Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader is by Alan Bennett. This novella is a must read for anyone who loves reading. Bennett tells a charming fictionalized story of the Queen of England who by chance finds herself in a mobile library and feels compelled to leave with a book. She begins to read and evolves into a voracious reader, much to the chagrin of those around her. The way this book talks about reading will resonant with readers everywhere, and the humorous parts of the book that show how nonreaders view readers will be familiar to all voracious readers. The story also gives you an inside look at what it might be like to be royalty. You can read this novella in about two hours, which will be two hours well spent.

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

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 is by Lauren Tarshis. The tenth book in the I Survived series. A cute little historical fiction book that takes us back to ancient Rome. Marcus and his father are runaway slaves who just happen to find themselves in Pompeii on the day Mount Vesuvius erupts and destroys the city. This book may make young readers desire to learn more about the real incident and Tarshis provides a list of books to help the curious on their way.

Ratings: 5th grade - 7 out of 10.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes is by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The first book in the classic Tarzan series. Unless you have been living in a lead mine you know the story: Lord Greystoke and his pregnant wife are marooned in Africa. They die, but a "great ape" takes their child and raises it as her own to replace her own child who has died. Tarzan is raised in the jungle and becomes its ruler. When another group of Brits are marooned in his jungle, he falls for the beautiful Jane Porter. You will need to willingly suspend your disbelief at Tarzan's ability to teach himself to read and write English, though, of course, not to speak it - but all in all it's a quick and fun adventure read. If you have never read the book and only watched the movies, you need to read the book.

Ratings: 7th grade - 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Poor Clare

The Poor Clare is by Elizabeth Gaskell. This gothic novella is the story of a cursed girl and the lawyer who loves her. It is set during the social and political turmoil of Victorian England. It uses a family curse to demonstrate the harshness of class in English society and the tensions between Catholics and Protestants. When a gentleman kills the dog of a poor old woman, she utters a curse on his family that will come back to haunt her as well. A creepy, but powerfully written, story.

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Seafaring Lore & Legend: A Miscellany of Maritime Myth, Superstition, Fable, & Fact

Seafaring Lore & Legend: A Miscellany of Maritime Myth, Superstition, Fable, & Fact is by Peter D. Jeans. A rollicking romp through maritime history and legend. The book covers explorers, sea monsters, famous sea battles, mermaids, mutinies, fabled lands, and all manner of maritime superstition and lore. This would be a great entrance for boys into nonfiction, though girls will find it fun as well. The book is well-researched and footnoted, and ends with a lengthy bibliography for interested readers to pursue further.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke

The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke is by Theodore Roethke. A wonderful collection of Roethke's beautiful poetry. Some of his poems are funny, some are serious, all are worth reading. Some of his poems about nature are exquisite.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Denise Levertov: Poems 1960-1967

Denise Levertov: Poems 1960-1967 is by Denise Levertov. A very good collection of Levertov's poetry; fans of Levertov will love this collection. Those who have not yet experienced Levertov's poetry could do worse than starting here.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology is by Neil Gaiman. A wonderful collection of Norse mythology. Gaiman takes the tales from the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, and makes them understandable and easy to read. We learn of the beginning of the gods, various stories of their adventures, and the end of the gods when Ragnarok comes. The stories of the strong, but not so bright, Thor; Loki, who is nothing but trouble and still manages to save the gods numerous times; and all the other gods of Norse mythology. A beautiful rendering of the stories central to Norse myths and legends.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Uprooted is by Naomi Novik. A fantasy tale based on Eastern European fairy tales. Agnieszka lives in a village next to the Woods that constantly try to destroy the humans who live near them. The villages close to the Woods rely on the wizard Sarkan, the Dragon, to protect them from the evil in the Woods. However, to assure this protection they must not only provide supplies, but every ten years they must also provide a young woman to serve him. Everyone in Agnieszka's village believe Sarkan will choose the beautiful Kasia, but he makes another choice instead, one which will change everything.

Ratings: 10th grade - 7 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Displacement: A Travelogue

Displacement: A Travelogue is by Lucy Knisley. The author of French Milk and Relish is back with another graphic memoir. This time Lucy is heading off on a Caribbean cruise with her 91 and 93-year-old grandparents. She wants them to have fun, but can she keep up with their needs. Her grandmother's memory is mostly gone and her grandfather's health is tenuous as well. Knisley weaves the story of the cruise with passages from her grandfather's journal written about his experiences in WWII. The memoir is sad and funny, and a reminder to all of us that mortality is never as far away as we would like. It also reminds us of the power of love and family. The artwork is beautifully drawn and the text is well written.

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

The Elfstones of Shannara

The Elfstones of Shannara is by Terry Brooks. The second book in the Shannara series. The Ellcrys is dying; the Ellcrys is the magical tree which has protected the land of the Elves from the demons it's magic has kept banished for thousands of years. Even as the Ellcrys makes her Chosen aware she is dying, the Forbidding weakens and a few powerful demons break through determined to make sure the Ellcrys and her Chosen are destroyed forever. When the murder of the Chosen is discovered, the mysterious Druid Allanon returns to inform the elven king that one Chosen still lives; Amberle must be found and must embark on a quest to restore the Ellcrys. Allanon must stay behind to help the elves hold off the demon armies, so he sends Wil Ohmsford (grandson of the famous Shea Ohmsford and possessor of the magical Elfstones of Shannara which only he can wield) to protect Amberle on her quest. If you enjoyed The Sword of Shannara, you will enjoy this adventure as well. Lovers of Lord of the Rings will also enjoy this epic fantasy series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.