• Books

    The Friendship War by Andrew Clements

    The Friendship War puts a unique spin on a timeless theme for middle-grade fiction. The Friendship War by Andrew Clements. Random House, 2019, 208 pages Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12 Recommended for:  ages 10-14 When Grace’s recently-widowed grandfather buys an abandoned textile mill for development, he’s excited about getting into a project that will distract him from his grief. Grace, who’s visiting at the end of summer vacation, doesn’t see what the big deal is, until the two of them happen upon a stash of buttons left in a storage room—boxes and boxes of them. By the time school starts back home, Grandpa has shipped the whole pallet-load at…

  • Books

    World Atlas: Essential Student Reference

    Does your student have a world atlas at home to reference? Is your classroom or school library stocked with several? Do we even need a world atlas in this age of Google maps and Wikipedia? YES. There’s nothing quite like poring over a good world atlas for curious minds. And nothing quite like a handy print reference when juggling homework assignments at the kitchen table. Why? A world atlas gives far more than geolocation or random facts. Charts, graphs, MAPS all contribute to a visual display of information that is connected to the other information in the atlas. Atlases often include information that people forget to wonder about, but suddenly…

  • Books

    Explorer Academy: Code-Breaking Activity Adventure

    Learn to break codes like a professional sleuth in Explorer Academy: Code-Breaking Activity Adventure for middle grades. Explorer Academy: Code-Breaking Activity Adventure by Dr. Gareth Moore. National Geographic, 2019. 128 pages. Reading Level: Ages 8-12 Recommended For: Ages 8 and up Greetings, new recruit! This code-breaking activity book is written directly to readers, inviting them to join the Explorer Academy and learn to crack all sorts of codes. We begin in the library with a series of codes involving words. Next, we move into the Mount Everest dorm room and start cracking ciphers that involve changing words and letters within sentences. After this, it’s onward and upward: learning Morse code,…

  • Books

    Stay by Bobbie Pyron

    Stay, a heart-tugging dog story. also introduces young readers (in a limited way) to the plight of the homeless. Stay by Bobbie Pyron, Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins, 2019, 296 pages Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12 Recommended for: ages 10-14 A series of misfortunes has brought Piper and her family to the big city, somewhere out west. The bus tickets took the last of their funds, so until Daddy can find work they’ll have to make do with shelters and soup kitchens. Piper’s family isn’t as hard up as the people who live in the nearby park, especially one older lady who doesn’t seem to know where she is half the…

  • Books

    *The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser

    The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue continues the Vanderbeeker fun as the kids try to rescue their mom’s cookie baking business. *The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan Glaser. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019. 364 pages. Reading Level: Ages 8-10Recommended For: Ages 8-12, or as a read aloud for all ages. Mrs. Vanderbeeker has big news: she’s going to be featured in Perch Magazine for her cookie business! Since the Vanderbeekers celebrate every family member’s accomplishment, the apartment goes wild with excitement. The photoshoot is scheduled for the end of Spring Break which means they have a few months to get the brownstone ready. Life has a way of…

  • Books

    Cookbooks for Kids and Teens: A Book List

    Have you ever wanted to go beyond cookie baking and decorating with your kids? Did you know there are some great cookbooks for kids and teens available? Cookbooks that actually help teach your kids real kitchen and cooking skills? No matter how old your kids are, there’s something in this list that can help you help them get started in the kitchen. Cookbooks for kids and teens = #lifeskills, am I right? Cookbooks for Kids and Teens: A Book List Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up by Mollie Katzen. Tricycle Press, 1994. Amazon tells me I’ve bought this cookbook (and its companion, Salad People)…

  • Books

    Laid-Back Language Arts

    Do you remember your middle and high school English classes? Did you diagram sentences? Fill in endless worksheets with “S” for sentence or “F” for fragment in middle school only to graduate to similar annotations from your teacher on your own high school papers? Is your child experiencing the same thing? Sounds like you need some Laid-Back Language Arts! We don’t spend much time discussing curriculum on this site because that is not our mission. But reading well is related to writing well: they both depend on the skillful use of language. Language usage and study doesn’t have to be painful or tedious, and it certainly shouldn’t dampen our appreciation…

  • Movies

    The Ultimate Gift

    The Ultimate Gift: A Grandfather’s Legacy A gift’s purpose is to surprise its recipient. Indeed, Jason was about to receive the biggest surprise in his life. He had no monetary inheritance, his grandfather plot a series of tasks that he must fulfil before he receives his inheritance, the ultimate gift. Based on a best-selling book of the same title, the story revolves on profound insights into a life experience. Red’s passing led to the reading of his will, much-anticipated by his children and widowed daughter-in-law. Knowing they weren’t as responsible as him in managing business and estates, he placed under restrictions each heir to their dismay. As for Jason, Red…

  • Books

    Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

    An alternate version of English history drives Queen of the Sea, a lively graphic novel of political intrigue and warm personal relationships. Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis. Walker Books, 2019, 393 pages. Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15 Recommended for: ages 12-up Margaret doesn’t recall when she came to live on this Island, since she was only a baby at the time. All the sisters of the Elysian Order remember the day they took in that darling red-headed orphan, because they’ve loved her ever since, but only Sister Agnes knows the baby’s origin, and she’s told no one. Margaret is happy on the Island, but longs for another child…

  • Books

    House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig

    A dark fairytale retelling of the twelve dancing princesses for mature YA fantasy lovers House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. (Delacorte Press), 2019, 416 pages Reading Level: Teen, ages 15-18Recommended for: ages 16 -up In a beautiful, haunting, gothic setting, a family mourns as yet another daughter is interred to the sea.  But this time, Annaleigh is convinced there is something amiss with her sister’s death. For their mother and the first three sisters, each death was tragic, but made sense.  But Eulalie was too alive to die —and especially not falling from the cliffs, a place she hated to go. What’s worse, the family seems determined to…