Review: Gregor the Underland Chronicles

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As a teacher, I’m often asked for kids’ book recommendations.  And I’m always looking for great books to offer to kids.  One series that always gets top mention is the Gregor Chronicles.

Written by Suzanne Collins of The Hunger Games fame, this is a milder, gentler series for younger readers not quite ready for that world.  With Gregor as our hero, we are taken to a world hidden deep beneath the streets of New York City.  His adventures bring him into contact with giant rats, bats, and roaches among others.  There are legends to be followed, and destinies to be realized.

It’s not without violence, however, as there are deaths along the way.  However, I was able to read and recommend this series to second graders with no hesitation. And older readers have no fear. This is still one of my favorites to read MYSELF.

The boxed set makes an excellent gift and truly should only be bought that way as eager eyes are sure to zip through the first volume and immediately look for the next.  Happy reading!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Gregor the Underland Chronicles

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Illustrated Edition

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Even in this age of ebooks, even with my dedication to my Kindle, there’s a place for real, actual books. And this is one of those places.

Simply beautiful.  That’s the only way to describe this newish addition to the Harry Potter family.  I say newish because this first one came out last year with the second volume available now.

Some people will say that an illustrated version of these timeless stories messes it up by putting another person’s visions in our heads.  I disagree. Because chances are, if you are buying these hardcover books for yourself or for a loved one, you’ve already read the original stories multiple times.  And you’ve seen the movies. So for me, these books are just another take on a much loved story.  And they absolutely do justice to the originals.

So grab these amazing books.  They make great gifts. And it’s okay to gift yourself from time to time!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 

Review: The Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin

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Yes, this is what might technically categorized as a children’s book.  But my reasons for reviewing it on this blog are many.  First of all, I’m a second grade teacher so much of what  I read falls into this category.  Plus, the holiday gifting season is upon us and books do truly make the best gifts.  And the best reason of all, it’s really a funny book!  In fact, so funny in parts that I couldn’t get the next word out as I was reading it to my class.

So there are these chickens.  Four of them, to be exact.  And there’s the mama chick, Moosh.  Oh and there’s J.J. the dog.  He’s in charge of keeping the chickens safe.  This first book sets the stage for future stories before diving headfirst into the mystery of “the big and scary thing” that Tail the squirrel finds in the yard.  The chickens take it upon themselves to solve the mystery.

Without a doubt, it’s juvenile humor.  But any humor is good.  And I promise, any young person you read this story to or with will enjoy it.  Plus, it’s the first in a series that will appeal to all kinds of readers.  Enjoy!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Chicken Squad

 

Review: Balancing Act (Chloe by Design #2) by Margaret Gurevich (illustrated by Brooke Hagel)


In Balancing Act, we follow Chloe at her New York fashion house internship that she won in Book #1 (Making the Cut). She lives in a dorm where one of her roommates gives her a hard time about not earning her way into the industry. But Chloe is so good at creating unique fashion, that her samples get chosen to be made into designs for fashion week. Her mentors even give her a gift bag at the end of her internship — and it contains a surprise that Chloe had only dreamed of. 

I really liked the full color fashion sketches in the book. When Chloe described clothing she saw, the next page would have a drawing of that item. The book illustrated many kinds of clothing, and I especially liked seeing all the different ways a simple shirt could be designed. 

I liked that the author made a few mean characters in the middle of all the happy friends, families, interns and mentors. The story seemed more realistic that way. Even though there were always those mean people trying to discourage Chloe, she focused on a good support system of people who encouraged her to go for her dreams. 

Now that Chloe is done with her internship, I’m excited to read Book Three when she is back in her California hometown. 

-calliope’s 11-year-old daughter 

Buy BALANCING ACT

Review: Fablehaven Book of Imagination by Brandon Mull

15135731_1299809816725483_7146308628241356337_n This isn’t my usual review. In fact, this was probably my least stressful review ever. A book of activities. No thought required. Easy peasy. Well, some did require thought, but don’t tell my kids. They may yell at me that they’re “learning” something instead of it being all about playing. When I first saw this Book of Imagination, I knew this would be perfect excuse to have fun and learn at the same time.

My kids have wanted fantasy books, that aren’t fill with romance, so when I stumbled upon the Fablehaven series, I knew this would be a hit. So far, I’m right. My daughter is reading book one right now and she is liking it. That’s huge in my house. We struggle to find books that they like, so we don’t have to force them to read.
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If you have tweens, or young teens, and you’re looking for something to give them a little escape from the real world, I recommend this activity book. Even if they haven’t read the series, they can still do activities. So add this to their stockings and make them happy. There’s recipes and activities to cure boredom and make the holidays run smoother. In fact, I brought this book with us when we went out to eat and it made the time pass much faster and there was no fighting. We all worked on a page and it was fun. We did one of the “How many words can you find?” pages and the next thing we knew, our food was arriving. Working your brain makes time fly. 🙂

This is my favorite page, as I was scrolling through. That girl of mine is such a stinker. 🙂
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~Melpomene

Grab the Fablehaven Book of Imagination http://amzn.to/2g7rvr5

Check out Sadie Mull’s video on how to make the wizard’s slime from one of the recipes in the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruaUdPKNmBY&t=6s

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Review: A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel


I loved loved loved A Blind Guide to Stinkville, and so there was no way I was going to miss out on the sequel, which proved to be very satisfying on many levels. (Both of these books are YA, by the way, for grades 5-7 I would guesstimate.)

First, I understand why many authors use alternating narrators, but frankly it just confuses me and makes the story choppy and less engaging. Beth Vrabel is so clever that she didn’t need to use alternating narrators, because she used Alice as the narrator for book one and Richie Ryder as the narrator for this book. Presto: The benefits of alternating narrators without the abrupt shifts every chapter! 

Second, and I’ve said this about Vrabel’s other books, I just love when the book reflects the personality of the narrator/protagonist. I was so annoyed with Richie Ryder and his jokes and stupid way he had with people. He really got under my skin! I didn’t want to keep reading at one point… and THEN I realized that it was Beth Vrabel’s awesome writing talent making me feel that way. It was like she was channeling Richie across dimensions. (Beth, do you tesser?!)

My most favorite facet of A Blind Guide to Normal wasn’t the fabulous karate competition or the yard horse or even Richie Ryder’s heartfelt friendships with quilting classmates and Alice and Jocelyn and Max. The best part of the book for me was the ending, where everyone figures out that fear is pretty much the ONLY thing that’s normal, and where Beth Vrabel again writes a book within a book. 

-calliope

Buy A BLIND GUIDE TO NORMAL

Review: Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

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There’s no shortage of stories about the greatest terroristic attack to ever take place on American soil.  Fifteen years after the date, you can still find a few on some bestseller list somewhere.  But stories about this tragic event geared toward young readers and written in a sensitive, thoughtful manner?  Not so much.

The story begins a few days before the event that changed the world.  Four kids leading four very different lives in different parts of the country.  Each has their own struggles to deal with, but they have no idea how small those struggles will seem in a matter of days.

Sergio is a young boy in Brooklyn.  Raised by his grandmother, tormented by the infrequent  appearance of his absentee father, he’s confused about who he is and what path he’s supposed to take in life.  Will is dealing with a different kind of sorrow after the tragic death of his dad.  He just can’t seem to move on.  Aimee doesn’t know where she fits in after she and her family move across the country so that her busy mom can start a new job.  And then there’s Nadira.  As she gets older, she’s confused about her identity as a Muslim and is unsure how to handle the stares and comments she’s starting to get from both strangers and friends.

As September 11 draws closer, these four young people will find their lives crossing paths in a way that none of them could have imagined and in a way that nobody will ever be able to forget.

This is such a well-told, thoughtful story about a time in our history that changed the world as we know it. Many young people today have no understanding of the scope of the tragedy and how it altered everything.  The author does an outstanding job of telling the story through the eyes of four very different people but still drawing them together.  A must-read!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story