Reading is my ESCAPE from Reality!

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 

 

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

It Ain't So Awful Falafel

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel - Firoozeh Dumas

 

To all the kids who don't belong, for whatever reason.

This one's for you.

- Dedication

 

My dad says that the dogs and cats in America are luckier than most people in the world.

- page 34

 

My dad always says that kindness is our religion and if we treat everybody the way we would like to be treated, the world would be a better place.

- page 40

 

... only bookworms get excited over other bookworms

- page 69

 

"Who would ever have thought that a person could be so powerful, then so completely powerless, all in the same lifetime?"

- page 219 (referring to the downfall of the shah)

 

... even though we belong to three different religions. We are alike in so many more ways than we are different.

- page 299

 

It was only when I stopped pretending to be someone else that I found my real friends.

- page 360

 

 

This was a good read. Zomorod (who changes her name to Cindy) is from Iran. Her father is an engineer who works with American companies building oil refineries in Iran, so they moved back and forth a couple of times.  Now she is starting junior high (which nowadays is called middle school) and doesn't know anyone. She wants to fit in, but she focuses on how different she is from all the other kids. The first friend she makes (in the summer before school) decides she doesn't want to be friends when school starts. Poor "Cindy" is lost and worried and tired of having to explain to everyone where Iran is and how to pronounce her last name.

 

Cindy finds friends and seems to be settling in and basically happy. Then Iran has a revolution, the shah is kicked out of the country, and Ayatollah Khomeini takes over. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students, angry that President Carter allowed the shah to come to the United States, take a group of Americans hostage. This changes Cindy's family's life and her father loses his job.

 

I was in junior high during the Iran Hostage Crisis. I remember feeling vaguely angry at the hostage takers and worried about the hostages. My mom wasn't huge on watching the news with us or anything, but I knew what was happening (at least generally).  

 

It was interesting reading this story told from the point of view of an Iranian girl in America at the time. It was so hard for Cindy's family, and many Americans were so hostile towards Iranians, even though those living in America weren't responsible for the situation and didn't necessarily approve of it. Cindy and her parents were so appalled that a religious leader could be responsible for such behavior. But that didn't save them from hate and discrimination.

 

This is a nominee for the Florida Sunshine State award grades 3-5. I really liked the book and will highly recommend it to our students when school starts. 

Who are your real friends?

Real Friends - LeUyen Pham, Shannon Hale

 

For you when you're feeling lonely and worried so you'll remember that you're not alone.

- Dedication from Shannon Hale

 

When I was little, I didn't worry about friends.

- First sentence

 

Wow. This book.

 

Shannon Hale did a great job of capturing the way it feels to be a kid and dealing with friendships and bullying. When I was reading this book, I was reminded of the feelings kids go through as friendships change and kids grow apart. Also how it feels to worry about "fitting in."

 

This book is the story of Shannon's childhood, sort of. She says she blended friends and events together and told the story basically as she remembers it. She also acknowledged that memory is faulty and things didn't happen exactly as they occur in the book.

 

The graphic novel format is perfect for this story. I loved being able to see the characters faces and understand exactly what they were feeling.

 

This is a great graphic novel for grades 3 and up. This is definitely one I will strongly recommend to the librarian I volunteer with. If you like graphic biographies or realistic fiction stories about growing up, you should definitely give this one a try.

A Whole New Ballgame

A Whole New Ballgame - Phil Bildner

 

 

I bolted toward the chain-link fence.

- first sentence

 

 

This is a story about best friends Rip and Red, and their experience in 5th grade. They expect things to go a certain way but are greeted with unexpected change everywhere they look. The school district budget has been cut and with these cuts come staff changes and changes to the sports program. Rip and Red have been looking forward to playing basketball together and having a certain 5th-grade teacher. Red has some issues, but Rip has always been there to guide him through. But the changes this year challenge both of them.

 

This is a fun realistic fiction story that kids who love basketball (and others) will enjoy. The friendship between Red and Rip is special and meaningful. The new teacher, Mr. Acevedo embodies the naivete and hope of teachers fresh out of college. He really wants to make a difference in the lives of his students. The book is well written and fun to read.

 

This is another book nominated for the 2017-18 Sunshine State Young Readers Award, grades 3-5. I'm sure there will be more than a few fans of this book in our school. 

Dragon's Guide...

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans - Joanne Ryder, Laurence Yep

 

 

It was a lovely funeral for Fluffy, the best pet I ever had.

- Opening sentence

 

Avoid spoiling your pet with too many treats; however, spoiling yourself is all well and good.

- Chapter 4

 

Be firm with your pet and make it clear what is acceptable behavior. Both you and your pet will be happier for it.

- Chapter 6

 

This is a cute book told from the point of view of the dragon (Miss Drake). Amelia was Miss Drake's pet (although she called Amelia Fluffy). Amelia left the dragon to her great neice, Winnie. But Miss Drake doesn't want a new pet and Winnie seems untrainable. The book tells how Winnie and Miss Drake get to know each other and become friends. Dragons and other magical creatures hide themselves from humans (unless they are trustworthy). Miss Drakes can transform into a female human when she needs to. There are plenty of other magical creatures who also hide themselves from humans in this story.  

 

I really enjoyed this book. Miss Drake is sarcastic and controlling and Winnie holds her own in the friendship. Winnie finds a journal that ends up wreaking havoc, but together, Miss Drake and Winnie find a way to fix things.

 

This book is nominated for a 2017-18 Sunshine State Young Readers Award, grades 3-5. I think it will be a popular one this year. I am a bit interested in the sequels, but my classes start again soon, and I don't think I'll have time to read them.

Pugs of the Frozen North

Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not-So-Impossible Tale) - Sarah McIntyre, Philip Reeve

 

Winter came in the night, like a white sheet laid over the world.

- first sentence

 

 

Shen is on a ship called the Lucky Star when all of the sudden winter comes, but not just any winter... it's a magical winter (True Winter). The ocean freezes and then Shen saves the cargo... 66 pugs. While Shen is trying to save the pugs, he gets left behind by his captain. He is alone, walking with the pugs across the frozen ocean. Then he gets to a Post Office (whose letters only say "Po Of ice". There he meets Sika, who ends up bringing him and the pugs, on an exciting adventure.  Together, they enter the Great Nothern Race, and whoever wins gets a wish from the Snowfather.

 

This is a cute story. I read it in one sitting and liked it. There is a great deal of adventure and danger that Shen, Sika, and the pugs have to face. But, they do it together and help each other, and their competitors along the way.

 

The ending is pretty predictable, but the journey is still fun. 

 

This book was nominated for a 2017-18 Sunshine State Young Readers Award in the 3-5 grade category. It's a quick read and fun. I think it will appeal to reluctant readers, and pug lovers of course! :)

The Girl in the Well is Me

The Girl in the Well Is Me - Karen Rivers

 

The whole thing feels like a prank at first, like something they planned -- a joke with a punch line.

- first line

 

 

Lying turns your soul into something small and dry and hard, like an old raisin you find in your book bag squashed under a book you on-purpose-forgot to return to your old school library because you loved it too much to leave it behind.

page 5

 

But, obviously, popular and mean are tied together so tight they're like those knots that just tighten and tighten no matter how hard you try to untangle them. Mean is where they get their power.

- page 29

 

 

Ahh, poor Kammie. She's 11 years old, in sixth grade, just moved to a new school, and all she wants is to fit in. She decides she wants to be friends with the mean girls, she will be mean girl #4. Oh, and the mean girls are Mandy, Kandy, & Sandy. Seriously?? Kammie says they are like one person, interchangeable and three times meaner when they are together. They move through the school like sharks, and the other kids move aside for them.

 

Kammie moved because her dad embezzled money and they lost their house. She thinks everyone in her family is a liar, but she resolves not to be one. Then she goes and changes who she is to fit in with the mean girls, so go figure.

 

The girls convince Kammie to let them cut her hair off, and then ask her to stand in a deserted field and sing a song. Well, that's a bad idea. Turns out Kammie is standing on a cover of an old well.

 

She falls in, and then... guess what? The three ...andys have no idea what to do. And act like Kammie should just stop playing games and get out.

 

We see the whole situation through Kammie's eyes (and through her distorted view of the world). 

 

This is a great book. It is suspenseful and moving and darkly humorous. Truthfully? I read almost the entire book in one sitting. I read a little bit the first night, and then picked it up again the following night and couldn't put it down. I felt sorry for Kammie and was mad at her at the same time. How could she be so stupid... to let the girls cut her hair? And then stand in a field and sing for the bratty, nasty girls, just to be part of their club? What was she thinking?    

 

Then again, I'm looking at this through the eyes of a 48 year old woman, who isn't afraid to be who she is and who doesn't care if people don't like her the way she is (mostly anyway). It's hard to remember what it is like to be eleven. But... I feel like the author captured that feeling in this book. Kammie is eleven, and she just wants to be accepted. She doesn't want to be the outcast. She wants to be part of a group... to belong. And boy does it get her into trouble...

 

This book is nominated for a Sunshine State Young Readers Award for 2017-18 in the 6-8 grade category. I'm hoping I can find some girls who want to read it this year...

Coral Reefs

Science Comics: Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean - Maris Wicks

 

 

The Science Comics series uses the graphic novel format to inform kids (and adults) about popular topics. In this case, the topic is coral reefs. The narrator is a sassy yellow goby fish who explains the facts about coral reefs and their inhabitants. There is a wealth of information in this book, and it may be a bit much for younger kids. Then again, if they are interested in the subject, kids can remember a surprising number of facts. The illustrations are bright and beautiful, and labeled diagrams are provided to help explain the facts. In the back of the book, readers will find a glossary, bibliography, and a list of additional resources. The book also gives information about conservation and real examples of what kids can do to help.

 

The book was a fun read and I learned a lot about coral reefs. 

Daydream Receiver

Daydream Receiver (Jake Maddox Graphic Novels) - Jake Maddox, Eduardo Garcia

 

 

Gus Blackburn is on the football team, but he always sits on the bench. He dreams of being a great player, fitting in with his teammates, and talking to the girl he has a crush on. But dreaming isn’t helping. Gus needs to get beyond his daydreams and work for what he wants. In the back of the book are questions promoting visual literacy, descriptions of football positions, and a glossary.

 

The series is perfect for reluctant readers, especially boys.

 

I liked the book, even though books revolving around sports don't usually interest me. This is a cute graphic novel and a fun story.

Cleopatra in Space

Cleopatra in Space #1: Target Practice - Mike Maihack

 

I loved this book. Cleopatra is transported from Egypt to the future and to the planet Mayet. There she is recognized as the savior, there to defeat the evil dictator whose is conquering civilizations. But even in the future, Cleo has to go to school and deal with friendship issues.

 

The artwork is beautiful, and the cinematic flair brings the action to life. Cleo is a strong, fearless heroine that girls can look up to. 

 

If you are interested in Egypt at all, this is the book for you. it is fun, exciting and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

One Dead Spy

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy - Nathan Hale

 

 

In One Dead Spy, historical figure Nathan Hale, America’s first spy, tells the story of his life and the American Revolution. The novel brings readers that feeling of “being there” and relates real-life historical events with humor. The illustrations are sepia toned with some red thrown in, as in the uniforms of the British army. 

 

This book is well written, with lots of facts, and humor too. Kids will enjoy learning about history and laughing at the same time. :)

Amelia Rules!

The Whole World's Crazy (Amelia Rules! Book 1) - Jimmy Gownley, Jimmy Gownley

 

 

Amelia is a tough kid and she is going thru a lot, her parents just got divorced, she moved from New York City to a small town in Pennsylvania, and she is trying to navigate a new school. Amelia isn't perfect, she has selfish moments and generous moments. She makes new friends who help her deal with bullies, gym class, and family trips.

 

I really enjoyed this book. Amelia goes through tough times, and she shows real emotions and feelings. Her character isn't sugar coated or made to seem perfect.

 

Kids will recognize parts of themselves in this book, and realize that others are going through similar experiences.

Misadventures of Salem Hyde

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Spelling Trouble - Frank Cammuso

 

 

This is a cute graphic novel about Salem Hyde. She stubborn and impulsive - characteristics that can make her dangerous, as she is also a witch. Her parents get her a magical animal companion to help keep her out of trouble. She wanted a unicorn, but she ended up with a cat, Percival J. Whamsford III. She calls him Whammy. She enters a spelling bee, thinking it relates to "spells", but when she casts a spell to help her win, things go very bad.

 

The illustrations are expressive and funny. I think kids will love this series.

A genius boy and his talking dog

Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever! (Mal and Chad, #1) - Stephen McCranie

 

 

Mal is a child genius and Chad is a talking dog. Mal pretends to be just a normal kid so he can stay in grade school, either because he doesn’t want to grow up too fast or because he has a crush on Megan (a girl in his class). Mal and Chad do everything together from scuba diving in the kitchen sink to traveling back in time to the age of the dinosaurs. The story is fun and filled with mayhem and adventure. The drawings are simple and in black and white. They show the character’s emotions and portray a sense of excitement when the story calls for it. McCranie originally created Mal and Chad as a comic strip for a college newspaper. There are three books in the Mal and Chad series.

 

This one was very cute and funny. I actually laughed out loud at times. Another good addition for our elementary school library (at least I hope so).

Gotta love Babymouse

Our Hero (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) (Babymouse (Prebound)) - Matt, Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm

 

 

In Babymouse: Our Hero, Babymouse tries to overcome her fear of dodgeball. During the story, Babymouse imagines herself as a hero who undergoes many trials, such as walking miles to school or becoming Babymouse-zilla, a monster who cannot be defeated by dodgeballs. The illustrations are cute and use black, white and pink colors.

 

The Babymouse series is about a mouse with messy whiskers and big dreams. She faces problems with the help of her imagination, her friends, and a bit of sass. The series has won awards including a 2006 ALA Notable Children’s Books award, and a 2013 Eisner award for Babymouse for President. There are 20 books in the Babymouse series.

 

Babymouse is cute and she is a character that kids will relate to. There is also a middle school version of Babymouse for older kids.

Old concept made new again...

Nightmare Escape (Dream Jumper, Book 1) - Greg Grunberg, Lucas Turnbloom, Lucas Turnbloom

 

 

In Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape Ben learns that he has a gift. He can jump into the dream world and see other people’s dreams. When Kaylee (his not girlfriend), falls into sub-rem sleep and can’t wake up, Ben decides he must find a way to save her. While asleep, Ben meets Lewis, a mysterious rabbit who helps him fight evil forces in the dream world.

 

There are currently two books in the Dream Jumper series. The idea for this series came from a dream that author (and actor) Greg Grunberg’s son had. The drawings are bright and cinematic feeling. They match perfectly with the story’s sense of adventure and mystery.

 

I really enjoyed this one. The concept reminds me of the Freddy Kruger movies, but this is much tamer - meant for the younger set. Ben is a great character and I really like him. I will try to read the second book too. I also think I will suggest we add this to our elementary school library.

Book based on an on-line game

Mystery of the Map (Poptropica #1) - Jack Chabert, Kory Merritt, Jeff Kinney

 

 

The Poptropica series is based on an on-line role-playing adventure game imagined by Jeff Kinney. In this book Oliver, Mya, and Jorge are on a hot air balloon ride that crashes on an unknown island. They soon realize the island is filled with Vikings and the balloon’s pilot has a sinister reason for bringing them there.

 

The graphics are bright and the story is fast-paced and exciting. There are four books in the series. Reading the books may encourage kids to check out the game or vice versa, but, it isn’t necessary to play the game to enjoy the book. 

 

The book was fun, but will appeal more to kids than adults.

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2017 Reading Challenge

Reading is my Escape has read 6 books toward her goal of 100 books.
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