Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Secrets of the Mountain Dog- #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Cover image for Secret of the Mountain DogKimmel, Elizabeth Cody. Secret of the Mountain Dog.
28 October 2014, Scholastic
E ARC from

Jax lives on a mountain in the Catskills, but because of an accident that her younger sister, Kizzy, had, her mother is reluctant to let her explore outside her own yard. When a very large but tame dog shows up, Jax is glad of the excitement, and hopes that she can talk her mother into keeping the well-behaved animal. Jax also realizes that the building further up the hill from her home is now occupied, and when she travels up there, finds that it is a Buddhist monastery. The elderly Rinpoche and his student, Yeshi, are hoping to reopen it to other monks so that they may study. There is one problem, though-- there is a statue of a demon that has gone missing. The two hope to find it, but others from around the world are looking for the statue as well. Jax is glad to help go through boxes as well, and enjoys hearing about Buddhism from Yeshi. When the monastery is threatened, Jax defies her mother to go help, and learns a lot about how to deal with life.
Strengths: There are not a lot of books that talk about Buddhism, and this introduces some main concepts of the religion without being overly preachy. There is enough action and adventure to offset the philosophy. I was fascinated by Yeshi's story. This is similar to Kimmel's The Legend of the Ghost Dog, and vaguely reminiscent of some Peg Kehret stories.
Weaknesses: We never do find out where the dog has come from! Also, I loved Kimmel's Lily B. books so much that I want all of her titles to be that sort of book!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Magician's Fire (Young Houdini #1)

Nicholson, Simon. The Magician's Fire (Young Houdini #1)
October 7th 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
E ARC from

Young Harry Houdini, an immigrant to New York City from Hungary who makes his meager living shining shoes, tries his hand at a variety of magic and escape acts with the help of his friends, the wealthy but unsupervised Artie and the musician from New Orleans Billie. When an older magician, Herbie, looks to be ill and then disappears from his room in the theater where he works, Harry and his friends investigate. Suspicioun first falls on the Bulgarian magician Zell, but when it turns out that Zell is one of Herbie's friends, the trio of friends must use all of the tricks at their disposal to identify and then thwart the real kidnappers. When they are eventually triumphant, they are approached by the Order of the White Crow, and their adventure is just beginning.
Strengths: Lots of good descriptions of magic acts and lots of daring escapes from a variety of harrowing situations, combined with a decent mystery set in late 1800s New York City. Houdini is an enduring historical figure who will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Weaknesses: The mystery was a bit weak-- very simple and linear, and I saw it coming a mile away. This might not bother the target demographic, but I expected something as complicated and mysterious as Houdini himself. I also found it hard to believe that a struggling street child would have befriended a wealthy boy, but stranger things have happened.

Monday, October 20, 2014

MMGM--The Alias Men (Double Vision #3)

20602953Bradley, F.T. The Alias Men (Double Vision #3)
October 14th 2014 by HarperCollins
E ARC graciously provided by author upon request!

Linc is sure he is done with working for Pandora, and he's concentrating on his family problems, which include sharing a room with his grandfather. When he is once again approached to find a Dangerous Double, he's willing to take on the challenge as a way to get back at his lookalike nemesis, Ben. The fear is that the hat (which can make its wearers invisible) will be used to steal a drone-system prototype so the thief can sell it to a terrorist group. This time, the Dangerous Double is a bowler hat once owned by Charlie Chaplin. While trying to break into a costume repository on the property of Sterling Studios, Linc is spotted by famous director Nigel Floyd and asked to be in a movie that is a homage to silent films. Since he missed out on getting the bowler, this is a great opportunity to follow the trail of the artifact and to uncover the probably thief, Ethan Malais. Several people on the film, which is struggling due to financial difficulties, are suspect, and Ben manages to work his way into the situation as well. Luckily, Linc has help from his costar, the lovely Savannah Stone, as well as the various operatives at Pandora. Can Linc find the hat before it is used for evil?

Sequel to Double Vision and Code Name 711.

Strengths: This is a great action and adventure series that is also funny. I had a sixth grader whose mother was a little concerned because he was wanting to check out a lot of adult mysteries from the public library, and while he was a strong reader, she wasn't sure the content was appropriate for him. I recommended the first in the series, and he loved it. This book in particular has a lot of good funny moments involving Linc's family, the expected action and adventure, and a nice potential romance.
Weaknesses: Ben's presence wasn't quite as necessary, and I'm not sure from the ending whether the series is over or whether it will continue with Linc going to be trained as a spy!

Follow along with the Double Vision: The Alias Men blog tour:
Oct. 6-10The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow features Double Vision: The Alias Men with a review, author interview, plus aGIVEAWAY..!
Oct. 13: Linc hangs out at the great Erik’s blog, This Kid Reviews Books. Linc talks about spy techniques he picked up on his Pandora missions. And there’s another GIVEAWAY
Oct. 14Double Vision: The Alias Men is released! Have a virtual party at the YA Sleuth blog…! And follow F.T. on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor for more kid spy fun.
Oct. 16: F.T. Bradley gives you Five Ways to Bring MG into The Classroom at the Unleashing Readers blog, plus a GIVEAWAY.
Oct. 17: Linc is interviewed by Lizzy, Fairday and Marcus over at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow blog. A fun post!
Oct. 20Buried in Books lets F.T. Bradley talk about the Double Vision trilogy…
Oct. 20: Also this day, the fabulous Ms. Yingling reviews Double Vision: The Alias Men on her blog for Marvelous MG Monday…
Oct. 21: Another favorite blog, YA Book Nerd, hosts F.T. Bradley and the Double Vision trilogy, plus a GIVEAWAY
Oct. 21: F.T. Bradley hangs out at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis
Oct. 24: F.T. Bradley gives tips for parents of reluctant readers, Seven Ways to Get Your Kid to Read, at Pragmatic Mom’s blog, plus a GIVEAWAY!
Oct. 25: At the Nerdy Book Club, find F.T. Bradley’s top 10 books for reluctant readers...

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

Weekend Reading

Still recuperating from Kidlitcon, as well as Cross Country season, so gave myself permission to read a lot of books I had on my TBR and not review them. A lot of these were books in a series that came in our latest shipment of new books, but I also worked my way through some books about eating disorders, since my sixth grade girls started out the year interested in problem novels instead of working their way up to them in seventh grade!

Bunting, Eve. One Green Apple
Hoping it was a picture book with more content about a Muslim girl in a dupatta fitting in, but it was pretty elementary. Good for younger students.

Chew, Ruth. The Witch at the Window 
Chew, Ruth. The Would-Be Witch 
I still love these, and they do well with my 6th graders who are struggling.

Drew, Nancy. Mystery of the Midnight Rider (Nancy Drew Diaries #3) 
Drew, Nancy. Once Upon a Thriller (#4) 
Drew, Nancy. Sabotage at Willow Woods (#5) 
Drew, Nancy. Secret at Mystic Lake (#6) 
The first two in this series need to be read in order, but the rest don't, which is nice. I like that Nancy is old enough to drive herself around (albeit not in a blue roadster), but the books are for younger readers.

Magaziner, Lauren. The Only Thing Worse Than Witches 
Should have stopped at Mrs. Frabbleknacker. Too young for my readers, and twee in a faux British way.

Margolis, Leslie. Monkey Business (#5)
Annabelle's life has improved financially while her friend Rachel's hasn't. I liked this series, but Annabelle did seem ridiculously privileged in this one.

Metzger, Lois. A Trick of the Light 
Too YA for me, but about a boy with an eating disorder. Odd voice.

Payton, Belle. Double or Nothing (It Takes Two #3) 
Like this series, and in this one, Ava tries out for the boys' football team in Texas and meets opposition.

Segel, Jason and Miller, Kirsten. Nightmares! 
Nothing that knocked my socks off. May pass on this trilogy unless students ask for it.

Sheinmel. Alyssa. The Stone Girl 
Too much marijuana smoking and sex for middle school audiences.

Wolitzer, Meg. Belzhar
Too YA for my group, and time to let Sylvia Plath fade into obscurity.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

brown girl dreaming

Woodson, Jacqueline. brown girl dreaming
August 28th 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Born in 1963, Woodson traveled from Columbus, Ohio to South Carolina to New York City, living with different family members while problems were worked out. She was part of a pivotal time in Civil Rights history-- everything was supposed to be equal, but it wasn't, especially in the South. Her family had different perspectives on how she should act, and Woodson herself was torn between the different cultures, not feeling that she fit completely into any of them. Her family was very supportive, but faced many difficulties, such as her parents' divorce, the death of several members, and varying levels of prejudice and discrimination.
Strengths: As far as book length memoirs (or novels) in verse go, this was very good, and that's hard to do. The poems are lyrical to read and actually sound like poetry, but also give a good description of time and place and advance the story in a fashion that is not too slow. The feelings of longing and loss are palpable, and the view of history is quite interesting. I am only two years younger than Woodson, but there were very few black people in my school in Ohio, so I knew little of the equality issues during my childhood. I found the story of Woodson's youngest brother getting lead poisoning from eating paint chips particularly interesting-- I remember it being a huge item of concern in the late 1970s, but could never understand why a child would eat paint! (Interestingly enough, one of the projects that my daughter is working on as an intern with the City of Columbus is a lead paint abatement grant program!)
Weaknesses: As beautifully written and interesting as this is, I don't know that students will pick it up. I'll buy a copy, and recommend it, but there are just some books that I cannot gets students to read, and I fear that this will be one. Woodson's fiction is rather hit or miss in my library, with some titles being hugely popular, and others being ignored.

14372480Loughead, Deb. Sidetracked.
November 1st 2012 by Orca Book Publishers

Maddy and Kat have been keen competitors in middle school, but the high school track team is even more fierce, and not everyone who ran in middle school gets on the team. To complicate matters, Maddy's brother Matt is acting rather suspiciously. Someone on the team is stealing things, and everyone is a suspect. Maddy had seen someone bullying Shauna (who is interested in Matt), and thinks that the people behind that might also be stealing. Is Matt involved, too? And will Maddy be able to keep her competitive edge?
Strengths: This had just enough drama to keep readers on edge, and is written in a straight forward style. The bits of romance, as well as descriptions of running are good as well.
Weaknesses: Maddy seems a bit too worried about everything!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A New Darkness

19346538Delaney, Joseph. A New Darkness.
September 2nd 2014 by Greenwillow Books

After The Fury of the Seventh Son, Tom Ward returns to Chipenden to be the new spook. He is young, and people don't have the faith in him that they had in Master Gregory. They trust him to remove a few small problems, but when young girls show up dead in their beds, untouched except for being covered in blood, the people don't quite trust him. Luckily, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Jenny, who has decent powers (including empathy for ghosts), approaches Tom and wants to be his apprentice. He is leery of a girl serving, but puts her through the same tests that he was put through. The girl does well enough, and it's a good thing; when the creature at large turns out to be a Kobalos, Tom will need all the help he can get, including the help of Grimalkin, whom Jenny doesn't trust.
Strengths: I'm not a fan of horror, but I read each of these new installments eagerly! There is something about the interplay of good and evil that is very well done and keeps me turning the pages. The addition of Jenny is excellent, and there's a lot of back story about her that could be told. Grimalkin is a fantastic character-- evil, but on Tom's side. She makes some huge errors in dealing with the Kobaloi(?) so Jenny doesn't trust her, which will make the next book interesting.
Weaknesses: The ending. ARGH! Not okay. Not okay! I don't want to spoil this, and I'm sure things will change, but... ARGH.

The movieSeventh Son looks far too spooky for me! Now, if the student who checked out the nice, new copy of Revenge of the Witch on the first day of school could just FIND it...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Social Media, The Bane of My Existence

I hate Pinterest. It just annoys me. It takes so much time to add things to a board, and then there's no arranging anything the way I want it to be. Still, if this is a platform that will help teachers, parents, and librarians find books to get to readers, I guess it's worth it. Here's the board I have for Wimpy Kid readalikes.

#WeNeedDiverseBooksPinterest seemed like a good way to make lists of books on specific cultures for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. My challenge is to make one board a day, then put the titles into a Waiver Day presentation Power Point presentation.

But I really should do a Prezi instead, because that's the cool new thing.

It's a teacher work day in my district. How much of this is pertinent to my job and therefore fair to do during contract hours? Oops. On the clock in a minute. Going to work on book orders, databases and other actual work things RIGHT NOW.

Guy Friday--Slump

Waltman, Kevin. Slump
14 October 2014, Cinco Puntos Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

In this sequel to Next, Derrick Bowen is back at his old school , still dating Jasmine, and waiting for the new basketball season to begin. Coach Bolden is practicing everyone really hard, and the team hopes to be good, but one of the players injures his ankle, and the team isn't gelling the way everyone hopes. Derrick is having trouble in his own life, too: his best friend is so caught up in his relationship with his girlfriend that he never has time for Derrick, Derrick's own relationship is strained because of conflicts over sex, and Derrick's father is in an auto accident which leads to lots of rehabilitation, as well as financial concerns for the family. His mercurial Uncle Kid tries to help out, but Derrick finds himself thinking that many of his problems could have been solved if he had taken the offer at the private school, especially since his father could have worked there. Hard work and a positive attitude help Derrick deal with the difficulties and ultimately triumph.
Strengths: This series, D-Bow High School Hoops, is very well written and intriguing, but is unfortunately solidly for high school students. I love the descriptions of the basketball practice sessions, and Coach Bolden is a great coach. Derrick's relationship with Jasmine is realistic, and his relationship of convenience with Daniella is a tremendously great object lesson for high school boys. The questions and struggles that Derrick has because of his socioeconomic status are ones which many students face. I really, really liked this book.
Weaknesses: HOWEVER, I would not be comfortable handing this to one of my students. It was fine as long as Jasmine and Derrick were considering certain actions, but when Derrick actually follows through with them with Daniella, this becomes too much for middle school. There are another two f-bombs, one used in practice that was kind of an interesting choice, since the coach let it slide, but one hurled by Daniella that was too much. Definitely purchase this for public and high school collections, but read first before purchasing for middle school. Most librarians are more comfortable with these subjects than I am.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trust Me, I'm Lying

Still super bummed about Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series being over? Pick up this title and dry your tears while trying to find copies of A Gallagher Wedding(6.5) and Classified Material (4.5).

(It involved logging in to the secret web site. I love that this sort of thing is WORK for me!)

17341550Summer, Mary Elizabeth. Trust Me, I'm Lying
October 14th 2014 by Delacorte Press 
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Julep and her father are grifters of the first order. She's good, but not thrilled with this way of life as a future, especially since her mother left the family years ago when she tired of the traipsing around. For now, Julep is enrolled in the prestigious St. Agatha's in Chicago so that she can break free of her father's life and go to Yale. She runs the occasional scam for pocket money and the occasion complimentary latte, using her best friend Sam's hacking skills and vehicle when necessary, but when she arrives home to her apartment to find it trashed, and later finds a dead rat in her locker, she is very worried. Her father has been gone before when deals go wrong, but this latest development is even more concerning. She's being trailed by a Chevelle, and a nasty Russian girl runs her and Sam off the road and warns her to stay away. Sam (whose family is wealthy), hires a body guard for Julep, but the guard begs Julep not to let on to Sam that she knows about this. School hottie Tyler is there when Julep finds the rat, and turns out to be extremely supportive through all of Julep's travails. Her father has left her hard-to-get-to clues as to his whereabouts, and she needs the help of both boys, as well as several people from school who owe her favors thanks to her scams. Things become dire when Julep discovers that the mob is involved, and they are not willing to let her go free once she knows they are involved. There's double crossing galore, and Julep needs all of her skills, as well as all of her friends, to survive.
Strengths: Ah, a good spy-type tale with some romance thrown in. No parents, just kids saving the day and bringing criminals to justice. There were so many fun details of this-- I loved the subplot of Murphy wanting to ask Brynn to the formal and hiring Julep to help him, and also the fact that he becomes her friend because of it. Lots of twists and turns, and hopefully, a sequel!
Weaknesses: A significant death that I completely didn't see coming. Have to admit, though, that it was handled extremely well for a death of a major, sympathetic character in that the character has just done some rather horrible things, and it's not dwelt on overly much. Nicely handled. This is a necessity for high school libraries, but fine for middle school as well.
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