What I'm Reading...
This blog is designed to share what I am reading. As I finish reading chapter books that are appropriate for elementary students, I will write about them here. Maybe something I read will spark your interest!
Poppy discovers a letter from a distant relative in her file at the children's home, an invitation to come live at the beautiful family estate called Larkspur House. Marcus accepts a scholarship to study music at the magnificent Larkspur Academy. Dash and Dylan are invited to star in a horror movie at Larkspur Studios, and Azumi discovers Larkspur when searching for a boarding school.
However, when the children arrive, Larkspur is nothing like any of them could have imagined. There is something sinister about this place, not the least of which is the absence of adults, or even any other people when they arrive. Are the children ready to face the mysteries and secrets of The Shadow House?
The Gathering (Lexile: 750; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) by Dan Poblocki, the first book in The Shadow House series, is a truly haunting tale for lovers of very scary books. Fans of Mary Downing Hahn's ghost stories and horror films that children shouldn't watch will probably love this creepy book. Read it if you dare. (224 p.)
Promi lives in the streets with his smarts, his knife, and his magical boots that grow with him and help him climb walls and run quickly. He steals sweets to live on. When we meet Promi, however, he is focusing on a procession of the high-priest, a man to whom power is all-consuming.
As a special festival comes up, Promi decides to steal the most amazing sweet ever (or so he has heard)--a special berry pie. And this launches him into an adventure that he never saw coming. How does a boy who has only ever cared for himself come to care for someone else? Or even Every Someone Else? You will need to follow Promi's story as he meets up with Atlanta and gets swept away in a story of such amazement you will want to be sitting somewhere sturdy for the ride.
Atlantis Rising (Lexile: 770; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) engages the reader in one of the most epic folk tales in common imagination, and does so with an engaging fantasy that will stretch the mind and sharpen the taste buds. (384 p.)
Tomi Itano lives in California in 1942. When we meet her in this story, she and her brother are stopping for penny candy at a local store, where they have stopped many times before. However, this time, there is a sign on the door saying they are not welcome any longer. Tomi and her brother are second-generation Japanese-Americans, both born in the United States. However, Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor and Americans are frightened of all things Japanese.
Tomi and her family live on a strawberry farm, but they, like all other Japanese Americans at this time, are forced to leave their homes to stay in "Relocation Camps." Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky (Lexile: 640; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) tells the story of Tomi's family as her father is sent to prison for no reason (other than buying fertilizer and gasoline for the farm) and her mother learns to be the head of the family. Tomi tries to make the best of her circumstances, but it is not always easy to be American and Japanese.
Although dealing with a tough time in American history (especially for the Japanese Americans), this story is told in a gentle enough way that younger children (3rd and 4th grade) may be able to grasp what happened without overwhelming them. (216 p.)
Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living pretending to be able to speak to the dead. People pay them to talk to loved ones who have passed on. Jessamine knows that shamming people is wrong, but she and her mom need the money. Then, a weird thing happens in one of their sessions. A message shows up on a slate, but it isn't the message that Jessamine wrote. Next thing she knows, Jessamine's mother is taking her to meet an old friend in London, which launches Jessamine into an adventure for which she never could have prepared herself!
The Mesmerist (Lexile: 660; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) by Ronald Smith launches the reader into a world of mystery in which the supernatural may be real and the distant past is haunting the "present" (although the story takes place in the 1800s). Can Jessamine and her new friends figure out the riddle in the rhyme they keep hearing? Will it be in time?
For readers who enjoy a bit of the supernatural and extraordinary, especially those who may believe in ghosts and monsters, this will be an engaging read. (272 p.)
Genie and Ernie are spending the summer with their grandparents on a farm in Virginia, a far cry from their normal stomping ground of Brooklyn, New York. Things are very different in the country, and the two boys must learn to be brave, especially Genie who worries about everything. With limited Internet access, a grandfather who is blind, and a grandmother who believes all children should have chores, this should be an interesting summer as they boys must show how brave they are.
In As Brave As You (Lexile: 750; Interest Level: Grades 5-8), Jason Reynolds paints a wonderful picture of two boys learning more about who they are as individuals and what it means to be family. Slow at times, this is a beautiful story about growing up over one summer. (432 p.)
Award winning author Avi shares a fantastic story of Nashoba, an old wolf trying to keep leadership of his pack by finding food and Casey, a young boy desperately wanting to be old enough to hunt. In Old Wolf (Lexile: 630; Interest Level: Grades 4-7), these two stories are told in alternating chapters.
Nashoba must find food for his pack. As he searches, he is given help by a raven. Casey plays a video game called Bowhunter, but he really wants to learn to hunt with a real bow. When Casey gets a bow for his birthday, he thinks he is ready for all that entails. However, when Casey's story intersects with Nashoba, both characters learn a valuable lesson. This is a 2017-2018 Indian Paintbrush Nominee. (160 p.)
Jack and his best friend Charlie are world-famous hackers. They and their friends, Slink, Obie and Wren, live together in a bunker they found in the subway tunnels under London, and from there, they scout out and target "bad guys" who launder money, sell drugs or guns. They hack into their accounts and take money which they redistribute through R.A.K. (Random Acts of Kindness).
The teenagers are all runaways from a London children's home, and they work hard to keep from getting caught because they don't want to go back to the home where they feel unloved and unsupported. Then the children hear about a project called Proteus that is supposed to be the most secure and amazing computer in the world. So, of course, they decide to hack it. This decision, however, sends them on the adventure of their lives.
Honestly, I had a little trouble believing that these children who had been homeless their whole lives would have access to the high-tech gear (and know-how) required to outsmart state-of-the-art security systems, but readers looking for some technology know-how added to their adventure may want to follow the Urban Outlaws (Lexile: 650; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) by Peter Jay Black on their modern-day Robin Hood adventures. This is the first book in a series. (304 p.)
The first book in the Trials of Apollo series, The Hidden Oracle (Lexile: 680; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) by Rick Riordan continues the adventure with Greek mythology that we began in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. The Trials of Apollo is Rick Riordan's third Greek mythology series.
Apollo wakes up in a dumpster in New York City. It appears that Zeus is punishing him by making him mortal. Again. Told in first person, Apollo tells us his thoughts on this punishment and what happens to him during his "trials," which begin with being attacked by two thugs and rescued by a girl. Think about that. The Greek god Apollo having to be rescued at all, and it is a little girl (around 12 years old) who rescues him. After she claims his service, Apollo convinces Meg to help him find Percy Jackson who will help them get to Camp Half-Blood, but this is only where the adventure begins!
When they reach Camp Half-Blood, Apollo and Meg discover that the Oracle of Delphi is missing (she hadn't been able to tell the future for awhile), and the demigods are disappearing. The camp itself seems to be under attack. Could this have something to do with Apollo's fall from grace?
As Percy and his friends have grown older over the course of several books, it is to be expected that some of the situations in this story match their ages. Couple that with stories from the Greek myths, and readers should expect some content that makes this book (and subsequent series) a little more appropriate for older readers. Fans of Rick Riordan, and especially Percy Jackson, will find this new series as engaging as the previous ones. If you are a newcomer to the world of Camp Half-Blood, however, you may want to begin at the beginning. There are definitely parts of this story that rely on an understanding of previous events. (384 p.)
Jamie loves to make people laugh. So, he tells jokes. Lots of jokes. He also studies great comedians and learns how to deliver funny lines in just the right way. He tries out these bits of humor on the people he meets around town, especially those that come into his uncle's restaurant, where he helps out on weekends.
But, Jamie's life is not all laughs in I Funny (Lexile: 610; Interest Level: Grades 3-7) by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. He also must face the school bully, who is always around, the hardships of living with relatives who are very different from him, and the difficulties of using of wheelchair for mobility. None of this really gets Jamie down, though, and he takes his humor on the road to try to become the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic.
Follow Jamie on his adventures and laugh with him along the way. This book is an easy read and one that readers will find inspiring as well as funny! (320 p.)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (Based on the original story by J. K. Rowling)
Some call this the 8th installment of the Harry Potter Series, and in many ways it is. If you haven't read the original series of 7 Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, stop reading here (and start reading them, if you are interested!). Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Lexile: 500; Interest Level: Grades 4-9) is written as a screenplay by Jack Thorne with John Tiffany and J. K. Rowling, and it relies on an understanding of the original stories.
The curtain lifts as Harry and Ginny are taking James and Albus Severus to Platform 9 3/4 for Albus's first trip to Hogwarts. They meet up with Ron and Hermione who are dropping off their daughter Rose. And so, a new generation heads off to Hogwarts. The scenes change between what happens with Albus and his experiences at Hogwarts (making friends on the train, being sorted, trying to find his place) and the situations with our favorite characters, all grown up and in charge of the Ministry of Magic (Hermoine), Magical Law Enforcement (Harry) and a joke shop (Ron).
As we may expect, the children at Hogwarts get into mischief, and there is trouble brewing for the Ministry. True to the experiences of the original series, we are swept into a world of magic, fame, mystery and danger. Because it is not J. K. Rowling's riveting prose, this installment is a very different read, but fans of the series will enjoy it just the same. (327 p.)
In this sequel to Game Changers, readers follow Ben McBain and his friends from the amazing season of football into the winter basketball season. Not quite wanting to let football season go, Ben starts to get geared up for basketball, meeting a new rival in a boy from a neighboring town.
In Play Makers (Lexile: 920; Interest Level: Grades 3-7), Ben discovers that he may not be the best player in the league this year. He strives hard to get better and better, but he encounters some consequences that will affect his whole team. And his rivalry with Chase, the new boy in the league is about more than just ball. Will Ben be able to overcome his jealousy of this new boy, both for his basketball skills and his interest in Ben's friend Lily?
I recommend this book for fans of Mike Lupica, basketball, and good middle grade stories. However, you may want to read Game Changers first, as there are several allusions to the football season in this story. (224 p.)
What if a hurricane destroyed a boat carrying boxes of robots? What if one of those boxes washed ashore a deserted island without destroying its contents? What if some playful otters got the box opened and turned on the robot inside? These are some of the questions that Peter Brown explores in The Wild Robot (Lexile: 740; Interest Level: Grades 3-6).
When Roz is "woken up" by the otters, she discovers herself to be on an island inhabited by only animals. Trying to find her place in this world leads to an exploration of habitat, survival techniques, belonging, and uniqueness. This story is an adorable read that will engage readers with gentle humor and insight as we discover with Roz a new way of seeing the world. (288 p.)
Ephraim Tuttle is dying. He decides to write a letter to call in a miracle that was promised to him as a little boy. His grandson Micah is convinced that this miracle must be a cure for his grandfather because he can't imagine life without his grandfather, and he can't imagine living with his Great Aunt Gertrudis who refuses to believe in magic.
Micah knows all of the stories about his grandfather's visit to Circus Mirandus as a child. He knows about how his grandfather impressed the Lightbender with a magic knot trick and how the Lightbender offered him a miracle. Micah believes in the magic because his grandfather believes. Micah makes a new friend in Jenny Mendoza, but Jenny doesn't believe in magic. Can he help her bend her rigid ways to see the beauty of the magic?
Will the Lightbender give Ephraim his miracle? Will the answer come in time? Readers who believe in magic, and maybe even those who don't, will get caught up in this beautiful story of faith, belief, trust, family, and, of course, magic. Read Circus Mirandus (Lexile: 710; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) by Cassie Beasley to see what happens. (292 p.)
Well-deserving of the 2017 Newbery Medal, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Lexile: 640; Interest Level: Grades 3-7) tells a beautiful story of what is versus what could be and makes the reader think about things from multiple perspectives.
Once a year the people of the Protectorate have a Day of Sacrifice, in which the youngest child among them must be taken and left to die in a circle of sycamores in the wood. It is said that this is to appease the Witch who has demanded this sacrifice to keep the people safe.
Once a year, a witch comes down from the top of the mountain to find a baby abandoned in a grove of sycamores. She doesn't know why this happens, but she rescues the child and takes it to the Free Cities and finds a loving family to raise it.
Then comes Luna. A beautiful baby who is so loved by her mother that she must be torn away from her mother's arms for the Sacrifice. So enthralled is the Witch that she accidentally feeds the child moonlight, effectively imbuing her with magic. Xan (the witch) chooses to keep and raise Luna as her granddaughter.
Antain is just a boy when he goes with the Elders to retrieve the child on the Day of Sacrifice, but the heartache of the mother never leaves his mind. He cannot grow to be an Elder, but he has no idea what the future may have in store for him.
To see how the lives of these characters intertwine, you should definitely read The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. (388 p.)
What would it be like if you could hypnotize people and take control of their mind? Would you do with your gift? These are questions that Jax Opus must answer in The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman (Lexile: 850; Interest Level: Grades 4-7).
Jax Opus lives a bit of a charmed life, but he doesn't know it is himself doing the charming. Until the star player on the other team in a basketball championship starts to play badly around Jax on the same day that a crazed bus driver barrels through all of the lights in the city to get him to his destination, Jax didn't really realize that anything about him was different. Then he finds out about hypnotism, and that it is a gift he has inherited from his family. Caught up in a sense of wonder about his newly-recognized abilities and people who want to tell him how to use it, Jax gets sucked into a scheme that can affect the whole world. What should he do? Who should he believe? Read on to find out...
This book is great for readers who want a little bit of fantasy without fairy tale, monsters or magic and a little realistic science fiction. It is a pretty easy read with great adventure. (232 p.)
Harriet is a princess. She is also a hamster. But she is no ordinary hamster princess. She does love playing chess and fractions, but she does NOT enjoy other princess-like activities such as looking melancholy (sad) and walking with perfect posture. So, when Harriet is 10, and she finds out that as a baby she was cursed by an evil fairy to prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep on her 12th birthday, she decides that she is invincible and goes off to have adventures.
If you choose to read Harriet the Invincible (Lexile: 810; Interest Level: Grades 2-5) by Ursula Vernon, you will find adventure, humor, and a few interesting twists on fairy tales. This is a great story for students who want an easy read that breaks through some of the traditional fairy tale rules and has a very spunky female character. It is the first book in the Princess Harriet series. (247 p.)
In The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan (Lexile: 510; Interest Level: Grades 1-5), we meet our main characters outside during a blizzard. Teddy finds Nickel and Flora outside looking for shelter, so he takes them home to his cabin. It is not at all strange to him (or them) that they can hear him talk. Sylvan explained to him once that only children and poets could hear dogs talk.
Through the dialog of this sweet story of two children and a dog surviving a winter storm, we learn about Teddy, his relationship with Sylvan, and about the children as well. But what will happen after the storm? Read this gem of a book to find out! (96 p.)
I love books where people have a chance to rise from rags to riches and stories about non-royal people becoming royalty, but most of those books seem to involve girls as the main characters. So, when a student told me about The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Lexile: 710; Interest Level: Grades 4-9), I was excited! Yes, this is a book about a boy who is chosen to compete in a plan to become the new king of the land.
Sage is escaping from a butcher from whom he has just stolen a whole roast when we first meet him. When he arrives at the orphanage with a kindly gentleman who bought the roast for him, he discovers that the man has purchased him. Of course, he doesn't want to belong to anyone, so he is bound and carried off. After awhile, he finds out that he and three other orphaned boys have been chosen because they look so much like the prince who is believed to have been killed by pirates four years before. The man who gathered the boys, Conner, has a plan to have one of the boys pose as the prince and take the throne. Now Sage has 2 weeks to learn everything he needs to know about being the lost prince, and to convince Conner he is the orphan for the job.
If, like me, you enjoy a good underdog story with lots of action, swords, humor, and danger, you will enjoy this story. It is the first book in the Ascendance Trilogy. (352 p.)
Who would have thought that the key to adventure would lie within an antique music box? Leo certainly didn't, although he did think that the strict rules on using it were a bit odd: you could only turn the knob 3 turns, you must never close it before it finishes it's song, and you should certainly never move it while the music plays.
However, when his cousin Mimi, whom Leo cannot stand, comes to stay with them, the two encounter the first hints that they may not know the whole story of the music box. Mimi turns the knob 4 times, and releases a magical hold on a vibrant other world. Leo and Mimi are then sucked into the world of Rondo, a place where Mimi seems to belong and Leo wishes he weren't. The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda (Lexile: 710; Interest Level: Grades 3-7) is an adventure as the reader follows Leo and Mimi through a town filled with Dots, a forest with Flitters, and faces a mean Duck who hunts them, a pig who wants to help them, and various other characters whom you may recognize from beloved children's stories. (352 p.)
Can you imagine being told that you are not allowed to attend school? At first you might like that idea, but to be told you are not allowed to go because you are a girl? This is exactly what happened to Malala Yousafzai. In this Young Reader's Edition of her autobiography, I Am Malala (Lexile: 830; Interest Level: Grades 4-8), Malala Yousafzai tells her story with the assistance of Patricia McCormick.
Malala, a remarkable young woman and winner of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, tells her story about how much she enjoyed going to school, and especially learning about science and math. Soon, she finds herself speaking out for a girl's right to education in a nation in which many religious, and certainly many political, beliefs are opposed to educating girls. She believed that attending school was her right as a person, even if others, including grown men, and especially the Taliban, disagreed. And, she found a way to attend school even when she knew her life was in danger.
For those who enjoy hearing the stories of other people, especially the stories of strong female characters, you should definitely read this book. In fact, I think everyone should know Malala's story because it is inspiring to read about how someone fights with their whole life for something that we take for granted. (256 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.
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Created August 2012.