Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall Is In The Air

So temperatures are starting to drop, as well as the leaves.  Today all the Halloween books I could find were retrieved from the stacks and placed out within easy reach for the children and teachers.  So that must mean that it is also time again for All Hallows Read.   Who better to describe it then Neil Gaiman?  
I hope to read these two books this month.  I think both will fill my need for something spooky.  

My all time favorite Halloween read though is Book 4 of The Books of Elsewhere


Monday, September 23, 2013

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


When I was a kid there were a few movies that we watched at home every year on television, The Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  For some reason they were the ones that I would even get a reprieve from my usual bedtime to stay up for.  Yet sadly, I've never read The Wizard of Oz or Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.  I know, I should bow my head in shame.  How did I miss these growing up?  I did finally read Mary Poppins, does that redeem me?  Any who...I can now add Charlie and the Chocolate Factory thanks to America's Battle of the Books ( a reading incentive program for students in 3rd through 12th grade.)  There is something nostalgic about reading this after so long.  I so love the movie with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.  I loved the scenes when they come into the room with the chocolate stream and eating the marshmallow cream.  So going into the book, I enjoyed reading the scenes in the authors own words.  Although, I must admit I noticed the changes between the two.  I am curious why those were made, some were minor ("bad nut" versus "bad egg")  but others really changed things around ("Slugworh" wanting a sample of the Everlasting Gobstoppers is in the movie but not in the book).  I guess I try to approach books and their movie as two different entities.  I also realize that not all  authors get to write their screen play and well some things just get left on the cutting floor further illustrating why reading the book first gives you an idea of what the author intended.  Overall, the wonder and fascination that I felt when I saw the movie was still captured in the book.  Not the cover I would have selected, but only one available at the library.  But there is a very nice forward by Lev Grossman.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem

Opening line: “Death stalked the spider, pre-algebra book in hand.”  I've got to admit, I really like that opening.  

Texting the Underworld is about twelve year old Conor O'Neill who lives in South Boston with his parents, younger sister and next door is his Grandpa or Grump as he is lovingly called. Conor's little Irish neighborhood is home to the frequent sounds of car alarms and the screech of owls, but Grump knows that those sounds are really the “keen” of a banshee come to weep for the person about to die.  So when red-blond headed Ashling appears to Conor foretelling that someone in the O'Neill family is going to die, he knows that he must come up with a plan to protect them.  Poor Conor though doesn't know who it is and Ashling isn't telling either.  Ashling just wants to experience as much as she can of current time before completing her task for the Lady of the Other Land.  But, how will Conor keep Ashling a secret from everyone else while making sure that no one sees her keen, because if they do they too will drop dead.  

One of the strengths of Texting the Underworld is the characters. We have Conor, who is scared of spiders and is afraid to sneak out at night with his Grandpa.  Despite his flaws he is really a likable guy and grows throughout his journey. Booraem also introduces Grumps, who I really liked the best. Grumps brings with the Irish history and traditions of the O'Neill family and fills in all the necessary gaps about the lore.   And then there is Ashling, who provides the humor as she tries to learn about modern day society via Trivial Pursuit cards no less.  Booraem doesn't hold back in Texting the Underworld  with its themes of death and going so far as to place Conor in the difficult position of determining someones fate. Overall a great story that incorporated lots of mythology from Babylonian to Irish to Scottish when delving into the afterlife.  
Review copy received as a part of authors blog tour giveaway at
a big thank you to both.  
ETA: Review copy donated to school library. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Picture Book Reviews


One of my favorite parts about volunteering for the school library is when all the new books the Librarian ordered come in. I always love perusing the covers and flipping through the pages.  So today, I have two picture books to share.
From Goodreads "Boot and Shoe were born into the same litter, and now they live in the same house.  They eat out of the same bowl, pee on the same tree, and sleep in the same bed.  But they spend their days apart- Boot on the back porch because he's a back porch kind of dog, and Shoe on the front porch because he's a front porch kind of dog.  This is exactly perfect for them.  But then a crazy neighborhood squirrel arrives....and everything goes topsy-turvy!.  Marla Frazee's Boot and Shoe are adorable.  I love the illustrations and silly humor.  There are great concepts of over, under, around and through and a nice message of how we each can like different things. 

The Second Book is about a little Goldfish who lives in a fish bowl all by himself.  On day one, he swims around his bowl and each day thereafter something new happens in his little bowl.  Eventually, Goldfish ends up with a clutter of other fish and he just wants to live in a bowl all alone.  But what Goldfish finds is that it isn't all that he thought it would be.  Great messages with cute illustrations throughout.   

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret by Wanda Coven

11492265Heidi wakes up in a grouchy, grumpy gloomy mood.  After being homeschooled with her younger brother, her mother decides it's time for Heidi to start second grade in the public school. Heidi isn't very happy about the new arrangement, even her favorite outfit of black jean skirt with striped black-and-white- striped tights isn't enough to cheer her up.    To make things worse, on Heidi's first day she gets picked on by meanie Melanie. What's a girl to do?  Heidi decides it's time to pull out her special Spell Book that has been handed down in her family and teach mean Melanie a lesson.  O.K. This is where the action ends. With a great premise of a witchy girl going to school and wonderful illustrations by Priscilla Burris whats not to love?  Oh yeah, cliffhanger ending.   I found this to be a very different approach to a chapter book for young readers and really hope it doesn't continue with each book.  I just picture unhappy little faces wondering what happens to mean Melaine.  Guess they'll have to pick up Casts a Spell to find out.  And I really recommend those who read the first have the second available, it's the kind of book that someone who is interested in early chapter books would like.    


I found Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret as iBooks free ebook of the week selection.  It would make a great pick for five to seven year olds.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Destiny Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice


Destiny is such an interesting subject. Whether it's destiny that brings two people together or the future that we are destined for. In Emily Elizabeth's case, her destiny was predetermined by her mother in the way that she named her after the famous poet Emily Dickinson. When your mom is an English-professor who writes greeting cards and loves poetry a nudge from her to follow in your footsteps seems obvious. Emily's mother even goes one step further by inscribing "Emily Dickinson is one of the great poets.  The same will be said of you one day."  Emily's mother also hides special dates, developmental stages and the name of Emily's father among the pages of the poetry book.  But Emily's passion lies with collecting happy endings and writing romance novels and letters to her favorite author Danielle Steele. Plus, Emily doesn't even get poetry.  So when Emily looses her special book, she is afraid that destiny is taking a terrible turn for her.  Emily, Wavey and cousin Mortie begin a desperate search through used bookstores and thrift stores to find her precious book.  Overall, I enjoyed the characters in the book.  I loved the interactions between Emily and Wavey, and cousin Mortie was hysterical.   Mortie wants to be in the military when he grows up, so he develops a plan for finding the book and puts it in Morse code.  He also performs reconnaissance as they go in search and is the overall backup. Although I could see how the story was going to end pretty early on, there was lots of humor in letters that Emily writes to Danielle Steele and in the situations that Emily, Wavey and Mortie find themselves in. The only person that I really didn't understand was Emily's mother and how she left Emily's finding her father to fate.  Not wanting to mess with or change Emily's fate by telling her his name.  A very good story that questions whether destiny is within our control or is it just up to chance.   My copy was from the public library.