Review: Sisters (2014)


It is summertime, so I finally had a chance to read this book. Getting my hands on it during the school year was impossible. Our students, both the girls and boys, are loving this graphic novel about a family that takes a road trip from California to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Sisters is actually book 2 in a series by Raina Telgemeier. I have not read the first book, and felt that this one stands alone just fine. It is a quick, engaging read and has the power to hook a lot of young readers. I enjoyed the story much more than I expected to. Actually, I really loved it. This may be because the author is close to my age and she wrote about her own life as a child, growing up in a way that seemed very familiar to me.

This book has been nominated by kids for the Colorado Children’s Book Award in 2016. Despite the very stiff competition it has, I’m going to go ahead and predict right now that this one will win the kids’ votes. -Erin



Books On CD: The Perfect Road Trip Companion?

I recently returned from a road trip with my two small children.  Fifteen hours in the car (one way) makes for looo-oong driving days with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old.  To pass the time in the car, I brought along some books on CD.  We have tried books on CD before with only mild success.  Last time we traveled, we brought along Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes by Kate DiCamillo.  My kids were already very familiar with Mercy Watson books but seemed only half-heartedly interested in hearing the familiar story read by somebody new.

For this trip (one year later), I decided to try a couple of books that are new to my kiddos.  We stHorrible Harry & the Green Slimearted with Horrible Harry and the Green Slime by Suzy Kline which is read by Johnny Heller.  I chose this one because it is a short chapter book with lots of pictures and I had a copy for my son to follow along with.  Since it is a series, I also hoped that he might take a liking to it and want to try reading more Horrible Harry books after the trip.  I know Horrible Harry books are written to have short, simple sentences that are easy to read but I was still disappointed with the way this book was read out loud on the CD.  While my son listened dutifully (and even laughed occasionally as he listened), Heller read the book with such a staccato, abrupt voice that I found the story to be slightly jarring and uncomfortable to listen to.  The best thing about this book on CD was that it was over in less than an hour.  When I asked him about it later, my son did say that he liked the book though so that’s something.

The second book on CD that accompanied us on our road trip was an absolute delight!  I took along Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  I am a huge Kate DiCamillo fan and purchased this book at an author event where I was able to meet DiCamillo just before the book won the Newbery.  This book was read by Tara Sands and shFlora and Ulyssese did a phenomenal job!  Her tone was perfect and the subtle voice changes helped to distinguish each of the characters as they spoke.  The idea of a “superhero” squirrel who writes poetry and the temporarily blind neighbor boy were humorous enough components to the storyline to delight my 5-year-old. What was most impressive to me, though, was the way Tara Sands handled “reading” the graphic novel portions of the book.  She described each scene with simple, straightforward and clear explanations that enhanced the story and (had you not had a copy of the book in front of you like we did) would have made the reader completely oblivious that they were missing any pictures.  It was beautifully done, and I imagine I may have enjoyed the book even more for having listened to it.  My 35-year-old husband, my 5-year-old son, and I each enjoyed the story immensely, which was most evident when my son would ask to hold the book in order to follow along with the words and pictures, and also when he would ask to listen!  When I talked to my son after the trip about which book he liked listening to better, there was no hesitation when he said Flora and Ulysses.  I would highly recommend picking up Flora and Ulysses on CD for your next road trip (with or without kids)!  -Marika


Review: Secrets of Selkie Bay (2015)

selkieSecrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas

Years ago I saw a movie called The Secret of Roan Inish. It was a story of Ireland, family, and selkies. That story stuck with me through the years and the Irish folklore of selkies continues to fascinate me, so when I saw this title available to read and review in advance through NetGalley, I jumped on it. I was not disappointed.

Set in an Irish seaside town, Secrets of Selkie Bay tells the tale of three girls and their Da trying to pick up the pieces after the disappearance of their mother and wife. Questions abound, adding intrigue to the story. Is it possible that their mother is a selkie, and has found her seal coat and returned to the sea? Why won’t Da spend the money in the sugar jar despite their financial distress? Could there really be an enchanted island in the mist, home of selkies and buried treasure?

I look forward to purchasing this title for our library and book talking it with our students. How many of them have heard of selkies, I wonder? Shelley Moore Thomas did an excellent job developing the characters in the book, touching on themes such as loss, family and the environment, and creating an air of magical mystery in a seaside town.

The book is not without flaws. I usually love covers done by Gilbert Ford, but this one is lost on me.  The seal drawings look pained and sad. Overall, however, this is book I will recommend highly to my students!



The Top 10 Chapter Books of 2015: SRES Library

On the heels of my previous post on our most popular picture books, I bring you the top 10 chapter books circulated in our school library for 2015.

dragonet10. The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire #1) by Tui T. Sutherland (2012)

Dragons are awesome. Who wouldn’t want to read a book (or a whole series) about them? Our 4th graders kept draggin’ these to the circulation desk.

9. Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes (2013)

This book was a hit at our Scholastic Book Fair.

terabithia8. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977)

This classic novel by Katherine Paterson continues to connect with our kids. Many are surprised by the ending. It is also on the regional Battle of the Books list.

minecraft7. Minecraft: Essential Handbook by Stephanie Milton (2013)

There is now an entire series of these Minecraft handbooks. The kids at our school are die-hard fans.


6. Rules by Cynthia Lord (2006)

Our school is lucky to have programs which integrate special needs students into the classroom. Rules is about 12 year old Katherine, a girl whose brother has autism and who makes a friend in a wheelchair with other special needs. This book is well-written and very popular with our students. Another title from the Battle list.

0-545-10795-45. Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes (2009)

This novel about students whose parents serve in the military really hits home with many of our students. It is also a Battle title.

sisters4. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (2014)

Surprisingly, this book is equally popular with both girls and boys. Perhaps it is because it is a graphic novel? Road trip tale with a Colorado tie-in.

wonder3. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2013)

Wonder is a wonderful novel about a kid who doesn’t fit in. This book has been solidly flying off of our shelves for the past 2 years. Also a Battle title.

cabin2. Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #6) by Jeff Kinney (2011)

There is no end in sight to the Wimpy Kid reign. Kids love this series!

1. Three Times Lucky (Tupelo Landing #1) by Sheila Turnage (2012)

A mystery story that reads like it was written for adults. This book was new to the Battle of the Books list this year and did not disappoint.

“This book was amazing. It was a fun and wild ride through a lot of imagination!!”
-Jessie, 5th grade