Friday, April 18, 2014

THE TELL-TALE START by Gordon McAlpine

The Tell-Tale Start

Edgar and Allan Poe are identical twins who are exceptional - exceptionally clever and exceptionally connected, even moreso than most twins. They are also descendants of the famous writer, Edgar Alan Poe. When their cat goes missing, the boys and the aunt and uncle who have raised them will travel across the country to retrieve the cat, not knowing they are heading right for a trap.

This was a lot of fun. The characters were really interesting, especially the twins. There's a lot of teaser info sprinkled throughout the story, giving readers information the boys don't have. There are also notes from the original Edgar Alan Poe from the afterlife as he tries to help the boys which adds a quirky tone to the story. This story felt a lot like the Genius Files to me as the family was traveling across the country without really knowing what they were getting into. Fans of that series might enjoy this series. There are plenty of references to the works of the original Poe which may lead readers to checking out Poe's works.

4 out of 5 stars
AR reading level of 5.8

Thursday, April 17, 2014

THE DEEPER LIFE by Daniel Henderson

Deeper Life, The: Satisfying the 8 Vital Longings of Your Soul

Thought provoking stories and self-discovery questions help readers find purpose and satisfaction in life. The longings referenced in the subtitle include a longing to know who God is, a longing to know who we are, and a longing to find out why we are here. The book provides space to record thoughts and answers to the questions so that readers can clarify their values, passions and purposes, all with a goal of improving quality of life. For example, there are exercises to help a reader determine his or her theology and identity. There are examples from the author's own life and work with other people. There are other books and systems for examining your life that are similar to this one - ways to help you discover your purpose or develop a personal mission statement. This one is well-organized and easy to use and relate to. I think this would be good to use for a Sunday school class or a church or business small group.

Just in time for Easter! If your Lenten season or Easter preparations have left you looking for "more" in your spiritual life, considering reading The Deeper Life.

4 out of 5 stars

* I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for free in the hope that I would review it honestly on my blog. Regardless, I only review books I enjoyed. I don’t believe in passing on negative reviews. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PRINCESS LABELMAKER TO THE RESCUE by Tom Angleberger

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue!: An Origami Yoda Book (B&N Exclusive Edition)

The origami rebels are back after their small triumph in Jabba the Puppett. Now they are waiting for Principal Rabski to follow through on her promise to do something. Princess Labelmaker shares a case file with Principal Rabski. Will it convice her to help end the torturous "Fun Time" test prep? Or will it just give her the evidence she needs to bust the members of the Rebel Alliance?

What a great continuation of this fun series! Timely, too, in the world of Common Core Standards and standardized testing and boycotts and rebellions.  Some of the case files are a little "random" and don't tie as tightly to the overall story as others, but they are enjoyable on their own as character development and fun school stories. There is a nice resolution of the Fun Time issue - but is it temporary? There are hints at more adventures yet to come. Book 6 is showing an August or September release, depending on what internet source you check - and that may be the final chapter in the series. You can read more about the series at the author's site here.

There is one chapter that may lead to some family discussions as kids read this book - a kid in the group is teased by some outsiders because he wears a pink shirt for picture day. The other kids call him "gay" and his friends wrestle with how to respond and wonder if they should care if he is gay. I loved how the friends responded to this situation, and I think there are some great discussion points for families and school settings about bullying that can come from the reading of this chapter.

4 out of 5 stars
AR reading level of 4.9

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

THE BRIGHTEST NIGHT by Tui T. Sutherland

Wings of Fire Book Five: The Brightest Night (B&N Exclusive Edition)

I've got a couple extra reviews this week and next - there have been some great new releases lately and I don't want to wait to tell you all about them!

Book five of the Wings of Fire series starts with Sunny's kidnapping (this was part of the teaser in book four) and keeps the action focused on Sunny for most of the book. A lot happens in this story - and I don't feel like I can tell you much because I don't want to give anything away! Some old "friends" re-appear in this book and some more questions are answered - questions about Sunny as well as questions about the larger story. Frankly, this book could almost be the end of the series, and it would be a very satisfying end. But the author has promised 5 more books, so there are still questions of prophecy, leadership, and the future to be answered by the dragons of Pyrrhia. Sunny really comes into her own in this book in a very satisfying way. This was a fantastic piece of the larger story. I'd say book three and this book have been my favorites.

If you haven't read this series, I would definitely recommend starting with book one. I think readers will appreciate the insight into each dragon that comes from discovering the stories in order.

Five out of five stars
No AR quiz at this time

Monday, April 14, 2014

THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLD COIN by Harper Paris (Greetings from Somewhere series)

The Mystery of the Gold Coin

Ethan and Ella's mom has taken a job as a travel writer, so their family is packing up their house to live "on the road." Ethan and Ella aren't convinced this will be the adventure their parents think it will be. Before they even finish packing, though, Ethan loses his farewell gift from his beloved grandfather. The twins take one last trip around town to solve The Mystery of the Gold Coin.

This is the first book in this new series that feels like a good fit for kids just starting to enjoy chapter books. The premise means the author can take the kids to all sorts of different settings for each story, which can keep the interest up. Likable characters with realistic reluctance about their new life. I can already picture some students who might enjoy this series! Pictures of other books in the series are posted below. Books one and two are out now, book three comes out in May, and book 4 will release in August.

3 out of 5 stars
No AR level at this time

The Mystery of the Mosaic   The Mystery of the Stolen Painting   The Mystery in the Forbidden City

Friday, April 11, 2014

BENJI FRANKLIN, KID ZILLIONAIRE by Raymond Bean

Benji Franklin: Kid Zillionaire (Benji Franklin: Kid Zillionaire Series)

Benji invents an app that takes the world by storm and nets him more money than he can imagine. His mom encourages him to find ways to use his money and his intelligence and creativity to help others. When cloned dinosaurs and a meteorite threaten Earth, Benji does just what his mom suggests - save the world!

This was a fun, straighforward story that was enjoyable to read. They never completely solve the integrity/honesty questions raised about Benji's app (essentially, it helps people lie), and the story ended abruptly in my opinion. Benji is a likable character and I think readers will like thinking about what they would do in Benji's circumstances.

4 out of 5 stars
It looks like the two incidents in this book were at one time separate stories. One was rated at a 4.4 reading level and the other at a 4.5 for Accelerated Reader. I'm not sure how AR will choose to treat the new book, or what changes were made from the original stories to this one.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

INVASION OF THE UFONUTS by Laurie Keller

Invasion of the Ufonuts (Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut Series #2)

Arnie and his friend Peezo have a falling out because Peezo thinks Arnie is a doughnut from outer space. It seems that alien doughnuts are invading and abducting Earthlings in order to save the doughnuts of Earth. When Arnie is abducted, he will have to think quickly to save his friends and doughnuts everywhere.

This is a fun, quirky book. The illustrations, complete with side comments (Look at the front cover for examples - like Peezo saying, "What's a UFONUT??") are fantastic. My students can't get enough of Arnie the Doughnut - the waiting list for the first chapter book is always at least 6 kids long. I know they will love this, too. Even my most reluctant readers come by the library every week asking if Arnie is back on the shelves. Check out Arnie the Doughnut - the picture book sets up the story and the chapter books pick up from there.

4 out of 5 stars
There is no AR reading level yet.