Wednesday, March 28, 2012

STUDENT REVIEW - A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

A Mango Shaped Space
By Wendy Mass
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2005
240 pages (paperback)

Mia Winchell has synesthesia, the mingling of perceptions whereby a person can see sounds, smell colors, or taste shapes. Forced to reveal her condition, she must look to herself to develop an understanding and appreciation of her gift in this coming-of-age novel.
Afraid that she is crazy, thirteen-year-old Mia, who sees a special color with every letter, number, and sound, keeps this a secret until she becomes overwhelmed by school, changing relationships, and the loss of something important to her. (from

This book is both touching and funny. You’ll find yourself rooting for Mia all the way through. This book has encouraged me. But it wasn’t just good- it was AMAZING! It was absolutely perfect. –Saskia B.

COMING SOON: Warriors and Wailers: One Hundred Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled by Sarah Tsiang


Warriors and Wailers: One Hundred Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled
By Sarah Tsiang
Published by Annick Press, February 2012
96 pages (paperback)

Ever thought of becoming an emperor? How about a silk maker?

China was one of the most advanced societies in the ancient world. Whether in medicine, the arts, or education, the Chinese far outpaced the Europeans. Although most people were peasants, society included a myriad of other jobs.

It may sound like a great position, but being emperor had its downside. If you displeased the gods, you could be put to death. As a silk maker, you would be sworn to secrecy so foreigners wouldn't learn how to spin the precious thread. Other jobs included wailer (yes, you'll cry whether you want to or not), noodle maker (noodles were not only delicious, but also a symbol of long life), or Shaolin warrior monk (if you were really good, you could break stone slabs with your fists).

A fact-filled introduction, index, and timeline make this book-the sixth in the series-perfect for research projects, while the humorous illustrations keep it fun.
(from NetGalley)

This is a great book for those who want cool facts about ancient life or for those interested in long-ago China. A lot of times books on ancient cultures are weighed down with text and terms youth don’t understand. Warriors and Wailers is accessible for middle schoolers with fun illustrations and details you won’t find in most textbooks. I did find the book a bit too detailed and wordy in some places, but since Warriors and Wailers had well organized and labeled sections, I was able to skip around and read parts that interested me at the moment and then go back and read what I had glossed over.
I would have to say that my favorite section of the book was about academic jobs. Holy cow… getting an education way back then was tough! Starting at a young age students had to memorize a ridiculous amount of text and had heaps of tests. Compared to Ancient China, our state tests seem like child’s play.
Overall I found this to be a very engaging book about Ancient China and a lot more appealing than most books I have seen about the topic. I would definitely recommend this as a resource for those learning about Ancient China or just interested on the topic.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

COMING SOON: Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby


Shooting Stars
By Allison Rushby
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, February 2012
272 pages (hardcover)

Behind the flashing lights, the camera reveals all . . . even love.
Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment. (NetGalley)

Paparazzi- I just don’t like them. They stalk celebrities, get in other people’s business, and even come up with some outrageous stories. Shooting Stars focuses on the life of a teenage girl, Jo, who is an up-and-coming paparazzi in LA. She uses her small size to sneak around, get exclusive shots, and get paid some big bucks (which she spends on take-out or puts in the bank for photography school). Then Jo is given the chance to go undercover -and do some ethically questionable things- but in return she will be given enough money to go to photography school. It is easy to do questionable things when you don’t know the person, but as Jo gets closer to her target, capturing his private moments becomes more difficult; he is no longer just some celebrity, but a real person with real thoughts, feelings, and secrets.

Shooting Stars was an easy and enjoyable read. It took me into the wild world of Hollywood, had a little romance, had some fun characters that became Jo’s friends, and had just enough serious stuff to make things interesting but not a downer. This is definitely a book to pick up if you want a something to take you away from the drama and craziness of your life!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

TOP TEN TUESDAY: My Top Ten Historical Fiction Books

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is My Top Ten Historical Fiction Books.
I love history and historical fiction is partially what made me want to teach history. However, for all the historical fiction out there, a lot of it just isn't good. It is boring or ridiculously inaccurate and it makes history seem dull. Below is a list of historical fiction books that are memorable and worth the time you take to read them.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
This novel actually made me want to do research on that era. And I did. And I was disappointed that the book was true to history because I wanted things to end happily.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
This is a great book about the Holocaust that does show the fear Jews lived in, but it also gives one hope that not all people are evil.

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
This was one of my favorite historical fiction novels growing up. I LOVE the strong female character and the contrast between refined people of the early 1800s and the rough sailors on the ship.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
I can’t say enough good things about this book. It was well researched, had characters readers could connect to, was exciting and full of twists and turns, and was beautifully written. Even people who don’t like historical fiction would love this book.

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
There are few books about Latin America and even fewer historical fiction books about Latin America. This takes place in the Dominican Republic during the overthrow of the dictator in the 1960s. I was engaged from the start and honestly could not put the book down (I read it in one sitting).

American Girl Books
I know, this isn’t the best historical fiction out there, but it got me and thousands of other girls interested in history. I learned a lot about history through these books, especially because the last few pages of each book gave the history behind the story.

My Brother Sam is Dead by Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
I don’t think I ever realized how much the American Revolution tore families and towns apart until I read this book. Wow. People could be hurt or killed just for declaring which side they supported during the war and you never knew who to trust.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The 1960s fascinate me. The music. The tension. The new ideas. The desire for a better situation in life. This book takes all of that, rolls it into one clever book, and shoes the era through the eyes of young girls.

Resistance by Carla Jablonski & Leland Purvis
World War II and the French Resistance told as a graphic novel. What could be better?

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
This book does take place in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. And people die. And it is sad. BUT it is a great book that depicts the hope and the hopelessness of the era in beautifully written prose.

Friday, March 9, 2012

COMING SOON: The World in Your Lunch Box by Claire Eamer


The World in Your Lunch Box
By Claire Eamer
Published by Annick Press, February 2012
128 pages

Discover the tasty stories behind the foods we love. A ham sandwich on white bread. Macaroni and cheese. Peanut-butter-and-banana roll-ups. They may sound like ordinary items, but they take us on an amazing journey through the rich history and astonishing science of food.

Explore a week of lunches-from apples to pizza-by taking a romp through thousands of years of extraordinary events. Some are amusing, like the accidental invention of potato chips. Others are tragic, such as the Spice Wars, which killed thousands of people.

Consider that ham sandwich: Ancient Romans first made ham by curing meat with salt and smoke to kill microbes, while yeast (which burps gas) produces the fluffy texture of bread.

Aztec farmers bred tomatoes from small, bitter berries into plump, sweet fruit, and watermelons sustained travelers 10,000 years ago in the Kalahari Desert.

With a vibrant design and quirky illustrations, THE WORLD IN YOUR LUNCH BOX is like the perfect lunch: satisfying, well-balanced, and totally delicious.

We all eat and that is how we survive. However, many people don’t understand what they are consuming and from where it came. The World in Your Lunch Box has lots of components. It starts as a student’s lunch journal and after the daily menu readers learn about where the food comes from, the history behind the food, how it was originally used and, how it is used now. Each page of information is accompanied by comical pictures and comments that will surely catch a reader’s attention. While there was some nutritional information about the food discussed, I would have liked to see some more so readers can understand just what the food will or will not do for them. Overall, I was really impressed that the book had information on many of the foods kids actually eat. It is good to know what herbs are probably in pizza, where mayonnaise came from, and just what is in a hot dog (not dogs!), especially if we are eating those things regularly. Read this book and enjoy your next meal!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Resistance and Defiance by Carla Jablonski & Leland Purvis

Resistance (Resistance Series #1) and Defiance (Resistance Series #2)
By Carla Jablonski & Leland Purvis
Published by First Second, 2010/2011
128/128 pages (paperback)

Resistance: Fighting on a secret front of World War II. Paul and Marie’s bucolic French country town is almost untouched by the ravages of WWII, but the siblings still live in the shadow of war. Their father is a Prisoner of War, kept hostage by the Germans. When their friend Henri’s parents disappear and Henri goes into hiding because of his Jewish ancestry, Paul and Marie realize they must take a stand. But how can they convince the French Resistance that even children can help in their fight against injustice?

Defiance: When Nazis invade, what can kids do to fight them? World War II has taken its toll on the French countryside. German soldiers patrol the towns, searching for any challenge to their rule. The Tessier siblings, Paul, Marie, and Sophie, keep their noses clean and their faces blank as the French military police tighten their grip on their small country town. But all three are secretly doing their part for the Resistance: the men and women working hard to undermine the Germans and win back France’s freedom . . . even if it ends up costing them their lives.

World War II is a captivating era in history because there are so many elements and people that make up the culture and climate of that time. Most people learn that France surrendered to Germany early on and only became free once the Allies kicked the Axis powers out in 1944 & 1945. But that isn’t the whole story. While there were plenty of French who supported the Germans and the puppet French government the Germans set up, there were still plenty of French who wanted to be free and rule themselves. These French men, women, and children made up the resistance movement that found ways to spy on Germans, hide Jews and others wanted by Germans, get supplies to those in need, and many other things. In fact, some of the resistance work helped the Allies during their attacks on Germans in France.

Resistance and Defiance (and soon be be Victory) are graphic novels that tell the story of 12 year old Paul and his family. This family, like many other French families, are affected when the Germans take over. Their father has been taken as a political prisoner, they don’t have enough food to eat, and they don’t know who to trust. They learn about the resistance movement and have to decide whom to trust and just how far they will go to resist the Nazis in Germany.

This is a great book, and a quick read since it is a graphic novel. The main characters are young people so it is relatable and shows just how important youth can be, even in times of war. The books show the war from many different viewpoints and gives us a glimpse of how frustrating and frightening it would have been to live in France during WWII. I am really looking forward to the conclusion of the series. I know how the war turned out, but I want to know what happens with the characters I have grown fond of.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Favorite Covers

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is My Top Ten Favorite Covers!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Resistance by Carla Jablonski & Leland Purvis

Divergent by Veronica Roth

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar

Born to Rock by Gordon Korman

Shine by Lauren Myracle