Contact PMSDirections to PMSSite Map

pmslibrary@piedmont.k12.ca.us Subscribe to my updates

Archive for April, 2010

Science Fair: a Story of Mystery, Danger, International Suspense, and a Very Nervous Frog

Friday, April 30th, 2010

science fiarBy Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson ,  p. 394  Grades 5-8

Okay, we all know that some parents help their kids with their science fair projects and maybe a little too much, but at Toby’s middle school in the suburban Washington, D. C. area, the parents of the rich kids are going too far.  Not only is the competition unfair, but it may also endanger the security of the United States government!    For several years, these parents have been giving their kids a lot of money to have a scientist actually build the projects, and one of these kids always wins the competition.  This year, the leaders of a small foreign country have designed a terrorist plot against the U.S. and are using the unwitting eighth graders to build a superweapon to be used against America.  Only Toby realizes what is going on, and he gets suspended from school on suspicion of cheating when he tries to let the adults know about the real cheating and the devious plot. If you can suspend disbelief, you are sure to enjoy the over-the-top, very silly humor and fast-paced action.

Connections:  Here are some other titles with science project plots:  The Chicken Doesn’t Skate by Gordon Korman, The Mulberry Project by Sue Park,  and Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo  by Greg Leitich Smith.  Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have also collaborated on the humorous Peter and the Starcatchers series.

Fat Cat

Friday, April 30th, 2010

fat catby Robin Brande   p. 327   Young adult

No exploding volcanoes for seventeen-year-old Cat (Catherine) Locke’s science fair project!  Instead, the smart, competitive overweight teen makes herself the guinea pig for her project.  Her goal is to live for seven months as a Homo erectus, an early prehistoric human, which means no technology (cars, cell phones, computers except for school work) and no processed foods including sugar.  Cat is determined to win the science fair, mostly to get revenge on her former best friend and rival Matt McKinney, whom she believes betrayed her most terribly in seventh grade.  All the walking and healthy eating causes her to lose weight and feel better, and after her best friend Amanda takes her shopping for stylish clothes, Cat starts drawing a lot of male attention.  This young adult novel is filled with funny, clever teen conversation and portrays friendship at its best.

Connections:  These young adult novels also deal with weight and weighty issues:  Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher and Dough Boy by Peter Marino.

One Crazy Summer

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

one crazy summerby Rita Williams-Garcia  p. 218  Grades:  5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2013

It’s the summer of 1968, and eleven-year-old Delphine flies from New York to Oakland with her two younger sisters to spend the summer, uninvited, with the mother who walked out on them when Delphine was seven and Fern was just a few days old.  Her father feels the girls need to get to know their mother, but that does not make Cecile any more welcoming.  In fact, she won’t even let the girls into her kitchen.  Dinners are take-out food on the living room floor and breakfast is at the Black Panther summer camp.   The girls are on their own, but each comes into her  own that summer.   Told from Delphine’s perspective, this is a lively, often humorous, story of resilience with characters you will come to know and love.

Connections:  A novel about the Black Panther Party for older readers  is The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.  Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers is set during the Harlem Renaissance, another significant period in African American history, and tells the story of another crazy summer.

Pastworld

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

pastworld-coverby Ian Beck   p. 353    Young Adult

In 2050, central London has been transformed into a theme park for modern day tourists to visit.   These “gawkers”  fly in on an airship  for a day or two to experience what life was like in Victorian London, including dangerous street crime and hangings.  When seventeen-year-old Caleb flies in with his father, one of the originators of Pastworld, his father is kidnapped and Caleb is accused of murder.  He meets beautiful and innocent Eve, a teenage inhabitant of Pastworld, and they become embroiled in a ScotlandYard investigation of a series of gruesome murders by the mysterious Fantom.  This story is a compelling mix of science and historical fiction.

Connections:  Another suspense novel with people living in an  historical amusement park  is Running Out of  Time by Margaret Haddix.     Other great mysteries set in Victorian London are Montmorency by Eleanor Updale,  Smith by John Garfield, and the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

jessicasguidetodatingonthedarksideby Beth Fantaskey     p. 351  Young Adult

More vampires anyone?   Jessica’s adoptive parents wait until she’s a high school senior before telling her that her birth parents were vampires in Romania!  They’ve also neglected to tell her that she was betrothed at birth to a vampire prince who has just shown up in her hometown to claim her as his fiance.  Of course, this very rational mathlete doesn’t believe in vampires and so is having a very difficult time dealing with the arrogant, but very good looking, stranger who is posing as a foreign exchange student at her high school and living in the apartment above her garage.  Filled with suspense, drama, romance, and humor this is a great read for Twilight fans.

Connections:  Here are some other young adult vampire novels you might enjoy:  Suck It Up by Brian Meehl, Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, and The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause.   Though not about vampires, Beastly by Alex Flinn is a good romance with the beauty and the beast theme.

Found (and the sequel – Sent)

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

found-margaret-peterson-haddixBy Margaret Peterson Haddix, 314 pages  Grades 4-8

When a mysterious plane suddenly appears at the gate, the gate agent gets the surprise of her life as she finds only 36 babies onboard the plane.  Thirteen years later, the Skidmore’s adopted son Jonah (from the belly of the whale) and his friend Chip receive the same creepy letter, “YOU ARE ONE OF THE MISSING.”  With the help of Jonah’s sister Katherine, the two boys search to find out more about their true identities.

sent-book-coverThe sequel called Sent is a great window into the difficulties of living in medieval England.

 

 

 

 

Connections:  Other great stories of time travel include:  Nick of Time by Ted Bell, the Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer, Archer’s Quest by Linda Sue Park, the Baseball Card Adventure series by Dan Gutman, and The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen.

Totally Joe

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

totallyjoeBy James Howe, 189 pages  Grades 6-8

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>“Being who you are isn’t a choice.”Although he had always lived this life lesson, it wasn’t until his favorite aunt gave him a button printed with these words that thirteen, year-old Joe really thought about what it meant for him, as a gay 7th grader, as well as for his schoolmates.Joe’s family and friends have always encouraged him to be himself (including dressing-up in dresses, playing with Barbies and cooking in an Easy-Bake oven) and he has always embraced his originality even when it led to teasing. Through an alphabiography project for his teacher, Joe shares his growing awareness of himself and his friends.

Connection:  Joe and the other characters were first introduced in Howe’s novel, The Misfits.  For other stories where characters share their life experiences through school writing assignments, try reading Love That Dog or Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge, or Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.

Seer of Shadows

Friday, April 16th, 2010

seer-shadows-avi-paperback-cover-artby Avi    p. 202  Grades:  5-8

Do photographs reveal the truth?  In our age of Photoshop, we know that photos can be altered to give a different version of reality, but what about photographs taken in 1872?  In Seer of Shadows, Horace Carpetine is apprenticed to a photographer who alters a photograph to make his wealthy customer believe the spirit of her adopted daughter is watching over the woman.  Horace realizes that this is no photographic trick.  The ghost of the daughter has actually returned to wreak revenge on her cruel parents.

Connections:  For other good ghost stories, consider these authors:  Cynthia DeFelice and Betty Ren Wright.  The library also has good nonfiction on photography and biogrpahies of famous photographers such as Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dorothea Lange.