Saturday, August 29, 2009

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

Well, probably the best way to describe my dad is to say that his birthday is tomorrow. Halloween. Or as he calls it, "All Hallows' Eve." The day of the dead. Or really, the day the dead come back and haunt the living. You know, trick us. Confuse us. [...]
It's a heck of a day to be born on, really. But I've gotta say that as far as I can tell, it suits Dad pretty durn well. Because you never know what kind of exciting theings just might head down the tracks on All Hallows' Eve--besides the trains, I mean. (2)

Fran Cannon Slayton weaves together Halloween stories revolving around the sleepy train town of Rowlesburg West Virginia over the course of six years. Jimmy Cannon, the youngest of three sons to the railroad opperator, relates the adventures he had on his dad's birthday. From hiding out in the graveyard, to witnessing a secret society meeting, and playing a championship football game, Jimmy Cannon reveals that you'll never know what's going to happen When the Whistle Blows.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Clementine's Letter by Sara Pennypacker

I looked over at my teacher. I waited for him to jump up and say, "Nope, sorry, Mrs. Rice. I can't go away for the rest of the year because I promised to be here. I stood right in front of my students and said, 'I will be your teacher this year.' It's still this year, so I have to stay and be their teacher. I won't break my promise."
But he didn't do that. He just sat at his desk smiling at Mrs. Rice! (8-9)

Clementine has just found out that her teacher has been nominated by her principal to go on a archeological dig in Egypt to search for mummies. Which is great for her teacher, but not so great for Clementine. She's just getting the hang of third grade, when the substitute shows up with a whole new set of unknown rules. She's constantly getting in trouble, so when she and her classmates are encouraged to write a letter of support for her teacher, Clementine strikes upon a plan to get her teacher back in the classroom. You'll have to read Sara Pennypacker's newest book to see what Clementine's Letter contains.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

"What's the matter Clementine?" he asked me right away--I guess my worried face was still on.
I handed him the stupid flyer my teacher had sent home with us.
"Talent-Palooza, Night of the Stars! Share your talents Saturday night!" he read. Then he handed the stupid flyer back to me. "So, what's the problem?"
I leaned over--but not too close in case he thought I was trying to be his girlfriend, which I am not--and whispered the problem to him.
"I can't hear you," he said.
So I whispered it again.
"I still can't hear you," he said.
So I yelled it.
"That's impossible," he said. "Everybody has a talent."
"Not me." (8-10)

Clementine is back in Sara Pennypacker's second novel in the series, The Talented Clementine. But third grader Clementine is anything but talented: she can't sing, she can't dance, she can't play a musical instrument, ok fine she can't even hop or sit down right. Her fourth grade friend Margaret suggests Clementine borrows one of her many talents, but they all fail miserably, especially tap dancing with bottle caps glued to her sneakers. The day of the Clementine is still searching for a talent, but the one she finds is nothing anyone expected.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Magyk by Angie Sage

Silas went in with a heavy heart. He saw Sarah surrounded by six white-faced little boys, all too scared to cry.
"She's taken him," said Sarah hopelessly. "Septimus is dead, and she's taken him away."
At that moment a warm wetness spread out from the bundle that Silas still had hidden under his cloak. Silas had no words for what he wanted to say, so he just took the bundle out from under his cloak and placed her in Sarah's arms.
Sarah Heap burst into tears. (6)

The night that Silas and Sarah Heap's seventh son Septimus was born, Silas found an abandoned baby girl in the snow. When the midwife wisked away the dead body of Septimus, Silas and Sarah decided to keep the girl, and named her Jenna. Little did anyone know that Jenna would play a role in a battle between good and evil ten years later. Because Jenna might be the key to overthrowing the man who killed the Queen and the head wizard ten years before, on the same day Jenna was found. With the help of some of the Heaps, the current head wizard, and a mysterious Boy 412 who deserted from the enemy army, Angie Sage begins the series with Magyk.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

Fifteen year old twins Josh and Sophie are enjoying their new lives in San Francisco while their parents are on an archeological dig overseas. However, things quickly change when Jon Dee enters the book shop that Josh works at and promptly wrecks havoc, stealing an ancient book of magical secrets. The book shop owner's wife is also taken as a hostage. Josh and Sophie become involved in a centuries old battle over the book. Little do they know however, that they might be more involved in this fight then they realized. With an immortal and a vampire and several encounters with the Elders, Michael Scott forces his characters to question who they can really trust in The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

"I had an interview. To join the Women Airforce Service Pilots. And it looks like I might have a shot." I smile in spite of myself and drop it just as fast. No one's saying anything. I swallow hard. (54-55)

Ida Mae Jones has always dreamed of flying, ever since she was eleven years old and her dad brought home a crop dusting plane to their farm. Several years later, with her dad gone now and her brother off to war, Ida Mae wants to do more for the war effort then collect bacon grease and nylons. But she has two things against her; she's a black women. But then, the Women Airforce Service Pilots is started, looking for female pilots to help shuttle planes and passengers and test fly the newest planes. All Ida Mae has to do is pretend she's white. Playing a dangerous game in southern Texas, Ida Mae's difficulties and triumphs are laid out in Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Alligator Bayou by Donna Jo Napoli

Frank Raymond turns. "Are you asking me about the voting laws?"
"I guess."
"No one can vote in Louisiana unless they've been residents for five years and pay the poll tax."
"That doesn't sound so bad."
"There's a third requirement: you have to read English. That alone is enough."
"Enough for what?"
"To knock out Sicilians, even if they've become citizens. Most Negroes, too." [...]
"They want to keep Sicilians and Negroes from voting," I say slowly.
"There's more of you than there are whites. If you took control, the whole state would change." (64)

Fourteen-year old Calogero is one of six Sicilians living in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana. Although they've been there for years, tensions are rising as economics and politics collide. The town whites blame them for job and income losses, and the African Americans are suspicious of any white men where 1899 Jim Crow laws rule. But a disagreement regarding goats and watermelons escalate, Calogero realize just how bad things are, and just how important family is to him. Donna Jo Napoli presents a gripping fictional account of actual events in Alligator Bayou.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

"Everybody knows that a seventh son is lucky. [...]
Nobody seems to think much about all the other sons, or the daughters. There's nearly always daughters, because hardly anybody has seven sons right in a row, boom, like that. Sometimes there are so many daughters that people give up trying for seven sons. After all, there's plenty enough work in raising eleven or twelve childings, and a thirteenth child -- son or daughter - is unlucky. So everybody says.
Papa and Mama didn't pay much attention to what everybody says, I guess, because there are fourteen of us. Lan is the youngest, a double-seven, and he's half the reason we moved away from Helvan Shores when I was five. The other half of the reason, was me." (1-2)

Eff is the thirteenth child of a group of fourteen children. Her twin brother, Lan, is the seventh son of a seventh son, which is about as magical as a person can get. After the rest of the family gets word of the rumors flying around town about her being unlucky, they move to the western frontier being newly colonized. Eff is terrified about what her unlucky status could mean for her magic, especially after her magic basically explodes from her at a family wedding. But when magical creatures suddenly appear and begin wrecking havoc on the crops, even Eff is surprised by the outcome. Fans of Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles will enjoy her new book, Thirteenth Child.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

The only person left alive on the island was a baby girl. The tired men who had come there to pick up furs from the Anishinabe people stood uneasily on the rocky shore. The voyageurs watched from a distance as the baby crawled in a circle, whimpering and pitiful. Her tiny dress of good blue wool was embroidered with white beads and ribbons, and her new makazins were carefully sewn. It was clear she had been loved. It was also clear that the family who had loved her was gone. (1)

Eight year old Omakayas lives with her parents, older sister, younger brother, and baby Nemo in Minnesota. As part of the Ojibwa tribe, she helps keep house and harvest rice. Tragedy strikes the tribe however, and her family must rely on Omakayas and her grandmother to get them through it safely. Through her efforts to keep her family alive, Omakayas learns a secret about her past that will change her life forever. Read about it in Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd

I was sixteen at the time, and I knew I wasn't straight. I'd known that for a fact since I was ten and my babysitter Kendra Kaufman let me stay up late and watch Nigh of 1,000 Werewolves, one of Johnny Morgan's first films.
"I want to marry Johnny Morgan," I told her when the credits were rolling.
"Kid," Kendra said, "don't tell our parents I let you watch that movie, and definitely don't tell them what you just told me." (15)

Dade Hamilton is struggling to come to grips with his life, which is spinning out of control. His dad tells him that he's cheating on Dade's mother, before telling his mother. He's introduced to Lucy, a lesbian who has moved from California to live with her aunt in the small Iowa town because her parents think it will straighten her out. Finally, Dade realizes just after high school graduation that the guy he's been dating will never be interested in breaking up with his public girlfriend and pursuing their secret relationship. When things couldn't get any worse, Dade meets Alex at a party. From that starts an never ending spiral of events in Nick Burd's The Vast Fields of Ordinary.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker

Ok, fine. So maybe Clementine, the third grader main character in Sarah Pennypacker's book, doesn't necessarily "Pay attention" like her teachers intend her to pay attention. But if she paid attention to what the teacher was saying, then she wouldn't notice all the other things that are going on around her at school. Especially this week, which started off with finding her friend Margaret hiding under the bathroom sink and ended up with getting rid of pigeon poop on the steps of her apartment complex. And inbetween, she might have colored something she shouldn't have and called her brother vegetable names. But there's always a reason behind what happens, and even if Clementine doesn't explain it to her parents or teachers or principal or neigbors, she does make sense to her readers.

Ok, fine, and there is also a sequel, The Talented Clementine. And a third one, Clementine's Letter.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Put A Spell On You by Adam Selzer

Dear Esteemed Members of the School Board:
You stink.
Seriously. You really, really stink.
People should have been fired the morning after the all-school spelling bee. It's been a whole week now, and NOT ONE PERSON has been fired! No one has even been suspended!(1)

Sixth grader and would-be detective Chrissie Woodward has served as the principal's student snitch for the entire year. But as the annual school spelling bee approaches, the principal actions are becoming questionable, and everyone is acting weird. Jennifer's parents are convinced that Marianne Cleaver has the master word list, which will hurt her chances of following in her sister's footsteps. Mutual, a former homeschooler, has convinced his parents that he has to join public school in order to participate. And Harlan, is anxious to participate, but not to win. And why are two old ladies so interested in the competitors?! Follow along in Adam Selzer's I Put A Spell On You and see if you can help Chrissie find the answers.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Perpetual Check by Rich Wallace

Zeke walks as casually as he can toward the table at the back of the room, where Derek Pham is waiting. He avoids eye contact with Randy. He's seen the brackets; he knows they could be facing each other this afternoon. (37)

Brothers Zeke, a senior, and Randy, a freshmen, have always been compared to each other by their father and each other. The comparisons escalate as they end up playing in the same championship chess competition. As they both continue to succeed and progress, there's a distinct likelihood that they'll play against each other. They both start wondering, who will their dad root for then? Perpetual Check by Rich Wallace relates their struggle, both in chess and in life, to get along with each other.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This talented Australian author has written a book, The Book Thief, about Nazi Germany that should be required reading for young adults as well as not-so-young adults. You'll love Liesel Meminger whose little brother dies just before her mother leaves her w/foster parents in So. Germany. Heartbreaker! A real page-turner! Read it all night!


City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff

City of Thieves is a mix of history, imagination, tragedy & humor, which takes place during a brutal Leningrad winter during WWII. Amid the starvation, two unlikely comrads keep each other going. I found it powerful & painful!


The Pregnancy Test by Erin McCarthy

The Pregnancy Test is a great read. She is funny, sexy and witty. This book is a romance about a positive pregnancy test and what goes through your mind from that first sign of the “pink line”. She is a must read. She keeps you laughing throughout the book.


The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

The Fixer Upper is a delightful read! Real Southern charm. Young Washington Lobbyist assistant loses her job. Opportunity arises to rehab southern mansion. Continuing twists make this one you can’t put down.


Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard

Road Dogs – Always fun to read, Mr. Leonard does it again. Setting is mostly Venice, Connecticut with a little Florida thrown in plus passing mention of Detroit. Jack Foley returns from “Out of Sight” and you’ll certainly picture him as George Clooney.


Night by Elie Wiesel

Night is a gripping account of one man’s survival at Auschwitz – his bond with his father in the camps, how he was changed forever.


Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee is a powerful family saga! A tale of what happens to the lives of Sarah, a British magazine editor and Little Bee, a Nigerian teenager collide. Set in Africa and the USA, the resulting conflict is spectacular stunning and a survival struggle to the 1,000s of asylum seekers housed in the Black Hill Immigration Removal Center.


Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission ... by Greg Mortenson

Three Cups of Tea will change your life or at least the way you look at the world. Mortenson is coming down off a mountain climbing rescue mission and wanders into a village. He promises to come back and he does – only to build a school and develop the most wonderful relationship with the people in Pakistan. It will challenge your politics, integrity, and the way you view success – a must read.


The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon is an old story that reads like a new one! The streets of San Francisco add lots of atmosphere to the classic hard-boiled detective story. Mystery, intrigue, betrayal – it’s all here. Who has the very valuable falcon? Where is it? Who’s died for it? Read on…….


The Cradle: A Novel by Patrick Somerville

The Cradle is a short novel that could also be called “A Wild Goose Chase” set in Milwaukee but the story takes us to surrounding Midwest states as Matt sets out to find an antique cradle that is important to his now pregnant wife (was in her childhood room). The unforgettable detours make for a complex read! Do not miss!


Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Revenge of the Spellmans, set in San Francisco, is hilarious. It’s not necessary, but it helps to have read the previous two books in this series. All the books are about the escapades of a family of neurotic Private Investigators, Isabel in particular. Her interactions with her family and boyfriends and clients are very funny.


Mary, Mary by James Patterson

Mary, Mary is a real page turner. I finished it in one day. Short, cliff-hanging chapters encourage you to keep going. Los Angeles is the setting, as Hollywood big shots are targeted for murder. Agent Alex Cross risks his own life to solve the case. Author also of Women’s Murder Club Series.


The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips

The Rossetti Letter - As an artist and an art history major, I enjoyed this fictional history, set mainly in Venice, Italy (one of my favorite European cities). This first time author helped me learn about the Spanish conspiracy, Venetian history and the lines of courtesans blended into a mysterious love story!


The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood is a powerful, honest memoir that documents the author’s childhood in war-torn Liberia and her return to her native country 20 years after her family’s flight during the 1980 coup.


Sacred Hearts: A Novel by Sarah Dunant

Sacred Hearts: A Novel begins in 1570, Ferrara, Italy at the Convent of Santa Caterina. We meet Serafina, a new novice at 16 years of age who is banished there for life. A wonderful but heart-breaking love story set during the renaissance. I love fictional history.


Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir set in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a brave and bold teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathers seven (7) of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western Classics – a celebration of women and the liberating power of literature. So many discussable issues for Book Clubs.


One Step Behind by Henning Mankell

One Step Behind is a Kurt Wallander mystery. Perhaps you’ve seen Kenneth Brannogh as “Wallander” on PBS playing the doggedly determined Swedish policeman. The action in this story takes place in and around the town of Ystad, Sweden. The setting contributes very importantly to the plot – a midsummer revel in a nature preserve to an attempted rescue among the islands off the Swedish coast. This is an excellent story, & also one that will pique your interest in Sweden.


Little Bitty Lies by Mary Kay Andrews

Little Bitty Lies is the best read of the summer!! Wife and mother finds herself with nothing when husband leaves quietly in the night taking all assets. Tenacity and humor pull her along to a successful conclusion. Very well written.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a wonderful piece of historical fiction that starts out as a series of letters. The setting is in Guernsey in the Channel Islands right after WWII. During her correspondence the author discovers the Literary Society was a cover to protect themselves from the Nazi occupation. You’ll find the characters charming and brave.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

Mrs. Beckland gave the box a few good shakes and said, "Here's the way this works. I've got ten different assignments in this box, each one written on a folded piece of paper. You reach in and pull one out, and that's the project you have to do--no second choices, no backsies." She held the box in front of Abby. "So, pick one." (35-36)

Sixth grader Abby Carson is in DEEP trouble. After spending over half the year not doing any school work, she's in danger of being held back and not advancing to seventh grade. After talking with her teachers, she convinces them that she can make up the work, score a B or higher on every remaining test in every remaining subject, and write letters to a foreign pen pal. The letter lands in the hands of Sadeed and his sister Amira, who live in a village in Afghanistan. While Sadeed is the best writer, his sister drafts and signs the letters because it's inappropriate for a boy and a girl to write eachother. But not everyone approves of the arrangement, and trouble begins brewing in Sadeed's village. Andrew Clements fans will enjoy this newest book by him, Extra Credit.


Friday, August 07, 2009

A Certain Strain of Peculiar by Gigi Amateau

The boys sit right in front of me, wondering right out loud if there could ever be a girl more disgusting than me. My face turns violet, I'm sure of it, because I fear that my skin will not hold in all of the blood rising up into my head. I seal myself completely inside my hair canopy, so no sound can get in and no sound can get out. (3)

In this book by Gigi Amateau, Mary Harold Woods is just finishing eighth grade, and couldn't be more miserable. So she essentially steals her mom's old pick-up truck and credit card and drives the 691 miles in the middle of the night to her Grandma Ayma's house. Once there, she convinces her mother to let her stay in Wren, Alabama, the one place her mother can't stand to be. But things don't start off the way she planned, being called queer when she makes friends with Dixie, who acts nonstop like she's a horse. Can Mary Harold learn to deal with each person who has A Certain Strain of Peculiar?


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson

The hypodermic needle protruded out of the tourist's clawlike finger. Dan leaned closer to the window. . . .
"Dan!" She screamed the name. In her head. But it came out like a strangled croak.
Amy threw herself forward. At the very last second, she flung out her hand. (3)

Amy and Dan Cahill find themselves - with their au pair Nellie and their cat Saladin -- in the sweltering heat of Egypt. Before they can even arrive at their hotel, competing teams make an attempt to take them out of the competition for good. The clues lead them literally following in Grace's footseps from years before. But the brother and sister team still has trouble figuring out who to trust, as a piece of their grandmother is stolen from a supposed friend. Will they find the next clue in time? Jude Watson continues the 39 Clues series with the fourth book, Beyond the Grave.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

"I want you to work in the real world."
This is a total surprise. It takes me a while to find words, any words. When I do, I say: "I have a summer job at Paterson."
"You'll help in the mailroom." He doesn't hear or chooses not to hear what I say.
"I have a job already," I repeat.
"Sit down, please." He points to the chair. I sit. (19)

In Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, seventeen-year-old Marcelo Sandoval has an autism-like condition that causes him to hear music in his head and have trouble interacting with people. His condition has led him to work and go to school at Paterson's, which provides therepeautic horse back riding and classes such as Social Interaction. So when his father forces him to experience the "real world" by working in the mailroom at his father's law office, it definitely takes some transitioning. His conversations with his coworker Jasmine and his father's partner's son Wendell make him rethink whether he wants to truly become part of the real world, especially when they expose what's really going on behind closed court room doors.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Great Bear Lake by Erin Hunter

She stopped as howling broke out behind and above them. Toklo saw four lean shapes crest the ridge and stand outlined for a moment against the reddening sky.
"Wolves!" he snarled. For a heartbeat he wanted to turn and fight, but there were too many of them--more than he could count on his paws. They were thin and savage with hunger. And after so many days of near-starvation, Toklo knew he wasn't strong enough to fight them off. "Head for the valley!"
"But it's the wrong way!" Ujurak protested.
"Run!" Toklo barked. (21)

After essentially running into each other, the grizzly cub Toklo and the changing Ujurak are joined on their trip to "where teh bear spirits dance" by a run-away black bear cub named Lusa. The three bears encounter many hazards on their way, and upon arriving at Great Bear Lake, plan to go their seperate ways. But they can't seem to stay apart, especially when polar bears invade and capture a black bear cub. Will Kallik, an orphaned polar bear, save the day or be pulled by her desire to find her lost brother? Find out in Great Bear Lake, the second book of Erin Hunter's Seekers series.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle

The kit's crossing sent a ripple of excitement through the cat community. Never had an entire litter of kittens, tiny infants, no less, been so fortunate as to come across together, without injury, when all hope was dashed and rescue seemed impossible. Who were the little survivors? Everyone wanted to know. How did they get so lucky? (26)

Three kittens cross a divided highway and arrive to the other side safely. Upon their arrival, they encounter a whole community of stray cats that have resided in the scrubland near a new shopping mall. The strays think it's a miracle the kittens survived the trip. However, their luck doesn't seem to hold, as bulldozers soon follow. Will the kittens save the strays, or lead to their demise? Janet Taylor Lisle creates a host of interesting cat characters in Highway Cats.