Saturday, April 25, 2015


 Cover image for Ambassador
by William Alexander
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014. 222 p. Fiction

Gabe Fuentes has a special talent as a peacemaker.  He handles his little twin brothers with amazing skill and manages to keep a lid on the silent war between his older sister and their mother. His diplomatic talent comes to the attention of "the Envoy" and he is recruited to be Earth's ambassador to the galaxy.  Soon after his first virtual trip to the embassy he discovers three important facts: there is a genocidal alien race approaching the earth, an alien force is trying to assassinate him, and, back on earth, his undocumented parents are being deported. That is a lot for any twelve year old to handle, but handle them Gabe does, not with super powers, but with super people skills. This is a face paced and imaginative science fiction well suited to upper grade school age kids.  Alexander (Goblin Secrets) has created a really likeable main character, an original premise, and a funny alien sidekick. The book had a fairly satisfying resolution, but Alexander clearly has sequels in the works. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Space Garbage

Cover image for Space garbage
Space Garbage
(Objects in Space)
by Ruth Owen
Power Kids Press, 2015. Nonfiction. 32 p.

What happens when a satellite wears out and stops working? It becomes space garbage.  NASA estimates that there are 500,000 pieces of space debris orbiting the earth.  This new nonfiction reader talks about the different kinds of space garbage, how it got there, and what threat it poses to working satellites. Owen also discusses the efforts that are being made to reduce the production of space garbage, and even recapture some that is in orbit already.  The straightforward text is illustrated with colorful photographs and diagrams, and Owen includes interesting factoids in side text boxes on every page.  This is an inviting new STEM title that combines two popular topics, space exploration and environmentalism.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands

 Cover image for Neighborhood sharks : hunting with the great whites of California's Farallon Islands

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands
by Katherine Roy
Roaring Book Press, 2014.  Unpaged.

     The end-piece graphics show San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge with one of the great white shark hunting areas on earth in the middle distance, only thirty miles off shore. California's coastal Farallon Islands are very near the large population of the San Francisco Bay area and Katherine Roy deftly compares land life with the wild beneath the waves in this beautifully well-written, beautifully illustrated book. Great whites circle the Farallon's hoping to dine on the seals and sea lions native to the islands. Roy describes in exquisite detail, and with truly helpful illustrations, why sharks love sea lions, and why they are so well-designed to hunt them. Kids interested in science, nature, and the ever-fascinating subject of sharks will find a treasure in this exemplary informational title.

Hunt for the Hydra

Cover image for Hunt for the Hydra
Hunt for the Hydra
by Jason Fry
Harper, 2014.  241 pgs. Science Fiction

     First in The Jupiter Pirates series, Hunt for the Hydra is a goodish sci-fi-thriller with an unusual array of heroes and villains.  For once, the earthlings are the bad guys. Tycho Hashoone, his twin sister Yana, and his older brother Carlo are vying for positions of importance in the family business, which is privateering.  They hold a Letter of Marque from the Jovian Union giving them the right to move against Earth's merchant space fleet. The Jovian Union consists of a confederation of people living on Jupiter's moons, and their relationship with earth seems to be something similar to the American colonies and Great Britain, back in the day. In any case, the kids are full participants in the family business, including the dangers of that business, so they not only fly the ship, but take on enemy vessels as member of the boarding party. On one such mission, the captain pleads diplomatic immunity - he has an ambassador on board. But his "ambassador" and hundreds of newly-minted state department personnel seem to be crew members suddenly elevated in rank to protect their vessels from pirates. Soon Tycho and his family are sent into what would have been the Neutral Zone in Star Trek-speak to try to smoke out the notorious and dangerous pirate, Throadbone Max. Hunt for the Hydra is a good adventure story with appealing characters, but is slowed considerably by lots of talking to supply background information. Hopefully the sequel will move along a bit more briskly.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Public School Superhero

 Cover image for Public School Superhero : a middle school story
Public School Superhero
By James Patterson
Illustrated by Cory Thomas
Little Brown and Company, 2015. Fiction, 273 p

Kenny is smart and a good student, but he seems to have a "pick on me" sign on his back.  He is a walking target and the brunt of every middle school bully's prank.  Then one day he snaps and gets into a fight with one of the tough kids, Ray-Ray. As a punishment the new principal assigns Kenny to teach Ray-Ray chess. As they meet to practice every day after school, Ray-Ray volunteers to teach Kenny how to be a tough guy, too.  But what will Kenny have to give up to end the constant bullying and become part of the rough crowd? Patterson intermingles the familiar middle school story with comic book type illustrations of Kenny's imaginary alter-ego, the superhero Stainless Steel. Stainless Steel's battle with his evil clone mirrors Kenny's internal battle as he decides between right and wrong.  This is a great new, highly illustrated, novel for kids who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or NERDS.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Could an Octopus Climb a Skyscraper?

    Image result for could an octopus climb a skyscraper

By Camilla de la Bedoyere
Illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff
QED Publishing, 2015. Nonfiction Picture Book, 24 pages.

A series of humorous questions about an octopus’ abilities out of water allows the reader to learn about the unique nature of octopuses. Questions such as “Could an octopus climb a skyscraper” and “What if an octopus went to the doctor” teach the reader fun facts about octopuses. Children will love this fun nonfiction picture book full of odd scenarios and funny, vibrant illustrations. Includes a facts page to help solidify the information presented in the book.    

From Leather to Football

Cover image for From leather to football
From Leather to Football
(Start to Finish)
By Robin Nelson
Learner Publishing Group, 2015. Nonfiction. 24 p.

Have you ever wondered how a football is made?  This simple nonfiction describes the process, step by step. A football starts as a piece of leather (no mention of where the leather came from), that is cut, sewed, laced, and filled with air.  Each spread has a short paragraph in large type, and a clear photograph.  The text is simple enough for younger grade school children.  Nelson includes a brief glossary and suggestions for further reading at the end of the book. Other books in this fun STEM series include From Iron to Car, From Oil to Gas, From Sheep to Sweater, and From Tree to Paper.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Stella by Starlight

Cover image for Stella by starlight
Stella by Starlight
by Sharon M. Draper
Antheneum Books, 2015. Fiction, 320 p.

Stella lives in a small segregated town in North Carolina in 1932.  It has been a long time since the Klan has been active in that area, but one night, not long before the presidential election, Stella sees the white-clad Klan members burning a cross in a nearby white town.  Stella and her neighbors are afraid, but they rally around Stella's father and two other men who decide to register to vote despite Klan threats.  When hatred leads to tragedy, Stella learns that kindness and courage comes in all colors. Draper's well told tale, inspired by her own ancestor's experience, shows how individuals and communities bravely worked for racial equality long before the Civil Rights Movement. Readers will cheer for Stella who has the courage to confront the Klan, and her own insecurities.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Display: Can You Survive?

Tangled in the Rainforest
By Gerry Bailey
Alone in the rainforest, Joe is suddenly caught in a tropical storm. He uses his science skills to observe the habitat around him to build shelter, find food, and search for help.

Other titles in the series Can Science Save Your Life by Gerry Bailey:
Dry in the Desert
Stranded on an Island
Swept Away by the Storm

Lost in the Antarctic
By Kevin Blake
Would-be explorers and adventurers will relish these survival stories set in some of the world's most dangerous and isolated environments.

Survive Alive: Finding Your Way
By Neil Champion
Gives essential survival tips for navigation in the wild, including using natural means such as the sun and stars and using technology such as compasses and GPS receivers.

Can You Survive the Jungle?
By Matt Doeden
Describes the fight for survival in the jungle.

The Ultimate Survival Guide
By Mike Flynn
Top tips for surviving the wilderness (or your back garden). Switch off your computer game, step outside and learn how to: plot a map; make a weather-proof shelter; navigate using the stars; leave tracking signals for others to follow; bake high-energy survival biscuits and more.

Lost in a Desert
By Meisha Goldish
Would-be explorers and adventurers will relish these survival stories set in some of the world's most dangerous and isolated environments.

Lost on a Mountain
By Meish Goldish
In this book, readers will learn about stories of being stranded on mountains.

How to be a World Explorer: Your All-Terrain Training Manual
By Joel Levy
Describes to young readers how to venture through all the landscapes on Earth as well as through the air, over the seas, and under the waves, plus how to find food and water in the wild, avoid deadly diseases and fight back against man-eating beasts.

Magic Tree House Survival Guide
By Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce
Jack and Annie show readers how to survive their many thrilling adventures.

Survival! Staying Alive in the Wild
By Ross Piper
Presents the science behind the plants and methods used in wilderness survival.

Lost at Sea
By G. S. Prentzas
Tells the story of two teenagers who survived being lost at sea. The book also includes general information about the world's oceans and the incredible creatures that inhabit them.

Can You Survive Storm Chasing?
By Elizabeth Raum
You're a meteorology student fascinated by storms. But Mother Nature can be unpredictable. Situations can quickly turn deadly when extreme weather is involved. What do you do when: you're in a van full of people and a tornado suddenly appears to be headed right for you? A hurricane gains strength along the Florida coast, but you're unable to convince people to leave their homes? A flash flood suddenly strikes, putting you and your friends and family in mortal danger? Experience the life-or-death dilemmas that face storm chasers. You choose what you'll do next. The choices you make will either lead you to safety-- or to doom.

Five Epic Disasters
By Lauren Tarshis
From the author of the New York Times-bestselling I Survived series come five harrowing true stories of survival, featuring real kids in the midst of epic disasters. From a group of students surviving the 9.0 earthquake that set off a historic tsunami in Japan, to a boy nearly frozen on the prairie in 1888, these unforgettable kids lived to tell tales of unimaginable destruction -- and, against all odds, survival. Read their incredible stories: The Children's Blizzard, 1888 The Titanic Disaster, 1912 The Great Boston Molasses Flood, 1919 The Japanese Tsunami, 2011 The Henryville Tornado, 2012.

Display: Delightfully Delicious Reads

Close to Famous
By Joan Bauer
Twelve-year-old Foster McFee and her mother escape from her mother's abusive boyfriend and end up in the small town of Culpepper, West Virginia, where they use their strengths and challenge themselves to build a new life, with the help of the friends they make there.

Granny Torrellis Makes Soup
By Sharon Creech
With the help of her wise old grandmother, twelve-year-old Rosie manages to work out some problems in her relationship with her best friend, Bailey, the boy next door.

Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies
By Erin Dionne
Overweight thirteen-year-old Celeste begins a campaign to lose weight in order to make sure she does not win the Miss HuskeyPeach modeling challenge, in which her mother and aunt have entered her--against her wishes.

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum
By Mary Hooper
In June 1665, excited at the prospect of coming to London to work at her sister Sarah's candy shop, teenaged Hannah is unconcerned about rumors of Plague until, as the hot summer advances and increasing numbers of people succumb to the disease, she and Sarah find themselves trapped in the city with no means of escape.

Everything on a Waffle
By Polly Horvath
Eleven-year-old Primrose living in a small fishing village in British Columbia recounts her experiences and all that she learns about human nature and the unpredictability of life in the months after her parents are lost at sea.

Dumpling Days
By Grace Lin
When Pacy, her two sisters, and their parents go to Taiwan to celebrate Grandma's sixtieth birthday, the girls learn a great deal about their heritage.

By Kathryn Littlewood
Twelve-year-old Rose Bliss wants to work magic in her family's bakery as her parents do, but when they are called away and Rose and her siblings are left in charge, the magic goes awry and a beautiful stranger tries to talk Rose into giving her the Bliss Cookery Booke.

The Candy Shop War
By Brandon Mull
When fifth-graders Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon meet the owner of the new candy store in town and are given a magical candy that endows them with super powers, they find that along with its benefits there are also dangerous consequences.

Save the Cupcake!
By Lisa Papademetriou
Hayley's world is far from perfect: her parents have divorced, her mom has lost her job, and she and her sister Chloe are stuck sharing a bedroom in their grandmother's apartment. Luckily, Hayley has a knack for baking cupcakes -- and cupcakes always make life just a little sweeter! But when she and her best friend Artie start drifting apart, she realizes that it's going to take more than sugar and spice to make things nice.

Something New
By Lisa Papademetriou
Hayley's life hasn't exactly been a piece of cake, and now there's even more change in store: an adorable new puppy, a possible new school, and a new baking challenge--a wedding cake for her grandmother's big day!

Sugar and Spice
By Lisa Papademetriou
Hayley, her little sister, Chloe, and their mom have finally settled into their new home above their Gran's tea shop, but things at school aren't going so well: Hayley's former best friend, Artie, is back in the picture and getting between Hayley and her new pal Meghan-- a surefire recipe for disaster!

Taking the Cake
By Lisa Papademetriou
Hayley and her little sister, Chloe, have just moved into their grandmother's house with their mom, who recently divorced their dad and now runs the family's tea shop. With her knack for baking, Hayley helps out too, but her newfound talent seems to have cost her her best friend, Artie. Now Hayley's crushing on someone who might just be Artie's new boyfriend. This mess really takes the cake!

The Teashop Girls
By Laura Schaeffer
 Fourteen-year-old Annie, along with her two best friends, tries desperately to save her grandmother's beloved, old-fashioned teashop in Madison, Wisconsin, while she also learns to accept the inevitability of change in life. Includes proverbs, quotations, and brief stories about tea, as well as recipes.

Alexis and the Perfect Recipe
By Coco Simon
Alexis Becker loves to organize and plan and set goals, which is why she is in charge of the business end of the Cupcake Club. But when she suddenly develops a major crush on Matt Taylor - who happens to be Emma's brother - things get a little disorganized.

Emma on Thin Icing
By Coco Simon
Mia asks the girls in the Cupcake Club to be junior bridesmaids in her mother's wedding.

Kate and the Cupcake Cure
By Coco Simon
When Katie's best friend Callie leaves her for a clique called the Popular Girls Club on the first day of middle school, Katie decides to find a group that she can join.

Mia in the Mix
By Coco Simon When the popular girls club takes interest in Mia, she has to decide between being popular and her new cupcake club friends.

A World of Food
By Carl Warner
Photographs of twelve miniature landscapes made entirely from edible ingredients accompanied by rhyming verses introduce a variety of foods and colors.

The Chocolate Sunday Mystery
By Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Boxcar children investigate when ice cream and other items start disappearing from their favorite ice cream parlor.

By Sarah Weeks
After the death of Polly Portman, whose award-winning pies put the town of Ipswitch, Pennsylvania, on the map in the 1950s, her devoted niece Alice and Alice's friend Charlie investigate who is going to extremes to find Aunt Polly's secret pie crust recipe. Includes fourteen pie recipes.