Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken?

A few weeks ago I read this book’s  companion Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.  It was such fun, I quickly found the next book.  In it, Sophie continues her work with Unusual Chickens and begins to revitalize her recently inherited, Redwood Farm.  Hortensia  James, reaches out to Sophie through email to return two new Unusual Chickens that Agnes had loaned her when she could no longer care for them.  She also sends Sophie her first clutch of eggs.  This means lots of learning about incubators and caring for the eggs as a mother hen would.  Thankfully she has friends to help her with this – Chris, Sam and Gregory.  They know about poultry and they know about Unusual Chickens.

In addition to those friend’s, Sophie’s cousin, Lupe, comes to stay with them when she begins college close by. Sophie is thrilled to have more of her family on the farm.  Unfortunately not everyone is as welcoming to people with brown skin.   As Sophie learns how to care for chicks and to discover all she can about each species of unusual chicken, middle school begins, Sophie holds a potluck work party to clean up Redwood Farm and she finds a way to help Lupe and Sam solve problems that come their way.

What kinds of Unusual Chickens will Sophie hatch?  How will she learn about them and care for them?  What will she do to make sure they are safe?  How will she bring Redwood Farm back to its past glory?  Will Sophie pass the inspection conducted by the Unusual Poultry Committee, Northern California Division?Will Mrs. Griegson help, or hurt the farm? What will happen next?  Read to find out – you’ll be glad you did.

Happy Reading! 📚

The Royal Ranger ~ The Missing Prince and The Escape From Falaise

If you’re already a Ranger’s Apprentice fan, you’re sure to enjoy The Royal Ranger collection too.  I just finished reading The Escape from Falaise, the second part of Will and Maddie’s daring rescue.  They’ve traveled to Gallica to free a kidnapped prince.  This is not a typical mission for Rangers, but they have taken it on to make things safer for King Duncan, ascending Princess Cassandra and all of Araluen.

The story is full of the trademark Ranger wit, skill and daring.  “Facing dangerous threats, battles with knights, and a new and risky plot to save the prince – the odds are stacked against them.  But the Rangers will use all the tools of their trade to save themselves and save the day.”

I appreciate how “right” in all its forms – kindness, humility, perseverance, patience and acceptance – triumphs each time.

If you’re new to The Rangers, the elite Corp of Araluen, this is a series better read in order.  Begin with The Ruins of Gorlan, then move on to The Burning Bridge both reviewed my Matt in 2012, and then just keep reading.  You’ve got some great adventures ahead of you!

Happy Reading! 📚

PS – The Brotherband Chronicles are great too!

The Questioneers

I loved sharing The Questioneers series with my third graders.  These read alouds always inspired important conversations about following your own dreams, developing personal passions, embracing failures and finding ways to overcome negativity.

How do you handle judgement, prejudice, fear, wavering self-confidence and doubt?  With others, as part of a community seems to be the answer shared by this series.  I couldn’t agree more.  Reading this series again,  and again and again, I was reminded of the importance for patience and the need for close observation.  Kids need us to looks at situations through their eyes so we can begin to understand how to support them.

I have enjoyed the first four books in this series, but Aaron Slater, Illustrator holds a special place I’m my heart.  The blurb on the dust jacket shares its essence perfectly.  Here it is:

“Aaron Slater love nothing more than listening to stories with his family out in their garden.  Each summer day, he sits outside and draws, dreaming of one day creating a story of his own.  But when it comes time for him to learn to read, the letters just look like squiggles.  It soon becomes clear that reading is much harder for him than his peers.  When his teacher, Miss Greer, asks the class to write a story, Aaron can’t get a single word down.  He’s sure his dream of becoming a storyteller is out of reach… until inspiration strikes, and Aaron find a way to spin a tale that is uniquely his.”

I hope families and classrooms will find ways to share these books as a way to open doors to discussions about each person’s unique challenges.  These picture books are meaty and important.  The illustrations are full of details that are only discovered from multiple readings.  It’s also fun to see how the books connect to each other.

Which Questioneer are you?  Or is your story waiting to be told?  Can you tell it for yourself?  Have a go at it.  See what you cab do ~ you might surprise yourself.  How fun!

Happy Reading!📚

The Troubled Girls of Dragonmir Academy

Marya Lupa is a girl from a remote village in Illyria.  Unlike her brother, Luka, she had NO potential to bring her parents status and honor. Only the boys of Illyria can possess potential magical abilities.  Only boys can become sorcerers and obtain the awesome job of protecting the country from the destructive, terrifying power of the DREAD.  This is the destiny Marya’s parents plan for her brother to claim.

As long as Marya does her chores, her parents pay her little attention (though they criticize her from exploring her world and questioning everything.). When her younger brother succumbed to a fever, Maria has even more time on her hands.  At home she is belittled and chastised so Marya often finds her way to her neighbor’s where she helps care for the two young boys or helps Madame Bandu, a tapestry weaver and keeper of Illyrian history, with her work.

In return for her help, Madame Bandu teaches Marya to read and encourages her to read everything and learn as much as she can.  Marya learns history and folksongs.  She learns science and mathematics.  She learns the ways of people and the stories they share.  Madame Bandu helps her wonder about what the tellers choose to share AND what they choose to omit.  She encourages Marya to wonder about truth and to question who benefits by how a story is told.

On the day of Luka’s evaluation, it seems as though Marya may also have a bright future.  Luka will be a scorcher and she could become Madame Banda’s apprentice.  Possibility surrounds the Lupa family.  Anything might be possible until everything explodes into a chaos of uncertainty.  Luke is deemed to have no magical ability and Marya is compelled by order of the Emperor to attend The Dragonmir Academy for Troubled Girls.  Why?  What is the truth?  Who benefits from the story – what is shared?  What is omitted?  Read this spellbinding tale to find out!

Happy Reading! 📚

Sisters of the Neversea ~ a contemporary Peter Pan story

Sisters of the Neversea has me thinking – as all good books do.  Its reviews caught my attention because I like the Peter Pan story.  I know the Disney version – the play version – the versions shared by countless movie remakes, and the version shared in Peter and the Starcatchers series with their deliciously vile villains.  In writing this review I have to confess, I’ve not read the 1904 original by J.M. Barrie.  My grandparent’s copy sits on my bookshelf and I wonder, I should give it a try… maybe – original tale…maybe not – outdated language and world views…I’ll see.  Here’s why I might wait.  Cynthia Leitich Smith has combined iconic bits from the popular story in ways that made me question and think about how stories and books grow and encourage understanding and empathy.

Sister of the Neversea begins as the blended Roberts-Darling family celebrate a family milestone.  Mom, John and Lily are Muscogee Creek from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Dad and Wendy have joined them from London, England, and the family has been further blended when younger brother, Michael, was born.  Lily and Wendy are step-sisters AND best friends.  They adore their younger brother – but unsettling changes have come to their family.

John is celebrating his graduation from high school. He has college plans for the upcoming school year.  A new job has dad and Wendy moving to New York City.  This leaves Wendy and Lily only one day to worry about the fate of their sisterhood and their family.  Before they have a chance to talk about what is happening and how they actually feel, a flying boy in search of a storyteller, a fairy – tasked with keeping Peter Pan content and Neverland safe, and a rouge shadow, uncomfortable with its origins behavior enter their bedroom.

Cynthia Leitich Smith has created a complex, contemporary Peter Pan tale.  What does being an Indigenous member of our society?  How can we, as non-Indigenous members of society show respect and care for all people?  Readers  can explore ideas about family, stereotypes, identity, environment, social justice and personal responsibility.  You can ponder these ideas and/or  you can enjoy another great Peter Pan inspired adventure.  How do the choices you make effect the world?

Happy Reading! 📚


Gone to the Woods

Sometimes when I finish a book that connects perfectly, I sit hugging it to my heart, thinking, “Oh… wow… wonderful.” I reflect on where the book has taken me and what stands out.  There was so much here – one detail, triggered the next,  and on and on.  I wrote them down.  I recalled singing in bars, the train ride, the car-truck ride, the geese, fishing, picking mushrooms, perfect food, the love of Sig, the practicality of Edy, the voyage, the gunfire, the bodies, the rats, the loneliness, the library, the notebook, and enlisting.

Reading Gone to the Woods – Surviving a Lost Childhood is a gift.  What an amazing book.  What an incredible story.  What an inspiring life. Gary Paulsen throws out a lifeline to readers through this book.  The honesty of his words, and the precise clarity of the moments he chose to share, creates an indelible record for readers to find, study and grow from.

This story shows hope exists in the bleakest times.  It shows change and possibility waiting to be found.  And it reminds us that all stories matter and need to be told.

Matt reviewed Hatchet in 2012.  He finished his review saying he thought readers would agree that Hatchet was a “timeless classic.” It is.  I hope readers find their way to Gary Paulsen over and over again.  His story is inspiring.  His writing is inspiring as well.  We can all do important things – even if it is just to resist.

Happy Reading! 📚

I’ve connected the trailer to the book here so you can hear Gary Paulsen’s voice.

Another Great Book in the Greenglass series

The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book by Phineas Amalgam is Kate Milford’s fifth book featuring the magical town of Nagspeak situated on the Skidwrack River. Each book is skillfully mysterious ~ real and unreal, magical and ordinary, everyday and unique all at once.  Curious readers can’t help but be intrigued.  

Lexio, an online dictionary, defines a raconteur as a person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way.  Phineas Amalgam is such a collector of tales.   When he and his fellow guests find themselves waylaid at the Blue Vein Tavern by unrelenting rain, he suggests they pass the evenings sharing stories.  Each story is original and personal.  Over the course of days and tellings, it becomes apparent that the stories and their tellers are connected.  Are the guests at the Blue Vein Tavern there by chance, or is there something this particular group of people must do to put their stories together and face the truth?   Fate seems to rest in their collective hands.

I think you’ll enjoy this collection of tales.  If you’re already a reader of the Greenglass Series, I think you’ll be completely satisfied.  If you’re new to the series, please make time to enjoy the rest.   This series is one to be savored and reread – I missed so many details and clues the first time through.  It was fun to find them later.




Happy Reading!📚

PS – I kept a paper in my book while I was reading so I could keep track of new words.  There were a lot for me.  I don’t think I’ll use them, but it was fun to see how they perfectly fit into this story. 


Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

Sophie’s summer vacation has just begun.  She’s moved from LA to  the very small town of Gravenstein, California. She’s living on the farm her dad inherited from his Uncle Jim.  There’s nothing but dust and junk and grapevines with no grapes.  It’s lonely, but Sophie is determined to make the best of things.  She will, if she can figure out what to do.  Tacked on the wall inside the barn, Sophie finds a flier advertising “unusual chickens” along with an address to inquire about a catalogue.  Sophie thinks a farm with chickens could be more interesting than what she is living with now.  She asks about getting the catalogue.  Her mom agrees it can’t hurt, and suggests she write a business letter to Redwood Farm requesting one.  Sophie gives her letter to Gregory, the mailman, who says he’ll deliver it the next day.

While she waits, Sophie decides to organize some of stuff Great Uncle Jim has collected all over the farm.  She discovers a typewriter in the hayloft and makes a space for herself there.  It is peaceful.  Typing reminds her of her Abuelita, and Sophie begins to write to her, sort of like a diary.  She knows her grandmother won’t answer, but it eases her loneliness to connect with someone. she knows loves her.  

Sophie continues to explore the farm looking for things to do.  She finds a little tipped over house and wonders what it’s for.    She soon discovers it’s likely for an angry little white chicken who appears from the blackberry bushes the next day.  Sophie decides to care for it while she figures out what to do.  Now she really needs to hear from Redwood Farm Supply because she has a chicken that is indeed “unusual.”  Henrietta (named after the chicken in The Hoboken Chicken Emergency) has telekinetic powers.   

After Sophie discovers this chicken has powers, several things happen at once.  Sophie receives a response from Agnes, the owner of Redwood Farm Supplies, telling her that Henrietta is one of Great Uncle Jim’s chickens and admonishes her to keep the chicken a secret in order to keep her safe.  Someone named Sue Griegson (who’s about the same age as Sophie’s parents) claims to be missing chickens and tries to steal Henrietta.  More of  Great Uncle Jim unusual chickens come home to roost with Henrietta.

Using information she learns from library books and the librarian, from talking to Gregory, the mailman, from the i chicken-care correspondence course sent to her by Agnes, and help she receives from other poultry loving kids in town, Sophie knows she has a lot of work to do to keep her flock happy, healthy and safe.   She is determined to do what is right, even when it is challenging and makes her reach outside her comfort zone.

Read Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones with illustrations by Katie Kath. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it – and hope for more.  It is fun.  The writing is great.  The format is unique.  The illustrations are funny.  It’s a lighthearted story that will make you smile and think at the same time.

Happy Reading!📚

PS – If anyone reads this who knows Vera M please tell her about this book.  She’ll definitely appreciate the chickens!

What do you wish? Granted… should it be that simple?

Reading Granted by John David Anderson is an absolute joy. I started wondering about magic in our world.  What is magic?  What is my responsibility for keeping it alive?  Is it real?  Should I worry about it, or just let it go?  To begin answering my questions I looked up the definition.  Magic is:  1) a power that allows people to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions;  2) a special power, influence or skill; 3) a wonderful, exciting or attractive quality.

When I stop to think about it, I’ve been the beneficiary of all three types of magic described by the definition.   An unexpected, totally sincere compliment, is magic.  Sharing a smile or a spontaneous hug, offering help where and when it is needed, is magic.  Noticing a cardinal in a bare tree save a few golden apples against a clear blue sky, is magic.  It seems that magic is all around us if we only slow down enough to notice and see.

At the start of Granted, before the story begins, readers are reminded that every wish made on stars or candles blown or coins tossed (as long as it remains unspoken) is heard.  The book is the story of what happens to grant one wish.  The story is that of Ophelia Delphinium Fidget, ~ a Granter.  She is one of a few select fairies whose job it is to venture out into the world to grant the wish of unsuspecting humans.  The fairies who are Granters do this every day.  It is the work of the Granters, that generate the magic allowing  the fairies to do what they do and to stay undetected in the human world.  As Ophelia’s mission begins, magic levels across the world are at an all-time low.  Care must be taken.

Ophelia Delphinium Fidget is excited when she receives the mission -her first.  She is aware that navigating the human world will be full of danger, but she has prepared carefully.  She is ready! 

But NOTHING goes as planned.  There are jets, aggressive geese, a broom, a hawk, windshield wipers, a truck and more…  In addition, there is a difficult choice.  Because of the waning magic available to the fairies, only some wishes can be granted.  Years ago the fairies decided that an impartial lottery would be most fair.  But is it?  Are all wishes equal?  Is a boy’s longing for his father’s return from deployment in Iraq more important than a girl’s wish for a purple bike to replace her stolen one?

Read Granted to find out how Ophelia Delphinium Fidget decides and who is there to support her in her decision.

The common expression, “Be careful what you wish for” takes on a whole new meaning.  

If you’re new to the writing of John David Anderson, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted  are among my 4th/5ht/6th grade favorite reads.  Check them out too.

Happy Reading!📚

Amber and Clay

Another magically crafted book from Laura Amy Schlitz, Amber and Clay takes us to Ancient Greece.  Several characters take turns narrating the chapters.  Some speak in poetry.  Some speak in prose.  Through each narrator’s unique voice readers gain a rich understanding of the social structures that define daily life across the classes.  At the center of the story are Rhaskos, an enslaved boy ~ as common as clay, and Melisto, daughter of a wealthy Atheneum citizen ~ as precious as amber.  Their story begins to take shape around their fifth year.

After his mother was sold, Rhaskos collects dung in his enslaver’s yard.  He is befriended by the younger son of his owner and inadvertently sees the mural of a horse in the men’s room of the house.  From then on he dreams of drawing horses.  Later after the death of this friend, Rhaskos becomes the personal servant of the older son.  Here he meets with near daily physical and emotional abuse.  It is incredibly cruel, but as a slave, what rights does he have?  Eventually he is sold to a potter and there he is able to learn the trade and further develop his artistic abilities.  It is better ~ but he is not free.

Melisto has been born into a family of means.  She beloved by her father, but finds it difficult to meet her mother’s expectations and to accept the confines given her because she is a girl. Melisto and her mother grate on one another. Thratta, Rhaskos mother, is purchased to step between them.  She helps Melisto fulfill her role as daughter and female in society, while also honoring her curious and active nature  Miraculously Melisto is selected to serve Artemis at her sanctuary in Brauron.  Melisto finds her home there. She is at peace there – free to be herself and live a life that honors the goddess.  It is better ~ but sacrifices are required.

After Melisto is killed in a lightning accident her body is returned to Athens for burial.  Thratta prepares the body when Melisto’s mother will not and that when the two children connection becomes apparent.  Thratta binds Melisto’s soul to the earth until she is able to find a way to lead Rhaskos to freedom.

Through their stories, readers discover more about life in these times.   They present is a clear picture of the ever-present slavery and warfare of the time.   Art, dance and ceremony are also shared.  Sokrates (the Greek spelling) befriends Rhaskos at one point in the story, and before his death, encourages him to be “his own master.”  Hermes and Hephaistos narrate some of the chapters adding a godly twist.  The writing is expressively descriptive, surprisingly contemporary, and laced with references to mythology and the epic stories.  The narrative creates a world for readers to live in where they can uncover the past, and at the same time come to a greater understanding of their own present.

What an amazing book!

Happy Reading!📚