Thursday, December 16, 2010


Franny is stuck in the middle like the filling of an oreo cookie. Her older sister is gorgeous. Her younger brother is extremely kind. Franny's dubbed him, The Saint. Franny feels invisible. In school. At home. And lately, with her best friend, Margie.

Set in the 1960s during the Cuban Missile crisis, this story is revolves around Franny. At school they are practicing bomb drills while at home Uncle Otts wants to build a bomb shelter. Her big sister, JoEllen, is going to college and is getting secretative letters from a boy. When she disappears, Franny is frantic wondering what happened to her. She starts having arguments with her best friend, Margie, who has decided to make another friend and ditch Franny. Then a new boy moves back to town and both girls are interested in him which causes more friction. Add to the fact, her younger brother, The Saint, is freaking out over the missile crisis and you have plenty of tension in this story.  

This book is really terrific! I did find the pages and pages of primary sources from the 1960's that are inbetween chapters distracting. I read the first two and then stopped because it slowed the pace of the story. I found it better going back and looking at the photos and stories after I read the main story.  I got a kick out of all the references to the 60's with the music, hairstyles, hair products, clothes, cars, TV shows, books and more. The story is loaded with them. Fast-paced and fun.

Reading Level 6.4

Scholastic book trailer video

:-) :-) :-) :-) 4 Smileys

Monday, December 13, 2010

Moon Over Manifest

My best friend and I had sleepovers where we would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night. My friend got hung up on the windowsill with her head in the bathroom and the feet dangling outside. I reached up, grabbed her feet which were above my head, and yanked with all my strength. She sailed backward taking the screen with her and crashing loudly on top of me. We smothered our hysterical laughter and took off running.

Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool, reminds me of the ways we entertained ourselves over the summer. Abilene, the main character, has been sent to the town of Manifest by her father who doesn't tell her why. She makes two friends and the girls have fun spying on townsfolk, solving mysteries, and playing in the nearby woods. When Abeline finds a mysterious box under her floorboards with momentos and letters, the three decide to find out who the Rattler is in town. The letters introduce the characters, Ned and Jinx, who are from 20 years ago when WWI was happening, the Klu Klux Klan was terrorizing people, and an unsafe mine  with an unsavory boss put lives at risk. Abeline meets Miss Sadie who gives her more history on the two boys and the town. She also discovers why her Dad sent her to Manifest.

The story is engaging to read. Sprinkled throughout the chapters are articles written by Hattie Mae and advertisements for concoctions promising to cure anything and everything. I got annoyed with these articles interrupting the story. The author was giving the historical flavor of the time but it was jarring at times.

Reading Level 5.1

:-) :-) :-) 3.5 Smileys

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ninth Ward

Lanesha watched from the porch as the paper bag spun wildly across the street like tumbleweed. New Orleans was a ghost town with people fleeing from Hurricane Katrina. All except Mama Ya-Ya and Lanesha. They didn't have a car to leave even if they wanted to.

In the book, Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhoades, Lanesha is an orphan raised by Mama Ya-Ya, an 82-year-old midwife. Their story is about love and survival in a tough part of town. The characters are likeable: Mama Ya-Ya sits back in her chair. Mama Ya-Ya is so tiny, and the chair almost swallows her. Her feet barely touch the floor. Her hair is silver and her skin reminds me of a walnut, all wrinkly brown. On the wall above her head is a picture of her favorit President, William Jefferson Clinton. p. 8

The story is predictable because we know what happens after Hurricane Katrina hit. Lanesha's story is a small moment in time and how she, Mama Ya-Ya, and TaShon survive or don't survive the disaster. I thought the story line of Lanesha seeing ghosts was a little odd, but I can see why the author used it as a believe brought to America from African culture. It fit with the story but was unbelieveable for me. I can see many readers liking that feature. I also found Lanesha always giving the definition of words annoying. Enjoyable story.

Reading Level 4.2

:-) :-) :-) 3.5 Smileys

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One Crazy Summer

Ever gone to a movie that everyone raved about and left feeling disappointed because it didn't meet your expectations?

That's how I felt about this book.

I was expecting more than the book delivered. The story is about three girls who fly to California from New York to visit their mother who abandoned them when they were under five years old. Upon meeting her it is clear that she doesn't want them even visiting. The story is told from the oldest child's point of view, Delphine. Set in the 1960's the girls learn about their mother's past and spend their days at a summer camp run by the Black Panthers. Delphine watches out for her two younger sisters and sees her mother for who she is: "It didn't seem right that they thought singing and dancing would change Cecile into someone who cried for her long-lost daughters or fried pork chops and made banana pudding. Cecile wasn't that kind of mother, if you wanted to call her one at all." p 132.

I thought the pacing was slow in the beginning. The ending was nice and the story picks up in the middle. The writing is well done with excellent descriptions. I wished I hadn't read any reviews.

Reading Level 5.3

:-) :-) :-) 3.5 Smileys

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Spook's Nightmare (book 7)

This is the 7th book in the Last Apprentice series. The title is different than the U.S. title called, Rise of the Huntress. This is the U.K. title or version.

Tom, an apprentice, and Alice are bound together by a blood jar. Tom has not told this to his master, The Spook, because he knows he will be angry about the use of dark magic by Alice to make the blood jar. There is never a good reason to use dark magic in the Spook's opinion, even if it saves your life. He's quite black and white on the issue.

In this book, Alice's mom, Lizzy, a powerful witch has escaped from the Spook's house. A Civil War has begun in the county and the Spook, Alice and Tom flee to a safer place.

Which isn't safe at all.

Lizzy is there on the island and a nasty creature called a Buggane. The Buggane sucks the soul from a person and then eats their body. This book is by far the most violent of the books with innocent girls being murdered as witches, animals mistreated, and witches lips sewn shut so they can't say any spells out loud.

There were a couple of times I didn't really get what the author was explaining. For instance, when Alice used a talon spell on Lizzy. He didn't explain how it slowed Lizzy down - except it just surprised her.

 I like how the dark and light magic symbolizes good and evil in the books and how people carry some of both. There is plenty of action and tension in the story.

Reading Level 5.6

:-) :-) :-) 3.5 Smileys