Archive for the 'Backlist' Category

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot.  By Anna Branford. Simon and Schuster, 2012. 112 pages. $14.99

It’s great to be a third grade reader these days! Joining Piper Reed, Clementine, Mallory and Penelope Crumb is newcomer Violet Mackeral! Smart and spunky with a well-grounded family, Violet lives by her Theory of Finding Small Things. Violet applies it to her current desire, the small china bird that she sees at the market. One thing leads to another and Violet hatches her extraordinary plan. This is the first book in a series perfect for 2nd to 4th grade readers.

Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon

Joshua Dread. By Lee Bacon. Random House Children’s Books, 2012. 272 pages. $16.99

Middle school is pressure-filled enough and when your parents are supervillians, bound and determined to destroy the world, a normal life is nearly impossible. Add to this Joshua’s own emerging superpower and the appearance at school of Sophie Justice, daughter of superhero Captain Justice. A supervillian turns against his fellow villains, presenting an unlikely opportunity for Stacy and Joshua, with support from Captain Justice, to come to the defense of the supervillians. Witty and fast-paced, Joshua Dread will appeal to fantasy readers and superhero fans. A sequel can’t come out quick enough. Suitable for readers in 4th to 7th grade.


Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Ungifted. By Gordon Korman. Balzer & Bray, 2012. 288 pages, $16.99.
Donovan is a most unlikely candidate for a gifted program. However, when there’s a paperwork mix-up and a prank that Donovan needs to distance himself from, he’s not complaining. With proud parents looking on, Donovan makes a go it at the gifted school, making friends and offering surprising contributions to the class. Presented with typical Korman wit, this is a celebration of the giftedness in everyone. Suitable for 4th to 7th grade readers.

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

The Year of the Book. By Andrea Cheng. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. 146 pages. $5.99
Many of us have taken solace in books during times of trouble. The same is true for Anna. As elementary school friendships and alliances shift, she finds refuge in classics such as A Wrinkle in Time and My Side of the Mountain. While the books provide some insights into her world, ultimately, it is up to Anna to find out what makes friends, friends. Delightfully illustrated by Abigail Halpin, Anna will find many friends among the elementary school set. Suitable for 3rd to 5th grade readers.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

Summer of the Gypsy Moths. By Sara Pennypacker. Balzer & Bray, 2012. 275 pages. $15.99

Stella and Angel couldn’t be more different. Both in foster care, they live with Stella’s Aunt Louise who manages summer vacation cottages on Cape Cod. When tragedy strikes, the girls learn to pull together in unimaginable ways. While they don’t always make the best decisions, the girls have the best of intentions, show amazing resourcefulness, and demonstrate that they are true survivors. Sara Penypacker, author of the Clementine books, has elevated creating memorable female characters to an art form and both Stella and Angel will stay with the reader for some time. Students looking for a book in the adventure/survival genre will find this an unlikely, but most satisfying, option. Suitable for 4th- 7th grade readers.

Rope Burn by Jan Siebold

Rope Burn. By Jan Siebold. Albert Whitman & Company, 1998. 82 pages. $5.99 (paperback)
Recently re-released, Rope Burn, is certainly worth another look. Richard’s not especially fond of writing. Especially when Mr. Best assigns writing about proverbs and how they reflect on student’s lives. There is too much material in Richard’s 11-year-old life. His parents have recently divorced, he’s moved to a new neighborhood and school, he’s just made friends with James, and he’s trying to conquer his fear of rope climbing, and that’s just the beginning. Through the series of assignments, Richard begins to address the uncertainties in his life. Like Siebold’s Doing Time Online, this short book quickly engages readers, making it perfect for those who struggle or who would prefer not to read. Each chapter begins with a proverb and can stand on its own as a short story allowing for contemporary connections to traditional literature. Suitable for grades 4-6.

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli. Balzer & Bray, 2012. 352 pages. $15.99
Growing up is awfully hard to do and especially so if you are twins. Jake makes the first move to expand his social circle outside of his twin, Lily, leaving her adrift and bereft. Lily turns to her beloved grandfather Poppy for company and consolation. He encourages Lily to build her own life separate from her twin and she proceeds with fits and starts, and ultimately succeeds. Meanwhile, Jake, under the influence of peer pressure, allows Ernie, the new kid in town to be bullied. Jake realizes that he has hurt people he cares about and sets out to make things right with both Ernie and Lily. With Jake and Lily alternating the narration, readers get both sides of the challenges of their growing up, but not apart. Newbery winner, Jerry Spinelli, has created memorable characters and a credible story line. Suitable for 3rd-6th grade readers.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie by J. Patrick Lewis

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems. By J. Patrick Lewis. Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012. 40 pages. $16.99

Ten years after J. Partick Lewis dabbled with poetry and math in Arithmetickle, he’s back at it again in Edgar Allen Poe’s Pie. Inspired by works of famous poets such as Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes, Children’s Poet Laureate Lewis, will have readers reaching for their pencil as they work to decipher the “poetry problems.” If stumped, answers appear on the lower corner of each two-page spread. A clever combination of poems and math, this book is sure to please both the word lovers and number crunchers in the crowd. Be sure to hand a copy to both math and language arts teachers to enhance and enrich their students’ experiences. Back matter includes short biographies of parodied poets. Suitable for grades 4-6.

Homer by Elisha Cooper

Homer. By Elisha Cooper. Greenwillow Books, 2012. 32 pages. $16.99

Every once in a while, you find a picture book that is so lovely you just have to share it with everyone you know. Homer, by Elisha Cooper, is one such book. It is simply, the story of a dog, Homer, and a family. The dog is older. The family is active. The dog is invited to participate, but politely declines, preferring to observe his family from the comfort of the beach house porch. Family members relate the day’s activities to Homer.  He is happy. Contentment resonates through the simplicity of the watercolor and pencil illustrations. Minimal text carries maximum impact as Homer shares thoughts with his family, “No, I have everything I want … I have you.” Anyone who has ever owned an older dog will appreciate Homer’s grace. This is a perfect book to curl up and read, especially if there’s a dog nearby. Suitable for ages 3 – 7, but perfect for everyone.


Don’t Miss! Wonder by P.J. Palacio

Wonder. By P.J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 315 pages. $15.99

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives” says Auggie Pullman (p.231). Ten-year old Auggie certainly deserves one! Born with a facial abnormality and persevering through more than twenty surgeries, Auggie has endured more than his share of stares and comments. Enrolling at Beecher Prep, Auggie embarks on middle school after being homeschooled. Coping with being the new kid, trying to make friends, and the logistics of the lunchroom are daunting enough, but when school bullying boils over to the community it challenges Auggie, his family, and his friends in a way they never imagined. Told though numerous points of view, readers learn how Auggie impacts those in his world, encouraging empathy and compassion. Fans of Cynthia Lord’s Rules and Nora Baskin’s Anything But Typical will find much to relate to in Auggie’s story. Teachers will find many opportunities for rich and rewarding classroom discussions. Suitable for readers in 4th to 8th grades.

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