Archive for April, 2010

Chester’s Masterpiece by Melanie Watt

Chester's MasterpieceChester’s Back! Or possibly I should say Chester Returns!, given that Chester’s Back is the title of the previous book about this hilarious and obstreperous feline.

This time, Chester has stolen Melanie Watt’s red marker, and has taken over the story For Good! The mouse is out, The Fabulous Chester is in, and Melanie is reduced to trying to tell the story on hastily-scribbled post-it notes. Her penciled lines–in spite of their obvious artistic superiority–are no match for the energy and verve of Chester, who galumphs through nearly every genre in search of the perfect plot for his story.

Chester Wins! Except, what happens if the red marker runs out of ink . . . ?

Posted by: Sarah

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Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little

Dancing Through the SnowA heartwarming book about Min, a young girl left at a convention center when she is a toddler. She is being shuttled back to Children’s Aid where she will be placed with another foster family right before Christmas. But when she and her foster mother arrive, Dr. Jess Hart steps in and swoops Min away to live with her. She promises that Min can stay there forever, but Min knows better than to trust anyone. However, little by little, Jess shows Min that she can trust her and make a home with her. With Jess’s help, Min learns how to trust and become part of a family. A beautiful, touching story with many funny moments. The best part of the book is the great characters. Each seems like a real person you might meet on the street.

Posted by: Kate

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The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. FiggHomer has lived with his unpleasant and abusive uncle since he was small. He is comforted and protected by his big brother Harold until his uncle illegally sells Harold into the union army to fight the Civil War. Rather than stay with his uncle, Homer decides to escape and find his brother and get him released from the army. Homer is a tall-tale teller and even though he knows it is wrong, he is driven to embellish the truth and invent all sorts of details when responding to even simple questions. This talent helps him escape from some evil men who are searching for escaped slaves as well as adding a lot of humor to the book. Homer’s cheery optimism and creativity make this book a fun read in spite of the dangerous circumstances Homer finds himself in. His path to save his brother is strewn with adventures and moral dilemmas. Homer is a multi-dimensional character set in a very dangerous and uncertain period in American history.

Posted by: Fran Weisman

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Anastasia, the Last Grand Duchess by Carolyn Meyer

Anastasia the Last Grand DuchessDoes the name Anastasia conjure up exotic thoughts of privileged Russian royalty in a time of war and intrigue? This fictional diary of Anastasia, youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia during World War I, contrasts her teenage view of everyday life in Russia with the historical events which brought dramatic changes to her family and to Russia. Middle school readers will find this book intriguing and informative. If you want to read about other teenagers in royal families, there are many other titles to choose from in The Royal Diaries series, including books about Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra and Elizabeth I.

Posted by: Iris

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Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse by Rick Walton

Around the House the Fox Chased the MouseWith the weather starting to warm up, kids’ thoughts turn to playing outside, which makes this the perfect book to read now. As the title suggests, fox chases mouse all around the house and then beyond. Why is fox so eager to catch mouse? Is he hungry? Or does mouse have something he wants? This simple story provides just enough suspense and the surprise ending makes this book a real treat!

Posted by: Liz

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Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

Extra CreditIt is hard to imagine a world where something as simple and as innocent as having a pen pal in another country would be the reason to threaten violence, but this is the case in Extra Credit. The setting in present day Afghanistan, and is the story of Abby, a girl who lives in Illinois who has been assigned an extra credit project to write to a student in Afghanistan. If she does not complete this project, she will not pass 6th grade. On the other side of the world is Sadeed, who has been chosen by the elders of the town to act as Abby’s pen pal since he is their best student, knows English well, and would be the best representative for their country. This is where things get complicated, since according to their beliefs, it is not proper that a boy and girl have this type of contact. Sadeed is asked to supervise his younger sister Amira’s letter writing, while keeping the arrangement completely secret. Well, Sadeed’s pride and curiosity get in the way, and he finds a way to let Abby know that it is him actually writing the letters. When Afghan radicals happen to see the U.S. stamps on the envelope, Sadeed is threatened and safety becomes an issue for all those involved. The letter writing must stop, but in the process the kids on both sides learn much about the other’s culture and the ways they are really very much alike. This would be a wonderful book to read in school in conjunction with current events, learning about other cultures, or even learning about the freedoms that we enjoy. I just thought it was an intriguing look at current day life in another part of the world and how perceptions can be changed.

Posted by: Mary

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Maude March on the Run or, Trouble is her Middle Name by Audrey Coloumbis

Maude March on the RunThis sequel to The Misadventures of Maude March, or Trouble Rides a Fast Horse is just as good as its predecessor. Sisters Sallie and Maude have now settled in with their Uncle Arlen in Independence, MO. Maude is working at the diner and is as serious and respectable as ever. Sallie is still disguised as a boy and loyally following the adventures of her heroes in her beloved ‘dimers’. It looks like the girls will finally have a home again. In an attempt to clear Maude’s name from the crimes she has wrongly been accused of, the girls have written a letter to the authorities in Iowa, returning the money their friend and bumbling con man Marion took at the bank robbery. But just as things are calming down, Uncle Arlen is called to the Colorado Territories to help an old friend and Maude is arrested—their letter clearly not having arrived in time to save her. Next thing you know, Sallie and Marion are breaking Maude out of jail and the trio is on the road again, one step ahead of authorities.

As they race to Uncle Arlen in the C.T., Marion and the girls have to deal with drought, starvation, a bounty hunter, a traveling medicine show, further imprisonment (this time Sallie finally getting some of the action, to her great relief), rival cattle ranchers and to Maude’s greatest dismay, bumbling copycat “Maudes” trying to cash in on the real Maude’s story. Sallie’s observant eye and keen mind provide a witty and insightful look at the Wild West as they cross both desert and prairie to hopefully—and finally?—escape the mess that started when poor Aunt Ruthie got shot.

Maude March on the Run is a fantastic tale of adventure and daring escapes that you won’t be able to put down.

Posted by: Cindy

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