Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen

"So that's Bubba. He calls you names. He steals your stuff. He breathes putrid fumes in your face.
And even though I've always wanted to do something about it, I could never figure out what. I'm half Bubba's size and don't exactly want to die in elementary school.
So I just eat lunch far away from him, make room when he's cutting in line, and let him call me Nerd.
It's not fair, but at least I'm still alive." (6)

Fifth grader Nolan Byrd is sick and tired of being picked on by school bully Bubba Bixby. In fact, Bubba Bixby picks on everyone at school. Since the teachers and adults can't seem to help him, Nolan turns into his own superhero. With the help of a digital camera, a computer, and his own website, Nolan becomes "Shredderman", fighting injustice in his own special way. But how can he keep his identity a secret, especially from his teacher and parents? If you read Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen, you get some great illustrations by Brian Biggs, but the audiobook version of the series is just as funny, with 11 year old Daniel Young narrating in a different voice for each character.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Flip by David Lubar

"There aren't any interstellar spaceships," she said, resuming her lecture. "There aren't any aliens. And there aren't any artifacts."
"Really?"...""Then what's this?" Ryan asked, pointing at a bed of weeds near his feet?" (16)

Twin eighth-graders Ryan and Taylor McKenzie are nothing alike. Taylor is the straight A+ star athlete who organizes her pencils and likes to get to school early. Ryan could care less about school, sports, or finishing anything he starts, according to his father. However, Ryan is intent on finding pieces of what he believes is an alien spacecraft that blew up during the night. When he finds them, he discovers they have the power to "flip" him into a legendary figure from Earth's history. Becoming Babe Ruth during gym class might be fun, but becoming Elvis in the lunch room and performing kareoke definitely draws the wrong kind of attention from teachers, students, and parents alike, especially if the school bully is looking for you. Can Taylor convince Ryan to keep a low profile, long enough to stay alive? Find out by reading David Lubar's Flip.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key

"Tony thrust his hands deep into his jeans and worriedly scuffed the gravel with the toe of one shoe. 'I don't get it, Tia. What's he doing here?'
Tia looked frightened. 'I don't know. I -- I'm afraid he's found out we're here, and has come to get us.'
'After all these years? That doesn't make sense. But what if he has come for us? I'd rather go with him any time then stay here -- I mean, if we had to stay here.'
'No!' She said fiercely. 'No! Never! It would be better to run away and go hungry. Much better. I -- I'd rather be dead than go with him.'" (32)

Tia and Tony are orphaned brother and sister who don't know where they come from. They were living with old "Granny" Malone, until she passed away and they were shipped to the Hackett House orphanage. While on a trip with the orphanage to a mountain-side camp, Tony and Tia have a chance meeting with a nun who might know their original family. While this gives them hope that they'll find their family and the source of their mysterious powers, a man claiming to be their uncle sends them fleeing for an unconfirmed safe haven in Witch Mountain, rumored to have witches living in its peaks. Alexander Key's Escape to Witch Mountain will have readers eager to find out what happens to Tony and Tia, and if they are witches.... or aliens.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney

"You know how you're supposed to come up with a list of 'resolutions' at the beginning of the year to try to make yourself a better person? Well, the problem is, it's not easy for me to think of ways to improve myself, because I'm already pretty much one of the best people I know." (1)

While Greg Heffley might think he is one of the best people he knows, his father sees room for improvement. Greg's father encourages him (basically forces him) to join the soccer team at school, the boy scouts, and then threatens *gulp* millitary school after a neighborhood menace comes back reformed. There are other problems though that demand Greg's attention however, including talking to the prettiest girl in the class and surviving without clean laundry. Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw picks up almost immediately after the second one ended, continuing the hillarity that so many love.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules by Jeff Kinney

“I guess Mom was pretty proud of herself for making me write in that journal last year, because now she went and bought me another one. But remember how I said that if some jerk caught me carrying a book with “diary” on the cover they were gonnat get the wrong idea? Well, that’s exactly what happened today.” (1)

Greg Heffley is back again! In the second book in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Greg has a secret that he’s trying to keep from everyone. Unfortunately, his brother Rodrick knows the secret, and Greg is doing everything he can to keep Rodrick from spilling the beans. It’s worse than spending the summer wrapped up in toliet paper, worse than the secret party Rodrick throws while their parents are out of town. It’s even worse than writing a pen pal in a foreign country. What could be worse then all this? You’ll just have to find out.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Newbery Award Winner for 2009
"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife. The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately. The knife had done almost everything it was brough to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet." (1-3)

That first sentence is accompanied with a two page spread of darkness surrounding an outstretched hand and knife, which eerily and beautifully sets the tone of discovery and danger for the rest of the book. Neil Gaiman, in his Newbery Award winning book The Graveyard Book, opens with the parents and older sister of a small toddler being murdered by the mysterious Jack. The toddler, who comes to be called Nobody Owens, escapes into the nearby graveyard, where the ghosts agree to care for him. He's given the Freedom of the Graveyard, which allows him some of the powers that the ghosts have, including fading and generating fear. The silent Silas, belonging neither to the world of the dead or the living, agrees to become his guardian. But not even Silas can guarantee Bod's safety when he grows older and begins to leave the graveyard with increasing frequency. Because no one knows when Jack will be coming back to finish the murders he started.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Masterpiece by Elise Broach

"Home, for Marvin's family, was a damp corner of the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink. Here, a leaking pipe had softened the plaster andcaused it to crumble away. Just behind the wall, Marvin's family had hollowed out three spacious rooms, and, as his parents often remarked, it was a perfect location." (1)

It doesn't take long for readers to find out that Marvin is one of many beetles that live in the Pompaday's New York City apartment. The Pompaday family consists of eleven year old James, James' mom and stepdad Mr. and Mrs. Pompaday, and baby William. For James' eleventh birthday, Marvin wants to get him something special, after a disasterous birthday party and pen and ink gift set from his father. So he draws a tiny picture of the view from James' window, and leaves it for James to find. James' parents however, think James drew it, and he's invited to participate in a police opperation to find an artist thief. But things aren't always how they appear in Masterpiece by Elise Broach, and both James and Marvin realize there's more then what meets the eye.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alvin Ho Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

"The fifth thing you should know about me is that once upon a time, before I went to school, I was a superhero. ... Being a superhero is hard work. You have to save the world. But going to school is even harder. You have to save yourself. Most days I can hardly even make it to the school bus. And when I arrive at school, I can't think. I can't read. I can't smile. I can't sing. I can't scream.I can't even talk.The sixth thing you should know about me is that I have never spoken a word in school." (4-5)

Second grader Alvin Ho is allergic to elevators, tunnels, thunder, substitute teachers, scary movies, heights, and school, among other things. He's afraid of the ghosts that live in the houses of famous people down his street in Concord, Massachusetts (which is hard to spell). He's so afraid of school that he can't talk, which encourages a girl with an eye patch and a "peg leg" named Flea to adopt Alvin in school and speak for him. Alvin is trying really hard to make friends who aren't girls, especially by using the rules his older brother Calvin gave him. These rules include saying hello and trading baseball cards, two things that are difficult for him to do. When a stolen show and tell item leads to problems for Alvin, he really finds his voice in an unexpected way. Read Alvin Ho Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look just for Alvin's version of swearing.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Secret School by Avi

“Mr. Jordan,” Ida said, “if Tom and I don’t pass our exams this term, we can’t go on to the high school in Steamboat Springs come fall.” …
“Now, Ida Bidson,” Mr. Jordan answered, “as an adult, it’s my bounden duty to inform you–as I’m certain your parents do every day–that life teaches us many a hard lesson beyond school. No doubt this… exam business will be inconvenient.”
“But I suggest you think a little less of yourself and a little more on Miss Fletcher and her ailing mother. Besides, I’m not so sure a girl needs a high school education. Any more?” Mr. Jordan asked, looking around the room. (10-11)

In The Secret School by Avi, fourteen year old Ida Bidson is devastated when her teacher, Miss Fletcher, is forced to leave school before the end of the term due to her mother’s illness. Sure this means that school is getting out a month and a half early, but that also means that Ida and her classmate Tom can’t take the entrance exams to get into high school next year. They’ll have to repeat the entire year all over again when the one-room, remote Colorado schoolhouse gets a new teacher next fall. Ida and Tom feel hopeless, until Tom suggests that Ida secretly assumes the role of teacher so the exams can be administered. But when the school board finds out about it, does it spell the end of all the work Ida has done?