Book Review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron

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Book Review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron

This book just showed up in the mail one day! Fun, right? I love bookmail, and surprise bookmail is even better! Needless to say, I was excited to read this. I’m always looking for fun, new middle-grader reads, and I had high hopes for this one. What could be more magical than a carnival at night with the lights, rides, acts, animals, interesting people, and yummy smells? Check out my book review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron to see what I thought!

Blurb:

“Tess and Max are back in England for another summer with their Aunt Evie—this time by the seashore in South Devon. And they’re incredibly excited about the travelling carnival that’s come to town. There are rides, games, and acrobats, The House of Mirrors—and even a psychic, with a beautiful wagon all her own.

In a visit to the psychic’s wagon, while Tess is being hypnotized, the wagon seems to move. Before Tess can shake herself out of the hypnosis, before Max can do anything, they seem to be travelling—along with the rest of the carnival—too quickly for the two of them to jump out. But where are they going and what awaits them? Will they be caught in a world different from their own? And do the Baranova twins, acrobats who miss their sister almost as much as Tess and Max miss their family, hold the keys to the mystery?

Internationally bestselling author Amy Ephron returns with a companion novel to The Castle in the Mist and creates a magical tale filled with adventure, mystery, fantasy, family, and fun.”

My Book Review:

Let me start off by saying that as I read I got the feeling that there was a book previous to this one. I didn’t know for sure that there is another book until after I finished this one. There may have been some things I would have understood more if I had read the first book. This book starts out as an adventure when Tess and Max’s mom drops them off at the airport. They fly by themselves from the United States to England. They’re going to stay with their Aunt Evie  for the summer.

Aunt Evie seems like the perfect, fun aunt. She has a fun cottage by the ocean and picks up tickets to the zoo on the way home from the airport. While at the zoo, strange things start to happen. The zookeeper allows her to run in for just a few minutes, 6 ½ to be exact. In those 6 ½ minutes she sees a baby tiger in pain and pulls a pin out of its paw. I think that’s exciting, but what? I’ve never been to a zoo that has the tigers available to touch through a rod iron fence. I’m good with fantasy though, so ok, I’ll keep reading. I didn’t quite understand the reason behind the 6 ½ minutes, but I figured it’d be explained later on.

The next day, Aunt Evie takes the kids to a roadside carnival. She allows them to spend most of the day by themselves while she checks out a local antique store. The plan is that she’ll meet them at 1:30 by the big dinosaur. Well, a lot happens before 1:30! It gets a little weird! Tess goes into a psychic’s trailer to be hypnotized and the carnival ends up moving. Magically. In minutes the kids are transported to who-knows-where. The strange thing is that it’s not the same carnival they end up in.

Honestly, from here on out I was a bit confused. The characters that the kids meet are fun and interesting, especially Tatiana, Alexei, Tara, Anna, and Julian. Maybe it’s my old brain (but I usually like middle-grader books!), but I just didn’t understand. Why? How? What purpose? The carnival moved, but they ended up at a different carnival. So, they had to be the ones to move, not the carnival, right? They kept talking about a ghost carnival, but which one was the ghost carnival? Was it the second one or the third one, or both?

The whole part about them escaping really confused me. What? You want two kids and a horse to do what? How? The 6 ½ minute thing was used a few more times, but never explained, so that was a big hole. Also, how time worked at the different carnivals confused me. I don’t want to give anything away, but it just really didn’t make sense.

The writing is descriptive and engaging and the characters are fun and personable. This book has so much potential! Unfortunately, it just falls flat. There are a bunch of holes and unanswered questions, and I felt like things weren’t explained well enough. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know that I’m good with middle-grader books. I’ve read and loved many of them. This one, however, just has too many holes. I would also recommend reading the first book because it may answer some of the questions I had. I’m going to hand it to my nine-year-old, have her read it, and I’ll let you know what she says.  

Content Rating PGRating: PG (It’s clean! There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy.” There are a few kind of tense, scary-ish parts.)

Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th grades) and up

My Rating: 3/5 

3 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2JFmRwg

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman  Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
 

Make a Teacher Happy: Prevent Summer Brain!

Summer Fit 2-3

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Prevent Summer Brain with Summer Fit Workbooks!

Remember last fall when the kids went back to school and had forgotten most of what they’d learned the previous year? It’s called…Summer Brain. Ouch! All of that work–gone. How do you prevent Summer Brain? You have to be a mean mom and make the kids use their brains this summer. I know, it’s hard. I’ve grown callous to the mean summer mom eye rolls because I’ve been doing it for so long.  It’s a good thing, I promise.
 
I’ve tried a few different things like printing off my own packets, workbooks, and online programs. I finally settled on the Summer Fit workbooks. It’s so easy and mom friendly!
 

Why Use Summer Fit Workbooks to Prevent Summer Brain?

I have used the Summer Fit workbooks for a few years now, and I LOVE them!!! They have a level for each grade in elementary school (they start with pre-K and go to 8th grade), which is great. The workload is the perfect amount. Each day there is a page of reading and a page of math. It isn’t super hard, but it is hard enough to keep the kids from forgetting everything over the summer.
 
I love the Friday material. Every Friday is a value (compassion, determination…..that kind of thing), and it highlights a person who exemplifies that value. The kids do activities surrounding that value and person. Also, each day has an exercise for the kids to do. It’s not hard, but it gets them up and moving. And the great thing about these books is that it eliminates all the mom-work. There’s no searching the internet or printing off individual worksheets; it’s all right there in the book. It makes mom’s job so much easier!!! They even have a book for 7th and 8th graders, which is great because it’s harder to know what the older kids need. I highly recommend the Summer Fit workbooks!
 
 

Content Rating GRating: G (clean!!!)

 Recommendation: Pre-K to 8th grade

 

Which One Is Right For You?

(If you’d like to purchase a workbook, click on the image below.)

This post was first published on 5/23/16; Updated on 5/11/18.

Book Review of Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides

Book Review of Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides

 What is going on at Welcher Elementary? What are those crazy things Spencer can see in his classrooms and in the halls? Why can’t anyone else see them? And what does the school janitor have to do with it? Who can he trust? My children and I have loved this book. It’s so fun! I hope you enjoy my book review of Janitors by Tyler Whitesides.

Blurb:

No one takes Spencer Zumbro seriously when he tries to warn his classmates about the mysterious things prowling the halls and classrooms of Welcher Elementary School. But when he sees Marv, the janitor, going after one of the creatures with a vacuum, he knows he’s not the only one who can see them.

With the help of his new friend, Daisy, Spencer has to find out what the janitors know. The children’s search uncovers the magic taking place behind the scenes of their seemingly ordinary school, where a battle is being waged for the minds of the students. Who can be trusted—and can Spencer and Daisy protect their school and possibly the world?

My Book Review:

My boys (ages 11 and 10) read this book awhile ago and have been telling me and telling me and telling me that I need to read it. They loved it. It made it even better that Tyler Whitesides actually came to their school and signed their book. I had so many other books to read that I hadn’t gotten around to it…until now.

If you’ve read my blog before, you have probably heard me say that I taught first grade before I had children. When I go back to teaching, I will not see the school in the same light. Ever. Do you trust the janitors? Or are they the bad guys? And please don’t tell me those creepy things are in my kids’ school too!

This book is a fun and fast read. It is filled with betrayal, action, crazy dust creatures, friendship, big messes, and lots of cleaning supplies. And these are no ordinary cleaning supplies! Mr. Whitesides has created a fun and exciting world filled with magic and secrets.

The characters are well developed and realistic. I could picture the principal perfectly. I loved the descriptions of him. Spencer and Daisy seem like cute, normal kids. I thought they were childish enough that it felt realistic, yet brave enough to make it exciting. Spencer’s mom is the best! She’s awesome, and I could definitely see myself acting that way in order to protect one of my children.

The janitors are a little crazy, but great characters. I really enjoyed learning about how the creatures affected the students. Hahaha!!! Now we know why we tend to fall asleep in class, or why we sometimes get distracted while we walk down the hallways. Did I mention the cleaning supplies? I want some of them. Yep, I think I want a broom. That would be great!

 The story line was a little predictable, but it didn’t stop me from reading. It still has enough action and adventure, along with a few surprises, to be exciting. I liked this book a lot and I know the kids love it! And, the best part? It’s clean! Love it! I highly recommend this book! Now……I just need to dig through my kids’ rooms to find book #2!

Content Rating PG+ Rating: PG+ (There’s no profanity or “intimacy.” One of the main characters does die. It’s sad but not detailed or gruesome. They do fight the bad guys and the bad creatures, so there is some minor violence.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (Middle-Graders)

Rating: 4/5

4 Star Rating

To purchase this book, click here: http://amzn.to/2pq4Wkw

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Mysteries of Cove by J. Scott Savage Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye  Fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull

(This post contains affiliate links. You don’t pay any extra and I receive a small commission.)

This post was first published on 8/30/13; updated on 3/20/18

Book Review of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Book Review of A Wrinkle in Time (Book #1) by Madeleine L'Engle

How have I never read this book? I don’t know, but when I saw that the movie was coming out, I told my kids that we needed to read it! We have been diligently reading almost every night to get it read in time. Whew! We finished! I sure hope the movie is good! (Look for my Book vs Movie showdown coming after we see the movie next week.) Are you looking to read the book or wondering what all the hype is about? Read my book review of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle to find out what we thought.

Blurb:

“Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure—one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

Winner of the 1963 Newberry Medal, A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in the Madeleine L’Engle’s classic Time Quintet.”

My Review:

Wow! What an adventure! A Wrinkle in Time takes you on a journey through the universe. Have you ever wondered what’s out there? Do you ever look up at the stars and imagine who or what lives on those planets, and what the stars are made of? Do you ever dream of traveling through the universe? Well then this book is for you! It’s very unique and imaginative. It seamlessly mixes fantasy and science fiction into an incredible tale of courage, sacrifice, and love.

I read this book aloud to my kids, and it was so fun to take this journey together. Even my 16 and 14 year-old boys sat with us. I thought it worked great as a read aloud. There are quite a few exceptional vocabulary words, and so it was good that I could explain (or look them up) if needed. I think it works for a read aloud for about 2nd grade and up, and as a silent read for middle-graders and YA.

I thought it was written well. The characters are so likable and realistic. Charles Wallace differs a little; he’s very likable, but a little hard to relate to. He’s very young and very smart. He reminds me of the main character in Ender’s Game. Meg thinks she’s ordinary, but does some extraordinary things. I love Calvin. He’s a sweet, thoughtful, smart, and caring friend. It’s hard not to like Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Yep, you read that correctly!

The story definitely takes you out of this world! Some of it is WAY out there. I had a friend tell me that she could never get into this book because of how far out there some of it is. I did feel that some of it was hard to grasp because it’s so unique, but since I was reading it with my kids I had to keep going. Once you let go of your boundaries and let your imagination take over, the story comes to life. We all enjoyed it.

As a mom, one thing I loved were the lessons learned. You get to see courage, sacrifice, bravery, and love in action. The characters do hard things that they don’t want to do, but they do them anyway. They learn to trust each other, and to trust themselves. I also love how much you need to use your imagination. As an adult, mine may not get used as often as it should, and it’s fun to delve into this crazy universe of ours.

 

Content Rating GRating: G (Clean! There’s no profanity, no “intimacy,” and no violence.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th) and up as a silent read and Early Readers (2nd-3rd grade) and up as a read aloud.

Rating: 4/5 stars

4 Star Rating

 Hurry! If you start reading now you may still be able to finish while the movie is still in the theaters! To purchase this book click here:  http://amzn.to/2p5WDLk
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson  Mysteries of Cove by J. Scott Savage
 
 

(This post contains affiliate links. You don’t pay any extra and I receive a small commission.)

Book Review of Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye

Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye

Book Review of Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye

Have you ever needed help? Lots of help? There’s no way you can do this alone help? Well, that’s what Ozzy needs. He has a big mystery to solve; a mystery that has affected his whole life, and he needs help. He doesn’t know who to turn to until he sees an ad in the newspaper for a wizard for hire. Of course, this is the job for a wizard! Ozzy calls him, and that call begins the start of an answer-finding quest. Find out more in my book review of Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye.

Blurb:

“Fourteen-year-old Ozzy is desperate to find his parents, but he’s not so sure about that ad. . . . He’s read about wizards in books like Harry Potter, but they couldn’t actually exist in the world today, could they?

Enter Labyrinth, aka ‘Rin,’ who dresses the part. Sort of. His bathrobe high top tennis shoes seem unorthodox. At least Rin acts like a wizard, but Ozzy has his doubts. Do real wizards write notes on their shoes and eat breakfast for every meal? Most of all, Ozzy just wants to know if Rin can cast any magic spells.

With the help of a robotic-talking raven invented by Ozzy’s father, a kind and curious girl at school who decides to help Ozzy, and, of course, a self-proclaimed wizard who may or may not have a magical wand, Ozzy begins an unforgettable quest that will lead him closer to the answers he seeks about his missing parents.”

 

My Review:

First, Brandon Dorman has outdone himself again! That cover art is awesome, right? Seriously. I love the cover art! As soon as I saw the cover I had to read the book. Yes, I totally judge books by their covers (Shhhh! Don’t tell!).

The image was idyllic–a mother and father with their small child on the porch steps of a quaint mountain cabin. There were city families that would have paid good money to have their pictures taken in such a scene–a family portrait they could show to their friends as proof of how close they were to nature and each other. For the Toffy’s, however, it wasn’t an act–it was their life. They were safe and hidden away from something of which Ozzy was completely unaware.

Things change quickly, however. Their ideal life changes in an instant. What happens next will keep you reading and reading because you have to know what happens. This is a mother’s worst nightmare! Ozzy is a great character. He has a great voice, and he’s one tough, brave kiddo. I love his independence, his ingenuity, his curiosity, and his will to live.

Enter the wizard. Or is he? That’s part of the mystery with this book. You see hints of greatness at times, and huge shortcomings at other times. He’s a fun character, though. His eccentricities make you laugh and scratch your head. Half the time you think it’s possible that he’s a wizard, and the other half you just think he’s crazy. He doesn’t come into the book right away, but when he does, he brings craziness with him.

Part of the fun of this book is trying to figure out if Rin really is a wizard. And what should Ozzy do if Rin’s just making it up? This book is so fun, I liked it a lot. There’s a hint of sci-fi, and maybe some fantasy? Ozzy makes up for seven boring years by having all sorts of crazy adventures within a short period. Some of them are a little far-fetched, but then again, with a wizard on your side are they really that implausible? I loved the parts where he began learning about the world outside his forest. Ozzy’s sidekick is hilarious too!

I liked Obert Skye’s writing style. It’s easy to read and understand, it flows well, and it’s highly entertaining. His descriptions are well crafted, and the characters are well developed and likable. I thought the ending could have used a few more pages, but that’s a small thing. One other thing I liked were Rin’s words of wisdom throughout the book. So funny!

Look, you two, I know it appears as if we have unwittingly found ourselves on a great adventure, but it’s important to know that this adventure started years ago. We are just now playing out the plot. Little things that were said, little things that were done—all those things, both granular and grand, shaped the choices and consequences that have led right here.

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There’s no profanity, no “intimacy,” and only some minor violence as they fight off the bad guys.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th) and up

Rating: 4/5 stars

4 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

To purchase this book click here: http://amzn.to/2p58V6P

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides   The Inventor's Secret by Chad Morris  Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman
 
 

(This post contains affiliate links. You don’t pay any extra and I receive a small commission.)

wizard for hire_blog tour

[Book Review] Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

[Book Review] Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (Book #1) by Brandon Sanderson

I haven’t read anything else by Brandon Sanderson, but I think he has outdone himself with this book. Let me just say that I haven’t ever laughed out loud at a book like I did with this one! I am so excited to share with you my book review of  Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians! 
 

Blurb:

 “On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand in the mail, an inheritance from his lost parents. When it is immediately stolen, he learns that it is no ordinary bag of sand. With it, the evil Librarians who secretly rule the Hushlands–Librarian-controlled nations, such as the United States, Canada, and England–will finally overtake the Free Kingdoms as well. Alcatraz and his ragtag band of freedom fighters must stop them, once and for all.”
 

My Book Review:

 
One of my friends in my book group recommended this series to me about a year ago. I got them at the library for my son, but never had the chance to read them myself. I checked them out again for my daughter to read, and finally  read the first one. I have to say, this book is so much fun! The voice in the book is hilarious! It’s told in first person, and I don’t think I’ve read another book where the first person narrator has such an engaging, witty, and humorous voice. Alcatraz suddenly gets pulled into this crazy world of evil librarians and conspiracies. Even though he’s the supposed hero, the first words in the book are, “I am not a good person.”
 
This book is a (fictional) autobiography of Alcatraz. In it, he tells his life story. I love how he says in the book that the evil Librarians will advertise it as a fictional book (because they don’t want the truth out), but it’s really an autobiography. So fun! It is very well written, engaging, creative, imaginative, and humorous. Yes, there are some scary parts where Alcatraz, Bastille, Grandpa Smedry, and Sing are in grave danger and have to fight those evil Librarians, but the way they’re written makes it seem not so bad.
 
I love the idea of the different lenses (Want more info. on the lenses….read the book!). Did you know that there are actually more than seven continents on the earth? Those evil Librarians have gotten away with not teaching us about them. Hahaha!! I knew some of those librarians were secretly evil! Alcatraz is a great character. He’s definitely not perfect, but in the book that imperfection becomes his strength, which is a great lesson! I love the part about their different talents! Grandpa Smedry is awesome too. Bastille is a little rougher around the edges, but I liked her more as the book went on.
 
If you’re looking for a fun middle-grader/YA series (moms like it too), you’ve come to the right place! There are five books in this series. As a mom, I love finding series for my kids to read. It’s great because then I know I have five good books in a row for them to read. If you want to laugh and learn the secrets of the evil Librarians then you need to read this! The kids love it because of the humor and the adventure, and I loved it for the same reasons. It’s very creative, imaginative, and unique. I highly recommend this book! 
 

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There is no profanity and no “intimacy.” There is some violence with characters being tortured-it’s not too graphic, fighting with different weapons, and lots of stuff breaking. Of course there is a bad guy, and he’s a really good bad guy!!)

 

Age Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (It’s a great middle-grader/YA book!)

Rated 4/5 Stars

4 Star Rating

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman  Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides
  
 
 
 

This post was first published on 12/23/16; updated on 2/27/18.

[Book Review] The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

[Book Review] The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

My girls’ elementary school decided to read The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks for their “One School. One Book.” program this year. I was super excited because I’ve been meaning to read it to them for awhile anyway. It was one of the first books I read to my boys when they were little, but for some reason I haven’t read it to my girls yet. Since I read it with them I decided I might as well review it!

Blurb:

“It’s Omri’s birthday, but all he gets from his best friend, Patrick, is a little plastic Indian brave. Trying to hide his disappointment, Omri puts the Indian in a metal cupboard and locks the door with a mysterious skeleton key that once belonged to his great-grandmother. Little does Omri know that by turning the key, he will transform his ordinary plastic Indian into a real, live man from an altogether different time and place! Omri and the tiny warrior called Little Bear could hardly be more different, yet soon the two forge a very special friendship. Will Omri be able to keep Little Bear without anyone finding out and taking his precious Indian from him?

My Review:

This is such a fun book; it plays to every kid’s wildest dream! How awesome would it be to put a plastic figure into a cabinet and have it come out alive? When my sister and I were little we dreamed that our Cabbage Patch kids would come to life so we could take care of real babies. Haha! Thankfully it never happened. I love how caring Omri becomes. He risks getting into big trouble in order to do things to help Little Bear. His creativity is the best: getting the seed tray for dirt, lighting the tops of matches so Little Bear could have a fire, looking through the toy bin to find the perfect horse and wife. He’s so protective of Little Bear, too. Omri becomes this little parent, and it’s endearing. Patrick drives me crazy at the beginning, but by the end he pulls around.

The writing style of this book makes it great for either a silent read or a read-aloud. My girls are twelve and nine, and they both enjoyed having me read it to them, but could easily read it themselves. The Indian in the Cupboard was published in 1980, so there are a few things that are not quite politically correct now.  Words like “Injun” and “red man” are commonly used. A cowboy comes in at one point, and Little Bear wants to scalp him. I spent quite awhile discussing with my girls how those words are not okay to use anymore. Although it’s a little uncomfortable, it actually provides a very good opening for discussions about race, unkind words, and stereotypes.

I’m so glad that I was able to read The Indian in the Cupboard with my girls. I love that time we get to spend together, and the adventures we get to have. Plus, it allows me to add a review to my list! If you’re looking for a fun read with your kids, or a good silent read, this is a great book for either. One thing I would do, though, if your kids read it silently, is to still have the discussions and talk about the non-p.c. terms used, and how offensive they are now.

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There might be a word or two, but there’s no “intimacy;” there is some minor violence, and some old and non-p.c. terms are used.) 

Age Recommendation: As a silent read, third grade and up, but as a read-aloud, Kindergarten and up.

4 Star Rating

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

[Book Review] Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir (Book #1) by Frank L. Cole

Potion Masters by Frank L. Cole

[Book Review] Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir (Book #1) by Frank L. Cole

Blurb:

“Twelve-year-old Gordy Stitser is one of the few people who knows the truth about the secret society of potion masters, called Elixirists, whose specialized concoctions have been responsible for three centuries of advancements, including hybrid cars, enhanced military weapons, and the cure for the common cold. Not only is Gordy’s mom on the Board of Ruling Elixirists Worldwide (B.R.E.W.), but she has also been training Gordy in the art of potion-making.
 
Gordy is a natural, and every day he sneaks down to the basement lab to invent new potions using exotic ingredients like fire ant eggs, porcupine quills, and Bosnian tickling juice. One afternoon, Gordy receives a mysterious package containing an extremely rare potion labeled ‘The Eternity Elixir.’ In the right hands, the Elixir continues to protect society. But in the wrong hands, it could destroy the world as we know it. Now, sinister potion masters are on the hunt to steal the Eternity Elixir. It’s up to Gordy, his parents, and his best friends, Max and Adeline, to prevent an all-out potion war.”
 

My Review:

What a fun book! I think it’s almost every kid’s dream to make potions, right? Didn’t we all mix strange concoctions when we were little, hoping in our heart of hearts that it would make our parents forget about chores or bad grades or broken rules? No? So it was just me? Ok, then, moving on…Gordy is a fun character. He is smart (maybe not so much street smart as potion-smart), witty, courageous, and quick thinking. He’s a good friend and a good son. I really like his voice in this book; it feels like your best friend is telling you this outrageous story of what happened to him last weekend. His friends Max and Adeline are great supporting characters. His mom is this super-secretive-awesome lady who is the CIA/FBI of the potion world; I liked her a lot.
 
This book is very creative and unique. I love that you’re reading about this skeleton with a rock head who travels thousands of miles on his own to accomplish his task, and you think that’s normal and totally feasible. It’s great. And the bad guys are definitely bad guys. They’re a little scary with some evil plans. This book is a fast, easy read. It’s quite entertaining, and I enjoyed it a lot. I can’t wait to hand it over to my kiddos, I think they’ll really like it. 
 
 Content Rating PG+

Rating: PG (There’s no profanity, no “intimacy,” and only some minor violence as they fight off the bad guys.)

Age Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th) and up

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides   Fablehaven (Book #1) by Brandon Mull   Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman
 
 

[Book Review] Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

[Book Review] Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong

 Blurb:

“In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton and 27 men sailed from England in an attempt to become the first team of explorers to cross Antarctica. Five months later and still 100 miles from land, their ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice. When Endurance broke apart and sank, the expedition survived another five months camping on ice floes, followed by a perilous journey through stormy seas to remote and unvisited Elephant Island. In a dramatic climax to this amazing survival story, Shackleton and five others navigated 800 miles of treacherous open ocean in a 20-foot boat to fetch a rescue ship. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World vividly re-creates one of the most extraordinary adventure stories in history. Jennifer Armstrong narrates this unbelievable story with vigor, and eye for detail, and an appreciation of the marvelous leadership of Ernest Shackleton, who brought home every one of his men alive. With them survived a remarkable archive of photographs of the expedition, more than 40 of which are reported here.”
 

My Review:

I love this book! It is an amazing story! Seriously amazing, and I think it teaches wonderful lessons about hard work, determination, working together, and great leadership. It is so well written that it reads as fiction. I love the format with the pictures and the maps. I love to just look at the pictures because they capture the moment so well. I look up to Ernest Shackleton because of his great leadership ability. As you’re reading, you know that no one dies, but you can’t believe it!  These men go through so many trials and hardships, and not one of them dies. It is incredible! Ms. Armstrong did a great job with this book and I highly recommend it! I recommend it as a read-aloud and also as a personal read. This book is one of my all-time-favorite nonfiction reads!
 Content Rating PG+

Rating: PG+ (It is clean, but they do suffer through a lot of hardships, some of which are not pleasant to read.)

Age Recommendation: Fifth Grade and up. It is a great read-aloud for home or school, and is also a wonderful book for kids and adults alike to sit down and read. Parents may want to read it first just so they know if it is appropriate for their child.


Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

 
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown   1776 by David McCullough  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
 
 
 
*This post was first published on 8/8/12, and was updated on 1/10/18.

[Book Review] Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys

Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley

[Book Review] Snow Crystals by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys

Blurb:

“Did you ever try to photograph a snow flake? The procedure is very tricky. The work must be done rapidly in extreme cold, for even body heat can melt a rare specimen that has been painstakingly mounted. The lighting must be just right to reveal all the nuances of design without producing heat. But the results can be rewarding, as the work of W.A. Bentley proved. For almost half a century, Bentley caught and photographed thousands of snow flakes in his workshop at Jericho, Vermont, and made available to scientists and art instructors samples of his remarkable work. In 1931, the American Meteorological Society gathered together the best of these photomicrographs, plus some slides of frost, glaze, dew on vegetation and spider webs, sleet, and soft hail, and a text by W.J. Humphreys, and had them published. That book is here reproduced, unaltered and unabridged. Over 2,000 beautiful crystals on these pages reveal the wonder of nature’s diversity in uniformity: no two are alike, yet all are based on a common hexagon.”

 My Review:

Since I woke up to at least six inches of snow this morning, I thought this book would be very fitting for today. I love any nonfiction book that captivates and intrigues the reader, especially if that reader is a child. This book does just that. The text at the beginning is too difficult and technical for my girls (9 and 6), but that has not stopped them from pouring over each and every snowflake pictured in this book. When it was due at the library they begged me to renew it because they didn’t want to let it go. It is fascinating! The beginning text is very interesting, yet a bit technical. It talks about the different types of snowflakes and how they are formed, it talks about how Mr. Bentley painstakingly photographed each and every snowflake, and it talks about different natural phenomena like dew, sleet, hail, and frost. I found it intriguing, but I read through it quickly because I couldn’t wait to see all the beautiful pictures. It is amazing how intricate and detailed some of the snowflakes are! I had no idea that some snowflakes look like columns. Yes, they look like actual Roman columns, 3D and everything. There are many different shapes and configurations. No two in the book are the same. My favorite ones are the ones you think of when you think of snowflakes, with many delicate and intricate details. Frost is beautiful too! After reading this book, I can now look outside at all the snow this morning and not only see, but appreciate the beauty in it as well. This book would be fabulous for science teachers, art teachers, photography teachers, and all teachers looking to introduce more nonfiction books into the classroom. It would also be a great addition to any home library. I highly recommend this book.

Content Rating G

Rating: G (Clean!)

Age Recommendation: Everyone! (For a silent read I would say 5th or 6th grade and up to be able to understand the text, but everyone can enjoy the photographs.)

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong   I'm Possible by Jeff Griffin   Focused by Noelle Pikus Pace
 
 
*This post was originally published on 12/29/14; updated on 1/5/18.