Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Review by Simrin Reed

 

IMG_0210-1Simrin has a mysterious smile. She’ll probably think it’s weird that I’m saying such a thing, but she smiles a lot in a way that makes me want to know what she’s thinking about. For all I know it’s, “Crazy teacher lady, stop talking!” Simrin appears to enjoy learning about history and words, and her time with friends. She’s a social, sweet, fun kid and it’s always great to see her at the end of a long day.

 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabstein

16054808-1 “Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library. Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route.”

– Good Reads

 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a wonderful book that constantly keeps readers wanting more. The main character(s) are 12- year olds just like us, and you can relate in many situations. You feel like you were there when it all happened, and there are puzzles and clues that you can solve along with the character. Chris Grabstein has crafted a story in which there is comedy, action, and mystery all rolled into one book. Also, there are the classic elements to a great book. The protagonist, Kyle, the antagonist, a boy named Charles Chiltington, a great/ appropriate setting, the wacky, modern library, the conflict, a competition where there is heated feelings, eliminations, and back- stabbing, and the resolution, where there is a surprising ending to the story. These elements all combine to make a funny story. I have read the book at least 10 times and it never gets old! Anyone 10 and up would love this book, as there is humour and ideas that are funny for that age. Anyone younger than that wouldn’t get the references and humour throughout the book. Overall, Chris Grabstein has created a story that constantly makes readers want more, and where it teaches kids all about one of the most prominent things in our world – a library!

Picture Perfect – Review by Julia A.

attachmentJulia A. is just a pleasant kid to be around. You might think that’s not the biggest of compliments, but in a middle school, that’s a huge deal. Julia is kind and thoughtful, and  funny. She has great ideas and makes strong connections in our literature class. The picture she chose for herself is pretty fitting, too, since she’s caring and protective of her friends. All that and she can write! I’m so glad she wanted to share this book review with the world.

 

Picture Perfect, by Elaine Marie Alphin

754348Picture Perfect depicts Ian, a 15-year-old, photography-loving boy, who tries to discover the truth behind the disappearance of his best friend, Teddy. While investigating Teddy’s disappearance, Ian begins to act strangely. He wonders about his role in the mystery and who he can trust to help him. Through his journey to find Teddy, Ian learns of secrets that change how he sees those closest to him. He discovers the pieces of the puzzle that have made up his life.

Picture Perfect is a phenomenal book; I have never read anything as intriguing and exciting. It is a story in which something is always going on. Sometimes the conflict is internal, like when Ian debates whether or not to confide in a counselor about the confusion going on in his life. Other times the conflict is external, like when the sheriff accuses Ian of withholding evidence that may be important in their efforts to find Teddy. Author Elaine Marie Alphin develops all of Ian’s conflicts by creating a compelling plot. Ian is trying to solve many small mysteries and piece them together to get the big picture. He must figure out why his best friend has disappeared and why he has mysterious gaps in his memory. He must also find out why his dad, the principal, seems to be a completely different person at school than he is at home. His dad compliments Ian on fabulous work one moment, but yells at him and locks him in the closet he next. Alphin also creates intrigue by following Ian during a time when he has many clashing thoughts and ideas. Ian is constantly arguing with himself about how to fix his problems. He wonders if he should rely on the sheriff and others to find Teddy or if he should venture out and find Teddy himself. He wonders if he should talk to someone about his dad’s changing personalities or if he should keep silent to avoid his dad’s wrath. I would recommend Picture Perfect to anyone who likes a good mystery, in which you can figure out what is going on along with the main character. Alphin drops small, subtle clues regarding the solutions to Ian’s problems, but doesn’t make anything too obvious. Picture Perfect is a beautifully written book, one that will have you turning pages until you learn how everything ties together.

The Girl Who Could Fly – reviewed by Jessa

Photo on 2-4-16 at 4.13 PMJessa is the smiliest kid! She loves to sit at the front of my literature class, and smiles and nods and shares great ideas. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and her thoughts profound. Also, she has a great love of hair bows, and I look forward to seeing which one she’ll be wearing as she walks into the classroom.

 

The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Foster

51vkDz0GUoL“You just can’t keep a good girl down . . . unless you use the proper methods. Piper McCloud can fly. Just like that. Easy as pie. Sure, she hasn’t mastered reverse propulsion and her turns are kind of sloppy, but she’s real good at loop-the-loops. Problem is, the good folk of Lowland County are afraid of Piper. And her ma’s at her wit’s end. So it seems only fitting that she leave her parents’ farm to attend a top-secret, maximum-security school for kids with exceptional abilities. School is great at first with a bunch of new friends whose skills range from super-strength to super-genius. (Plus all the homemade apple pie she can eat!) But Piper is special, even among the special. And there are consequences. Consequences too dire to talk about. Too crazy to consider. And too dangerous to ignore.”     – Amazon

 
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester is a fantastic story with a great, heartfelt plot, interesting characters, and good writing. The plot, though scientific, features magic and love. I enjoyed how, even though the main characters’ powers are clearly sorcery, the institution treats them like science and uses drugs, surgery, and technology to change them. In the plot, heart can conquer all, such as how Sebastian’s song managed to break through the children’s thick coating of treatment. The characters are deep, like Dr. Hellion, who seems perfect, then pure evil, then misunderstood. They’re different, too– there are no two similar characters. The word choice is great. Victoria Forester uses many metaphors, good descriptions, repetition, etc. to her advantage to create feelings in a scene. Pretty much anyone would like it, especially lovers of science fiction or fantasy. To sum it up, The Girl Who Could Fly is a beautiful and well-done book that anyone can enjoy like I did.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home – reviewed by Hannah Meit

-1 Hannah was a fabulous student in my class last year. Her nickname was Wolf, though I admit I always just called her “Hannah”. We’d had a run on kids wanting animal nicknames, and I’m an old dog, er, teacher, and never managed to switch over from real names for most kids. Regardless, the title seems quite fitting, and the book looks interesting. Great cover, too!

 

Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt

12875258June’s mother didn’t know what she was doing when she made her brother, Finn, June’s godfather. June was five, and she desperately tried to follow in his footsteps. Finn was a painter, a famous one at that, who was obsessed with everything medieval. As June grew up, she grew into those traits of Finn, too. Her mother would say that she took it a bit too far. June would only wear long skirts to school, along with blouses and old-timey sweaters. She had her treasured black leather boots that Finn gave to her as some of the only shoes she wore. June was closer to Finn than anyone else- or so she thought. Then, her life changed forever.

Finn had AIDS, and his health was declining rapidly. June, now fourteen, desperately tried to hold onto everything she had of him. He offered to paint her a portrait of her and her sister, Greta, to be his last work. Greta, sixteen, is snobby and mean, nothing like she and June used to be. They used to be best friends. Now June envies her sister. Greta is pretty, popular, and dainty, while June sees herself as ugly, unpopular, and clumsy. While the portrait is being finished, Finn obsesses over every last detail up to his death.

June is torn to shreds. While picking herself back up, a month after Finn’s death, she receives a strange call from a strange man who she later finds out was Finn’s significant other. His name is Toby, and he is dying, too. At first she despises Toby, but then they grow together. June has to balance meeting with Toby to talk with keeping him a secret to her family, as he is the one who her mother thinks gave Finn AIDS. Her mother hates Toby with a passion, and blames him for not only giving Finn AIDS but also tearing Finn away from his family. Inwardly, June’s mother had also wanted to be a painter, but her dream never came true like Finn’s did. She needed somebody to blame, and found Toby. Toby has nobody after Finn dies. After overcoming her suspicions, June figures out that she needs to be that somebody for him.

Set in the 1980’s, Carol Rifka Brunt’s debut novel is an adult book. I suggest it only for adults and mature teen readers.

The Book Thief – review by Uma

 

Uma is in my 6th grade literature course. Serious and fun, sweet and clever, this girl is great to have in class. If you read enough of these posts, my adjectives for student do repeat, but she, like her classmates, really is all that. What can I say? I work with great kids.

Uma has chosen to review THE BOOK THIEF, which I affectionately call “The best book I’ll never finish.” The writing is sublime, but I found it so distressing that I couldn’t make myself read the rest. Uma’s review makes me want to grow up and be more like her because I know I’m missing out. Thanks, Uma, for making me reconsider this one.

 

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusakbook_thief

“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.”-Amazon

In the past, I have read many different historical fiction novels, (it being my favorite genre) but none can compare to the intricate and beautiful story The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The story explores much more than the Holocaust. It explores how humans love and form inseparable bonds in a variety of scenarios, which is a very creative and interesting topic, in my opinion. Some examples are a  Jewish man and the non-Jewish protagonist creating a friendship that lasts through tragedy and separation, or the main character’s foster father teaching her how to read, which begins her book thievery and constant love for this new parent. Narrated by Death, the book tells the story of a little girl growing up in Nazi Germany and how this time period affects her life. Her triumphs, failures and lessons, are hilarious, heartwarming, and touching. The protagonist is also very charming, for although not relatable by modern standards, she is very brave (such as when she reads in bomb shelters to soothe neighbors) and not scared to stand up for herself, and she has a big heart. Lastly, although this is a fantastic book, it is quite mature. There is loads of cursing and it is very violent, so I would probably recommend this for grades 6 and up. But overall, The Book Thief  is a book with complex, interesting storyline and ideas and a fantastic set of characters that will captivate you!

Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan – Review by Sofia Corrales

attachment-1Sofia is a 6th grader in my literature class. She has a bright mind, a kind heart, and the sweetest of smiles. Never one to call out or disrupt, she goes about her work with thoughtfulness and diligence. As a middle school teacher, I never get enough time, like I did when teaching elementary, to get to know the kids’ interests and tastes. This book review and “portrait” gave me a little more insight into Sofia’s life and sense of humor. Thanks Sofia, and I hope you’re enjoying the blizzard wherever you are.

 

Jedi Academy Return of the Padawan, but Jeffrey Brown

attachmentJedi Academy: Return of the Padawan is about Roan Novachez, a padawan who is about to start his second year at Jedi Academy. It seems like this will be the best year ever, but things take an unexpected turn. He gets into fights with his friends, training gets really hard, and the class bullies don’t seem so bad anymore… Only one question remains: will he turn to the dark side?

This book is very interesting to me because it is very similar to the Star Wars movies and has a great story. Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan takes place in the Star Wars Universe, and many things in the book are the same as the movies, like the planets the characters go to and the things they do there, or that happen to them there. Some characters mentioned are even from the original Star Wars films. For example, when Roan and his friends take a field trip to Hoth, with Yoda as a chaperone, they encounter a Wampa (a carnivorous species that lives on Hoth), just like Luke does in Episode 5.  This book also has a very good story. Not only is it based on Star Wars, a story that many people love, but about how Roan deals with his troubles in middle school; bullies, fighting with friends, hard schoolwork, and new experiences. Even if you haven’t watched the movies and know nothing of Star Wars, these are things many people can relate to, which is only one of the reasons why I loved this book so much, and a reason many others will too, fans or not fans. Also, this a different story of Star Wars with all the same amazing qualities of it, so the stories don’t have to end with the movies, and people can keep enjoying it.  If you’re a Star Wars fan, or you like to read books with great storylines, this would be an awesome book to read.

 

The Westing Game – Review by Hanako W.

imageHanako is currently a 6th grader in my class. Insightful, sweet, bright and sincere, this kid is going places. She likes to sit at the front of the room and acts like I’m pretty interesting and funny, which I enjoy, especially, since it’s the last class of my day and the fourth time I’ve delivered the same lesson.

 

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin71MT0ceUanL

When sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, an extraordinary game begins. Although no one understands why the unconventional, game-loving millionaire has chosen a possible murderer to inherit his extensive fortune, the players all know that Sam Westing may not be alive, but that won’t prevent him from playing one last game.    

This book was spectacular. It was a detailed, edge-of-your-seat kind of story, with twists and turns on every page. The Westing Game is full of mysteries just waiting to be solved, and, as a reader, in a way, you get to. The characters are so deeply developed that you can imagine what he or she may do before he or she does it. This allows for the reader to have a “day in the life of a detective” and further expands on their understanding of the story. In the plot, there was a lot of working together involved. Players of the Westing Game are put in pairs, and then required to try and figure out who murdered Sam Westing. In the end, the only way that the players can win is to use one another’s individual talents. This was one of the themes of the book, but it was very subtle, and not as cliché as books that I have read before. I read The Westing Game this past year, and was perplexed as to why I had never read it before. I recommend this book to students and adults of ages 9 and up, simply because some of the parts can be a bit confusing. For me, however, that is one of the parts of the book that I enjoyed. Ellen Raskin tied the short, simple things that, as readers, we may sometimes overlook, into the larger, more complex areas, to create a slowly thickening plot. This was a beautiful book about how teamwork can open up opportunities that may not typically come without the help of complementary personalities working together.