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Monday, March 12, 2018

Unbound: A Novel In Verse by Ann E. Burg

UnboundToday, most nine year old kids are lucky.  They go to school, play with their friends, and can be free to travel.  They do not get up before sunrise to start working in a run-down cabin in the south. 
Grace is not lucky.  She is a good, family oriented nine year old girl who lives with her mother, stepfather "Uncle" Jim, Aunt Sara, and her brothers Thomas and Willy.  They are slaves that belong to Master Allen.  Every day, Grace helps her mama take care of her brothers, Thomas and Willy, or some other job that needs to be done.  When mama tells her that she has to work at the kitchen at the big house, Grace is sad and scared to leave her family. But, she is not given a choice.   
Grace works in the kitchen with Aunt Tempie, a smart slave who keeps Master Allen and his Missus happy while trying to keep Grace from getting in trouble.  That's hard to do.  All Grace sees is that other fellow slaves are terrified and miserable around her.  Anna, the maid who takes care of the Missus, gets whipped for being too slow.  Jordon, the footman, hasn't seen his wife and child for many years.  It's too hard for Grace to keep quiet and do her work. 

Grace chooses to run away with her family. Some slaves ran to the northern states.  Others slaves chose to make communities in the south, in remote places where they would be safer.  They were called maroons.   Maroon communities were started in the Great Dismal Swamp, a tract of land between southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina.  Grace and her family find safety on an island in the middle of this swamp.  For once, she enjoys freedom.

This story had just enough tension that I could not put it down.  The fear and sadness slaves endured came out in every word of the free verse.  Ms. Burg included a lot of hints at the violence without the awful details.  Readers in grades three to six will enjoy this quick historical fiction book.

For students in grades four to six, Tennessee  Rose by Jane Kendall might be great.  The main character is a horse that chooses to help Levi, his enslaved groomer, escape during the Civil War.  Like Grace, he just does not understand why slaves are treated so inhumanely.  This prose style chapter book shows the same point of view about, slavery, a cruel institution. 

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Friday, March 09, 2018

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Reviewed By: B.K.

The Iron Trial was an extraordinary book. It had the right amount of fantasy, comedy, and suspense. A boy named Callum has to take a test to see if he could get in a magic school. With aspects similar to Harry Potter, you'll keep turning the page. The end has a huge plot twist that I can guarantee you won't see coming.

Why I Picked It Up: I picked it up because I found out that it was a 2019 Rebecca Caudill.

Why I Finished It: I finished it because it was very interesting and I just had to finish it!

Who You Would Recommend It To: I would recommend this book to fans of Harry Potter and overall fantasy novels.

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Monday, March 05, 2018

Moo by Sharon Creech

MooAfter casually suggesting to her family that they move from New York City to Maine, twelve year old Reena suddenly finds herself and her family living in a small town in that very state.  As Sharon Creech writes it, "a boat-bobbing sea salty harbor town with people strolling the docks eating ice cream and lobster rolls".

What a change for Reena and her seven year old brother Luke!  They explore their new home town on their bikes (by themselves!) and soon discover the farms, shops, and COWS, especially one cow, Zora.  As the story, beautifully written in a blend of prose and poetry, unfolds, Reena and her brother form a strange and wonderful relationship with the unfriendly and moody Zora and her eccentric owner Mrs. Falala.

Moo is a simple, touching story, and can be easily read in one or two sittings.  The story will stay with you for a long time because of its messages of opening yourself up to new experiences, understanding that the world is made up of all kinds of different people and places, and of course, love.

If you read and enjoyed Love That Dog, also by Sharon Creech, you will probably like Moo as well.  Moo is for anyone from about 4th grade on up, whether you're a cow lover or not.  Enjoy!

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat's Foster Mom by Suzi Eszterhas

Moto and MeMoto and Me is the true story of wildlife photographer Suzi's year spent raising Moto, a wildcat. While taking pictures of wild animals in Kenya, some forest rangers asked Suzi to raise a two week old serval kitten who had been separated from his mother. She wasn't entirely sure how to raise Moto, but she asked some friends who were veterinarians and learned how to bottle feed her new friend and how to raise him not as a pet, but to be an independent, wild animal. While she eventually released Moto into the wild, Suzi was his foster mom for a year, and she learned a lot in the process.

This was a fun book with adorable pictures. Suzi had to do things like bathe Moto with a washcloth, brush him with a toothbrush (which felt like his mother's rough tongue), and sew big pockets into her clothes to carry Moto around with her so that he didn't get depressed when she was gone. The photographs are great (I especially loved the one of Moto being brushed with a toothbrush -- it's one of my favorite pictures in the book), and there is a lot of information about how to raise a wildcat. Cute kitty pictures aside, Suzi repeats throughout that she knew she was going to have to release Moto, and she points out all of the places where he is definitely a wild animal, such as his sharp claws and having to wean him off milk and teach him to hunt. Definitely a fun story for people who like cute cat pictures, learning how wildcats live and thrive, and kids who want to know more about servals or wild animals in general.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Royal Wedding Disaster by Meg Cabot

The Royal Wedding DisasterRoyal Wedding Disaster is the second book in the new From the Notebook of a Middle School Princess.  In this installment, Mia's long lost sister Olivia, our narrator, is now living in Genovia with her family.  Mia is getting married and Olivia is helping to get ready for the wedding while also learning the rules of being a princess.  She attends Royal Genovian Academy, the school to many of the world's young royalty, and soon discovers that not all royals are as nice as her new family.

Olivia really takes on her princess responsibilities quickly and she shows great grow in her character when she rises above others and takes the high road instead of lowering herself to their level (pre-teens can be so mean).

This newer middle school series by Meg Cabot is a great way to get reader's interested in the Princess Diaries series, Cabot's original series that has two movies based off of them.  Don't miss the third book in the series, Royal Crush.  I know my name is already on the waiting list!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek LibraryEddie is a green bug who lives in Room 19 at Ferny Creek Elementary School with all his 20 brothers and sisters.  When his Aunt Min disappears, he goes to find her.  She loves books so much that she makes the dangerous journey from their home in the classroom to the library.  On the way, he barely gets away from the "squishers" who trample the floor with big, heavy feet in the hallway.  He finds her in the library with a broken leg.  While she is healing, Eddie does acts of "buggy" bravery such as going to the teacher's lounge for food, getting away from a spider, staring down a mouse, getting his feet out of carpet fibers, and finding the safest hiding spot.  
When Ms. Laurel, the current librarian has her babies, Miss Grisher is hired to take charge of the library.  By that, she means taking away books such as graphic novels and fairy tales.  If that's not bad enough, she kicks the rocking chair where the librarian usually reads to the students.  Will funny and wonderful books ever be shared with the students again? 
Eddie and Aunt Min have to save the library!  With the juice of one blueberry, three small sticky notes, and determination, Eddie writes a word on three sticky notes and places them where the students, Miss Grischer, and Principal Steadman can spot them.  This is the start of a support for the Ferny Creek Elementary Library from both students, parents, and former students who learned to enjoy a book! 
This book is a sweet, literary treat that will remind readers of Charlotte's Web by E.B. White where the spider solves the problem with the most perfect words woven in her web.  For fans of author Geronimo Stilton, Mouse Overboard! will entertain readers as the mouse family follows the path that Vasco da Gama took as he made his exciting discoveries.  These books prove that even if you are small, you can make big changes in this world.  All of the read alike titles are ideal for grades three to five as both independent reads or read aloud stories. 

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Monday, February 05, 2018

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

11 BirthdaysCan you imagine reliving the same day over and over and over again?  That's exactly what happens to Amanda and Leo, best friends who happen to share the same birthday, in the book 11 Birthdays.  Sadly, on their tenth birthdays, they have a disagreement that results in a year-long separation.  On their eleventh birthdays, something really weird happens - they keep repeating the day over and over.  At first they don't realize that it's happening to the other person too, but when they do, they go on many adventures trying to unravel the mysterious time loop that they've been caught up in.

At first, you think this story is realistic fiction (I did!), but before long you realize that this book is  fantasy, complete with an enchantress named Angelina who has a very unusual birthmark on her cheek.

11 Birthdays is mostly about friendship, but it's also about family, mystery, fantasy, and FUN!  The story keeps you wondering just how, or even if, they are going to break the spell.  You don't find out until the very end what's going to happen, so this book is very hard to put down once you start reading.  I guarantee you'll start wondering how you would feel if you were caught in this weird never-ending time loop. 

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