The Westing Game

This review was written by a 5th grader from Northwood Elementary School.  Thank you for sharing great book suggestions with us!

The Westing Game

By Maeve

Ellen Raskin made one of the best books I’ve ever read. The Westing Game is a mystery with multiple plot twists and mind blowing chapters. But an unexplainable thing happens: Sam Westing passes but he will let his last game be his best game.

This book is about 16 heirs and one game. The person who wins the game gets the money… or do they? In this book the main character is Sam Westing but all of the heirs are main characters too.

This is one of the best mysteries and mind boggling games I’ve ever witnessed. There’s a bookie, a burglar, a bomber, and a mistake. My favorite part is the ending! I had no idea The Westing Game could have the best ending ever. This story is a mix of sadness, anger, confusion, and love. If this was a movie I’d watch it!

Thanks for writing and sharing your review Maeve.  So happy to have your reading recommendation here! I loved this book too.  I’ve read it few times – and it doesn’t lose any excitement.  It is so detailed and so well crafted, I can’t remember all the details.  When I looked for the cover to add to your review I learned there has been a movie.  Who knew?!  I bet the books way better.

Happy Reading!📚

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place – The Interrupted Tale

The Interrupted Tale (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #4)by Maryrose Wood

385 pages of middle grade mystery full of puzzle, fun and farcical adventure

Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t yet found this series stop reading. Go find the first book and begin.  If you’re at NHS – come to the classroom and borrow it.  You’ll be glad you did.  Whenever you’re ready two, three and this one will wait for you there as well…

If you’ve loved the first three as I have you’ll understand when I say, “I was happy to find the fourth book in the ‘Incorrigibles’ series.”  I like Penelope Lumley.  I appreciate how she teaches the three “wolf” children she has been charged with.  Her model of gentle care, firm expectations and love is to be admired.  I respect her dogged perseverance and her constant and innovative problem solving.

Things are not as they seem at Ashton Place and slowly but surely Miss Lumley is peeling back the layers of deception and intrigue in a effort to uncover answer.  Why were Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia left in the woods to be raised by wolves?  Were they abandoned or secretly cared for?  Is there a curse the plagues the Ashton men on the full moon?  Why has Edward Ashton feigned his death and then returned after 20 years?  Why was Penelope left at the school as a young child?  Are her parents truly gone?  What are Agatha Swanburne’s secrets?  And the hair poultice?  Without it Miss Lumley and the three Incorrigibles have the exact same rich, auburn hair.  Is there something to that?

These questions swirl around the web of connections that surround Miss Lumley and grow tighter in each story.  There are entertaining villains and surprising allies that await you.  You’ll finish wondering what happened in Ahwoo Ahwoo Island.  You’ll wonder if the mysteries that surround so much of Ashton Place will be solved.  And then you’ll remember the wise words of Agatha Swanburne, “Morning may not put one’s problems in a new light, but at least it puts them in a new day,” and you’ll be ready to move on.  Ready, but eager for the next book to arrive so the story can continue and new questions emerge.

Writers and lovers of words will smile at the play with iambic pentameter throughout the story closing at the end with a TA-tum, TA-tum, TA-tum, TA-tum, TA-tum.  There’s a delicious reference on page 247 about how books you read will later influence what you write:  “…Whether a little French boy named Victor Hugo also read Pierre et la Baguette and was inspired to write a similar tale years later, we will never know, but the truth is that grown-up writers cannot help but be influenced by the books they read as children. Someday you, too, may decide to write a novel that touches upon the subjects you read about as a young person.  Pirates, perhaps.  Or dancing chickens.  Or even some combination of the two.”

It is a fun mystery to savor.

The Water Castle

 The Water Castleby Megan Frazer Blackmore

337 pages of middle grade mystery with a historical anchor that will fill you full of questions and possibilities

The Water Castle was released at the end of the school year.  It got great reviews and seemed like something I would like to read and share with kids at our school.  I got the book right away.  But, as you know I have stack sand baskets and piles of books waiting to be read – poor books – some of them wait an awfully long time.

The Water Castle lay in my “beside the reader chair” pile for the summer, but then I read that Megan Blackmore was coming to Portsmouth on October 16th.  She would be talking about her book and so The Water Castle came off the pile and I’m so glad.  Wow!  The Water Castle is different and intriguing.  Each night came home from school hoping to fly through my afternoon and evening chores so I could read.

Ephraim, his younger sister, Brynn and older brother, Price are leaving Cambridge, Massachusetts and moving to Crystal Springs, Maine.  Their dad has suffered a stroke and their physician mother believes he will get the healing care he needs there.  Crystal Springs is the site of their ancestral home – the Water Castle.  In the late 1800’s Orlando Appledore, (their great great uncle) an inventor and avid scientist, spent his young life following the legend of the Fountain of Youth.  He settled in Crystal Springs, believing he had uncovered the mystery at last.  The record is unclear – fact or fiction?  Are their healing, life-giving waters in Crystal Springs?  Did Orlando discover the Fountain of Youth?

If he did and if Ephraim can uncover the secret of that muddled past, perhaps he can heal his dad and recover his life.  The Water Castle is surrounded by mystery right from the start – it hums and releases lightening-like blasts from time to time.  The  mystery deepens as past and present entwine reigniting old feuds, while also growing friendships just when loneliness  and loss is nearly too much to bear.

Does the heart of the explorer live in all of us?  Are exploration and wonder opposite sides of the same coin?  How far would you be willing to go to discover and achieve your goals?

I had so many delicious questions when I finished reading The Water Castle.  It is a book I would love to read with a group.  I want to know what other readers think.  I want to know what you think and what you would do if given the choice.  I hope you’ll read The Water Castle and leave a comment to let us know what you would do.

Wednesdays in the Tower

Wednesdays in the Towerby Jessica Day George

225 pages of magic and mystery that will leave you eagerly waiting for more

Wednesdays in the Tower follows Tuesdays at the Castle and picks up the story of Celie, Rolf, Lilah, Pogue, Lulath and now Bran and King and Queen Glower.  Celie has finished her atlas enough so that she feels it is ready to be copied and shared with others.  She knows that her maps will never fully be accurate because new rooms will still come and unused rooms will still go, after all Castle is magic.  Celie loves Castle.  She cares for it and because of that she also feels its present discomfort.  Castle is changing.  Rooms are coming without need and they are old and unused.  The holiday feasting room arrives with no holiday in sight.  A room full of fabrics appears with patterns and fashions hundreds of years old.  A map room shows up but with maps of places no one knows and there’s an armory lined with suits of armor and weapons, the uses of some are unknown but dangerously enchanted.  Castle seems upset, angry, maybe, ill.  It’s as if the rooms are coming from another place and time.  Why?  What is Castle’s story?

Bran, now the Royal Wizard, sends to the College of Wizardry and asks for help with the armory because of the magic weaponry.  Amidst the concern regarding the new unpredictability of Castle, no one but Celie notices the new tower.  It’s beyond the schoolroom and in it Celie finds a pumpkin-sized orange egg on a nest of moss and twigs.  Celie, with Castle’s help, cares for the egg and keeps it safe until it hatches.  The hatchling is a griffin and Celie immediately loves the creature and names him Rufus.

Castle will only allow her to reveal the griffin to a selected few.  Why Castle would bring her a griffin and at the same time want to her to keep it a secret?  Meanwhile, Wizard Awkright arrives, not the wizard Bran had hoped the college would send.  He instantly puts both the royal family and Castle on edge.  His mysterious appearances and unusual interest in what Celie is doing, along with his abrupt comments and near threats to the royal family create a suspicious air.  What is he doing?  Why is he really there?  It is clear Castle doesn’t know what to make of his actions either.  Just when you think you know Celie, Rolf and Rufus, Lilah and Lulath find themselves in a whole new place.  Can Castle find them there?

The adventure and mystery that surrounds Wednesdays in the Tower pulls you through the pages to a satisfying ending and leaves you at a new beginning.  You’ll be looking for the next book in the series and wondering what awaits you at Castle Glower.

In Harm’s Way

In Harm's WayIn Harm’s Way is the fourth of five books in Andrew Clements’ Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series.  With each book I understand more about the mystery and I appreciate how tightly the past and present are woven.  It is amazing that Captain Oakes could have enough foresight to put the perfect safeguards in place to preserve his wishes some 200 years later, but he did.  And that means that though times change and progress is made people and human nature are essentially the same through history.

The Glennley Group is pulling out all the stops to keep Benjamin, Jill and Robert from succeeding.  The discovery in the last book of the authentic Underground Railroad station slow the demolition plans, but didn’t stop them.  Glennley Group is silently spreading their tentacles of influence across Eastport while trying to find every innocent way possible to silently remove the Keepers.  They’ve placed a second janitor at the school so they are easier to follow and they’ve worked out ways to worm themselves closer to their parents.  They will work every angle to stop the Keepers to capitalize on their investment no matter how slimy the move may be.  Ben’s mom has been “chosen” as the relator to show the condominiums that will be built when the theme park is built.  Jill’s dad has been “convinced” to invest heavily in Gleenley Group stocks.  He’ll make a fortune when Tall Ships Ahoy theme park is completed.  Signs of Glennley Group’s presence and influence are everywhere from the massive yacht docked at the pier to the silent sport car appearing on the street outside their homes.  Ben, Jill and Robert have to be constantly on guard and constantly planning to stay one step ahead.  The stakes are high – life or death, and yet the keepers are committed to keeping the school safe just as Captain Oakes had asked.

This series causes you to think and question.  Friends come from unlikely places if you’re willing to give them a chance.  Though you may want to work alone, when you’re open better things almost always come from collaboration.  The saying “two heads are better than one” is true.  Sometimes a personal goal has to be set aside for the common good.  What is the true price of progress?  Are immediate gains worth the lasting, irretrievable outcomes?

After you’ve read In Harm’s Way how will you answer those questions?

If you haven’t read the the other books in the series make sure you do.

We the Children (Keepers of the School, #1)Fear Itself (Keepers of the School, #2)The Whites of Their Eyes (Keepers of the School, #3)



Pieby Sarah Weeks

This is a book that makes you smile inside when you discover the secret ingredient.

It matters – I hope you’ll read to find out why.

PIE is a fabulous story.  No matter what your favorite slice might be, you’ll find it in this book. Polly Portman has a gift for making pies.  Making pies brings her such joy that she makes them to give away.  Walk into her pie shop, simply called PIE, and you’ll be handed the most glorious treat you can imagine – flakey light crust, perfectly sweetened filling, every slice – pure happiness.

Polly Portman is nice to everyone.  Everything she does seems just right.  Known for her humble kindness and her ability to remember each person’s likes and needs, Polly she takes pleasure in making others happy.  She loves to share her gift and in return Polly is given all she needs to make the very best pies from the very best ingredients as they come into season. Alice Anderson has been helping her aunt for as long as she can remember.  Her Aunt Polly has become her best friend and that’s why her untimely death hits with such a shockwave of grief.

PIE is closed.  Aunt Polly is gone.  Nothing is right.  The will that Aunt Polly left is strange – the pie shop has been left to Reverend Flowers to do with as he pleases.  The crust recipe has been left Lardo, the cat; and the cat had been left to Alice.  This announcement launches a whole series of peculiar events through which readers get glimpses of the past and better understanding of the present.  We discover why Blueberry Awards are so important. We learn why Alice’s mother, Polly’s sister is so bitter and spiteful.   We come to understand why pies would be stolen and cats catnapped.  We are reminded of what is truly important in making pies… and in life.

PIE is a story that will make you happy – you’ll smile over and over again when you think about it even well after the book is finished.  You’ll probably find yourself opening it later to give a recipe a try.  I think my favorite might be found with Charlie Erdling’s on page 114, but I have to say I have never heard of, nor tried, Aunt Polly’s favorite on page 128.  I might have to in late summer to see what I think.  After you’ve read PIE, we’d love to know what your favorite pie is?  Is it a Portman pie, or an original.  Be sure to share your recipe if it is.

Knightly Academy

if you like reading The Ranger’s Apprentice and Harry Potter, you’ll certainly like Henry Grim and his story

Knightley Academy (Knightley Academy, #1)Henry Grim doesn’t know anything about his past.  He was left on the steps of an orphanage.  Now he is a servant boy at  Midsummer School.  He cleans up after and serves the wealthy boys who are planning to pass the exam that will allow them to enter into Knightly Academy for the training they will need to become leaders of the realm.  The only problem though is that no one from Midsummer had passed the test for years – is the school cursed?

This spring is different.  When the test is announced is it clear that Henry may take it too – he does not have to be a enrolled to take the exam and he’s ready.  While the other students of the academy have been whiling their time away, Henry has been studying.  He’s been working to learn everything he can during every spare minute of the day and night.  Henry is prepared – without missing a moment of his work and chores Henry does it all.  He is the only one from Midsummer school to pass.  A commoner,perhaps, but  Henry is going to become a knight one day.

Once at Knightly, Henry discovers he is one of three commoners – the only commoners ever allowed into the school.   Valmont and Theobold are not about to let forget that they are different – and not wanted.  Despite their challenges, Henry continues on in his same determined fashion until the undercurrent of prejudice and injustice pulls him under and puts him near expulsion.  Poised to lose the only thing he has ever dreamed of, Henry discovers a conspiracy that violates the Hundred Years’ Peace treaty—and could lead to war.   The question is can Henry find a way to save his school and country from enemies who want to change everything, and keep his place at the Academy?

The story continues with The Secret Prince – you won’t believe how Henry’s story unfolds and you’ll be left wondering about the power of people to do good or evil.  What leads us to our choices?The Secret Prince (Knightley Academy, #2)


Ginger Pye

“One thing that Jerry Pye wanted more than anything else in the world right now was a dog. Ever since he had seen the new puppies in Speedys’ barn, he was not only more anxious than ever to have a dog, he was most anxious than ever to get one of these Speedy puppies. He had the particular one picked out that he would most like to have as his own. This was not easy to do for they were all wonderful.” (Pages 1-2, Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes)

Jerry Pye, as you can tell, loves everything dogs. Mr. Pye, Mrs. Pye, and Rachel Pye are his family, and they are very interesting people. They are supportive of Jerry as he works for his dollar and finally, he buys his dog.  His new, “intellectual,” and, “wonderful,” dog is named Ginger. Ginger Pye. But strange activity starts happening involving Ginger, like mysterious footsteps on the day Ginger was being picked up, and then other things. The Pye Family is enjoying Ginger so much but then…. he disappears!! Where could he have gone???? You will find out when you read Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes.

Click HERE for the LibraryThing description of Eleanor Estes and HERE for the description of Ginger Pye.

This book was published in 1951, so there is no author or book website but the LibraryThing descriptions are sufficient.

My mom loved this book so much that we convinced her that we needed to get a dog. And she wanted to name our new dog Ginger. Sorry, but her name is Lucy.

Lucy, my dog, when she was a puppy. Now she’s 60lbs.

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventureby Lissa Evans

270 pages of prestidigitation, puzzles and illusion – an entertaining middle grade read

Stuart Horten is an only child.  His parents, though clever, are not fully involved in Stuart’s comings and goings.  His mom is a scientist and his dad creates crosswords.  They have their things and Stuart has his – lots of friends, a great yard, a bike, a tree house, and a pond to explore. Life was pretty good until his mom got a new job, his dad discovered that the job was near his old hometown and it being the end of the school year the Hortens could easily move.  Suddenly the boy who had everything with the whole summer ahead of him, found he had nothing with the whole summer ahead of him.

Stuart did still have his bike, but he had nowhere to go, no friends to be with and nothing at all to do.  Out of boredom Stuart went for a walk with his dad.  That walk was the beginning of journey into history, into magic and into a different dimension of time and space. On that walk Stuart learned of a great uncle who had disappeared.  He learned that this man had been an accomplished magician – not the have fun at a birthday party kind, but the amaze and dazzle a full theater kind.  And he learned that he had left his father one last present. It was a money box that was MUCH more than it seemed.

Not long after Stuart had made those first discoveries, he got a call on a phone, no longer connected,  leaving him with a cryptic message.  He couldn’t resist and decided to follow up on it going as far as he could.  This begins Stuart’s amazing adventure.  It gets more mysterious and dangerous with each step.  It is exciting and fun.  Read Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms – Magic, Mystery and a Very Strange Adventure to find out if Stuart is the right sort of boy to unravel a fifty year old mystery and discover the difference between illusion and true magic before it is all lost forever.

Three Times Lucky

Three Times Luckyby Sheila Turnage

256 pages of serious fun for middle grade readers

Right from the start-“Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt.” – you know that Three Times Lucky is something good to read.  Mo LaBeau is a “rising sixth grader” with an interest in uncovering the truth.  She was washed into Tupelo Landing in the middle of a hurricane 11 years ago and she has been searching for her “up-stream mother” ever since.  In the meantime she has found her home with the café-owning, Colonel and hostess/cook extraordinaire, Miss Lana.  And that is where badge-wearing, Jack Starr stops to begin his investigation.

Nothing seems to be staying the same.  One minute Mo is planning on fishing with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, the next she can’t because she is needed to serve at the café.  Miss Lana is gone.  The three-day rule – you can’t be gone from the family without calling by the third day – is stretched.  And then there is a murderer around town.  Miss Lana returns, but the Colonel leaves.  Lavender crashes in the race and Dale is implicated in the murder.  Mo has so many questions and confusing connections that discovering the truth is a real challenge.  In that challenge Desperado Detectives is born.  Mo and Dale want to solve the murder before Starr and with the help of some first-rate informants, courage and determination their investigation progresses.  It doesn’t always go smoothly, easily or without danger but a much is uncovered.

How will the murder get solved?  What will happen when Hurricane Amy hits? What is it that the Colonel can’t remember?  How do all these pieces fit together? Three Times Lucky is full of amazing characters, wit and charm.   You’ll read to find out how the Macon’s deal with his often-drunk dad, to find out if Anna Celeste Simpson will always remain Mo’s “sworn enemy for life” and to discover how life has changed in Tupelo Landing once the investigation is complete.

If you liked Turtle in Paradise, Moon Over Manifest or Dead-End in Norvelt then you’ll certainly enjoy Three Times Lucky.  Read it and let us know what you think.