It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

It wasn’t until I read It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozah Dumas that I delved into the history of the Iran Hostage Crisis, as an adult, instead of relying on my childhood memories.  I’ve never insisted ML read a book.  That may change.  This book captures the awkwardness of middle school and the prejudices of others during a time in history that her old mother lived through.  The summer before sixth grade is a perfect time to introduce this book to she and her friends.

This synopsis created by the publisher does a much better job than I could describing the book.  “Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block . . . for the fourth time. California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy. It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even mood rings and puka shell necklaces can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. A poignant yet lighthearted middle grade debut from the author of the best-selling Funny in Farsi.”

A day before I turned seven the Iran Hostage Crisis began.  My only memories are the yellow ribbons, a man from the town over was a hostage, every night the news would update the number of days the hostages where in captivity and they weren’t released until Ronald Reagan was sworn in.  They were hostages for 444 days.  All of which I enjoyed the freedoms of living in a country where a girl could go to school, wear whatever clothes her mom would let her, climb trees, swim and compete with the boys.  I had no knowledge that in a country across the ocean girls my age were losing rights.

Where I lived at the time, diversity of skin color was almost nonexistent  Surrounded by White  Anglo Saxon Protestants, the most diverse children in my grade where two Christian African Americans.  I had never heard of Islam. Judaism or Catholicism. At that point in my life, you were either Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian.  My family was probably considered liberal.  We were members of the Methodist church, I attended  preschool at the Presbyterian church and graduated from kindergarten at the Baptist church.  I don’t think kindergarten started at my elementary school until 1979.  My first year of elementary school coincided with the Iran Hostage Crisis.

While I was making cookie monsters and learning to read, I had no understanding of the challenges children around the world and even the United States suffered.  In theory I knew there were starving children in Africa but (spoiler alert) a middle school girl from a different country finding a dead hamster left on her doorstep in the United States out of prejudice would have been incomprehensible.




The Goblin’s Puzzle – Mock Newbery 2017


My dear friend and mother of ML’s best friend recently asked for ideas for potential 2017 Newbery Winners.  Begrudgingly, I am making recommendations.  They moved a few weeks before school started.  ML and I were both heartbroken; but I can never resist giving book recommendations.  The fact that ML and SJ will be together next weekend is making this post easier.  A week from tomorrow… not some much.  It will be the day they have to part again.

There are plenty of Mock Newbery Lists out there.  I’ve yet to see the The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew Chilton on any list; but it should be.  The only books I include on my list are ones I finish.  I devoured this one.  My friend is a lawyer so the logical thinking this book encourages will make her happy.  Her son is into millitary history; so the  battles will make him happy.  The two Alice’s in the book are feisty, independent girls; just like ML and SJ.

Here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

THE BOY is a nameless slave on a mission to uncover his true destiny.
THE GOBLIN holds all the answers, but he’s too tricky to be trusted.
PLAIN ALICE is a bookish peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon.
And PRINCESS ALICE is the lucky girl who wasn’t kidnapped.

All four are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage, and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.

Don’t believe me that it’s worthy of a look?  School Library gave it a starred review.

“Brimming with sarcastic, cheeky, laugh-out-loud humor, this is a smart, original, and completely engaging adventure.” —School Library Journal, starred review

The Gallery

The Gallery

I cannot let another day go by without sharing The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.

I don’t have time to write about it so I’ve put the publisher’s summary below.  I need to spend my limited time googling the paintings featured in the book.

“A riveting historical art mystery for fans of Chasing Vermeer and The Westing Game, set in the Roaring Twenties!

It’s 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell?

Inspired by true events described in a fascinating author’s note, The Gallery is a 1920s caper told with humor and spunk that readers today will love.”

Books for a Rising 4th Grade Dog Lover

I’m taking orders for personalized summer reading lists.  My first request was for a rising 4th grade girl who LOVES dogs.  There are 238 chapter books with the subject heading of dogs at my branch alone.  Below are my recommendations for AB.  I’ve added a story about a cat and another about a sassy girl to provide a little variety to AB’s summer reading.

rain reign

Rain Reign by Ann K. Martin – “Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different – not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father.  When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.” (from publisher’s website)

Handful Stars

Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord – “When Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it’s Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season.  After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather, and Salma’s friendship transforms Lily’s summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they’ll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant-and possibly win?” (from publisher’s website)


Honey by Sarah Weeks -“Melody has lived in Royal, Indiana, for as long as she can remember. It’s been just her and her father, and she’s been okay with that. But then she overhears him calling someone “Honey” and suddenly it feels like everyone in Royal has a secret. It’s up to Melody and her best friend, Nick, to piece together the clues and discover why Honey is being hidden.  Meanwhile, a dog named Mo is new to Royal. He doesn’t remember much from when he was a puppy, but he keeps having dreams of a girl he is bound to meet someday. This girl, he’s sure, will change everything.” (from publisher’s website)

dog diaries

Dog Diaries by Kate Klimo – “For anyone who has ever wanted a puppy, the DOG DIARIES series tells a dog’s story in a new way–from a dog’s point of view! Focusing on a different breed for each book, starting with a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd, these stories are based on true dog stories or on true-to-life situations.” (from publisher’s website)

Cat Who Came In Off the Roof

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie Schmidt – “An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He has noticed that Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and ease. . . . It’s almost as if she’s a cat herself. But how can that be?” (from publisher’s website)

When Mischief Came to Town

When Mischief Came to Town by Katarina Nannestad – “When Inge Maria arrives on the tiny island of Bornholm in Denmark to live with her grandmother, she’s not sure what to expect. Her grandmother is stern, the people on the island are strange, and children are supposed to be seen and not heard.   But no matter how hard Inge tries to be good, mischief has a way of finding her.     Could it be that a bit of mischief is exactly what Grandmother and the people of Bornholm need?” (from publisher’s website)

Save Me a Seat

Save Me a Seat

I LOVED Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan!  It includes the funniest scene I’ve read in children’s literature.  Let’s just say karma happens to a kleptomaniac, bully in such a way that you can’t help but cheer and laugh out loud.  I will be nominating this book to be included on the 2017-2018 North Carolina Children’s Book Award contenders.  Plus forcing it into the hands of every 4th-6th grader I know; especially boys.  First stops, Cole and Eli

Here’s a synopsis from the publisher:

“Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they’re both stuck in the same place: school.

Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.

Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common, but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.”

ML Reads is Three Years Old!!!

I can’t believe it’s been three years since I started this blog.  I started it on a whim ML’s last month of kindergarten.  This weekend, I realized how very grown up and mature my soon to be fourth grader is.  The blog has evolved these past three years.  I’m certain it will continue to evolve each year.  Expect to see more chapter books and nonfiction books.  Maybe even a young adult book or two.  Don’t worry picture books are my first love; so I’ll continue to share my favorites.  Below are some books with three in their title.  I’ve read two out of three.  Three Times Lucky is on my to read list.  I’m embarrassed I haven’t read it.  It’s a Newbery Honor book by a North Carolina author.

Goldy Luck

Goldy Luck and The Three Pandas by Natasha Yim and illustrated by Grace Zong – One Chinese New Year, Goldy Luck’s mother asks her to take a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors. The Chans aren’t home, but that doesn’t stop Goldy from trying out their rice porridge, their chairs, and their beds—with disastrous results.

Thre Times Lucky

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage – Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.


Breakthrough:  How Three People Saved Blue Babies and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy – In 1944 an unprecedented surgical procedure repaired the heart of a child with blue baby syndrome—lack of blood oxygen caused by a congenital defect. This landmark operation opened the way for all types of open heart surgery. The team that developed it included a cardiologist and a surgeon, but most of the actual work was done by Vivien Thomas, an African American lab assistant who was frequently mistaken for a janitor.


Raymie Nightingale – Mock Newbery 2017


Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book and School Library Journal all gave Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo a starred  review.  However, it didn’t receive 5 stars from me.  I’ve been thinking about the book all weekend and why I didn’t give it five stars.  After all,  it met Judy Freeman’s criteria for a great book.  It startled, surprised and satisfied.  The climax of the story created an image I’ve been seeing all weekend.

But it still only gets 4 stars.  Mainly, because ML has been raving about a different Kate DiCamillo book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, for months.  I read it a few weeks ago.  Then, asked her what she liked about it.  She loved how it was happy, then sad, then happy, then sad. . . until the very happy ending.  I’m not seeing ML being as enchanted with Raymie; but I should read it with her and see what she says.  If she loves it, I’ll change it to five stars.

It will definitely be on every Mock Newbery list out there.  If it wins, I wouldn’t be disappointed.  And maybe after reading it with ML, it will be my choice.

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof

Cat Who Came In Off the Roof

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt is adorable.  Though I wouldn’t say that to the intended age group of readers.  I’d replace adorable with captivating and funny.  I plowed through it and found myself wishing I was a kindergarten – third grade teacher, so I could start reading the book aloud to my class the next day.  The books was published in the Netherlands in 1970 by their acclaimed children’s literature author Annie M.G. Schmidt who received the 1988 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for her lasting contribution as a children’s writer.  It is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children’s books.

I’m convinced if this book was offered in English when I was a child, my second grade teacher, Ms. Coffee, would have read it to us.  Through Facebook, I learned Ms. Coffee turned 100 hundred recently.  My comment about her reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books and The Mouse and the Motorcycle while she sat in the special, cushy class reading chair resulted in others sharing fond memories of her read-alouds.

I can’t tell you exactly which teacher introduced me to fractions or commas or prepositions.  However, I can tell you the teacher’s who read out loud to my class and which were my favorite books they read.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle – Mock Newbery 2017

Rookskill Castle

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet S. Fox is the second book I’ve read this year which I think is a contender for the 2017 Newbery Award.  It won’t be on ML’s list because she doesn’t like scary books.  Though this one is more creepy than scary.  Also, it has a historical fiction bent.  If your child isn’t prone to nightmares about ghosts, this is a great book.  It’s my new go to for kids who want a creepy, scary book.

“That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do:  when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse.  What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night?  Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own?  And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.”  (synopsis from publisher’s website)


Pax – Mock Newbery 2017


As I read books this year, I’ll post when I think a book is a Newbery contender.  I already knew Pax by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klassen was a contender before I started it.  It’s getting lots of buzz from those that love children’s literature.  I’m often skeptical children will like the books adults are talking about.  In this case, I’m wrong.  I haven’t read any of it with ML; but I know she’s going to love it.  The only person I know who will love it more is her animal-crazy friend SJ.

SJ’s family participated in our Mock Newbery last year.  I feel certain they will again this year.  Who else wants to join the fun?

Mock Coretta Scott King Awards

Awards season for Children’s Literature is fast approaching.  Today, as I read The Book Itch:  Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore I thought, why should we exclude ourselves to Mock Newberys and Mock Caldecotts.  Why not a Mock Coretta Scott King?  With twelve days left before winners are announced, it’s too late for me to coordinate a formal Mock Coretta Scott King; but  I promise the books below would be on my list.

This award   “given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.”  (ALA website)

There’s an author award, an illustrator award and a new talent award.  I’ll let the committee hash out which book should go where.  I’m hoping to see all of these books on one of the lists.  In most of the books, we learned about amazing people we didn’t know about.  The fictional account of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony sitting down in 1904 with a cup of tea kept us up way past bedtime.

Book Itch
The Book Itch:  Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

John Roy Lynch
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate

Chasing Freedom
Chasing Freedom:  The Life Journeys of  Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Michele Wood

Voice of Freedom:  Fannie Lou Hammer:  The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes



We Met Cassie Beasley! I Know You’re Thinking… Who is That?

Circus Mirandus

I promise within the next year you will have heard of Cassie Beasely.  If you read the bestseller list of the New York Times Middle Grade Books, you already have.  A fellow Georgian, from Claxton, where the fruitcakes that permeated my childhood Christmas are made, visited Quail Ridge Books last night.  Circus Mirandus is her first book ever published.  It’s amazing!  Especially as a family read-aloud.  ML and I hadn’t quite finished the book before meeting her.  ML begged to finish it afterwards.  So we stayed up until 10 pm.  The last few chapters were both heartbreaking and encouraging.  Tears and laughter filled my bed as ML and I snuggled.  Then, a discussion on what should happen in a sequel.  ML had some really good ideas she plans to email the author.

At the event, ML asked the author, “What’s your favorite book?”  She responded, “That is an evil question because there are too many.”  Instead she shared her favorite books of 2015.

Picture Book
Dewey Bob by Judy Schachner

Dewey Bob

Middle Grades Fiction
Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

Map to Everywhere

Young Adult
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir


ML’s Favorite Book of 2015
I haven’t asked yet; but I’m certain Circus Mirandus will win hands down.

***A note to the author,  I spelled your name wrong in the first draft.  It’s not just you***

Julia’s Review: Ms. Rapscott’s Girls

Ms Rapscott

Every year, I forget how busy summers are at the library.  Julia wrote enough reviews to keep the blog going; but I neglected to post them.  Here’s a book both Julia and I enjoyed. . .   Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elise Primavera.

Three words:  cute, funny, unusual (in a good way)
Favorite character:  Fay. She was very sweet to take care of Dahlia’s lamb. I also liked Bea’s spunk, and it was funny that she always yelled.
Favorite part:  When they all arrived, because the hullabaloo was very funny, especially when they were assigned to beds.
How it made me feel:  I was worried for Dahlia because she was lost, but it was all okay and mostly I was laughing.

Synopsis from Penguin website.  “Nestled inside a lighthouse, Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents takes its motto from Amelia Earhart: Adventure is worthwhile in itself. Headmistress Ms. Rapscott couldn’t agree more, but her students, who are shipped to the school in boxes, could use a little convincing. Still, despite their initial reluctance, the students are soon soaring through the sky and getting lost on purpose. In addition to learning what birthday cakes are and how best to approach a bumbershoot tree, the students also manage to learn a little something about strength and bravery.”

Julia’s Review: Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins?

Jessica Jenkins

A third review by Julia this week.  Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? by Liz Kessler

Three words:  funny, exciting, unique
Favorite part: I really liked when Izzy got a super power.
Favorite character:  Izzy because she was most like me- nerdy and a little geeky.
How I felt:  I got excited in this book, especially when they broke in to the house where Max was imprisoned.

Synopsis from Candlewick “Jessica Jenkins has always been a perfectly ordinary girl—until one day part of her arm vanishes in the middle of geography class! Jessica’s friends Izzy and Tom are determined to help her develop her newfound invisibility, though Jessica is more concerned with discovering where the ability came from. When it becomes apparent that there may be other kids developing strange powers of their own, Jessica marshals them into a slapdash band of “slightly superheroes.” But when an unscrupulous adult discovers the origin of their powers and kidnaps one of the team, the rest must put their heads—and all of their skills—together to avert disaster.”

Julia’s Review: Lucky Strike


Another review by seventh-grade expert, Julia.  Lucky Strike by Bobbie Pyron

Three words:  touching, charming, comfortable (the town felt comfortable, not like the book itself was soft and cozy)
Favorite person: Chum because he was nice to everybody. I sort of pitied him because he was just looking for a friend, but no one wanted to be his friend until Nate and Gen came along.
Favorite part:  When Ruth and Rebecca found the turtle nest.

Synopsis from Arthur Levine Books “Nate Harlow would love to be lucky, just once!

He’d like to win a prize, get picked first, call a coin toss right, even! But his best friend, Genesis Beam (aka Gen), believes in science and logic, and she doesn’t think for one second that there’s such a thing as luck, good or bad. She doesn’t care what names the other kids call them. She cares about being right, about saving the turtles of Paradise Beach, and she cares about Nate.

Then, on his birthday, at the Goofy Golf mini-golf course, Nate is struck by lightning — and survives! Suddenly baseballs are drawn to his bat-popular kids want HIM on their side. It seems the whole town of Paradise Beach thinks Nate has the magic touch.

But is there room for Gen in Nate’s lucky new world?”

Julia’s Review: Paper Things

Paper Things


This spring, I posted about Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  Recently, my expert reviewer, Julia wrote the following review.  Julia is a rising seventh grader.

Three words:  heart-wrenching, horribly real, painful (not like it was a bad book, just Ari’s situation was painful)
The book made me feel. . .  sorry for Ari because she had lost so much and was very lost in the world. I was confused by why they had left home.
Favorite character:  Daniel. He was so funny and kind and made Ari feel much better.
Favorite part:  When they organized Crazy Hat Day and got the school traditions back.

Synopsis from Candlewick “When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been “couch surfing,” staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.”

Julia’s Review: Omega City

Omega City

Omega City by Diana Peterfreund

Three words:  thrilling, well-written, forever interesting

This book made me nervous and worried for the characters. I was on the edge of my seat every minute, because the plot was just real enough to make a reader really scared.
My favorite character was Fiona. I know she’s the villain, but she was so evilly cunning, and had such a perfect balance of clever practitioner and sly trickster that I felt a little sorry for her when she was arrested.  My favorite part was when they were being chased by Fiona and her thugs and the place was flooding. I seriously thought Savannah was going to die.

Synopsis from Harper Collins:

“Gillian Seagret doesn’t listen to people who say her father’s a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War–era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced them to move to the middle of nowhere, but Gillian knows he’s right and plans to prove it.

When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg’s diary in her father’s mess of an office, she thinks she’s found a big piece of the puzzle—a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg’s greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey into the ruins of Omega City, a vast doomsday bunker deep inside the earth,.

But they aren’t alone inside its dark and flooded halls. For while Gillian wants to save her dad’s reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg’s secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried . . . forever.”

Julia’s Review: Murder is Bad Manners

Murder is Bad Manners

Summer reading has started at the library, which  means all the books I’ve been meaning to write about will have to wait.  Thankfully, I have Julia to keep the blog going this summer.

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

Three words:  captivating, pageturner, complex and surprising

This book had me biting my nails nonstop- it was so interesting that I just couldn’t stop reading! I loved how surprising the ending was; most mysteries just have the detectives follow a hunch and then it turns out they’re right. This was very different in a good way.  My favorite character was Miss Griffin. She managed to fool everyone until Daisy accidentally ran into her!  My favorite part was when Daisy and Hazel found the diary and got chased by Miss Griffin. At first I was like “Uh-oh, she’s after them,” but then I realized that this wasn’t just their teacher, they were literally being chased by a serial killer!

PS- I don’t know why I’m so fond of smart villains, I’m just like that.

Synopsis from Simon and Schuster “Two friends form a detective agency—and must solve their first murder case—in this start to a middle grade mystery series at a 1930s boarding school.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are best friends at Deepdean School for Girls, and they both have a penchant for solving mysteries. In fact, outspoken Daisy is a self-described Sherlock Holmes, and she appoints wallflower Hazel as her own personal Watson when they form their own (secret!) detective agency. The only problem? They have nothing to investigate.

But that changes once Hazel discovers the body of their science teacher, Miss Bell—and the body subsequently disappears. She and Daisy are certain a murder must have taken place, and they can think of more than one person with a motive.

Determined to get to the bottom of the crime—and to prove that it happened—before the killer strikes again, Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects, and use all the cunning, scheming, and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?”

Julia’s Review: The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold

The Imaginary

Julia is on fire.  I have five reviews ready to go from her.  I’m feeling confident you’ll see recommendations from her once a week this summer.  Check out what she thought about  The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and illustrated by Emily Gravett.

Three Words:  exciting, funny, interesting

Favorite Character:  Fridge. I loved how loyal he was to Lizzie.

Least Favorite Character:  I was scared by Mr. Bunting and his imaginary.

Favorite Part:  When Amanda got better and said she’d never forget Rudger, and Fridge and Lizzie were reunited.

Book synopsis from Bloomsbury “Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. Nobody else can see Rudger-until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumor has it that he even eats them. And now he’s found Rudger

Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. He needs to find Amanda before Mr. Bunting catches him-and before Amanda forgets him and he fades away to nothing. But how can an unreal boy stand alone in the real world?”


Julia’s Review: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose

Blue Birds

Another review by sixth grader, Julia.  This time it’s on Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose; a novel written in verse.

Three Words: touching, deep, heartfelt
Favorite Part:  When Kimi’s mom decided to let Alis stay.
Favorite Character:  Kimi because she was kind and selfless.
How did the book make you feel?  I was upset when George betrayed Alis, and sad when she left her family. I couldn’t believe she did that, especially because she loved baby Samuel so much.

Book synposis from Penguin “It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.

Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.”

Julia’s Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman


I hit the jackpot last week.  Julia, a guest reviewer, sent me reviews on five different books for middle graders.  As a an avid reader and sixth grader, she’s an expert.  I’m hoping she’ll keep sending reviews so I can feature a review by her each week, especially during the summer.  (No pressure, Julia.)

After reading what Julia wrote about Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, I can’t wait to read it.  Trust me.  You are going to want to read it too.

  • Write three words to describe this book.  amazing, beautiful, WOW
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?   I felt sorry for James because he couldn’t leave the house, and Twig’s mom, because she was so reclusive.  He was my favorite character because he was so kind, smart, and heroic.
  • How did the book make you feel?  I was so happy when James rescued Agatha and when Julia met Twig. This book is quite possibly my favorite book ever; it’s so full of feelings and I feel like all the emotions just blend together into a perfect, swirling dance.

Book Synopsis from Random House.  “Twig lives in Sidwell, where people whisper that fairy tales are real. After all, her town is rumored to hide a monster. And two hundred years ago, a witch placed a curse on Twig’s family that was meant to last forever. But this summer, everything will change when the red moon rises. It’s time to break the spell.”


Paper Things

Paper Things

I have not finished Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.  However, I wanted to put it on people’s radar before the summer rush, especially librarians.   I’m providing the publisher’s summary of the book and highlighting a portion of the book, which speaks to me as a library professional.  Then, I’m getting back to reading the book!

“When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when eigheeen-year-old Gage decided he could no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knew she had to go with him—even though she’d miss baking cookies with Janna and curling up to watch HGTV. What Ari didn’t realize was that Gage didn’t have an apartment yet.

And now, two months later, he still doesn’t.

He and Ari have been “couch surfing,” staying with Gage’s friend in his tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama?

Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have listeners thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.”  (from Candlewick’s website)

The paragraph below touched me.  It’s a good reminder I don’t know where a person is coming from or the challenges they are facing when I am helping someone at work.

“I hope, hope, hope that Mrs. Gretchel is working tonight. She’s the only librarian at the Port City library who’s nice enough to look up your number on the computer if you want to take out books and you don’t have your card.  If you lose your card (which I did), you get one free replacement.  After that, if you lose your card again (which I did), you have to pay for a replacement.  It’s only fifty cents, but I don’t want to ask for it when I know that Gage, who is always worried about money, skips lunch.

Janna would say that I was irresponsible for losing my card (twice), but it’s hard to keep stuff together when you move around the way we do.  Besides, I’m pretty sure someone at Lighthouse took my replacement card when they lifted twenty-six cents from my pocket.  Twenty-six cents won’t get you much, but a library card will.  A library card can let you borrow books, an MP# player, and movies, or download materials on the computer.  But you need to have an address to get a library card, and homeless people don’t have addresses.  I just hope whoever took it needed it — or really loves books.” (p.25-26)

Julia’s Review of All The Answers by Kate Messner

All The Answers

Another book review by sixth grader, Julia, All the Answers by Kate Messner.

  • Write three words to describe this book.  moving, interesting, funny
  • What was you favorite part of the book?  I liked when Ava climbed the entire ropes course, because she overcame her fears and felt like she could do anything.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  I really liked Emma, her idea of having a doesn’t name each day is really funny. I also liked Mrs. Galvin.
  • How did the book make your feel?  I felt sorry for Ava because her mom had cancer, and her grandpa was sick and he died.
  • Did anything in the book make you happy?  I was happy when Ava made all the people at the nursing home so happy, and when her mom got better.
  • Did anything in the book make you sad?  If so, what? I was sad when her grandpa died.

Book Synopsis from Bloomsbury Publishing –What if your pencil had all the answers? Would you ace every test? Would you know what your teachers were thinking? When Ava Anderson finds a scratched up pencil she doodles like she would with any other pencil. But when she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, she hears a clear answer in a voice no one else seems to hear.
With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava figures out that the pencil will answer factual questions only – those with definite right or wrong answers – but won’t predict the future. Ava and Sophie discover all kinds of uses for the pencil, and Ava’s confidence grows with each answer. But it’s getting shorter with every sharpening, and when the pencil reveals a scary truth about Ava’s family, she realizes that sometimes the bravest people are the ones who live without all the answers…

Red Butterfly – A Middle Grades Book

Red Butterfly

Red Butterfly by A. L. Sonnichsen and illustrated by Amy June Bass – You would not anticipate the beauty of this book from the summary provided by the Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data.  “In China, a foundling girl with a deformed hand raised in secret by an American woman must navigate China’s strict adoption system when she is torn away from the only family she has ever known.”

The Library of Congress CIP provides “a brief, non-critical, one-sentence annotation (commonly referred to as the summary) that describes the content of the work being cataloged without making any judgmental statements. The general rule of thumb about length is twenty-five to thirty words.”

Here’s my long, run on sentence about this book which I feel captures the essence of the book more than the CIP summary. . . A lyrical novel in verse which delicately navigates the implications of China’s strict one child policy realistically and with compassion using the poetry of a young girl, Kara, who was abandoned by her birth mother and cared for by an American woman living in China for many years, until she is taken away from her “adoptive mother.”

The black and white sketches throughout the book enhance this heartbreaking yet uplifting book.  After reading this book, look closely at the cover.  It will touch you in a way it didn’t when you first opened the book.

Julia’s Review of Fish in a Tree


We heard from Lily.  Now it’s time to hear what Julia, her sixth grade sister, thinks about Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

  • Write three words to describe this book.  memorable, interesting, realistic
  • What was you favorite part of the book?  I liked when Albert and Keisha stood up to the boys that had been bullying Albert.
  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?  My favorite character was Keisha because she was brave and easy to befriend. If I were a new student I would really like to have someone like that to help me. I also really liked Travis, because he was so caring.
  • How did the book make your feel?  I felt sorry for Ally, but I also felt like she would make things so much easier for herself if she had told the teachers that she had trouble reading. I think that Mr. Daniels is a lot like my sister’s math teacher. She’s always talking about the funny things he does, and both teachers are very eccentric.
  • Did anything in the book make you happy?  I was happy that Ally learned to like Mr. Daniels and that Jessica stood up to Shay.
  • Did anything in the book make you sad?  If so, what? I was sad when Ally squished the butterfly. She reacted without thinking and the lady at the Butterfly Gardens thought she was stupid.

Book Synopsis from Penguin – “Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.”