Gary Paulsen’s last book ~ so good!

Leif, orphaned at birth, raised as a wharf rat, next as a ship rat, was sent with four of the oldest, crippled crew members and the only other young boy on the ship (bought for a bolt of sail cloth) to set up a fish camp.  The rest of the crew sailed north on a seal hunt.  Those in the fish camp set about catching and smoking salmon.

After they had smoked enough fish the last the entire crew six months, they realized that the main ship was not going to come back for them.  It had been gone too long and so the six,  5-year old Little Carl, 12-year old Leif, and four seasoned seamen, including wise and caring Big Carl, created a cedar dugout large enough for all of them to return to a port to find another ship.  Before they were able to leave the fish camp, a ghost ship drifted into and out of  their bay, silently leaving a deadly sickness.

The older seamen succumbed first.  But before Big Carl became too ill, he gathered a bundle of supplies and pushed Leif and Little Carl out to sea in the canoe, advising them to head North to stay away from the sickness.  While at sea, the boys became ill too.  Leif recovers. Little Carl does not.  After burying Little Carl, Leif follows the old seaman’s advice and paddles North.  Day after day after day after week Leif paddles.  This Long Paddle is full of danger, challenge, constant change and wonder.  Leif observes carefully –  looks for new ways to understand and know – always questions and always learns.  What a journey!  You won’t regret a moment of your time with Leif.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to find a quest of your own.

Happy Reading! 📚

Sorry I was away for so long ~ I had computer issues.  They’re fixed for now.  Phew!📖

How to Get Away with Myrtle

I really like Myrtle.  She is a spunky detective.  If you’re a mystery lover, I know you’ll like her too.   Before the train has left the station in the second book of the series (and I hope it is long), Myrtle is on a new case.

Myrtle has been sent on a “relaxing vacation” by her father.  She is to be accompanied on this trip by Aunt Helena, Miss Judson and Peony – because at the last minute Myrtle just couldn’t leave her cat behind.   Peony may be the only good thing about being on a “vacation” with Aunt Helena at the seaside.   At the train station Myrtle begins observing what is happening all around her –  as any detective would.  When she sees something that seems a bit off, she follows her instincts … and follows.

This is how she makes the acquaintance of Mrs. Bloom, a professional insurance investigator who is aboard this train the to protect the priceless Northern Lights Tiara. Myrtle is looking forward to learning all that she can from the investigator, but before the train reaches its destination, both the tiara and Mrs. Bloom have vanished. 

At the end of the line a dead body Is discovered in the baggage car.  Someone has been murdered—with Aunt Helena’s sewing shears.   The trip is derailed, the local police appear to be inept, Scotland Yard is in no rush to arrive, so Myrtle is the only one following the leads. What’s a smart, bored Young Lady of Quality stranded in a washed-up carnival town to do?  

Readers who already know Myrtle, will know exactly what her choice will be.  If this is your first time with  Myrtle, she will follow the evidence to find out which of her fellow travelers is a thief and a murderer.

There are lots of challenges along the way as you read along with Myrtle and solve this mystery.  I hope there is a  next book with Myrtle.  If there is, I’ll be reading it!.

Happy Reading!📚

What Happened on Fox Street

Fox Street has everything Maureen Jewel Wren, usually called Mo, could want.  Her family lives in the heart of the dead end street – Mo considers this end one of its best traits.   Her family’s home is surrounded by all the things they need – a person who cuts hair perfectly, a fix-it man who makes things work, a piano player who adds beauty, her best friend’s grandmother who insures summers together, some wild boys who add spice and a creepy lady who adds to the intrigue   of the street.  Everything is there,  but most importantly for Mo are the memories Fox Street holds.  Fox Street holds all her memories of her mom.  It’s where they lived as a family before the accident that took her away.

Mo’s never seen a fox on Fox Street, but she always looks.  In fact, she and her best friend, Mercedes, have a secret place beyond the guardrail, down in the scrubby ditch at the end of the street.  They call it the Fox’s Den – they’ve always gone there to share their secrets, to solve their problems and to have a little away time from Mo’s little sister,  “Wild Child” Dottie.  That is until this summer when everything is changing.

This is the story of that unforgettable summer where everything changes ~ and yet somehow Mo finds a way to stay connected to the important things ~ family, friends, home and memories.

Read What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb to find out Mo manages all this and  perhaps sees, saves…? the first fox on Fox Street.

I really loved these characters.  I hope you do too.  Each one of them is developed as a unique sparkling gem.  I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Happy Reading!📚

The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas Book Review By Ogen Y ~ a guest reviewer  from Northwood Elementary School

The Emerald Atlas is a fantasy/adventure book about 3 kids who are left by their parents,  but are part of a prophecy. The oldest one, Kate, has to take care of her younger siblings, Micheal and Emma. They live in orphanages and they find a magical book called The Atlas. They put an old picture in it and they get teleported to Cambridge Falls in the past, full of magical disasters. But then they lose The Atlas. Can they retrieve it in this magical past of their setting? Read it to find out! If I were to rate this book, I’d say 5 stars out of 5 stars. 2 things I like about this book is that it is so detailed, it can make you actually feel a reaction when reading it, I also like how they were able to add so much story and plot to the 1st book!  One thing I wish was that there could be more length to the book because it was such a good read. Overall, a pretty good book!


Boots completes Kate Hannigan’s The League of Secret Heroes trilogy. (Well, maybe?!.  As the books ends, there is room for more stories with these characters. I would be glad to read them.)   The series presents a blend of history, mystery and superpower action.  They are fun!  The graphic interludes sprinkled throughout are a nod to comic books, important to the era, and the stories.  Each book, Boots, Mask and Cape, celebrates the story of the girls who make the new super-hero group, The Infinity Trinity.  Through them readers learn about different aspects of society during the. World War II era.  One is an Irish immigrant, one is Japanese American and one is African American.

Throughout the series Josie, Akiko. And Mae, discover and grow their powers.  Drawn together by their love of comic book heroes, the girls soon realize something is wrong.  There are plots and spies in the. United States.  Through codes, ciphers and persistence, the girls realize they must do something to help their heroes survive and save their country.

Boots begins in Chicago where the girls discover a Nazi plot to disrupt airplane manufacturing.    Chicago is where Mae’s grandmother and aunts live  Mae’s aunts are pilots who deliver planes from the manufacturing plants to the air strips where they will be launched into service.  The plot becomes personal when the evil Metallic Falcon captures Aunt Willa and Aunt Janet in an attempt to keep the Infinity Trinity from achieving their ultimate goal of finding and freeing Zenobia and the other missing super heroes.

It will take all their courage and skill.  Can they complete their biggest mission yet?


Happy Reading!📚

The Genius Under the Table ~ About Eugene Yelchin

When Breaking Stalin’s Nose was released in 2012 Matt and I both read it.  I was uncertain how I felt about the story.  I wasn’t sure how I would help readers understand what was happening.  I wondered how I would build context.  I wasn’t sure I could.  Matt said he thought it was important for kids to read so they’d know how different growing up could be depending on when and where you lived.

Fast forward ten years to 2021 when Eugene Yelchin’s memoir for children was released, The Genius Under the Table.  As I read about Yevgeny’s life in the USSR, I couldn’t help but reflect again on how important understanding different growing up stories can be.  Eugene Yelchin has created a video sharing his ideas and questions about what it means to be an artist, an author and a teller of stories.  I think his words and images are important to hear and see.  The link is found here:  About Eugene Yelchin. Please take the time to view it.

In between the reading of these two books, I also read, and was moved by Arcady’s Goal.  It is a fictional story that shares the character’s dream of using a special talent as a way to open up the world of possibility and reduce the strain caused by anxiety and want.

Just as Matt said so many years ago, these books are important.  In writing this post I learned about several other Yelchin books I have yet to read.  I am looking forward to reading and learning through them. I’m also wondering how looking to the past can help us understand our current world.

Happy Reading!📚


The Silver Gate

The Silver Gate by Kristin Bailey is set in medieval times, when superstitions ran high, and anything different was seen as an omen or curse.  The people of the village are on edge.  They’ve been dealing with one unexplained hardship after another.  Perhaps, they think, a fairy curse has been set upon them – perhaps, unbeknownst to them,  a changeling lives in the village.  The child must be found and left to die so the rest of the villagers can survive – that is the rumor running throughout the town.

At the start of the story, Elric is running to the village church to get out of torrential spring storm.  The whole village is gathered there for warmth and safety.  Elric is the keeper of the village sheep and he’s lost them all in the storm.  Everyone is cold.  Everyone is angry.  Everyone is working hard.  It is easier to blame the next person for this present. misery.   Elric isn’t looking forward to the cold muddy work of finding the sheep; neither is Hereward the keeper of the town’s pigs.   It seems as though everyone is crowded, uncomfortable and on edge… and then, a baby starts cry.

“Shut him up,” the townspeople yell.  “We’ve been cursed.”

It’s a changeling.”

“Cuthburt take the child and leave it outside where it belongs.  The fairies can just take it back if it’s supposed to live.”

“What does it matter, it’s just a halfwit,” yells Hereward.

That’s all Elric can take.  No one should live in fear of losing their child, half-wit or not.  He helps the mother of the crying baby escape the church mob by throwing a punch at Hereward, the one who in their conversation about lost pigs and sheep had  claimed halfwits had no reason to live.  The brawl was ended by the priest. Elric can’t/won’t explain himself, nor will he apologize, so he leaves.

He leaves to keep his biggest secret.  His mother is hiding and living with his disabled, “halfwit” sister in the forest.  With all the talk or curses, Elric knows he must go and warn them.  What he finds when he arrives sends him forth on a quest he is bound to make to honor the promise he made to his mother, to keep his sister, Wynnfrith, safe.  How can you stay safe when the place you seek is from a fairy tale?  Is it possible that trusting in fairy tales will help Elric and Wynnfrith survive?  Read The Silver Gate  to find out ~ sometimes you have to bring magic of your own to open doors.

This book and its sequel, Into the Nutfell Wood will give you lots to think about.  What gifts matter?  What is the difference between fact and fiction?  What matters most in a life?

Happy Reading! 📚

PS – If you’ve been reading some great books, please share them.  Books are great, but they are better shared.   Leave a comment…write a review… 📖

A Year of Miss Agnes

The Year of Miss Agnes begins:

“What will happen now?” I asked Mamma and we watched the plane take the teacher away.

“Maybe no more school.” Mamma twitched her shoulder a little to show she didn’t care.Mamma never went to school much, just a few months here and there when her family wasn’t trapping or out at the spring muskrat camp.She said she hated school when she was little.”

10-year old Frederika (Fred for short) has had six different teachers already.  Some of them stay the whole school year, but most do not. 

“Sometimes we could see the look on their faces the first week they were here, cleaning out their little cabin, putting up pictures on the walls.  The ones who looked mean from the very first lasted the longest.   It was the ones who smiled all the time and pretended to like everything who didn’t last.”

Coming to teach in a remote Alaskan village is a different kind of challenge.  It’s definitely not for every teacher.   First off, school is an extra – kids attend when they can.   It’s not that schooling isn’t important,  it’s just that survival is more important.  Secondly, there are very few supplies, and what there is are cast-offs from other places.  And finally, if you don’t try to understand the culture and traditions of the children you’re trying to teach, it’s impossible to help anyone learn.

Most of children don’t care much for school.  They go when they can, but they don’t mind missing a week or two.   Fred is different.  She lives with her grandparents, her mom and her deaf sister, Bokko.  Now that her grandparents are older, they don’t do as much fishing, hunting and trapping so Fred is in town.  She likes how school changes things up.  She helps out where she can in the store.  She want to learn to read as fast as Mr. Anderson and she want to write better too, so when Sam,  the bush pilot drops off the new teacher, Fred rushes to check her out.

She is older.  She’s wearing pants.   She’s English and she offers tea and cookies to Fred for the help she has given.  She appreciates Fred for who she is and what she has to offer.  That’s different and exciting.  From that first moment, school is different.  Miss Agnes makes the schoolhouse a place all the kids want to come to.  She cleans the window and fills it with  their art.  She shows them how important they are in the world and their place in history.  Miss. Agnes knows how to make each one of the children feel special.  She highlights their strengths and helps them help each other learn even more.  She even finds a way to include Bokko in school for the first time.

The schoolhouse becomes an exciting place of laughter and learning.  The whole community recognizes the importance of school and learning because. of Miss. Agnes.  A year isn’t very long when it is exciting and full – but a good year can stay with you for a lifetime as you “remember when…” Is a year enough to change everything?  Read A Year of Miss Agnes to find out.

If you’d like to read more about living and growing up on Alaska in the early 1900’s check out these other books terrific by Kirkpatrick Hill:

I loved them!

Happy Reading!📚

A Wolf Called Wander

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry is the story of Swift, a yearling wolf, who loves his life:  his den, his family, his pack, his valley.  Each day is full of challenge and wonder.  Swift has so much to learn, and he is excited to learn it all.  He admires his father.  He admires how his father and mother form a perfect team to ensure the pack’s safety and survival. Right from the start, Swift shows his interest in learning, determination and a kind heart.  He watches everything and remembers all he can.  Swift aspires to be as great a pack leader as his father.

One terrible day, too soon of course, Swift is separated from his home, his family and everything he knows by a rival pack.  Their attack claims his family’s territory – he hears that in his father’s final song and howl.  Too soon Swift finds himself alone, left to figure out how to survive.  

From that day on he begins a seemingly endless journey to find a new home and pack.  On his journey, Swift has to deal with many things he has never encountered before – black rivers (roads), spiked vines (barbed wire), and immature wolves who bring danger by acting in ways Swift’s father would never allow

Swift’s journey is full of danger, hunger, and desperate loneliness. The story was inspired by OR-7, a real wolf naturalists tracked in the wild.  Many facts inspire the twists and turns of Swift’s story.  I really liked the  symbiotic relationship Swift had with a scarred raven.  It made me glad that Swift was not totally alone.  It was even better to learn that ravens and wolves do actually work together for real.  

A Wolf Called Wander is a wonder.  It is a great story – based on the life of a wolf who is alive today.  It is written from the perspective of a wolf so we can live right beside Swift in his joy, confusion, fear and sorrow.

Happy Reading! 📚

Out of My Heart

Ten years ago I was teaching 3rd grade, and reading as many the middle grade books I could fit in.  I was trying to stick to the “book-a-day” challenge that I had accepted and  I wanted to put as many great books as I could find into the hands of my students.  Out of My Mind was highly recommended and when I read it, I thought it was  an amazing gift.  What a book!

Out of My Mind shares the story of Melody Brooks, born with Cerebral Palsy, navigating her way through the ups and downs of public school.  She can’t walk, talk, or feed herself.  She cannot always control her body and how it moves, but she has a photographic memory and she is SMART.  In addition, music adds color and aroma so her life and this only adds to what she knows and understands.  Communication is a challenge and that’s all the other kids see – the teachers too.

Her parents know there is more to Melody than others understand.  Mrs. V. – their neighbor and sometimes Melody caretaker – knows Melody has much to share.  She encourages her to read and learn about everything she can.  When she takes a qualifying test for the school’s Whiz Kids team she gets a perfect score.  She joins the team and helps them win the state competition that will send them to the Nationals in Washington D.C.   The Whiz Kids ditch her though and Melody is left wondering if she will ever find a way to fit in or discover her own place in the world.

There is so much more to this story – I could go on and on, but I’ll stop and suggest you read it to find out for yourself.  I hope, just like it did with me, that it will stay with you for a very long time.

The beauty of reading Out of My Mind now, is that you can follow that reading closely with Out of My Heart.  In this book summer vacation has just begun.  Melody is interested in discovering if she might fit in better with others from the disabled community.  She wonders how would it be to be surrounded by other kids who struggle to communicate, move and meet the many challenges and expectations most of us don’t even consider as we go about our day to day living.  With the help of Mr. Francisco, the librarian, Melody discovers there are some overnight camps designed just for kids like her.  She studies the brochures and websites closely before asking her parents if she can go.  After much soul-searching, they decide to apply.  It takes a long time to complete the application.  After all there are a LOT of safety considerations, but it seems as if Camp Green Glade has them all covered while offering swimming, boating, zip-lining, horseback riding and a whole host of other activities. Once the application is submitted they wait – sadly the camp is full and Melody won’t be able to attend unless there is a cancelation.

Read Out of My Heart to find out what happens.  It is an emotional ride – heartbreaking, heartwarming, terrifying and funny.  Melody is an amazing human being.  I have been changed by her and her story.  I think you will be too.

Happy Reading! 📚