Archive for November 16, 2015

Lucky Strike

Written by Bobbie Pyron

Ever been an outsider?  Remember what that feels like deep in your soul?

Nate and Genesis are both outsiders. They stick together because, “weirdos and losers stick together” and that’s their motto.  Nate is just downright unlucky. All the time, everywhere unlucky.

Genesis is a brainy girl who doesn’t believe in luck. She believes in science and probability and such. Even when Nate doesn’t call the right coin in fifty-four tries!

In a fun and opposing way, Nate is the complete opposite of Harry Potter. He does get struck by lightning and becomes the luckiest guy in touch. Townspeople even start saying he has the Midas touch. Everything is fantastic, the cool guys want him to play baseball with them, all the fishermen want him to ride on their boat. Until Nate realizes they don’t want him, just his luck.

This is a great story about being outsiders, what real luck actually is, and loyalty to the end.

Grade four, grade five and grade six readers will enjoy this story on every page. The realistic use of dialogue and short sections makes it easy to read quickly. Some students may enjoy reading parts aloud as they act out certain sections.

Teachers and librarians can use it as an excellent example of: voice, character development and plot. They will fulfill the core curriculum standards in literacy and English.

It is recommended for all elementary and middle school and public libraries.

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  • Lucky StrikeTitle: Lucky Strike
  • Author:  Bobbie Pyron
  • Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 263 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-59217-8
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Grade level: 3 to 6


Written by Sam Gayton
Illustrated by Alice Ratterree

Would you set a faerie free? How about a trapped orphan boy? Open the pages of this adventure book based on Gulliver’s Travels, and go along with three inch high, Lily, and the captured boy, Finn, as they rescue each other.

Supposedly, on Gulliver’s first return from his travels, Londoners called him a liar and lunatic for talking about lands with tiny people. So, on his second trip, he captured a tiny faerie to bring back to London as evidence. This is her story.

Short chapters, plenty of dialogue and good humor help the story to move along at a comfortable pace. Young independent readers will delight in the story. Teachers, librarians and parents will enjoy the literary quality of the work, as well.  London in the 1800’s is well represented in details of sight and smell. Friendship in all its trials and glories is explored as Finn and Lily struggle to free each other. Their adventure is one of twists and turns, failures and successes.

Realistic pen and ink drawings bring the characters, as well as the surroundings of the city of London to life before the readers’ eyes. Art teachers and librarians can use these drawings to begin discussions about illustrating a story.

Teachers and librarians can introduce this story with or without comparisons to the original, Gulliver’s Travels. Maybe it will piggy back with, The Borrowers, Stuart Little, or other such stories about the unseen little people of literature. Perhaps this will be the introduction for some students into the world of fantasy.  Standards in the core curriculum for middle school literacy will be satisfied. Grade four, grade five or grade six readers will enjoy this immensely. This book is recommended for all school libraries and it would be a wonderful present for fluent as well as reluctant readers.

Buy on Amazon

  • LilliputTitle:  Lilliput
  • Author:  Sam Gayton
  • Illustrator:  Alice Ratterree
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, October, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 246 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-806-6
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Grade level: 3 to 6
  • Extras: Afterward by Author

Stay! A Top Dog Story

Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer

“Ben thought Buster was the best dog in the world,” but his parents weren’t so sure. Ben’s parents want to go on vacation, but they’re not so sure they want Buster to come along. So Buster is to be left with Ben’s grandfather. In order to make sure Buster is safe, Ben writes instructions for his grandfather. The problem is, Ben keeps thinking of more instructions and has to keep sending postcards and notes. Another problem is that Buster is not always a good dog, so the grandfather takes it upon himself to make Buster behave. Naturally, he ends up making notes for Ben. Buster even learns not to attack mailmen. Buster gets to go on the vacation the next time, but he still can’t behave all the time. Not all the time, anyway.

The humorous illustrations are often dominated by the notes, cards, and maps about Buster’s world. Who knew a dog could cross its legs when it needs to go outside?

Third graders will learn a lot about pets and about family while practicing their literacy skills. This would also be a good read aloud with younger children for practicing those skills and laughing about Buster’s antics.

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  • StayTitle: Stay! A Top Dog Story
  • Author/Illustrator: Alex Latimer
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Animals, Family, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-156145-884-4


The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, Poet

Written and Illustrated by Don Tate

Who would have thought a man who taught himself to read could come up with such beautiful poetry? While selling his master’s fruit at a university, George’s use of language caught the attention of college students. The students commissioned him to write love poetry for them, helped him learn to write, and to learn about literature and history. George paid his master to let him write full time and eventually published a volume of poetry, The Hope of Freedom. His master refused to let him buy his freedom outright, though. Eventually, the Emancipation Proclamation brought an end to his servitude and George moved west with the army.

Horton’s is an important story that should be covered in literature and in history. The Civil War was fought by human beings about human beings. Horton took great risks seeking his freedom. After he published his first volume of poetry, North Carolina outlawed speaking out against slavery and also outlawed teaching slaves to read and write. After that, Horton restricted himself to non-political poetry. He also published an autobiography, used by the author of this book. Tate’s illustrations help to bring the poet’s story to life. This could be read aloud in a classroom to stimulate discussion.

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  • George Moses HortonTitle: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton, Poet
  • Author/Illustrator: Don Tate
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Biography, Poetry, History
  • ISBN: 978-156145-825-7
  • Extras: Extensive bibliography, Author’s Note