Friday, July 28, 2006

The Silver Spoon of Solomon Snow by Kaye Umansky - OPTIONAL

Umansky, Kaye The Silver Spoon of Solomon Snow, 304 p. Candlewick


One fateful day, Solomon Snow discovers that he truly is a foundling, left in the snow with only a napkin and a silver spoon as the keys to his origins. Along with Prudence, a girl too smart for the village, he ventures to Town in search of spoon, which his stepfather pawned more than a year earlier. Along the way they acquire a little girl, a rabbit and chimney sweep – all of whom are key to solving the mystery. 

Written after the author was inspired by Dickens, the parody of old Victorian novels. I know adults would appreciate the book, but I am not so sure about children.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Uncharted Waters by Leslie Bulion - OPTIONAL

Bulion, Leslie Uncharted Waters, 185 p. Peachtree


Jonah and his little sister Jaye are spending the summer with their beloved uncle in a cabin on a lake. Jonah, however, is hiding two secrets – that he will have to repeat seventh grade English if he doesn’t finish his final writing project and that his encounter with a jellyfish has left him afraid to go in the water. Jaye has taken his place in the local summer swim program and Jonah has found a job working for a local dock owner, but his fear of the water will come back to haunt him when he takes a job helping a young marine biologist. 


Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Secret-keeper by Kate Coombs - ADVISABLE

Coombs, Kate The Secret-keeper, PICTURE BOOK Simon Schuster


Kalli has been hearing and keeping the villagers’ secrets for years, but is made sick by the burden during one long winter. The villagers find a way to ease her heart and help her recover her spirit. 

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this picture book as a rip off of Sharon Shinn’s Safe-keeper’s Secret, though at the beginning the similarities are a bit irksome. Instead, enjoy this sweet little book that is so full of hope. Can anyone think of a way this would be useful in a secondary classroom? 

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Plague: My side of the story by Philip Wooderson - OPTIONAL

Wooderson, Philip The Plague: My side of the story, 192 p. Houghton


Rachel and Robert’s lives intersect in her father’s shop, where Robert is the apprentice, just as the plague takes hold in 1665 London. Even as the plague devastates London and moves into the villages, someone is trying to ruins Rachel’s father’s cloth business. 

This book is written back to back, with the reader having to flip the book in order to finish. The hype on the inside would have you believe that both sides give different, and possibly conflicting, views of the same action. Instead, one is really only a continuation of the other – and I started reading the wrong one first and knew the end before I had even begun! It really is necessary to read Rachel’s story first. Other than that quirk, the novel is a middle quality read that adds little to the drama around the Black Death. 


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Firegirl by Tony Abbott - ESSENTIAL

Abbott, Tony Firegirl 145 p. Little, Brown 


Tom is normal sixth grader, with a best friend, a bit car crazy and a secret crush on the prettiest girl in his grade. Then Jennifer, the victim of a horrible fire, comes to his class while she is receiving burn treatments and skin grafts, changing everything Tom thought he knew about himself and his best friend. 

This is a short and powerful novel that should be read aloud to every elementary and middle school student across the nation, followed up by an intense discussion about how to treat people with differences. The unembellished writing drives home the author’s intentions and shows how it is as easy to befriend someone as it is to ridicule them. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cobra King of Kathmandu by P.B. Kerr - ADVISABLE

Kerr, P.B. Cobra King of Kathmandu 384 p. Scholastic


John, Philippa and their best friend Dybbuk travel to India on the hunt for a murderer – not knowing that they must also save their Uncle Nimrod and breakup the resurrection of an old snake cult, whose leader is bent on capturing djinn for his own nefarious purpose. 

A likable, well-written addition to the series. 


Monday, July 17, 2006

Suddenly Alligator: an adverbial tale by Rick Walton - ADVISABLE

Walton, Rick Suddenly Alligator: an adverbial tale PICTURE BOOK Gibbs Smith 


A young boy walks through the swamp in quest of a new pair of socks. Along with other discoveries, he encounters an alligator intent on making the boy his next meal. 

The author places each adverb at the end of the sentence add emphasis, helping younger readers enjoy the lesson. Middle or high school grammar and writing teachers could use this book to show how using a wide variety of adverbs enhances writing MIGHTILY. 

Friday, July 14, 2006

John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith - ADVISABLE

Smith, Lane John, Paul, George and Ben PICTURE BOOK Hyperion 


A fun, humorous look at the early lives of five (Tom, too) important men in American history. A great true/false section at the end of the narrative elevates this from mere entertainment, to a way to introduce these men to middle or high school students. 

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Victory by Susan Cooper - ADVISABLE

Cooper, Susan Victory, 208 p. Simon Schuster 


Sam has been press-ganged onto Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flag ship before the battle of Trafalgar. Molly has moved with her mother and step family from her beloved London to Connecticut, bringing along a severe case of homesickness. The two young people’s stories come together when Molly finds a piece of Admiral Nelson’s history preserved by Sam between the pages of a book. 

Books about sailing ships and sea battles seem to be doing well in many libraries. If this is the case in your library, then this will be a good addition. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss - ESSENTIAL

Truss, Lynne Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Why commas really do make a difference, PICTURE BOOK Penguin


A panda walks into a diner, eats a bit, shoots a couple of arrows and then leaves. So begins several pages of misplaced and replaced commas and great illustrations for each convention. The importance of the lowly comma becomes very evident. 

This title was originally published as a non-fiction title that expounds at great length (yes, I have read it). This much shorter, and to the point adaptation, would be an excellent tool at every level of education. You will need a opaque projector or its modern equivalent in order to make the most of this title. 


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Desperate Journey by Jim Murphy - OPTIONAL

Murphy, Jim Desperate Journey, 272 p. Scholastic


Maggie and her family live and work on the Erie Canal. If they don’t get their current load to the city on time, they will probably loose their boat and their livelihood. Along their way, however, their father and uncle are arrested on trumped up charges. Maggie, her mother and her brother must somehow get the boat there on time. 

While the writing and pacing are excellent, the subject matter will probably not draw students to the novel. If you have a teacher who requires an American Historical fiction read, then add this to your collection. Otherwise, you will need to sell this title. 


Beware, Take Care by Lilian Moore - OPTIONAL

Moore, Lilian Beware, Take Care PICTURE BOOK Henry Holt


A rambunctious ghost, a smiling monster, a misunderstood dragon are part of the poems and adorable illustrations in this short picture book. My favorite poem is The Teeny, Tiny Ghost. If you have a large Halloween collection, this would be a good addition. 


Monday, July 10, 2006

No Place for Magic - E.D. Baker - ADVISABLE

Baker, E.D. No Place for Magic, 250 p. Bloombury


Emma and Eadric are ready to marry, but Emma insists that they receive his parents’ blessing. In Eadric’s country, however, witches and magic are not respected. When the pair arrive, they are immediately set with the task of rescuing Eadric’s little brother from evil trolls – and Emma is going to try to accomplish this without depending on her magic. 

A nicely done addition to the Frog Princess series. 


Sunday, July 9, 2006

Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau - OPTIONAL

DuPrau, Jeanne Prophet of Yonwood, 304 p. Random House


11yo Nickie has come to Yonwood with her Aunt Christine to sell her great-grandfather’s house. The pair find the town under the grip of a woman in a coma, Althea Tower, who is being called The Prophet. Old Ms. Beeson has taken the role of interpreting the Prophet’s mumblings into directives for the townfolk. Christine is torn between her desire to help forward the Prophet’s vision and her feelings of loyalty to people who don’t really believe in Ms. Beeson’s orders. 

 This book has almost nothing to do with the previous Ember books, except for a contrived relationship that means nothing. If you feel that your readers will be disappointed by that, then don’t buy this book. If you think your students will be interested in a tale of town in the grip of a cult-like experience, then you might buy this, but there are better books out there addressing the topic. Email me if you want some titles. 


Saturday, July 8, 2006

Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley - ADVISABLE

Stanley, Diane Bella at Midnight 278 p. HarperCollins


At birth Bella’s knight father gives her to a foster family to raise, far from his sight. In the small village, Bella also meets and becomes fast friends with one of the sons of her country’s king. At 16, Bella is summarily called “home”, where she meets a new stepmother and sisters, who find Bella well beneath them. Then she hears news that forces her to take bold steps that will change her future. 

This book is unfortunately terribly derivative (a step mother and two stepsisters!?), drawing together familiar elements of several familiar fairy tales, without creating something so new and fresh that you feel you are reading something brand new. Younger students, who are maybe not as familiar with their fairytales won’t mind, but older students and adults will. 


Friday, July 7, 2006

My Haunted House by Angie Sage - ADVISABLE

Sage, Angie My Haunted House and The Sword in the Grotto 144 p. each HarperCollins


Araminta Spookie lives contentedly with her Aunt Tabitha and Uncle Drac in a fantastically creepy house where she can’t find a single ghost. One day Aunt Tabby announces that she is sick and tired of the broken down house and is determined to find a buyer. Mint knows that she must do something drastic in order to keep her home. In the second title, as Minty searches for the perfect birthday present for a 500-year old, she and her new best friend Wanda are in desperate danger in an undersea grotto which is quickly filling with water. 

Cute, creepy fiction for the younger crowd. 


Thursday, July 6, 2006

My Last Skirt by Lynda Surrant - OPTIONAL

Durrant, Lynda My Last Skirt: The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Union Soldier, 208 p. Clarion


As a girl in the hills of Scotland, Jennie masqueraded as a boy in order to help her family earn much needed coins. When she and her brother immigrate to America, she keeps up the charade, going as far as to join a Union regiment during the Civil War. Even after the war she maintains the fiction, until one day her lifelong secret is discovered. 

Full of fascinating details of battles as life as a soldier, but the human parts are rather stiff and sketchy. If you need a new Civil War novel to round out a collection, then buy in hardcover, otherwise wait for the paperback. 


Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Born to Rule by Kathryn Lasky - ADVISABLE

Lasky, Kathryn Born to Rule, 160 p HarperCollins


Alicia, a princess of B----- is away for her first summer at princess camp. She has formed a bond of friendship with her roommates, but she is struggling with the challenge every princess must face – finding and training a songbird. To further complicate things, rumors of a ghost haunting Alicia’s tower seem to have some truth, distracting Alicia with an enticing mystery. 

Fluffy and cute, prefect for middle elementary. 


Sunday, July 2, 2006

Mystery of Lord Sha by Erik L'Homme - OPTIONAL

L’Homme, Erik Mystery of Lord Sha and Face of the Shadow, Scholastic


Robin and his friends have returned safely from the Uncertain Lands and are working on their chosen career paths. One evening Robin’s mentor Quadehar returns to the Unknown Lands on a secret quests, leaving Robin once again in the monastery of Gifdu for protection,. Instead, a mysterious figure cloaked in black breaches the security and hunts Robin down. 

Second and final in the Quadehar trilogy.  Since these books are already in paperback, they would be worth adding to a large fantasy collection. 


Monday, June 19, 2006

The Bundle at Blackthopre Heath by Mark Copeland - OPTIONAL

Copeland, Mark The Bundle at Blackthorpe Heath, 167 p. Houghton Mifflin


Art is the grandson of the ringmaster in the insect circus. Spying (by accident) with his shiny new telescope, he sees the fly who acts as their advanced agent embroiled in nefarious activities. Art and his friends try their best to uncover the plot, but even a stick beetle and friendly woodlice can't help until it's almost too late. 

Kind of cute, though I wouldn't go so far as to call this book charming. Art and his friends really do nothing of importance to solve the mystery or stem the coming crisis, though they do have bug-related excitement and intrigue aplenty. My favorite part is actually the addendum which is a booklet from Art's grandfather, explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the various bugs in the circus. 


Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The Winter Road by Terry Hokenson - ESSENTIAL

A new novel - the author's first - will have "Hatchet" fans running for the shelves!

The Winter Road by Hokenson, Terry, 175 p. 


The morning Uncle Jordy is supposed to fly Willa's mother onto the next remote settlement in the far northern reaches of the Hudson Bay area, Willa finds him sleeping off a drunk instead. So WIlla takes matters into her own hands and flies the plane herself - an unplanned first solo flight. A severe storm wrecks the plane and leaves Willa with a little food and a large store of homegrown survival knowledge. After she fails to grab the attention of the rescue planes overhead, she makes the life-changing decision to find her own way to safety. 

At first I was a little skeptical that this was just a blatant "Hatchet" ripoff. But the longer I read, the more I liked, and then fell in love with this excellent first effort. Descriptive, exciting writing, excellent survival skills (as if I would know! - city girl that I am!) and by the end I had tears in my eyes, because I couldn't stand the suspense any more!!! I can't wait for the author's next book. 


Welcome to Kiss the Book Jr.!

Welcome! Kiss the Book Jr. is for board books, picture books, early readers, and chapter books.  Also, any novels and non-fiction that we ag...