Archive for Fiction

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig

Written by Chris Kurtz
Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

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Flora the pig is descended from a long and reputable line of porcine adventurers/philosophers. Just goes to show that dogs, smart and loyal as they are, are not the only non-human species with human-like thoughts and desires.

Flora, like Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, feels that there is more to life than searching for food. When Luna the cat comes by Flora is awestruck. Here is a creature who has seen the world beyond the confines of the pen. Flora badgers her for stories, and translates the stories into games she teaches her siblings.

Circumstances conspire to set Flora off on a grand adventure. The title reveals where Flora and her ‘team’ are headed — the South Pole! This book is a wonderful read aloud, a chapter at a time. It can lead to discussions about the South Pole and life in that remote frozen land, and talks about the adventures and misadventures of the famous explorers who journeyed to the Antarctic.

Flora is equal parts adventurer and philosopher. “Why aren’t farm pigs in control of their lives?” she asks Luna, her friend and mentor-cat. She is willing to learn, to ask questions. “Is that some kind of special blanket?” she asks, when she sees the men spread a square of canvas on the snowfield.

Things become as bad as they possibly can. Intrepid Flora rounds up her ‘team’- Sophia the cat, who had explained that cats are solitary creatures and do not work in teams; Oscar the lead sled dog; and Aleric the human, to effect an incredible rescue. “The Captain’s Gratitude” says the lettering on the special crate that the captain has ordered for her. The last illustration shows Flora facing the wind — “and all her adventures to come.”

Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s black and white line drawings add just the right note of whimsy. A great addition to any reading list.

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  • South Pole PigTitle: The Adventures of a South Pole Pig
  • Author: Chris Kurtz
  • Illustrator: Jennifer Black Reinhardt
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback: 278 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-63455-5
  • Genre: Fiction/Novels
  • Lexile Score: 760

Just Grace and the Double Surprise

Written and Illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper

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Just Grace and the Double Surprise is a joy to read for the third grade reader. It has many illustrations and the paragraphs are broken up on the page so the third grade reader will not get bored reading about the fun that Grace and her friend Mimi experience.
The best part of the book and throughout the story is that Grace and her friend Mimi talk about real feelings and emotions that third grade students feel. The author does a wonderful job of making the story real. She clearly gives descriptions of words that are new to the third grade reader, words like empathy and the difference between a surprise and a mystery. The text is written at the third grade level of comprehension yet would be enjoyed by those students a grade older who were at this reading level. » Read more

Gooney Bird is So Absurd

Written by Lois Lowery
Illustrated by Middy Thomas

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Gooney Bird is the “new” girl at Watertower Elementary school, but by January, Mrs. Pigeon’s second grade is mostly used to her unique ways. She still surprises them occasionally, like when the kids realize that her “brain-warming hat” is really a pair of frilly bottom underpants even though it seems made for her two ponytails. is ready for Mrs. Pigeon’s newest challenge: poetry. They have lively discussions about what poetry is and isn’t, even how many different kinds of poems there are. Their favorite part is when Mrs. Pigeon brings in poems written by her mother, a woman they call Mrs. X. And Mrs. X seems to have poems that demonstrate every type. They know Mrs. X is old and in a nursing home, but one day Mrs. Pigeon is absent because Mrs. X died. They were about to do poems in different voices so what do they do now? They make their own poem, in voices, as a tribute to Mrs. X. » Read more

Infinity Ring: A Mutiny In Time

Written by James Dashner

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Oh what a swashbuckling tale of time travel, adventure and mutiny on the high seas.A smidgen of danger is thrown in: storms and volcanic eruptions, increasing crime, and earthquakes, and all of it because of the things that went wrong in the past. Time itself has gone wrong. The only way to set things right, then, is to travel to the past to correct those mistakes.

“What mistakes?”, the reader may ask. And the author tells us. This is the first book in a seven-book series and James Dashner creates the scaffolding on which this story, and all subsequent stories, will hang. He digs a deep foundation, taking us back to Aristotle’s time. Events back then took a turn they should not have when Alexander is assassinated. This leads to Aristotle seeing this as a mistake, a tear in the fabric of reality, and plans to make it right. He creates a secret society called the Hystorians, whose job is to track and document the Great Breaks through the ages, in the hope that someday time travel will enable the Hystorians to return to the past and mend the tears in the fabric.
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Ivy and Bean Make the Rules

Written by Annie Barrow

Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

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Hooray for Ivy and Bean!  The latest book in the series has Bean feeling left out as her sister Nancy goes to camp.  At Girl Power 4-ever, she gets to do so many cool things.  Bean has to sit at home.  Mom tells her she can go to the park by herself, if that helps.  It doesn’t.  But when Ivy comes over, Bean sees that they can make their own camp, a better camp, because they can do anything they want.  Ivy’s mom got new curtains so they use the old ones to make a tent (with the help of duct tape).  They make up a great name: Camp Flaming Arrow.  They set about doing camp things – like crafts.  A friendship bracelet craft turns into an escape trick as the strings get wrapped around both arms of both girls.  They have so much fun that some kids visiting their grandmother join them.  The nature study has them searching for the dangerous Komodo dragon which attracts another boy who is bored of soccer camp.  At the end of the week, Bean had way more fun than Nancy.
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The Knight, the Princess, and the Rock: A Classic Persian Tale

Written by Sara Azizi

Illustrated by Alireza Sadeghian

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As an ancient civilization with a rich heritage of storytelling, Persia is a wonderful place to find material for children’s books. This beautiful little tale proves it. The story itself is certainly simple enough for third graders to understand and embrace. This may be a candidate to read aloud in a classroom, though. The concepts of kings, knights, and magic may need a little discussion.

When a knight is sent on a mission to rid farmlands of destructive wild boars, he finds himself in enemy territory. This does not prevent him from falling in love with the princess of the land he’s in. The enemy king discovers the knight’s presence and imprisons him in a deep hole covered by a magic rock. The princess is also banished. She is able to keep the knight alive with food passed through a hole. Finally, help arrives from the knight’s home. Through love and prayer, the help frees the knight. The knight and princess return to his home, where they are married and live a happy life.
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A Topps League Story: Book Four: The 823rd Hit

Written by Kurtis Scaletta
Illustrated by Eric Wright

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Teddy “Bear” Larrabee, a slugger on the Pine City Porcupines, gets his 823rd base hit on his birthday, August 23—and it’s a home run! The Bear is a big believer in the power of numbers, so he asks Pines batboy Chad to retrieve the ball from the stands. There’s only one problem: the crabby fan in the ballpark who caught it. Chad really wants to keep the Bear happy and slugging, so he’s just got to figure out what the fan would be willing to trade for that 823rd ball.

The 823rd Hit is a book in a Topps League Story series. The book features the adventures, and misadventures, of the Pine City Porcupines and their two batboys: Chad, an avid baseball fan with a huge baseball card collection, and Dylan, who doesn’t know a thing about the sport. The fictional series has a unique twist: Chad solves problems by using information from Topps cards of real figures from modern baseball history.
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Waga’s Big Scare

Written and illustrated by Samuel Hiti

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This scary monster is not for the faint of heart!  Waga may be small, but he has the biggest scare. Right now, however, Waga is sad.  He has lost his scare and can’t remember where he left it.  Time is running out.  If he does not find his scare by morning, he will disappear forever.  So he starts looking: at the monster parade, in the creepy woods, in a dark, dank cave, even the graveyard.  Suddenly, he remembers, but the sun is almost up.  He jumps into a drain pipe, squeezes through the plumbing, and comes up the kitchen sink.  He goes through the dining room, down the hallway, into the bedroom and under the bed.  Because he left his scare – under your bed!
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Freaky Fast Frankie Joe

Written by Lutricia Clifton

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Frankie Joe lives in a trailer park in Texas and his friends are the retired people who live there.  But all that changes when he has to leave them behind because his mother is put in jail and he can’t live alone.  The father he has never known is taking temporary custody of Frankie Joe.  He will move in with a family he has never met and go to Illinois, a place he has never seen.  Frankie Joe hates it.  The school holds him back a grade to give him a chance to catch up, but he is bigger than everyone else.  His four half brothers make him feel like a freak.  He decides to escape.  He will earn money as a delivery boy and ride back home on his bicycle.  Slowly, he makes friends as he builds his business and he gains the respect of his new family.  Just as he attempts to put his escape into action, his mother throws the biggest kink of all into the plan.  She signs over permanent custody to his father and blithely leaves town with the boyfriend whose drugs landed her in jail in the first place.  The life he created in Illinois is now his safety net.
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Vampire School: Stage Fright

Written by Peter Bently
Illustrated by Chris Harrison

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The kids from St. Orlok’s Elementary, a vampire school, return with more monster mayhem. This time, they’re preparing for the big phantomime of Snow Fright and the Seven Dwarfs. After bat lessons with the three S’s (swooping, swerving, and skulking), the vampire children prepare for their performance. Their teacher also explains the three C’s for hiding (columns, curtains, and corners) and the three D’s (dark, damp, and dingy). Gnashful is the angry dwarf. The others are Gappy, Snappy, Flappy, Creepy, Chompy, and Shock. Lucy is typecast as the Wicked Queen. When Bella loses her voice, Lee volunteers to let her lip synch to his voice. Bella and Lee are subsequently cast in the upcoming production of The Sound of Screaming, in which there are seven children and a nanny. It will be produced by local impresario Harker Winegum.
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