Friday, June 1, 2012

MIDDLEWORLD by Jon and Pamela Voelkel

Voekel, Jon, Pamela Voelkel. Middleworld. EgmontUSA, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781606840719. $8.99.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

I looked through bookshelves and ran my fingers along various bindings, when something caught my eye. The title read Middleworld, by J & P Voekel.

From the moment I saw it till the moment I began it, I knew I wouldn’t let it out of my sight. With all the unexpected journeys and unidentified characters, I was mesmerized, but more than anything it was the mystery of the Maya that attracted me to Middleworld. The two main characters, Max the video game expert and Monkey Girl (aka Lola), come from two opposite worlds; it was an exciting voyage to see how they reacted to each other’s different lifestyles. I liked Lola the most. She’s daring and brave, loves the jungle, and is thankful for everything she has (not including Max). I relate to Lola because I love Norway as much as she loves the jungle. The jungle is her birthplace and home like Norway is mine.

The book is mostly about how the Maya culture is literally coming back from the past. This is both good and bad. One of the important events is when the ancient Maya King, Lord 6-Dog, and his mother, Lady Coco, possess the bodies of two howler monkeys, which results in a series of unfortunate events. This made me feel very strange. The book also made me feel curious to find out the mysteries that lurk around every corner.

My favorite part is when Max and Lola meet. It is like a dog and a cat. They are complete opposites, but despite their differences, they have much in common. I connected to the book because like Lady Coco, I love to be free. When she takes over a monkey, it is like a bird is taken out of a cage. She is swinging and laughing -- she is free at last!

The lasting impression that I’ll take away from reading this book is to make sacrifices. It’s difficult to explain why, but the characters made a lot of sacrifices in their lives that will inspire me to make more in my life.

People who love adventure, electrifying moments and the mystery of the Maya will enjoy this book. You’ll understand why once you read it.

Review by Madeleine Denison, 5th grade

ABE LINCOLN AT LAST! by Mary Pope Osborne

Osborne, Mary Pope. Illus. Sal Murdoca. Abe Lincoln at Last! Random House Children’s Books, 2011. ISBN-13: 9780375868252. $12.99.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

Abe Lincoln At Last! is part of the Magic Tree House series, in which a tree house time machine takes two kids to different historical eras. I think Abe Lincoln at Last! was really fantastic because it had two stories in one, and it was really interesting! The first half of the book was really about saving Penny the penguin, who was turned into a stone statue, and the other half was about getting a feather from Abraham Lincoln. The Feather of Hope had two important purposes. The first purpose was for writing a letter of hope to Abraham Lincoln to not give up freeing the slaves. The second was for saving Penny. The Feather of Hope, along with the emerald rose and the buttercup from other books in this series, is needed to turn Penny back into a penguin.

The story was interesting because it went back in the past, and you can tell it was hard to live a long time ago. I would have a hard time doing chores like cutting the wood, getting water from a stream, and milking the cows! These were all jobs that kids had to do each day.

I really like this story, and I would like to read the next story in the series to find out about the emerald rose and the buttercup. I like the ideas that the author put in the story, and I would recommend it to my friends.

Review by Finnegan McCool, 5th grade

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Senzai, N.H. Shooting Kabul. Simon and Schuster, 2011. ISBN-13: 9781442401952. $6.99.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

N.H. Senzai’s amazing talent is clearly shown in Shooting Kabul, her first novel. In her fictionalized account of her husband’s escape from Afghanistan, a bittersweet and terrifying world comes to life.

In the book, the main character, eleven-year-old Fadi, tries to cope (along with his family) with his move to Little Kabul in Fremont, CA, a lifetime away from the real city in Afghanistan, dominated at the time by the Taliban. Adding to the pressures of being Muslim asylum-seekers in a Christian country, Fadi is carrying the burden of guilt, as he feels it was his fault his six-year-old sister Mariam was accidentally left behind. Once the 9/11 attacks happen, the chances of finding Mariam practically disappear.

Suddenly, Fadi finds new hope. At his new middle school, he joins the photography club, paying for it with money he borrows from his older sister Noor. Through the club he finds out about a photography contest sponsored by the Societe Geographique. The grand prize is a trip to Kenya, China or India. Remembering how close India is to Afghanistan, Fadi figures this could be a way to find his beloved sister and restore his father’s honor. As he strives to win the contest, Fadi learns many important lessons about life.

I read this book on the recommendation of my mother, who heard about it on National Public Radio. It was one of the books chosen for their kids’ Backseat Book Club in early 2012. I am glad I decided to read it because it truly is a great book. I would especially recommend it for readers ten years old (my age) and up.

Review by Raquel Rivera, 5th grade

SERIOUSLY, NORMAN! by Chris Rashka

Rashka, Chris. Seriously, Norman! Scholastic, 2011. ISBN-13: 9780545298773. $13.49.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

Seriously, Norman! is a hilarious, inspiring, mind-blowing, mysterious book. I was at Borders trying to figure out which book I would read, but none of them stood out. Finally a person that knows my taste for books suggested Seriously, Norman! to me. Once I read the prologue, I was amazed! So I went to the counter to check it out.

Seriously, Norman! is a story about a 12-year-old boy named Norman Normann, who can’t pass a test to go to a good school. Finally his mom, Norma Normann, and his lazy dad, Orman Normann, hire a tutor, Balthazar Birdsong. Little does Norman know that an assignment from Mr. B will open up a new world to him. Mr. B’s assignment to Norman is to read the dictionary, from A-Z. Reading the dictionary increases Norman’s vocabulary. It also gives him clues necessary to find out why his father’s last business trip took longer than expected.

I relate to Norman because I struggle in math, while Norman struggles in various subjects. Additionally, as in life, the conflicts and problems presented in the story make it suspenseful. It also makes me feel the urge to laugh, be happy, and be sad at the same time. All of these emotions and events are ingredients for a fantastic story.

My favorite part of the book is when Norman plays with his action figure, Alfred the Great. He would have Alfred jump through spaces of time and go on adventures in new worlds. I connect to the book because I want to get good grades so that I can go to a good school. I will always remember this book because Norman’s imagination is a lot like mine. Through Norman’s adventurous imagination, I learned new words and their meanings. I highly recommend this awesome book to kids of all ages with big imaginations.

Review by Tatyanna Shillinger, 5th grade

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Perro, Bryan. Amos Daragon, The Mask Wearer. Random House Children’s Books, 2012. ISBN-13: 9780375859762. $6.99.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

Amos Daragon, The Mask Wearer is an amazing novel that promises to fascinate readers of many ages. This action-packed mystery is an adventure to read and a pleasure to share. Bryan Perro has created an epic tale that should be required reading material for grades 4 and up. Well, I guess it was required reading for me. When my teacher introduced this book to the class, I was hooked.

This novel is about an adventurous boy named Amos Daragon. Amos is sent on a quest by the “Queen of the Sea.” Along the way, Amos befriends a mysterious boy named Beorf and an elusive young girl named Medusa. Can these young figures be trusted? What will Amos discover next?

Amos’ intelligence and creativity will make you laugh out loud as you read this fantastic book, which is a perfect blend of mythology and fantasy. When you finish it, you will see the world differently.

Review by Mackie Cates, 5th grade 

THE STONE CHILD by Dan Poblocki

Poblocki, Dan. The Stone Child. Random House Children’s Books, 2010. ISBN-13: 9780375842559. $7.99.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

The Stone Child is a supernatural horror story. I picked this book out because my friend suggested it to me. She handed me the book and I locked into the thoughts of reading it when I saw the milky white stone child, surrounded by a dark forest, gazing down upon her thick stone book.

The main characters in the book are three young kids, Eddie, Harris, and Maggie. Eddie is very inquisitive and is determined to complete his mission. Harris is the silver-tongued yet warm-hearted character. Maggie is the brainy person who demands education. I relate to Eddie the most because when something strange happens I demand answers just like he does.

The three kids try to unravel the mystery of the author Nathaniel Olmsted’s disappearance. A very important and terrifying event in the story is the discovery of The Woman in Black. I felt pity for these kids because I thought the end was near for them. I have read the book by Susan Hill and the title character spares no one.

I connect to this book because just like Nathaniel I love to study symbology and mythology. My favorite part of this book is the details the author uses to describe the town of Gatesweed where the story takes place, such as, “Out the window, Eddie watched as they passed a crooked iron fence on the left side of the road. Dead vines were wrapped around the rusty spikes, as if the woods were trying to drag the fence down into the dirt”(12).

Throughout this book the feeling is dark. I’ll never forget when Eddie is walking through the town and he sees the big words spray painted on the back of the book store, “THE WOMAN IS WATCHING.” This book does not fail to deliver a thrill to those seeking it.

Reviewed by Malcolm Young, 5th grade

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Koertge, Ron. Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs. Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN-13: 9780763658526. $5.99.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

Ron Koertge writes the wonderful novel Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs with such style, personality, and humor that it is almost impossible to put this lovely realistic fiction down. When I look for a book, it must be unique, and this title really caught my eye. You may think it is all about sports, but as you read on, you realize there is much more to this story.

Kevin is a talented and funny 14 year old. He has pretty cool and supportive friends whom he plays baseball with, but he has a talent that they don't have. You see, Kevin's a real wiz at writing poetry, which earns him the nickname Shakespeare. When his Father gives him a red notebook called "Shakespeare's Secret Diary," he begins a new collection of poems with topics such as playoff practice or Ms. Baldwin, the creepy geography teacher.

A lot of people think that you can only either be a jock or a nerd, that you have to focus on sports or creativity; this book shows that you can be all of the above. You don't have to limit yourself. I believe many people would enjoy this fantastic book.

Review by MaeLin Janus, 5th grade


Kelley, Jane. The Girl Behind The Glass. Random House Children’s Books, 2011. ISBN-13: 9780375862205. $16.99.

Special Feature: Review by an elementary school student.

The Girl Behind The Glass by Jane Kelley is a book that is abundant with mystery. This book attracted me to it because the front cover looked mysterious and sinister. It seemed like the perfect one! I took it home and read it immediately. The main characters in the book are 11-year-old twins Hannah and Anna, along with a peculiar creature. Hannah is a curious and clever girl who loves to read. She can also hear a voice that others can’t. Anna is a smart and likable girl who also loves books. The creature is a lonely and determined soul. I can relate to Hannah and Anna because I absolutely adore books! I am like the creature because it cares for others and has a light temper. The overall plot of the book is to get back at a lady named Mildred because she really mistreated the creature when they were young. One of the important events in the book is when Selena, the twins' sister, senses that something is lurking in her closet. Another critical event is when someone’s life is in serious danger and Anna finally hears the voice that Hannah has been hearing. This book definitely made me feel curious and sometimes worried. I love getting that nervous feeling when something spooky is about to happen!

I had a lot of favorite parts, but, overall I enjoyed the part when the twins planned to scare Selena. They terrify her and she becomes completely freaked out! I connected to the book because I have a sister and we like to play pranks on each other just like Hannah and Anna do to Selena. This book made me realize that it is important to do the right thing. It doesn’t matter who it is or what it is, it just always feels good to be nice, even if you really dislike that person.

The Girl Behind the Glass starts out kind of slow, really picks up in the middle and in the end leaves you hoping that there will be a second book! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys spooky stories with a cheerful twist. When you pick up this book, prepare yourself for a great read!

Review by Sydney Korovec, 5th grade