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Book Reviews from the Children's Department Staff of the Park Ridge Public Library
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1. Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Sarah shares the book Feathers: Not Just for Flying, by Melissa Stewart.


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2. Mr. Tanen’s Ties by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Mr. Tanen's TiesThe beloved principal of Lynnhurst Elementary School, Mr. Tanen, is known for his tie collection. Every morning when the children enter school they check to see what tie Mr. Tanen is wearing. He keeps a closet of ties in his office and changes his tie many times throughout the day. He might wear a tie to match his mood, or the weather, or for his official duties. His tie collection is endless!

One day during an important meeting with Mr. Apple at the School Department he is told that education is serious business and that wearing silly ties simply isn’t proper. Mr. Apple hands Mr. Tanen a blue tie and tells him he must only wear blue ties. Plain blue ties.

The students miss Mr. Tanen’s special ties, and soon it becomes clear that a plain blue ties make everyone feel “blue”. When Mr. Tanen calls in sick for a week, it’s Mr. Apple who fills in as principal. He has lots of rules and, of course, a plain tie. During recess, the students notice Mr. Apple bird watching and the next day someone gives him a tie with birds on it. At the end of the school day, Mr. Apple finds himself admiring his new tie and he decides to put it on. While at the grocery store, he gets compliments on his lovely bird tie. What a nice feeling! All the rest of the week, Mr. Apple chooses a special tie to wear from Mr. Tanen’s closet of ties. Mr. Apple finds himself smiling often.

When Mr. Tanen returns to work on Monday he finds Mr. Apple waiting with a tie box for him. Inside is another blue tie, but this one isn’t plain at all – it has #1 blue ribbon all over it. Ties most definitely make a difference at Lynnhurst Elementary School where no one is feeling “blue” anymore.

There is yet another happy ending to Mr. Tanen’s Ties, so you might just want to check this book out!

Posted by: Wendy


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3. Pete the Cat – Too Cool for School by Kimberly and James Dean

Pete the Cat - Too Cool for SchoolIt’s time to go back to school, and just like a lot of kids, Pete is trying to figure out what to wear. He is asking EVERYONE! He asks his mom, and she tells him the yellow shirt, because it is her favorite, so he puts it on. Then his friend Marty tells him that the red shirt is his favorite, and Pete puts that one on too. Pete’s brother Bob likes the blue shirt, and Pete puts that one on too. Pretty soon EVERYONE is giving their opinion of what Pete should wear, and he is following EVERYONE’s advice and putting EVERYTHING on!! Of course Pete looks just plain silly, and he is also very hot with all those clothes on. He decides to go home to change his clothes, and this time he decides what he’s going to wear. In the end, Pete also decides that what really matters is being yourself . . . so if you want to be cool, just be you! I like the message of this book, and I think kids who love Pete the Cat will love this one too.

Posted by: Mary


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4. Ollie’s School Day: a Yes-and-No Book by Stephanie Calmenson

Ollie’s School Day: a Yes-and-No BookStarting school can be stressful for some children. If you are looking for a fun introduction to the school day and to lighten the mood, check out Ollie’s School Day. It is a question and answer book that follows Ollie through a day of school. Each set of questions includes three silly suggestions followed by the correct one. Will Ollie wear a bathing suit, a space suit, a police officer’s uniform or a pair of pants and a shirt to school? It’s sure to have kids laughing at the crazy suggestions of what Ollie will do throughout the day. While listening and laughing, young readers won’t realize they are learning how to behave at school. If you are looking for other silly school stories with a similar format, pair it with Saltzberg’s Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for School? Or Milgrim’s Eddie Gets Ready for School.

Posted by: Liz


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5. You’re Wearing That to School!?! by Lynne Plourde

You’re Wearing That to School!?!Penelope couldn’t be more excited to start school! She’s even chosen an extraordinary colorful outfit to wear for her first day. Her best friend Tiny started school last year and he instructs Penelope to choose a plainer outfit in order to fit in. Tiny then explains what Penelope should bring for lunch and what to choose for show-and-tell. Penelope and Tiny have entirely different opinions and in the end she must decide whether to take Tiny’s advice or be true to herself.

This is a perfect story to share with children who are just starting school. The repetition of text encourages participation with young readers and Sue Cornelison’s bright, exuberant illustrations will delight readers of all ages.

Posted by: Katie


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6. My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz

My Happy LifeInstead of counting sheep at night, Dani counts all the times she’s been happy. She is especially happy when she thinks about her new schoolbag, because she is so excited for her first day of school. It will be a new chapter in Dani’s happy life! And, as it turns out, there are many happy times spent in Dani’s new classroom and with her new best friend, Ella. But the school year brings some unhappiness, too. Ella moves away midway through the year, which makes Dani very sad. Dani is reminded of other times of unhappiness in her life, too, like when her mother died when she was very young. Dani misses Ella terribly and things look fairly bleak, but as Dani begins to snatch up little opportunities for happiness – like new pet hamsters and new friends at school – and to think about all of her happy memories, Dani’s life once more becomes a happy one.

Don’t let the size of this book fool you – it is 134 pages, but there is a lot of white space and an abundance of illustrations, making it perfect as a first chapter book for early readers. This book touches on two different sad events – the death of a parent and a best friend moving away. While these events are never trivialized, the book itself is not a sad book. It is mainly a book about resilience and about keeping on the sunny side of life. It is about how love from family, friends, and your own self can provide you with an inner reserve of happiness to draw from when bad things happen in life.

Posted by: Parry


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7. Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border

All Four StarsComplete this rhyme:

Hello, I’m new here, and I’d like to play
Maybe now, maybe later – or even all day
I’ll make you chuckle deep down in your belly
and we’ll go together like Peanut Butter and…

You chose “cupcake”, didn’t you? No? What about “French fries?” Not that either? Ok, I’ll bet you chose “meatball!” Well, in the delightfully fun picture book Peanut Butter & Cupcake by Terry Border, a young slice of peanut butter toast tries all of those options and then some to round out his rhyming request for a new friend. Peanut Butter is new in town and his mom sends him out to make some friends. Along the way he is rebuffed by the likes of a hamburger, egg, alphabet soup and more before finally finding an ideal match in, you guessed it, Jelly.

This sweet story of friendship and acceptance is illustrated with photographs of three dimensional objects manipulated on a bright outdoor backdrop. Each inanimate food item is brought to life simply with the addition of wire arms and legs. One particularly adorable moment occurs when Peanut Butter encounters Hamburger as he struggles to walk his “dogs.” Terry Border’s clever and thoughtfully laid out scenes are silly enough to make readers of all ages smile and want to flip through the pages time and time again. Peanut Butter & Cupcake is a perfect read aloud for preschoolers and kindergarteners who will get a big kick out of the mismatched food pairings throughout. “Peanut butter and hamburger? Noooooo!”

Posted by: Staci


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8. All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

All Four StarsIt’s the end of August, and school is starting (or has already started!) everywhere in the country. Starting school can be busy and chaotic, and not a little bit stressful. What’s the best way to combat that? A light, fun, cheerful book!

10-year-old Gladys Gatsby loves to cook — but her parents don’t care ANYTHING about good food. They prefer badly-microwaved things that are simultaneously overcooked, mushy, raw and rock-hard-crunchy. Gladys has to sneak around and cook delectable dishes (like creme brulee!) behind her parents’ backs, but nothing stays a secret forever. When disaster strikes and her parents forbid her to do any cooking (or reading about cooking or watching T.V. shows about cooking) whatsoever, her life seems ruined (and a lot less tasty).

Little does Gladys know it, but things are about to look up for her. A fabulous new teacher, Ms. Quincy, assigns her class at school to write an essay on their hopes for the future, to be submitted to the New York Standard’s state-wide essay contest. Due to a series of misunderstandings and erroneous assumptions, Gladys’ essay is misplaced and is assumed to be an application for a job — the job of restaurant critic for the New York Standard!

How will Gladys — who lives in a suburb an hour away from New York, has no transportation, and, let’s not forget, is forbidden by her parents to have anything to do with cooking — manage to get her reviews written? Who can she rely on to help her? Gladys discovers that she has more friends — young and old — than she thought she did, and makes other friends where she would never have expected to.

All Four Stars is a rollicking good read, with fun characters, a delightful setting, and just enough zaniness to be appealing while remaining realistic. It’s just the sort of book to leave a smile on your face after a long, hard day. If only every copy came with a serving or two of the delicious desserts that Gladys makes — THAT would be perfect!

Posted by: Sarah


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9. Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer Mann

Two Speckled EggsSometimes you think you know all about someone, but it turns out that people will sometimes surprise you in good ways and in bad. When Ginger plans her birthday party, her mother tells her that she must invite all of the girls in her class, including Lyla Browning. Lyla Browning is a little different; some might call her “weird”, especially if you never get to know her. She likes things like tarantulas and ladybugs and nature, and she carries a magnifying glass in her pocket.

When Ginger’s birthday finally arrives, her friends from her class all come, and so does Lyla. Much to her surprise, her friends aren’t exactly on their best behavior. They use the Pin the Tail on the Donkey on each other and don’t want to even try her coconut and pineapple birthday cake. Ginger is also surprised that she and Lyla have some things in common, like for instance ladybugs. Lyla brings her a beautiful homemade gift of a nest made from paper, tinsel, ribbon, and string, and in the center are two speckled malted milk eggs. This is Ginger’s favorite gift, and eventually Lyla becomes Ginger’s favorite friend. What a wonderful surprise!

Posted by: Mary


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10. Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Kelly shares the book Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems, by Patrick J. Lewis:


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11. Moonsilver (The Unicorn’s Secret, #1), by Kathleen Duey

Moonsilver (The Unicorn’s Secret, #1)In Moonsilver, the first book of the series The Unicorn’s Secret, we meet Heart Avamir, a young girl who was abandoned at birth and raised by Simon Pratt, a demanding and unloving guardian. Despite this, Heart grows to be a kind, gentle, and hard working girl. When she meets an abandoned and starving white mare in the fields one day, she is instantly devoted and fights to keep the mare. Heart wakes up extra early to gather food for the horse, and enlists the help of the village healer and her only friend to help her nurse the horse back to health. When the mare begins to regain strength, Heart discovers that she is going to have a foal. But the foal turns out to be no ordinary horse, and in order to protect them both Heart must set out on a great adventure.

This beginning chapter book makes a great fantasy introduction, and is also recommended to young horse lovers. This would also make a good read aloud for children not yet ready to read chapters on their own.

Posted by: Parry


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12. My Bus by Byron Barton

My BusOne of my toddler’s favorite books right now is My Bus by Byron Barton. My son has taken quite a liking to Joe, the bus driver, and his dogs. In this story, the reader meets Joe and learns about his job picking up dogs and cats and driving them to their destinations. Joe has a busy day making lots of stops and dropping animals off at the boat, train, and plane. Besides for the bus, little vehicle lovers can see the animals sail, ride and fly away. The simple illustrations and minimal text appeal to the youngest readers. For slightly older readers, it is a nice introduction to addition and subtraction.

Posted by: Liz


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13. A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna

A Lion in ParisIn the Children’s area we have a special section of picture books called K-3rd. This section contains books that would be great read alouds for children in Kindergarten through grade 3; especially in a large group like a classroom. Occasionally, we also have picture books that are more suitable for older children due to themes, complex language, or that do not work well as read alouds for a large group. Because there are not many books like this in the picture book collection, we do not have a designated area for them and they are shelved alphabetically with all of the other picture books. These books are often high quality literary works that deserve attention, but do not always find an audience because most people only look for picture books for young children. We recently acquired a book like this called A Lion in Paris that I hope does not get overlooked. This oversized picture book that reads vertically like a calendar rather than horizontally tells the story of a lion who is bored with life in the grasslands so he sets off to find “a job, love, and a future” in Paris. Through short sentences and expressive mixed media illustrations, Alemagna manages to paint a picture of a very despondent lion, a beautiful, yet aloof city and how to find your place in the world wherever you may be. The lion visits several famous Parisian landmarks including the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa smile at him, Monmontre where he helps an older woman down the many steps and the River Seine to look at his reflection. The lion goes from being stranger in Paris to loving the city so much that he decides to stay there permanently and becomes the famous lion statue at the Place Denfer-Rochereau. This book would be perfect to share with a child interested in Paris or planning a trip there, a child struggling to fit in, or anyone looking for something a little different in terms of format or storyline.

Posted by: Kelly


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14. Road Trip by Gary Paulsen & Jim Paulsen

Road TripNothing says “Summer” like a good old fashioned family road trip! Now take that family road trip, throw in a reformed juvenile delinquent, a feisty waitress, an ornery auto mechanic, and an introspective border collie, put them on a big yellow school bus, and send them off to rescue a puppy. What do you get? You get Road Trip, a fun summer read by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen!

Road Trip is the first collaborative effort by prolific author Gary Paulsen and his sculptor son Jim. Similar to a game of Exquisite Corpse, the father-son duo took turns writing chapters and sending them back and forth to one another. As they did, the story and characters grew in ways neither could have expected. Despite what might sound like a disjointed writing method, the Paulsens manage to maintain a cohesive feel to this short novel. Quirky characters abound throughout this madcap story of a father and son struggling to understand one another. Road Trip is a perfect quick read for vacationing 5th graders and up. Perhaps it will even inspire an impromptu road trip or two along the way.

Posted by: Staci


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15. The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Rump: The True Story of RumpelstiltskinWhat would you do if your name decided your destiny? Some might be thrilled with the potential of a powerful name. On the other hand, being named after a cow’s rear end would make me feel rather blue. That is the case for Rump who lives in The Kingdom where names mean everything. Rump is constantly picked on due to his name. Rump knows in his heart that his mother gave him a wonderful name, but she died before she was able to communicate it fully.

On his twelfth birthday, Rump discovers an old spinning wheel in his woodpile. The wheel belonged to his mother and he desperately wants to keep the item since it was once hers. Rump tries spinning the wheel against his Gran’s wishes and learns there is a magical outcome. In this land magic can be dangerous and Rump quickly gets himself into a heap of trouble. Rump has to find a way to make things right while he also attempts to learn his whole name.

Many children know the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, but Shurtliff has created a marvelous story that will keep readers engaged as they learn Rump’s side of the classic fairy tale. What really makes this story magical is how the author is able to get readers to root for a normally disliked character.

Posted by: Katie


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16. Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall

Dog vs. CatOn the very day that Mr. Button goes to the animal shelter to pick out a dog, Mrs. Button goes to a pet store to buy a cat. The two pets will have to share a room in their new home. At first it seems they will get along well; Dog lives on one side of the room and Cat lives on the other side. But dogs and cats are not the same and they quickly discover that they have very different interests, habits and living styles. It’s not very long at all before they begin to go out of their way to make life miserable for each other. They even resort to trying to get one another one in trouble with Mr. and Mrs. Button. Finally, Dog and Cat decide to build a wall to totally separate their room.

Now life has become nice and quiet for Dog and Cat – and boring. They realize that they miss each other. Just as they are finding new ways to get along they hear a strange howling outside their door. OH NO! Could it be that Mr. and Mrs. Button have brought home yet another pet? Sure enough, Dog and Cat have to share their room some with someone new. This just will not do and they come up with a perfect solution. Dogs and cats most definitely can get along!

Posted by: Wendy


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17. The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

The Glass SentenceWe all know that different countries have different customs that make it an adjustment to travel across borders, and that there’s a famous saying trying to explain how disconcerting it can be to adjust to those different customs: “the past is a foreign country.” But what if each foreign country was in the past? Or more specifically, what if by traveling across borders, you could travel to different times?

In The Glass Sentence, the Great Disruption happened in 1799–the world’s countries came unstuck in time and each settled in a different era. Boston remained in the 18th (and then 19th) centuries, but Canada and northern Europe reverted to the Ice Age, the Italy and western Europe returned to the middle ages, and the western part of America and Mexico has settled in a mixture of many ages, including the distant past and parts of the future!

Sophia lives in Boston with her uncle Shadrack, a famous cartologer–he maps not only the way to get to different countries and eras, but can map sights, smells, and even memories from certain places. Soon after Shadrack shows Sophia his secret map room, filled with maps that seem almost magic, he is kidnapped by thugs working for a terrifying creature who will do anything to find the one map that Shadrack says he doesn’t have. Sophia teams up with a boy escaped from a traveling show to track down Shadrack’s captors, and as she travels into the Baldlands, finds herself farther from Boston–both physically and mentally–than she could have ever imagined.

This book is wholly original and utterly amazing. The imagery and descriptive language is such that I could perfectly see every landscape, every character, every object, no matter how fantastical. The book stood alone perfectly well, but I was thrilled to discover later that it is the first book in a series! I look forward to the continuing adventures of Sophia and Shadrack, and I can’t wait to see what countries and eras they visit next.

Posted by: Sarah


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18. The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

The Lion and the BirdAs lion is working in his garden on autumn day he notices a little injured bird and decides to help the little creature. For the duration of autumn and all through winter, the lion cares for the bird. He tends to the bird’s injury and shares his home, food and even his hat throughout the cold winter months. As spring returns, so does the birds flock. The lion sadly, but stoically, bids his new friend farewell and spends the rest of the spring, summer and early autumn quietly tending to his home and garden alone. The autumn winds bring colder weather and the faintest hope that perhaps the bird will return to spend time with the lion and, much to the lion’s delight, the bird does return to his friend.

This gentle story of friendship and kindness is impeccably composed by author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc. Minimal text provides for numerous opportunities to engage little ones with questions about emotions, seasons, and predictions of what is to come. Dubuc’s soft, endearing illustrations not only compliment the text, but also further the story seamlessly. Additionally, the clever use of blank pages quietly denotes the passage of time and accentuates the spot on pacing of the story. One particularly outstanding instance of storytelling occurs when the lion is hoping for a return visit from his feathered friend. An initially crestfallen lion is followed by two blank pages. Then a single music note then appears to fly into the page, signifying the bird’s homecoming, and is followed by a wordless two page spread illustrating the reunion. It is pure happiness!

This charming and gentle book would be a lovely bedtime story to share with young children ages two and up.

Posted by: Staci


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19. Common Core Review: Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly JourneyChildren and adults alike are fascinated by butterflies. Their beautiful delicate wings attract attention where ever they fly, and their seemingly magical metamorphosis has inspired countless stories. Handle with Care tells the story of El Bosque Nuevo, a butterfly farm in Costa Rica, where a variety of butterflies are raised and then sold to various museums around the world. The benefits of this arrangement are twofold: 1. people everywhere can have the opportunity to observe and learn from butterflies from distant parts of the world and 2. the profits from the sales of the butterflies go to help preserve the rain forest surrounding the farm.

Author Loree Griffin Burns meticulously researched this topic and even spent time living in Costa Rica and working at El Bosque Nuevo. Her hands on research and genuine passion for the subject matter are evident throughout this book. Burns chooses her words carefully so as to make the material accessible to a younger audience while still being interesting and informative enough for older, more independent learners. In addition, Ellen Harasimowicz’s vibrant and gorgeous photographs bring the reader into the butterfly farm and allow for a stunningly up close view of the butterflies as they make their remarkable transformations. However, this book is more than just an informational text about butterflies. It is about the journey these amazing creatures take in an effort to inform, enlighten, and educate people around the world about butterflies while also raising money and awareness to save the rainforests. Handle with Care takes the familiar (butterflies) and connects it to the exotic (Costa Rican rainforests) and, in doing so, readers can make a connection to the very real plight that is the deforestation of the rainforests.

Common Core Connections
Because Handle with Care has so many layers, it lends itself to a variety of educational opportunities. Younger students will benefit from a pairing with any number of traditional butterfly stories such as Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings. In addition to studying the life cycle of a butterfly, older students can also go on to explore the environmental issues raised by the book. Students could be encouraged to communicate with the butterfly farmers at El Bosque Nuevo and perhaps even raise awareness and funds for the butterfly farm in their own communities. Field trips to butterfly gardens are a natural extension for any age as well.

For more information on the work of El Bosque Nuevo and more ideas on how to share this information with students, visit the following websites:
El Bosque Nuevo
Loree Griffin Burns’ Handle with Care page

Posted by: Staci


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20. Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not ReadingCharlie Joe Jackson is in middle school and he has never read an entire book cover to cover. In fact he does everything he can to avoid reading. Luckily, Charlie Joe’s friend Timmy has been a huge help to his non-reading habits. For the past two years, Charlie Joe buys Timmy an ice cream sandwich and in exchange Timmy explains what happens in the books they are required to read for school. This agreement is perfect for Charlie Joe, until Timmy decides he is no longer happy with their arrangement. To make matters worse, he has a huge position paper due at the end of the school year that involves a lot of research. A lot of research means reading a lot of books. Charlie Joe comes up with a creative scheme to keep his perfect record of non-reading. However, he knows this scheme could get him into a big trouble while also pushing away the girl he has had a crush on since kindergarten.

Tommy Greenwald has written a humorous story about a child who simply does not enjoy reading. I am someone who loves to read so this title immediately caught my attention. Charlie Joe is a likeable character who will appeal to many children. Throughout the book Greenwald includes twenty-five of Charlie Joe’s non-reading tips, though at times Charlie Joe doesn’t follow his own instructions. Comical illustrations are woven throughout the book to further enhance the story’s appeal. This book would be a great choice for any middle school child who is a reluctant reader. If you enjoy this book, you can read more about Charlie Joe’s antics in Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation.

Posted by: Katie


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21. A Pet for Fly Guy by Ted Arnold

A Pet for Fly GuyWith the summer reading club in full swing, I have books about pets and animals on my mind. The latest Fly Guy book was the perfect summer find. We have always enjoyed the other easy readers from this series in our house. And now, Fly Guy is making his picture book debut. In this latest story, Fly Guy is disappointed to discover that almost everyone has a pet except him. His owner and best buddy, Buzz, take him to the pet store to find a suitable pet. Unfortunately, none of the animals are quite right. Especially the frog that tries to eat him! It turns out that his buddy Buzz makes the perfect pet. Buzz accepts the offer to be his pet as long as Fly Guy doesn’t feed him. This is a cute story with a fun ending, and even has a nice introduction to the basics of pet care thrown in.

Posted by: Liz


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22. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible BoyEveryone knows a child or has been the child that doesn’t get noticed in school for one reason or another. This book perfectly illustrates the world of a child who feels invisible. The teacher is so busy dealing with the boy with the “volume control” or the girl who complains and whines too much that she too doesn’t really notice Brian. He doesn’t get chosen for teams at recess and doesn’t get invited to parties, and sadly the other kids don’t stop to notice that their actions may be hurtful to Brian. No one seems to notice all the good things about Brian – that he is a wonderful artist – that he has a great imagination – that he can write exciting stories . . . Then one morning a new boy arrives in class, and Brian shows him a little kindness when the kids tease the new boy about the strange food he is eating for lunch. When the new boy Justin finds Brian’s note telling him that he thought his lunch looked good, Justin thanks him, and the two become fast friends. AND once Justin takes a chance on Brian, other friends follow, and pretty soon Brian doesn’t feel so invisible. Thanks to Miss Judy for pointing out this beautiful story to me. It is a must read!

Posted by: Mary


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23. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation By Patti Kelley Criswell

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any SituationKnowing what to say in any given situation can be tough. You may be in a difficult situation and need to speak with care so as to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. You may be dealing with a bully and you need to stand up for yourself. You may need to respectfully negotiate a compromise with a friend or parent. And sometimes you hurt someone and need to apologize. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say covers all types of situations and offers real-life examples of healthy ways to express what you mean effectively and with respect for yourself and others. This is a great book for girls to explore on their own or with their parents or friends. It would make a great starting point for discussion or a guide to role playing between daughters and their parents, so as to practice handling different situations. The information in this book is well organized and the design is colorful and appealing. It is part of the American Girl series, which many girls may already be familiar with. The book was made for girls, but it is sound advice for boys as well!

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say was first recommended to me by the organization A Mighty Girl – check out their website or follow them on Facebook for great book, toy, and movie recommendations for girls, as well as interesting information about women throughout history.

Posted by: Parry


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24. The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin

The Five Lives of Our Cat ZookYou probably have deduced from the title that this book has a pet with questionable health and are ready to move on to the next review because you don’t like sad stories about animals…but please don’t! This is a certainly a story that features a very sick cat, but also manages to be a feel good story, a slice of Oakland, CA urban life, a sweeping fairy tale, a love story, and realistic tale about a 10-year-old girl navigating her world.

Oona Armstrong is that 10 year-old girl and her life is a complicated one. Her father passed away after a long battle with cancer, her 5 year-old brother Freddy just recently started talking and eating again after the loss of their father, and her cat, Zook (short for Zucchini) is very old and very sick, and her mother has a new boyfriend named Dylan, but Oona refers to him only has “The Villian.”

Oona copes by telling whoppers; so many whoppers that she has a color coding system for all of the different types of whoppers she tells. The best whoppers are the stories she creates for Freddy. Fairy tales that are crafted from memories their father told her that help explain the world to a 5 year-old, including the four lives prior to the one that their cat Zook is currently living.

Oona’s whoppers get her into some trouble, but they also make her and Freddy’s life much more bearable and the beauty of this book is watching how those whoppers eventually help her family move on from very tough times. We have to experience some sorrow to find joy and this book is a perfect example of that.

Posted by: Kelly


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25. Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Kelly shares Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth, a fascinating, picture book-length history of both Puerto Rico, and the parrots that live there.


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