Monthly Archives: December 2011

Guest review: Bigger Than A Breadbox by Laurel Snyder

I’d like to sometimes change things up a bit on this blog and include reviews written by actual middle schoolers.  Here is the first of what I hope will be many guest reviews!

Guest Review by Claire H., 5th grader.

I loved Bigger Than A Breadbox by Laurel Snyder. It is one of my favorite books of all-time. The book is about a girl named Rebecca, whose mother decides to leave her father, taking Rebecca and her little brother, Lew, with her to stay at their Gran’s house. On her first day there, Rebecca goes into the attic to get away from her mother and while she is there, finds a collection of old breadboxes. There is one in particular that sticks out to her because it is clean, unlike the others. She soon realizes that the breadbox is magical, whatever she wishes for will appear inside the breadbox, as long as it can fit inside. Rebecca struggles to figure out the true meaning of life and the breadbox in this novel.

I liked this book because it is something that, because I am a kid, is nice to see from a kid’s perspective. I really like books about girls like Rebecca, who have a hard time, and this book really fit into that category. It is also really suspenseful, which I like in a book. I finished the book in only two days, I couldn’t stop reading. It is a real page-turner.



Filed under fantasy, fiction, realistic fiction, suspense, Uncategorized

Buzz Books (aka, My To-Read List)

Part of my job is reading reviews of books and following the blog buzz about which books are favorites to win awards (like the Newbery Medal, the Sibert Medal for kids’ nonfiction, or the National Book Award).  I don’t have the time to read everything I want to read, but with two weeks of holiday break approaching, I am putting together my To-Read List, based in large part on the buzz surrounding these titles.  Anything here is pretty much guaranteed to be well-written.  It might not appeal to a particular kid’s taste, but you needn’t worry about any of these books being awful!

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai recently won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.  This one has been on my list for months, and I hope to read it soon and book talk it with kids.  It’s the story of a young Vietnamese girl’s journey to America, specifically Alabama, after the fall of Saigon, and her struggle to adjust to a very different world from the one she has known.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.   This is a novel about loss.  I am, I confess, a complete sucker for sad books.  Even the story behind the writing of this book is sad.  Siobhan Dowd (who wrote the wonderful and quirky London Eye Mystery) came up with the idea for this book, but died of cancer before she could write it.  Patrick Ness (author of the Chaos Walking trilogy, which I wrote about in my post about Hunger Games read-alikes) picked up the idea and wrote the story.  Many of the reviewers seem to be flummoxed in trying to describe this novel, because of its inventiveness and power, and that tells me I must read it.

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells the story of Thomas Jefferson’s children by his slave Sally Hemmings, from the perspectives of two of the children and another child close to the family.  I’m hearing that’s it’s uncomfortable, thought-provoking, engaging, and poignant.  A must-read, I suspect.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy mixes fantasy and historical fiction, set in the early 1950s.  Janie’s family has been forced to move to London due to the “Red Scare” in America, and there she meets a boy named Benjamin, the son of a mysterious apothecary.  Everyone I’ve talked to who has read this has loved it (kids and adults!).

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.  If you haven’t already seen Hugo (based on Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret), stop reading this and go immediately to a theater.  If you have, then you are probably already as excited to read another creation of Brian Selznick as I am.  ‘Nuff said.

Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder.  My own 5th grader read this last week.  She loved it, and I’m hoping she’ll write up a guest review of it for this blog, so I won’t say more.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente.  This one is being described as “beautiful,” “unforgettable,” “magical.”  Reviewer Elizabeth Bird on Goodreads writes that it “walks up to the usual middle grade chapter book fantasy tropes and slaps ’em right smack dab in the face.”  For kids and adults tired of derivative fantasy, this sounds like a viable option.

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.  I have actually already read a good bit of this one, but a kid came looking for it, so I let it go before I was finished, and I am anxious to get it back and finish!  Very engaging and interesting, and it gives some interesting facts, particularly about Earhart’s self-promotion tactics.

Some other titles on my list:

Chime by Franny Billingsley.  Mary Kendall (co-worker) has read this and gives it a big thumbs up for 7th and 8th graders.

My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt.  A companion book to the wonderful Wednesday Wars.  Kids are giving me a lot of good feedback on this one.  Another good choice for 7th and 8th graders.

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Filed under fantasy, fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction, realistic fiction, sad, Uncategorized

Funny Stuff (alternate post title: If you liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid. . .)

Funny books are always in high demand.  Who doesn’t like to laugh?  Of course, humor is very subjective, so what one kid finds hilarious can be utterly lame to another, but here are some humorous books that have been loved by many of our Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans, plus others with a different brand of humor.

I’ve already written here about Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.  That book and its sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back, are pretty much guaranteed to be appreciated by anyone who likes the Wimpy Kid books.  Angleberger has another book, not part of that series, called Horton Halfpott, or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor, or The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset, that will likely also appeal.

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian centers on a kid who doesn’t like to read trying to solve the mystery of his former babysitter’s death while she was watching him.  The cartoons in the margins provide some lightness and humor, and the mystery adds some emotional weight.

Another book about a kid who hates to read, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading (by Tommy Greenwald) follows a middle school boy’s exploits as he attempts to get by in school without ever cracking a book.  Funny and fast-paced.

Time travel? Check.  Aliens?  Check.  Two kids trying to save the world?  Check.  Herbert’s Wormhole by Peter Nelson has all of these, and more.

Micheal Buckley’s NERDS series (about the National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society, populated by superhero spies who have gone undercover into middle school) has an interesting dilemma.  Kids who are reading these books LOVE them, but there is a bit of reluctance to initially check them out because of the title.  It’s funny, because once one kid takes the plunge, that whole class will happily check them out and talk about them and speculate on when the next one is coming out.  Fast, adventurous, and very silly.
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander is the goofy, suspenseful story of  how a kid named Mac’s bathroom-stall business (he helps protect little kids from bullies; get underage kids into R-rated movies; sells test answers–pretty much anything for a buck or two) gets complicated when he goes up against a big bully with a gambling ring.  Kids get hooked right away by the whole idea of a shady business run out of an unused school bathroom stall, and the suspense over what Staples (the big bully) will do next pulls them through.
In Cosmic (by Frank Cottrell Boyce), 12-year-old Liam looks like an adult and ends up in various funny, odd situations as a result (test driving a car, for example).  His ability to pass as a grown-up is all good fun until he ends up being the only “adult” on a spacecraft full of kids that is off course and heading for disaster.  This novel is far-fetched, for sure, but great fun to read.
Anything by Daniel Pinkwater.  Pinkwater has a quirky sense of humor, so he’s the sort of writer one either loves or hates.  I have met adults who say that reading his books when they were kids changed their lives.  Check out The Neddiad and/or The Yggyssey for a middle-school-friendly taste of Pinkwater’s odd, goofy writing style.
It occurs to me, looking at this list, that all of the protagonists are boys.  That’s not right!  I think they are books that will appeal to both boys and girls, but I don’t like having a post with that imbalance.  So, coming soon:  a post on funny stuff with girl protagonists.  If anyone has suggestions of titles for such a post, please send them along!
I also apologize for the awful layout of the images/text here.  If anyone can tell me how to fix that, I’m anxious to hear it!

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Filed under fiction, funny, If You Liked, mystery, Uncategorized

Extremely Cool Video

Check out this time-lapse video of the creation of the cover illustration for a comic book magazine.  This is the coolest thing I have seen in a long time.

Post-Apocalyptic Cover Illustration | Timelapse from DEISIGN on Vimeo.

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Filed under art, fun websites, Uncategorized