Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm a week behind on my reviews because of being sick, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading.  I'm actually up to 57 books so far this year.  In fact Goodreads has suggested that I increase my reading goal from 120.  LOL  I don't anticipate being able to keep up this pace all year, so I might just wait and see before I increase my goal. 

Anyway, this is just some of what I've been reading lately...

In my quest to understand the fascination of DOAWK, I read this non-fiction book based on the movie.

The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary by Jeff Kinney
This is a good non-fiction read about how a movie is made.  It goes into detail for every aspect of the movie making process.  Fans of DOAWK will enjoy this behind the scenes look at the movie and those who want to know more about the movie making process will enjoy it for its facts. A much better, less offensive read than the DOAWK books the movie is based on.

And I'm still in pursuit of a series to replace DOAWK, so I tried out this book:

Stick Dog by Tom Watson
Not much of a story line, but a quick read.  Younger readers will want to read it because it's a "chapter book" that is "big."  Still a better story than DOAWK, but I don't think upper elementary students will be all that into it.

And then this one...

Shredderman by Wendelin Van Draaren
Nolan is a fifth grader who gets picked on by a bully named Bubba.  Actually, Bubba picks on everyone, even kindergarteners.  Teachers don't seem to notice his behavior, which to me is unbelievable.  How can you not know that a fifth grader cut someone's hair in class or that he flipped a whole table of lunch trays belonging to kindergarteners?  In real life, there would be so many parents complaining to the administration that this kid would for sure be in an alternative school.  But in this story, Bubba gets away with his behavior and Nolan has had enough.  Their teacher, Mr. Green, has assigned the class a project, designing a newspaper page.  Nolan, being the super smart kid in the class, decides to make a website about Bubba exposing him as a bully.  He secretly takes pictures of Bubba caught in the act of bullying others and posts these pictures along with a picture of Bibbua's butt on a website he calls  He also adds jokes about Bubba.  All of this adds up to a big old case of cyber bullying, and Mr. Green figures out that Nolan is the mastermind behind it. Mr. Green could use this as a teachable moment, acknowledging that Bubba's behavior is awful, but that making fun of him online with potential worldwide public humiliation, isn't the answer.  Instead, he tells Nolan that his solution to his bully problem was creative.  He barely touches on a lesson when he suggests that Nolan use the site to write about the good things that others do, but it was such a tiny point in the story that if that was the message the author was trying to get out, she failed...epically.  Nolan gets no reprimand for his behavior and doesn't even seem to feel remorse for creating the website.  The book could have used a few more chapters to have Nolan change his website and show that he had learned something.  In the end, the bullied hero of this story ended up being the bully who hero-ized himself.   I had high hopes for this series to be a good replacement for the DOAWK series which I loathe because the main character is so not a good role model for kids and doesn't change at all into a better person by the end of any of the books.  But this book ended up being just as bad as all the DOAWK books.  Very disappointing.  I won't be recommending this book to any of my patrons.

So a book about a bully led me to this book...

How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying by Scott Starkey
I gave this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would have given it 4 stars if it wasn't so long.  It really drug out waaaaaay too much.  But the overall storyline was a good one.  The hero, Rodney,  who is a self-admitted coward, gets to win over the bully without ever really fighting him.  Well, actually there are several bullies in the story, but he never fights a single one.  He is like the luckiest kid in the universe the way everything ends up working out for him.  I do wish he had told the truth to his friends about how everything actually happened, at least by the end of the story.  And I wasn't too fond of the extremely mean teacher character.  Teachers get enough of a bad wrap without being made the villain in a book.  And the book is written by a teacher!  That really surprised me.  I can only assume he made Mrs. Lutzkraut so over the top evil that it was poking fun of how kids see teachers.  But kids will like that Rodney triumphs not only over his bullies, but also over his mean old teacher...or does he?  Read the book to find out.

This Means War!  By Ellen Wittlinger
This is a great book to read and discuss similarities in today's world.  I liked that it was fictional, but there were some historical facts mixed in.  It would make a great book for a book club.  It's very much like a girl version of the movie Stand by Me.  It reminds of that 90's movie Now and Then that stars Melanie Griffith, Rita Wilson, Demi Moore and Rosie O'Donnell growing and their younger character selves growing up in the 1970's.   .  

Starring Jules (As Herself)  by Beth Ain
Super cute chapter book that second and third graders will love.  Jules has just broken up with her best friend and is looking for a new one when a new student, Elinor arrives.  Jules thinks the two of them would make perfect BFFs. But in the meantime, her spunkiness has gotten her a shot at a mouthwash commercial.  That's right!  She's gonna be a star! What will her ex-best friend Charlotte "Stinkerton" Pinkerton think of that? This book reminds me a bit of Junie B., but more grown up, and maybe a little of Molly Lou Melon in Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon.  This book is all about feeling good about who you are and not caring what other people think of you.  I can see this being popular with first, second, and third grade girls.  Can't wait to read the next book in the series!

Fern Vally: A Collection of Short Stories by Aileen Stewart
This book was actually sent to me by the author to review.  It arrived with a bookmark and sticker to match the book.  Super cute.  This is a collection of short stories about animals who live in Fern Valley. Each story highlights a different animal family that lives in Fern Valley.  Throughout the book, the young animals face problems most young kids do, but everything works out in the end, usually with the animals learning a valuable lesson.  It is a good read for younger students, kindergarten and first grade, but students in older grades may find it a bit juvenile.

Source                                  Source

Jewel Thieves, book 1 and 2 by Hope McLean
I picked up these two books at the last Book Fair.  They are the first in a four book set.  In the first book we meet the Jewels, a group of girls at a private school who are on the school's academic team.  Although they are only sixth graders competing against older students, they have smoked their competition. Maybe a little too well.  Their arch rivals, the Atkinson Prep Rivals, have been caught lurking around their campus and mysterious show up wherever the Jewels are and their school's prized Martha Washington ruby necklace has gone missing.  Did the RIVALS swipe it?  In  the second book, the Jewels are in pursuit of yet another missing jewel in the Martha Washington jewel mystery and they still suspect that their rivals are behind the whole thing.  I found these stories exciting, but not very believable.  Young teenagers being able to pull off a jewel heist isn't very realistic, but it makes for a good story that third, fourth, and fifth graders will enjoy.

The Wedding Planner's Daughter by Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Poor Willa Havisham has never really been able to set up roots anywhere because her mom is always moving them around.  Willa's father died before she was born, but he was the love of her mother, Stella's,  life.  And because of this, her mother is afraid to love again.  Ironically, Stella is a wedding planner, a very sought after wedding planner, but she doesn't want Willa to be caught up in the fairy tale of wedding planning so she discourages her from having anything to do with the business.  But that doesn't stop Willa from playing matchmaker with her mom and her neighbor, Sam, who also just happens to be Willa's English teacher.  Sam and Stella hit it off right away and Willa is hopeful that their relationship will last, especially since Willa has finally found a best friend, Tina.   Will Stella be brave enough to stick out this romance or will she move Willa again?  This is a book for the young romantic.  It's mild enough for third graders and up.

President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston
Brianna Justice has had a goal since fourth grade, to become president of her fifth grade class, ever since she heard her hero, the famous chef Miss Delicious, give a speech about being the president of her fifth grade class.  Brianna also hopes to one day own her own bakery where she can sell her delicious cupcakes.  But at the beginning of her fifth grade year, it is decided that the person elected will become president of the whole fifth grade of the entire school and will decide how to spend the grade level's budget.  Brianna is even more determined to become president when a new girl, Jasmine Moon, shows up and begins to take away Brianna's friends and possibly her chance at being president of the whole fifth grade.  Will she succeed in meeting her goal or will Jasmine destroy her and her friendships?  This is a book about setting and reaching your goals, and what you have to do along the way to make sure that you reach them, but still being true to yourself. Appropriate for fourth grade and up.

Allie Finkley's Rules for Girls: Blast from the Past by Meg Cabot
The sixth book in this series, it follows fourth grader Allie Finkley on her very first field trip to a historic one-room school house with her fourth grade class and another fourth grade class from her former school where her ex-best friend, Mary Kay, attends.  Poor Allie has never gotten to go on a field trip.  Something always ended up happening like chicken pox, or her ex-best friend accidentally on purpose forgetting to turn in her permission slip. But she is determined to make it to this field trip and show her parents that she can be responsible at the same time.  Allie is the typical preteen who's into all the latest gadgets, but isn't allowed to have any of them until she proves herself responsible enough to have them, especially a cell phone, which is all Allie really wants. Will she be able to handle herself around her ex-best friend/arch enemy and still learn something on this field trip?  Read the book to find out.  I had not heard of this series before finding this book, but I think I will look into getting the first five books because it was a cute book that I think my third, fourth, and fifth graders would enjoy.

Confectionately Yours: Sugar and Spice by Lisa Papademetriou
This is the third book in the CY series and it's just as cute as the first two.  Hayley and her little sister are adjusting to life with divorced parents.  They are even kind of starting to like their dad's new girlfriend.  But when their mom starts to seem interested in dating again, things don't seem so hunky dory anymore.  And Artie, Haley's former best friend, isn't making school any easier.  She is stirring things up and getting into it with Haley's new best friend, Meghan.  Together the three somehow end up working together to create a school talent show. Will it go off as planned or is a recipe for disaster? Great for fourth graders and up.

Ruby's Slippers by Tricia Rayburn
Ruby Lee is about as out of touch with modern day technology as you can get. She's never heard of facebook, has only barely accessed the Internet at school much less downloaded a song from iTunes. So when this small town girl from rural Kansas moves with her mother to Florida to live her grandmother, Nana Dotte, in a ritzy neighborhood and attend the very techno advanced neighborhood school, Ruby is a bit shell-shocked. Not only is she leaving her very best friend, Gabby, but she is also leaving her very simple and understated life and replacing it with an unfamiliar fancy new one.  Her lack of technology know-how, combined with her out of style wardrobe make her the perfect target of ridicule in her new school.  But even dealing with the teasing at school is nothing compared to the tension between her mother and grandmother at home.  What happened to make her mother move away to Kansas and can the damage be repaired?

I found this book a bit unrealistic.  What middle schooler has NEVER been on the YouTube, not even at school?  And her grandmother teaches her preteen granddaughter how to be tech savvy?  What?!  While I am sure there are tech savvy grandmothers out there (even my own 84 year old grandmother has a facebook page), this one actually teaches classes at her country club.  All that aside, it was a decent read and I think fourth and fifth graders would enjoy reading it.

Pie by Sarah Weeks
Alice loves to bake pies with her Aunt Polly. And Polly is a really good baker.  She's won thirteen Blueberry Awards for her pies, the most ever won.  But when Aunt Polly unexpecantly passes away, her recipes might be gone forever. That doesn't stop someone from trying to find and steal her pie crust recipe, though.  Who is the mysterious burglar and does he or she know something everyone else doesn't about where the recipe is kept?  This book will keep you guessing and laughing too.  Appropriate for higher readers in third grade and up.

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
Elise is an orphan who lives with her uncle and aunt when her father passes away from cancer.  Before he dies, however, he writes 9 letters to her, one to be delivered on every birthday until she turns twelve.  In her final birthday letter, her father leaves her a clue which leads her to use a mysterious key she found a few days before hanging in her uncle's barn while playing with her life long best friend, Franklin.  The key unlocks one of eight rooms in her uncle's barn.. That room holds a message from her father, a message about life and about growing up, a lesson very timely for Elise who is finding it hard to adjust to life a middle schooler.  Elise is finding herself the victim of a bully, Amanda, who is also her locker buddy and seems to become very depressed.  She doesn't want to hang out with Franklin any more because she thinks he makes her look like a baby. She quits doing her homework and purposely begins to miss the bus to school so she can avoid Amanda.Will Elise find the other keys and what will the other rooms reveal?  Will she dump her best friend just so she won't get picked on at school?  Elise has a lot of hard lessons to learn.  This book didn't get a lot of high marks on Goodreads, but I really enjoyed it, especially because Elise totally changes by the end of the book.  Thank you ,Ms. LaFleur, for creating a character who actually learns something from her mistakes!  This book would be appropriate for fourth grade and up.

The Sorta Sisters by Adrain Folgelin
This was probably my favorite book out of all of those I reviewed in this post.  It reads like a classic Judy Blume novel so right away I like it.  Two very different girls who meet in the most unlikely of circumstances, through a mutual friend, and become friends by writing letters to each other.  Anna is an orphan who lives with a high school biology teacher, Ms. Johnette, who is in the process of trying to adopt her.  Mica lives on a fishing boat with her drunken father and is mostly looked after by her neighbors whom she calls Aunt Emma and Uncle Bert.  The girls exchange letters and share their love of Science by sending each other a little sample of something from their home in each letter.  Eventually both girls find other friends and at one point Mica all but stops writing to Anna.  Anna, who is used to the feeling of being abandoned, feels hurt, but is able to deal with it.  Does Mica still want to be Anna's friend? And will the two ever meet in person?   I was crying my eyes out by the end of the book...especially the last two sentences.  Loved it!  

Have you had any good reads lately?

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