Archive for the 'Chapter Books' Category



You Only Die Twice by Dan Gutman

The Genius Files #3: You Only Die Twice. By Dan Gutman. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. 304 pages.

Having not read any of Dan Gutman’s latest series, The Genius Files, I felt compelled to give the newest addition, You Only Die Twice a try. I have to admit, I made it about half way through the book and had to stop. I couldn’t take any more of the nonstop action, run-ins with bad-guys-maybe-turned-good-guys, undecipherable plot, and crazy (but real) tourist attractions. While certainly not my cup of tea, I can see the appeal for a broad set of readers. Kids will love all the things that drove me nuts reading the book — the fast pace, the plethora of bad guys, local “attractions,” and unfathomable death defying scenarios. This is the perfect recommendation for Gutman fans who have outgrown Miss Daisy is Crazy, but aren’t ready to settle into Honus and Me. The prompt to look up the travel routes mentioned in the book using Google Maps is a plus. For readers in 3rd-5th grades.

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Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

Road Trip. By Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen. Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House Children’s Books, 2013. 128 pages. $12.99

Like dogs? Love a good road trip? On a school bus? Add in a cast of colorful characters and you have the book Road Trip, a joint venture of Gary Paulsen and his son Jim. Dedicated to “all the dogs who make us better people,” Road Trip is in fact a homage to all that is good about dogs and our unique caretaking relationship with them. Narrated in part by Atticus, the family Border Collie, we are treated to a special a dog’s eye view of the goings on complete with his insightful editorial comments. The first person narration of Ben holds up well in the comparison to his beloved canine.  Best read snuggled up next to a furry friend. For 4th to 6th grade readers.

Authors Galore

Its been a week filled with writers and discussions of writing! Thanks to my friends at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL, Clare Vanderpool came to speak to the 4th and 5th graders at my school. Ms. Vanderpool was promoting her recently released book, Navigating Early.

Navigating Early is the quest of two boys, Early Auden and Jack Baker. The boys don’t quite fit in at their Maine boarding school and when a school holiday leaves them to fend for themselves, they set off on the Appalachian Trail to discover the great black bear. A second, parallel, quest is featured in the book. Early, being a math wiz, has created a story of pi. Not the number, per se, but of Polaris, nicknamed Pi. Vanderpool’s ability to weave the two narratives into a cohesive whole is nothing short of masterful. I was spellbound by her practice of the craft — multiple story lines and nuanced characters brought to like with beautiful descriptions and authentic dialogue. It doesn’t get any better than Navigating Early.

Several weeks ago, I reviewed Todd Hasak-Lowy’s novel 33 Minutes. The launch party was held on the weekend at The Book Stall. I wanted to meet Mr. Hasak-Lowy. There were references in the book to locations that I was sure I knew from my high school years in Farmington Hills, MI. Sure enough, Todd graduated from the same high school I attended. Comparing notes on his setting was great fun!  The reasons I liked 33 Minutes still hold and I enjoyed hearing Todd describe the writing process for the novel. Using such a narrow time frame to tell the story is not all that common, maybe even unique.

I enjoyed the week immersed in books and talk of writing. Thank goodness for the lingering warm feelings it created as we settle in for a cold week here in the Chicago area.

 

 

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. 224 pages.

33 Minutes and counting until Sam Lewis has his date with destiny. Or at least a confrontation at recess with his former best friend Morgan Sturtz. The likely outcome? Sam’s butt will be kicked. But Sam is saved by the bell — actually a food fight followed by a fire alarm, but who’s keeping track? Moments of 33 Minutes are laugh-out-loud funny and yet, there is a certain poignancy to Sam’s dilemma as he navigates his middle school world. Hasak-Lowy creates a nuanced bully/bullied relationship, with Sam understanding he has some culpability in his situation and its resolution. The book will have broad appeal — beginning with readers who have exhausted the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise and are looking for something equally funny, but a little meatier. For 4th to 6th grade readers.

Mr. Terupt Falls Again by Rob Buyea

Mr. Terupt Falls Again. By Rob Buyea. Delacorte Press, 2012. $16.99

Anyone who read Because of Mr. Terupt wanted to be in his class… the adults included. The masterful teacher with amazing insights into his students is back for 6th grade along with his seven narrators. Following the format of the first book, the student voices relate the trials, tribulations, challenges, and joys of the school year including a special celebration. Sequels don’t often surpass the original, but this one just might! For 5th to 8th grade readers.

A Smidgen of Sky by Diana Dorisi Winget

A Smidgen of Sky. By Dianna Dorisi Winget. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 208 pages. $16.99

Piper Lee DeLuna misses her dad. He’s been missing for four years and thought to be dead in a plane crash. Piper’s mom has plans to marry again and Piper will get not only a step-father but a cranky step-sister in the deal. Piper comes up with an ingenious plan to get the wedding called off. A tragedy is narrowly averted and Piper realizes how much she cares for all of the people in her life. A notable effort by newcomer Dianna Dorisi Winget. Suitable for 4th to 7th grade readers.

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.

 

Unstoppable by Tim Green

Unstoppable. By Tim Green. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012/ 352 pages. $16.99
It’s all about luck; some people have it and some don’t, and Harrison definitely doesn’t. When Harrison rebels against the abuse in his foster home, he fears things will get even worse. But it all turns around when he goes to live with the Kelly’s. Not only do the Kelly’s desperately want a child, Coach Kelly’s football team can use a player of Harrison’s size and strength. A routine doctor’s visit leads to a life-threatening diagnosis for Harrison. Major Bauer arrives at the Kelly’s to supervise Harrison’s rehab and in the process, restores his hope. Not only is Harrison unstoppable, so is Tim Green, as he offers another winner to his middle grade readers. Suitable for readers in 4th to 7th grades.

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.


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