Saturday, April 20, 2019

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord


Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

Lucy and her family have just moved to a cottage on a lake in New Hampshire. Just to be clear both the cottage and the lake are in New Hampshire. There are kids next door who are visiting their grandmother for the summer. This is a story about a dad who is gone a lot for his job, a grandmother who is getting older, secrets, and the loons. Everyone deserves half a chance.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen                              A three hour read

Brian is having a rough time. His parents have split up. He knows his mother is having an affair but he doesn’t tell his dad and if all that isn’t bad enough he is in a two-person plane flying over the endless forest of Canada with a non-talking farting pilot. Oh, it does get worse, the pilot dies. Brian will spend fifty-four days alone in the wilderness before the end. The plane crashes and sinks in a lake. Brian escapes with little more than the clothes on his back and his hatchet.  How would you do in such a situation? Do you know enough to survive? Could you learn enough to survive? Would you want to survive?

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner


Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

The flag in this story is the one Betsy Ross made during the Revolutionary War which happened even before I was born. Anna, Jose, and Henry don’t know each other at the beginning of the story. They are in seventh grade and too young to leave home alone and too old for a babysitter so they have to go to the fancy party at the Smithsonian Museum. It’s at that party where the flag is stolen. And it will be the three of them who expose the real criminals. They also learn about the Jaguar society.

The Last Grand Adventure by Rebecca Behrens


The Last Grand Adventure by Rebecca Behrens

Beatrice is having trouble blending in with her father’s new family. It just doesn’t work for her to have a little sister. When the option comes for her to stay two weeks with a grandmother, she hardly knows in a retirement village in Arizona her dad and stepmom don’t seem sad to see her go. Anyway, her grandmother is Amelia Earhart’s sister. Amelia Earhart was an aviation adventurer who disappeared forty years before this story started. But the grandmother claims to have letters from Amelia and has plans for her and Beatrice to travel to Kansas to meet up with her.  They don’t plan to tell anyone, and they don't intend to let their lack of money or grandmother’s lack of mental clarity get in their way.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Last Grand Adventure by Rebecca Behrens

Beatrice is having trouble blending in with her father’s new family. It just doesn’t work for her to have a little sister. When the option comes for her to stay two weeks with a grandmother she hardly knows in a retirement village in Arizona her dad and stepmom don’t seem sad to see her go. Anyway, her grandmother is Amelia Earhart’s sister. Amelia Earhart was an aviation adventurer who disappeared forty years before this story started. But the grandmother claims to have letters from Amelia and has plans for her and Beatrice to travel to Kansas to meet up with her.  They don’t plan to tell anyone and they don't intend to let their lack of money or grandmother’s lack of mental clarity get in their way. 

The Missing Book 1 – Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This is a complex and exciting story. What if you knew you were adopted, but then you got a strange letter in the mail and then you went snooping in your parents’ papers and you found there was a mystery. And then another letter seemed to be threatening, would you tell your parents. Jonah doesn’t. And it just gets stranger and stranger after that. Did I tell you it all started with a plane full of babies?

The Land of Stories The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer



If you aren’t quite ready to leave behind Goldilocks, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the never named Prince Charmings and if in fact you want to know more about them this is the book for you. Goldilocks’ is a fugitive and Jack is unhappily betrothed and we finally find out who is the man in the mirror. And we learn a lot more.  It is a very fun retelling and more importantly addition to these great tales. These stories are a bit more intriguing than the fairy tails of your youth.

Fuzzy Mud By Louis Sachar



This is a story about Tamaya who is in fifth grade and Marshall and Chad who are in seventh grade. Chad is a new kid at school and his arrival has displaced Marshal in the seventh-grade friend circles.  Marshall and Chad are to fight after school, but Marshall doesn’t want to. The only way to avoid the fight is to go through the forbidden woods. Tamaya is a rule abider and the rule is she is supposed to walk home with Marshal. Her choice is to walk their prescribed path along the road or to follow Marshall into the woods. The thing is the school myth told by boys who claim to have seen him is that there is a deranged hermit who attacks kids living in the woods. The truth is something far more dangerous lurks in the woods, Fuzzy Mud. What happens when only your enemy can save you and only you can save your enemy?

Sit! Stay! Speak! By Annie England Noblin

This is a romance novel. Adelaide Andrews, trying to escape her painful memories, moves to the house her aunt left to her. She is leaving Chicago and going to a small town in the Arkansas Delta. She hasn’t been there since she was twelve and she doesn’t know anyone. Walking in what is now an unsafe part of town she discovers a badly wounded dog. She takes the dog to the vet where she becomes friends with the receptionist and meets the man who will be her love interest. Small towns have secrets and most people are happy for them to stay a secret. Unfortunately, her newly found pet will lead her to discover and expose one of this town's worst, but best kept secrets. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen Book 1 of 3



Three orphan boys get caught up in a life or death talent show.  To win all you have to do is be able to look like, act like, talk like, and be like the long lost prince of a kingdom on the verge of civil war. This is the predicament Sage, the main character, finds himself in.  Death is what happens if you are not chosen. Sage truly has the character to rise to the occasion and there are wonderful twists and turns until we finally find the real prince.  There is also the possibility you might die even if you win, after all your country is on the verge of a civil war. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Explorer Academy - The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit



Even before Cruz leaves Hawaii for the Explorer Academy there is an attempt to drown or kidnap him. His mother died in a fire at the Academy and he wants to know more. He leaves behind his dear friend Lani who is going to be a bit jealous about his new Academy friend Sailor. At the Academy there are numerous threats to Cruz and it is unclear who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. But what could Cruz have that they want and who is it who wants it? The Explorer Academy The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit. And then Cruz gets kicked out of the academy.

Not if I Save You First by Ally Carter



Maddie is best friends with Logan, the president’s son. When they are around twelve they witness an attempted kidnapping of the First Lady, Logan’s Mom. Maddie’s dad, who is a secret service agent, is wounded while foiling the attack. When his wound has healed, he and Maddie move to a remote cabin in Alaska that can only be accessed by small planes. None of his explanations really explain why. Maddie faithfully writes Logan but he never, I mean never, writes back. Meanwhile, Logan has problems acting out in school and running away from his secret service agents. The solution is to send Logan to live in Alaska with Maddie and her dad.  When she sees Logan step off the plane at their cabin she loves him but more strongly abhors him. He never wrote. Things get even more complicated when Russian mobsters show up to kidnap Logan.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Took, A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

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The story is primarily told by seventh grader Daniel with just the occasional chapter by a third person narrator. It is at time intense and scary but not gory except for the description of Bloody Bones a bizarre ghost creature that is primarily a wild boar who can walk upright on his rear legs and rip you apart with panther like claws, but who believes in that stuff anyway. After their dad loses his job and can’t find another one Daniel and his sister Erica are moved from the wonderful suburbs to the back woods of West Virginia. The house is more like a shack and all the other kids think they are stuck up snobs. When Erica gets Took by the scary haunt Auntie only Daniel believes what really happened to her and if she is to be saved only Daniel can do it.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Rain Dragon Rescue By Suzanne Selfors


This is the third in this series. I usually go back and read book one but I decided this time to start with the recommended book. The story is told in third person and takes place all in one day. Yes, there is a dragon, actually two dragons. Pearl and Ben who are only ten have to pick up dragon poop. Well, fortunately, they don’t have to pick it up. They have a shovel and can scoop it up but then they are faced with the challenge of what do you do with a bucket full of dragon poop? This is a funny and fun read. It poses the challenging dilemma of what do you do when different adults give you conflicting instructions such as; You absolutely must not go through the portal to the land of imaginary creatures without watching the training video. Vs. You must absolutely go through the portal because the rain dragon is dying.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Booked is written in verse so if you can get it to count for a required poetry read go for it. It is more akin to rap and rhythm than it is to poetry and rhyme. Also if you like words this is a great book because the main kid's dad makes him read the dictionary of odd words that his dad has written. Some friends feel sorry for him one girl thinks it is great. He comes out with a lot of words that were totally new to me.

What I appreciated most was that the author was able to adapt his verse style to the message of the particular chapter. So the nature of the verse was always changing and helping to move the story along.

If current plans continue on track I will be presenting at a conference Mr.' Alexander is headlining at in the fall of 2019.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Phinneas Gage By John Fleischman

This is required seventh-grade reading in our area. In 1848 Phinneas was a construction foreman building a railroad in Vermont, his specialty was explosives. At that time you bore a hole in the rock and poured in gun powder. Using a tamping rod you packed the powder and the fuse into the hole. Then sand was put in so the blast would be forced down into the rock.

On one such job, Phineas' tamping rod slipped into the hole prior to the sand, causing a spark, igniting the gunpowder, and shooting out the tamping rod. The rod passed through Phinneas's cheek, temporal lobe, and skull, completely exiting his head.

Phinneas lived. In fact, immediately after the accident he could talk and walk. His crew insisted on taking him to town to see the doctor. For the thirty minutes, it took to find the doctor he sat in a chair on the porch of the hotel he lived in. He conversed freely with the people around him.

Following this gruesome beginning, the story explores the history of brain science and how it was possible that Phinneas lived a functional life, showing only a few personality changes. He died eleven years after the accident.

My drawing.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

January 2019

I was very thrilled to win the Prince William School Districts Local Hero Award for my work with the seventh-grade students at Marsteller Middle School. I was nominated by the school administration and by Rachel Strohman the head of the English department.