Trees. Dirt. Leaves. Rocks. Alone.

Brian Robeson is going to visit his father in Canada by being flown in a two-seater plane. But when the pilot has a heart attack, Brian is left to fly the plane, alone. Not knowing which way he is supposed to be going, he just keeps flying until,

“…between the seventeenth and eighteenth radio transmissions, without a warning, the engine coughed, roared violently for a second and died.”

After crash landing into a pond, Brian must survive in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet, a ripped windbreaker jacket and his own self courage and knowledge. Facing many challenges and obstacles, he will keep fighting. And with the dreadful secret about his mother tearing him apart, there may be more mental pain in the whole ordeal than physical. Read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and you will agree; it is a timeless classic.

To see Random House’s Gary Paulsen website, click here.

Buy this book from Amazon.com!

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your KingdomChristopher Healy

435 pages of funny

Have you ever stopped to realize that the “Prince Charming” from Cinderella is not the same prince in Sleeping Beauty, who is neither the same prince in Snow White, nor the same prince in Rapunzel either.  There are four distinct princes. Do they really all have the same name?  How did this happen?  The answer to the first question is simply, “No.”  There is no Charming family and no set of Charming Princes.  “Charming isn’t a name; it’s an adjective.”

The answer to the second question is a bit more complicated.  You see in the time those tales originated from the news of the day was collected and written to be retold by a Bard.  Each kingdom had it’s own.  They wrote the news and told the story as they understood it and then that was spread throughout the land by the minstrels.  It was true that “rhyming” news was remembered far easier and often retold more authentically through time, but rhyming isn’t always easy.  It was challenging in the day to get around and collect all perspectives before the news had to get out.  I’m sure you can imagine the difficulty…

So Frederic, Gustav, Liam and Duncan all got lumped together as one “Prince Charming.”  That’s a bit of a problem.  First of all it is annoying to be known far and wide, but …not really because on one know your name.  Second of all the stories are not fully accurate or completely flattering.  Thirdly, “the happily ever after” thing isn’t really so.    One thing leads to another.  Eventually the four princes meet in their attempt to rescue Ella (a.k.a. Cinderella) and thwart the plot of the evil witch.

Here’s the part where Duncan, the fourth Prince Charming, joins the group:

“Absolutely,” Duncan Declared with a huge smile.  “This was meant to be.  I’m coming with you.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Gustav moaned.  “Another one with a cape?  And an itty-bitty cape at that!”

“I think it’s rather snazzy,” said Frederic.

“Why, thank you,” said Duncan.  “I wanted something that I could swish over my shoulder for dramatic entrances – and yet not get caught in doors.”

“All right, fine,” said Liam.  “We can always use another sword.  Are you any good with a blade?”

“Ha!” laughed Duncan.

Liam furrowed his brow.  “Is that ‘Ha’ as in, ‘How silly of you to ask; everyone knows I’m the best swordsman in the land?” he asked hopefully.

A Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is laugh out loud funny from beginning to end.  How can four “same name princes” be so completely different?  Their personalities from gold fringy things, to burly buff fur-lined armor to do-anything-to-help-anyone-in-need-no-matter-what-the-risk attitude to the propensity for naming anything that moves (along with constant chatter) are garishly grating combination that fits together perfectly.  Each prince has been fine as he is on his own, but none of them can succeed in their mission without each other.   You’ll have to read to the very end to find out how it all works out…it’s not what you expect and that makes the book great.  I’d love to know who your favorite character is and what parts tickle your funny bone as you read.  Another great thing about this book is that it is the first – I can’t wait to find out what happens with Deeb, the Bandit King.

2012-2013 Great Stone Face Award

Great Stone Face Logo

The Great Stone Face Award is an award that is given out every year to around 25 new 4th through 6th grade books by the GSF Committee. It is sponsored by the Children’s Library of New Hampshire. The name “Great Stone Face” comes from the Man in the Mountain, which is the most historic landmark that was in New Hampshire. This year’s Great Stone Face books are really, really good judging by the one I read and  how Mrs. Eaves loves the 7+ that she has read. Hope you get some great books from this list:

  • Benjamin Franklinstein Lives by Matthew McElligott
  • Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder ↓
Read the review of this book here.
  • Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything by Steve Cotler
  • Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac
  • Flyaway by Lucy Christopher
  • Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr.
  • Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver ↓
Read the review of this book here. This looks like a great book and it is DEFINITELY on my reading list.
  • Me & Jack by Danette Haworth
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate ↓
Read the review of this book here.
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier ↓
Read the review of this book here. Books with ‘exciting adventure, fantasy and determination’ are always on my reading list.
  • Pie by Sarah Weeks
  • Saving Arm Pit by Natalie Hyde
  • The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley
  • Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
  • Take Me to the River by Will Hobbs
  • Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
  • Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling
  • Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice
  • Wild Wings by Gill Lewis ↓
Read the review of this book here.
  • With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo
  • Wolf Storm by Dee Garretson
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio ↓
Read the review of this book here. This is such a good book. I wish I could review and read it again because it was GREAT!
  • Wonderstruck: A Novel in Words and Pictures by Brian Selznick ↓
Read the review of this book here. This is from the same illustrator who did The Invention of Hugo Cabret. That is a very good book too.
  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
How many have you read? Tell us here:
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An Elephant in the Garden

An Elephant in the Gardenby Michael Morpurgo

195 pages to add another face to the story we know about World War II

An Elephant in the Garden shares an unusual story of war. At the same time that it is devastating and tragic, it is uplifting and hopeful.  Lizzie is old and frail; so fragile that she has been moved into a nursing home.  The narrator of the book is a nurse there.  She is also a single mom, so on weekends, snow days or days when she takes on extra hours her son Karl comes too.  If the weather is right, he brings his friends and they play in the snow outside the home – often to the great delight of the people living there.  It was on one of those days that Karl met Lizzie.  They formed a special bond and each day when he came he would sit by her and listen to her stories.  His mom questioned them and wondered if they were just the addled ramblings of the elderly.  Karl doesn’t think that is true because she is so sure and certain as she speaks.

February 13th is the anniversary of an event that shaped Lizzie’s life and with Karl there on that day she is compelled to tell the tale, her tale about what happened when an elephant came to live in her garden in Dresden Germany.  Lizzie starts at the beginning – explaining how her Papi was off on the Russian front and with most of the men gone how the women had done their work.  She explained that Mutti (her mother) had begun to care for the animals in the zoo.  She had seen an elephant born and had been asked to name her.  She chose Marlene, after the actor and singer popular in the day.  When Marlene’s mother died Mutti was the only one who could comfort her.  As bombing threats became certainty, plans were made to kill the larger, more dangerous animals so they would not become a threat to those who survived.  Mutti could not bear the thought of gentle, sweet, baby Marlene being shot and so she worked out a deal with Herr Direktor.  And that is how Marlene became a member of Lizzie’s family, residing with them in the garden.

All was fine (well, as fine as living day to day surrounded by the threats of war can be) for a time, but then the Allies bombed Dresden.  Wave after wave of bombs fell.  Already agitated, a frightened Marlene ran and the family – Mutti, Lizzie and her little brother, Karli followed afraid of being separated.  Together they joined the long line of refugees fleeing the city, moving out into the country and to the relative safety of being behind enemy lines.  They chose to move toward the Allies.  Lizzie’s family could not move with the others – they were not like the others. They had an elephant in their family- an elephant who leads them into and through incredible events as they travel toward safety, together.

An Elephant in the Garden is inspired by a true story, and while is does not shy away from the harshness of war there is no fighting and killing in this tale.  This book shares the plight of the people who are innocently caught in the crossfire of war.  It shares how those people feel about the war around them and recounts how little acts of kindness and moments of sheer terror shape lives.  I came to love Lizzie’s family and to marvel at their courage and fierce commitment to what is right.  I was amazed by what they did and how stayed together through turmoil with care and respect.  You must read An Elephant in the Garden to find out what happens to Marlene and her family, to discover how Lizzie is here to share her story and gain greater understanding of the long reaching affects of war.

 This book reminded me of Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya ( a picture book I have never been able to successfully read out loud.  I just can’t) and Kelly Milner Halls recent Saving the Baghdad Zoo.  These book also share how zoos and animals suffer the consequences of war.Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and HeroesFaithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War


King of the Mound

King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel PaigeMy Summer with Satchel Paige

by Wes Tooke

155 pages of baseball history for intermediate readers and sports fans

It had been just over a year that Nick had entered the hospital over 500 miles from home.  Nick had contracted polio and he needed to be at the Mayo Clinic if he were going to survive.  Miraculously he has fought through the fever and the tingling and the paralysis.  He right leg was weakened, but he could walk with a brace thought the heavy leather and iron chafed his leg.

He hadn’t seen his dad much in all that time.  It was far too come, so he’d been alone most of the time.  Now Nick was going home.  It would go back to being just his dad and him, and with his brace the only thing they had in common, baseball, was out of the question.  His father saw him as a cripple and cripples couldn’t play.

His dad was the catcher for the Bismark Churchills and since Mr. Churchill had made sure that most of Nick hospital bills were taken care of, Nick was working for the team.  He didn’t mind.  He’d spent most of his time before at the stadium with his dad, but this was different.  His dad seemed angry and ashamed.

Mr. Churchill is happy to see Nick back and getting better.  He’s also excited because he’s been able to convince Satchel Paige to pitch for the season.  He’s predicting that the Churchills will go all the way and he is counting on Nick to help get there too.  Nick strikes up a relationship with the pitcher who takes an interest in him.  He helps him reestablish his stride by telling him he can count on himself more that he thinks.  Satchel lets him know that if he believes he is crippled, he will be.  He let’s him know there are other choice too be made.  “Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common.”

King of the Mound is a great look at semiprofessional baseball in the 1930’s.  It is interesting to learn of how segregation influenced with whom and where Churchills could play.  There are many obstacles to be overcome in the game and in life – keeping your eye on the ball and on the prize can make things happen.  After you read about Satchel and Nick let us know what you think.

Little Dog, Lost

Little Dog, Lostby Marion Dane Bauer

197 pages especially for intermediate dog lovers

Buddy is a little black dog with four brown paws and a brown mask.  She has a ruffle of fur beneath her whip of a tail and ears like airplane wings that droop just so at the tips.  Her coat is satiny smooth.  She used to have a boy who loved her and took care of her, but now she is a lost little dog who only hears yells:  “Hey you!” and “Shoo!”

Mark is a boy who lives with his mom, the mayor of Erthly.  He has no dad so mostly he is home alone.  He is cared for and planned for but alone.  He wishes for a dog – his friend and companion.  He has read every book he can find on dogs and dog care.  He knows all there is to know, but his mother absolutely refuses – NO DOGS!

Charles Larue is a shy old man.  He lives in a mansion in the center of town.  Once he had taken care of the lady there; now he lives alone in the inherited house keeping his promise to take care.

Buddy, Mark and Larue each long for something and longing means hope.  Buddy hopes for a boy.  Mark hopes for a dog park where dogs can be free to play with their friends in safety.  Larue wants something, though he is not sure what.  One lonely night while Mark is lying in bed trying to figure out how to petition the City Council (remember his mom is the “No Dogs” mayor) for a dog park Buddy overcome with loneliness calls, “Bark!  Bark! Aaaawwwoooo!”  Mark hears, “Mark!  Mark! I need you!” He scoots out of his house in search of this dog.  Larue watches from his mansion tower and sees the almost meeting of the dog and boy in the night and that’s when he realizes he needs a friend.

The dog is afraid.  Mark is scared he will fail.  Larue hasn’t spoken to anyone in so long he’s not sure he knows how and certainly doesn’t know how to find a friend.  How will them meet?  How will they satisfy their longings for a home, a park, a friend? You’ll have to read Little Dog, Lost to find out – it’s not quite what you think, and that keeps it interesting.  Little Dog, Lost is written in verse – each word is carefully chosen and placed in the perfect spot. You won’t be able to keep yourself from smiling each time you think of this story. It’s a great book to read if you’re in need of a friend.

Walk Two Moons

Walk Two Moons.jpg

What’s the best way to multi-task? By reading two stories in one book, and that’s what Walk Two Moons lets you do. Salamanca (Sal) Tree Hiddle is in the car with her grandparents. Sounds boring, right? But what they are setting out to do in that car ride is far more important to Sal than anything else. Finding her mother.

See, a while ago, Sal’s mother left Sal and her father, going on a spiritual quest and promising to return. But she does not return. So Sal and her father move to Ohio, where she meets Phoebe Winterbottom. This is where the stories connect.

While in the car, Sal tells the story of Phoebe Winterbottom to her grandparents to pass the time. As it turns out, Phoebe was in a similar situation as Sal. Her mother had also left home, but something was happening with Phoebe that wasn’t happening with Sal. She was receiving messages

As these stories intertwine throughout the book, they make you ponder and the parts and decisions and journeys that occurred. I know several people, kids and adults, whose favorite book is this one, “..by a landslide!” Read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech and you may become one of these people.

To view Sharon Creech’s website, click here.

To view her page on Walk Two Moons, click here.

Buy this book from Amazon.com!

See You At Harry’s

See You at Harry'sby Jo Knowles

310 pages for middle grade readers – have tissues ready

Fern feels mostly invisible. Her family is busy – each struggling with issues and questions that keep them away from her most of the time. Dad is scheming up ways to bring more business to the family restaurant.  Mom, when not  meditating, is helping with that.  Older sister, Sara, has taken a gap year between high school and college.  She working for her parents and trying to find her way in town when no one her age is around.  Holden, always Fern’s partner until now, is struggling with his sexual identity.  But Charlie, the three-year old family joy, has time for Fern – always, and sometimes that’s a bother!  If it weren’t for her best friend, Ran and his soothing mantra, all will be well, Fern is pretty sure no one would even notice if she dissolved away.

They are a family, trying to work as a team.  They spend lots of time together, enjoying, annoying, challenging and supporting one another.  It seems as though much of their life is controlled by the rhythms of Harry’s until an unthinkable tragedy happens that nearly undoes the entire family.  All is not well and never can be again.  Perhaps…maybe eventually it will be okay.

The characters in this book are part of me now forever.  They have amazing courage, strength and beauty.  Jo Knowles writing is striking.  It is honest and clear.   This part near the beginning of the book made me stop, reread and wonder:

“Holden?  Is it true, what Sara said?”

“That I’m too sensitive?  No.”

I nudge him.  Come on, you know what I’m talking about.”

“Yeah, I know.”

I wait for him to really answer, but he doesn’t.  He just sits there with his arms crossed over his knees.  If it’s true, I wonder what that must be like.  To know you’re different.  To know some people are going to hate you because of it.

I laughed out loud and then I cried and cried and cried.  Just when I thought I knew what the story would be, it changed.  It wasn’t that at all. I sat breathless and sobbing, desperate to know what would happen as I turned the page.  See You at Harry’s is a book that will live with me from now on and will keep coming to mind when I need to be reminded of the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.  What an amazingly powerful book.


Native American TalesTrickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection

a graphic collection

In the note from the editor, Matt Dembicki explains that the idea for this book came from reading a book of Native American tales in the library.  He realized he didn’t know most of these tales and thought he should.  He knew many European myths and tales, along with a few Asian and African tales, but none from his own country.  All cultures have tales of the trickster—a crafty creature or being who uses cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief. The trickster disrupts the order of things and makes you consider different possibilities. In Native American traditions, the trickster takes many shape-shifting forms like a coyote or rabbit, raccoon or raven.

Trickster is a collection of twenty-one Native American tales adapted into comic form. Each story is written by a different Native American storyteller giving each tale an original voice.  The work of telling the story is combined with the unique artwork of an illustrator so each tale is represented in a unique way.  Some stories are serious and dramatic while others are funny and light.   This collection brings tricksters into readers’ hands in vivid form. From an ego-driven misstep in “Coyote and the Pebbles” to the foolish greed of “Rabbit’s Choctaw Tail Tale,” to the ingenuity in “Puapualenalena- Wizard Dog of Waipi’o Valley Trickster provides rich stories for readers of all ages and opens doors onto a wide range of Native American cultures.

As I read each story in the collection I thought of different picture book versions of single tales that offered an even greater picture of the amazing lore that is part of our country.  My favorites were Rabbit and the Tug of War, The Bear Who Stole the Chinook and Giddy Up, Wolfie.  What are yours?


The Fairy Ring

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the Worldor Elsie and Frances Fool the World – a true story

by Mary Losure

World War I brings Frances Griffith from Cape Town, South Africa to Cottingley, Yorkshire, England to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin until the Great War is over and her father returns from the front. Everything is drab and dark in England.  Nothing is as her mother had told her it would be – no joy or light. Cousin Elsie, six years her senior, is kind and fun loving.  There is a little happiness when she returns home from work each day and she and Frances have fun. Frances is often alone though and the place she finds most full of light is the beck: the little stream behind the cottage.  It was there that Frances believes she see fairies.  Each day she saw green clad men about eighteen inches tall marching through the willows.  She never spoke to them, or they to her.  They just became part of her days.  When she told her family, she was teased. Elsie had also been teased for not being a great reader or speller.  She was a wonderful artist though. Tired of the teasing, Elsie created some paper fairy cutouts, beautifully painted along with the plan to pose along the bank of the beck to photograph.  She hopes the photograph will serve as proof to end the taunts and teasing.

Photography was the new technology of 1917.  Taking and developing pictures on glass plates was a difficult and expensive process.  Elsie did convince her father to let her use the camera.  When he developed the one plate the girls had been given – sure enough the fairies emerged. Elsie’s dad is not convinced it is not a trick but he developed the plate and knows that the photograph has not been tampered with.   The girls use his doubt to convince him to let them take one more photo. This one is of a gnome and while they don’t fully convince everyone in the family, the photographs do end the teasing.

A few years pass and then someone mentions these pictures to a group, the Theosophists, eager to prove the existence of fairies and nature spirits. That involved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of detective Sherlock Holmes and created more attention and publicity for the girls.  Everyone wants to know the girls who see fairies; wants to see what she sees.  Everyone wants to find the girls quickly because fairies are known only to reveal themselves to the young and innocent.  What happens next is an incredible story of a great hoax, perpetuated by two girls who never intended to deceive the wider world.  They just didn’t want to get into trouble and didn’t know what to do when the tale they had begun took on a life of its own.

This is the true story of how two girls fooled the world with their fairy photos. The book describes the girls’ personalities. This was a time of great technological changes and new strains of the environment. The books share the what is happening in Frances and Elsie’s lives at the time along with letters and direct accounts of the ordeal so readers can understand how it came to be and perhaps why some many people at the time wanted the photographs to be real.  The Fairy Ring makes you wonder and think.  What you have done in their shoes?