Category Archives: Middle Reader

Super Series – Century Quartet

Four kids.  Four cities.  And the fate of the world at stake.

Seemingly brought together by coincidence Harvey, Mistral, Sheng and Elettra discover that they are part of an ancient mystery that must be resolved every hundred years.   If they fail, disaster awaits.  They’ll need each other to survive and succeed – their lives depend on it.  Written by Italian author Pierdomenico Baccalario, this series is filled with history, mystery, action, danger, and friendship and makes for an exciting journey around the globe. MR-5/6

century1Ring of Fire (Century Quartet, Book 1) –  A strange mix-up in hotel reservations bring Harvey from New York, Mistral from Paris and Sheng from Shanghai to Elettra’s family hotel in Rome, where they all have to share a room.  Stranger yet the kids discover they all have the same unique birthday.  Is their meeting really just coincidence?  Then, a mysterious man asks them to take care of a briefcase for him.  But when the mystery man winds up murdered, things take a decidedly sinister turn.  Now there is no going back, for once the four new friends open the briefcase and begin the hunt for the Ring of Fire – a centuries old center of power – they’ll travel throughout Rome’s most secret places on a life or death mission relying on their wits and each other to survive.

century2Century #2: Star of Stone – Reunited in New York the four friends discover that the professor who sent them all over Rome isnt’ done yet.  This time a series of coded postcards provide the clues necessary to send Harvey, Mistral, Elettra and Shang throughout hidden New York City on a quest of the Star of the Stone – another ancient and powerful object.  However, new threats are at every turn and this quest will be anything but easy.

century3Century #3: City of Wind – This time it’s Paris, Mistral’s home turf!  A gift from a friend of Harvey’s father turns out to be the key to unlocking the mystery to yet a third object of power.  The gift, a clock once owned by Napoleon, takes the four friends throughout Paris’ museums and famous churches on a race to discover its hidden secrets.  But this time they’re not alone, and someone sinister is keeping an eye on their every move.

century4Century #4: Dragon of Seas – Across Shanghai the four friends, led by Shang, search for the fourth and final piece of the puzzle to save the world – for at least another century. With only an odd collection of seemingly useless items to help in their quest for the Pearl of the Sea Dragon, the kids begin to rely on strange visions that Shang is having, which lead them throughout the city on their final quest – for they will succeed or surely perish as the danger is the worst they’ve faced yet!

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Filed under Action, Adventure, Middle Reader, mystery, series, travel

Super Series – 39 Clues

If your middle reader is looking for high action, intense adventure, and danger at every turn  – all while scouring the globe securing essential information, both for the heroes success, as well as to keep it out of the wrong hands – then this series is sure to please.

The 39 Clues – by Rick Riordan & Various Authors

Amy and Dan Cahill set out on a quest to discover the 39 missing clues that will reveal the true power of the Cahill family – but they aren’t the only branch of the mysterious family searching for answers, and not everyone has noble intentions.  As Amy and Dan travel the globe each mission becomes more dangerous, it becomes less clear who to trust, and their motives are constantly questioned.  Do Amy and Dan want to find the clues or just discover what happened to their parents?  What role do they play in the larger story of the Cahill family history, and what obligation do they have to keep the clues out of the wrong hands?

Initially I loved these books, they were fun, exciting and engaging.   The appeal for middle readers was three-fold – constant action, a distinct lack of adult supervision, and familiar authors who excel at this escapist type of novel.  I was won over by the incredible locales across the globe that the kids visit throughout their quest.  Eventually, though, the repetitive nature and implausibility of the perilous situations Dan and Amy constantly find themselves in wore thin.  (Seriously, how many times can two kids be trapped in a dark cave without any light being chased, attacked, etc.)  However, most middle readers, once they are hooked, will enjoy seeing the series through.  And if they want even more 39 Clues there are additional series, Cahills vs. VespersUnstoppable, and Doublecross for readers to enjoy.

39 clues1The Maze of Bones (39 Clues, No. 1) by Rick Riordan – Author Riordan, known for the Percy Jackson series and The Kane Chronicles kicks off the series with Dan and Amy choosing between a million dollars or embarking on the quest for the 39 clues.   As they meet the other branches of the family,  the search for the clues becomes more sinister.  Danger and mystery await as Dan and Amy travel to Philadelphia and then Paris chasing after the first clue.

39clues2One False Note (The 39 Clues, Book 2) by Gordon Korman – The competition between the warring factions of the family gets fierce as Amy, Dan, and their au pair chaperon Nellie lead chase through Austria in the second book, this one authored by Korman who is known for the Swindle and Island series.

39clues3The Sword Thief (The 39 Clues, Book 3) by Peter Lerangis – Amy and Dan discover more clues that lead them through Japan and Korea where an unlikely alliance could be their undoing.  This installation is authored by Lerangis, who is known for the Seven Wonders series and the Spy X books.


39clues4Beyond the Grave (The 39 Clues , Book 4) by Jude Watson – Egypt is full of danger and mystery as Dan and Amy face betrayal and find themselves trapped in their hunt for the next clue.  Author Watson has written extensively for the Star Wars series.


39clues5The Black Circle (The 39 Clues , Book 5) by Patrick Carman – A mysterious telegram from someone known only as “NRR” lead Dan and Amy to Russia where they infiltrate the Lucian base to get the next clue.  Carman also authored the Floors stories, a PBP favorite.


39clues6In Too Deep (The 39 Clues, Book 6) by Jude Watson – Amy and Dan head to Australia to follow their parents trail on the hunt for the 39 Clues.  Being so close to their parents memory is painful for Amy and her clouded vision leads to betrayal and the loss of an ally. Will they all survive?

39clues6reallyThe Viper’s Nest (The 39 Clues, Book 7) by Peter Lerangis – Danger hits close to home in South Africa, sending Amy and Dan running from the police.  That’s the least of their problems as they discover a final, devastating secret about their family branch that could change everything.


39clues8The Emperor’s Code (The 39 Clues, Book 8) by Gordon Korman – What happens when you think you are on the right side, but it turns out you might not be?  Amy faces her toughest challenge yet when she and Dan are separated in China -does she go after Dan or the clue?  How can Dan and Amy live up to who they thought they were, or who they want to be?

39clues9Storm Warning (The 39 Clues, Book 9) by Linda Sue Park – As they explore the Bahamas and Jamaica, Dan and Amy realize that they are finally about to confront the mysterious man who’s been tracking their movements throughout the search for the clues.  However, this meeting uncovers more secrets, and reveals the truth about the Madrigal branch of the family-one Amy and Dan never could have expected. Park is also the author of the remarkable A Long Walk to Water, which chronicles the stories of two Sudanese children.

39clues10Into the Gauntlet (The 39 Clues, Book 10) by Margaret Peterson Haddix – In England it is up to Dan and Amy to finish this, once and for all.  They are tired of playing by someone else’s rules and determinedly vow to end the hunt for 39 Clues their way.  Do they have enough strength to finally put all the pieces together and come out victorious?  Or do they just want to come out alive?  Haddix is well known for The Shadow Children Series and her The Missing Collection.

39clues11Vespers Rising (The 39 Clues, Book 11) Authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson come together to weaving four different stories, each by one author,  about the history of the Cahill family and their enemies, the Vespers.  While this book ties some loose ends together, it also leaves plenty of room and raises enough questions to introduce the next series The 39 Clues Cahills vs. Vespers.

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Filed under Action, Adventure, History, Middle Reader, mystery, series

X is for….

She’s just a little old lady here to take care of three kids, or is she?

Nanny X by Madelyn Rosenberg

When your new nanny arrives wearing a motorcycle jacket, mirrored sunglasses..and a flowered hat?  it’s hard to know what to think.  One thing is clear Nanny X isn’t what she seems! (MR-3/4)

nannyxAlison doesn’t want a new nanny.  She doesn’t want any nanny.  All she wants is for her mom to stay home with her, her brother Jake and baby sister Eliza, instead of returning to work as a lawyer.  Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen and when her mother arranges for Nanny X to take care of them Ali & Jack couldn’t be more surprised by her appearance, or her behavior.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that something sinister is going on.  Nanny X has a secret identity as part of of the Nanny Action Patrol (NAP) – a society of crime stopping secret agents who go undercover as caregivers – and it’s up to Ali & Jake help Nanny X recover stolen diamonds!  Ali & Jake take turns alternating as narrators for a fun story from multiple perspectives.

nannyxreturnsNanny X Returns She’s back for another adventure!  When Nanny X takes Ali, Jake and baby Eliza on a fishing adventure things definitely turn…fishy!  Robotic animals, a baby-wipe thief, and a mysterious character known as The Angler mean another exciting mystery full of humor and adventure.  This time the very fate of our national security could be on the line!  Return to the hilarious world of the Nanny Action Patrol with Ali & Jake.

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Filed under A to Z, Middle Reader, mystery

W is for….

What if all you need is someone who understands you….

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens

It’s a struggle to adjust to the fishbowl life of the President’s daughter.  Sure it sounds like a cool gig, but the constant supervision by the secret servie, the new school, the “friends” who pretend to like you because your mom is the leader of the free world, and those who are mean and jealous for the very same reason, makes normal life pretty difficult.  The biggest problem is no one really understands you- as very few have ever been in this position before. How is a girl to survive the next four years (oh, no – what if it’s eight?!?!) without a little help. (MR-5/6)

whenaudreymetaliceAudrey is just trying to hang on to what is left of her “normal” life, but being the President’s daughter is making that all but impossible.  Living in the White House is like being permanently grounded, except she didn’t do anything wrong!  And don’t even get started about the kids at Audrey’s school.  Even seeing a movie is a production – and the special privileges make it feel like she’s buying friendships, and it is nearly impossible to find a true friend who doesn’t have ulterior motives.  Just when Audrey feels like things couldn’t get any worse she discovers a hidden diary  – written by none other than Alice Roosevelt, another first daughter who had to navigate the crazy White House life 100 years ago.  With Alice as her guide, Audrey learns to manage her new role while remaining true to herself, all the while gaining confidence and grace.

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Filed under A to Z, History, Middle Reader


B-12!  Free Space!  4 Corners!  BINGO!   This past summer we discovered how fun it is to play Bingo. Our local VFW hall hosts the game every Wednesday night, and they pack ’em in!  For less than the cost of a movie, you get 2 hours of serious Bingo.  Snacks are available for purchase, but they encourage a bring-your-own policy for candy, popcorn and soda.  When play starts, it’s time to quiet down and concentrate, and it’s amazing how focused a group of kids can be when a win is on the line.   We’ve had some luck and won a couple games, but more than anything it is just good, old-fashioned fun – supporting the VFW, and hanging out with family and friends.  Since it is break week, and bedtimes are a little more lax, we headed to Bingo this past week, hoping for a win, but knowing we’ll have fun.


Playing off our new found love of BINGO I made “Reading Bingo” boards for my girls.  There are many options available online, but I personalized them to support each child at their reading level while making sure its still fun.  This is a great way to motivate summer reading, but would work as a year-long goal, too.  I haven’t decided yet what the prizes will be, some will be reading oriented – a new bookmark or a giftcard to the bookstore.  Others might be purely fun -an ice cream cone or a trip to the zoo.   Check out the BINGO boards for each reading level below and feel free to print and use them – or amend and alter them to fit your ultimate BINGO reading challenge!

PBP Picture Book Bingo – Perfect for any age, but especially geared for pre-readers to complete along with adult help

PBP Early Reader Bingo – Modified for newly independent readers

PBP Middle Reader Bingo – A little more challenge and diversity

PBP Young Adult Reader Bingo – Allows for independent reading choices & encourages reading diversity

BP Mom’s Bookshelf Bingo – Even grown-up readers can play!


Filed under Bingo, Early Reader, Middle Reader, Mom's Bookshelf, Picture Book, Summer, Young Adult

Q is for….

It wasn’t enough that his mom remarried, started a rock band, and is spending a year traveling the U.S. on a mega-tour – turns out his new stepsister has skeletons in her past that are threatening their new life just as they were settling in.  Another day on tour with..

I, Q by Roland Smith

Quest, known as Q, is glad his mom, Blaze, finally found happiness and love with Roger.  He isn’t quite so sure about the new lifestyle though.  Not only did Blaze and Roger get married they also collaborated musically and spawned a huge hit record.  Now Q, and his stepsister Angela (whom he is even less sure of), are spending a year off from school traveling the United States on a concert tour.  Unbeknownst to their parents, who are consumed by the tour, Angela and Q are being threatened by some mysterious characters from Angela’s past.  Adventure and intrigue are at every turn, and every mystery has Q and Angela exploring the coolest spots in each city they visit! (MR-5/6)

Qindependance HallI,Q: Independence Hall – Getting settled into his new lifestyle begins with a cross-country drive from California to Philadelphia in the luxury camper that Blaze and Roger have chosen as their family home for the next year.  Early in the trip things get strange. Are they being followed?  How did Boone, and old roadie friend of Blazes’, find them in the middle of the desert?  Who is he really?  Philadelphia has history at every turn, but it is Angela’s history that is the biggest mystery!  The first book in the series sets the scene for adventure to come across the country!

QwhitehouseThe White House– 24 hours in Washington, DC at the home of the President.  The intrigue and mystery just gets more exciting for Q and Angela, but so does the danger!



QkittyhawkKitty Hawk– The president’s daughter has been kidnapped and Q and Angela are part of the team working to save her.  They follow the trail to the Outer Banks -but will a freak storm ruin their chances?



QalamoThe Alamo – With a huge concert planned at the Alamo Q and Angela find themselves in the heart of Texas, and a the heart of another Ghost Cell attack.   Are they being chased across the country?  Or are they doing the chasing?  All is not as it seems as Q and Angela try to find out if they are the hunted or the hunters!


QWindycityThe Windy City – Q and Angela may have been thwarting international terrorism, but all their parents see is a lack of attention to their studies.  With the threat of boarding school, Q and Angela hit the books when they get to Chicago in order to avoid leaving the tour -which would mean leaving Boone and their work against the Ghost Cell.  But when Boone and the crew don’t make it to Chicago as planned Q and Angela know that there is a mole feeding information to the Ghost Cell.  Who is it?  And how do they stop the Ghost Cell’s next plot – a chemical attack on the Windy City?

QAlcatrazAlcatraz – Things have just become too intense and, although they plan to continue the tour, Blaze and Roger think it is time for Q and Angela to return home to San Francisco and attend boarding school.  It’s a race against time to find the leader of the terrorist cell before Q and Angela find themselves removed from the team hunting the Ghost Cell.

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Filed under A to Z, History, Middle Reader, mystery, North America, travel, United States

Year of the Sheep*

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure how it began.  I chalk it up to being a slightly bored, housebound, stay-at-home mom who, when trapped by the freezing temperatures and mounds of snow outside, latched onto an idea to bring some festivity to the otherwise drab early February.  This is how my family adopted the celebration of Chinese New Year.

Chinese_New_YearWhat started as an attempt to pull us from our winter doldrums (and I admit an excuse to order in rather than cook) has become a cherished tradition in our household.  Along the way the Museum Educator in me came out and we have developed a deep appreciation for the history and tradition of the holiday.  We embrace many of the activities of the New Year as well – everyone gets a haircut (the only time of year they don’t fight me), we clean our house (again, much less of a fight when they know it is for the New Year), we make fortune cookies and Nian Gao, cut-paper lantern decorations hang about the house, and we listen to Chinese music.   Perhaps my favorite part is when we remember our ancestors – Chinese New Year reminds us to talk to the girls about the great-grandparents they never met, or can’t remember well.

Something about Chinese New Year is simply appealing to kids. First, why wouldn’t you want another opportunity to have a celebration?  Second, it is fascinating that Chinese zodiac names each year for an animal.  Finally, lion dancers and dragons are really cool.

In major part because of our celebration we always visit Chinatown when we are in NYC.  This hectic, busy, loud section of the city is endlessly fascinating to my girls.  They want to shop for red envelopes and lanterns, get an ice-cream cone at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (where the “exotic” flavors include vanilla, and the “regular” flavors range from green tea to banana durian), and try delicacies like dried cuttlefish.   These visits also lead to great discussions, and further reading, about immigration and settlement of cultural enclaves in major cities.

This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19, and many cities have celebrations you can attend.  Check out how New York, San Francisco and Seattle are planning to welcome in the Year of the Sheep.  If you can’t make it, consider having  your own celebration. has a nice overview of the holiday and a trip to your local Asian market will provide the rest.  Over the years we have established a large collection of Chinese New Year books to help us with our celebration.  Our favorites are below to help you get started.

myfirstchinesenewyearMy First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz.  A perfect beginning book for young readers to explore all the preparation and festivity of Chinese New Year.  (PB)


bringinginthenewyearBringing In the New Year by Grace Lin.  Follow a Chinese-American family as they prepare for the holiday. (PB)

PBP Note:  I simply ADORE Grace Lin and there isn’t a thing she has written that I don’t LOVE.  Other great PB titles include Dim Sum for Everyone! and Fortune Cookie Fortunes.   Also check out her Ling & Ting  ER Series and Pacy Lin Series for Advanced ER.  Look below for MR titles that are amazing!


disfordragondanceD Is For Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine.  There is an aspect of Chinese New Year for every letter of the alphabet.  Celebrate from Acrobats to Zodiac. (PB)


runawayricecakeThe Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine.  The Chang family only has one rice cake for the New Year – and when it runs away the three brothers chase it across town.  What could end in disaster results in a special lesson – when you give to others it comes back to you ten-fold.  This is where our family found our Nian-Gao recipe, which we make every year.  Other folk-tales by Compestine in her “story of” series such as The Story of Noodles, The Story of Chopsticks, and The Story of Paper  are additional delightful reads for the holiday. (PB)

storiesofchinesezodiacsheepTales from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin.  There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac and author Oliver Chin has a story for each.  Discover which year your child is born in and read their story, or read them all!  (PB)

celebratechinesenewyearCelebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns by Carolyn Otto.  This non-fiction National Geographic book  takes a look at Chinese New Year celebrations around the globe, highlighting the tradition and pagentry of this world-wide cultural event.  Beautiful photography accompanies clear, informative text.  (PB)

azchinesenewyearThe New Year Dragon Dilemma: A to Z Mysteries Super Edition #5 by Ron Roy.  The kids are in San Francisco and their new friend Holden is going to take them to the Chinese New Year parade.  But when Miss Chinatown, and her priceless crown, go missing the kids need to solve the mystery quickly, before Holden gets blamed.  (ER-2/3)

nancydrewchinesenewyearmysteryThe Chinese New Year Mystery : Nancy Drew Notebooks #39 by Carolyn Keene. Nancy’s class is celebrating Chinese New Year and she and her friends get to make the dragon!  All their hard work is for nothing when the dragon goes missing.  The parade will be cancelled if Nancy can’t solve the mystery quickly.


happynewyearjulieHappy New Year, Julie: American Girl by Megan McDonald.  Julie’s first Christmas since her parents divorce is a difficult one, and she finds solace in helping Ivy prepare for her families’ Chinese New Year celebration.  When she discovers that Ivy’s family is inviting her mom and dad to the party Julie worries that they won’t be able to get along and will ruin everything.

wherethemountainmeetsthemoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.  Minli has grown up hearing her father’s tales of the Old Man on the Moon and as her families fortunes are bleak she sets off one day to find him, and have him change her fortune.  Throughout her journey Minli meets many characters who help her to learn the most important lesson of all – by appreciating what you already have you are the richest of all. (MR-4th & Up)  *PBP All-Time Top-Ten Favorite*

starryriveroftheskyStarry River of the Sky by Grace Lin.  When a mysterious woman arrives in the village where Rendi is working as an errand boy she brings with her stories to share.  Her wisdom opens Rendi to the possibilities of those around him,and helps him to see that to write the ending to his own story he needs to rethink his present. (MR – 4th & Up)

*2015 is the Year of the Sheep/Ram.  Because the Chinese New Year is based on the Lunar calendar it fluctuates each year – occurring sometime between mid-January and mid-February.  When determining what “year” you were born, check when the New Year fell during your birth year.  For dates all the way back to 1930 click  HERE.

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Filed under Asia, Chinese New Year, Early Reader, History, Holiday, Middle Reader, Picture Book

All you need is LOVE….

I love holidays, but for some reason I have never had particularly warm feelings about Valentine’s Day.  Perhaps it is the commercial focus on romantic love, that at once celebrates coupledom and highlights the lack thereof, which rubs me the wrong way.   However, my perspective has altered in recent years.   I’ve come to the conclusion that there is so much sorrow, hurt, and hate in the world that what we need is more love.  And all kinds of love should be celebrated – for when we care about each other, in all capacities, the world we live in will be a much better place.    So love each other – parents & children, siblings, friends & teachers, gay, straight, young & old.  This holiday isn’t just about romantic love, although that is nice, it’s about caring for each other.  It celebrates that acting with love everyday makes our world better.

heartBelow are some books that celebrate LOVE in all forms.  Pick one up to broaden your perspective on Valentine’s Day as more than just roses and chocolate.

tangomakesthreeAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell – The true story of a pair of  male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who wanted a family of their own.  When an observant zookeeper gives them a egg to care for they “know just what to do”.   In a world where families come in all kinds of configurations, penguins Roy and Silo create a unique family and prove the most important ingredient in creating a family is love.  (PB) *ALA Notable Children’s Book Nominee,  Note:ALA #1 most challenged book of 2010

henrymudgegreatgrandpasHenry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas by Cynthia Rylant – Henry and Mudge love to visit Great-Grandpa Bill.  He lives in a home with lots of other grandpas, all of whom love to play with a boy and his dog.  When Henry discovers a swimming hole he knows he’ll need a grown up to swim with him, but little did he know that all the grandpas would want to join in the fun!  A hilarious look at love of life across generations. (ER-K/1)

katiewoonervousnightA Nervous Night by Fran Manushkin -In this addition to the Katie Woo series Katie is going to spend the night at her grandparents house.  She loves her grandparents, and enjoys doing fun things like gardening and cooking with her grandmother.  But the unfamiliar bedroom is a little scary, until Katie discovers that it was her mother’s bed…and learns that a grandmothers love is the perfect substitute when mom isn’t there. (ER-2/3)

nodogsallowedNo Dogs Allowed!by Bill Wallace- Kristine is heartbroken at the loss of her beloved horse and vows to never love another pet, ever again!  When her father gives her a puppy for her birthday she stands firm in her refusal to welcome him into the family.  How can she find room in her heart to love again?  And will she see that sharing her love with a pet brings her more love in return?  (MR-4/5)

sistersSisters by Raina Telgemeier – A middle reader memoir told in graphic novel format that highlights the ups and down of sibling relationships.  Over time the realization of shared history and common experience helps these sisters learn to stick together! (ER-5/6)

faultinourstarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green – When 16 year old Hazel Grace, a terminal cancer patient, meets Augustus at a support group their common experience battling cancer leads to a deep friendship and eventual romantic entanglement.  Together they navigate the world of loss and love, learning that sometimes the joy of loving someone is worth the painful cost of losing them in the end. (YA)

fireflylaneFirefly Lane by Kristen Hannah – Kate and Tully are an unlikely pair of best friends, but their experiences together form a lifelong bond that spans decades.  Through trials, traumas, self-discovery, and self-imploding they learn that having a friend who loves you for exactly who you are, faults and all, is a gift to cherish.  (Mom’s Bookshelf)

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Filed under Banned Books, dogs, Early Reader, Love, Middle Reader, pets, Picture Book, Valentine's Day, Young Adult, zoo

P is for….

It begins with “A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy”

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwick sisters are as different as can be, but all of them are truly thrilled to be spending their summer at Arundel, a country estate.  Here they discover a special friendship, the joy of of fresh baked cookies, and endless summer afternoons.  But they also learn of prejudice, the consequences of selfish behavior, and the sting of first love.  A charming, heartwarming tale that is sure to be a classic. MR-4/5

*A Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top 10 Favorite*

penderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy–  When Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty arrive at Arundel they are looking forward to a summer of outdoor adventures on the grounds of this Massachusetts estate, but they never imagined they’d meet a friend like Jeffery Tifton.  The sweet son of Arundels cold and prejudiced owner, Jeffery is in peril of being sent to a military academy his mother hopes will make him more like his grandfather.  Jeffery needs help to avoid this dreaded fate and the Penderwick sisters aren’t going to let their new friend down.  Filled with hilarious misadventures and growing pains, The Penderwicks evokes the warmth and charm essential to a childhood classic.

penderwicksgardhamstreetThe Penderwicks on Gardam Street – Fall has come and the Penderwicks are back home.  Mr. Penderwick has settled into the widower lifestyle, but his sister, Aunt Claire,  thinks it is time he consider dating again.  Leave it to the girls to come up with the “save-Daddy” plan to thwart any progress in his search for a new wife.  Can they ensure his dates are dreadful all this while dealing with neighborhood boys, homework swaps, and soccer drama?  What if the solution to their problem isn’t quite what they think, or any further away than their own neighborhood?

penderwickspointemouetteThe Penderwicks at Point Mouette – This summer Rosalind is off to the beach and the other girls are headed to Maine with Aunt Claire.  Can Skye live up to the pressure of being OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick)?  With their dear friend Jeffrey joining them, things are sure to be full of excitement, confusion, misunderstandings, and adventures.   Luckily their quaint cottage by the shore has some special neighbors who are sure to make certain it’s a summer they’ll never forget.

penderwicksspringThe Penderwicks in Spring – Due March 24, 2015 – Spring is full of surprises and the Penderwicks are sure to be up to mischief in the fourth book about this amazing family!

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Filed under A to Z, classics, Middle Reader, series

Listen to the Voices

Today, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as designated by the United Nations.  It marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops in 1945.  Seventy years ago, the conquering Red Army discovered the largest of the concentration/death camps, and the public began the impossible task of processing the horror and atrocity that was the Holocaust.

As I began researching this post I was struggling to find the best way to frame it, while doing justice to the subject matter and the memory of the more than six million people who died as a result of Nazi policy.  I discovered that perhaps the best way to remember, and learn, is to simply listen.

Weezy-Jean, 8 years old, asked me what I was reading about and thus began a lengthy dinner conversation outlining the horrors of the Holocaust.  It was through her eyes that I realized for children to grasp the nature of the Holocaust there needs to be a human connection.  The concept of six million people was simply impossible for her to process, her shock that people allowed this to happen was incomprehensible, and the idea that no one stopped Hitler was ludicrous.    The numbers, dates, locations, technicalities –  none of this could possibly help her wrap her head around the Holocaust.

So I told her a story. “Is it true?” she asked. “Yes, I said.”  About a little girl named Syvia, who wore a yellow star, and at 4 years old had to leave her home and live in a ghetto.  About a boy name Elie, who survived, and became a writer to share his story.  About Anne, who died, but whose voice has echoed through the decades, loudly and clearly reminding the world that she was here.

To honor the victims of the holocaust this Remembrance Day, take time to listen.  Hear their voices, one by one, as they share their struggle.   When you close the book, remember the 6 million more voices that were silenced.  Their stories and gifts were stolen from our world.   The survivors give voice to the victims, and if we listen,  we guarantee they will not be forgotten.

yellow starYellow Star – by Jennifer Roy.    “In 1945, the war ended.  The Germans surrendered, and the ghetto was liberated. Out of more than a quarter million people, only about 800 walked out of the ghetto.  Of those who survived, only twelve were children.  I was one of the twelve.”   This excerpt is from an interview with Sylvia Perlmutter, Jennifer Roy’s aunt.  Roy alternates historical contextual information with Sylvia’s story, which is told in prose.  Yellow Star illuminates the shocking, painful reality of life as a Polish Jew in the Lodz ghetto where Sylvia lived for five years. (MR-4/5)

annefrankAnne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – For two years Anne and her family hid from the Nazi’s in Amsterdam.  Her diary of their time in hiding is honest and heartbreaking, both concerning mundane daily life and the horrors of her situation.  When the Nazi’s raided the “secret annexe” in August, 1944 everyone was sent to concentration camps and Anne died of  typhus in Bergen-Belsen in March, 1945.    Her father, Otto, survived and first published Anne’s diary in 1947   For nearly 70 years it has honored her memory, and given voice to the millions who died.  For more information on Anne Frank’s experience, to see photos and maps of the secret annexe, and to discover what Anne’s diary looked liked visit the Anne Frank House website. (MR/YA-6 and up)

evasstoryEva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Stepsister of Anne Frank – by Eva Schloss.   Eva was just one month older than Anne Frank, and lived in the same neighborhood.  They were acquaintances, but not close friends.  They both went into hiding in 1942.  But where Anne’s diary ends, and her subsequent death robs us of the rest of her story, Eva’s story continues.  Sharing her traumatic and painful experiences of hiding, discovery, transport, and eventual survival of Auschwitz-Birkenau we discover what so many endured and so few survived.  A remarkable story of luck, determination, and strength of spirit.  Highly recommended to be read along with Diary of a Young Girl(MR/YA – 6 and up)

nightNight by Elie Wiesel. At just a little over one hundred pages, Night tells Nobel Peace Prize winner Wiesel’s story of forced transport from his home to Auschwitz, the loss of his family, and the deterioration of the human spirit.  As a teenage survivor of the Holocaust, Wiesel shares his experience in terrifying detail.  He also bears witness to the atrocities, testifying to the horror and using his voice to proclaim that this must never happen again.

aluckychildA Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy by Thomas Buergenthal.  Only ten years old when he was separated from his parents in Auschwitz, Thomas attributes his remarkable survival to street smarts and an enormous amount of luck.  These are his recollections of the harrowing life of a Jewish child in Nazi era Europe.  After the war he became a human rights lawyer, and attributes the influence of his childhood experiences in directing his area of expertise.   Buergenthal eventually sat as the US judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

fireflies in the darkFireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin. I’ve attempted to focus on the first-person voices of children of the Holocaust, but I’ve included Fireflies in the Dark because of the artwork within, as it speaks volumes about the young residents of the Terezin concentration camp.  When art teacher Friedl Dicker-Brandeis packed her bags for deportation to Terezin she took what was most essential to her – the art supplies she would need to continue teaching the Jewish children in the camp.  For nearly two years she used art to keep hope alive, to create a safe place to express the impossible emotions the children were feeling, and to help them escape the dim reality of their existence in Terezin.   Upon liberation of Terezin, one of Friedl’s students discovered over 5000 drawings created by the children.  It is through their artwork that we are able to hear the voices of these children, bear witness to their experience, honor and remember them.(PB – age 8 and up)

To hear more voices of the Holocaust visit The USC Shoah Foundation, which has an online database of audio-visual recordings of survivors stories.

For additional information visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC


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