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Archive for November, 2009

The Graveyard Book [print and audio]

Friday, November 20th, 2009

TheGraveyardBook_Hardcover_1218248432by Neil Gaiman, p. 312 – Grades 5-8

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife,” and so begins the story of orphan, Nobody (Bod) Owens, who has been raised by the inhabitants of the graveyard since the night his family was murdered when he was just 18 months old.  Given the freedom of the graveyard, Bod lives his life in the company of the dead, and finds adventures and dangers within its walls, involving ghouls, the undead and even a human playmate, Scarlet Amber Perkins.  As long as he stays in the graveyard he enjoys many non-earthly freedoms and remains safe from the man Jack who was still looking to kill him, but he longs to learn his story and explore the wide world beyond.

Connections:  For other great fantasy books dealing with the dead, try reading Sabriel by Garth Nix (in print and audio), The Seer of Shadows by Avi, and Ghost Girl by Tonya Hurly.  Watch “The Graveyard Book Video Tour” to see/listen to the author reading the book chapter by chapter while on his national tour.

Cricket Man

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

cricket manby Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  p. 196  Grade:  Young Adult

During the summer before eighth grade, Kenny Sykes has begun each morning rescuing the hundreds of crickets that keep jumping into his backyard swimming pool.  As an inside joke with his little brother, Kenny assumes the super-hero identity Cricket Man and creates a t-shirt that he wears to school concealed under his regular shirt.  The rest of his time he spends skateboarding or spying on and trying to get the attention of his beautiful sixteen-year-old neighbor, Jodie Poindexter.  When Jodie appears to have fallen into a deep depression, it’s Cricket Man to the rescue.

Connections:  These novels for young adults also focus on special and unusual friendships:  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes; The Wild Kid; Stoner and Spaz and Define Normal.

The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan: An Enola Holmes Mystery

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

peculiar pink fanby Nancy Springer.  p. 181  Grades 6-8

Fans of feisty, nonconformist Enola Holmes will enjoy this fourth installment in the Victorian mystery series.  Sixteen-year-old Lady Cecily has been kidnapped and is being forced into an arranged marriage.  Enola, the fourteen-year-old much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, is trying to locate and rescue the poor girl while avoiding being captured herself by  older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft, who do not approve of her independent ways.  Disguises, humor, and high jinks abound.

Connections:  The Case of the Missing Marquess; The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline are titles in this series by Nancy Springer.  Other mystery series with strong female sleuths include:  Grace Cavendish by Patricia Finney; Herculeah Jones by Betsy Byars; Sammy Keyes by Wendelin Van Draanen;  and Gilda Joyce by Armstrong.  For a more challenging read, try The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King, which introduces fourteen-year-old Mary Russell and another great series based on Sherlock Holmes or read the Arthur Conan Doyle short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes himself.

Dairy Queen

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Diary-Queenby Catherine Gilbert Murdock.  p.  274  Grades 7-8

What a summer!  Fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, works dawn to dusk on her family’s dairy farm after her father has hip surgery.  Life is pretty dismal until the coach from her high school’s rival team asks D.J to coach his budding quarterback, the gorgeous Brian Nelson.  While training and doing farm chores, the two teenagers become friends, but things get complicated when D.J. tries out for her high school’s football team.

Connections:  The sequel is Off SeasonRunning Loose by Chris Crutcher is another football romance.

Adam Canfield Watch Your Back

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

adam canfieldby Michael Winerip.  p. 329  Grades 6-8

Adam Canfield is literally shoveling in the money on a Snow Day by clearing his neighbors’ walks–when older bullies pull up in a van and mug him.  Not only is he a victim of a crime, but he also becomes the embarrassing focus of a media campaign by The Slash to stop bullying.  This sequel to Adam Canfield of the Slash is as good as its predecessor.  While Jennifer and the other Slash staff take on bullies, saving a tree, and discrimination, Adam launches an undercover operation to expose the fact that parents are doing their kids’ science fair projects.

Connections:  If you enjoy the Adam Canfield books, try these other novels based on school newspapers:  The Landry News by Andrew Clements and Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and Other Commandments I Have Broken by Rosemary Graham.  The Watergate Scandal in American History by David K. Fremon describes how Washington Post investigative journalists broke the Watergate case.

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West

Friday, November 13th, 2009

trouble beginsby Sid Fleischman.  p. 224  Grades 5-9

Like his famous character Tom Sawyer, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) sought adventure and often found trouble in his early life.  His experiences in the small town of Hannibal, Missouri on the banks of the Mississippi River, getting lost in a cave and painting a fence, would become Tom’s experiences.  He worked a printing press, became a steamboat captain and took the stagecoach out West to earn his fortune during the Gold Rush. While he eventually struck gold, it wasn’t from digging in the hills.

Connections:  Other books by this author that help illuminate an individual or a time period in history include:  Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini, The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, Jim Ugly, Bandit’s Moon, and The Whipping Boy.

The Unnameables

Friday, November 13th, 2009

unnameablesby Ellen Booraem.  p. 318  Grades 6-9

In a world where things and places are simply named for what they are and people are named for what they do, how would you expect a boy named Medford Runyuin to fit in?  He doesn’t.  Instead the people of Island are wary of him and the children teasingly call him Raggedy or Plank Baby because of his messy look and his arrival on the island tied to a plank when he was a baby.  To make matters worse, Medford has a secret that he is trying keep hidden from the people of Island, and the mysterious arrival of the stinky Goatman is likely to blow his cover, literally.

For other stories of characters fighting the unfair rules/laws of their world, try reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, Maximum Ride:  The Angel Experiment by James Patterson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Among the Hidden or Running out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

To learn the story around the creation of the crazy character the Goatman, check out the author’s website http://www.ellenbooraem.com/evolution.html