Monday, October 31, 2016


When Reena's family moves from the hustle and bustle of the city to rural Maine, her life is completely upturned.  Soon after arriving, Reena's parents volunteer her and her 7-year-old brother, Luke, to help an older lady named Mrs. Falala.  This lady is strange, rude, and a little scary.  Plus, there are all kinds of animals running around her yard.

Reena and Luke soon discover they will mostly be taking care of a stubborn cow named Zora.  Neither one of the city kids knows anything about working on a farm, let alone tending to a hulking mass of cow!

This is not my favorite Sharon Creech book, but it is a cute and fun read.  It is definitely worth your time especially considering how short it is; it is a mix of verse and prose.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Inquisitor's Tale

This book is a delightful surprise from Adam Gidwitz who is very popular in my library for the Grimm books which are based on fairy tales.  This book is still in the vein of the traditional storytelling, but it takes us back to the middle ages.

Jeanne is a peasant girl who has fits and visions.  When she was a baby, the family dog, Gwenforte, saved her life.  Her parents mistakenly believe Gwenforte killed the baby instead of a deadly snake, and they kill the dog.  When they realize their mistake, they bury the dog in a grove, and Gwenforte is venerated by the people of the village for her courage and bravery.  Now Gwenforte has somehow reappeared, and Jeanne and the dog are on the run from a group of knights sent to squash out heresy in the land.

William is an unusual young man.  He is an oblate, a boy in training to become a monk.  Even though he is still a boy, he is incredibly large and strong.  He has never met his parents, a French nobleman and the Muslim woman he met on a crusade in Africa.  William is clever and motivated, but he always feels left out.  After an outburst one day, he is sent on a mission to deliver some books to another monk.

Jacob is a young Jewish boy whose entire village is burned one day by young Christians.  When his comes across a man injured from the fire, he heals the man's wounds in record time.  His parents tell him to run to the home of a family friend.  He hopes his parents are still alive, but he may be they are lost.

These three magical children and the holy dog are first simply on the run, but they are soon involved in a war with the great King Louis IX of France.  How can three children and a dog be such great enemies that a king would wage war on them?  Read the book to find out!

I absolutely loved this book!  It is steeped in the religion and mystery of the dark ages when magic and miracles are almost interchangeable.  The tale is told from multiple perspectives which is reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, and it has Gidwitz's perfect blend of humor, blood, and depth, and the illustrations will transport readers to the days of illuminated manuscripts when a book was the work of a lifetime.

Though this book is set in the middle ages, kids will see parallels to the modern world.  Readers will easily see the connections between the religious tensions of the middle ages and those of today.  Complex characters are sometimes good and sometimes display extreme prejudice, and no one in the story is who they first appear to be.  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Cameron Boxer has spent years developing his lifestyle.  He's a gamer and a slacker.  He puts no effort into anything other than gaming.  That all changes one day when his house almost burns down around him while he is gaming in the basement.  His parents issue an ultimatum:  Join something or else.

Thus is born, the P.A.G, Positive Action Group.  With the help of his friend Pavel, Cameron sets up a fake page for the group on the school's website.  It's perfect.  He'll get credit for founding and presiding over a club that doesn't actually exist.

There's just one problem, the worst busy-body in school see's the website and gets the guidance counselor involved.  Now Cameron's perfect scam is taking over the whole school.  This is a serious threat to his lifestyle!

Fans of humor and Gordon Korman will enjoy his newest book, and the cover art is great.  It's already drawing my kids in.  I think the kids will really like this one, but I had a hard time getting through it.  I think Cameron's gamer lifestyle was just too much for me, but I am not the intended audience, and there are plenty of middle schoolers who will buy into Cameron's philosophy.

My Lady Jane

I decided to read this one because of all the buzz even though the reviews had it pegged as high school, and I am so glad I did.  I adored this book!  It's a delightful combination of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Princess Bride with shape-shifting magic thrown in.  Also, I will purchase it for my middle school library.  I think it's fine for 8th grade and up.

If you think you know all there is to know about Lady Jane Grey, the nine days queen, you are so wrong!  Jane is the friend and cousin of King Edward, who is dying.  He doesn't want to leave the kingdom to his sister Mary, a religious fanatic who will kill all those in the kingdom with the ability to take animal form.  He's also not too sure about his sister, Bess.  Would she make a good ruler?  She is a woman after all, and everyone knows rulers should be men.

The solution, according to Edward's trusted advisor, Lord Dudley, is to leave the kingdom to Jane who will marry Dudley's son and produce a male heir who will then become the king as soon as he comes of age.  But, of course, nothing goes as planned.

My Lady Jane is clever, funny, romantic, and full of references and clues.  I won't write much about the plot because I think it's better to discover it as you go along.  The story is told from multiple perspectives which only adds to the humor and dramatic irony.  More sophisticated readers will enjoy getting all the in-jokes.  Others will just enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Black Dragon

Twelve-year-old Danny is still struggling with the recent death of both his parents.  His father was the owner of the Mysterium, a modern day circus filled with illusion and the fantastic.  His mother was an acrobat, and the Mysterium was Danny's home.

When an explosion at his boarding school cuts the semester short, Aunt Laura shows up to take Danny to Hong Kong.  She says it's a story she's working on, but Danny thinks she's hiding something.  It doesn't really matter because he's always wanted to visit his mother's hometown.  He will also get to spend the trip with Major Zamora, a dwarf strongman, a daredevil, and one of Danny's closest friends from the Mysterium.

When Aunt Laura is kidnapped by triads, Danny and Zamora aren't sure who to trust.  Detective Lo of the police seems shifty, and a guy in a white suit has been following them since their plane landed.  Can they trust Sing Sing?  She's connected to the gangs somehow, but Danny is also drawn to her.

As Danny and Zamora race against gangsters and crooked cops to uncover clues and save Aunt Laura, Danny is also hoping to find answers about his parents' deaths.

Julian Sedgwick's series opener is a fast-paced adventure through Hong-Kong's underbelly.  It's got enough danger and mystery to keep kids interested without veering too YA.  There is also plenty here for the kids who like magic tricks and escape artists.  Give this to fans of spy novels, Indiana Jones, or even Houdini.