Friday, November 13, 2009

Twelve Cybil Book Reviews

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 218
Source: I purchased it.

Greg would love nothing better than to spend his summer inside the house. Especially since his parents have decided they can't afford to go to the beach this summer. Greg's mother on the other hand wants him outside. She comes up with all kinds of activities. She tries a book club and Greg ends up being the only one in it. He keeps getting in trouble with the parents of his best friend Rowley. It seems like the more Greg tries to have fun his way the more trouble finds him. Once again Jeff Kinney has created a book that the kids love. I actually had to purchase two copies so that I could read one of them. I had a deadline though since I have three other student names on the list to read it next. I definitely recommend the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series to my students. The funny thing is I probably would not have picked it out. My dyslexic husband was with me at a book store when he saw it and told me if they'd had books like that when he was young and struggling he probably would have read more. I am so glad he was there to recommend it. I can't keep them on my shelves.

Storm Chaser by Chris Platt
Publisher: Peachtree
Pages: 160
Source: Review copy from publisher

Jessie is a thirteen year old girl who lives on Wild Hawk Ranch in Nevada. Her best friend Marybeth is two years younger than she is. When her brothers and friends bring in the herd of horses that have been roaming free on the range, Jessie spots a beautiful paint that she would love to have. Her horse Rusty is getting so old that she will soon have to stop riding him. She wants an opportunity to break the paint that she has named Storm Chaser but her father says she is still too young. Her brother Duncan doesn't agree with his father so he starts secretly helping her train Chase. When the barn burns down after a storm they have no choice but to open the ranch up as a tourist spot to help pay for what they lost. It is one of their first guests, Ariel, who turns out to be the person to take Chase away from Jessie.
I don't usually read books about horses. I grew up on a farm but didn't have horses. I identified with getting the hay in and feeding the animals and the myriad of chores that goes along with the farm. I did love this book. I found that it kept me waiting until the very end to see how it was going to turn out. I have several students who love horse books and will love the fact that I have added this to my shelves.

I Am Jack by Susanne Gervay
Publisher: Tricycle Press
Pages: 126
Source: Review copy from publisher

Jack is like any other middle school student except he has a bit problem. There is a gruop of bullies at his school. Now he is afraid to go to school. The teachers don't seem to see what is happening. His friends are beginning to ignore him and he just can't tell his mom. She has enough problems on her hands without this. Jack holds these secrets in for so long he gets physically sick. Everyone misses the signs. He finds ways to hide, even if it means getting into trouble. His grades are dropping and still no one seems to have a clue. Then one day his best friend and neighbor steps up and does the right thing. As a teacher I see bullying all the time. I have a "no put down, no bully" policy in and out of my classroom. If I see someone picking on another kid I step in and I even go as far as calling their home and talking with administration. I am not always the most popular teacher but I don't really care. My job is to create an environment in which students, all students can learn. One of the things I loved about the book was when Jack's teacher finally investigated and got involved, he didn't just discipline. He met with the main bully in the book and tried to figure out what was going on that caused him to be a bully. This was an excellent book and one that I am going to recommend to the administration and counselors at school. They need books that they can give to students to read like this. Books that let them know that adults understand what they are going through. This book is all that and more.

Ruby Flips for Attention by Derrick Barnes
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 129
Source: Review copy from publisher

Ruby wants to start a drill team and be important like her cousin Kee-Kee. She wants to hear people shout her name like they do her cousin. Ruby doesn't understand what Kee-Kee's drill team is all about. She is impatient and learns the hard way that you can't try something dangerous like flipping without the possibility of injury. When she gets her older brother to help her he tries to teach her how to do things slowly and safely. Her impatience causes an injury and makes her brother feel really bad. It isn't until her mother takes her to visit her cousin during a practice that she learns what her cousin's drill team is all about. This sets Ruby on the path toward the reputation she really wants. This was a great book. The message of doing for others was one that all kids need to see. Often times they see the glitz and glitter of their favorite star but don't know about the behind the scene things the stars do. I know a lot of kids that wold be interested in this book.

Angel Cake by Cathy Cassidy
Publisher: Puffin
Pages: 126
Source: Review Copy from publisher

Anya, her mother and sister Kazia have moved from their home in Poland to Liverpool, England. Her father had moved there three years before to help start a business give his family a better life. Anya finds it difficult in school. She is afraid to speak because her English is not real good. She is drawn to the school's bad boy Dan. Through her relationship with Dan she learns that things are not always what they seem. Her mom helps out Dan's mother in her shop and makes a new friend. Because of the kindness shown to Dan's mother, it seems that one miracle after another is answered. This is definitely a feel good story. In real life things don't always have a happily everafter ending. The ending of this story was not unbelievable. There were still problems that no one could solve and that is what made it realistic. I loved the book. This is the first time I had read anything by this author but I am sure I will be reading more.

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 353
Source: Review copy from publisher

Julian Carter Li is miserable. While is mother is in China taking pictures of Buddhist Temples for a grant she was awarded, he is stuck with his rich aunt and uncle. All the money in the world doesn't matter if the people who have it are terrible. Julian can't seem to do anything right. To try and improve his behavior his aunt decides to set up a point system that rewards good behavior. Unfortunately for Julian, no matter how hard he tries his points keep going backwards and now they are in the negatives. While sick he is stuck at his uncles office and begins snooping around. He finds an email that was unopened and reads it. It is from someone named Robin who is upset because his uncle is going to clear-cut the redwoods in Big Tree Grove. Julian and his best friends write back in answer and find out the sender is a girl about their age. Together they hatch a plan to help save the redwoods. This book is great for getting kids to look at the larger issues in the world today. It shows them that no matter how young they are they can still take steps to help protect the world they will one day inherit. I am excited to share this book with my students.

N.E.R.D.S by Michael Buckley
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 316
Source: Review copy from publisher

Okay, let me first start off by saying I loved the cover. When I saw it the song "Secret Agent Man" kept going through my head. The second think I though was that these characters looked an awful lot like characters I would find on Nikelodeon. Yes I do watch cartoons. I have to be able to discuss them with my students. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. When I first opened the book, the inside jacket flap had a list of characters. The fifth grade secret agent spies. These were all kids who were nerds and the governmetn helped them enhance their nerdiness to give them secret powers. Jackson "Braceface" Jones was never one of the nerds. That is until he got his braces and lost his friends. He was no longer a part of the popular crowd. Enter the nerds. The group he had always tormented was up to something and he wanted to know what. After following them he watched them duck into lockers and disappear. He follows them and that is when trouble starts. He has entered the world of spies. I loved this book. It was a lot of fun. I can see my students reading it and laughing out loud. I have read the entire Sister's Grimm series so I assumed I would like this one just as much and I was right. I will definitely recommend this book to my students.

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin clark Venuti
Publisher: Egmont
Pages: 242
Source: Review copy from publisher

Tristan Benway is the victim of an ancestors pledge that he and his decendants will serve teh Bellweathers for two centuries. Benway has been counting down the time he has left. He has also been writing a Tell All book about his adventures or misadventures, depending on how you wish to look at it. He thinks about the challenges ahead for his replacement. He knows that whoever steps into his shoes will have their hands full with this family. First there are the three mischievious triplets. They seem to find trouble everywhere. Then there is Spider who likes to collect dangerous and endangered animals of all kinds. Ninda thinks she can fix the world or at least her little corner of it. She keeps taking in those that she believes have been exploited. Then of course there are the parents. Dr. Bellweather is an inventor who tends to fly off the handle when interrupted. His wife can't seem to get enough of painting and repainting the walls inside their lighthouse. Eventhough Benway has looked forward to leaving he is finding this decision difficult. He is the glue that holds the family together. I will highly recommend this book to my students. The only area I see as a possible problem for them is some of the vocabulary for reluctant or intensive reading students this is some times a drawback. I am hoping the story line will keep them reading.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Review copy from publisher

Homer P. Figg is a story teller, as in fibs. The way he embellishes a story made me think of Tom Sawyer. His story takes place during the Civil War. He and his brother Harold live with their uncle because their mother is dead. He works them hard and feeds them little. Then the worst thing happens. He sells Harold to serve in the Union Army in the place of a rich mans son. Homer runs away determined to find and rescue his brother. Along the way he has several adventures. He ends up with a group who have decided to use his story telling abilities to uncover an underground railroad station. Homer is smart enough to use the stories to thwart their plans. For all of the humor found in the story it is tempered with the horrors he witnesses of the war. This was a good book that will have a place on my shelves. A good way to teach students some historical facts.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Tfhe Mysterious Benedict Society is made up of four kids with special skills and led by Mr. Benedict. the four kids, Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are constantly trying to prevent Mr. Curtin, who just happens to be Mr. Benedict's evil twin brother, from trying to take over the world. Mr. Benedict has been hiding the kids from his brother. They are captured and taken prisoner. Together they use their skills to escape and prevent Mr. Curtain from carring out his evil plans. I think my students who really like action will like this book. I have not read books one and two in the series so I will need to purchase them for my shelves as well.

Paris Pan Takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam & Sons
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

This was my kind of book. It was mysterious enough and light enough to make it a fun read. Paris Pan has a dysfunction family in many ways. Her father builds a house, moves the family into it then goes off to build their next house. The longest Paris has stayed anywhere is eight months. She talks about her school transcripts being longer than a Harry Potter book. When she moves to her newest town she is told there is a right of passage for all seventh grade girls. She wants to fit in but she is not real crazy about the dare. She is expected to spend the night in the creepy woods. It doesn't help that she has learned that a girl mysteriously died near her house while taking the dare, or that she has been hearing strange things. However, through this whole experience she learns what true friendship is. I can't wait for my students to read this book.

Red, White & True Blue Mallory by Laurie Friedman
Pages: 183
Source: Review copy from publisher

This is book number 11 in the Mallory series. I had never heard of them before this book. In thsi book, Mallory takes a class trip to Washington, D.C. She is so excited to be sharing this trip with her best friend Mary Ann. However, she finds that Mary Ann is spending the trip with her new boyfriend. Mallory is supposed to keep a journal of her trip and all of her experiences. This was an okay book with some okay historical information. I couldn't really get into it because I kept thinking that elementary kids could relate to it better. I am recommending it to a friend who teaches fourth grade. I think her kids will really like it.

The opinions expressed in these review are mine alone and do not represent the views of the panel.

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