Told in fragments, Judith's story slowly comes together leaving you on the edge of your seat until the reveal. A mystery mixed with romance and findin...moreTold in fragments, Judith's story slowly comes together leaving you on the edge of your seat until the reveal. A mystery mixed with romance and finding ones identity. A unique book.(less)
*This book took me a while to get into, but once I did, I had to know how it ended. I loved the unique narrator and the fairy tales throughout. I will...more*This book took me a while to get into, but once I did, I had to know how it ended. I loved the unique narrator and the fairy tales throughout. I will say half way through the book changes directions drastically and it surprised me, but the ending redeems and weirdness about the change. overall a beautifully written book full of mystery.(less)
Now, this is not a "normal" Chris Crutcher book, but like all of his books, it is raw, true, and sports plays a role of some sort. And this one is SO full of suspense for the last 25%. It is a hold your breath, read as quickly as you can kind of book there at the end. (I do wish that this suspense had been spread out to 50% of the book. This would have helped the pacing a bit and I think it would have given Crutcher more time to give information into the crime. Although the quick pacing at the end adds to the suspense, I think spreading it out a bit would have kept the suspense and given more time to delve further into the bad guys and the mystery.)
I, personally, really loved how he chose to tell the story in 3rd person. Although it doesn't give as much insight into one character, it gives you a little bit of insight into each one, and as you are trying to figure out what is going one, it is really fun to hear from all the different characters. (Some readers and reviewers have stated that having the multiple 3rd person point of views made it so the reader didn't really know anyone, but I think it actually helped me get to know everyone a little bit. It also allows for the reader to get snippets of not just the mystery but of the characters allowing you to build the complete character in your head.)
Another brilliant think Crutcher did was include foreshadowing scenes right at the beginning of the novel that did not make sense until the end and then I had to go back and read it. Well done!
Also, if you ever need a mentor text on complex sentence structure or descriptive language--Crutcher is for you!
Mostly, though, this book will find its home in teens' hands. It will be as loved as other Crutcher books.
We flagged: "He hits the water, involuntarily sucking air as the cold leaks in. The colder the better. He deserves this. Even so, he pees in self-defense, his only means to counter the ice-watery fingers creeping around his ribcage and into his crotch. He swims away from shore for about a hundred yards as his body heat warms the water inside the suit. He turns parallel to the shore and strokes, finding a candence he can hold over the next two hours. He knows how to play games to allay the monotony; fifty stroke hard, fifty strokes easy; a hundred strokes hard, fifty easy; a hundred-fifty hard, fifty easy, and on and on. An hour up and an hour back. He has taught himself to breathe on either side in order to keep the shore in sight and swim a relatively straight line. On this morning, working on zero sleep, he holds an even pace; no intervals. Just his sweet Hannah wedged in his frontal lobe. His gone Hannah." (p. 3-4) (less)
4.5 stars Wow. I am very reluctant to read “scary” books because I too often find that they rely too much on the scary and not enough on the writing. However, with Doll Bones, Holly Black was able to write a well-written middle grade novel with a good plot arc and characterization mixed with a lot of creepy. Within her “scary” book, Holly Black is able to capture a very awkward time in one’s life– middle school! –in a very realistic way. Her characters are believable, completely filled with the internal debate of growing up or staying a child a bit longer. Then, on top of her great middle grade story, she has included a completely creepy aspect of the story that I even had to put down a couple of times because I knew I was reading some creepy stuff too close to bedtime. (less)
After a frantic call from her grandmother about her grandad vanishing, Mia and her mother go to the seaside village home of her grandparents to help. Disconnected from everyone and without any clues in the vanishing, Mia finds herself walking on the beach often where she stumbles upon a diary on an abandoned fishing boat. Through the diary, she begins exchanging notes with a girl named Dee, a young girl who lives on a nearby island, who she instantly connects with. It is through these exchanges that Mia begins to notice some weird things and a new mystery opens up right in front of her.
I really like Mia’s voice. Her voice is so authentic teenager that it was like listening to an 8th grader telling me the story. I think this is key because I think it’ll help readers draw into the story since it is a mystery that slowly unravels. Hearing Mia tell it will mean that it is almost like hearing the story from a friend. I also thought that the whole idea behind the mystery was quite clever, but I can’t really talk about it because it would give away the ending! So, read and we’ll discuss.
This book was very hard to rate, because I figured out the mystery quite early on; however, I know that if I gave this to a book club of middle schoolers they would be predicting and trying to figure out the mystery the whole book until the reveal. The 3 stars is for me- the adult reader. I think a middle school reader would definitely give it at least 4 stars. It would keep them on the edge of their seats. (less)
Things I loved about this book: -Cop show allusions ("This is the city. Kalamazoo City. Population: 75,000. By day, it's bright, vibrant metropolis, the kind of city where dreams come true. It is a mecca of business, the arts, sports, and cuisine, and, at the center of it all, the gleaming facade of Pandini Tower, the jewel of Kalamazoo City. Those who don't live here dream of making it here. And those who do, well, they know that there's just no city like it. But it is a different city once the sun goes down. The criminal element, asleep by day, haunts certain dark corners at nigh. Especially the run-down old docks on the south side of town, perhaps the darkest corner of all." p. 1) -Puns (specifically animal puns) -The sly inclusion of forensics -Jarrett Krosoczka's illustrations -Um... Platypi are awesome! (Or is it platypuses just platypus?) Specifically Zengo and O'Malley who are the typical old cranky cop and young anxious rookie who team up together to fight the crime of Kalamazoo City. -The mystery aspect which allows the reader to be part of the police squad and can make predictions about what the outcome will be(less)
Portia is looking for her family, but ends up finding a place in the least likely places- a "freak show" touring around the midwest during Depression-era America. The author seamlessly intertwines Portia's story with the story of the traveling show even mixing up points of views and narrators during the story. Although it sounds like it should definitely not work, it does. And it does beautifully. This book is mostly about heart, family, and home. Portia's story is so enthralling and her transformation is amazing to be part of.
As I read this book, I found so many different places that could be mentor texts within the classroom. Hannah Barnaby's debut novel is not only a great example of literary, lyrical writing, it is also a novel that would definitely be useful for a reading mentor text. Since the story is so complex, it takes a strong reader to read it thus would be a great book to model comprehension with. As a writing mentor text, there are examples of exemplar writing throughout.
Read Together: Grades 9 and up
Read Alone: Grades 8 and up
Read With: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Snatch of Text: "The truck lurched uncertainly onto the dirt road indicated by the sign and quickly came to a fork - downhill, to the right, Portia saw a cluster of small wood cabins and, behind them, the apple trees. They were different than her apple trees. Hers had grown tall and sat heavy over her like a canopy, even now that she was thirteen. These were dwarfish, twisted, and gray. It was halfway through harvest time, and many of the trees stood bare as skeletons, reaching for the cold sky. Uphill, to the left, was a massive dark house with a sharp, staggered roof that looked like the teeth of some huge, mythical beast. Portia had no desire to get any closer, but Sophia, as usual, had other ideas." (p. 25)
Mentor Text for: Suspense, Predicting, Point of Views, Imagery, Attention Grabber, Vocabulary, Voice, Literary Writing, Setting
Writing Prompts: Don't judge a book by its cover does not only apply to books; it also applies to people. Think of a time when you judged a person by their cover and you were wrong. Connect this with Portia when she first arrived at the Wonder Show.
Topics Covered: Human Curiosities, Family, Loss, Loyalty, Relationships, Identity(less)
I love a book with a strong, smart female protagonist. It helps if the story is thoroughly entertaining as well. This book fits that mold. Farrah is nicknamed Digit because of her insane aptitude for numbers. She's never really fit in because of her brains, so when she went to a new school, she decided to hide her intelligence so she can hang out with the popular kids; however, she cannot completely block out her mind and ends up cracking a code to a terrorist plan. Now, she is FBI's only hope for stopping these criminals who are not afraid to kill others and die doing so. Now, she gets to embrace her genius and help save the world.
This book is one that will definitely find readers in many classrooms and has a great protagonist for girls to look up to.
Topics: Ecoterrorism, Fathers, Role Models, Geniuses, Fibonacci
Mentor text for: Grammar, Puns, Voice, Suspense
"I smiled, a little embarrassed, and started scanning the alley for nothing too, while I thought about my new favorite word: either. He could have just said, "I'm not just a pretty face." But he added either. Either can be an adjective (I could lean over and kiss either his neck or his lips), a pronoun (His neck or his lips? Either will do), or, like here, an adverb following a negative subordinate clause (I'm not just a pretty face either). I wondered if it could be a name. We could have a daughter and call her Either." (p. 54) (less)
What I Think: I am a big fan of twists on classic stories, fairy tales, etc. and this one was quite an interesting one. Dora is an orphaned, young lady who is trying to learn more about her past, so she goes searching for her biological father, Sherlock Holmes, only to find he is dead. But do not worry, Dora has her father's deductive genes which we learn quickly when she goes to another detective to help her solve her cousin's mystery. It is through this random meeting that mystery that becomes Secret Letters comes to light. My favorite part of this book is Dora. She is a strong, clever female character in a time when females were not supposed to be any of the such. On top of all this, she is observant, like her father, so her deductive reasoning skills are something to be jealous of. AND she is snarky. I love snarky girl characters mostly when it is exactly what they aren't supposed to be. Now, Peter Cartwright is not anything to shake your head at either. He sees that Dora is exactly the detective he needs to solve the mystery he is in charge of and puts faith into a woman when his senior partner shunned her. It is because of Peter that Dora gets to even be a detective.
Read Together: Grades 9 and up
Read Alone: Grades 9 and up
Read With: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens
Snatch of Text: "I really should have ended there. But I had discovered more about him, and he was staring at me now with such a look of baffled rage that I could not stop myself. "You were critical of my cousin from the first!" I continued furiously. "Why did you judge her like that and turn away? She never injured you. And yet the story of her old romance obviously upset you so much that you could not speak to her impartially. I wonder why? could it have something to do with the fresh imprint of the missing wedding bad upon your finger? You took the ring off less than a year ago, judging by the fair strip of skin above your knuckle. And yet, sadly, you aren't wearing mourning. I am very sorry for you, sir, and because I am not blind, or innocence, I will conclude that you are a good man who is very angry at some other lady who has badly wronged him." I had never experienced a silence like the one that followed that declaration." (p. 46-47)
Mentor Text for: Allusion, Deductive Reasoning, Dialogue, Snarky Humor
Writing Prompts: Read a Sherlock Holmes story and show how the plot arc, characters, deductive reasoning, and mystery are similar and/or different between the story and Secret Letters.
Topics Covered: Sherlock Holmes, Illicit Love, Deductive Reasoning, Writing in Code, Strong Woman Protagonist, Family, Victorian England(less)
A fun mystery! Jenny Johnson is right up there with Nancy Drew. In this story, Jenny along with her four friends, enter into a dangerous world of kidn...moreA fun mystery! Jenny Johnson is right up there with Nancy Drew. In this story, Jenny along with her four friends, enter into a dangerous world of kidnapping when they try to figure out who kidnapped their favorite singer. I think kids will find this mystery intriguing and will love trying to predict where the mystery will lead Jenny and her friends.
Read this today with one of my ESOL students. What great books for middle schoolers learning to read because they are short and low levels but don't l...moreRead this today with one of my ESOL students. What great books for middle schoolers learning to read because they are short and low levels but don't look babyish. I gave it a 2 for me, but it is definitely much higher for these students. (less)
3.5 stars We have all known the Cinderella story since we were little kids. Either through our parents telling it to us at bedtime or the Disney classic with Bipity-boppity-bo. And because this story has always been in our lives, we don't question much about it. But what happened in the castle before the ball? What happened after the ball? Where is Cinderella's other slipper? What is the prince like? All of a sudden, as I thought about it, I had so many questions that could be answered if someone else would tell the story. Now thanks to The Other Slipper, the spectacular adventure that we never knew happened.
Before I continue, I wanted to share a conversation I had just yesterday. Do we need to know the answers to questions? Yesterday at the Scholastic Warehouse sale, we got talking about prequels and if you should read them before the first book or after like the author wrote it. I really like prequels and sequels because even though I love having my own opinion on a book and predicting what I think is going to happen, but I also love hearing what the author had in mind. [And if you were wondering my opinion, I think you should read the prequel in the order that the author published it.]
So, if you are like me, you love fairy tale retellings because it goes deeper into the fairy tale. The Other Slipper takes the very story of Cinderella that we know and shows us what is happening behind the scenes. Kenechi Udogu's story, though, is not just a story to live in Cinderella's limelight- it is a story that stands on its own feet and is actually a fun, fantastical adventure.
Read Together: Grades 6 to 10
Read Alone: Grades 7 and up
Read With: Cinderella, Chinese Cinderella Adeline Yen Mah, Bound by Donna Jo Napoli
Snatch of Text: "The girl who stepped down from the carriage was simply beautiful, a delightful combination of flawless skin and delicate features. Her hair was held up at the top of her head with strings of shiny pearls and her gown, like the carriage, was exquisitely detailed and in a unusual style." (Kindle Location 161)
Mentor Text for: Allusion, Point of View, Predicting
Writing Prompts: Take an object from a fairy tale that has some unanswered questions (Sleeping Beauty's spindle, Rapunzel's tower, etc.) and write your own fairy tale explaining what happened to them.
Just as promised, Samantha Sutton is Nancy Drew meets Indiana Jones. I love Samantha and love that she makes smart cool. I am also so glad to see archaeology play a role in a book. This is the second book from Sourcebooks that I read that had a great, strong female protagonist and dealt with a very smart topic that too often isn't found in our children's literature. Along with an adventurous journey, this book specifically will spark interest in the reader about archaeology and history.
I do want to say that there were only 3 things that hindered me from giving this book 4 stars: 1) Too often the Spanish was not translated and I got confused. I think that children would be even more confused. I wish there'd just been a translation dictionary in the back or footnotes or something. 2) I figured out the mystery long before it was revealed :( I wish I hadn't but I did and because of that, the ending seemed to take forever to get to. Now, I don't think middle grade students will figure it out as easily, so that is a plus. 3) Adam's research seems very teen to me, while the rest of the book seems middle grade. Sharing what the research is would be a spoiler, but if you read it let me know if you agree. (less)
I really like the premise to this series. It is seven novels- each focusing on a different grandson after their dying grandfather leaves a final wish for each grandson to fulfill. Close to the Heel takes us on an adventure with Rennie to Iceland where he couldn't have even guessed all that would happen. (less)
This graphic novel is set up like a detective agencies case book. With each short story, you are introduced to Max and Alison who are junior-high dete...moreThis graphic novel is set up like a detective agencies case book. With each short story, you are introduced to Max and Alison who are junior-high detectives and a mystery for them to solve. In each short case, there are clues given and at the end the solution is revealed. The graphic novel also included two prose short mysteries- one set up with time stamps and the other as a normal narrative.
I am so glad that I was introduced to Max Finder, his friends and his mysteries. This is a great book that can be read alone by students or could be used as an interactive book in the classroom. This book reminds me of the You Be the Jury books that I used to read when I was younger; however, I thought it was more accessible, easier to connect to and even a bit tougher (I couldn't figure out that many of them!).
Mentor text for: Problem-solution, Facts, Hypothesis, Details, Prepositional phrases, Predicting(less)
I love Liam O'Donnell's series - it is so unique and I love how he so seamlessly switches between his narrative and information that is needed to unde...moreI love Liam O'Donnell's series - it is so unique and I love how he so seamlessly switches between his narrative and information that is needed to understand the book. And so much much information is squeezed into this easy to read book. Throughout the book, you learn about scripts, deforestation, wind turbines/energy, media literacy, advertising, TV careers, extortion, bias, internet, hook, media consolidation, video editing, ad creeps, propaganda, social media and research. Very rarely did it feel like the information was not part of the story.
Another perk about O'Donnel's books is that although they are a series it is not necessary to read them all or read them in order. The characters overlap, but within each story enough information is given for you to understand the story. (less)
An anthology of graphic short stories that all include a mystery/magical box of some sort. Featuring star authors of kid lit and YA graphic novels, the stories are all very unique yet come together to make a fine collection. (less)
Capture the Flag is up there with National Treasure and Heist Society in heist stories- it adds a nice element to middle grade fiction.
I loved the different personalities of the kids in this book and I love that they are all realistic. Henry loves his video games, Jose loves to read especially Harry Potter and Anna wants to be a journalist just like her mother. Analogies are made throughout the book between video games & books and the adventure that they are on (I specifically like the one comparing Malfoy's outlook on pure bloods in Harry Potter and the immigration debate here in the US). I also love that Jose collects quotes and they are spattered throughout the novel. Finally you meet Sinan, a young man learning English and gives us illustrations of idioms, and his dog Hammurabi who is the comic relief.
Another great story from the great Kate Messner!(less)
*There was so much hype about this 3rd book in the Graceling trilogy and I can see why people feel that it lived up to the hype and why others didn't....more*There was so much hype about this 3rd book in the Graceling trilogy and I can see why people feel that it lived up to the hype and why others didn't. This book was different than the other 2. This one was much more a mystery than an action/adventure like the first two. This book is not a journey and is not about a woman that is scorned for one reason or another. This book is about a queen and it primarily takes place in her kingdom. But that does not mean that this book is any less exciting. Bitterblue is filled with twists and turns and unexpected conflicts. I did love how characters that were more skeletal in Graceling are really beefed out in Bitterblue- especially Helda and Giddon.
Even if you are not impressed with this story, you will definitely be blown away once again by Kashore's writing and world building. She is a master. (less)
Georges doesn't really enjoy school, because even his ex-best friend doesn't really associate with him. On top of that, his family has had to sell their home and move to an apartment because his architecture dad lost his job meaning his mother is always at the hospital working doubles. All Georges wants right now is something good to happen (and maybe a distraction) and Safer is exactly what the doctor ordered. Safer, a 12 year old home schooled boy who lives in his new apartment complex, is the founder of the Spy Club and it is now up to Georges and Safer to find out what is really going on in the apartment. The reader will also want to find out what happens to Georges at school where the bullying is just getting out of control.
This book is a great book of friendship, family and a proclamation that being different doesn't mean you have to be alone.
Rebecca Stead is a master at telling stories that are not what they seem at the beginning. Just like When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy is a mystery where clues are revealed slowly throughout the book.
Also, if you follow my reviews you know I love when art is integrated in a book and Rebecca Stead does it beautifully in this one. Georges was named after George Seurat because his mother loves Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (they even have a print of it hung up in their living room). She says that we are all just dots of a bigger, beautiful picture just liked Seurat's artwork. The Seaurat print (or Sir Ott as Georges says) becomes a character in itself when it becomes a confidant of Georges on nights when he is home alone.
"I think of all those thousands of dots Seurat used to paint the picture. I think about how if you stand back from the painting, you can see the people, the green grass and the cute monkey on a leash, but if you get closer, the monkey kind of dissolves right in front of your eyes. Like Mom says, life is a million different dots making one gigantic picture. And maybe the big picture is nice, maybe it's amazing, but if you're standing with your face pressed up against a bunch of black dots, it's really hard to tell."
Oh, and I truly love this character- Bob English Who Draws- in the book. He is Georges science partner and is quite the character. His spelling ideas are very interesting... (less)
Chase is a 6th grader who who dreams of playing cello in the school's honor orchestra, but recently the budget has been cut. The day begins with the Chase and the intermediate orchestra are preparing for a PTA fundraiser to raise money to continue supporting the music program by auctioning off a handmade one of a kind cello. The cello is guaranteed to bring enough to save the music program! However, when Chase is walking by the case where the cello is stored, he noticed it missing. The music programs only chance to remain has been stolen! It is now Chase's job to determine who took the cello and save the music program and his dream.
Fans of Scooby Doo, Encyclopedia Brown, and Hardy Boys will find a new kid detective to love in Steve Reifman's Chase mystery series. Chase's mystery is filled with multiple suspects and red herrings and leads to a one day back and forth and ends with quite a surprise.
I also find Chase Against Time is going to be a great bridge between juvenile fiction like Magic Tree House, Marty McGuire and A to Z Mysteries and larger middle grade books like Emerald Atlas, Liesl & Po, and The Unwanteds. It will definitely help transition readers from one to the other. Chase is in 6th grade, but the story still will very much be connect to elementary students more than middle schoolers.
I will say, though, that teachers/adults will need to suspend reality a bit because of the amount of responsibility Chase is given and how he is treated very much like an adult. He is given a lot of the free reign and control throughout the school. I do think, though, that this book would be a fun read aloud to follow the clues and try to figure who the culprit is. (less)
In the tradition of Nancy Drew, and, in this case, Sun Tzu, Young and Yang are on the case! This book immediately draws you in and the action never stops. You are predicting and trying to solve the mystery right alongside Sophie and Grace throughout the whole book! Twist and turns keep you guessing and the ending is quite an adventure!
One of the things I liked the most about this book were the characters. There are 3 main girl characters (Trista is a friend of Sophie's from school) and they all three have different personalities yet are still strong. Grace is the girly girl (but isn't an airhead) who aspires to be FBI but is also completely opposite than a Chinese stereotype. Sophie embraces Grace's culture, is obsessed with feng shui, has a war story telling grandpa, and is always along for the ride. Trista never lets the bullies get her down, is BRILLIANT, and ends up being a true friend. What a great example of Girl Power! And what makes all of this even better is that these three very different girls are friends.
Underneath the mystery and amazing characters is a theme that you find often in middle grade books- identity and change. Although it isn't always evident, this book is also about determining who your true friends are, how to deal with bullies, how to deal with boys, how to deal with gossip, and many other things that middle schoolers deal with on a regular basis. Love that Kristen Kittscher was able to put all of this within a nail biting mystery.
Read with: Nancy Drew, Platypus Police Squad, Chasing Vermeer, Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies, Capture the Flag, Shakespeare's Secret (Also, because of their part in the story: Art of War, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Call of the Wild)
Mentor text for: Prediction, Characterization, Mystery
Topics: Friendship, Bullying, Back Stabbing, Art of War, Assumptions (p. 256) (less)
*Oh my goodness! So much is going on in this novel and all of it is good.
First, suspense. The book starts off right away with a murder. It is very Alex Rider-esque because it isn't until a bit later that you figure out how this murder fits into the story. However, by beginning that way, the author sucks you into the story and already gives you a reason to want to keep reading. Then as you read through the story and Archimedes gets himself farther and farther into the murder-mystery at the center of the story, the suspense builds and at a certain point I just could not stop reading.
Second, history. There is so much history in this book! First, it is taking place in 2nd century BC Egypt when the Ptolemy family is ruling thus a tumultuous time because Greeks and Egyptians are both trying to live peacefully together. The Romans are also becoming part of the mix. Our characters are from all three nations. Second, part of the story is about Alexander the Great and has us look back at his reign. Although the book begins with an historical background index and maps, I found myself on Wikipedia many times throughout the reading because I wanted to know more about the fascinating things that were being shared with me.
Third, science. Archimedes is known for being a leading scientist in classical antiquity and this book shares with us some of the principles, inventions and theories he had. I was worried at first that the science aspect was going to seem forced, but I found that it fit perfectly within the story and just added to it. Also, the author made sure that all of the items discussed are actually findings of Archimedes thus are historically accurate as well.
Fourth, mythology. I love mythology. And this book has the best of both worlds as it discusses Greek and Egyptian mythology.
And there are other reasons as well: action, mystery, and culture. See, as I promised- a lot of stuff going on and all good. This book is very much worth a read and will find some readers in fans of Rick Riordan.
Snatch of Text: "The solution became clear when Ptahhotep laughed at him and told him not to drop the crown in the water. "By completely immersing the wreath in this bowl of water, an amount of water equal to the total volume of the crown will be expelled. This large plate," he pointed to the alabaster plate underneath the bowl, "will collect the water that spills." ..."The water that spills onto the plate will be poured into this glass beaker, which will measure the volume of the water, and at the same time, the volume of the gold wreath." Archimedes' hand moved to the measuring scales. They were the same bronze scales the men were using to weigh gold when he and Berenike first entered the palace." (p. 89-90)(less)