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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Titanic: Voices from the DisasterDid you know the Titanic sank over 100 years ago?  I am a huge history buff on the Titanic, which is a topic that continues to haunt and thrill most of us to this day.  So when I saw this title sitting on the 2016 Caudill Nominee shelf, I knew I had to read it.  Titanic:  Voices from the Disaster is the retelling of the passengers and crew members' stories that were on the maiden voyage of the luxurious ocean liner.  Author Deborah Hopkinson pieces together the story of that fateful night in April by telling it through the eyes of the survivors.  Their stories are so vividly told that I felt the goosebumps rising on my skin as the Titanic was sinking into the water, leaving the survivors in the freezing surroundings wondering if anyone was coming to their rescue.  Luckily the Carpathia arrived to save them or we may have never learned the true story of the sinking.  The book includes photographs from the ship, timelines and letters from passengers to their families featured in the book to make the story even more gripping.  If you love to learn about the Titanic, definitely put this book on your list to read!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Little Dog, Lost by Marion Dane Bauer

Little Dog LostOne great boy comes up with an idea. That boy comes up with a plan all by himself about how to implement that idea. That boy is Mark and he wants a place where dogs can run free and not have to be on a leash. Mark doesn't even have a dog and he still came up with the idea. However, his mother just happens to be the mayor of the small town of Erthly. She explains that the town has more urgent needs to use the town's budget.

This is one of those books that exemplifies the development of inter-generational bonds.  Who really is lost or longing: the stray dog, Mark with no dog or father,  the shy caretaker of  a mansion? There are no chapter titles. The free verse numbers each "verse" in a paw print. The next verse does not start on the next page. The paw prints just continue where the last verse finished. Dog lovers unite. You don't have to protest. You won't get lost reading this unique book. Don't laugh, but the only cat in this book is named "Fido".

* 2016 Bluestem Award Nominee *

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel by Jess Keating

How to Outswim a Shark without a SnorkleAna Wright is back in a new adventure.  It's the summer before her eighth grade year.  She's still missing her friend Liv who moved to New Zealand and she still likes Kevin, her brother's best friend.  Ana is finally getting used to living in the zoo, where her family moved at the end of the school year.  Her grandfather, a celebrity in the animal world, has designed a new marine tank to open at the zoo and he has enlisted Ana's help in getting it ready to open to the public.  Ana had made a great presentation about reptiles in the last book that turned her into a mini-celebrity.  Ana agrees to take on this new mission before she finds out she has to work with her nemesis, Ashley.

I absolutely love this series!  Ana is such a great character.  She is in those awkward tween years where you want to be a kid sometimes and other times you want to be seen as an adult.  From big firsts like kissing, leg shaving, shopping for that perfect bath suit, to romantic woes of having a crush on a guy who may or may not like you, to totally having a crush on a gorgeous college student who is WAY too old for you, Ana is experiencing them all in this book.  She also has to work through the issue of mean girls, friendships and figuring out the person she wants to become. 

When I reached the end of this book, I totally turned to the last page to see if there was going to be more in this series.  Good news is that another installment will be out in October.  I will be totally racing you to it once it arrives on our shelf!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7s7 Reasons to read this 2016 Rebecca Caudill nominee:

1)  To meet Willow Chance, a 12-year-old genius who happens to be obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions.  She relaxes by counting by 7's.  You need to join her on a journey you will never forget and see how she affects the lives of seven people.
2)  To meet Willow's parents, who adopted Willow as a baby and love her for all her oddities.
3)  To meet Dell Duke, the councilor who is assigned to Willow when the school principal thinks she cheated on a state test because she got a perfect score (she's a genius, not a cheater!). 
4)  To meet Pattie, Mai, and Quang-ha Nguyen, a Vietnamese family who befriend Willow during a time in her life where she needs tremendous support.
5)  To meet Jairo Hernandez, the cab driver who swears Willow is his good luck charm.
6)  To find out what tragedy suddenly changes Willow's world forever.
7)  To find out that when you care about other people, it takes the spotlight off your drama.  Believe in family and believe in miracles.

Beautiful book.  Totally recommend a box of tissues to have on standby (but you will laugh too!).  If you loved Wonder and Out of My Mind, you need to read this story!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

May B: A Novel by Caroline Starr Rose

May B.It is the nineteenth century in Kansas. Mavis Elizabeth Betterly is sent by her family to a homestead in order to help earn a little extra money. She will miss school and her family. The "soddy" is so small that she can barely turn around in it and there is no flooring.The bride she tries to help can't stop complaining and she eventually leaves a note for her husband.  The husband reads the note and immediately goes looking her. This leaves May B all alone and abandoned. The silence and the wind are almost deafening. It gives her time to reflect on her dyslexia. She knows that she is not stupid. She has time to practice reading and time to reflect on how her teachers and classmates have treated her. She has time to formalize survival skills. How would you catch a fish with bare hands? How would you keep safe from wolves? How would you endure rainstorms and a snow blizzard?

This novel-in-verse really gives you a sense about what this child is going through. Her high regard for her brother is one of the things that keeps her going. One of her goals is to be a teacher. Maybe May B will make it. Please take notice of the dedication. The author really has been a teacher. She dedicates this books to the students that she didn't understand and to those that she could and should  have done better by.

2016 Rebecca Caudill Award Nominee

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The 100-Year Old Secret (The Sherlock Files #1) by Tracy Barrett

The 100-Year Old SecretMeet Xena and Xander Holmes, descendants of the great detective Sherlock Holmes!  The brother and sister pair have just moved from the States to London, England because of their parents' jobs.  They receive a note that has disappearing ink inviting them to a meeting of The Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives.  It's here that they inherit their great, great, great grandfather's notebook of unresolved cases.  The book leads the two siblings on a hunt to find a painting that has been missing for a hundred years; a case which Sherlock was unable to solve. 

An interesting mystery series with this title being nominated for the 2016 Bluestem Award..  Xander has a photographic memory, much like the main character in the Cam Jansen series.  It was refreshing how a brother and sister can actually like each other and enjoy spending time together.  I learned some British food names like scones and clotted cream, which is really a biscuit spread with soft cream.  Also the word subway in England means a passage under a street instead of an underground train.  If you are looking for a mystery series that keeps you guessing all the way until the end, this would be the series for you. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle

Mountain DogFree verse is the best way to tell this story. Tony is sent to live with his uncle; his mother is in prison for her part in a dog-fighting system. Moving from Los Angeles to high in the Sierra Nevada mountains is quite an adjustment for Tony. Every Sunday, Tony and Uncle Tio go to Cowboy Church where all dogs and horses are welcomed. Tony adjusts with the help of his uncle and his search-and-rescue dog. The chapters alternate between "Tony the boy" and "Gabe the dog". The patient and insightful Uncle Tio guides Tony through his rough times. It takes time for Tony to heal his dislike for math. He associates numbers with pit bull fighting. Tony has to take time to figure out his mother's behavior and her own history of immigration. Tony is a quick learner; he even hides for a search-and-rescue team. So many interesting facts about science and nature make this book extra special. Tony is the one who is searching and he certainly is being rescued.

2016 Rebecca Caudill Nominee

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