Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-so-Glam TV Star

Dork Diaries:  Tales From a Not-So-Glam TV Star

By Rachel Renee Russell

New York:  Aladdin, 2014.

Grades 4 and Upglam

Nikki J. Maxwell, nerd girl, continues to write of her hilarious adventures in her diary.  This time her band and the song they wrote has become famous.  So famous in fact, that they want to do a reality show about Nikki and her life.  This scares Nikki because her wacky cupcake making mom, exterminator dad and her arch nemesis, Mackenzie want to share the limelight which spells—DISASTER!  Don’t miss this installment of Nikki Maxwell!

Author Website


Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

By Chris Grabenstein

New York:  Random House, 2013.

288 Pages.  Grades 5 and up


This book is a Librarian’s dream come true! 


The Alexandriaville’s library has been closed for twelve years and recently a wealthy game maker, Mr. Lemoncello has joined Dr. Zinchenko, a world famous librarian to create a brand new library in an old bank building.  Since kids that were twelve years old never experienced a public library, an essay contest was held for them. Twelve students were selected to spend a weekend in the library playing “library” games with fabulous prizes for anyone who can figure how to get out the library without using the way they came in or any emergency exit doors.  This book reminded me of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory but in a library.  The eccentric Mr. Lemoncello has many similarities to Willy Wonka–he is colorful and zany and is the host for the weekend mystery. Join this lively group of twelve year olds as they unravel the mystery using their library skills knowledge!  One more thing—when you get to the end of the book the author has a mystery for the reader to solve! This was a fun read!

The Shack

The Shack

By William Paul Young

Newbury Park:  Windblown Media, 2007.

252 Pages.  All ages.

This is an inspirational story of a man who was broken by great sadness. In real life three very tragic events occur within 6 months that devastated Paul Young and his family.  These events coupled with an alcoholic, abusive, preacher father brought Paul into this period of his life called The Great Sadness. That is the true part of this story as shared with Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas in July 2013 where I attended the service with my daughter. I am sure I can not do this book justice in this review but here I go…shack

In the novel he has fictionalized a tragic event where he is now summoned to return to the crime scene, The Shack, against one of his family members—he believes it might be a hoax or it might be God summoning him.  So he returns to the shack where he meets God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  God is a big, African American woman with a killer sense of humor. This Trinity takes Mack into the darkest parts of his life, as each one of them spend time with him and get Mack to open up his wounds so that healing may begin. Experience this moving, enlightening, heartwarming story of brokenness that is filled with the hope that only God can bring to us.  It is a book about our relationship with God.  A masterfully told tale that will have you laughing and crying!  And now my copy is signed!

Goodnight iPad

Goodnight iPad

By Ann Droyd

New York:  Blue Rider Press, 2011.

Picture Book Parody       All ages!Goodnight


This is a take-off on Good Night Moon—only in this household there are way too many electronic devices being used! There is a great big book shelf with nothing on it but cobwebs and three e-readers. Grandma is trying to sleep but the noise is overwhelming—so she institutes Good night iPad –unplugging and throws all the devices out the window. In the end you see all the kids surviving—even reading books! Don’t despair all devices are fully charged in the morning!

This book would be a great kick off for a discussion about unplugging at night and setting limits on time spent being plugged in!  Book is recorded on website:

Soldier Dog

Soldier Dog

By Sam Angus

New York:  Feiwel and Friends, 2012.

246 Pages.  Grades 5 and up.soldier-dog-978144722005301


Stanley Ryder loved his mom, his brother and his dogs but growing up during World War I was tough.  His mom died suddenly, his brother goes off to the war and thirteen year old Stanley is left with his very angry and explosive father.  His dad has not handled loss very well and takes his anger out on Stanley and the dogs! Stanley reached the end of his rope when his dad did something unspeakable to one of the mutt puppies.  Stanley decided he could take it no more and he wants to find his brother so he enlists in the army. 

The war has been dragging on and desperate for soldiers they take Stanley. The officers all know Stanley is underage so they keep him under close supervision and when the opportunity arises they move him to the experimental War Dog School.  Here he uses his talent and love of dogs to train the animals to be messengers.  As a historical fiction novel the training of these dogs was crucial to the communication effort in the war.  One hundred thousand dogs were used in WWI and 7,000 of them gave their lives so that soldiers did not die.  This is a very exciting and touching story that will leave the reader wanting to know more about War Dog School.  It has enough war action to keep boys interested throughout the entire book.  I loved Soldier Dog!

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Whatever After: Sink or Swim

Whatever After:  Sink or Swim

By Sarah Mlynowski

New York:  Scholastic Press, 2013.

165 Pages Grades 4-6

This is the third book in the Whatever After Series where author Sarah Mlynowski takes a beloved fairy tale and puts a modern day, time travel twist on it.  The stories are not based on the Disney versions of the fairy tale but the original form where all the endings were not always happy ever after!  16043628

Abby and Jonah have moved away from their hometown and were not happy until they discovered a magic time travel mirror in the basement of their new house.  Every time they enter they find themselves right in the middle of a fairy tale.  You can guess by the title they have landed in The Little Mermaid.  In the original fairy tale the mermaid wants legs to marry the prince but this come at a very high price indeed—her voice and then her life if they prince does not marry her.  He cannot bear to have a princess who cannot speak and so he marries another and the ending is not a fairy tale—so Jonah and Abby set out to fix this ending.  The ending will surprise you!  A great, quick, fun read!

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The Art of Racing in the Rain

Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

Children adaptation of the adult book!  Yay!   My favorite adult book now available for kids!!


The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

New York:  Harper Collins, 2008.


Life actually parallels race car driving in many ways as told by Enzo, the family dog. That’s right from a dog–you get a wonderful new perspective of family life and what it means to be the family pet in this wonderful

Racing in the Rain, tells the story of Danny, who always wanted to be a race car driver and how a wife, a daughter and a dog changed the road conditions from dry to wet. In dry condition a driver knows what to expect but in  the rain a driver needs to be focused, needs to anticipate others moves and needs to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.  Danny put his dreams of being a driver on the back burner when he falls in love with his wife and then his daughter. Enzo knows how Danny aches to be racing, because Danny tells Enzo everything—in fact Danny and Enzo often watch racing on the television together.

I loved the insights Enzo has about being a dog—from wishing that he had thumbs to a tongue that he could use to talk.  After all the listening the dog has done—he has some very wise and thoughtful things he would like to say to his family.

The family dog tells this story of family fun, love, anger, heartbreak and hope.

I loved, loved this story!  I will never look at my dog the same again!  🙂

In Honor

In Honor

By Jessi Kirby

New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2012.

235 Pages.  YA    Grades 8 & Up

 This was a story of loving and letting go!  Honor has just graduated from high school and was ready to go off to college, which should be one of the happiest times in her life. Then she got notified that her brother, Finn, was killed in action in Iraq, her world was shattered. Their parents had died when Honor was just five and Finn was both mom and dad to her, her protector and her biggest cheerleader. Now there was no one.  The day she got notified of his death she received a letter and graduation gift from Finn.  The gift was his handwritten letter filled with kindness and love for her, tickets to a farewell concert in inhonor__spanCalifornia for their favorite artist and a favor to fulfill. 

 Go on the journey with Honor as she discovers what kind of love and sacrifice family is willing to make for one another and where she will find her strength to continue on in life.  It a story of first kisses, adventure and heartbreak!


The Spindlers

By Lauren Oliver

New York: Harper, 2012.

Grades: 5 and Up

Genre: Fantasy

Harry Potter fans are always looking for the next exciting fantasy and The Spindlers, may just fit that bill! It is a short, fast paced novel that will surely hold the attention of young fantasy readers.

Liza wakes up one morning to find out that her adorable; yet annoying little brother is empty. He is missing all that spunk and mischief–he is missing his soul. Liza knows that the Spindlers, the creatures from below have taken his soul. She tries to tell their parents but they are just—too stressed and too busy to even listen to Liza.spindlers

Liza knows that only she can help Patrick so she ventures down to the basesment into the underworld, where the fantasy begins and reality ends. It is the place where, that one sock from wash goes or that misplaced car key–never to be seen again. She knows that she is in for quite an adventure when she first meets Mirabella, a very large, make-up wearing, humanly dressed rat!

This young girl quickly finds out that there is much danger that lies ahead with the nasty spindlers, awful troglods and despicable nids. Her adventure takes a further dive when she is betrayed and lied to–but don’t despair Liza also has a ‘guardian angel’ of sorts. Liza finds that she must rely on herself and her wits if she is to save Patrick’s precious soul from the Spindlers.

I thought this was a delightful fantasy for younger readers (although one 5th grader thought it was too scary to read). I love the “riddles” and the “tests” and so will the kids!

Author Website and Book Trailer:  Lauren Oliver



By R.J. Palacio

New York: Knopf, 2012index

Grades 4th and up!

The instant I starting reading the book Wonder, I knew it would be a great read-a-loud!  It is not just another ‘new kid’ at school book—it is a book about caring, compassion, humor and digging deep into oneself to see what you are really made of!

August, aka Auggie, was born with severe facial deformities—one that requires numerous surgeries.   I knew down deep that I wanted these surgeries to make Auggie look like a normal kid, but that just wasn’t in the cards.  Auggie was homeschooled until 5th grade—partly because of the time he would miss from all the surgeries but mostly to protect him from the outside world. 

But at 5th grade Auggie’s mom and dad agreed  that he was ready—they knew down deep Auggie would need to rely on his inner strength to show everyone he was just an ordinary kid—perhaps an extraordinary kid.  His face caused classmates to stare, to say mean things, to ignore him—it even caused little kids to run away and scream.

But the amazing part of this story is that you think you are reading Auggie’s story, but the point-of-view shifts to his sister, who never gets their parent’s attention,  then to an estranged family friend, and then   to classmates of Auggie.  This is the part of the book when you get to see deep into the characters–to see what they are really made of.  It is the part of mankind that I despise and that part that makes you want to cheer!!

This should be a required read-a-loud along with Sharon Draper’s, Out of My Mind,  so that no child ever feels isolated, alone, or friendless.  Three cheers for R. J. Palacio’s, Wonder.

This book will appeal to reluctant readers—it is fast paced and it has short chapters.

Author’s website with book trailer:  R. J. Palacio