Archive for the 'Chapter Books' Category

DK Adventures: Horse Club by Patricia J. Murphy

DK Adventures: Horse Club. By Patricia J. Murphy. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 2014. 128 pages. $16.99/hardcover and $5.99/paperback

Saddle up, readers and get ready to enjoy a rollicking good time at the Paddock Promises Horse Academy and Stables! Emma, her sister Amanda and their friends from Horse Club go to riding camp over winter break. While not without incident, their camp experience fulfills their wildest dreams, including the sisters pulling off a not-to-be-believed special trick at the Horse Show-and-Tells before a stunned audience of family and friends.

The text is peppered with a great deal of factual information on horses including riding, equipment, and breeds. For the most part, this information is placed at the end of the chapters, allowing readers to learn along with the riders. Occasionally however, these spreads are placed within the chapter, interrupting the flow of Patricia J. Murphy’s galloping narrative.

Horse Club, as the newest entry in Dorling Kindersley’s DK Adventure series, deserves a top billing all its own. Murphy, author of over 150 children’s books, has created a sure fire winner for the middle grade set. Not just for horse lovers, this title has appeal for developing readers in 2nd-4th grades.

Counting by 7’s

Counting by 7’s. By Holly Goldberg Sloan. Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group USA Inc.), 2013. 384 pages. $16.99

Willow Chance is brilliant. She has an encyclopedia knowledge of medical conditions and plants.. She thinks of the world as a pattern of 7’s. An outlier? Definitely. But she fits right in with her warm and supportive, albeit small, family. Then Willow ’s life is changed in a heartbeat. Her parents die in a tragic accident and she faces the very real possibility of being swept into the foster care system.  Friends she didn’t know existed step up to provide her a place to live and a buffer against the system. In the spirit of Polacio’s Wonder and Lord’s Rules, Sloan opens our world to the possibilities of those who are differently abled. She writes with the same clarity and strength that she bestows upon Willow, who you’ll come to admire for her resiliency and determination. Counting by 7’s is achingly sad, funny, and heartwarming. A wonderful book for grades 4 and up.

Book 1: The Hypnotists: Hypnotize Me

The Hypnotists: Hypnotize Me. By Gordon Korman. Scholastic Press, 2013. 240 pages. $16.99

Look into my eyes… go to your nearest independent bookstore and buy a copy of Gordon Korman’s newest book Hypnotize Me. When you awake, you’ll remember all of the details and be telling your friends about this great new series. Korman has created a vivid and mesmerizing (sorry, I couldn’t help it!) world for hypnotists. Jackson Opus wonders why things go awry when he looks at some kids in a certain way. It turns out he’s descended from not one, but two, powerful families of hypnotists. As he learns to control his power, he realizes that not everyone has his best interests at heart as Dr. Mako seeks to exploit his powers to influence the results of a national election. Non-stop action will put even the most reluctant of readers in a trance. Korman has a winner here. Readable, thrilling, full of twists and turns, this book will appeal to readers in grades 4 to 8.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. By Chris Grabenstein. Random House, 2013. 304 pages. $16.99

Disclaimer! I’m an elementary school librarian. I LOVED this book. I’m trying to think of how I can use it in my school library program to turn kids on to the magic of the Dewey Decimal System. But let me back up a minute….

Mr. Lemoncello, a board game magnate, bequeaths his hometown of Alexandriaville the funds for a new library. This is not just any library. It has all of the latest and greatest, not-yet-to-be-imagined-in-the-real-world, features. A drawing is held and twelve seventh graders are selected to celebrate the library’s opening by spending the night in the library. Their challenge is to find their way out. Relying on their game-playing skills, knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System, and applying old-fashioned logic, the 12-year-olds battle each other to win the grand prize. Conflict arises, allegiances form, egos are bruised, and friendships are formed as the puzzle is solved. Grabenstein has crafted an innovative story, but it requires a certain knowledge of and appreciation of how libraries are organized. Readers may not have that fascination and/or interest and that could narrow the appeal for this book. Hand-selling the title to library lovers will be key.  Perfect for bibliophiles in grades 4-7.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan

Bluffton. By Matt Phelan. Candlewick Press, 2013. 240 pages. $22.99

Summer in Bluffton…. On the shores of Lake Michigan in the early 1900’s,  a community of vaudeville performers summers near Muskegon Michigan. Notable is the Keaton family, including young Buster. Henry Harrison much prefers playing baseball and swimming with these transient members of the community to helping out in his father’s store. The friends grow up and move on… but Henry will have the memories of these Bluffton summers. Matt Phelan takes a little known story about a little known town and brings both alive. Using watercolor panels, Phelan seems to innately know what the scene calls for in order to evoke an emotional response from the reader. The dialogue is sparse with his artwork often carrying the storyline for a series of pages. The palette of summer colors is as refreshing as a dip in Lake Michigan. This book, like Phelan’s award winning Storm in the Barn is a perfect entre to the graphic novel genre. It’s time to summer in Bluffton! For readers and artists in grades 4 and up.

My Weird Writing Tips by Dan Gutman

My Weird Writing Tips. By Dan Gutman. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. 154 pages. $16.99 (Hardcover) and $5.99 (Paperback)

What’s there not to love about Dan Gutman promoting writing using his popular My Weird School series. He starts with encouraging a good story, something Gutman know a little bit about. Next are basics of grammar, spelling and punctuation.  Topics are covered in the irreverent form you’d expect from a tie-in with the Weird School kids. Having said that, the message isn’t lost in the humor. While keeping the tone light and lively, Gutman drives home the point that the ability to communicate is vitally important. Teachers will enjoy incorporating sections the book into their writing lessons. Parents will want to have a copy left in their student’s homework spot. We can only hope the kids will pick them up. For grades 3-7.

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

After Iris. By Natasha Farrant. 272 pages. $16.99

Imagine having your twin die. And then imagine life going on. That, in a nutshell, is the story of After Iris by Natasha Farrant. Life for the Gadsby family goes on after the death of Iris, but things will never be the same for Flora, Jasmine, Twig and their parents. But most of all, life won’t be the same for Iris’ twin, Blue. Blue disengages from the family viewing them, as they grieve separately rather than together, through the lens of her movie camera. When Zoran, the Bosnian male au pair, and Joss the new-boy-next-door enter the scene, things can go either way. Will it be further disruption or a mending of the family? Farrant has crafted a poignant story about the fragile emotions that envelope a family as they cope with what life has wrought. At times funny, at times sarcastic, at times heartfelt, all-in-all this is an engaging read. For grades 4-8.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Hold Fast. By Blue Balliett. Scholastic Press, 2013. 288 pages. $17.99

Early and Jubilation Pearl, along with their parents Dash and Summer, don’t have much in this world in the way of material goods, but they do have strong family bonds built on a love of words, language and books. That makes it all the more mysterious when Dash disappears, their apartment is ransacked, and their meager possessions destroyed. This event propels Mom Summer with Early and Jubilation onto the Chicago shelter system. What transpires next is a testament to the resourcefulness and the resilience of the human spirit as Early sets out to solve the puzzle of Dash’s disappearance. The clues are there – she just needs to solve them.  This might just be Blue Balliett’s best work to date, inspiring compassion for those who must traverse the world of the homeless. Suitable for readers in 4th -8th grades.

Screech Owls Series by Ray MacGregor

The Night They Stole the Stanley Cup and Mystery at Lake Placid. By Roy MacGregor. Tundra Books, 2013. 176 pages and 272 pages, respectively.  $8.95

They Shoot! They Score! The Screech Owls are back in full force in this reissue of the popular Canadian hockey series. Authored by award-winning hockey writer Roy MacGregor, these books are spot on accurate with the thrills, chills and checks of youth hockey.  Add in a solid mystery and there’s no doubt, these books will be hits with a new audience.  Notable is the inclusion of girls who are offer exemplary skills and sportsmanship. Having noted this forward step in gender equity, I was puzzled by the boys’ attempts to view adult movies while at the hotel and the comparison of the hockey rink markings to female anatomy. This female hockey fan is not amused by boorish “boys will be boys” behavior. Maybe those changes will be in the next reissue. Suitable for sports fans in 4th to 7th grades.

Todd Hasak-Lowy Author Visit

Thanks to The Book Stall in Winnetka, I was able to host Todd Hasak-Lowy, author of 33 Minutes, at my school. He held the rapt attention of 125 hoping-for-a-snow-day fifth graders, no small feat in and of itself, with stories of his own middle school years and how those experiences became part of the 33 Minutes narrative. Mr. Hasak-Lowy’s entire presentation was as fast-paced and quick-witted as his writing. His ability to engage students in the conversation was remarkable and even that rogue questioner, whose question is meant to get a few chuckles from his peers, was acknowledged and his question legitimized.  Of great delight to the teachers and students, was the discussion of revisions. Mr. Hasak-Lowy read a portion of the first draft and the comparable section of the published text and led the students in an insightful critique of the two versions. So open another tab on your browser and send off an email to Todd Hasak-Lowy at hasaklowy@gmail.com .  Schedule a visit for your school. You and your students will not be disappointed.

February 26, 2013 at Roosevelt School, Park Ridge, IL

February 26, 2013 at Roosevelt School, Park Ridge, IL


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