Posted in Adventure, Book Review, Grades 6-8, Sunshine State 17-18

Moving Target



There should have been some sort of warning.

– First Sentence

“Everything is part of the same painting,” as my dad liked to say. “But we are each the artist of our own life. We choose what colors to use.”

– Chapter 1

Cassie is an eighth grader living with her father in Rome, having an ordinary, boring life (except for the fact that she is an American girl living in Rome). One day, Cassie’s father comes to school and yanks her into the car, speeding through the city, blabbering about how much he loves her, how he is going to fix things, and how he should have told her when she was younger. He finally tells Cassie that the Hastati are after her. Cassie has no idea what that means and she thinks he might be crazy, but then a motorcycle pulls up and the rider starts shooting at them. When her dad gets shot, Cassie takes him to the hospital, but he insists she must run to find Brother Gregorio for help. Cassie is terrified and runs to the only place she thinks might be safe, her friend Simone’s house. But when the danger follows her even there, Cassie and Simone must find Brother Gregorio and find out what all of this means.

In her dad’s notebook, Cassie finds this message:

The Guardian will be bound for life once the spearhead is used.

It turns out the Hastati are a two thousand-year-old organization entrusted with one important duty – protect the spear (The Spear of Destiny). The spear can shape destiny, but only certain people can use the power – and Cassie is the last of that bloodline.

I was just an average girl. Things like this were not supposed to happen to people like me. The palette of my life’s painting was gray or maybe a boring variety of beige, not psychedelic neon.

Well, this book starts off running and doesn’t slow down. Cassie is constantly trying to figure out who to trust and how to keep Simone and herself safe. They are racing to find the spear, but they aren’t the only ones. They must figure out baffling clues at every turn and stay ahead of the two factions fighting each other for control of the spear.

This is an edge of your seat adventure that will keep readers guessing until the end. I highly recommend it to kids in grades 4-8 who enjoy mysterious adventure stories with strong female heroines.


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Posted in Book Review, Grades 6-8, Historical fiction, Sunshine State 17-18

The War that Saved my Life


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In the end it was the combination of the two, the end of my little war against Jamie, and the start of the big war, Hitler’s war, that set me free.

– Chapter 1

She was not a nice person, but she cleaned up the floor. She was not a nice person, but she bandaged my foot in a white piece of cloth, and gave us two of her own shirts to wear. Miss Smith was not a nice person, but the bed she put us in was soft and clean, with smooth thin blankets and warm thicker ones.

– Chapter 7

Huh, I thought. Imagine dressing up tables. Imagine wasting cloth to dress up tables.

– Chapter 18

I wanted Mam to be like Susan. I didn’t really trust Susan not to be like Mam.

– Chapter 26

Ada was born with a club foot, and because of this, her mom doesn’t let her leave the house. But that isn’t the worst of it. Ada’s mom (Mam) punishes her by putting her in a kitchen cabinet — sometimes overnight. Mam calls Ada rubbish and tells her no one wants her with her ugly foot. Ada “escapes” this abuse by going somewhere else in her head.

When Ada finds out her younger brother Jamie is to be evacuated with the other kids from his school, she is determined to go with them. The journey takes them to a small village where families have agreed to take in the evacuated children. Ada and Jamie end up living with Susan Smith, an old, grumpy spinster who doesn’t really want them.

Ada is a heart-wrenching character. She has been taking care of her brother all his life, but no one takes care of her. She has suffered unimaginable abuse from the woman who should love her the most. She doesn’t know how to accept love and kindness, and she doesn’t even think she deserves it. Her mother has told her that her foot is messed up because Ada did something wrong.

Susan has her own issues. She recently lost her best friend and suffers from severe depression. Having Ada and Jamie around gives her something else to think about and an important responsibility – a reason to get up every day and engage with others.

Wow. This book is powerful. It is set in England during World War II. I loved watching Ada’s development and bonding with Susan and others in the village. Despite everything Ada has been through (or maybe because of it), she is stubborn and courageous. She is also slow to trust and filled with self-doubt. The last chapter had me in tears.

I recommend this book to kids in grades 4-8 and their adults. I think it will touch their hearts in a major way.


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Posted in Adventure, Book Review, Grades 6-8, Middle Grade, Mystery, Sunshine State 17-18

Omega City


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Some secrets are small — the size of a battery, or a button, or a scrap of paper. Other secrets are so big they can bury a man alive, or tear apart a family … or even destroy the world. Omega City was both.

Gillian’s dad is a historian who specializes in Cold War conspiracies and wrote a book about Aloysius Underberg, a brilliant Cold War engineer. But Dr. Underberg is missing and Gillian’s dad has been discredited. When Gillian is faced with an opportunity to solve Underberg’s greatest mystery and prove her dad right, she can’t resist. She enlists the help of her brother Eric, best friend Savannah, a NASA obsessed boy from school (Howard), and Howard’s brother Nate. Others are searching for Underberg’s secrets too, and they will stop at nothing to get them first.

This is an adventurous mystery with a strong female protagonist. Gillian’s team faces life-threatening situations, including nerve gas in an elevator, goons with guns, and scuba diving in unknown waters. I think middle-grade readers will enjoy this thrilling adventure. (for fans of Luck Uglies or City of Ember). Grades 5-8


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Posted in Book Review, Grades 6-8, Sci-Fi, Science Fiction, Sunshine State 17-18

The Nerdy Dozen




The enemy fighter jets surged past Neil Andertol, soaring over desolate, sandy terrain.

-opening line

So, another 6-8 grade Sunshine State nominated book. I wasn’t planning on reading this one because I didn’t think I would like it. That’s what I get for judging a book by its cover. Anyway, one of the 4th-grade students was really enjoying it and she asked me to read it with her. It’s actually pretty good and I can’t wait to talk to her about it tomorrow. Though I finished it and she is probably around halfway through.

Neil loves video games, like most 13-year old boys these days. He especially enjoys one called Chameleon. Chameleon, it turns out is a training tool used by the Air Force to teach pilots to fly an actual plane called the Chameleon that is capable of seeming invisible. Neil and a bunch of other kids get recruited by the Air Force to find a lost plane and save the day. I know, I know. Big suspension of disbelief here, but kids love that sort of thing.

Anyway, Neil ends up meeting a few people in real life that he only previously knew online. So, there are expected surprises there. And the kids make a couple of decisions that mess up something that Major Jones had planned, resulting in more unlikely situations. At least the kids don’t make some half-assed decision based on their guts and end up being right over the Major who is an adult and should know better than them.

This is a fast-moving story that kids will devour. And now that there are 3 books in the series, it will keep the kids reading.

Good for 4th – 8th graders who enjoy video games, strong female characters, soldiers, edge of your seat adventures… it has something for everyone.


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Posted in Book Review, Grades 3-5, Sports, Sunshine State 17-18

The Hero Two Doors Down




I read this book to the students in my Sunshine State Club. It’s the story of a boy (Stephen) living two doors down from his hero, Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn in the year 1948. The book was written by Sharon Robinson (Jackie’s daughter) and is based on “the true story of a friendship between a boy and a baseball legend.”

The kids loved the book and it was fun to discuss what it was like to live in the 1940’s. It’s hard for them to imagine life without a cell phone, let alone life where you can only hear baseball on the radio, instead of watching on tv. We learned about Jackie Robinson and his courage and integrity. We learned about egg creams, transistor radios, and stoopball. And we learned about what it was like to live in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in 1948. It was also fun to talk to the kids about who their heroes are and what it would feel like to be friends with them.

This book is great for elementary students, especially sports fans.

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Posted in Book Review, Fantasy, Grades 6-8, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Sunshine State 17-18

Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson


Piper, a young girl with a talent for fixing mechanical things, finds Anna (a young girl with amnesia who needs her help) and together they take the 401 train trying to escape the man pursuing them. There they meet Gee, a boy who can transform into a dragon and who might be able to help them.

Piper is smart, brave and mechanically inclined, who could ask for a better heroine. She is alone and barely scraping by until she finds Anna in the meteor field (each meteor shower brings items from other worlds that the scrappers find and fix or sell). Anna doesn’t know who she is but she has the mark of the dragonfly which means she is someone important to the king. Piper sees her chance to help Anna and maybe get a reward that could change her life at the same time.

This story is filled with magic, adventure, steampunk, humor, and a smidge of romance. I highly recommend it to readers in grades 4 through 8 (and adults who enjoy strong female characters and a bit of western/sci-fi; sort of like Firefly for the younger set). A promising series which I plan to continue.

Posted in Book Review, Grades 6-8, Realistic Fiction, Sunshine State 17-18

How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Souders

Someone once told me that money can’t buy happiness. They obviously never had to ride a baby bike to the first day of middle school.

-opening lines


Chloe is determined to earn money this summer (maybe by babysitting). What she didn’t plan for is her parents deciding to send her to career camp. There she will have the opportunity to see what it’s like to be a cake decorator, athlete, scientist, or veterinarian. Well, Chloe knows for sure she doesn’t get along with animals, by maybe she could work with the cake decorating thing. But, life has other plans… Between spiders, a goat named King Arthur, a rude girl named Victoria, and Director Mudwimple, Chloe’s summer is looking ruined. But luckily Chloe meets a friend, a bouncy girl named Paulie (who Chloe nicknames Pogo), and finds out two of her friends from home are also there, Nathan (her secret crush) and Sebastian.

The story is told through Chloe’s experiences and nightly journal entries. Chloe is relatable and the drama seems pretty accurate for a bunch of middle school aged girls living in a cabin together. Chloe’s friendship with Pogo and the difficulties with the bully Victoria seem to be accurate portrayals of middle school relationships. Chloe doesn’t always make the right choice, but in the end, she does the right thing. I read this quickly in one sitting and I think 4th through 8th graders will enjoy it.