Saturday, August 31, 2013

Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner - OPTIONAL


Renner, Ellen Castle of Shadows, 390 pgs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2012. $15.99. Language: G; Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG.  

Princess Charlie has lived without her mother since she disappeared several years ago.  Now, neglected and mistreated by the housekeeper, Charlie befriends the gardner’s assistant and takes matters into her own hands. Finding clues and following her instincts, can Charlie solve the mystery and stop the revolution?

This first book in the Castle of Shadows series is a bit long for the 5th-6th grade reader.  Many of the situations in the story are improbable, like friends in the castle who have been hiding all these years, but fail to protect her. However, it’s full of good adventure and excitement.  I liked that magic wasn’t involved in solving the problems. The time period seem abiguous there are references to scientific discoveries and other modern things yet the setting seems almost fairy tale.  This is an OK first novel.  I hope she picks up some speed with the next one.  

EL OPTIONAL Lisa Librarian

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff - OPTIONAL


Grindstaff, Kit The Flame in the Mist, 449 pgs. Delacorte Press, 2013. Language - PG (3 swears, 0 "f"), Sexual Content - PG; Violence - PG; 

Jemma has always felt out of place at home, and now, the day before her thirteenth birthday, she finds out why. The truth is that Jemma doesn't belong at the Agromond castle. Her quest is to find her parents before it's too late to claim her powers and prevent evil from spreading. But with her powerful fake family doing everything they can to stop her, how can Jemma succeed? 

While I love the ideas Kit Grindstaff presents and the setting she created to bring her ideas to life, I don't think she pulled it off very well. The obstacles in Jemma's way to fulfilling her destiny were overcome too easily. Something miraculously fell out of a pocket, people chasing her miraculously walked by her hiding spot, et cetera. Furthermore, several of Jemma's challenges came because she made the same mistake again and again, showing that she wasn't learning anything from her trials--a disappointing trait for any heroine to have. 

MS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: CCH

Every Cowgirl Goes to School by Rebecca Janni - ADVISABLE


Janni, Rebecca Every Cowgirl Goes to School, 30 pages. Penguin Group, 2013. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G. PICTURE BOOK.  

Nelly is a cowgirl and is excited about her first day of school. She is ready with her bag of five things about her to share with her class. However, Maya, the new girl, sits next to Nelly’s best friend, Anna, and things start to unravel and not go as planned. 

This adorable story teaches about friendship, and I would definitely share it with my class during the first week of school. It sets the year off right in teaching about how to treat people that are different than you, how to be kind to the new students, and how to apologize and forgive. 

EL (K-3)-ADVISABLE. Reviewer: AS, 2nd grade teacher

The Wrap Up List by Steven Arntson-Optional


Arntson, Steven The Wrap Up List, 236 pgs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. $15.99. Language: PG (2 swears); Violence: PG; Mature Content: PG

Sixteen-year-old Gabriela has just received a letter. The letter was sent by Death and in it he explains that she has one week to live and then he will come to escort her to the afterlife. She has no choice in the matter, but as consolation to being taken so young, Death allows for a list from Gabriela that presents her dying wishes that will be granted before she passes on. Her first thought is of Sylvester Hale and how she dreams of kissing him. Will she include anything else on the list or is a first kiss enough? There is hope, however, that Gabriela will be able to avoid her date with Death. All she must do is figure out Death’s secret weakness before her time is up and he will let her go.

The idea for this story is intriguing, but unfortunately the author is not up to the task of successfully seeing it through. The characters seem hastily constructed and in numerous situations when their behavior and reactions are forced, the book becomes author motivated instead of character driven.  The ending is convenient and unsatisfactory as it does not fit the general sense of the story. This book is a quick read and could be enjoyed by readers who want a simple story and are not concerned with mediocre writing.  

MS, HS—OPTIONAL AEB Social Studies Teacher

Loki's Wolves by Armstrong and Marr - ADVISABLE


Armstrong, K.L. & Marr, M.A. Loki's Wolves, 358 pgs. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Language - G, Sexual Content - G; Violence - PG; 

Matt is a descendant of Thor, but can't live up to his older brothers. Laurie is a descendant of Loki and just wants to stay out of trouble. Fen is another descendant of Loki, hates Matt, and wants to protect Laurie. Together the three have to find a way to work together in order to stop the end of the world. 

This book marks the beginning of a Percy-Jackson-like series for the Norse gods and myths. Besides finding the Norse legends fascinating, I loved the characters Armstrong and Marr created--they are witty, lovable, and entertaining. The plot itself is great, not to mention how fabulous the pictures are. I cannot wait to read the sequel.

 EL, MS - ADVISABLE. Reviewer: CCH

Sticky, Sticky Stuck by Michael Gutch - ADVISABLE


Gutch, Michael Sticky, Sticky Stuck, 30 pages. HarperCollins Publishers, 2013, $17.99. Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  PICTURE BOOK.

Annie’s family always ignores her, and she is also always sticky. Her family is consistently irritated that she’s making a mess. One day she decides to make a peanut butter and honey sandwich by herself because no one is listening to her, and she created quite the sticky mess! This book teaches about listening skills and about how to be a good friend. I would use this book in my classroom to teach how to listen to friends and how to help friends in need. 

EL (K-3)-ADVISABLE. Reviewer: AS, 2nd grade teacher

Furious by Jill Wolfson - OPTIONAL


Wolfson, Jill Furious, 326 pgs. Henry Holt and Company, 2013. Language - PG-13 (53 swears, 1 "f"), Sexual Content - PG-13; Violence - PG; 

Meg has accepted her hard life, but that doesn't mean she's happy with it. The acceptance has come because Meg doesn't have the power to change anything. Or does she? With the help of Alix, Stephanie, and Ambrosia, Meg unlocks the power to deal out justice to those doing wrong, but where is the line between justice and revenge? 

This question is what ran through my mind throughout the whole book. It made me curious to read what Meg would do as I evaluated what I would do myself. While this combined with the fascinating Furies myths made the book entertaining to read, I was annoyed at the ending. It felt like there was a ton of build up, and then the final battle was over too soon. 

HS - OPTIONAL. Reviewer: CCH