Archive for February, 2008

The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins

The Black Book of SecretsEveryone has a secret.  It might not be obvious from the outside, but everyone, everyone, has something they don’t want anyone else to know.

Ludlow Finch, a scrappy, city pickpocket, never thought much about secrets.  Not until the day his parents tried to sell his teeth — teeth that were still in his mouth! — and he had to run for his life.  After a terrifying chase, Ludlow ended up in the tiny mountain town of Pagus Parvus, working as an assistant to Joe Zabbidou, a pawnbroker. 

Ludlow had known pawnbrokers before, but none like Joe — Joe is a secret pawnbroker, that is, he buys secrets.  Anyone in Pagus Parvus who has a secret they just can’t live with anymore can come to Joe and pawn his secret.  Joe will pay them handsomely, and they’ll never have to think about that secret again.  What’s Ludlow’s role?  He writes the secrets down, in Joe’s big black book, a book that no one is ever allowed to read. 

But what happens when Pagus Parvus’ leading — and most loathed — citizen, Jeremiah Ratchet steals the Black Book?  And what will happen when he reads it?

Shhhh.

Posted by: Sarah

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The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter

The Light in the ForestImagine that you had been kidnapped from your family at age 4 and raised by Delaware Indians in the mid 1700s. Then think about growing up as an Indian boy (even though you were white) and learning to love your Indian home and family while learning to hate white people. Now think about being taken away from your Indian family at age 15 and taken back to live with your white family. You did not even remember that family and they were hated whites! This confusing and conflicting situation actually happened to many children in that time of American history. This classic historical fiction book about True Son’s wrenching experiences in the realm of American Indians versus whites is an emotional adventure which should interest many readers from 6th grade through adults.

Posted by: Iris

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A Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovic

A Duck at the DoorHere’s another cute story about a duck that I just couldn’t pass up.  Max, the duck, decides that flying south for the winter is for the birds.  Since he loved spring so much, he decided to stay in town for the winter only to learn that it can be cold and lonely.  He takes shelter in a house with a kind lady and her many pets.  By spring, he has overstayed his welcome – or so the other animals thought.  Once Max is gone, the other pets find the house isn’t quite the same without him.  Will their feathered friend return again?  Read the book to find out.

Posted by: Liz

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The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon G. Flake

The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd StreetQueen (and that is her given name) is the youngest child and the only girl in her family and she is very spoiled.  Her brothers are in college and they and her father all indulge her.  Her mother occasionally tries to keep her feet on the ground.  Her best friend  also plays along with her.  She lets her be the “queen” and pretends to be her subject and waits on her.  Needless to say, Queen has some problems fitting in at school.  She is very bright and always has her hand up but her teacher doesn’t like to call on her and the other children don’t cater to her so she doesn’t have friends.

When Queen’s best friend has to go back to Puerto Rico because her grandmother is sick, Queen is without a playmate.  When a new boy, Leroy,  starts school her parents meet him and become friends with him.  Her father fixes his bike for him and her mother invites him to lunch.  Queen doesn’t like him.  His clothes are ragged, she thinks he smells and he talks about being a prince and having lived in Africa which she thinks is a big lie.  Queen decides to spy on Leroy so she can reveal him as a liar to the kids at school so that they won’t like him and they will like her.

I wouldn’t say that Queen becomes a totally different person in this book but she learns a lot about herself and other people and she comes to appreciate that princes may come in very  different forms than dressed in shining armor and riding a white horse.  This story is a quick read and has interesting characters.  It is a good book to recommend to a child who thinks too much about themselves and not enough about other people or one who sets too much store in material things.  Recommended for boys and girls in 4th and 5th grades. 

Posted by: Fran W.

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Marie Curie by Katherine Krull

Marie CurieMarie Curie is an incredible scientist, but she also led a fascinating life. Krull once again presents the story of a great scientist and shares more than just the dry facts.  She makes the person come alive by introducing kids to them in such a way that they can’t help but be fascinated.  Marie Curie is no different.  Krull takes a narrative approach to the biographies she writes, and this makes the person come alive for the readers.  

Curie came from a proud Polish family who encouraged education and learning in their home.  It was very rare at the time for women to be seen as even remotely as intelligent as men, but Curie’s father always encouraged his daughters to learn, going so far as to send Marie math problems when she was a governess.  While Marie’s life became consumed by science, it was also consumed by her love for Pierre Curie that helped to balance her life (at least a little).  As someone who usually doesn’t care a jot for science, I find myself enthralled with the people presented in each of Krull’s Giants of Science books.  She makes the people seem real without going over kids heads with the technical science end of things.

Posted by: Kate

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The Train Jumper by Don Brown

The Train JumpersI chose to read this book, because it seemed to be a little outside of my usual realm of book choices. The story is set during the Great Depression and is the story of 14 year-old Collie who is looking for his older brother who has run away from home. Collie jumps trains in order to travel across the country, meeting lots of good and bad along the way. He becomes one of the thousands of men and boys who jumped trains during this period in history in search of work or as an escape from their own desperate times. Although the subject is certainly a somber one, Collie makes a friend Ike who helps to add some fun and real adventure, which lightens the story a little bit. The story was fascinating to me, and I found I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. The author does a good job of painting a realistic picture of life on the rails. This is a wonderful survival/adventure/historical fiction/boy story!

Posted by: Mary

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How I Found the Strong by Margaret McMullan

How I Found the Strong

I confess that I enjoy reading about the Civil War.  I find this period of American history particularly interesting.  With this confession in mind, it is no surprise that I very much enjoyed How I Found the Strong.

In the spring of 1861 the men of Smith County, Mississippi are eager and proud to march off to the war with the North.  They plan to defend their beliefs about slavery by quickly defeating their enemies and they expect to be home by Christmas.  Frank, “Shanks”, is the baby of the Russell family and, at 10 years-old, he is too young to join his father and older brother Henry (who is 14 years old) when they enlist in the Confederate army.  He is also too skinny and weak to even look the part of being a soldier.  He is deeply disappointed to be left at home.  He so wants to make his Pa proud.

During the ensuing years of the war, Shanks helps take care of things at home.  He experiences the joy of new life, the sadness of death and desertion, as well as the daily struggles of farming during the war.  He grows bigger and taller and he witnesses many moments that will shape him for the rest of his life.  He also questions his own beliefs about both slavery and the war.

The author based this book on a manuscript by her grandmother’s great uncle.

Posted by: Wendy

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