Olive’s Ocean

Olive's Ocean Olive’s Ocean

by Kevin Henkes – 217 pages – a Newbery Honor book

for middle readers interested in considering how life unfolds

Olive’s Ocean is a book to sit with for a while.  It is gentle and challenging at the same time.  It is about bravery.  It is about thoughtfulness.  It is about relationships, truth, regret and trust.

“Martha Boyle, you think too much.  And my dad says when you think too much, that’s when the trouble starts.”  Martha does think and wonder – why did Olive, someone she didn’t really know or talk to, think she was nice; the kind of person she would like to be friends with?  How come someone only twelve dies?  What does it mean confront your fears?

Everything in Martha’s life is rough and scratchy right now.  She doesn’t particularly like her family.  Dad yells all the time or leaves. Mom is totally focused on her work. Vince is too old to bother with her and she’s tired of taking care of Lucy all the time.  The usual summer routine at Grandma’s house on the cape isn’t the same.  Everything is complicated and changing.

What do you do to bring normal back? Can you?  Not really, but you can come to know yourself better and discover that life is complicated no matter what your age – it is full of a entire ocean of questions and puzzles to ponder.


The Mysterious Benedict Society – Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas and Curious Conundrums

(Maybe the title’s too long.)

Are you up for some mind twisting, brain boggling puzzles? If you are, then read this book: The Mysterious Benedict Society – Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas and Curious Conundrums by Trenton Lee Stewart. These puzzles have everything to do with the bestselling series, The Mysterious Benedict Society. SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read at least one of the Mysterious Benedict Society, do not read this book! It will be a lot more enjoyable if you have read one or more of them because you will know the characters and the puzzles will make more sense. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!!!

Now, on to the book! There are all different types of puzzles in this awesome book. There are poem puzzles, test puzzles, bucket puzzles, and a ton more MBS related puzzles! Here is a puzzle for you to try out:

S.Q.’s Vocabulization

S.Q. is often confused. In fact, he routinely mangles his words.

For each sentence spoken by S.Q., can you figure out what two similar words he might possibly mean?

1. “I’m simply astoundished!

a___________d   &   a____________d

2. “Let’s inspectigate!

i__________t   &   i___________e

3. “That seems very complexicated.

c___________x   &   c_______________d


The Mysterious Benedict Society – Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas and Curious Conundrums by Trenton Lee Stewart

If you would like to print this partial puzzle out and solve it, or give it to family or friends, drag the link to your desktop, open it then print it. Thanks and Enjoy!

S.Q’s Vocabulization

More fun MBS Stuff:

  • Get your Mysterious Benedict Society Member certification now with an app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that is called Mysterious Benedict Society. It has excerpts from MBS books, puzzles and more. And it is free!
  • The official Mysterious Benedict Society website is here: www.mysteriousbenedictsociety.com
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society post can be found here by a guest blogger back in June 2011.


DivergentDivergent (Divergent, #1)

by Veronica Roth

YA – 496 pages exploring a dystopian society – will you find your faction?

At 16 Beatrice must select the faction where she will spend the rest of her life.  She has taken the test, been given her results and now must look deep within herself to make her selection at the Choosing Ceremony.  Having grown up in the gray, selfless faction of Abnigation, Beatrice knows she is not naturally selfless – at least not like her brother.  Where does she fit?  She can stay in her home faction and be with her family, but after 16 years of working to be selfless she feels she is not enough for that choice.  She knows she does not fit with the truthful Candor; she is able to cover up too many truths.  She does not belong with the Amnity; caring and kindness do not guide her life.  She is not a better-than-all, intelligent Erudite.  Her remaining choice is Dauntless.  Is she brave enough to risk all to protect others? Beatrice  has to decide what she believes, what kind of person she is and where to shed her blood.  When the blade is passed into her hand she slices her palm and puts it above the bowl of her choice- the place where she will live the rest of her life.  With her selection, Tris comes face to face with the realities of living an honest, purposeful life where bravery and intelligent choices become the most compassionate, selfless acts of all.

What does it mean to live well?

What faction would give you purpose?

How would you choose to live?

Read more about author, Veronica Roth and how she created the world and characters in Divergent in this GoodReads interview.  How is it that we are the people we become?  How aware are we of the choices we make and of the consequences of the life we choose to lead?  It certainly makes you think.

Vacation Reading

Hi Matt,

I hope your holiday was wonderful (how did the bake-off go?).  We spent two wonderful days with family and now… we have lots of leftovers.  I do have some great books to share with you…  I have discovered that when I am wrapping gifts, riding in the car or cooking I can “read.”  Because there was a great deal of that kind of time during these last few days I have finished listening to The Incorrigible Children of Ashoton Place – the Mysterious Howling by Marywood Rose, The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi, Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes and The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Purse by Alan Bradley.

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1) Operation YesThe Search for WondLa (WondLa, #1)

I think you would like all of them.  The first two are the beginning to series.  There are two books about the Incorribible Children so far.  Have fun finding out about them  on the website.  The author also shares that there will be a third one soon.  The second Wondla book is due to be released in May.  That is planned to be a trilogy – think combination of The City of Ember and the-other-worldliness of Zorgamazoo.  I can’t wait to find out why Eva Nine was left in her underground Sanctuary and what fate remains for humankind.  You can find out more bout Tony DiTerrlizzi’s creation process here – it is very interesting. Operation Yes is a totally unique book. Set at the school of an airforce base where children often move in and out and life is in flux – family members are sent overseas and assigned to dangerous wartime missions, this story centers on the plan a sixth grade class develops to make a difference in the lives of veterans wounded in the war and their families.  Their beloved teacher, Miss Loupe, is among the first to benefit from their care and determination.  It is a book I am looking forward to reading again!  When you read about the author and the book you can understand more of how this book idea developed.  Check that out here.  The final book is from a murder mystery series written for adults but I am sure you will like them.  (It made me think of reading Agatha Christie books when I was your age.  My mom loved mysteries and they were always around the house.) The main character is Flavia de Luce.  She’s 11.  She lives in Buckshaw, a victorian manor, in England  in the 1950’s where she has access to a fully furnished, although dated, chemistry lab.   Flavia rides across the countryside on Gladys her faithful bicycle collecting clues and making observations the police aren’t even yet aware of.  She is a fun character . You’ll laugh at the amazing predicaments she gets herself into and out of – often solved because of her fascination with chemistry and her passion for potions.  I’ve read two in the collection  – I have two more to go and I hope there are more.

I know these are not on my list of books to review next, but I really think you would like them – others who read our blog too.  What are you reading this vacation?  Did you get any great new books?

I hope the rest of your vacation is wonderful.  I’m off to finish The Dragon’s Tooth today.

See you soon!

Mrs. Eaves

(Hi Jenny!  – Happy vacation!)

Everything on a Waffle

Everything on a WaffleEverything on a Waffle

by Polly Horvath

176 pages for middle readers and beyond

Have you ever known something to be true; known with all your heart, but not had any proof?  Primrose Squarp knows that her parents are alive.  She knows they were not lost at sea in the terrible storm that came to Coal Harbour.  Everyone else, however, considers her an orphan.  At first they try to pay elderly Miss Perfidy to take care of her.  That doesn’t work very well.  Then the town finds Uncle Jack – the developer – but they don’t like him very much.  Miss Honeycut, the school counseler (who no one seems to like much either), has it in for Primrose and see that she becomes a ward of the state and put into foster care.  Only Miss Bowser, owner of the The Girl on the Red Swing, has time for Primrose, recognizes her sadness and understands the beauty of hope and joy when it seems there should be none. Miss Bowzer talks to her, teachers her to cook and knows that sometimes accidents happen – just because they are…accidents.

The charactes in this book are both funny and philosphical.  The books shows you there is mucht to be said for traveling, and at the same time there is much to be noticed about your own home town.  Having everything on a waffle may be ho-hum at home, but extraordinary for those who come to visit. You’ll love the characters and be surprised by how events unfold – or rather fall like dominoes, one after another after another.  You may even decide to try some of the recipes shared at the end of each chapter – perhaps chocolate covered cashews, tea biscuits (no mothballs please) or even waffles, because everything should come on a waffle.

Winner of the 2001 Boston Globe Hornbook Honor Award book for Fiction and Poetry  and a 2002 Newbery Honor Book.

I’ve decided that I am going to read all of Polly Horvath’s books over our next vacation break – well, as many as I can.  All that I have read are funny in a bittersweet way.  The characters are ordinary and yet, totally unique.  They stick with me and keep coming to mind with a flash of happiness and calm.  I’m curious.  You might be too.  You can learn more here at her website. I’ll let you know what I find.

Bookspeak!: Poems about Books

Bookspeak!: poems about books

by Laura Purdie Salas

A month or so ago a friend asked us if we were going to review any poetry books… we hadn’t, but we thought we should.  We share poetry in our classroom every day – we read them mostly from chart paper and not from the books themselves.  Why I wondered?  And so that changed.  We shared lots of poems about reading from Good Books, Good Times!  and I am the Book both with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

And then we found Bookspeak!: Poems about Books by Larua Purdie Salas and illustrated by Josee Bisaillon.  The opening poem gives you an idea of the wonderful poems to follow.

Calling All ReadersBookSpeak!: Poems About Books

I’ll tell you a story.

I’ll spin you a rhyme.

I’ll spill some ideas –

and we’ll travel through time.

Put down the controller.

Switch off the TV.

Abandon the mouse and

just hang out with me.

I promise adventure.

Come on, take a look!

On a day like today,

there’s no friend like a book.

There are poems about the table of contents and an index.  There are poems in voices and poems sharing thoughts about story elements.  We have had fun sharing them with each other in our classroom.  I think you will too – make sure to enjoy that amazing illustrations, or you might want to come up with your own that show how books speak to you.


Rules by Cynthia Lord

With Catherine, saying she has a normal life doesn’t fit. She has a brother, David with a disablity, and it seems the whole wide world gives David the attention. Catherine has been trying to teach David rules like “don’s stand in front 0f the tv while other people are watching it” and “Say thank you when someone gives you a present (even if you don’t like it)” to protect herself, her family and David from the whispers and stares. But when she meets Kristi, the new, perfect neighbor that she had always wanted, and a paraplegic boy named Jason. And when she has a sudden change in behavior, she has to try to learn how to act around these people.

Praise for Rules by Cynthia Lord:

A heartwarming first novel” — Booklist

“Catherine is an endearing narrator who tells her story with both humor and heartbreak. A lovely, warm read, and a great discussion starter.” — School Library Journal

Newbery Honor Medal

Schneider Family Book Award

ALA Notable Children’s Book

  • Click here for Cynthia Lord’s website.
  • Her blog here.
  • Her website on Rules here.
  • And finally, to buy the book from Amazon.com here.


Inheritance (Inheritance, #4)Inheritance

By Christopher Paolini

880 pages of engaging fantasy for middle readers

I was eagerly awaiting the release of Inheritance. I was afraid I had forgotten important connections and characters since reading Brisinger, but right from the start I was back in Alagaesia, with Eragon and Saphira, and their Varden allies.  I was immediately caught up in complexity of the decisions the leaders must make to do what is best for their people and for the land.  I love the strength of Nasuada.  I admire the calm, steadfastness of Orik.  I appreciate the humanness of Roran and his total commitment to family and returning to the Spine.

There is so much to gain, but so much to lose –so much has already been lost.  No life will ever be the same for any Alagasian – not one, but hopefully living in fear will be over and living with hope can begin. It is never easy to see clearly. That is even more difficult when the choices made mean the death of so many allies and countrymen.  Aragorn, Saphira, Arya, and Roran know the fate of goodness and truth relies on them.  The fate of their world rests on their willingness to give all to defeat Galbatorix.

The twists and turns, the learning and magic, and the ancient connections that are revealed as the story unfolds will not disappoint readers. The story is full of traps and mazes, sieges and vision quests, unexpected monsters, evil priests and so much more.

How do you find the strength not to give up when all seems lost and hopeless?  How do you continue on making selfless choices?  Now that I’ve finished the book and have had a few weeks to consider its intricacies and questions, I wonder at the choices made and not made – and how all of that relates to the good and evil in our world now.  How often are we manipulated and controlled without our realization?  How often do we know, but feel impotent or incapable of finding the energy to question and the strength to resist?  How often do we miss the magic of ordinary things around us?  How often do we take time to know the full truth?  Do we recognize the power that resides there?

The books may be over, but the story continues on.  I am looking forward to reading them again – over and over.  I think you will too!


Wow! Did this all happen? Well, according to Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl it did! This amazing 176 page book is an autobiography about all the adventures and mischief little Roald Dahl got into when he was a boy. From friendships to fantasies, Dahl covers it all. He helpfully splits the book up into sections of age, important points in his life and when those things happened. My favorite part of the book is when he and his friends dropped a mouse into the candy jar to pull a prank on the mean old lady who sold candy. It was my favorite part of the book because when the shop is closed the next day and they go to school, the mean old candy seller, Mrs. Pratchett is there and she accuses them of stealing and they get the cane.

 “’Arder!” shrieked a voice from over in the corner. Now it was our turn to jump.  We looked round and there, sitting in one of Mr Coombes’s big leather armchairs, was the tiny loathsome figure of Mrs Pratchett!” That is a excerpt from the book in the chapter entitled Mrs Pratchett’s Revenge. This effectively showcases the spectacular vocabulary, laugh-out-loud humor and wonderful writing that is in this fantastic book. If you are a boy or girl, who likes humor, real life adventures and learning new words in your stories then this is the book for you.

Emmy and the Rats in the Belfry

EmEmmy and the Rats in the Belfrymy and the Rats in the Belfry

by Lynne Jonell

the third in a series of funny, exciting, shape-shifting adventures.  Be sure to read all three!

Turned into a rat at the end of Emmy’s second adventure, Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls, evil Miss Barmy is determined to make Emmy pay.  Even in her “ratty” state, Miss Barmy will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She continues on being the meanest of the mean in her self-absorbed quest to use anyone and anything to achieve her goals.  Adoring Cheswick can’t figure out why she wants so much revenge on Emmy.  He hopes they will always remain rats but of course he will do anything the love of his life, says. Miss Barmy doesn’t want to be a rat. She REALLY wants is to be human, and beautiful, again.

Miss Barmy steals Sissy, because she has the ability to make her human again.  She plans an elaborate scheme that Emmy must undo to save her rat friends and regain the respect and trust of her parents.  (Something Miss Barmy has been involved in undoing too.)  With her human friends Ana and Joe, two elderly Aunts, her best rat friend Raston, along with an army of rats and bats, Emmy stages an improbable rescue. It’s improbable, but it’s the only plan they’ve got!  Read the next part of their adventure to discover how it all works out – you’re in for a lot of squeaks and surprises along the way.

Check out Ratson’s blog, Ratty Speaks and read more about the other great books by this author at Lynne Jonelle’s website.