Sunday, February 24, 2013

Review: The Secrets of Droon

Title: The Secrets of Droon: Journey to the Volcano Palace (part of a series)

Author: Tony Abbott

Pages: 85

Publisher: Scholastic

Rating: ***

Review: In this story, Eric, Neil and Julie (best friends) go into Droon, a magical world, and they head to the land of  Kano to get to Lord Sparr's secret palace inside a volcano. They need to find Princess Keeah's jewel -- the Red Eye of Dawn. The jewel summons the forces of nature. In the volcano palace, the kids have to get past fire monsters and Ninns (red puffy creatures) that work for Lord Sparr and are strong. I love everything about this book.

The Secrets of Droon: Journey to the Volcano Palace by Tony Abbott

Book Review -- Jewel Thieves by Hope McLean

Jewel Thieves: Catch Us If You Can
Jewel Thieves: Diamonds are a Thief's Best Friend

Author: Hope McLean

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 140

Ella's Rating: ***

Review: I like that these books are about jewels.In the first book the jewel is a ruby and in the second book the jewel is a diamond.The main characters are four girls named Jasmine, Erin, Willow, and Lili who are best friends, go to the same school (Martha Washington School), and compete in the Quiz Bowl. They are called the jewels because the first letter of each girl's name stands for a letter in the word jewel (the second "e" is for Lili's brother Eli). Their enemies in the Quiz Bowl are the Atkinson Prep Rivals.The jewels -- a sapphire, diamond, ruby and emerald -- belong to Martha Washington. In each book, the girls have to solve each clue to find a jewel.

Jewel Thieves by Hope McLean

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Finds (vol. 4)

Over the past two weeks we have blanketed ourselves in books: we ordered books, sat on the floor and ripped open boxes of books that arrived via Fed Ex man, started compiling our 2013 "What We Have Read" list (Ella has completed 46 chapter books in the first six weeks of the year. As our 3-year old likes to say: "Booyah!").  From our recent deliveries, we highlight a few new finds we're eager to start:

1) Guinea Dogs by Patrick Jennings: Ella has been gunning for a cat for a while but so far her father remains a staunch opponent to the idea. He wants a dog -- but I remain a staunch opponent to that idea. This book about a boy who wants a dog but instead gets a guinea pig with a mohawk seems like a funny take on the whole family-pet negotiation process.

2) Sophie Simon Solves Them All by Lisa Graff: A story about a girl with an exceptionally high IQ and lots of book smarts who struggles when it comes to social stuff and friends.

3) Girl's Best Friend (A Maggie Brooklyn Mystery) by Leslie Margolis: I decided to pick some mystery books for Ella to see if she likes the genre. The setting of the books in nearby Brooklyn, a place she has been to several times, will hopefully make it more real. I also picked one more mystery series below -- see The Jewel Thieves.

4) Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck: I picked this book for a family-read-together selection. I like the idea of introducing them to the Victorian era via a mouse tale. Something about the book reminds me of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux (both by Kate DiCamillo), all-time favorites here. 

5) Grayson by Lynne Cox: This was my pick for a mother-daughter read. A real life story about a girl who tries to save a whale, something inspirational.

6) Jewel Thieves by Hope McLean: Seems like a junior version of Nancy Drew. Ella loved the first one (review forthcoming) and the second one. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Books We Read Versus the Books We Plan to Read

I've had a copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables on the book shelf for some time. I've been meaning to read it for just as long.

Recently, a completely random Internet search led me to a web page with information on the real-life house that Hawthorne describes in the book. It turns out that the house is located just a town or two away from where my husband grew up and where my in-laws still live. I immediately decided we would have a little adventure the next time we visit.

As I kept reading, the site described Hawthorne's relationship with the owner of the home, his cousin Susanna Ingersoll. My reading came to a screeching halt. My maiden name is....Ingersoll. My grandmother's name was Joanna Susanna Ingersoll. It seemed like it was indeed time to finally read the House of Seven Gables. I went upstairs to search along the bookshelves for my copy. Found the old green binding with the decorative gold emblems. I sat down and opened up to the first page and realized I could not actually read the House of Seven Gables.

The cover page of my book introduced me to The Prairie, A Tale by J. Fenimore Cooper (yup, the author of the incredible Last of the Mohicans).

I have never read The Prairie but it appears I am now going to start it. A misbound book and a long awaited read with another classic brought us serendipitiously together. This is the way of books.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Loot

The Fed Ex man arrived at 6:30 last night with five boxes of books from a recently placed Amazon order. Just 12 hours earlier Ella arrived home from school with a Scholastic book order. Here's a look at our book loot. So many books, so little time...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Friday Finds (vol. 3)

A massive snow storm arrived on Friday leaving us with little computer time. So a few days late, here's our Friday Finds. This week they are the result of a little library sleuthing by Ella and a family recommendation.

1) Animorph's by K.A. Applegate -- Ella stumbled across this junior-sci-fi series at her school library. I love the fact that there seem to be  50+ books in the series. This gives us lots of material to feed our hungry reader! The stories are about five kids that can morph into any animal they touch. When they take on their animal personas they can help defend the Earth from invaders.

2) Innerstar University (An American Girl Series) -- My sister-in-law (and mom to a second grader as well) recommended this one. It is a new choose-your-own-adventure style book. The story turns on the decisions the reader makes based on how they choose to act or behave when confronted with  certain circumstances. Our first stab at the choose-your-own style of book was the Club Penguin series earlier this year, which was a hit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Newbery Medal Winner!!!

"Mom, mom, the slkfdhjskhfkhfsfhkldsfjskljfsfjskjfksf.....fhjdsfhdkjfhgjdbndjkjflf!"

This is what I heard as my daughter stood at the top step ready to descend from the bus the other day.  After "mom," the rest of her statement was drowned out by the noise of passing cars, the mighty purring of the bus engine, and the shouting of students behind her. As she stepped off the bus, excitement shaking her tiny little form, she tried again to share her big news as I leaned in closer to hear. What was coming? Perfect spelling test score? Bonus credit on her Hebrew test? New book from the library?

"MOM, the Newbery winner was announced today!!!!!!!!!!"

I have never seen a 7-year old get so excited about the selection of the Newbery Award Winner. Simply fabulous.

The 2013 winner is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. The Newbery Medal home page gives a summary of the book and the reason it was selected by the judges:

Ivan’s transformative emergence from the “Ape at Exit 8” to “The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback,” comes to life through the gorilla’s own distinct narrative voice, which is filled with wry humor, deep emotion and thought-provoking insights into the nature of friendship, hope and humanity.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saige's Mission -- An American Girl Book Review

Title: Saige (Part of the American Girl Series)
Author: Jessie Haas
Pages: 123

Rating: ** 1/2


In this book, Saige realizes at the start of fourth grade there won't be any art classes this year, only music. Every year, the school rotates between art and music because there is not enough money for both. Saige gets the party committee to have a party and a parade to raise money. At the parade, Saige rides a horse named Picasso. Saige and Gabby (her friend) teach Picasso how to paint; how to say yes, no and dah; and how to do a horse laugh. At the party, Tessa (her best friend) sings. I liked this book because it was about horses.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Finds (vol. 2)

While I was racing through Target on Tuesday trying to find a small present and book for each of my two older kids -- a reward for the arrival of awesome report cards that said they were doing wonderfully in everything and trying hard and behaving (!!!!)  -- I passed a funny looking little book, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

My first thought: Does no one tire of Star Wars?

My second thought: Ella and Nethaniel will probably love this.

Sometimes reading just needs to be flat out fun. Nothing deep, nothing serious. Just a story about a boy who makes an oragami finger puppet of Yoda.

So in honor of this unexpected find, we bring you this week's Star Wars-themed Friday Finds otherwise known as the Oragami Yoda Series:

1) The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (book 1)

2) Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

3) The Secret of the Fortune Wookie by Tom Angleberger