Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth review

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth

In her chapter book debut, Nancy Clancy must find the culprit after a prized possession at school goes missing. Illustrations. (goodreads summary)
Nancy has all the right stuff to be a good detective.  She has her notebook, floppy hat, sunglasses, a fabulous pink trench coat, rhinestone magnifying glass and she loves to snoop.... Her friend Bree has great code-breaking skills and the two have the best Sleuth Headquarters located in Nancy's backyard.  The only thing missing is a mystery to solve.  During their classroom mystery memento assignment, a special item of their teacher's turns up missing and the two finally have a case on their hands.  Using their keen sense of detective skills, Nancy and Bree are determined to crack the case and expose the real thief.
Being a fan of the Fancy Nancy picture books, I was happy to learn that she is now branching out into her own chapter book series.  It still has Fancy Nancy's unique style and her flair for everything posh but in a way that older readers ready for chapter books will enjoy and have a favorite character to grow with. I especially love that it stays true to building vocabulary for its' reader and encourages descriptive writing. While Nancy is working on her creative writing assignment in class, her teacher asks her to read it out loud and then praises her on the vivid word choices. The chapters are short and easy to read with illustrations throughout the book adding to the story. Nancy and Bree piece together many clues in this who dunnit mystery that it makes pretending to be a detective sound like fun. Readers will be introduced to code-breaking and how a super sleuth works. There are even references to Nancy Drew which may spark interest for more mystery reading in the future.  I think this is a "just right book" for grades 2-4.~
Title: Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth
Author: Jane O'Connor, Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Genre: mystery, chapter book
Pub. Date: April 2012, Harper Collins
Hardcover, 124 pgs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I've Lost My Hippopotamus review

I've Lost My Hippopotamus

A brand-new rib-tickling collection of more than 100 never-before-published poems by national bestselling poet Prelutksy, illustrated throughout in black-and-white by "New York Times"-bestselling artist Urbanovic. (goodreads summary)

Here is a light-hearted and fun book mixed with poems about real animals and quite a few imaginary ones. It is filled with 100 funny poems including a silly picture to go along with each one. The illustrations are clear and nicely drawn in black and white that add humor to the book. Some of the poems are better than others and I found myself skimming pages to find ones I thought really stood out.  It does have good wordplay and definitely plenty of imagination in which kids may find themselves giggling at or laughing out loud to.  There is a mixture of long poems and short poems with a variety of topics and animals. It is just plain fun to be silly for a moment or two!  It could fit for an elementary poetry unit nicely by choosing certain poems you like best and reading out loud. The kids could even make up their own imaginary animal poem with an illustration for a fun classroom share. I think this is a "just right book" for grades 2-5.~

Title: I've Lost My Hippopotamus
Author: Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Pub. date: March 2012, Greenwillow Books
Genre: poetry
Hardcover, 144 pages

Friday, June 15, 2012

Storm Runners Book 2: The Surge review

Storm Runners Book 2: The Surge

Chase and his friends Nicole and Rashawn have just survived Hurricane Emily, the storm of the century, but their troubles are just beginning. Although they've made it to the safety of Nicole's family's farm--the winter home of the Rossi Brothers' Circus--the floodwaters are rising and they need to reach higher ground. The circus's lions have escaped their cages, and a dangerous and unpredictable leopard is also on the loose. Have Chase and his friends lived through a terrifying night only to face a new disaster? (goodreads summary)

Chase and his two friends finally make it back to the safety of Nicole's farm after a harrowing night of survival from Hurricane Emily's force. Unfortunately upon their arrival, the floodwaters are rising and dangerous animals are at large roaming the farm. Besides facing these hurdles, "Pet" the circus elephant, is about ready to give birth to a new baby any minute. The generator is also on the brink of running out of gas and the barn they are in will be losing the lights within an hour. They need to get to Chase's dad's fifth-wheel where there are plenty of cans of gasoline available. The only thing that could be standing between them is Hector, the aggressive leopard and the thought of four other hungry lions lurking the grounds.

This book picks up right at the end where the first one left off.  The chapters bounce back and forth between Chase trying to get through the dangers of reaching the gasoline on the other side of the property, to his father trying to get back to the farm himself. It still has the same adventure and excitement moving along each chapter as in the first book. Especially when the leopard and lion came into the picture.  There were a few sad moments when some of the animals died and another had to be put down by Nicole herself. These elements in the story only add to the urgency of the situation and for their survival themselves. The birth of the baby elephant did seem a bit descriptive and I did get a clear picture of that, too.  Making it through rising floodwaters, wind and dangerous animals really put these kids to the test. I lost track that they were only middle schoolers at one time, as they managed to think out each situation with such a level-head and face it calmly.  Again, this book is quick and fast-paced with short chapters that may hook reluctant readers.  The first book in the series, Storm Runners, should definitely be read first to help give a good understanding of the storyline. These characters really have to survive a very long night only to prepare themselves for more adventure awaiting them in the third book of the series. I think this is a "just right book" for grades 6-8.~

Title: Storm Runners Book 2: The Surge
Author: Roland Smith
Pub. date: September 2011, Scholastic
Genre: adventure, middle grade
Hardcover, 133 pages

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Storm Runners Storm Runners - Book 1

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Penny and her Song review

Penny and Her Song

Strike up the band! Ready the confetti! Meet Penny--a brand-new mouse from Caldecott Medalist Henkes. Penny joins the beloved Lilly, Owen, Chrysanthemum, and Wemberly with her very own new picture book series. (goodreads summary)

Penny comes home from school with a new song and can't wait to sing it!  Unfortunately, the babies are sleeping and she finds it is not the best time for singing. When she goes to her room, she tries singing in the mirror or to her glass animals but it's just not the same as singing for someone else. Penny must have patience for just the right time for her beautiful song to be sung.  This book is perfect for the beginning reader who is ready to transition into chapter books. Because the text is short and simple, it would be a wonderful story for your child to read-aloud to you.  The illustrations are also colorful and the cute expressions of Penny and her family will catch the young readers eye. Penny's patience eventually pays off when the whole family joins in and they have a night full of fun and laughs.  I have always enjoyed stories by Kevin Henkes and happy to see a new character series developing.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: Penny and her Song
Author: Kevin Henkes
Pub. date: February 2012, Greenwillow Books
Genre: early chapter book
Hardcover, 32 pages

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Just Because You're Mine review

Just Because You're Mine

A little squirrel tries to guess the reason why his father loves him.  (goodreads summary)

Little Red Squirrel is out playing with his daddy and wants to know all the reasons why he loves him. Is it because he is so fast or brave? Maybe it is because of his top secret berry stash. Whatever the reason, Little Red Squirrel is determined to find out and shows off his many abilities asking if this is why he loves him.  Just in time for Father's Day, this cute and sweet book will make a nice bedtime story.  The illustrations are warm and whimsical carrying heart warming expressions on every page. The words were gentle and reassuring and I could hear Daddy Red Squirrel just like a parent speaking to a young child. Reading the story did remind me a lot of "Guess How Much I Love You". It has the same concept, but then again you can never tell your child enough how much you love them! I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-6.~

Title: Just Because You're Mine
Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones, Illustrated by Frank Endersby
Pub. Date: January 2012,  HarperCollins
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Spy School review

Spy School

Ben Ripley may only be in middle school, but he’s already pegged his dream job: C.I.A. or bust. Unfortunately for him, his personality doesn’t exactly scream “secret agent.” In fact, Ben is so awkward, he can barely get to school and back without a mishap. Because of his innate nerdiness, Ben is not surprised when he is recruited for a magnet school with a focus on science—but he’s entirely shocked to discover that the school is actually a front for a junior C.I.A. academy. Could the C.I.A. really want him?Actually, no. There’s been a case of mistaken identity—but that doesn’t stop Ben from trying to morph into a supercool undercover agent, the kind that always gets the girl. (goodreads summary)

Ben Ripley does the same thing everyday feeling that his life is not very interesting.  That is...until he arrives home from school one day and finds Alexander Hale, CIA Agent/Spy sitting in his kitchen. His life changes abruptly when he discovers he has been recruited to attend the Academy of Espionage of the CIA. Ben has dreamed of becoming a spy and chooses to leave his family and friends, who all think he will be attending a Science Academy because of his nerdiness and high math skills. He soon learns that he has been recruited for his cryptography skills and finds on his first day that there are others who also want him for various reasons as well.  He is thrown full force into the world of fighting ninjas, nonstop action and danger, assassins, secret tunnels, bombs, kidnapping and of course, Erica the pretty girl, who is also the daughter of Alexander Hale.  Ben and Erica team together in hot pursuit of exposing a mole at the Academy who is leaking information to a special secret agency about Ben's ability and a secret code he may have developed. With Ben's life on the line and danger at every turn,  he will soon know if he really has what it takes to be a special CIA agent or stay in his uninteresting life but only if he makes it through this adventure alive.

This book is definitely for the reader who loves action, adventure and anything spy related. It has twists and turns in every chapter and there were so many characters involved that it took awhile for the mole to be revealed. It was fun to try and figure out who I thought the mole was only to find that I was wrong more than once. The story was fast-paced and may attract the attention of reluctant readers. It is not only for boys who like spy novels but girls may find this likable as well. Erica is a strong main character and portrayed as a heroine in many instances as she saves Ben from danger on more than one occasion. She definitely has spy skills and intelligence and knows how to use them. The adults in the book though are quite clueless and the kids are definitely the ones who are written with all the smarts.  It does have a wide variety of good vocabulary giving kids an opportunity to find new words. I did find minor cursing starting about 25 pages in and a couple other times towards the end. The action and peril is ongoing throughout each chapter moving  you to the next one quickly. In such a short time, Ben does show character development and discovers that he is capable of more than he thought and what it really means to be a CIA agent. There is good indication that there is room for another book or two with Ben and his Espionage friends in the future. I think this is a "just right book" for grades 6-8.~

Title: Spy School
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Genre: fiction, adventure
Pub. date: March 2012, Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, 291 pages