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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: The Star Shard by Frederic S. Durbin

The Star Shard by Frederic S. Durbin.

The Star Shard by Frederic S. Durbin

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: February 2012
List Price: $16.99
ISBN-13: 9780547370255

Review: The Star Shard is a marvelously written book by Frederic S. Durbin. A fantasy in the world of Eiriegh, it tells about the adventures of Cymbril, a girl with the fantastic ability to sing aboard the magical wagon, The Thunder Rake.

Cymbril is a slave to the owner of the Rake, Rombol. She sings on command, something she's known to do since she could remember. The only things that link her to whatever past that she can't recall is a magical hairpin from her mother, and the star shard from her father. One night, Rombol purchases a new slave: a boy from the mystical realm of the Fey. The boy's name is Loric, and his service toward Rombol is to guide the Rake through the dark swamps at night. He is kept in a prison cell, where he comes to contact only with the maid who brings him his meals.

Cymbril decides that she wants to meet this boy. By bribing the maid who brings Loric his food, she learns steadily about him after frequent visits. When Cymbril shows Loric the magical hairpin and the star shard, he tells her information that she has yearned for since childhood. And with the new piece of Cymbril's family heritage, she and Loric come up with a conclusion. They will no longer stay prisoners aboard the Rake. Together, they will escape to the Fey world.

The Star Shard is one of those books that makes you hungry for more. Better yet, it leaves you feeding yourself with imagination: What will happen to Cymbril and Loric? Why do they do what they do? Great authors like Frederic S. Durbin don't give you specific, clear-cut endings. There's always room for a sequel, (or a reader's imagination), to take place. I loved Durbin's child-like imagination and description, it made me feel one with Cymbril. Until I read the next brilliantly written words of this author, I will always be hopeful for more tales of Cymbril and Loric.

Review written by Amber (7th grade student).

We would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of The Star Shard for this review.

Have you read The Star Shard? How would you rate it?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila

Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila.

Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila

Kids Can Press
Publication Date: August 2011
List Price: $16.95
ISBN-13: 9781554535811

Review: Salvaging Earth has become a focal point in people's lives, and Luz's has no exception. In Luz Sees the Light, Luz helps her city realize that Earth should be one of their main priorities. Luz's town has been having black outs lately because of the amount of power usage. Meanwhile the new kid next door, Robert, is really freaking out because he is a computer geek, and his computers are his life. Luz knows that she must do something. Luz at first is criticized by her friends; they tell her that she has a crazy idea, but they soon realize her idea is an amazing idea. Then Luz's city comes together to make an old unused parking lot into a lively hangout.

Luz Sees the Light is an amazing read and filled with fun. I enjoyed the characters because they are realistic. Robert is a computer geek which we seem to have a lot of those because technology is such a focal point in people's lives today. Robert is a boy Luz's age that moves in next door to her, Robert freaks out when he learns that Luz's city has lately been experiencing black out. How will this affect this computer?!?Also, although Luz is the heroine of the story, she is realistic because she behaves just lke a child- completely forgetting what her mother says within a matter of minutes', in a matter of seconds. Another one of Luz's friend Anika is the friend that is sweet and nice to others, and everyone has one of those kinds of friends sometime in their life too.

I rate Luz Sees the Light 10 out of a 10 because it is an amazing read for kids of all ages. All of the characters are so realistic. Also it is fun to read because it is a graphic novel that is both enjoyable to read and to see. The amazing drawings really make the entire story come to life. What I mean by that is that the characters are visible so you can see how they look and it's easy to follow along. Another reason is because the characters are right in front of you to see. It is great because it's about what is happening right now in our planet Earth. For example, even in the book they are developing ways to make the world a better place for everyone. The last couple of pages can teach kids a simple way to start compost pile which can especially help if you have a garden in your backyard. It can teach kids about ways to help the Earth; even book characters are helping our planet! Those are the best reasons for giving Luz Sees the Light a 10 out of 10 rating.

Review written by Mia (6th grade student).

We would like to thank Raab Associates for providing a copy of Luz Sees the Light for this review.

Have you read Luz Sees the Light? How would you rate it?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic.

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

Publication Date: January 2012
List Price: $7.99
ISBN-13: 9780547550763

Review: Megan Bostic brings an inspiring novel to the table about a young boy who is running out of time. Running out of time to live. And while he still can, all he wishes to do is help his loved ones live a life he would've wanted for himself, even though he's sure that he won't. In this book, Never 18, through the words of 17 year old Austin Parker, Bostic tries to show the reader how human mortality should be valued, and how you should help others going through rough times.

Seventeen-year-old Austin Parker wakes up one Saturday, eager to start his weekend. But this weekend is far different from any other weekend. Because this weekend, Austin Parker, with the help of his best friend Kaylee (whom he's in love with,) sets out to single handedly fix some wrongs, accomplish some goals, and help those in need, whether they know it or not. Austin helps his friends and family members that are dealing with, terminal illness, rape, divorce, teen death, drug addiction, alcohol, teen sexuality and more. The title of this book, Never 18, reveals a lot, a happy ending isn't guaranteed.

I personally loved this book and read it fast because it was only 200 pages. It was upbeat and interesting, so it was hard to put down. It's touching, inspiring, and heart-warming, but is very predictable. It also has a few curses here and there, some sexual situations and adult-like topics, so I feel it was intended for more mature readers. Many of the topics are topics that people find hard to confront, and the gentle way the author touches upon them I find helpful to many people. But Megan Bostic uses a language and writing style that's easy to follow. I'd recommend it to anyone! Over all I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Review written by Samantha (7th grade student).

We would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of Never Eighteen for this review.

Have you read Never Eighteen? How would you rate it?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: A Poor Excuse for a Dragon by Geoffrey Hayes

A Poor Excuse for a Dragon by Geoffrey Hayes.

A Poor Excuse for a Dragon by Geoffrey Hayes

Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 2011
List Price: $12.99
ISBN-13: 9780375871801

Review: Geoffrey Hayes' A Poor Excuse for a Dragon is a charming book. It is about a finding one's way in the world without conforming to preconceived stereotypes. With colorful graphics and an engaging plot, this story is great for young school children. However, all ages will be entertained with this easy-to-read book. A Poor Excuse for a Dragon is an excellent book with an important life lesson.

Fred, a red eyed dragon, is old enough to leave home. His mother provides him with a note on how to be a good dragon. It was a short list that included running amok, eating people, roaring, breathing fire and acting scary. As Fred traveled, he discovered he didn't care for the taste of people, he preferred pancakes. Likewise, his roar and fire breathing skills weren't scary, making it impossible to run amok. However, these revelations were not easily discovered. Colorful, stereotypical fairy tale characters teased him and ultimately helped him discover himself. In the end, he became a successful Dragon in a Castle moat. He no longer ate people or scared them, he was happy eating pancakes. He was content with his scary, red dragon eyes.

A Poor Excuse for a Dragon by Geoffrey Hayes is an excellent book. By using familiar fairy tale characters like dragons, a princess, a witch, a giant and others, the author keeps the reader amused. Although the characters are familiar, they possess unique personality traits. For instance, the princess is not sweet, but initially laughs at Fred for his poor fire-breathing skills. Likewise, the Giant and the Witch, who generally are not helpful in story books, assist Fred in relieving his tummy ache. Using well-known characters with witty dialogue, this book teaches about self-discovery in an understandable and appealing manner.

This book is a pleasure to read. With funny characters, beautiful graphics and a humorous plot, this book is successful providing a life lesson. This book should be on all children's reading lists.

Special thanks to M. W. Sacco for contributing her review of A Poor Excuse for a Dragon.

We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of A Poor Excuse for a Dragon for this review.

Have you read A Poor Excuse for a Dragon? How would you rate it?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting

SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting.

SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting

Harcourt Childrens Books
Publication Date: April 1996
List Price: $6.99
ISBN-13: 9780152013059

Review: Imagine being on a gigantic marvelous ship knowing that it will sink and not being able to do anything about it. SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting is a spine tingling book for people who enjoy a historical fiction on one of the most tragic events known to man. Barry O'Neill is prepared to leave Ireland and his grandparents to go to America and see his parents for the first time. Although, the Flynns, Peegen and her two bandit brothers that want to throw Barry overboard are also traveling on the unsinkable ship. SOS Titanic will take you through Barry's journey containing love, drama, fear, and death. However, in Barry's journey his enemies become his friends that save his life.

Barry O'Neil doesn't want to leave his childhood and his homeland to go to a foreign land of mystery, but he has no choice. On the night of the Titanic's departure, Barry went out on the deck for some fresh air where he comes along a steerage (lower class) party. When he looks down from the top deck he sees a beautiful young girl dancing which he realizes is Peegen Flynn. In his amaze he drops one of his gloves which was given to him by his grandpa before his departure. Unfortunately the Flynn brothers recognized Barry and pounded him. Peegen secretly returned the glove to Barry and he realized that she wasn't like her brothers. Barry started to hear stories about too many icebergs in the way of the Titanic and that it was not in a safe position. One day later, when the Titanic hits a giant iceberg, Barry's emotions force him to leave the safety of his lifeboat to help the Flynns escape, who are with the steerage passengers, trapped behind gates. Read the book to see who dies and who survives.

Eve Bunting sticks a great read to the children that provides knowledge on a terrifying event. SOS Titanic is packed with detail that creates a vivid picture in the readers head. Eve bunting did an amazing job showing the true emotions of the characters. This make the reader feel like they are in the story. Specifically, when the Titanic is sinking the reader will feel like they are on the boat and seconds away from death. She also does a good job on mixing different emotions together in one character and makes it easy to get inside the character's head. Another great factor about SOS Titanic is that is an extremely suspenseful page turner. The reader can never tell if Barry is going to be attacked by the Flynns or if he is going to fall in love. SOS Titanic really captures the presence of the ship sinking and how people lost their lives. Eve Bunting even managed to put real facts and names of real people that faced the spine tingling event. Learning about tragedies like these is not always interesting to children by reading facts. Eve Bunting makes SOS Titanic a great way to make children interested in learning about the Titanic and it uses vocabulary that they can comprehend. Although the Titanic ends its voyage in a horrifying manner, I hope Eve Bunting's writing never does.

Review written by Ravi (7th grade student).

We would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of SOS Titanic for this review.

Have you read SOS Titanic? How would you rate it?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: The Case of the Vanishing Diamond by Fred Rexroad

The Case of the Vanishing Diamond by Fred Rexroad. A Whiz Tanner Mystery.

The Case of the Vanishing Diamond by Fred Rexroad

Rexroad International
Publication Date: September 2011
List Price: $8.95
ISBN-13: 9780981774268

Review: Have you ever really wanted to solve a mystery so badly that you started your own mystery business? In the well-written book The Case of the Vanishing Diamond, by: Fred Rexroad, two ordinary kids named Whiz and Joey have their own business. Whiz and Joey are two very intelligent kids who have a lot of experience when it comes to solving mysteries. But the most unique characteristic about these two kids is they are only in middle school! How awesome would it be that every weekend you would get to solve a mystery? In my opinion it would be pretty cool to be able to solve a mystery every weekend. But this isn't about me it's about the fantastic book The Case of the Vanishing Diamond, the 4th book in the Whiz Tanner mystery series.

It is an early morning in Joey's house when suddenly he hears a knock on his window. When Joey sees what's on his window he is not surprised that it is from his partner. When Joey gets to the secret hideout (Whiz's shed) he says the voice command password. Neither Whiz nor Joey knows what is going to happen later. Soon they find out that the coin shop, jewelry shop, and an auction house had been robbed. There is one factor in particular that is fishy in this case. The same day that the three stores were robbed was the day a well-known magician came to Jasper Springs for auditions. The two detectives had attended the auditions as well since Whiz and Joey are very good magicians, and the two middle-school kids had wanted to show off their skills. But back to the case, if you asked anybody they would definitely say that it is fishy to have a magician in town at the same time as a robbery. But if you want to know if this magician is guilty then I guess you are going to have to read The Case of the Vanishing Diamond.

The Case of the Vanishing Diamond is an outstanding novel for anybody, but especially for mystery lovers. It is the perfect read for ages 8 and up. Because it is not too difficult to read, but at the same time it is not an extremely easy read. But if you love mysteries, The Case of the Vanishing Diamond is perfect. I couldn't put the book down because every chapter is full of suspense and thrills, so if you are going to read this book be prepared to not put it down because you will get sucked in. But in my opinion the best part about reading this book is the end of it. Like most mysteries the best part and most intense is the ending when the detectives set traps and unmask the robbers. Well if you want to figure out who stole from the three stores I guess that you are going to have to read The Case of the Vanishing Diamond. So go to your nearest book store or library and read the outstanding book The Case of the Vanishing Diamond.

Review written by Ryan (6th grade student).

We would like to thank Fred Rexroad for providing a copy of The Case of the Vanishing Diamond for this review.

Have you read The Case of the Vanishing Diamond? How would you rate it?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader

The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader.

The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: February 2012
List Price: $9.99
ISBN-13: 9780547550787

Review: Superheroes and sidekicks, we all have a favorite. But what about the sidekick Beanboy? The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader is a superior book. It will hook you till the end.

The story begins in a comic shop when the main character, Tucker MacBean is read his favorite comic book. The school bully, Sam, sees him starring at her and rips his comic book for no reason and throws it in a puddle. A dejected Tucker sulks home, but his mood changes when he sees an entry form for the perfect contest. All he would have to do is create a great sidekick for a comic and then he'd win a full college scholarship. His mother who has gone back to college herself needs the money, so Tucker decides to write a comic and put his mother's name on it. But he realizes the prize is non transferable so he doesn't know what to do. To complicate manners, his little brother, Beecher, could mess up his comic so he works in silence away from everyone. Will Tucker win the contest for his mom? Will his brother mess up his project? Will he put his mother's name on the comic so it looks like she won? Find out by reading The Adventures of Beanboy.

The Adventures of Beanboy is a first-class book. I can't reveal if Beanboy wins the contest or not so you'll need to read the book. Beanboy deserves 100 out of 5 stars. Beanboy is easily to relate to because his of his overall goal to try and to get money for something important in the family. At times, Beanboy is funny, sad, heartwarming, and frustrating- all at the same time. The book will greatly interest middleschoolers 6th through 8th grade and this is a great book for comic book lovers and people who are looking for a new book to read. Everyone should read and buy this book. The Adventures of Beanboy is perfect for long trips, lazy days, a boom review, and days at the beach. Also, it's perfect just for plain fun.

Review written by Max (6th grade student).

We would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of The Adventures of Beanboy for this review.

Have you read The Adventures of Beanboy? How would you rate it?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: The Lily Pond by Annika Thor

The Lily Pond by Annika Thor. A Steiner Sisters Novel.

The Lily Pond by Annika Thor

Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2011
List Price: $16.99
ISBN-13: 9780385740395

Review: The life of a Jewish refugee child can be hard, and the difficulties the refugees face are beautifully illustrated in The Lily Pond, by Annika Thor. The Lily Pond is the companion novel to A Faraway Island and is the second book of a quartet series about the Stiener sisters. The main character of this particular book is a Jewish girl named Stephie Stiener.

Stephie is a 13 year old Jewish girl whose life is in a never-ending flux. Recently, she has moved in with her foster parents in Sweden, and Sven, Stephie's crush, is living in the same house with her. Her new school is in Goteberg, a town in the mainland. As time goes on, it seems that Stephie is even falling in love with Sven! Like all teenagers, she has to face challenges every day. Her parents are in Vienna, where the Nazis are, and she constantly worries about them. Also, she experiences a true friendship and hopes that Sven will like her back.

I think that The Lily Pond is a touching story. I personally like to read about the Jewish children during that time period. The author wrote it in 3rd person, which is a different point of view than I generally enjoy. 3rd person didn't allow me to go into the character's thoughts. However, it shows more action and can transfer to a different character in the novel. I thought that was very interesting. Also, I liked how Stephie is very good friends with Sven. This made it easier for her to have a good relationship with Sven. Because the setting is in Sweden, it allowed me to be able to travel to another country without actually being there. I would recommend this book for anybody who loves a story about friendship, a little romance, and historical fiction.

The Stiener Sisters series has also been in an eight-part miniseries in Sweden. Also, the series has been translated into hundreds of languages.

Review written by Sharielle (6th grade student).

We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of The Lily Pond for this review.

Have you read The Lily Pond? How would you rate it?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling

Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling.

Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling

Tricycle Press
Publication Date: July 2011
List Price: $16.99
ISBN-13: 9781582463377

Review: What is it like to be treated unfairly? Sylvia and Aki, a novel written by Winifred Conkling is a book of friendships, differences and hardships. I truly enjoyed reading it! Sylvia, at age ten just loves school, while Aki at age 12 only wanted to stay on her family's farm. Winifred created a book with feeling just seeping out of the pages!

Sylvia, just moving onto a farm has only one wish: to go to school. When she is forced to go to a Mexican school down the street from the white school that has bad supplies and unqualified teachers she feels hopeless. Meanwhile Aki is forced to move out of her farm because of the war. Aki is Japanese and has to go to a camp until the war is over. Both girls fight to try to get what they want while they think nothing is worse than being different. These differences soon seem to pull them closer together and into a friendship.

What I loved about Sylvia and Aki is that you can really step into the girls shoes and feel their emotions. This novel informs readers about what it was like for people in different time periods. Aki was forced to live in a small house with many people while Sylvia was forced to go to an old, unprofessional school Reading historical fiction novel, will teach readers that you can learn some valuable lessons that can make a difference in your life. I would say it is an appropriate book for children between the ages of 8 and 10. It is really an exceptional read that I enjoyed immensely!

Review written by Adele (6th grade student).

We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of Sylvia & Aki for this review.

Have you read Sylvia & Aki? How would you rate it?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Outlaw by Stephen Davies.

Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Clarion Books
Publication Date: November 2011
List Price: $16.99
ISBN-13: 9780547390178

Review: "Grunt, grunt. Come on…I'm almost there." Outlaw, by Stephen Davies is a book filled a variety of scenes keeping you on the edge of your seat. Outlaw is a story about a teen boy named, Jake Knight, who is an Outlaw. Outlaw is a book for all ages and I think it should be shared worldwide. So if you are looking for a book filled with brother-sister love, some action and some surprises, Outlaw is the book for you.

Jake Knight, a 15-year-old, has just broken into a jail. His dean realizes this and Jake is expelled from the school for several weeks and must travel to Burkina Faso in Africa to where his parents live. Not only is Jake a young scamp, but he actually has a special talent too. Jake is able to run up walls. He learns most of his skills from YouTube. For example, he learns several electronic tricks, like how to charge his phone without electricity, which might just come in handy. He thinks this suspension from school and going to Africa is going to simply be a fun-filled vacation under the sun. But throughout his travel to Africa, kidnappers, terrorists and Yakuuba Sor - the most wanted kidnapper in Africa - await him. Jake will have to use his knowledge and special skills to get out of these situations. Will he be successful? If you want to see you'll have to read Outlaw and of the best books ever written!!!

Stephen Davies has written a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You'll be also biting your nails half the time. Outlaw is an amazing book filled with a big variety of subjects: death, betrayal, love and happiness. If you want to go sit down and read a great book, Outlaw is the book for you. Overall, Outlaw is an interesting book to me since I love action and adventure. Jake is the type of character that is just like my favorite. This setting in Africa propelled to me into learning Africana language and places in Africa. Since Africa has some boundaries, Jake can climb right above them giving him a fast advantage to move around Africa. So I think Africa is a great setting for this type of character. Outlaw is an amazing book. Don't waste any time - go read Outlaw now!!

Review written by Logan (6th grade student).

We would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of Outlaw for this review.

Have you read Outlaw? How would you rate it?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls by Wendelin Van Draanen

Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls by Wendelin Van Draanen. A Sammy Keyes Novel.

Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls by Wendelin Van Draanen

Schwartz & Wade Books
Publication Date: October 2011
List Price: $15.99
ISBN-13: 9780375861086

Review: Being in a graveyard on Halloween night is bad-for some people! Sammy Keyes and The Night of Skulls is yet another great Sammy Keyes mystery written by Wendelin Van Draanen. This book grabs you instantly, especially if you read it in October! The main characters are Sammy Keyes, and some of her friends. These children are young sleuths who go on adventure after adventure. Nobody can guess what the kids will do next in this anticipation builder!

Due to past experiences, Sammy is sure this Halloween will be joyful, and not at all wicked in any way. However, the gang makes the blunder of cutting through the graveyard while disguised as zombies. They go through the older part of the grave yard (AKA the scarier part where it is very dark and harder to find your way). Despite Billy and Casey's humor, the discussion they are having about death only leads up to the scariest encounter of the night. They come to a halt when they spot a creature scampering through the tombstones. It turns to approach them. The kids want to exit the graveyard and find the nearest gate. The creature's face seemed vicious and the children can't even imagine what could happen next. What have they gotten themselves into?!

There are some positive and negative things about this book that I would like to share. The book is a mystery, and contains a lot of suspense and surprises. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and you cannot guess what will happen next. Plus, the characters in this book are a very unique group of kids. They are interested in being detectives and are actually really good at it. One negative part of the book is that it may be challenging for some kids to read. Although it is intended for kids, with the whole graveyard mystery storyline, the plot is actually quite complicated. It may be difficult and confusing for some younger readers to comprehend. This book is a mix of horror, realistic fiction, and mystery! Wendelin Van Draanen has outdone herself with this one. Each of her books is better than the last one. Overall, I feel Sammy Keyes and the Night of the Skulls is a very suspenseful book that everyone should read for fun -- especially people between the ages of 9-13. It is full of mystery and surprising twists. I rate this book an eight out of ten.

Review written by Sahil (7th grade student).

We would like to thank Random House for providing a copy of Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls for this review.

Have you read Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls? How would you rate it?