December 18, 2016

The first book is by beloved author Cynthia Lord.  It is a realistic fiction option on our 2017 RI Children’s Book Award list.  Remember, you must read at least three to be eligible to vote in February. Here is a link to the 2017 RICBA list. You might want to check out a title or two from the public library over vacation!


A Handful of Stars, (2015)

by Cynthia Lord

Goodreads summary: This powerful middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author of Rules explores a friendship between a small-town girl and the daughter of migrant workers. When Lily’s blind dog, Lucky, slips his collar and runs away across the wide-open blueberry barrens of eastern Maine, it’s Salma Santiago who manages to catch him. Salma, the daughter of migrant workers, is in the small town with her family for the blueberry-picking season. After their initial chance meeting, Salma and Lily bond over painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather, and Salma’s friendship transforms Lily’s summer. But when Salma decides to run in the upcoming Blueberry Queen pageant, they’ll have to face some tough truths about friendship and belonging. Should an outsider like Salma really participate in the pageant—and possibly win? Set amongst the blueberry barrens and by the sea, this is a gorgeous new novel by Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord that tackles themes of prejudice and friendship, loss and love.

Watch a book trailer for A Handful of Stars here.

Visit author Cynthia Lord’s website.

This next book is on many Mock Newbery lists.  Some claim it will be a classic like To Kill a Mockingbird.  I had a really hard time with it because of Betty, a character who is just so mean.  Other librarians have argued that I felt it strongly because the writing is so good.  I’ll let you decide. Interesting side note: the author is a Brown University graduate.


Wolf Hollow, (2016)

by Lauren Wolk

Goodreads summary: Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

Watch a Wolf Hollow book trailer here.

Visit author Lauren Wolk’s website.

This next book is on our HMS Mock Newbery list.  A book with a female main character who is a great baseball player?  Count us in! Yes, it is sad (I’ve been accused of being partial to the sad ones).  But it is also hopeful.


The Distance to Home, (2016)

by Jenn Bishop

Goodreads summary: Last summer, Quinnen was the star pitcher of her baseball team, the Panthers. They’re headed for the championship, and her loudest supporter at every game was her best friend and older sister, Haley.

This summer, everything is different. Haley’s death, at the end of last summer, has left Quinnen and her parents reeling. Without Haley in the stands, Quinnen doesn’t want to play baseball. It seems like nothing can fill the Haley-sized hole in her world. The one glimmer of happiness comes from the Bandits, the local minor-league baseball team. For the first time, Quinnen and her family are hosting one of the players for the season. Without Haley, Quinnen’s not sure it will be any fun, but soon she befriends a few players. With their help, can she make peace with the past and return to the pitcher’s mound?

Visit author Jenn Bishop’s website.

Read an interview with Jenn Bishop about The Distance to Home  here.

I do love picture book biographies. They are a great way to learn about someone and how they’ve contributed to our world.  This week I read aloud Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton and Don Tate – one of our Mock Caldecott nominees.  A student was so inspired he came back during indoor recess to research Lonnie Johnson and write up a report.  This is the power of a good picture book biography!

Our budding artists will enjoy this new addition to our library.


The Iridescence of Birds, (2014)

words by Patricia MacLachlan, pictures by Hadley Hooper

Goodreads summary: If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France, what would your life be like? Would it be full of color and art? Full of lines and dancing figures?

Find out in this beautiful, unusual picture book about one of the world’s most famous and influential artists by acclaimed author and Newbery Medal-winning Patricia MacLachlan and innovative illustrator Hadley Hooper.

I’ve been trying to end the list with a book or series we have in our library that our students should know about.  Many students who enjoy Harry Potter or Percy Jackson are looking for another fantasy series to sink their teeth into.  This may be just the one for them! And if you enjoy Ranger’s Apprentice, John Flanagan also wrote the Brotherband Chronicles series!


The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice #1), (2006)

by John Flanagan

Goodreads summary: They have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….

Watch a book trailer for the Ranger’s Apprentice series here.

Visit author John Flanagan’s website.

December 11, 2016

The first book I’d like to highlight this week is a 2017 RI Children’s Book Award nominee.  For those of you who love action adventure, this book is for you! The good news is if you enjoy it, you can read Masterminds: Criminal Destiny and then Masterminds: Payback comes out in March.


Masterminds (Masterminds #1), (2015)

by Gordon Korman

Goodreads summary: From bestselling author Gordon Korman comes a thrilling new middle grade trilogy about a group of kids living in a Pleasantville-type town who discover a dark secret that connects them to some of the greatest criminal masterminds of their time.

Eli Frieden lives in the most boring town in the world: Serenity, New Mexico. Only thirty kids live in the idyllic town, where every lawn is perfectly manicured and everyone has a pool and a basketball hoop. Honesty and kindness are the backbone of the community. There is no crime in this utopia.

Eli has never left town…. Why would he ever want to? But everything changes the day he and his friend Randy bike to the edge of the city limits. Eli is suddenly struck with a paralyzing headache and collapses. Almost instantly, a crew of security—or “Purple People Eaters,” as the kids call them—descend via helicopter. Eli awakens in the hospital, and the next day, Randy and his family are gone.

As Eli convinces his friends Tori and Malik to help him investigate Randy’s disappearance, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. As the clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, the kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents. So they hatch a plan for what could be the greatest breakout in history—but will they survive? And if they do, where do they go from there?

This first book in a thrilling new series from the middle grade “mastermind” Gordon Korman is sure to be a hit with his myriad fans.

Watch the official Masterminds book trailer  here.

Check out author Gordon Korman’s website.

This next book is on our HMS Mock Newbery list. It is a masterful tale of a Japanese family forced to go to an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. You will fall in love with Manami and her dignified family.


Paper Wishes, (2016)

by Lois Sepahban

Goodreads summary: A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II–and the dog she has to leave behind.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family’s life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn’t until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.

Read an interview with author Lois Sepahban here.

Check out author Lois Sepahban’s website.

I have not read this next book yet but look forward to it.  Many others have it on their Mock Newbery list.


Hour of the Bees, (2016)

Lindsay Eagar

Goodreads summary: Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

Watch an Hour of the Bees book trailer here.

Read an interview with author Lindsay Eager here.

This book is the next best thing to having an author visit.  With much humor you learn how a book starts from the author’s seed idea and finally gets into your hands.  I’ll admit, after reading it with my son, I am utterly smitten.  Our library will get a copy this month.


How This Book Was Made, (2016)

words by Mac Barnett, pictures by Adam Rex

Goodreads summary: You may think you know how this book was made, but you don’t. Sure, the author wrote many drafts, and the illustrator took a long time creating the art, but then what? How’d it get into your hands? Well, open the cover and read through these pages to find out. Just beware of the pirates and angry tiger.

New York Times best-selling creators Mac Barnett and Adam Rex reveal the nitty gritty process of making a book . . . with a few unexpected twists along the way! Budding writers and artists will laugh at the mix of reality and the absurd as the story makes its way to a shelf, and a reader.

Watch the How This Book Was Made book trailer on author Mac Barnett’s website.

Read an interview with Mac Barnett and Adam Rex about making How This Book Was Made here.  Bonus: there is a link to watch Mac Barnett’s TED talk!

This next title is a fun one that I’d like everyone in our school to be aware of.  Full of humor and action, this hybrid series (five in all) is sure to make our readers happy!


NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society (NERDS #1), (2009)

written by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Ethen Beavers

Goodreads summary: Combining all the excitement of international espionage and all the awkwardness of elementary school, NERDS, featuring a group of unpopular students who run a spy network from inside their school, hits the mark. With the help of cutting-edge science, their nerdy qualities are enhanced and transformed into incredible abilities! They battle the Hyena, a former junior beauty pageant contestant turned assassin, and an array of James Bond–style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last.

Watch the NERDS book trailer here.

You may also enjoy Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series.  He has been lightly editing them and the covers have been updated.  We have the series but will need to get the new versions for our library.


Old Cover


New Cover

Watch the book trailer for The Sisters Grimm series here.

December 4, 2016

This first book is a 2017 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award nominee.  I have heard from teacher friends that if you read this book with your students, the author is so awesome he will Skype with your class.


A Whole New Ballgame (Rip and Red #1), (2015)

by Phil Bildner

Goodreads summary: Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn’t believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects, the more “off” the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo! Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other—and find ways to make a difference—in the classroom and on the court.

With its energetic and authentic story and artwork, this is a fresh, fun book about school, sports, and friendship.

Watch the Whole New Ballgame book trailer here.

Check out author Phil Bildner’s book trailer here.

This book is on my HMS Mock Newbery list. I loved it and not just because the author’s name is Melanie.


Counting Thyme, (2016)

by Melanie Conklin

Goodreads summary: When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

Watch the Counting Thyme book trailer here.

Check out author Melanie Conklin’s website here.

This next book is on my next book order list as I’ve been anxiously awaiting its publication date. Lucky for us, December 1st has finally arrived!


Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, (2016)

words by Heather Lang, pictures by Jordi Salano

Goodreads summary: Before Eugenie Clark’s groundbreaking research, most people thought sharks were vicious, blood-thirsty killers. From the first time she saw a shark in an aquarium, Japanese-American Eugenie was enthralled. Instead of frightening and ferocious eating machines, she saw sleek, graceful fish gliding through the water. After she became a scientist an unexpected career path for a woman in the 1940s she began taking research dives and training sharks, earning her the nickname “The Shark Lady.”

Watch the Swimming with Sharks book trailer here.

Check out author Heather Lang’s website here.

I have not had a chance to read this next book. However, the reviews are glowing for this animal adventure book.  I have seen it on a few Mock Newbery lists.


The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, (2016)

by Cylin Busby

Goodreads summary: In the tradition of Poppy, the Warriors series, and other beloved animal adventures comes the swashbuckling tale of a brave cat on the high seas.

Captain Natick does not want to take a kitten on board his ship when it sets sail in 1847, but his daughter convinces him that the scrawny yellow cat will bring good luck. Onto the ship the kitten goes, and so begins the adventurous, cliff-hanging, lucky life of Jacob Tibbs. At first, Jacob’s entire world is the ship’s hold, where the sailors heave their heavy loads and despicable, long-tailed rats scurry in the darkness. But before long, Jacob’s voyage takes him above deck and onward to adventure. Along the way, Jacob will encounter loss and despair, brave thunderous storms at sea, face down a mutiny, survive on a desert island, and above all, navigate the tricky waters of shipboard life and loyalties.

Read a blog post about The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by author Cylin Busby here.

This series has gained such momentum in our library that it’s important to highlight.  This  title is the first of four in the series so far. It is for the action adventure set.


Spy School (Spy School #1), (2012)

by Stuart Gibbs

Goodreads summary: Can a normal, average kid become a superstar secret agent? Maybe not, but it’ll be fun to watch him try!

Ben Ripley may only be in middle school, but he’s already pegged his dream job: C.I.A. or bust. Unfortunately for him, his personality doesn’t exactly scream “secret agent.” In fact, Ben is so awkward, he can barely get to school and back without a mishap. Because of his innate math skills, Ben isn’t surprised when he is recruited for a magnet school with a focus on science—but he’s entirely shocked to discover that the school is actually a front for a junior C.I.A. academy. Could the C.I.A. really want him?

Actually, no. There’s been a case of mistaken identity—but that doesn’t stop Ben from trying to morph into a supercool undercover agent, the kind that always gets the girl. And through a series of hilarious misadventures, Ben realizes he might actually be a halfway decent spy…if he can survive all the attempts being made on his life!

Watch a book trailer for Spy School here.

Check out the website of Stuart Gibbs here.