Tag Archives: adventures

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circusmirandusCircus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

For the most part, the story works, and I did care about the main character and what he was hoping for. The ending is the kind that kid readers always want: the young protagonist actually GOT to enter the fantasy realm, rather than learning some precious lessons on how to hold the magic in one’s heart but knowing that “fantasy world” does not quite exist. So, kudos to Beasley on that front. I was hoping that once we learned the back story of the aunt, I would have had more sympathy toward her behavior but she remained a two-dimensional device and not fleshed out character all the way through. Definitely felt that the writing is a bit plain and some details could be trimmed to tighten the pacing, but totally see it appeal to certain young readers.

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The Darkness Dwellers Kiki Strike #3 Galley by…

8680025The Darkness Dwellers: Kiki Strike #3. (Galley)
by Kirsten Miller

Finished. The first 2013 children’s book that I got to read. A whole bunch of girls (5-8 grade) have been waiting for this to come out for a long long time! Hurray for its final appearance AND happy that they will definitely enjoy it. They will find that the plotting is as adventuresome and surprising as the previous two installments and the tone is as sassy. It’s also delightful to read Ananka’s TIPS for girls that encourage kindness and level-headedness throughout the story.

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February 5, 2013 · 10:14 pm

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

Who would have thought? Richard Peck: the 21st Century Austen for the 8 to 10 set? But he IS! This little gem of a book has all the good stuff:

A cast of talking mice whose actions and living conditions are completely believable and are in tune with children’s fantasy play; a twisting, surprising, and humorous upstairs/downstairs comedy that involves Royalty and seafaring; the perennial favorite plot progression allowing the lower class main characters go up the social ladder due to good luck and hard work; and clean grown-up romances.

Peck’s deft hand also created a great protagonist in the no-nonsense Helena and made her think and speak properly like one would have from the late 1800s. I was completely charmed!

(And the full-page incidental illustrations add to its charm even more!)

Quick – go and get a copy and treat yourself and your young readers!!

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Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

As all children’s lit lovers know, this is one of the most anticipated sequels of the year.  With the success of The Lost Hero, Riordan set himself quite a high bar to pass — and he came in slight short.  Percy is not as witty or clueless (ironic given that he lost most of him memories) as the beloved, unexpected everyday hero in the previous series.  The two new “heroes” do not generate the same reader admiration that the three new leading characters (Jason, Leo, and Piper) from Lost Hero.  And Hazel and Frank’s potentially awesome powers did not quite get the play each could have.

That said, the book is still full of quirky scenes and exciting adventures.  I especially love the notion that the Amazons are the power behind amazon.com and totally enjoy the Harpy Ella and her voracious appetite for books.  One of my students wrote a reaction to this book and I agree with her musings on some stylistic and character development matters.  Here’s the link: http://blogs.dalton.org/scifan/2011/11/17/603/

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The Dark City

The Dark City (Relic Master, #1)by Catherine Risher

I found myself thoroughly engrossed in this tale of fantasy/scifi blend. Usually, I get annoyed by authors who mix magical elements in otherwise supposedly a science fiction world. It always seems to be a cop-out: when something cannot be sufficiently explained with scientific theories or technical knowledge, we just throw in some magical powers and voila, the story can move on. Fisher did something different here: she created a world of magical elements with a few technological gadgets thrown in here and there. The little guessing games of what each object is (an easy one is a pair of binoculars made with the “unfamiliar” materials – plastic? -) entertains and intrigues the reader.

I would have liked to see the Dark City developed a bit more — the city is too vaguely described and I simply couldn’t figure out why there are still people in this place since the readers are not shown how the commerce works to support such a place and its inhabitants.

Still, can’t wait for the book to be released (May) so I can promote it to my young readers and can’t wait to read the 3 sequels which will come out in quick succession: June, July, and August!

(Based on the Advanced Readers Copy)

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The Recruit

The Recruit (Cherub #1)by Robert Muchamore (First in the Cherub series)

It’s definitely a fun ride. Many young readers must really enjoy the fast pace, the satisfying notion that one can behave badly with light consequences or even rewarded for such behaviors, and the espionage aspects of the storyline.

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The Name of This Book is Secret

The Name of This Book Is Secretby Pseudonymous Bosch

I really should have heeded the recommendations, enthusiastic and spirited, from many different readers in several grades for the last few years. Why I felt reluctant to read this title for so long, I have no idea. Reading this book was absolutely a fun experience! Although some more experienced readers might find the meta-fiction aspect a bit heavy handed or derivative (ala Snicket or Scieszka & Lane,) I think young readers who encounter this type of storytelling format for the first will definitely eat it up with gusto! At the same time, I don’t find myself propelled to read on the rest of the series. What is lacking? Perhaps certain genuine emotional bond between this reader and the characters who serve as pieces on a game board and don’t quite come through as “real” people.

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by Scott Westerfeld

I’m so glad that I finally got around to read Uglies — a popular book amongst many of my students, mostly girls. Now that I have read it, I have to adjust my perception of it 180 degrees — it is NOT a book for just girls; it is NOT really a YA-only book; it has a LOT of adventurous actions; it has QUITE A BIT of complexities. A gripping read and I will promote it to both boys and girls, to SciFi readers, and to those who want to think hard and dig deep into a world of dystopia.

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Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Was not quite wowed by it as I had expected. I love the final book design (I read the galley) with its gorgeous cover and the amazing map on the inside of the cover.

Reading the extremely detailed passages about how all the mechanics work and each movement of the “machines” (be they purely mechanical or bio-mechanical) echoed back to my experience with the second Transformer movie: I wanted to get over the technical parts and the visual effects to reach the core of the STORY. It’s a frustrating experience.

Leviathan does have better storytelling than some of the recent big budget movies and as I approached the end of the tale, witnessing the two main characters develop respect and affection toward each other, I thought, “Now let’s hope the second book is a better read, with a more solid plot and more character development.” Also have to note that the world-building is definitely superb.

View all my goodreads reviews >>

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The Diamond of Drury Lane

The Diamond of Drury Lane (A Cat Royal Adventure)Author: Julia Golding
Reading Level: 4th to 7th grade

Pages: 424
Publisher: Roaring Brook
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

This is a winner! (Literally, too, since it did win the Smarties prize.)

Cat (Catherine) Royal is a charming, vivid, endearing, and plucky heroine. Readers really care about what happens to her and her friends. The host of friends are also drawn with details and depth. One can practically hear them speak and see them act and react to Cat’s adventures. The clever device of having Cat being immersed and specially educated in the backstage of a theater gives credit to Cat’s deft hand at recounting events and using words above her station in life. For example, on p. 89: (I cast around for some suitably Shakespearean language to impress them, not having in truth a clue what I was talking about) “the wickedness of treason, the sting of revenge, and the noble disinterestedness of love, all set behind the scenes.”

The fast pace, the string of new obstacles, the many friendships between the characters, the gradual and satisfying unraveling of the truth about the Diamond, the breezy and energetic prose — all contribute to make a completely enjoyable reading experience. I especially appreciate how Cat got into bigger and bigger trouble and deeper and deeper danger as the story moves along so that toward the end of the tale, you are really anxious to see how she gets out of this last huge scrape.

View all my reviews.

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Author: Eoin Colfer
Reading Level: 5th to 7th Grade

Pages: 416
Publisher: Hyperion
Edition: Hardcover

Click on the title link and read many people’s reviews, including mine, on Goodreads! The book is worth promoting in libraries, classrooms, and homes!

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Leepike Ridge

Author: N.D. Wilson
Reading Level: 4th to 7th

Pages: 224
Publisher: Random House
Edition: Hardcover, 2007

A great survival story, a thrilling adventure, an intriguing mystery, and a tall tale. It reminds me of Paulsen’s survival stories but seems to have even more layers and with incredibly enjoyable wry humor: “It was a face deciding what to say and how to say it, and the truth didn’t look as if it was a factor in the decision making.”

“The bottom of the trash bag was full of boiled crawdad dead. Those remaining in the pool wandered about, confused by the sudden spaciousness.”

“Jeffrey was dragged out by his shoulders and then propped up with his back against the couch. The bag was still blood-glued to the back of his head and stood out around it like a white plastic halo.”

Yup, a few gruesome scenes: for example: dealing with and collecting useful things from a dead body. I loved those scenes.

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February 2005 Reads

A Stir of Bones
by  Nina Kiriki Hoffman

horror (5th and up)

This book is just creepy enough, just romantic enough, just complex and simple enough, for pre-teen and early teens. I LOVE the descriptions of the consciousness of the HOUSE and Susan’s relationships with the House, her friends, and Nathan, the ghost boy. When Susan leaves her shell (body) behind and travels in a magical new exterior, the imagery is so vivid that even a non-visual/graphic reader like me can visualize the pictures. It is also interesting that there is no real “pay off” of the sub-plot of the father situation — that Susan’s father is not quite “punished” at the end. (I would have LOVED to see that…) It makes the story more real. This was a Bram Stoker horror fiction for young reader nominee. It lost to the 5th Harry Potter… hmm…. I disagree.

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
by Suzanne Collins

fantasy, adventures, survival, series (4th-7th)

After a somewhat slow and not exciting beginning (um… for at least 1/3 of the book,) the book got really fast-paced and interesting. The “turn” of the events was suprising, and as the two books before in this series, no easy solutions were offered. I liked the somewhat cliff-hanging ending, too. Weaker than the first two, plot-wise, but definitely will keep me reading the last two titles.

To Be A Slave
by Julius Lester

highly recommended
nonfiction (7th and up)

This Newbery Honor, 1968 book was done superbly. Lester’s collecting, re-working, and threading of the slave narratives is careful and powerful. It kept me reading into dark nights, giving up sleep. The only troublesome selection, in my view, was the last entry — in which a former slave claims that there will NEVER be equality between the two races. No explanation or mentioning of any social progress accompanying this entry. Of course, at the time, Lester probably felt that was the case; he might still feel this way, even now, given the condition of this country and its people. It’s just that, it is such a downer ending and a child reader should have the opportunity to discuss this ending, and putting in the context of the last 30 odd years.

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January 2005 Reads

Kira Kira

author: Cynthia Kadohata
audience: 6th and up
historical fiction

This is 2005 Newbery Winner — I did not read it prior to the announcement of the award, so read it with a mind-set of finding worthiness of this winning title, so I was probably more critical than usual. Still, I could not really figure out why it was an award winning book. There are incidents in the book that show sloppy writing/editing: after stating that a “couple” of years past without much going on, the next “going on” happens 4 and a half years later. A couple never equals 4.5. The narrator’s voice also shifts from the young and naive tone and old and sophisticated tone constantly. Unlike the masterful handling in Spinelli’s “Milk Weed” in which the narrator also goes in and out of “understanding” of his situation, both as a character IN THE MOMENT, and as a narrator REMEMBERING those moments, Kira Kira’s narrator shifts tones without showing such “designed” inconsistancy. Instead, it is jarring. Someone says that this reads more like a memoir, and I agree — there is little plot structure. However, even as a memoir, there should be consideration of momentum. The meandering nature of side-stories and family narratives may make it a less appealing read for young readers. I do think that readers who love SAD STORIES will really like this really DEPRESSINGLY SAD story… it does have a somewhat hopeful ending….


author: Peter Hautman
audience: 7th and up
realistic fiction, YA

I can’t believe this book won the National Book Award for Young Readers this year… On the prose level, it is nothing outstanding; on the philosophical level, it does not leave the readers deeper understanding of religions or the teens who are struggling with their beliefs; on the plot level, it is a shapeless mess with a sloppy ending. I admit that it did keep my interest up because the premise is an interesting one and I do enjoy reading the “Genesis” of the religion of the Water Towers. However, there is such detachment from all the characters (the ones that SHOULD be sympathetic are not really so) and there is NO character growth or development at all. I am shaking my head in disbelief, again, that the NBA’s judges would have chosen this piece of work as the BEST book of the year… so weird…

Peter and the Starcatchers

author: Dave Barry and Ridley Peterson
audience: 4-6
fantasy, adventures

I enjoyed the inventiveness of this story and the fast pacing, for the first 4/5 of the book. The last 1/5 got quite tedious with very short chapters, switching perspectives, and not that much happening for quite a few chapters… all with one goal in mind: covering as much Neverland Cast as possible and spiraling toward the conclusion that allows the “beginning” of Peter Pan and the Never Land… Unfortunately, this Peter is in no form or shape resembling the TRUE Peter Pan. He, (the one here) is simply too nice, too noble, and too friendly. There is no trace of the devious and a-moralistic nature that makes Peter Pan (the real one) so charming and unusual. This should still be a fun read for many children.

Brilliance of the Moon

author: Lian Hearn
audience: 7th and up
fantasy, YA, series

Although this 3rd installment in the Otori tales is no where near the quality, intensity, and beauty of the first one, I still enjoyed reading the conclusion of the story. The battle/war scenes, the pirates, and the suffering of Kaede all have huge impact on this reader. It drew me into a world to lose myself and I did willingly. I did not want to leave that make-believe land and time. (But, I don’t need another volume, unless it possesses the same sparkling prose as the first one…)

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