motion.  Now, the children must use the help of the castle to protect their family and their home.

This is a delightful story.  Celcie is quite the hero.  As the youngest, she can be child-like, brave, sensible, and impulsive in turns.  She is the one that the castle loves best and her relationship with the castle is endearing.  The castle itself is a character all its own, and many readers will find themselves wishing that they could visit Castle Glower.  Rolf, the future king, is both a fine leader, and loving and silly brother, while Lilah is very concerned with manners but she is also a kind sister.

Readers will also be struck by the pranks that the children pull on the Council and their enemies.  Those pranks, both aided and unaided by the castle, sound like a good deal of fun, although hopefully readers will realize that these types of pranks are best left in books.

This is the first in a projected series, however, it stands perfectly on it's own.  This would make an excellent addition to any reader's choice award book list, as it is easily accessible for readers from grades 3 through 5, but the interest level could stretch it an extra year.  Plus, this is a lovely book for adult readers to read with their children, or if they are just looking for a fun adventure to help them feel young at heart.

Happy Reading!