Posts Tagged ‘junior fiction’

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

July 16, 2015

calpurniaI do love Calpurnia Tate!  She is a bright and inquisitive young woman living in a small Texas town in 1899.  At a time when girls are expected to be interested in needlework, Calpurnia’s interests lie in the natural world, much to the consternation of her mother. 

In this second book about the character, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Callie Vee’s interest in the natural sciences, encouraged by the influence of her grandfather, continues as the pair dissect various creatures. The relationship between Callie and her grandfather, however, takes a back seat to the story of Callie and her younger brother, Travis. The majority of the book tells of the various escapades and adventures resulting from Travis’s unlikely animal adoptions and Callie helping to care for (and hide) the creatures. The author leaves the book open-ended enough that I suspect (and hope!) there will be another about this strong female character.

calpurnia 1You may also wish to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, the book that introduces the character, although this title can stand alone. 

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Copy.


Print this entry


The Forget-Me-Not Summer

July 9, 2015

The forget-me-not summerThe Forget-Me-Not Summer

By Leila Howland

The Silver sisters (Marigold, Zinnia and Lily) are California girls living in LA with their screenwriter father and their film editor mother. 12-year-old Marigold is an aspiring actress who has an agent and a bit part on a popular television series.  11-year-old Zinnia, the middle sister, adores her older sister and wants to be just like her.  5-year-old Lily is the well-loved baby and admittedly quite spoiled by her family and nanny. When job opportunities prevent their parents from staying in LA for the summer, the sisters are unhappily shipped off to a Cape Cod coastal town to visit with their Aunt Sunny for three weeks.  Culture shock ensues as they discover that they have no television or cell phone coverage and exceedingly slow internet.  Nevertheless, within a short period of time, they are charmed by life at the beach complete with new friends, interesting town characters, New England clambakes, dances and even talent shows.  As the sisters experience an unforgettable summer, they make self-discoveries that teach them what is really important in their lives and draw them closer to each other than ever before.

This is a delightful family story told with engaging characters and is reminiscent of  The Penderwicks  series.  A great summer book for readers ages 9 through 12.

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)



Print this entry


The War That Saved My Life

May 19, 2015

The war that saved my lifeThe War That Saved My Life

By: Kimberly Bradley

This wonderful historical novel by Kimberly Bradley explores WWII through the eyes of a disabled child. Ada and Jamie Smith live with their abusive, neglectful mother in London. Ada is crippled by an untreated club foot which keeps her dependent on her mother. With the threat of German bombs hitting London, parents are eager to send their children to the countryside. Ada’s mother plans to send Jamie, but intends to keep Ada in London. Ada takes it upon herself to teach herself to walk while her mother is away at work and she escapes with Jamie to the train bound for the countryside. The children are placed with Susan Smith, a woman without any experience with children. The children are emotionally damaged, but slowly they come to trust Ms. Smith and thrive under her care. Susan’s care is life-changing for Ada. Ada also gets the chance to ride Susan’s horse and she enjoys the freedom of being able to travel without walking on her club foot. This story, set against a backdrop of war, is both uplifting and heartwarming.

Print this entry


Fish in a Tree

April 17, 2015

Fish in a treeFish in a Tree

By: Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Sixth-grader Ally Nickerson has passed through seven schools in seven years and has hidden a deep, dark secret at each one. She can’t read and to cover up the shame she feels, she acts out and winds up in the principal’s office at each school. However, at Ally’s current school a long-term substitute, Mr. Daniels, sees through Ally’s charade. He tells Ally that he suspects she has dyslexia and provides tools to help Ally overcome her learning disability. Ally is also dealing with a father who is deployed in the Middle East and she struggles to make friends at her new school. The supporting cast of quirky characters who are dealing with their own problems round out the story and add interest beyond the focus on dyslexia. This is a touching story that pays tribute to teachers that go the extra mile for their students. Fans of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder may enjoy this title.

Fish in a Tree is Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s second middle-grade novel. Her first novel, One for the Murphys was published in 2012. Hunt is an expert at exploring themes of family and friendship. I hope she continues to write middle-grade books because I plan to read everything she writes.

Print this entry


Finding Serendipity

April 8, 2015


Finding Serendipity

By Angelica Banks

Tuesday McGillicuddy has a famous mother but she can’t tell you anything about her.  The reason being that her mother is the author of one of the most popular adventure series in the world!  She is so famous that she has to dress in disguise and pretend to be a completely different person when she’s out doing book signings or speaking in schools as the author Serendipity Smith.

Tuesday loves her mother deeply but she doesn’t love all of the time she spends writing her novels – locked away from her family for days on end. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Tuesday is happy that her mother is about to finish writing her last book in the Vivian Small adventure series.  This means a family trip where Tuesday will be able to spend weeks on a remote island somewhere with her mother and father, all the while enjoying their undivided attention.

But now something terrible has happened!  Her mother has apparently vanished through the open studio window while writing the final pages of Vivienne Small and the Final Battle!  The only clue left behind in her writer’s studio is a silver box containing a shimmering silver thread that spells “The End” and floats above the keyboard of her typewriter.  Hoping her mother will reappear, Tuesday starts a story of her own on the same typewriter. And now, her own adventure begins as she sets off to find her mother who is seemingly lost in her story somewhere.

I thoroughly enjoyed this magical and imaginative tale filled with twists and turns that introduce readers to a mystical land where authors find inspiration for their characters and stories.  A land where their characters become real and can live out the lives created for them.  And maybe, just maybe, live lives of their own after the author has left the story.

I highly recommend Finding Serendipity for children grades 4 through 6.  It would also be tremendous as a read-aloud!

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

Print this entry


Barry (Dog Diaries)

March 17, 2015

BarryDog Diaries – Barry

By: Kate Klimo

This is the third book in the Dog Diaries series. Each book in the series features a dog from history and the stories are told from the dog’s point of view. This one tells the story of Barry, a rescue dog from the St. Bernard Hospice in the Swiss Alps. The story is filled with adventure as Barry recues travelers that are buried in snow from avalanches. Barry is even injured by one of the people that he tries to rescue. This is a very touching story about a dog that is a gentle giant.

There is an appendix at the end of the book that contains the history of St. Bernard, information about owning a St. Bernard, and photos of the St. Bernard Hospice. There are six titles in the Dog Diaries series (Ginger, Buddy, Barry, Togo, Dash, and Sweetie) and the Plano Library System carries all of them.

Print this entry


Hissy Fitz

March 11, 2015

Hissy Fitz CoverHissy Fitz

By Patrick Jennings

Illustrated by Michael Allen Austin

If ever there was a cat to rival Grumpy Cat, it’s Hissy Fitz.  Hissy is aptly named as his first reaction to almost anyone and anything is an angry HSSSSSSSSSS! – usually because he’s being disturbed from a much loved nap. Hissy’s name is also a particularly clever play on the term “hissy fit” which is a slang term for a temper tantrum. (Fitz is the last name of his family).

Hissy feels justified in his bad temper as he’s living with a very noisy and boisterous family and has become sleep deprived.  His girl human is eight-year-old Georgie who loves to pet him (which he loves) but also likes to talk, talk, talk while he’s trying to go to sleep (which he doesn’t love).  Then there’s the father who is a carpenter and pounds loudly in his workshop all day.  Finally, there are the 3-year-old twins, Zeb – “the untamed one”- who loves to constantly chase and torment Hissy, and Abe, the kind-hearted one, who actually seems to understand Hissy’s need for peace and quiet but still earns a HSSSSSSSSSS! every once in a while.

Whether indoors or outdoors, Hissy is continually denied his opportunities for a nap until he finally comes to the conclusion that “Humans are the noisiest creatures alive. I’m not sure that there is any escape.”

Beginning chapter book readers will giggle as they appreciate life from Hissy’s point of view complete with his cranky but clever commentary.  Short chapters and snappy dialogue with amusing pencil illustrations that bring the story to life complement the plot and make this a perfect beginning chapter book for anyone –  cat lover (or not)!

Recommended for Grades 2 – 3.

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)



Print this entry


Rain Reign

March 6, 2015

rain reign Rain Reign by Ann Martin

This was such a satisfying chapter book!

Rose needs predictability in her life (she’s on the Autism spectrum), but living with her dad is difficult. He’s distant and gruff. Her saving grace is her uncle who seems to understand Rose so well. She loves homonyms and these appear all through the text.  Rose collects them. Besides her uncle, a dog–a gift from her dad–are her anchors.

I so rooted for this little girl. There’s a bittersweet ending but one that seemed just right. As a reader, I practically ached to make things right for her.  I hope you enjoy this one!

Print this entry


The Lost Stone (The Kingdom of Wrenly)

February 20, 2015

The lost stoneThe Lost Stone (The Kingdom of Wrenly)

By: Jordan Quinn

The Lost Stone is book one in The Kingdom of Wrenly series. Eight-year-old Prince Lucas of Wrenly has everything a boy could want – except for a friend. He is very lonely because his father, the king, doesn’t think it’s proper for him to be friends with the village children. His mother, the queen, convinces the King that their son should have friends. When the queen’s prized emerald pendant goes missing, the prince goes on a quest with his new friend, Clara, to find the stone. Their adventure takes the children to the fairy island of Primlox, the trolls’ home of Burth, the wizard’s island of Hobsgrove, and finally the Mermaid’s Cove.

Young, emerging readers now have their very own fantasy series and can embark on imaginary quests. The illustrations complement the text perfectly and set the fairy tale scene and they take up enough page space so new readers won’t feel overwhelmed by text. The Plano Library system already has six books in The Kingdom of Wrenly series for children to enjoy.

Print this entry


Eva’s Treetop Festival

January 20, 2015

Eva's treetop festivalEva’s Treetop Festival

By: Rebecca Elliott


Eva Wingdale, an owl with lots of personality, is known for her big ideas. She offers to organize the first Treetop Owlementary Bloomtastic Festival with a bake-off, talent, fashion, and art shows. With the big event only seven days away, Eva is worried that she can’t get everything done in time. Her teacher, Mrs. Featherbottom, recommends that Eva ask her classmates for help. Eva decides that is the only way the festival will get planned in time.  She learns the power of delegation and her classmates willingly chip in to help her pull off a great festival.


This early chapter book is a nice step between early readers and chapter books. It is written in a diary format with speech bubbles and colorful illustrations. This book and other accessible early chapter books are published by the new Branches imprint of Scholastic Books. Both children and parents will love them. Other titles published by the Branches imprint include Boris on the Move, Kiki: My Stylish Life, and Monkey Me and the Pet Show.

Print this entry