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Been There...Read That!

This will be the first time I've ever kept a log of what I've read for pleasure and in my position as an elementary school librarian!  I tend to jump from adult reads to kidlit, to picture books and back again in the impossible quest to keep current with everything! Wish me luck!
(All summaries are from Goodreads.)
*I have no idea what's up with the formatting...consider it a work in progress! :)

Now reading &/or listening to:
That's Not A Feeling by Dan Josefson

Have Read:
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Read in March, 2013
Fabulous, inspiring book written by a teacher turned author/runner! The Running Dream is a great example of how having a positive attitude and supporting one another, can turn a tragedy into a triumph.
Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don't know what to say, act like she's not there. Which she could handle better if she weren't now keenly aware that she'd done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she's missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that's not enough for her now. She doesn't just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
5 of 5 stars
Read from February 25 to March 01, 2013
Although not a fan of The Help, (Yes, I know, I'm in the minority on that one) I truly enjoyed The Kitchen House. The characters were so well developed, and I became very attached to quite a few of them. The struggle of being a white, orphaned, Irish girl trapped between two completely different worlds was unique and thought provoking. THere are some very descriptive and shocking scenes, although I think the author wrote them with integrity to the time period. I highly recommend The Kitchen House.
When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. 

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
5 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
A book that is sure to make you cry, but is impossible to put down! So real, and so true, the characters immediately pull at your heart strings.

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now. 

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. 

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
3 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
I only gave this book 3 stars as I thought the pace was quite slow. While there were many layers going on throughout the book that intertwined well, there just wasn't enough to keep my curiosity and interest piqued.

When seventh grader Georges (the S is silent) moves into a Brooklyn apartment building, he meets Safer, a twelve-year-old coffee-drinking loner and self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: how far is too far to go for your only friend?

One-Handed Catch by M.J. Auch
4 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
M.J. Auch has a hit with One-Handed Catch. I enjoyed the time period that the story was set in. This book would be great for any child who needs to learn the value of never giving up, never letting obstacles get in your way, being positive, and being kind to others.

What would life be like with only one hand? That's exactly what eleven-year-old Norm finds out when he loses his left hand in an accident at his family's store. It's July 4, 1946. World War II has ended, and life is getting back to normal. But for Norm, the pressing question now is whether he will ever be able to play baseball again, or be an artist. It's up to Norm to find the strength to get beyond this roadblock and move on with his life.

Set against the quickening pace of life after wartime constraints, this inspiring novel is about an optimist who overcomes his misfortune with discipline and humor--and fulfills his dreams in ways no one could have expected.

Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis (Author visited Avoca West 2/6/13!)
5 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
This book was impossible to put down! Non-stop action and adventure wit a great tie-in to history and geography. Fans of Harry Potter and The Lightning Thief will LOVE the Seven Wonders! Mr. Lerangis visited our school on 2/6/13 and ever since we cannot keep his books on the shelf. Our hold list grows daily despite having purchased numerous copies. I'm looking forward to following Jack through the next 6 books!
One Boy
Jack McKinley is an ordinary kid with an extraordinary problem. In a few months, he’s going to die.
One Mission
Jack needs to find seven magic loculi that, when combined, have the power to cure him.
One Problem
The loculi are the relics of a lost civilization and haven’t been seen in thousands of years.
Seven Wonders
Because they’re hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The thrills begin in The Colossus Rises, the first installment in the epic seven-book adventure series Seven Wonders, from master storyteller and bestselling 39 Clues series author Peter Lerangis. The highly anticipated series has received early praise from Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, who says, “A high-octane mix of modern adventure and ancient secrets, The Colossus Rises is Lerangis’s most gripping work yet. Young readers will love this story. I can’t wait to see what’s next in the Seven Wonders series!”

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
5 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
The characters and the layering in this novel are so wonderful. Fantastic historical fiction, you instantly feel like a welcome visitor to Manifest.

Winner of the 2011 Newbery Award.
The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead & Erin E. Stead
5 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
Such a sweet book with beautiful illustrations. Bound to be a classic for generations to come.

Amos McGee, a friendly zookeeper, always made time to visit his good friends: the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl. 
But one day - "Ah-choo!" - he woke up with the sniffles and the sneezes. Though he didn't make it into the zoo that day, he did receive some unexpected guests.
Philip C. Stead's gently humorous tale of friendship and dedication is illustrated by his wife Erin E. Stead's elegant drawings, embellished with subtle hints of color.

Art & Max by David Wiesner
4 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
This book took a while to grow on me. The illustrations were phenomenal as is typical for David Wiesner's work, but the story took me a few reads to truly appreciate the creative exchange between Art & Max. In the end, I truly enjoyed it, and I always love being surprised by books in that way!

Max and Arthur are friends who share an interest in painting. Arthur is an accomplished painter; Max is a beginner. Max’s first attempt at using a paintbrush sends the two friends on a whirlwind trip through various artistic media, which turn out to have unexpected pitfalls. Although Max is inexperienced, he’s courageous—and a quick learner. His energy and enthusiasm bring the adventure to its triumphant conclusion. Beginners everywhere will take heart.

Night by Elie Wiesel
4 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
I listened to this book on CD, and I think I might have liked it more had I read it on my own. Very moving, honest telling of life in the concentration camps during the holocaust.

Night A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family...the death of his innocence...and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne FrankNight awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
5 of 5 stars false
Read in February, 2013
One word....AMAZING! So touching, so well written. This book has something for everyone. Thanks to Katherine Applegate, Ivan will live on forever.

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
This book really made me look at my life and consider my priorities. I can't even imagine forgetting my four boys. Sure puts life in perspective!

Remember the woman you used to be ...
Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What's more, she's looking forward to the birth of the 'Sultana' - her first baby. 
But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone's telling her she's misplaced the last ten years of her life.
In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she's his worst enemy. What's more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her either. And who is this 'Gina' everyone is so carefully trying not to mention? 
Alice isn't sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn't have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband forever?

Moo Who? by Margie Palatini
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Super cute book that is sure to engage young kids-especially if you get a reader who can really ham (or moo) it up!

Hilda Mae Heifer has lost her melodic mi-mi-moo!
A klunk on the head and now Hilda's simply not sure what sound to make.
Is it a mew, or an oink, or possibly a honk? With the eager help of the farm animals, Hilda is determined, once again, to sing her sensational moo. Which should most certainly be a MOO-MOOO-MOO-MOO.
Moo Who? is a raucous read-aloud for the youngest noisemakers.

Moustronaut Based on a (Partially) True Story by Mark Kelly & C.F. Payne
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Written by former astronaut Mark Kelly, Gabby Giffords husband, did a wonderful job with his first picture book! Mousetronaut will immediately be loved by children, and the factual information at the end provides a great background for those wanting to know more about space travel.

A heartwarming picture book tale of the power of the small, from bestselling author and retired NASA astronaut Commander Mark Kelly.Astronaut Mark Kelly flew with “mice-tronauts” on his first spaceflight aboard space shuttle Endeavour in 2001.Mousetronaut tells the story of a small mouse that wants nothing more than to travel to outer space. The little mouse works as hard as the bigger mice to show readiness for the mission . . . and is chosen for the flight! While in space, the astronauts are busy with their mission when disaster strikes—and only the smallest member of the crew can save the day. With lively illustrations by award-winning artist C. F. Payne, Mousetronaut is a charming tale of perseverance, courage, and the importance of the small!

Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue & Pamela Zagarenski
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Beautiful illustrations. The perfect bedtime story to read to your child who resists going to sleep.

“Does everything in the world go to sleep?” the little girl asks. In dialogue between a not-at-all sleepy child and understanding parents, the little girl decides “in a cocoon of sheets, a nest of blankets,” she is ready to sleep, warm and strong, just like a tiger.

Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
FABULOUS! Two of the cutest dogs I've ever met! Fell in love with Boot & Shoe them instantly!

Two adorably floppy dogs confront unexpected change in this endearing picture book from two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee.Boot and Shoe were born into the same litter, and now they live in the same house. They eat out of the same bowl, pee on the same tree, and sleep in the same bed. But they spend their days apart—Boot on the back porch because he’s a back porch kind of dog, and Shoe on the front porch because he’s a front porch kind of dog. This is exactly perfect for them. But then a crazy neighborhood squirrel arrives . . . and everything goes topsy-turvy!
Caldecott Honor medalist Marla Frazee brings her signature wit, tenderness, and hilarious illustrations to this tale of an irresistible puppy pair.

A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Andrew Clements is one of my favorites for kids, and this book didn't disappoint! I really enjoyed the main character who could have been a spoiled rich kid with a bad attitude, but made the decision not to be. Highly recommend for 3rd-6th grade boys especially!

Collision course The fifth-grade Week in the Woods is a beloved tradition of Hardy Elementary, where Mark Chelmsley (the Fourth) is pretty much killing time before his parents send him off to an exclusive prep school. But then Mark realizes the Week might be a chance to prove to Mr. Maxwell that he's not just another of the slacker rich kids the teacher can't stand.

But it may be too late for Mark to change Mr. Maxwell's opinion of him. On the first day of the Week, the tension between teacher and student explodes, and in a reckless moment, Mark puts not only himself, but also Mr. Maxwell, in grave danger. Can two such strong adversaries work together to save their lives?

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds & Peter Brown
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Absolutely loved Creepy Carrots!!!! One of those wonderful stories that show how a little imagination and a clever plan, can produce big results!

The Twilight Zone comes to the carrot patch in this clever picture book parable about a rabbit who fears his favorite treats are out to get him. Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.
He eats them on the way to school.
He eats them going to Little League.
He eats them walking home.
Until the day the carrots start following him...or are they?
Celebrated artist Peter Brown’s stylish illustrations pair perfectly with Aaron Reynold’s text in this hilarious eBook with audio that shows it’s all fun and games…until you get too greedy.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
The 1st time I read this book, I thought it was just so-so. After re-reading it though, and sharing it with students, I find myself loving it more and more. Based on factual events (but with a happier ending), The Circus Ship is yet another beautifully done book by Chris van Dusen!

With stunning artwork and a rhyming text, the illustrator of the Mercy Watson books tells a tale of human-animal connection full of humor and heart.

When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the poor animals are left on their own to swim the chilly waters. Staggering onto a nearby island, they soon win over the wary townspeople with their kind, courageous ways. So well do the critters blend in that when the greedy circus owner returns to claim them, villagers of all species conspire to outsmart the bloated blowhard. With buoyant rhymes and brilliantly caricatured illustrations evoking the early nineteenth century, Chris Van Dusen presents a hugely entertaining tale about the bonds of community — and a rare hidden-pictures spread for eagle-eyed readers of all ages.

Chained by Lynne Kelly

5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Very moving story of a boy, an elephant and their struggles when forced to grow up without their family and freedom.

After ten-year-old Hastin’s family borrows money to pay for his sister’s hospital bill, he leaves his village in northern India to take a job as an elephant keeper and work off the debt. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and hurt with a hook until she learns tricks perfectly. Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can, knowing that the only way they will both survive is if he can find a way for them to escape.

Waking Dragons by Jane Yolan

4 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Super cute illustrations and simple story. Young dragon/dinosaur lovers will adore this book!
Wake up with a pair of sleepy dragons and the knight who must get them ready for school!
Dragons wake up, 

Dragons rise, 

Dragons open 

Dragon eyes.

     From tumbling out of their humongous blankets to devouring a breakfast of catapulted waffles, these characters and their loveable antics fill the pages with luminous color and dragon-size fun. A joyful collaboration between two bestselling talents, author Jane Yolen and illustrator Derek Anderson, this book will make any young reader fly out of bed.

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy
4 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
I think upper elementary & middle school age kids will love this book. Especially those who are fans of The Wimpy Kid. I enjoyed it, but was expecting it to treat the topic a little more seriously.

Sam Lewis is going to get his butt kicked in exactly 33 minutes. He knows this because yesterday his former best friend Morgan Sturtz told him, to his face and with three witnesses nearby, “I am totally going to kick your butt tomorrow at recess.” 

All that’s standing between Sam and this unfortunate butt-kicking is the last few minutes of social studies, and his lunch period. But how did Sam and Morgan end up here? How did this happen just a few months after TAMADE (The Absolutely Most Amazing Day Ever) when they became the greatest Alien Wars video game team in the history of great Alien Wars teams? Was it when new kid Chris showed up and suddenly Morgan kept having other plans on the weekend? Or when Morgan joined the football team while Sam became a star Mathlete? And when it really comes down to it, will Morgan actually go through with it? Told with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and achingly real emotional truth, 33 minutes shows how the best of friendships can change forever.

Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo, Alison Mcghee & Tony Fucile
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
I absolutely love these two friends, as did my kindergarten-2nd graders!! I'm looking forward to more Bink & Gollie!
Meet Bink and Gollie, two precocious little girls — one tiny, one tall, and both utterly irrepressible. Setting out from their super-deluxe tree house and powered by plenty of peanut butter (for Bink) and pancakes (for Gollie), they share three comical adventures involving painfully bright socks, an impromptu trek to the Andes, and a most unlikely marvelous companion. No matter where their roller skates take them, at the end of the day they will always be the very best of friends. Full of quick-witted repartee, this brainchild of Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and award-winning author Alison McGhee is a hilarious ode to exuberance and camaraderie, imagination and adventure, brought to life through the delightfully kinetic images of Tony Fucile.

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
4 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
I give this book 4.5 stars. I listened to the audio version and enjoyed how the story went back and forth between 1985 and the present. I also enjoyed all of the references to the mid-eighties, including the music that was popular at the time. Suspenseful in an intriguing way.

Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquility is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman.  "There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere."

In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. 

Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.

Yet as Walter presses her for more and deeper contact, it becomes clear that he is after something greater than forgiveness. He wants Eliza to remember what really happened that long-ago summer. He wants her to save his life. And Eliza, who has worked hard for her comfortable, cocooned life, will do anything to protect it—-even if it means finally facing the events of that horrifying summer and the terrible truth she's kept buried inside.

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
5 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
This book was recommended to me by one of my 4th grade student, and I am so grateful for her recommendation! The book includes some difficult topics, which the author tackles beautifully. I couldn't help but fall in love with each of the characters as they struggled to overcome their own challenges.

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful. Kathryn Erskine has written a must-read gem, one of the most moving novels of the year.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
4 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
I gave this book 4 stars. I really enjoyed it, but I'm curious to see how my students react to it. Topics may be too mature and/or controversial for 5th graders who are huge fans of Smile, and can't wait to get their hands on Raina's next graphic novel!

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
4 of 5 stars false
Read in January, 2013
Not generally a big fan of graphic novels, but I really liked Smile, and can understand why so many of my 4th & 5th grade girls rave about it.

From the artist of BSC Graphix comes this humorous coming-of-age true story about the dental drama that ensues after a trip-and-fall mishap.
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh
I gave this book 4 stars. Bautifully done non-fiction picture book. Wonderful for young kids to be able to "fly" with Amelia Earhart, and think about their own dreams.  Vocabulary a bit difficult and wordy for younger children.

Award-winning author Robert Burleigh has captured Amelia Earhart's first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1932. She was only the second person to do this – and the first woman. Rich in detail, feeling and incident this is nonfiction with edge and action, a you-are-there experience made more dramatic and real by Wendell Minor's vivid paintings.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
I give Lulu and Judith Viorst 5 stars!! I loved this book, as did my students! I have always been a huge fan of Judith Viorst, and was so excited to enjoy her new chapter book! Excellent voice and a main character with a personality you can't help but fall in love with!

Judith Viorst and Lane Smith team up to create an irresistibly fresh and funny story with an ending that will surprise you again and again and again.

Duck & Goose by Tad Hills
I gave this book 5 stars. From the title I had thought it would be for preschool children, and was surprised at the amount of text. I think Tad Hills did a spectacular job combining illustrations with several wonderful messages in a fun and simplistic manner.

Here is the first book in the popular Duck & Goose line of picture books and board books. This New York Times Bestseller and ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book stars two unforgettable characters and is filled with humor that young children will appreciate—and recognize! Like James Marshall’s George and Martha, and Rosemary Wells’s Benjamin and Tulip, Duck and Goose have to work at getting along. You see, Duck doesn’t much care for Goose at first, and Goose isn’t fond of Duck. But both want the egg that each claims to be his. As the two tend to their egg, and make plans for the future, they come to appreciate one another’s strengths. And when a bluebird points out that it isn’t really an egg—it’s a polka dot ball—the two are not dismayed. After all, it is a lovely ball. . . .

If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen
I gave this book 5 stars and would give it more if I could! I think it is even better than it's prequel, If I Built a Car. I have read it to several groups of students who were completely engaged, in awe, and inspired! They now want to build a library, a school, etc...! So much fun!

The much-anticipated follow-up to the E. B. White Award-winning picture book If I Built a Car
In If I Built a Car, imaginative Jack dreamed up a whimsical fantasy ride that could do just about anything. Now he's back and ready to build the house of his dreams, complete with a racetrack, flying room, and gigantic slide. Jack's limitless creativity and infectious enthusiasm will inspire budding young inventors to imagine their own fantastical designs. Chris Van Dusen's vibrant illustrations marry retro appeal with futuristic style as he, once again, gives readers a delightfully rhyming text that absolutely begs to be read aloud.

Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester L. Laminack
I would rate this book 3 and a 1/2 stars. I enjoyed the story, but I don't think that the kids in the population I work with would relate to it. I do like the message it sends that everyone is important and can contribute in their own unique way.

When life on the Tucker farm is disrupted by the arrival of a peacock, whose shrieking and strutting bring many welcome visitors, the hens complain that they are doing all of the work until the hound suggests a trade.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I gave this book 4 stars.  I love all of Gillian's books. Very dark, but intriguing storyline and unique characters!

"I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.
The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details—proof they hope may free Ben—Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club...and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.
As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members—including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer."

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
I give this book 4.5 stars.  A well written story that made me think about what it might have been like for my grandmother who would have been about the same age as the main character.  Many references to classic musicians and writers from that time period.  It's interesting to think about how much has changed in just under 100 years, and as far as relationships go, how much has stayed the same.

"On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast--rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. 
Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is a ahead of her time,and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets."

December 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

I gave this book 5 stars. Even though it was fiction, it read like non-fiction.  McClain did a great job capturing & conveying what it must of been like to live in Paris in the late 20's/early 30's.

"A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. 
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will becomeThe Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for. 
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley."

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
by  Erik Larson
I gave this book 3.5 stars.  I really enjoyed reading about the history of Chicago & the World's Fair, as well as how Larson intertwined the stories of the two main characters.  At times I found it to be slow though and too detailed.

"Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that 'The Devil in the White City' is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. 
Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. 
The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims."

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I gave this book 4.5 stars.  It was a bit slow at times, but I was intrigued by the main character, and was surprised by the ending.

"WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.
HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.
With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable."

November 2012

I gave this book 5 stars as I found it to be completely fascinating.  I still can't quite wrap my head around the idea of "practice babies," but I loved reading about it!

"It is the middle of the twentieth century, and in a home economics program at a prominent university, real babies are being used to teach mothering skills to young women. For a young man raised in these unlikely circumstances, finding real love and learning to trust will prove to be the work of a lifetime. In this captivating novel, bestselling author Lisa Grunwald gives us the sweeping tale of an irresistible hero and the many women who love him.
From his earliest days as a “practice baby” through his adult adventures in 1960s New York City, Disney’s Burbank studios, and the delirious world of the Beatles’ London, Henry remains handsome, charming, universally adored—and never entirely accessible to the many women he conquers but can never entirely trust.
Filled with unforgettable characters, settings, and action, The Irresistible Henry House portrays the cultural tumult of the mid-twentieth century even as it explores the inner tumult of a young man trying to transcend a damaged childhood. For it is not until Henry House comes face-to-face with the real truths of his past that he finds a chance for real love."

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I gave this book 5 stars.  The characters were so well developed, and the plot was completely engaging.  Lived up to all the hype for sure!

"Marriage can be a real killer.
One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around."

September 2012

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I gave this book 5 stars even though I now freak out every time I can't remember something!  An inspiring & brave look at early onset Alzheimers.

"Alice Howland - Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife, and mother of three grown children - sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. She has taken the route for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Medical consults reveal early-onset Alzheimer's. 
Alice's slowly but inevitably loses memory and connection with reality, told from her perspective. She gradually loses the ability to follow a conversational thread, the story line of a book, or to recall information she heard just moments before. Genova's debut shows the disease progression through the reactions of others, as Alice does, so readers feel what she feels - a slowly building terror."


  1. What was the one you mentioned on FB a while back? I really wanted to read it but can't remember the title! Love the blog!! ~Beth~

  2. Thanks so much!!! I tried to go back as far as my brain would let me! Could it be, The Irresistible Henry House?

  3. No, but I'm definitely going to read that one! I'm pretty sure it was the Paris Wife. We have similar tastes in books, so keep posting what you've read.