Friday, July 29, 2016

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

I had a hard time getting into Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. I felt disconnected from the characters and nearly put it down. That changed with the introduction of the villain, Nettlebrand. Every dragon story needs a good villain, and while Nettlebrand isn't particularly complex, he is evil.

In Dragon Rider, a dragon, a boy, and a brownie seek a safe place in our modern day world for dragons to hide from humans encroaching in their living spaces. They need to stay hidden in order to stay alive and not end up on display. Unfortunately, there is a golden dragon by the name of Nettlebrand who loves to hunt and eat dragons more than any other thing.

I liked the relationships in the story and hope that Ben's character will be more fleshed out as the series progresses. This is book one of so far a two book series. Book two will be published in English in 2017.

If you like dragon books, you will probably enjoy this story.

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

I enjoy book length poetry. In Crank by Ellen Hopkins, she tells the story of a girl addicted to meth. To say this book is depressing is an understatement. However, the format of the poetry was brilliant and the story is an important one for more mature teens. Published in 2004, this story is fiction but based on her daughter's addiction.

This book contains language, sex, rape, drug abuse, and teen pregnancy. That being said, Hopkins  brilliantly captures Kristina's descent into life with the monster called meth. If you have a loved one who has been captured by this monster, you will be able to relate to Kristina's journey. This story doesn't have a happy ending. In fact, it is one of a three book series. From experience, I know that there are few happy endings after someone gets addicted to meth. It is an insidious beast that twists the lives of those who take it inside out.

I enjoyed the format of the poems. Some are shaped like what Kristina is talking about and some have messages off to the side that fit into the larger poem. If you are a writer, I think you will enjoy the artistry of this novel.

I'll have to read the next two of the series to see what becomes of Kristina. I wish her the best, but from experience, I know that for many meth addicts, there is only despair awaiting them at the end of their journey.

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe

I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe is the story of the littlest cricket who doesn't want to make music. Instead, he wants to be a beautiful butterfly. A frog told him that he is the ugliest creature he's ever seen, and the cricket can't let go of these mean words.

Cricket meets many other insects who try to help him, but it takes him a long to time to believe what they say. By the end of the book, he finds his beautiful music which makes the butterfly envy him.

Ed Young is the illustrator of this beautiful story, and although I didn't buy this book for the pictures, they add to the mood and words and make the story come alive.

My grandson requested that I read this one on Youtube, so this one's for you, Isaac.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming

This is another book recommended to me by my friend Michelle. She really knows her books. Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming, published in 2002, is an amazingly fun read aloud.

When Mr. McGreely decides to plant a garden, he cannot keep the rabbits out of his produce. "But one night, when the sun went down and the moon came up, three hungry bunnies appeared. Tippy, Tippy - Tippy - Pat! Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!"

Mr. McGreely builds all sorts of obstacles around his garden, but he can't outsmart these rabbits. This book should be in every child's library.

The entire book:

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney

If you like suspense, Caroline B. Cooney knows how to keep you on edge. In her novel, Diamonds in the Shadow, she keeps you guessing almost until the end.

The only negative thing I can say about this book, is that I hope it wouldn't give people ammunition to say we shouldn't help refugees. This book shows the what if of a person receiving asylum when they shouldn't have.

This book will make you question the motives of yourself and others. It will show you how important it is not to judge.

The Finch family whose church is sponsoring the Amabo family, knows that four people will arrive, two parents, a son, and a daughter - four people who have seen horrific things, which means this book is definitely for older teens. It mentions rape, murder, child soldiers, mutilations, and other horrors of war. They have no idea a fifth refugee is also on that plane, and he wants to find the four.

Jared Finch begins to notice that the family doesn't act like a family. They don't look alike, and they treat their daughter like she doesn't exist. He wants to know what is wrong, but he is trying not to judge. Having the Amabos in their home may put them all in danger.

This fast paced book with a lexile of 750L makes it a good HI/Low choice for older teens - High interest, lower reading level.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Football Genius by Tim Green

If you have a sports loving reader in your house, this might be a book you want to hand them. Football Genius by Tim Green was recommended to me by our school librarian.

Troy White is a good football player in his youth league, but as quarterback, he doesn't see any play time because the coach sends his own son in to play instead. Being a good football player isn't Troy's only gift. He can predict football plays before they happen. When his mom gets a job working for the Atlanta Falcons, he thinks this may be his chance to prove himself by helping the team win, but one of the coaches wants the Falcons to lose and ties to stop Troy.

Can Troy find a way to make them listen and save the Falcons from a losing season?

Written by a former Falcon, this story is fast-paced and exciting. The only drawback I saw was that Michael Vick is mentioned in the book, but Green couldn't have known that Vick was abusive to animals when he wrote the novel. Vick is a minor player in the story, so don't let that stop you from reading this fun story.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

NICU Book Delivery

Between books I've been finding, and books my friend/neighbor, Michelle brings over, we are keeping books flowing to the teeny tiny babies of McKay-Dee Hospital's NICU.

For newcomers, I started this project as a way to honor the lives of a set of twins that I lost many years ago. My daughter, Angie, is a NICU nurse. As a reading teacher, I found that several of my reading students were NICU patients. I also found that kids who were read to as infants had stronger attention spans than those who were not read to. Each baby gets five books, and there is an insert inside letting parents know the benefits of reading to their babies from day one.

This was going to be a one time project - drop off 25 packets of 5 books for each baby and call it good, but we are finding that the parents really appreciate being able to read to their babies in the NICU. Babies need to hear their parents' voices, and tired parents need something to be there for them to read. When you enter the world of the NICU, you don't think about bringing books. You are just trying to get through each day.

So of course, now that I've started this project, I can't bear to end it. We give five books to each baby because you can't create a reader with one book unless it is the right book, and the right book varies for each person. That being said, if I could afford to buy all new books without finding sales, I would include the following five books in each packet:

Yes, I know that list has six books, but it is really hard to choose only five.

Here are pictures of some of the books Michelle brought over:
 Jamberry is so much fun to read, and every baby should have a copy of Love You Forever.
She brought over seventeen more books, but I forgot to take a picture of them before I packaged them up for the babies.

Here are some board books that Angie and I found:
 Otis is such a fun series, and Sandra Boyington knows how to write for babies.

Another selection of books ready to go to the NICU:

Notice that Mem Fox book - Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes? This is why I have so many pictures books in my house; I simply can not only pick five, ten, or even twenty (1,000), but as the book grandma, I have to have a lot of books at my house.

Here we all, all packed up and ready for the hospital. It makes my book nerd soul happy to see these tiniest of babies getting a good start on their reading journeys.

If you'd like to contribute to our book drive for NICU babies, here is how you can help:

1. You can order books for your own children (of all ages) from our online Usborne book party and the proceeds will go to purchase books for the NICU. I've received over $350.00 in free books for the NICU from people buying books for their own families through this web link. Usborne is really good to their hostesses, and they have great board books for babies. Click on the link: Usborne book sale to benefit NICU The books you order will be shipped directly to your home. You can then give them to your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. The free books from the hostess benefits go to the NICU. Remember to get summer reading books for your family. 

2. We have set up a baby registry at with many books listed for the NICU babies. Some of these books only cost $2.50. Many of these are classics that all children should have. Click on this link if you'd like to help provide books for the NICU: Catherine Crosby Building Lifelong Readers Book Registry. If you order books for us, they will be shipped to me, and I will package and send them to the NICU. 

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

In A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, the reader knows right away who is good, who is bad, and who is witless. This series follows the three Baudelaire children as they face disaster and bad fortune.

Although the characters are a bit stereotypical and flat, the story is fun. I enjoyed seeing how the children would counter Count Olaf as he tried to get the better of them. It was much like a chess match between two equally skilled opponents. 

This quick read gives lessons on figurative and literal language and many lessons on vocabulary. Each volume of this series is small, slim, has larger font, and is easy to read even though the Lexile measure on the first book is 1010L.

At the beginning of chapter two after the children have learned of their parents' deaths, the narrator says, "It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klauss, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. If you have ever lost someone very important to you then you already know how it feels, and if you haven't, you cannot possible imagine it" (10).

This is profound in its honesty. There are passages throughout the book containing sage advice, and for a seemingly simple story, it is rich in symbolism and wisdom. 

If you've seen the movie, you will agree that Jim Carrey was perfect as Count Olaf. 

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Published in 2015, The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is about children being sent from London to live in the country during WWII. Surprisingly, I'd not read a book about this topic until last month, and now I've read two.

The War that Saved My Life is very similar to Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian that I read last month. Both feature children with an abusive mother and no father present. Both feature children going to a single adult who didn't really want to help in this particular war effort. In both stories, a refugee becomes a bed wetter and needs a rubber sheet, the children in both stories have to return to their abuser, and in both stories the foster parent arrives to save the day.

I enjoyed The War that Saved My Life, but probably would have liked it better had I not read Goodnight Mr. Tom first, which has a more authentic British voice, stronger writing, and a more believable depiction of what an abuse survivor endures.

However, I appreciated Ada's strength and her ability to attempt to create a future for herself that involved more than sitting on a chair and looking out the window. I also admired her determination to protect her little brother no matter the cost to herself.

I didn't understand her mother not wanting to have Ada's clubfoot fixed, and her determination to limit Ada's life.

The ending seemed a bit rushed in this story and I didn't have the emotional response that I had to Goodnight, Mr. Tom.

This book is well worth reading. If you've read both of them, which one did you prefer? I think younger readers will prefer this one and older readers will like Goodnight, Mr. Tom better. Both books are equally highly rated on

Read to a child today even if that child is you.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Toliver's Secret by Esther Wood Brady

My friend, Michelle, throws so many good books my way. Toliver's Secret by Esther Wood Brady published in 1976 is a good example of why I love living next door to Michelle.

This is a good book to introduce a young reader to the Revolutionary War. With illustrations, lots of white space, and larger font, your young reader won't be overwhelmed with this historical fiction. The Lexile measure is 740L making this just right for middle grade readers.

Ellen's grandfather needs her to take a secret message to a courier who will get the message to George Washington, but Ellen is a shy, timid girl who doesn't think she is brave enough to cross a body of water on her own. She is only ten years old and can't even stand up to the neighborhood bully who kicks her out of line each morning at the well.

If Ellen gets caught, her grandfather will hang as a traitor and spy. Things don't go as planned for Ellen, and the trip puts her in more danger than her grandfather ever realized.

I like the growth in Ellen. She showed courage because of her love for her grandfather. She started out afraid and shy, but when she dresses and acts like a boy it helps her to overcome her weaknesses because she is being someone else. I loved her ingenuity in overcoming each obstacle she faced.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

Not to be confused with John Flanagan's The Ranger's Apprentice series, The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney is a different genre set in a different time period. With thirteen books in the series, if you have a reader who likes series, they are set for a while.

I have only read the first book, but I will be looking for the others in my book buying travels. With plenty of white space, larger font, and illustrations, this is a good book for a struggling reader. This book reminds me of Tales of the Crypt combined with the Scary Story books that kids enjoy in middle grades. The story is ghosty, witchy, creepy, and suspenseful.

Blurb from the back of the book: "For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the country, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time is coming to an end. But who will take over for him? Twenty-nine apprentices have tried - some floundered, some fled, some failed to say alive. Only Thomas Ward is left. He's the last hope, the last apprentice."

Thomas is the seventh son of a seventh son, and he becomes the last apprentice. His mother is an interesting character, and I think more will be shared about her background as the series continues. In this story, there is no clear cut right or wrong. Thomas must choose his direction for himself using what he learns. Sometimes he chooses what others may deem wrong, but he is certainly on his own path trying to make right choices.

Alice, the girl with pointed shoes, may or may not lead him astray, and hopefully we will learn more about her life as the series continues.

If you enjoy a good skin-crawling tale, this series is for you.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

ETA: We just finished book two - The Curse of the Bain and enjoyed it just as much as the first one. These books are dark and not for the easily scared or squeamish. We are enjoying the character development. In this installment, The Spook and Thomas head to Priestown to attend a funeral. Unfortunately, danger lurks in Priestown in the form of the Bane that dwells under the city in the catacombs. It can read your thoughts, enter your dreams, and press you to death. Above ground, the Quisitor has come to town searching for those to accuse of witchcraft or dark work. He is an evil man who accuses, convicts, and sentences to death innocent people and then confiscates their land.

This is a dangerous quest that the Spook tried to solve years ago but failed.

We just started book three as another Breakfast Book, and Matt is still loving the series.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker

Book four in Sara Pennypacker's Clementine series is my favorite so far. In Clementine, Friend of the Week, Pennypacker captures the ins, outs, anxieties, and rewards of friendship.

When Clementine gets picked as friend of the week, she wants to be a good friend to everyone so they will write nice things about her in her friendship book. She has a great idea to help all the kids in her class, but her kitten, Moisturizer, gets lost, and Clementine is so sad that she is unable to put her idea into action. Now Clementine is the one who needs a friend, but Margaret isn't speaking to her.

This series shows kids how to navigate problems they will face in life in a fun non-didactic way. Clementine is a darling who reminds me of my youngest daughter. I am reminded of Beverly Cleary's Ramona when I read this series. If you or you child like Ramona, you will enjoy this series.

I also read book two, The Talented Clementine, and feel this series will become a classic. It is timeless and children will relate to it for years to come. Once again, I loved the illustrations by Marla Frazee. In this novel, Clementine shows her compassionate nature and empathy for others. She really is a darling girl.

Read to a child today even if that child is you. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia C. Mckissack

Writer of beautiful words, Patricia C. Mckissack, partnered with the amazing artist, Jerry Pinkney to create Goin' Someplace Special.

Published in 2001, this beautiful picture book tells the story of life in the South during the fight for civil rights. Although the setting is fictionalized, this is Mckissack's story of facing racial discrimination when she was a girl growing up in Nashville, Tennessee. She endured having to ride in the back of the bus, not being allowed to use the same drinking fountains, sit on benches in the parks, or be served in restaurants among many other unfair Jim Crow laws and practices.

This would be a great book to introduce a unit on Civil Rights. Pinkney's art shows the emotion of the times. This book also shows the importance of public libraries and of being kind.

Read to a child today even if that child is you.