Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is translated by Edward Fitzgerald. This book of Persian verse is beautifully illustrated by Edmund Dulac. These beautiful quatrains represent some of the best of Persian poetry. They are a joy to read and the illustrations are exquisite.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Julius Caesar: The Life of a Roman General

Julius Caesar: The Life of a Roman General is by Gary Jeffrey & Kate Petty. This is a graphic novel non-fiction book that covers the life and career of Rome's first emperor. It is easy to read and also contains charts and maps to illustrate the major points of the story. An excellent way to get students on the road to non-fiction reading.

Ratings: 5th grade - 7 out of 10.

Ghost Liners: Exploring the World's Greatest Lost Ships

Ghost Liners: Exploring the World's Greatest Lost Ships is by Robert D. Ballard. Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic and takes us on a tour of the Titanic, the Empress of Ireland, the Lusitania, the Britannic, and the Andrea Doria. This book is filled with pictures and paintings of the ships. Ballard also gives a brief history of each ship, the circumstances surrounding its sinking, and the condition in which it was found. A wonderful treat in non-fiction for younger readers.

Ratings: 5th grade - 10 out of 10.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is by Alvin Schwartz. This is a short collection of ghost stories and poems to tell on a dark night around a campfire or at a slumber party. Schwartz also provides an appendix that gives the origins of most of the tales in the book and how they differ depending on the culture and country in which the story is being told.

Ratings: 4th grade - 6 out of 10.

Sleeping with Ghosts: A Ghost Hunter's Guide to Arizona's Haunted Hotels & Inns

Sleeping with Ghosts: A Ghost Hunter's Guide to Arizona's Haunted Hotels & Inns is by Debe Branning. An interesting trip through Arizona's haunted hotels. Each entry provides a history of the hotel and its owners and all of the ghost stories associated with each hotel and inn. It makes you want to take the book and start booking hotel rooms for a summer trip around the state. An enjoyable trip into Arizona history, whether or not you believe in ghosts.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

Kokopelli's Flute

Kokopelli's Flute is by Will Hobbs. Tepary Jones is fascinated by an ancient cliff dwelling called Picture House. One night he watches two grave robbers chip into the dwelling walls looking for priceless treasures. He scares them away and they leave behind an ancient bone flute. He knows he shouldn't keep the flute, but he does and when he puts it to his lips - the magic begins. Another Hobbs gem for boys.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Back to the Divide

Back to the Divide is by Elizabeth Kay. The second book in the Divide series. When Snakeweed turns his parents to stone, Felix must return across the Divide to find the spell to set things right. He reunites with Thornbeak, Ironclaw, and Betony. He finds things are not well in their world either since his departure and he must help them to help himself. Can he find a cure for his parents before everything in our world turns to stone? Can he and his friends find the missing king and queen and defeat Snakeweed once and for all?

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

No More Dead Dogs

No More Dead Dogs is by Gordon Korman. Wallace Wallace has never told a lie. While this may seem like a good thing, it can cause problems. When he refuses to write a book report stating he liked a book beloved by his English teacher, he finds himself serving detention working on the school's production of this book by the drama department. A story of what happens when honesty, while the best policy, may not be the most comfortable.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Skinny-Dipping at Monster Lake

Skinny-Dipping at Monster Lake is by Bill Wallace. A totally boys book. This is the tale of a group of boys enjoying the end of summer at the lake near their homes. While camping out some of them believe they have seen the famous lake monster. What they discover is a mystery as surprising and dangerous as eight young boys can handle. A great story for boys; chock full of young boy humor.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Tiger Woods: An American Master

Tiger Woods: An American Master is by Nicholas Edwards. This is a biography of the life and career of Tiger Woods. There is a lot of golf and golf lingo in this book. If you love golf it's a winner, if you're not a golf lover it can be a bit tedious. Regardless of your feelings about golf, Tiger's story is something to read. A great way to get kids to read non-fiction.

Ratings: 7th grade - 7 out of 10.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass & What Alice Found There

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass & What Alice Found There is by Lewis Carroll. Carroll's classic tales of young Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. In the first book she follows the White Rabbit down a hole and discovers a true wonderland. In the second story she steps through the looking glass and returns to the realm of the Red Queen. Full of Carroll's poetry as well as his amazing story of a child's imagination. A must-read classic for all ages.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Five T'ang Poets

Five T'ang Poets is translated by David Young. This is an excellent representation of five famous Chinese poets: Wang Wei, Li Po, Tu Fu, Li Ho, Li Shang-Yin. None of these poets specialize in haiku, this is real Chinese poetry beautifully translated. A wonderful introduction to these five great artists.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase: The Wolves Chronicles #1

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase: The Wolves Chronicles #1 is by Joan Aiken. Bonnie's parents are leaving on a trip so they bring in a governess to take care of Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia. When it seems her parents have been killed when their boat sinks off the coast of Spain, the evil Miss Slighcarp takes over. She sells all of Bonnie's toys and other household furnishings, fires the servants, and sends Bonnie and Sylvia to a terrible orphanage. With the help of Simon the goose boy the girls escape and head for London to seek help.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Southern Vampires: 13 Deep-Fried Bloodcurdling Tales

Southern Vampires: 13 Deep-Fried Bloodcurdling Tales is by Karyn Kay Zweifel. A collection of 13 Southern folktales involving vampires of all sorts. From a charming lady who collects husbands, to a Texas family haunted by psychic vampires, to a vampire who "assists" the elderly, these tales are filled with Southern charm. This is a truly enjoyable collection of Southern folksy horror. Spooky and yet not grossly so. A charming way to spend a dark rainy night.

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10.

Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator

Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator is by Jennifer Allison. Gilda has wanted to communicate with the dead since her father died of cancer. Her desire to be a psychic investigator seems more than a little strange to those around her. She convinces a long lost relative to invite her to visit in San Francisco over the summer and discovers a cousin, a haunted house, and a mysterious tower that needs to be investigated. Can Gilda successfully solve her very first case? A cute and sometimes poignant story that holds the promise of a very clever series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit

The Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit is by Julius Lester. Lester has taken the beloved African-American folktales of Joel Chandler Harris and rewritten them slightly. The tales still contain the wonderful tales of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and company. Lester has merely taken the dialect that was so difficult for most of us in the original and made it a little more understandable for modern readers. While not as good as the original, this little book is a great introduction to the "real thing". Enjoy!

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Boy Who Owned the School

The Boy Who Owned the School is by Gary Paulsen. All Jacob wants is to remain invisible, unnoticed by everyone at school. All is going well until his English teacher decides he needs to help with the school play for the extra credit he needs to pass her class. To make matters worse, he is to work the fog machine needed by the girl of his dreams. This is a disaster just waiting to happen. A very cute and funny tale of growing up.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Cay

The Cay is by Theodore Taylor. In 1942, 11-year-old Phillip Enright lives with his parents in the Caribbean where is father works for a Dutch oil company. As the war moves closer his mother decides to travel with him back to the safety of Virginia. When their boat is torpedoed, however, Phillip is blinded and finds himself adrift on a life raft with an old black man and a cat. They eventually land on a deserted island. Timothy must teach a blind boy to survive alone on an uninhabited island.

Ratings: 5th grade - 10 out of 10.

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia is by Katherine Paterson. Ten-year-old Jess Aarons has never had a true friend. He comes from a poor family where his father must work hard and long to keep the family going. He hopes to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade at Lark Creek Elementary. But then Leslie Burke appears and his dreams are dashed. Leslie, with her wonderful imagination, becomes the friend Josh never had. They create their own secret place called Terabithia, where giants and ogres run free. But then, one day, a terrible tragedy occurs. One that makes Jess re-evaluate everything he has experienced in his life.

Ratings: 5th grade - 10 out of 10.

Shiloh

Shiloh is by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The first book in the Shiloh trilogy is a wonderful tale of a boy and his dog. 11-year-old Marty finds a mistreated beagle pup. Should he return the dog to its cruel owner? Should he tell his parents? Should he steal food to help the poor creature? Marty's efforts to cope with these questions provides the moral backbone for this story. A wonderful story of love and devotion.

Ratings: 4th grade - 9 out of 10.

Hawk: Occupation: Skateboader

Hawk: Occupation: Skateboarder is by Tony Hawk. The most famous skateboarder in the world tells his own story with the help of Sean Mortimer. This is a story of success and failure. Boys will love this book, especially if they have any interest in skating. The book is loaded with stats and pictures. A great way to get boys to read nonfiction literature. There is some profanity and potty humor in the book, but no more than would be expected from a book about the skateboarding culture.


Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity).

The Lamplighter

The Lamplighter is by Maria S. Cummins. Another in the wonderful Rare Collector's series by Lamplighter Publishing, indeed the book which gave the company its name. This story was written in the 1800s when men had to light the street lamps in cities around the country. True, a old lamplighter, takes in an abused orphan named Gerty. His kindness and love give little Gerty a new lease on life. She finds herself to be more than she ever imagined she could be. A wonderful tale of Christian compassion and love, even in times of despair and sadness. The older style of writing may seem hard for some readers, but the story is its own reward.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Revenge of the Shadow King

The Revenge of the Shadow King is by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis. The first installment in the Grey Griffins series. Avalon, Minnesota is a small quiet town - nothing ever happens there. That is until goblins, unicorns, fairies, witches, and Knights Templar begin to put in an appearance. Max Sumner and his three friends play a mysterious and ancient card game called the Round Table. They begin to notice that characters from their game are appearing in town. They soon find themselves caught up in a deadly struggle against the evil Shadow King and his minions. A great start to what promises to be a very good series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Quest Begins

The Quest Begins is by Erin Hunter. The first book in the Seekers series. Three bear cubs, a polar bear, a black bear, and a grizzly bear, are separated from their families and find themselves traveling together with a shape shifting grizzly bear whose destiny will affect them all. A charming story filled with adventure, happiness, and sorrow. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

Found

Found is by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The first book in the new The Missing series. Jonas is a thirteen-year-old who has always known he was adopted. A strange letter proclaiming him as "one of the missing" plunges him into a dangerous adventure. He is surrounded by mystery: the involvement of the FBI, more adopted kids also receiving letters, a mysterious plane, and people who appear and disappear at will. The book moves slowly and the excitement doesn't kick in until the end of the story. I realize you must use the first book in a series to set up the story, but this seemed to really drag more than was necessary. Haddix is a wonderful writer and I hope for better from the rest of the series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 6 out of 10.

Ark Angel

Ark Angel is by Anthony Horowitz. This is the sixth in the Alex Rider series. Alex is recovering from his attempted assassination in a secure hospital. In the room next door is Paul Drevin, the son of a rich Russian businessman. When eco-terrorists attempt to kidnap Paul to stop his father's "hotel in space" project, Alex intervenes and is kidnapped in Paul's place. Paul's father invites Alex to vacation on his Caribbean island home in thanks. But everything is not as it appears and once again Alex must save the world.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Frog Princess

The Frog Princess is by E.D. Baker. The first book in the Tales of the Frog Princess series. A cute retelling of the old fairy tale. Princess Emma kisses a frog who says he's a prince and turns into a frog herself. Now she and Prince Eadric must return to the castle so Emma's Aunt Grassina, a witch herself, can change them back into human form. However getting from the swamp to the castle is not as easy as it would seem.

Ratings: 5th grade - 8 out of 10.

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know is by Sonya Sones. The sequel to What My Mother Doesn't Know. This is the story of Sophie & Robin's relationship from Robin's point of view. It is written in Sones' trademark poetic style. It is clever and frankly, more entertaining than the first one. An enjoyable read for girls.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East

19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East is by Naomi Shihab Nye. A wonderful collection of poems about the Middle East. Nye, who is Arab American, writes about the problems of this area of the world from a relatively unbiased perspective. She is in complete sympathy with neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis. She focuses on the people caught in the middle of the battle. A moving collection of very well done poetry.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.