A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tis the Season. . .

This week's question comes from the giving spirit of the Christmas season. If you could give a Christmas gift to any literary character, what would you give and to whom?

Stefanie says: I would give Ron Weasley (from Harry Potter) a brand new pair of emerald green dress robes so he doesn't have to go to the Yule Ball looking like his Great Aunt Tessie. They'll compliment his ginger hair quite nicely.

Chris says:  I would give Joss (the vampire-slaying cousin from The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod) a map to Forks, Washington.  Then, he could return the favor by ending the Twilight series. . . if you know what I mean.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Title: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
Author: Annabel Pitcher
Pages: 224
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316176903
Publication Date: August 14, 2012 (originally published January 1, 2011 in the United Kingdom)
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th grades; Book Level: 5.2; Points: 9.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12860626-my-sister-lives-on-the-mantelpiece

In a nutshell: Ten-year-old Jamie has twin sisters. His sister Jasmine is 15 and going through a pink hair phase, and his sister Rose was killed by a terrorist bombing five years ago and lives in an urn on the mantelpiece. Every year his dad tries to sprinkle her ashes in the ocean, but he just can't manage to do it. It's one of the many things his mom and dad argue about with the biggest one being how his mom is leaving them for another man. Jamie's dad packs up Jamie and Jas and Rose and moves them out of London into the Lake District to start afresh, or so Jamie hopes. Now he's going to a new school he hates, trying not to provoke the classroom bully/teacher's pet, and getting frustrated with how much attention his dad pays to Rose when he barely notices Jamie and Jas. That's when Jamie meets Sunya, and it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship...but not an easy one. In fact, if his dad found out, he'd go berserk.

I'd recommend it for grades: 6th and up (for language and subject matter)

I'd recommend it to: anyone dealing with grief or tough family issues...but really just anyone (It's excellent.)

What I liked most about this book: Jamie's narration is blunt, honest, funny, and heartbreaking all at the same time. You like him by the end of the very first paragraph. While this book is mainly the story of a family and how they each individually deal with their grief, it's also about love, the intense desire to be visible, the heartache of broken promises, and friendships that look past differences. This is one of the most well-written books about grief written from the perspective of a ten-year-old that I've read in a long time, and it's also one of the best books I've read all year.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): For reasons that I won't go into (since that would be a spoiler), Jamie wears the same Spider-Man t-shirt for weeks on end, and soon it starts to smell a bit...adolescent boy-ish. In an act of sisterly love and acting as a substitute mom, Jas doesn't make him take it off but instead lovingly gives him a stick of deodorant and tells him he's starting to stink. It's a really sweet and funny moment. Their relationship is one of my other favorite parts of this book.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars

Friday, December 7, 2012

He Says/She Says: Son by Lois Lowry

Title: Son
Author: Lois Lowry
Pages: 393
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
ISBN: 9780547887203
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 6th and up, Book Level: 5.0, Points: 11.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13324841-son

In a nutshell: In this final novel of The Giver quartet, we find ourselves back in Jonas' hometown and following the life of baby Gabe's Birthmother, Claire. When something goes wrong with Claire's first birthing, she is reassigned, but she can't stop thinking about her product. Before long Claire begins to learn just how strong motherly love is, and that love will send her on a quest that ties together beloved characters from the three previous novels. 

He Says:

I had mixed feelings about this book.  In some ways, I felt like Lois Lowry compromised what she created in The Giver, but Son also takes great strides to develop familiar characters even further and tie their stories together in a beautiful way.  The more I think about it after finishing it, the more I love it!

I'd recommend it for grades: 7th - 12th+.  It isn't a difficult read, but it does make more sense if you've already read the first three books.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who's grown up with The Giver and asked a million questions about what happened!  If you want closure for the series, you'll love this book.  

What I liked most about this book:  I really like how the story centers around the main character Claire and presents the story in three different stages of her life.  Along her journey, we learn what became of the characters from the previous books.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I really like during Book One when Claire hears what occurred at the Ceremony of Twelve; this was the first time that the story from one of the other books (I won't say which one) intersects with the plot of Son.  This is also the moment that I became hooked.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  4 stars.  The book obviously wasn't The Giver.  It wasn't perfect, but it came pretty close in my opinion.

She Says:

The Giver is one of my all time favorite books, but I was a bit disappointed with Gathering Blue and The Messenger. In fact, I don't hardly remember what happened in them, so I was apprehensive yet excited about reading this one. The first section was AWESOME! It's The Giver from another perspective, and a lot of characters return. Loved it. The second and third sections were pretty good too. Overall, this was my second favorite of the quartet as well.

I'd recommend it for grades: 7th grade and up (even adults will enjoy it if you grew up loving The Giver)

I'd recommend it to: fans of the series. I'm not sure if you'll enjoy it as much if you haven't read the other books...but maybe you will.

What I liked most about this book: You get to see a grown-up version of one of my favorite characters from this series. :)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): In the second section of the book, you get to meet a whole new cast of characters, and I love most of the people in that village. There's some great characterization in that section, and your heartstrings get tugged a few times for those people.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday book shopping for teens

Looking to buy a book as a Christmas present for that special teen/tween in your life?  Here's a list of suggestions from Random House:  http://randomhouse.tumblr.com/post/36290150038/rh-gift-guides-holiday-2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Literary QOTW: Thanksgiving Edition

Chris and I would like to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving, and in honor of Thanksgiving, we have a very special and possibly sappy question of the week for you.

What's the one children's or teen book you're most thankful for because it had such an impact on you growing up?

Chris says:

I'm very thankful for books in general, but one stands out above the rest for me.  I could say something more high brow like A Separate Peace, something more philosophical like The Chronicles of Narnia, or something more thought-provoking like The Giver.  Instead, I'm going to say J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.  Lots of books present readers with new worlds where characters can become whatever they want and escape their real-world problems.  The world of Neverland is one of high-flying adventures, swashbuckling pirates, and mythical mermaids and fairies.  In Neverland, time stands still and clocks are only for crocodiles.  For Peter and the Lost Boys, Neverland offers them an escape from their greatest fear--growing up to become a miserable adult.  For the rest of us, who can't live in eternal childhood, Neverland is an escape from our ordinary, mundane, run-of-the-mill lives, but it also helps us appreciate family and love, which seem to be the only things missing from such an extraordinary world.  J.M. Barrie's life and his signature book are reminders that growing up isn't all bad, as long as you take time each day to reclaim your childhood.

Stefanie says:

Okay, I came up with this question, and I'm having a hard time answering it. There were just so many books growing up that shaped who I am today and molded my reading tastes into what they are now. The first book I remember loving was The Velveteen Rabbit, and now I'm still a sucker for animal books. Where the Red Fern Grows is another favorite animal book along with Charlotte's Web. I also grew up completely drawn in by fantasy books like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Neverending Story, and to this day fantasy is hands-down my go-to genre because of the way you can escape into fascinating magical worlds. (I've always had a crush on Peter Pan too. Guilty.) Being a complete history nerd, I had a Laura Ingalls Wilder phase and was completely obsessed with American Girl books as well, and now I sneak in a good historical fiction book every now and then because it's like having your own time machine to see what life was like in days gone by and to see how similar people are despite differences in time period. However, if I have to pick absolutely one book above all the rest that had the most impact on me, that would be Matilda by Roald Dahl. Matilda taught me that not only was it okay to be smart but it was amazingly heroic and courageous to be smart. Matilda's love of books echoed mine; neither of us could get enough of them! Matilda showed me that there's something enchanting and powerful about reading and that books have a way of making even the most difficult life situations bearable. You can go anywhere and be anyone in a book, and no one taught me that more than Matilda.

Friday, November 16, 2012

He Reads Her Pick: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Sorry for the delay in writing this review.  I've been reading this one at school with my students during our silent reading period.  Stefanie recommended that I read this one, and I was hooked just after reading the back cover! It's about a year old, but it just came out in paperback.

Title: The Name of the Star
Author:  Maureen Johnson
Pages: 372
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
ISBN:  9780399256608
Publication Date: September 29, 2011
AR Levels: Interest Level--6th+; Book Level--4.9; Points--14

In a nutshell:  Rory Devaux is a Louisiana teenager who moves to London to attend a boarding school near the college where her parents will be teaching.  Shortly after arriving, things get interesting when a series of gruesome murders  appear to be a copy of the Jack the Ripper murders from the 1800s.  Londoners become hysterical with Rippermania, but Rory knows a little more about what's going on because she's seen the suspected murderer.  The strange part is that she's the only person who's seen him, and now he's coming for her.

I'd recommend it for grades: 7th-12th +.  This is a great book and a great start to the series!

I'd recommend it to: Anyone with an interest in England and British history and anyone with a love for a good crime thriller.

What I liked most about this book:  It didn't drag on like a lot of books, and it wasn't weighed down by awkward teenage love drama.  (Don't get me wrong, there's some in the book, but it was far from the main focus!)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I love a good reference to the 90s, so I laughed quite a bit when Rory and her friends went to a Halloween party dressed as the Spice Girls, complete with a stick with a wig to represent Posh.  

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  5 stars, hands down!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes

Title: A Girl Named Mister
Author: Nikki Grimes
Pages: 223
Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN: 9780310720782
Publication Date: August 6, 2010
AR Levels: Interest Level: 6th-12th grades; Book Level: 4.7; Points: 2.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8266889-a-girl-named-mister

In a nutshell: This is the story of two teenaged Marys - Mary Rudine (also called Mister), a 14 year old New Yorker, and Mary, a young Jewish girl who lived long ago in Nazareth. You may think these girls have little in common, but you'd be wrong. Both bear the weight of teen pregnancy, and through a book of poems written from the Virgin Mary's perspective, Mister begins to find hope in her situation. Told in free verse, this novel does not shy away from the tough issues surrounding teen pregnancy (the ridicule, the fear, the emotional and physical pain, etc.), and yet it's incredibly beautiful at the same time.

I'd recommend it for grades: 7th-12th

I'd recommend it to: teen moms, teen dads, counselors and parents who encounter teen pregnancy, and fans of verse novels, and anyone looking for a hope-filled book to read in the Christmas season

What I liked most about this book: The parallels the author draws between the two girls are seamless and breathtaking. These two voices flow in and out wonderfully, and there are individual poems that deeply moved me (and I'm not usually a huge poetry fan). I definitely want to read more of Grimes' novels now.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I love the way Mister's friend Sethany learns to love Mister through her pregnancy. It's a true testament to godly friendships.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist

Title: Seeing Cinderella
Author: Jenny Lundquist
Pages: 240
Publisher: Aladdin
ISBN: 9781442445505
Publication Date: March 20, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-6th grades; Book Level: 4.5; Points: 6.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11359684-seeing-cinderella

In a nutshell: Callie Anderson is about to start middle school, and on top of the anxiety that brings, now she has to get *gasp* glasses! When her strange eye doctor gives her these ugly, giant black-framed glasses to wear until her special order glasses come in, Callie is less than enthused until she realizes her freaky glasses can read people's thoughts! Can Callie's magical specs help her understand why her best friend is abandoning her, whether her crush likes her back or not, or why her dad still hasn't moved back in with her family? This glasses might help Callie see more than she bargained for or maybe she'll see exactly what she needs to.

I'd recommend it for grades: 4th to 8th

I'd recommend it to: fans of modernized fairytales and anyone who's ever felt awkward or misunderstood

What I liked most about this book: It's refreshing to see here another example of pitch perfect middle school girl drama. Callie is a loveable yet flawed heroine, and this tale is a nice blend of humor, drama, and fantasy. Girls will eat this up, but I think any middle schooler could find a character to relate to. The underlying message here is that sometimes you have to look past yourself to see what others are seeing in order to make friendships and families work.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Callie reluctantly auditions for the lead role of Cinderella in the drama class performance of Cinderella, and she unintentionally plays the role as a spaz, and it's a big hit! There's hope for those of us who are klutzy!

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 star is atrocious): 3 stars

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Title: The Spindlers
Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 256
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780061978081
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
AR Levels: TBA
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13438677-the-spindlers

In a nutshell: Spiders. Why did it have to be spiders? Well...spindlers actually (I couldn't resist the Indiana Jones joke.), but basically they are giant soul-stealing spiders who have kidnapped Liza's little brother Patrick's soul and left their eggs in his body like a shell. Liza must go Below and brave the dangers there in order to save him before it's too late.

I'd recommend it for grades: 4 to 6

I'd recommend it to: fans of The Hobbit (it has a very Tolkien-like feel to it) or kids who enjoy a good fantastical journey novel

What I liked most about this book: This book is just the right blend of the spooky, quirky, and funny. Liza is a courageous and spunky girl whom you like from the first chapter, and her companion is a complex yet hilarious rat named Mirabella. Mirabella is my new favorite rat in children's literature (sorry, Templeton). She wears a messy wig, crazy makeup, and a newspaper skirt, and she's longing to be loved. There's more to her than meets the eye for sure, but that's all I'll say. I'm sure you will love her as much as I do.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Have you ever wondered where all your missing socks go? Well, they probably go to the troglod market where gnome-like creatures called troglods sell odds and ends stolen from the human world for colored pieces of paper. It's a wondrously funny scene when Liza and Mirabella visit the troglod market.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

*Side note: If you like this one, you will love Lauren Oliver's other middle grade novel, Liesl and Po, about a girl and a ghost who set out to solve the mystery of her father's death and to save a troubled boy. Check it out on Goodreads here, and maybe one day I'll review it too. :) If you're a bit older, check out her books for teens too. They're all incredible, but Delirium is my favorite. Here's a link to all her books on Goodreads. She's one of my favorite new-ish authors.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Literary QOTW: Decision 2012

It's been a while since we've done a question of the week, so in honor of Election Day here in the good ol' U. S. of A., we pose to you this question: If you could elect a book character as the next President of the United States, whom would you choose and why?

Chris says:

I would vote for Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games.  He has a charismatic personality, and people want to follow his lead.  Based on what we know from Catching Fire and Mockingjay, he is skilled as a fighter, loyal, and selfless.  Honorable mention:  Mikael Blomkvist from The Millennium Trilogy would make a very Clinton-esque president; also, Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter or Skeeter Phelan from The Help would be amazing as the first female president. Obviously, none of those characters could actually be President of the United States because Finnick is from a post-US world, Blomkvist and McGonagall are from Europe, and Skeeter is too young, but I still think they'd all be great.  

Stefanie says:

I would vote for Nicholas Benedict from The Mysterious Benedict Society because he's genius smart, fatherly, good at making tough decisions, and experienced in top-secret missions to save the world. However, he does suffer from narcolepsy, so he'll need a great running mate to take the reins when he's suffering from one of his sleeping spells. I would recommend a grown-up version of Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus raised Scout to be fair, loyal, kind, giving, and selfless, and I have a feeling she ended up getting a law degree like her dad so she could help those less fortunate than her fight for their rights. Just as she brings Boo Radley out of the shadows, she would make sure that no one would ever feel like they were forgotten or unspoken for. I do love the idea of Skeeter Phelan too though!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki

Title: The Ghost of Graylock
Author: Dan Poblocki
Pages: 258
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545402682
Publication Date: August 1, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th grades; Book Level: 4.8; Points: 9.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13316309-the-ghost-of-graylock

In a nutshell: Neil and his big sister Bree are new in town. They're temporarily living with their aunts after their mother and father's separation causes some turmoil in their family, but if it's peace and quiet they're looking for, they won't find it in this town. When Neil hears the legends about a ghost who roams the halls of an abandoned insane asylum where three teens mysteriously drowned, he can't resist exploring, and he takes Bree and two new friends along for the ride. What he doesn't know is that something at Graylock Hall has unfinished business, and it wants Neil to help it finish it.

I'd recommend it for grades: 4 to 8

I'd recommend it to: fans of good old fashioned ghost stories and students who have graduated from Goosebumps

What I liked most about this book: It has been a while since I've read a scary book, and while this one didn't make me want to sleep with a nightlight on, it did creep me out a good deal. The best part to me was the pacing. The book starts with the legend of Nurse Janet, the supposed murderer of three teens at Graylock Hall, and the creep factor of that alone hooks you. Then within the twenty pages, you're already sneaking into Graylock Hall with Neil and Bree and friends. By putting some of the scariest scenes in the beginning, Poblocki lures you into quickly turning pages to see what will happen next.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): The scene where the kids break into Graylock Hall is vividly described to the point where you feel like you're breaking in too, and their first paranormal encounter in a patient's room is SPOOKY in a good way.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Because It Is My Blood
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Pages: 350
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374380748
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Levels: 9th-12th grades; Book Level: 4.5; Points: 13.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13163011-because-it-is-my-blood

In a Nutshell: Anya Ballanchine, heiress to an illegal chocolate business, has just been released from a short stay in juvie, and her troubles are only beginning. Her ex-boyfriend and son of the district attorney, Win, is already dating another girl, her father's legacy as the chocolate mob boss is in danger as Ballanchine Chocolate is in disarray, and not one single school in the city will accept her for her senior year. Anya must decide if she will accept her fate as the future face of the Manhattan chocolate black market or try to run while she can. This is a tale of love, finding oneself, loyalty, and crime, and it will grip you every step of the way.

I'd recommend it for grades: 8 to 12. There's some bloodshed. Mob story, remember?

I'd recommend it to: guys who like mob stories (This is like The Godfather with a hot chick.), girls who like star-crossed love stories, teens who still want lots more dystopias, and anyone who likes chocolate or New York City

What I liked most about this book: I adored the first book, All These Things I've Done, and I couldn't wait to read this one. It didn't wow me like the first one, but all the characters I love are still loveable, and all the page-turning suspense is still there too...maybe even amped up a bit from book one. The dialogue is a bit cheesier than the first though, so that made me not like it quite as much. I still wait anxiously for book three though!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): At the very end, the New York Public Library at Bryant Park (one of my favorite buildings in the world) plays an important role in the set-up for book 3. See if you recognize it. Anya and Win also attend a classic movie in the park in the summer, which was something I enjoyed the summer I spent in New York too. It's nice to see that even amid the chaos of future Manhattan, they still show classic movies in the park. :)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars (Book 1: All These Things I've Done is easily 5 stars. Read it first. It will rock your world.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Pages: 452
Publisher: Egmont Press
ISBN: 9781405258210
Publication Date: February 6, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 9th-12th grades; Book Level: 6.5; Points: 15.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11925514-code-name-verity

In a nutshell: I almost can't write a summary without giving too much away, but I'll say this. This novel is about friendship - friendship so strong it will move you to your core. It's the story of two girls who answered the call to serve their country during WWII in Britain (one as a spy and one as a pilot), who stumbled into a life-changing friendship along the way, and who are torn apart by their commitment to their cause and each other. You should just take my word for it and read this one.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12+ for the torture scenes and for the language at times

I'd recommend it to: students who can't get enough of WWII books or who like suspenseful mysteries that are deeply character-driven

What I liked most about this book: The characters. The two female leads are phenomenal yet authentic. You laugh, cry, and cringe right along with these girls. Don't think this is just for girls either. Guys, you'll love this too. There's torture and fighter pilots and double agents and more! I wish I could tell you more, but I don't want to give anything away!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): As with any good spy novel, there's hardly anything I can tell you that's not spoiler-y, but I can say that the format of this book adds so much to its success. Reading the notes of the captured female protagonist puts you right in the horror of being a prisoner of war while still leaving plenty up to the imagination.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 brightly shining stars

Friday, October 19, 2012

Today is Your Birthday!

I want to wish Chris a very happy birthday today! Thanks for being such a great friend and a rockin' co-blogger!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What a Boy Wants by Nyrae Dawn

Let me begin by saying that it's been a long time since I've disliked a book as much as I disliked this one.  It has less than 150 pages (thank goodness), and I almost stopped reading it around page 20.  Usually, I tend to find positive things in most books that I read, but after this one, I got nothin'.  It was WAY too predictable (My hunch from page 5 was extremely close.), I didn't connect with a single character, and there was a lot of product placement and name dropping throughout the book that I found distracting.  Additionally, the plot very closely resembled Hitch with Will Smith (rent that instead).  But. . . That's just my opinion--judge for yourselves.

Title:  What a Boy Wants
Author:  Nyrae Dawn
Pages:  140
Publisher:  Independent
ISBN:  9781475222449
Publication Date:  April 6, 2012
AR Levels:  TBA
Goodreads Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15707111-what-a-boy-wants

In a nutshell:  Sebastian Hawkins--the self proclaimed "Hook-up Doctor"--knows what it takes for girls to land the guy of their dreams, and he shares his expertise anonymously for a fee (so he can save up to buy a car).  Personally, he prefers short-term flings over actual relationships, so falling in love was never on his agenda, especially not with the person he finds himself pining over.  Now that he's head-over-heels in love with this girl, he can't seem to provide good advice for his customers.  Can he make it work without screwing it up? Is there hope for the Hook-up Doctor, or will his own relationship crash and burn?

I'd recommend it for grades:  I have a hard time recommending this book to anyone, but due to the more adult language and content, I would definitely say this book should be reserved for grades 9-12.

I'd recommend it to: Middle-aged adult women who enjoy reading teen fiction. This book was written for them in my opinion.

What I liked most about this book:  The character names; those were at least original or uncommon.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  At one point, the main character quotes Borat and then refers to it as a classic, even though it came out when he was in elementary school.  Yeah, it definitely came out in 2006.

Star rating (where 5 stars is amazing and 0 stars is atrocious):  I'll give it 2 stars.  I'm sure there are people out there who will like this book, but I'm not one of them.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Literary QOTW: A Pirate's Life for Me!

If you could add pirates to the plot of any YA novel, which one would you choose and how would you integrate the pirates into the plot?

Chris says: If I could add pirates to any young adult novel, I'd add them to Inkheart. Particularly, I think Captain James Hook and crew should at least make an appearance since Meggie reads Tinkerbell out of the book Peter Pan. I may be a little biased, though, since Peter Pan is one of my all-time favorite books. How would I work them in? When Meggie reads out Tinkerbell, she would also read out a band of pirates who are angered by leaving Neverland. Captain Hook is drawn in by Capricorn to aid in bringing out the Shadow; the other pirates, however, just want to be read back into their book, so they work with Elinor to help stop Capricorn.

Stefanie says: I would add pirates to Scott O'Dell's Newbery classic Island of the Blue Dolphins because as beautiful as the writing is, it gets pretty dull at points. Poor Karana doesn't deserve to spend her days sad and alone on a desert island. If pirates attacked her island, I'm sure she'd put up a fight at first, but the pirates would respect her impressive combat and survival skills and make her their exotic queen. Then she could live out the rest of her life sailing the seven seas and seeing the world instead of being stuck on a boring island.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Title: The Mark of Athena
Author: Rick Riordan
Pages: 608
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423140603
Publication date: October 2, 2012
AR levels: TBA
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12127750-the-mark-of-athena

In a nutshell: The Prophecy of the Seven is coming to pass, and it has united Greek demigods Percy, Annabeth, Leo, and Piper with Roman demigods Jason, Frank, and Hazel in a dangerous quest to the Ancient Lands to try to stop Gaea from taking over the world. The newly formed Greek and Roman friendships will be tested, and the seven will have to learn to work together and put aside their pride to save the world and save the gods. To make matters more complicated, a crazed Athena has tasked Annabeth with a age-old perilous solo mission to Rome to follow the Mark of Athena and find a way to avenge her and hopefully bring peace to the Greek and Roman demigods once and for all. Told from the perspectives of Annabeth, Leo, Piper, and Percy, the third novel in the Heroes of Olympus series shines as one of Riordan's best. It's a heart-pumping yet emotional tale that is sure to please fans and leave them wanting more...and soon!

I'd recommend it for grades: 4 and up (I know plenty of adults who love these too, and you could even read these aloud to kids as young as five I think.)

I'd recommend it to: Percy Jackson fans obviously, but also fans of Greek or Roman mythology or kids who enjoy a fast-paced page-turner with a side of romance and a healthy dose of humor

What I liked most about this book: I love that we finally got to hear the point of view of my favorite character, the stormy-eyed anything-but-dumb blonde Annabeth! She rocks it in this one. This is really her story, and boy does she have a tough road ahead of her. Annabeth is quickly becoming my second favorite female YA character of all time. No one will ever come before Hermione Granger, but Annabeth Chase sure does give her a run for her money!

The comic relief in the book comes mostly through Leo Valdez, who is also becoming one of my favorites. This new series has a serious lack of Grover, but Leo is filling that void nicely. He seems to be taking on more of a leadership role as well, and it will be interesting to see how he continues to grow in the last two books.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There's a shout out to the Twilight series that involves a Team Leo t-shirt that made me laugh out loud so hard that I thought my downstairs neighbors might complain. :)

Star rating (where 5 stars is amazing and 0 stars is atrocious): I'd give this 15 stars if I could. This is my new favorite Riordan book. I liked it even more than any of the original Percy Jackson books, and that's saying something.

P.S.: I got to hear Rick Riordan speak in Winston-Salem last week as part of the book tour, and he was INCREDIBLE! He's truly an inspiration to teachers, librarians, kids, and budding authors. My copy of The Mark of Athena is signed, and this makes me very happy. You know what else makes me happy? The fact that his next series is going to be based on Norse mythology, be set in modern times, and will probably involve demigods. Get your giant hammers ready!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

When I first started reading Where Things Come Back and noticed that it is set in Arkansas, I researched the author, John Corey Whaley, to find that he is a fellow educator AND a fellow Louisianian.  This book had me hooked by page 4, and it read much like a John Green novel but with its own flair.  Part heart wrenching, part humorous, and part philosophical, Where Things Come Back makes you ask whether things happen for a reason or if life is a series of coincidences.  

Title:  Where Things Come Back
Author:  John Corey Whaley
Pages: 256
Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN:  9781442413337
Publication Date:  May 3, 2011
AR Levels:  Interest Level: 9th-12th; Book Level: 5.7; Points:  9.0 

In a nutshell:  Cullen Witter is a rising high school senior in small town Lily, Arkansas.  Over the summer, he loses his cousin to a drug overdose and his beloved and revered brother Gabriel disappears; at the same time, his town is in a frenzy over an extinct woodpecker that has suddenly reemerged.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Africa, a missionary struggles to find true meaning in his life.  Their stories collide in a way that leaves you wondering and questioning til the very last page.

I'd recommend it for grades:  8th-12th+.  The book does contain some cursing and the philosophical/religious elements might be too much for younger middle grades.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who's dealt with loss or who enjoys a good, well-crafted story.

What I liked most about this book:  I liked that the book allowed us into the mind of all different kinds of people who are experiencing the main events.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  Cullen's brother, Gabriel, keeps a journal of random thoughts, musings, song lyrics, etc.  I was very excited to see shout outs to one of my favorite musicians--Sufjan Stevens.  

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 3 stars is atrocious):  4 Stars

Saturday, September 22, 2012

She Reads His Pick: Playground by 50 Cent

Chris and I thought it would be fun from time to time to pick a book for each other to read that we might not normally read. He picked this one for me, and I'll admit, I was skeptical, but I ended up liking it.

Title: Playground
Author: 50 Cent
Pages: 314
Publisher: Razorbill
ISBN: 9781595144348
Publication date: January 1, 2012
AR levels: Interest level: 6th and up, Book level: 5.4, Points: 7.0
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9754801-playground

In a nutshell: Butterball is sent to see a therapist after attacking a friend on the playground at his school. To the casual bystander, it appears to be an unprovoked act of violence, but through the eyes of this troubled teen, the reader begins to see just what lead to his actions, and it's anything but what one might think. Take a walk in Butterball's shoes, and you'll learn what it feels like to be a bully and to be bullied too. This is a book for anyone who's ever felt misunderstood or had a misunderstanding derail his or her life.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12 (There is a good deal of cursing, references to some mature themes, and off-screen drinking and violence.)

I'd recommend it to: future filmmakers (Butterball loves making movies and talks a lot about film), anyone who's ever felt bullied or been tempted to bully someone themselves, and professionals who work with tweens and teens

What I liked most about this book: My favorite thing about this book is that you get to see the horrors of bullying from both sides of the coin in one character. Butterball lashes out at others because of pain in his own life, and he also is a victim of bullying himself, finding himself eating lunch alone in the restroom many days. Yet, he finds a way to stop being the bully and stop being bullied. It'd be a great read for a kid who's bullying others or being bullied himself. Also, Butterball is just so loveable. You really feel for this kid. You hurt when he hurts. You cringe when he does something wrong. You cheer for him when he does something right. The relationship between him and his therapist is both emotionally charged and sweet too. There's lots of great character development in this book, and the writing style is melodic too. 50 Cent definitely has a way with words.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There's a moment when Butterball and his dad are shopping for new shoes when he sees the most beautiful pair of sneakers he's ever seen and he describes them, saying, "they were really incredibly beautiful - the way a sunset or the last shot of Planet of the Apes, the original I mean, not that remake..., the way it cuts from the beach to that wide shot of the Statue of Liberty" (111). At the beginning of this book, I was a bit worried I'd be able to relate to Butterball as a character, but by page 10 or so I was already feeling him. After this scene where he falls in love with some shoes, I was definitely understanding him because who hasn't done that? It's such an innocent and universal moment that quickly turns sour, but that's spoilers. ;)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Pages: 409
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545224901
Publication date: October 18, 2011
AR levels: Interest level - 9-12th grades, Book level: 5.5, Points: 17

In a nutshell: Every November, the courageous riders on the island of Thisby face off in The Scorpio Races, a dangerous race in which they must attempt to tame and race the wild and bloodthirsty capaill uisce. These beautiful but deadly water horses emerge from the surf, and if a lucky rider can find one to lead him to victory, there's fame and fortune and glory to be had, but death could also be a raging hoofprint away. 

Both Sean Kendrick and Puck Connolly feel the pull of the Races. Repeat champion and orphan Sean is tired of living under the bondage of his despicable employer, so he's laying everything he has on the line in order to start a new and independent life for himself. Puck Connolly, also an orphan, has no choice but to enter the Races; she must win in order to keep her family together, but the islanders won't be kind to the only girl to ever enter the Races. In a deadly race where only one can win and anyone can die, both Sean and Puck find themselves with equally vital motives for victory and a luring camaraderie that's as strong as the pull of the tides.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12 (It gets a bit bloody at times.)

I'd recommend it to: Hunger Games fans and horse lovers

What I liked most about this book: Simply put: the language is gorgeous. Stiefvater definitely has a way with words and imagery. I felt completely transported to this island, and even though the beginning is a bit slow plot-wise, I was so pulled in by the descriptions and the characters, that I couldn't stop. The race scene had me on the edge of my seat, and I think I may have held my breath a few times. The book is an alluring blend of violence, romance, courage, hope, suspense, action, and myth. This would make a breathtaking movie as well.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Any scene where Sean is working to tame the capaill uisce is utterly magical. He's a water horse whisperer of immense talent, and it's incredible to watch him work with those beautiful and terrifying creatures. The character development of the water horses is amazing in and of itself too.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): a solid 4 stars

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Literary QOTW: Bringing History to Life

Lots of books have been written with a major historical event as the setting backdrop, giving us a teen or tween's view of what that event was like.  For example, Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 (the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing), Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (9/11), and Deborah Wiles' Countdown (Cuban Missile Crisis/1960s).  What major historical event would you like to see in a YA novel and why?

Stefanie Says:  I'd like to see a YA book set in Haiti during the recent-ish earthquake. I'm not familiar with many contemporary YA novels set in the Caribbean. It'd be nice to get a glimpse of what life was like before and after the earthquake and what life in present-day Caribbeans nations is like too. 

Chris Says:  So, by coincidence, we both picked earthquakes.  The only difference is that mine is almost 200 years earlier and centered around New Madrid, Missouri.  The New Madrid earthquake was actually a series of earthquakes occurring over a 4-month period that were felt as far away as Maine.  The quakes were powerful enough to create waterfalls along the Mississippi River and even made it flow backwards at several points and almost an entire town was washed away.  In addition to all of the destruction, the quake helped uncover evidence that solved a famous murder investigation involving nephews of Thomas Jefferson.  A YA book set during this event would be a mix of Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, and Earthquake.  

If you like historical YA fiction, check out this site:  http://plymouthlibrary.org/index.php/teen/teen-booklists/67-american-historical-fiction-for-teens

He Says/She Says: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Title: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
Author: Christopher Healy
Pages: 419
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
ISBN: 9780062117434
Publication date: May 1, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 5.0, Points: 12.0
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12969560-the-hero-s-guide-to-saving-your-kingdom

In a nutshell: You've probably never heard of Prince Frederic, Prince Gustav, Prince Liam, or Prince Duncan, but I bet you've heard of Prince Charming, right? In a fairytale world where word travels via song, the heroic deeds of princes are often lumped under the fake title of "Prince Charming," and poor Frederic, Gustav, Liam, and Duncan get no fortune or glory. But when an evil witch threatens to murder the minstrels of five fairytale kingdoms, these unknown princes step in to save the very bards who stole their rightful fame. You'll love this swashbuckling, funny fairytale that combines the stories of Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. (Plus, it's going to be a series! No publication date yet though.)

He Says:
I'll admit I was a bit skeptical at first about this book, but it turned out to be one of the best books I've reviewed to date!  If this is ever turned into an animated movie (and it should), I hope someone will allow me to help with casting people to do the voices.  I can best describe this book as a cross between The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Shrek.  It takes everything you thought you knew about classic fairy tales and turns them upside down.

I'd recommend it for grades:  4th and up.  Not gonna lie, even adults will love this one!

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who loves classic fairy tales but doesn't take them too seriously.  This book might change your opinion of a few of those princesses, and even Prince Charming.

What I liked most about this book:  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book out loud (to myself, yes), but still it's hilarious.  Hero's Guide doesn't have a dull moment, and it's chock full of daring adventures and close escapes.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I love the part of the book when the princes share the names of their horses.  One of them is so random but fits the character very well.  You'll know what I'm talking about when you get there.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  5 stars, hands down!!

She Says:
I recommended to Chris that we read this book together as our next he says/she says review because it sounded funny, and boy was it! I hope they make it into a movie too!

I'd recommend it for grades: 4th and up (Ditto to what Chris says about adults loving this too! It will also make a fabulous read-aloud book for even younger children too. I definitely hope to read it to mine one day!)

I'd recommend it to: fairytale lovers and tween boys (They'll love the humor in it and will be able to identify with at least one of the princes. Plus it's got very little romance in it and lots of action!)

What I liked most about this book: The four princes in this book couldn't be more different, and yet I love them all, and they all grow so much during the course of the book. You've got Frederic, Cinderella's sheltered, scaredy cat prince; Gustav, Rapunzel's gruff, devil-may-care prince; Liam, Sleeping Beauty's handsome and genuinely brave and kindhearted prince (my fave!), and Duncan, Snow White's quirky, spastic prince (He's a hoot!). They really make the book what it is, but there are some strong female characters in this book too. Ella (Cinderella) kicks major butt, you love to hate Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty), and my personal favorite is spunky little Lila, Liam's little sister, who is quite an adventurer in her own right! Also, the chapter titles are really, really funny.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I have lots of favorites, but some of my favorite scenes are the ones where Duncan randomly names animals on the spot. He'll see an animal in the woods, and he has to blurt out a name for it immediately, so he's forever randomly spurting out names, and it's hilarious! It reminds me of the dog in Up.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): oh definitely 5 stars!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Pages: 292
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN: 9780062003256
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 9th-12th, Book Level: 5.7, Points: 10.0
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12924326-tiger-lily 

In a nutshell: Before Peter gave Wendy a thimble, he loved a strong, exotic native girl named Tiger Lily, but this is the tale of three girls who loved Peter Pan - an English girl, the daughter of a medicine man, and a spunky fairy. Narrated by Tinker Bell, this entrancing love rectangle is beautifully written and is sure to leave you spellbound.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 to 12

I'd recommend it to: fans of Peter Pan and romance lovers

What I liked most about this book: Besides the fact that the writing is just gorgeous, it's incredible to see a fresh interpretation of Neverland. All your favorite characters are here - Captain Hook, Smee, the Lost Boys, the mermaids, and of course Peter, Wendy, Tiger Lily, and Tinker Bell, and there are some delightful new characters too. One of my favorites is Pine Sap, a bookish native boy who's in love with Tiger Lily. Anderson takes some liberties with the original, but I loved the idea that you stop aging when the most significant moment of your life happens. Also, while you would think that having a "jealous" Tinker Bell narrate the love story of Peter Pan and Tiger Lily would be petty and rude, Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily actually have an incredibly authentic and loyal friendship that's every bit as heartwarming as the romance in the book.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I can't give away too much, but the book puts a spin on how the crocodile ended up with the clock, and it has nothing to do with Captain Hook. That scene is one of the turning points of the novel and one of the most heartbreaking ones too. I teared up a bit.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I'd give it 6 stars if I could.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi

I had intended to post this one earlier this morning, as it's the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in South Louisiana, but I found myself without power for an extended period of time due to Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Isaac.  I'm typing this review while on an air mattress in a relative's guest room, and I can't help but think back to August 29, 2005 and the days, weeks, and months that followed.  A conversation with one my students earlier this week reminded me that although many of my middle schoolers don't remember vividly what happened 7 years ago, they do remember how their lives changed because of it.  I thought it would be appropriate to review Paul Volponi's Hurricane Song, which is the fictional account of a teenager who was in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck.  It is vivid, poignant, and even a little haunting.

Title:  Hurricane Song
Author:  Paul Volponi
Pages:  144
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
ISBN:  9780670061600
Publication Date:  June 12, 2008
AR Levels:  Interest Level--4th to 8th; Reading Level--5.4; Points--4.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2302929.Hurricane_Song

In a nutshell:  Sixteen-year old Miles just moved across the country to live with his jazz musician father in New Orleans.  Their relationship had been almost nonexistent, but with his mom getting remarried and new kids moving in the house, he knew he needed to give his dad a second chance.  After only a few months, their new relationship is tested by one of the worst natural disasters New Orleans has ever seen--Hurricane Katrina.  Getting out of town proves to be very difficult with heavy traffic and a broken down car, so they end up at the Superdome, one of the city's most iconic venues that turns out to be a scene of devastation, destruction, and despair.  Can their relationship survive the storm, but more importantly, can they survive the storm?

I'd recommend it for grades:  8th - 12th+.  There is some language and mature content; plus some of the events of the story may be disturbing.

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who wants to see what the center of the storm was like for the poorest of the poor and anyone who enjoys reading about dealing with obstacles and adversity.

What I liked most about this book:  This book doesn't sugarcoat what happened in the aftermath of the storm, but it also doesn't read like a documentary account.  Hurricane Song challenges you to think not only about the characters in the story, but also about the bigger issues that were the cause of many misfortunes during this tragic event.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I loved that the lyrics to "When the Saints Go Marching In" were placed throughout the book.  

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I'll say 4 stars. It isn't perfect and seems rushed at times, but what is there packs an emotional wallop.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Literary QOTW: Joining Forces

2010's Will Grayson, Will Grayson was co-authored by John Green and David Levithan, with each author writing every other chapter.  Which two YA authors would you like to see team up to write a novel, and why would they work well together?  

Stefanie says:  Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries) and Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss) should definitely write a book together. Their writing styles are similar, and they're both wonderful at writing strong, funny female leads. Plus, they know how to get a laugh. That book would be hilarious. Add Maureen Johnson to the mix, and that would be one EPIC book!

Chris says:  I'm thinking that Chris Crutcher (Deadline) and John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) would write well together.  They have similar writing styles, have tackled similar topics within their books, and know how to throw in a laugh-out-loud moment here and there.  Crutcher tends to write about more popular/jock-type characters, while Green has mastered writing about quirky/independent-type characters.  A book that combines these two perspectives would be a YA lit juggernaut.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Imposter by Gary Blackwood

Okay, I've been scarce for a while.  Between the Olympics, Shark Week, and the start of a new school year, my schedule has been a little hectic.  I know that one reason some people give for not reading more is that they don't have time, so I decided to review a book that's pretty short and very quick.  The Imposter by Gary Blackwood manages to squeeze humor, suspense, and drama into less than 200 pages. The book was just published this year, but Blackwood began drafting this story 20 years ago.   

Title: The Imposter
Author: Gary Blackwood
Pages: 192
Publisher: Red Deer Press
ISBN: 9780889954786
Publication date: May 1, 2012
AR Levels:  N/A 

In a nutshell: Ryan Waite is a 14-year old actor who lives with his mother in Canada.  When he receives a phone call from a mysterious man asking him to audition for a play, he decides to give it a shot but soon learns that this would be a role unlike any other he's played in the past.  The man he thought was a casting director turns out to be a private detective who has been searching for the long lost son of a very wealthy man who happens to be dying; after the search turned out to be a bust, the detective decided to hire an actor to play the son so that they could split the money promised for finding the son. After arriving at the home of his long lost "father," Ryan (now called Allen Kurz) instantly bonds with Kelley--his new "sister"--but his new "stepmother" is on to him from the beginning.  Can Ryan stay in character long enough to pull off this role or will the truth catch up with him?  

I'd recommend it for grades: 6th-12th+.  Very easy read without a lot of PG content.

I'd recommend it to: Students who like acting and drama, as well as those who like a little mild suspense

What I liked most about this book: It was very simple.  Blackwood didn't try to beef up the book with racy content or extra fluff.  The book moves at a fast pace but isn't hard to follow.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  I know this isn't a specific part of the book, but I laughed a lot when I finally hit the point in the book that confirmed that it is set in 1990s Canada.  I definitely didn't see that coming.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars.  The book wasn't perfect, but it delivered a pretty good story for what it was.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Literary QOTW: Back to School

Since it's that time of year again, what's your favorite book set in a school?

Stefanie says: I'm going to go with an oldie but a goodie - Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. This is the first book I remember reading as a kid that literally made me laugh out loud. The hilarious antics of the kids at good ol' Wayside are timelessly funny with a healthy dose of science fiction, and I still recommend this book to kids a lot. Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans and My Weird School fans will enjoy it tremendously. Honorable mention goes to the sequels - Wayside School Is Falling Down and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger...and I suppose Harry Potter too if we're counting wizarding schools because we all know I want to go to Hogwarts.

Chris says: I'm going old school, too.  John Knowles' A Separate Peace dates all the way back to 1959.  I never wanted to go to a prep school, boarding school, or a boys-only school, but for some reason, the idea always made for great books and movies (e.g. Dead Poets Society, The History Boys, The Chocolate War).  I remember reading this one in junior high and immediately reading it again.  I always wanted to have my own secret society at school because it sounded awesome, but the band of misfits I was hanging around at the time probably looked more like a page out of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Honorable mention goes to Looking for Alaska, which also takes place at a boarding school.  (Maybe there's a pattern for a reason!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Title: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
Author: Tom Angleberger
Pages: 152
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
ISBN: 9780810984257
Publication date: March 1, 2010
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 4.7, Points: 3.0

In a nutshell: McQuarrie Middle School is just your typical middle school until the day quirky sixth-grader Dwight introduces his classmates to Origami Yoda, who as you may have guessed is an origami Yoda, but the crazy thing is that this origami Yoda seems to be alive and able to predict the future! Dwight's classmate and fellow lunch table sitter Tommy and his friends begin an investigation to find out whether or not Origami Yoda is real or just a way for Dwight to get attention, and things just get stranger and stranger. Before long every one wants to seek Origami Yoda's advice, and there's trouble for those who do not heed it.

I'd recommend it for grades: 4 to 8

I'd recommend it to: fans of Star Wars and/or Diary of a Wimpy Kid, boys, origami enthusiasts, reluctant readers (It's short and easy to read...and funny too!), and anyone looking for a good laugh

What I liked most about this book: The physical design of this book is excellent. The whole book reads like a case file journal of the class' encounters with Yoda, so the pages have a crumpled look to them with different fonts for different handwriting and doodles here and there of Star Wars characters and kids in the class. Plus, at the end there's instructions for making your own origami Yoda. I haven't tried it...yet! ;)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): My favorite piece of advice that Yoda gives is to a boy who accidentally gets water on his pants in the bathroom and is mortified that people will think he peed in his pants. Wise Yoda says, "All of pants you must wet," and the boy just soaks the rest of his pants and shirt so it just looks like he got caught in the rain. Genius.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars (but it would easily be 5 stars for certain readers)

*If you like this one, check out the other two in the series: Darth Paper Strikes Back (book two) and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee (book 3).