Posted in Book Review, Grades 3-5, Graphic Novel

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova


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Brave is the sequel to Awkwardan amazing graphic novel about navigating middle school life. Brave follows the same basic group of kids, with a different main character. In Brave, Jensen (the art club kid from Awkward who is obsessed with sunspots) learns about bullying. He doesn’t think he is a victim at first, but he gradually begins to understand what being bullied really means. He compares his school day to a video game, a constant struggle to avoid the “bad guys” and traps; making it through the day is a struggle for “survival.”

This book has a bit more mature content compared with Awkward. There is no sex or serious violence, but the bullies call Jensen “fatso” and “stupid” and Jensen uses the phrase “makes my life a living hell.” Compared to the overall message in this book, these are tiny considerations. But, as a parent, you should know what you are getting into. Many of our 3rd graders read Awkward and their parents might not think they are ready for this one.

Overall, this is a great book that describes realities of middle school, bullying, feeling alone, making friends, and standing up for yourself. I highly recommend it to 4th grade and up.


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Posted in Grades 3-5, Mystery

The Slippery Slope



The tenth book in this outrageous publishing effort features more than the usual dose of distressing details, such as snow gnats, an organised troupe of youngsters, an evil villain with a dastardly plan, a secret headquarters and some dangerous antics you should not try at home. With the weather turning colder, this is one chilling book you would be better off without. (From Amazon)

The title of this book refers not only to the mountain the Baudelaire children find themselves on but also to the slippery slope that could lead them to become villains. The Baudelaires are challenged to save their sister and find out the secrets of VFD without comprising their principles.

The performance of Tim Curry (who reads the story) is flawless – to the point where I forget who I’m listening to. His portrayal of Count Olaf is deliciously evil.


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Posted in Grades 3-5, Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova




Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don’t get noticed by the mean kids.

Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.

Penelope Torres (Peppi) is thinking of these rules as she starts a new school. When a boy (Jaime) tries to help her pick up all her stuff, the mean kids start calling her Nerder Girlfriend. Embarrassed, Peppi pushes Jaime and runs away. She feels guilty and spends most of her time trying to figure out how to apologize. When a rivalry heats up between Peppi’s art club and Jaime’s science club, things become even more awkward.

This is a charming middle school story that kids will enjoy. It is age appropriate for 3rd grade and up – no violence or bad words – just a sweet story with a hopeful ending. The graphics are expressive and fun, a highly recommended graphic novel.


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Posted in Book Review, Grades 3-5, Mystery

# 7, 8, 9 in The Series of Unfortunate Events

A Series of Unfortunate Events #7: The Vile Village   The Hostile Hospital - Brett Helquist, Lemony Snicket The Carnivorous Carnival - Lemony Snicket

In The Vile Village, an entire village decides to adopt the Baudelaire orphans. But, instead of taking care of them, the villagers just put them to work. Nothing goes easy for the Baudelaires but they pull together to survive and protect each other.

From Amazon re: The Hostile Hospital.

In Lemony Snicket’s eighth ghastly installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, I’m sorry to say that the Baudelaire orphans will spend time in a hospital where they risk encountering a misleading newspaper headline, unnecessary surgery, an intercom system, anesthesia, heart-shaped balloons, and some very startling news about a fire.

From Amazon re: The Carnivorous Carnival.

A carnival is a place for good family fun—as long as one has a family, that is. For the Baudelaire orphans, their time at the carnival turns out to be yet another episode in a now unbearable series of unfortunate events. In fact, in this appalling ninth installment in Lemony Snicket’s serial, the siblings must confront a terrible lie, a caravan, and Chabo the wolf baby.


Throughout the three books, the Baudelaires find more clues about the initials VFD and what happened to their parents. Then again, everything they learn only leads to more questions. Count Olaf continues his villainous behavior and efforts to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune. The warnings from Snicket to stop reading still make me laugh as do his explanations of what words mean (always set in the context of the story).


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Posted in Book Review, Grades 3-5, Mystery

# 4, 5, 6 in The Series of Unfortunate Events

The Miserable Mill - Lemony Snicket The Austere Academy - Michael Kupperman, Lemony Snicket, Brett Helquist The Ersatz Elevator - Brett Helquist, Lemony Snicket, Michael Kupperman

The Miserable Mill and The Austere Academy are books 4 & 5 in the series. Both involve the same plotline as books 2 & 3… No one ever recognizes Count Olaf in his ridiculous costumes except the Baudelaires, and no one ever believes them. And in the end, when Count Olaf is finally discovered, he escapes. In the Miserable Mill, the children are forced to work in a lumber mill, and the Austere Academy takes place in a boarding school. At the school, the Baudelaires finally meet some friends their own age who believe them.

In the Ersatz Elevator, the formula finally changes. The Baudelaires are adopted by a wealthy family near where their home burned down. As the back of the book says,

“Even though their new home in the city is fancy, and the children are clever and charming, I’m sorry to say that still, the unlucky orphans will encounter more disaster and woe. In fact, in this sixth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, the children will experience a darkened staircase, a red herring, an auction, parsley soda, some friends in a dire situation, a secret passageway, and pinstripe suits.”

I was thrilled at a change and having someone else to root for and someone else to hate. The characters are quirky and outlandish, but fun to read about.

The mystery deepens…


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Posted in Book Review, Grades 3-5, Mystery

#1, 2, 3 in The Series of Unfortunate Events

The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket The Reptile Room - Lemony Snicket The Wide Window - Lemony Snicket



The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window

I love the writing and the way “Snicket” breaks the fourth wall. Every book begins with the admonition that you would be better off doing pretty much anything else than reading this book. When the Baudelaire children lost their parents, it was a bad beginning, but it only gets worse from there. The only thing they can count on from Mr. Poe, the inept banker who is acting as their guardian, is that he coughs and he will fail them.

The first book introduces Count Olaf, a villain who is constantly trying to get his greedy hands on the Baudelaire fortune. The second two follow the same basic formula of the Baudelaires moving on, finding guardians who fail them, and facing Count Olaf. Violet is the oldest and ties her hair up in a ribbon any time she needs to invent something. Klaus is a bookworm and amazing researcher. Sunny is the youngest and has unusually sharp teeth which sometimes help the siblings get out of trouble.

I enjoyed the first three books, they are entertaining, easy reads. It only took me a few days to get through all three and I kept going…


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There are two reasons why a writer would end a sentence with the word “stop” written entirely in capital letters STOP. The first is if the writer were writing a telegram… But there is another reason why a writer would end a sentence with “stop” written entirely in capital letters, and that is to warn readers that the book they are reading is so utterly wretched that if they have begun reading it, the best thing to do would be to stop STOP.

Opening Lines


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The Hostile Hospital

The Ersatz Elevator - Lemony Snicket

The book you are holding in your two hands right now — assuming that you are, in fact, holding this book, and that you have only two hands — is one of two books in the world that will show you the difference between the word “nervous” and the word “anxious.” The other book, of course, is the dictionary, and if I were you I would read that book instead.


The Ersatz Elevator
Chapter 1


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Ersatz Elevator