Archive for Uncategorized

A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting #1

Written by Joe Ballarini

Scary and silly. Disgusting and sweet. This book has enough going for it to keep the attention of a lot of boys and girls.

Eighth-grader Kelly Ferguson reluctantly agrees to babysitter for five-year-old Jacob Zellman, son of Kelly’s mother’s boss. On Halloween. The problem is, Jacob has wild nightmares, made worse by candy and scary movies. Amazingly, Jacob’s nightmares also come to life, an ability the monsters find irresistible. When Jacob gets kidnapped by the monsters, Kelly finds herself in a world she didn’t know existed – the world of professional babysitters. Monsters come in many categories with specific strengths and weaknesses, and babysitters need to be aware of them. Monsters are strongest when parents aren’t around. Rookie Kelly is led around by more than one hyper-experienced babysitter to rescue Jacob and protect other children along the way. The leader of the monsters is the boogeyman (aka, The Grand Guignol), but the threat of other strong leaders is very real in the babysitters’ world. As part of Jacob’s nightmares, even broccoli is threatening.

Vivid descriptions and imaginative scenarios are highlighted in this exciting tale. With strong characters and strong themes of fighting your fears, this story is great for middle grades, but maybe not for the very young or very nervous. It certainly is a lot of fun.

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  • Babysitters GuideTitle:  A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting #1
  • Author:  Joe Ballarini
  • Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format:  Hardcover, 352 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-06-243783-9
  • Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
  • Grade level: 3 to 7

Dirt

Written by Denise Gosliner Orenstein

What could go wrong when an eleven-year-old girl decides to move a Shetland pony into her bedroom? Not as much as you might think, since most of her problems have nothing to do with the pony.

Yonder loses her mother at age seven and quickly descends into a trauma-induced muteness. She’s left pretty much to her own devices, as her alcoholic father means well but is no help at all. Kids at school, realizing she won’t shout for help, bully her unmercifully. She manages to steer clear of social services until she decides to stop attending school. While Yonder’s at home, the neighbor’s fat and personable pony attaches itself to her. She names it Dirt and moves it into her house. Of course, social services intervenes at that point and Yonder is separated from Dirt. She must rescue Dirt from becoming horse meat.

The characters in this sometimes-sad tale are vivid and often hilarious, especially in Yonder’s head, as the story is told in first person. Yonder never fails to comment on the wardrobe and reactions of the social worker, Trudy Trumpet, aka Trudy the Terrible. Her new foster mother never fails to call her Yonder, dear. The vet is Dr. Jane or DVM.

Heartwarming and touching, the reader ends up cheering for both Yonder and Dirt. Yonder does end up having to accept reality, but she shapes some of that reality to suit her. 

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  • DirtTitle: Dirt
  • Author: Denise Gosliner Orenstein
  • Published: Scholastic Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Fiction, Social issues, Animals
  • ISBN: 978-0-545-92587-7

Timmy Failure 6: The Cat Stole My Pants

Written and Illustrated by Stephan Pastis

Timmy is back. As impossible as ever.

Timmy lives in his own little world, and that world often collides with the world everyone else lives in. Each encounter brings Timmy’s somewhat crooked view into the forefront.

The main story is about the honeymoon his mother and the man Timmy calls Doorman Dave. Timmy is along for the ride, as is Dave’s nephew, Emilio Empanada. Timmy doesn’t quite accept the marriage, but he does put Emilio to work as an unpaid intern to his detective agency.

They are in Key West. Timmy and Emilio manage to wander all over the island, looking for treasure and spies. The cat who stole Timmy’s pants resides at Hemingway’s house. They use the famous lighthouse as a perch from which to view the island. Emilio adopts one of the Key West chickens. Meanwhile, Timmy is expected to produce a book report of Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy, three thousand pages long.

Amusing drawings are scattered throughout the entire text.

This Walter Mitty type story can be a powerful vehicle for reluctant readers. In the meantime, they will get a smattering of the feel of the Florida Keys. Very young readers will not understand all the humor. This is a good reason older readers might want to check it out.

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  • Timmy FailureTitle: Timmy Failure 6: The Cat Stole My Pants
  • Author/Illustrator: Stephan Pastis
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Middle grade fiction, Fantasy, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9733-4

Isaac, The Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d

Written by Mary Losure

            Alone in the attic of an Apothecary’s Shop, an unwanted little boy wrote down his notes in a tiny notebook. He watched things like the progression of the sun across the floor. From that he designed sun dials to tell the time, sun dials the grown-ups could use.

            This excellently researched biography leans on primary resources and a keen understanding of a young person left on his own in the world. The story of Isaac as a boy, and then a man, who follows his own interests intensely, leads us through the worlds of science, physics and the smoky world of alchemy. During Isaac’s time in history, science and mystery were still so intertwined people weren’t sure exactly which was which. The concoctions men put to steaming and smoking over open fires often made poisonous smoke instead of gold, but still they persisted.

            Teachers, librarians and parents all will be impressed with the quality of writing as well as the depth of research. Use this as an example of source notes, and photo credits. Students will be enthralled to see actual pages from Isaac’s tiny notebook. This is a must have book for all elementary, middle school, and public library biography sections. Beyond that, it is simply a spell-binding read showing what one person can accomplish on his own through persistence.

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  • Isaac.jpgTitle:  Isaac, The Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d
  • Author:  Mary Losure
  • Publisher:  Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 176 pages
  • Genre: Non- Fiction/Biography
  • Grade Level: 4 to 8
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-7063-4
  • Extras: Index, Bibliography, Source Notes, Photo Credits

Outside Shot

Written by Fred Bowen

Swish goes the net, time after time for Richie Mallon.  Because when he moved into a new neighborhood at eight years old, the basketball hoop in the driveway was his best friend. It took a lot of practice with the regulation ten-foot basket to get many baskets, but he practiced and practiced a lot. Soon even the neighbor noticed how good he was and called him, “the shooter.”

Unfortunately, his middle school basketball team needs a good all-around player, not just a shooter to win games. Richie was slow to pick up on the necessity of a complete skill set, but once he figured it out, the whole team won.

This realistic new addition to Fred Bowen’s Sports Series is well-written and accessible to readers across many age levels. Players and fans alike will enjoy their trip through the season cheering for Richie. Parents, teachers and librarians can use the non-fiction section in the back as a comparison with the fictional front section in teaching reading skills. Math skills are strengthened by the score keeping techniques and percentages of baskets referred to in this story as well as in real basketball. Students may decide to keep their own stats after reading this book.

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  • Outside Shot.jpgTitle:   Outside Shot
  • Author:   Fred Bowen
  • Publisher:  Peachtree Publishing, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 144 pages
  • Genre:  Sports Fiction
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • ISBN:  978-1561459568
  • Extras: “The Real Story: Great Shooters” includes several non-fiction pages briefly describing the invention of basketball, particularly the development of the jump shot.  Select famous shooters are discussed. Players from the 2015-16 are include

July Titles

Pdf: July Titles 4th Grade

 

Boxcar Children: The Boardwalk Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner, ISBN 978-0-8075-0802-2

Another lively mystery with the Alden family.  The Alden children, Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, could have still been living in their boxcar but long ago Grandfather took them in. …

 

Candy Experiments by Loralee Leavitt, ISBN 978-1449418366

Explosions, lightning, secrets… what reader … could resist a book that gives recipes for causing, creating, or discovering all that? Top that fun with a bunch of candy – literally …

 

David Karp: The Mastermind behind Tumblr by Karen Latchana Kenney, ISBN 978-1-4677-1285-9

In an age when everyone has at least five email addresses and many people have a personal blogs, some applications and websites continue to outshine all the others. Tumblr is right up there …

 

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng, ISBN 978-1-58469-137-2

The story of Dave is both inspirational and tragic, set in a period of time that no one should be allowed to forget.  Through Etched in Clay, Andrea Cheng masterfully presents a piece of this history to readers at the fourth grade level and above. …

 

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus, ISBN 978-0-8075-2990-4

What would it be like to talk to insects? In this Victorian-era tale, we meet ten-year-old Henri Bell, a British boy who discovers this special ability while spending the summer with his great aunt in America. …

 

Jemmy Button by Alix Barzelay

Jemmy Button is a delightful picture book based on the stories of Jemmy Button, a native boy from Tierra del Fuego. The story depicts the life of the young boy …

 

Otter Lee Brave by Rena Cherry Brown, ISBN 0764341553

… Upon reading the story, it becomes very evident that Otter Lee Brave is so much more than just a sweet story about cute creatures. …

 

Native Americans: A Visual Exploration by S.N. Paleja, ISBN 978-1-55451-485-4

Despite some effort to provide culturally diverse education for students, information on Native Americans is largely ignored or just plain nonexistent. …

 

Pip and the Twilight Seekers – Spindlewood Tales by Chris Mould, ISBN 978-0-8075-6553-7

If your students like dark and scary, there is plenty in this one to creep them out. In the walled city of Hangman’s Hollow, Jarvis, the evil city warden, looks for children. …

 

Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight by Marthe Jocelyn, ISBN 978-0-7636-5648-5

… like Random Acts of Kindness meet Street Art.  The sneaky part is to surprise people, either family or friends even strangers, with a bit of art to make them smile. …

 

SPI : The Case of the Dark Shadow by T.J. Bonham, ISBN 978-0-7643-4132-8

SPI The Case of the Dark Shadow is an intriguing story for 4th through 6th graders interested in mystery. The book offers the 4th grade reader some challenging language and an unusual plot …

 

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross by Darcy Pattison, ISBN 978-0-9798621-7-5

Wisdom’s life is a remarkable story, at times touching and suspenseful, but ultimately inspiring.  Survival is hard enough for a Laysan Albatross. …