Thursday, December 29, 2011

Miles to Go

     I picked up Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans on purpose.  I'm not a fan of his writing, but I wanted an uplifting book for the holidays.  Reading it reminded me of why I'm not a fan of his writing.  It should have been an uplifting book.  It had all the parts of the formula: sad story, characters overcoming hard times, a happy ending.  The problem was it had all the parts of the formula.  All of his books follow the same formula and when I read them, I get bored.  There are no surprises, no suspense, no mysteries.  I can't even cheer for the characters because they lack personalities.  They are cookie cutter gingerbread people without any unique decorations.
     His writing is also bland.  He likes to tell the story, rather than show us.  This subtle change makes a huge difference to the reader.  When I hear about the characters and what they feel, rather than experience it with them, they are removed from me.  I am just the reader, rather than a part of their world.  When I am part of their world, I care deeply about them and want to know what happens to them.  Writers do this by showing us what they are going through, rather than just saying things like, "She was depressed."
     There were great things about this book.  I loved some of the quotes the characters said.  They sounded like inspirational posters.  The trouble was without an interesting character to connect the quotes in my mind, the quotes were easily forgotten.  I also enjoyed the story on the Good Samaritan experiment.  I was so intrigued by this story, I Googled the experiment to find out more.
     Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to make me like the book.  I didn't even feel like talking about the book when I was done, and you know how much I love talking about books I am reading.
     It was an okay book, but like the characters, it will be easily forgotten.  If you are looking for an inspirational read for the holidays, pick up a Mitch Albom book.  His books will be ones you will not forget.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Last Olympian

     The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan is a fitting ending to a wonderful series.  I am sad to see the series come to an end.  It has been a pleasure to spend the last two years with Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson.
     In this book, all of the pieces from the earlier books come together in an epic battle between the Titans and the Olympians.  Although strength and prowess play a role in the battles, the true heroes are successful because they are able to persevere, see the good in one another, and join together to fight for their cause.
     I was intrigued by Prometheus.  He was an interesting character and I am still not sure if he was trying to help or hurt Percy.  I loved the way Prometheus gave Pandora's Box to Percy to test Percy's view of humanity and hope.  I would love to read more about Prometheus in other books.
     Although the characters are growing up, they still kept the internal qualities that I loved about them.  I enjoyed the ending of the book because each character was given an ending that he/she deserved.  No one was overlooked or pushed to the side in a quick ending.
     I loved the way all of the human characters were given redemption, even though they had turned to the dark side.  It was an uplifting view that all of us make mistakes, but all of us can redeem ourselves and make a difference in the end.
     Rick Riordan is an amazing writer.  I love his characters, his creativity in creating a world unlike anywhere else I have ever been, his humor, and his uplifting view of the heroic qualities in all of us.  I am a better person for having read his books.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Battle of the Labyrinth

     The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan is my favorite book in the series.  This book is a very creative look at the myth of Icarus and Daedalus.       This myth is one of my favorites, and I was thrilled to be able to strap on the bronze wings and soar through Colorado.
     In this book, Luke has found a way to enter the labyrinth, but he hasn't been able to master it yet.  In fact, one of the people he sends into the maze loses his mind.  Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson must find a way to get to Daedalus first.  
     My favorite monster in this book was the Sphinx.  Like her mythical version, you must answer her questions to move on and avoid being eaten.  However, the modern Sphinx has been impacted by No Child Left Behind.  She now asks trivial questions to assess your knowledge and makes you bubble in your answers on a standardized test sheet.  As a teacher, I loved her analysis of modern education.
     I also loved meeting Pan and finding the reason behind his disappearance for the past two thousand years.  He left us with an important message about the environment without hitting us over the head with a moral.
     Calypso was another character I loved meeting.  Her island was beautiful and I loved the way she took care of Percy.  I knew his departure was inevitable, but I wished she could have found a way to go with him.
     I even liked Dionysus in this book, which has never happened before.  After losing a son, he seemed almost "human" at the end of the book and I was finally able to relate to him.
     There were only two parts I didn't like about the book.  The first was the love triangle introduced with the addition of Rachel Elizabeth Dare.  I liked the character, but I didn't like the way Annabeth and Rachel kept fighting for Percy's attention.  I also HATE the Pegasi.  The Pegasus is one of my favorite mythical creatures, and I hate the way the Pegasi in the book sound like they are stereotypes of minority groups.
     This book is an awesome book and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy books, Greek mythology, or Percy Jackson.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Tale Dark & Grimm

     "Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome."  I love the first line of A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz.  It is a modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel.  It is dark, funny, and just scary enough for older kids to squirm with fear but still sleep well at night.
     Like most fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel go through many scary events to find their happily-ever-after.  Interestingly, all of the adults in the book harm or endanger the children, but together the brother and sister survive with grace and dignity.
     This book can be read as a fun fairy tale or as a symbolic view of life.  "The land of Grimm can be a harrowing place.  But it is worth exploring.  For, in life, it is the darkest zones one finds the brightest beauty and the most luminous wisdom.  And, of course, the most blood."
     A great read for the young or old at heart, especially in October when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hush, Hush

     Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick was a rip-off of Twilight by Stephanie Meyers, but I was unable to stop reading it.  It was like watching a soap opera.  You know it is stupid and a waste of time, but you have to know what happens to these characters.
     The plot was an obvious ripoff of Twilight.  Nora and Patch are even together in high school and sit by each other every day in biology.  They have a love-hate relationship, but alas, love is elusive when she is human and he is...a fallen angel.  An evil force is plotting to kill Nora, but luckily Patch is the one who keeps coming to her rescue.  (Sound familiar?)
     The characters were two-dimensional and predictable.  The writing was mediocre.   I have no great reason to recommend this book, but I could not stop reading it.  I must have a weakness for angels or something.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mockingbird

      I absolutely LOVED Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine.  After
Caitlin's mother died from cancer, her older brother Devon helped her deal with life, growing up, and acting normal.  Now that Devon is dead, Caitlin has no one to help her navigate the world the rest of us take for granted.  Caitlin searches for the closure she and her father so  desperately need and learns about life in all its messy glory.
     Caitlin helped me see the world in a totally different way.  Thanks to her, I understand what it is like to grow up with Aspberger's Syndrome.  Through Caitlyn's eyes, I have a new understanding of empathy, finesse, and things I take for granted - like making friends.  This book made me laugh out loud one minute and sob the next.  I LOVED this little girl.
     Kathryn Erskine breaks all the rules of writing in this book, so it takes a while to figure out what is real.  Once I caught on to her style, I enjoyed the way it mirrored Caitlin's world.  It is beautifully written and captures the character perfectly.  It is a short book, but because of the author's play with style and theme, I recommend this book to advanced readers.

Among the Betrayed

     Among the Betrayed by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the third book in the Shadow Children series.  I liked this book, but it wasn't my favorite in the series.  Luke (AKA Lee Grant) was only in the book at the end, and I didn't get attached to the other characters.  There were so many double crossings, I was totally confused by the end.  I don't recommend this book, unless you liked Among the Hidden.  
   

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mockingjay

     Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the third and final book in the trilogy.  I loved the first two books, but I did not like Mockingjay.
     The characters did not act like themselves, and it was frustrating to see they way they treated each other.  I didn't like any of the main characters anymore.
     Although Peeta was tortured to get back at Katniss, she refused to let him get close to her.  Peeta thought Katniss was the enemy and she considered him another tragedy of the war.  Without their love hanging in the balance, the fight against the government didn't seem to matter.
     It was obvious from the beginning of the book that the rebels would be betrayed by the new leaders, but it wasn't developed sufficiently.  It seemed like Suzanne Collins ran out of time and just tacked an ending onto the story.
     I didn't believe Snow or Coin were fit leaders, but the people who could have been effective leaders, were killed.  If these are the only two choices, everyone in all three books died in vain.
     The last chapter of the book should have been a fitting conclusion to all Katniss and Peeta had sacrificed, but instead it felt like a Hollywood conclusion.  I was disappointed in the whole book. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Catching Fire

     Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is an incredible read.  I usually hate sequels because they are pale imitations of the original, but this book is even better than The Hunger Games.  I read this book in a day because I could not put it down.
     Catching Fire starts a few months after The Hunger Games have ended.  Katniss and Peeta live next door to one another in the Victory Circle, but are further apart than they were during the games.  They rarely talk to one another anymore and Katniss is confused about her feelings for Gale and Peeta.
     President Snow appears unexpectedly to threaten Katniss' family if Katniss does not stop the rebelling colonies.  When Peeta hears the threats, he proposes to her and the two spend their victory tour acting madly in love.  When they fail, President Snow determines the Quarter Quell tributes will be reaped from the victors in each district.  Katniss and Peeta reenter the arena.
     The new arena brings new threats and new opponents inside the arena; forces outside the arena are controlling Katniss and Peeta in ways they can not understand.  Tick Tock, the countdown begins.
     This book is action packed but character driven.  I could not stop reading this book.  I was surprised by the plot twists and the way everything fit into the bigger scheme behind the scenes.
     My favorite part was seeing Katniss' wedding dress transform into the Mockingjay dress.  I was proud of Cinna for taking a stand, even though it cost him his life.
     This book made me think about life.  Where is the line between following the law and standing up against corruption?  How do we decide who to trust?  What is worth sacrificing my life?  What is love?  What am I willing to sacrifice for the people I love?
     This book is a must-read, especially if you already loved Katniss and Peeta.        

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Hunger Games

     I really liked The Hunger Games.  Although it is hard to be in such a bleak and brutal world where children are forced to kill one another, it is a book you can't put down.
     This dystopian world seems too close to reality for my comfort.  Seeing people beat each other at sporting events, voting for our favorites on reality t.v. shows, and our love of action and violence today isn't far from The Hunger Games tomorrow.
     My favorite part was when Katniss put the poisonous berries in her mouth to save Peeta and force the government to back down.  I love Little Rue and cry every time she dies and Katniss sings her to "sleep."  I was thrilled to learn how Peeta survived his attack in the water and loved how he used his talent to survive.  I also liked Cinna and the beautiful costumes he designed for Katniss and Peeta.
     My least favorite part was finding out the government stooped so low as to use the bodies and minds of the dead children to create muttations.  This part of the book disgusts and depresses me.
     It is a great read, especially in the fact there is so much to think about after you read it.  You won't be the same person you were before you read the book.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Among the Imposters

     Among the Impostors by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the second book in the Shadow Children Sequence.  I don't usually like sequels.  This one is pretty good, but not as good as Among the Hidden.  The story gets off to a slow start, but once you make it to the middle of the book, it is hard to put down.
     In this book, Luke has taken on his new identity as Lee Grant and placed in a boy's boarding school.  Luke is scared, lonely, and confused about everything in his life.  During the day he wanders aimlessly from room to room trying to find his classes.  At night he is bullied by the older boys.  Life is miserable until Luke sees an open door and risks his life escaping.  Now he puts his life in the hands of the kids he discovers.  Who should he trust with his secret?
     I didn't like Luke as much in this book because he acted so differently.  I fell in love with him in the first book.  I was excited to see him escape and have a better life, so it was hard to watch him get bullied and do nothing.  Even though Luke loved being outside in the first book, his love of gardening was never shown, so it was hard for me to believe he would risk his life over a garden, now.
     To show us how Luke's confusion, the author makes all of the kids blend together, including names that change.  This was interesting as a writer, but it also made it difficult to attach to any of the characters.  When the dramatic betrayal was happening, I didn't care very much because I didn't even know the boys' names.
     This book is a short, exciting read at 172 pages.  I recommend this book if you have read Among the Hidden.  This series needs to be read in order to make sense.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Titan's Curse

     The Titan's Curse is the third book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.  It wasn't my favorite book in the series, but it was still fun to read.
     One of the problems I had was the number of new characters to keep track of in this book.  Thalia joins Grover, Percy, and Annabeth in rescuing Nico and Bianca di Angelo from a Manticore.  Along with many bad guys, we meet Atlas and the goddesses Athena, Aphrodite, and Artemis.  We also meet Artemis' hunters, Annabeth's dad, Zoe Nightshade, and Rachel Elizabeth Dare.  Thalia, Bianca, and Zoe seemed too much alike and I kept getting them confused.  With so many new characters, I didn't get attached to anyone like I did in the other two books.
     The quest seemed contrived and I didn't feel the urgency for everyone to make it safely to Mount Othrys.  It also seemed redundant to keep using the solstice as the deadline they faced.
     I did not like the Pegasi and that was disappointing because they are some of my favorite mythological creatures.  I did not like the way Blackie talked in slang that seemed to mimic stereotyped versions of African American speak.  Mr. Riordan could have done a much better job of creating the dialogue for them.  I felt the same way about Percy calling the Ophiotaurus "Bessie."
     I liked the ending surprise.  It fit well with the details in the book and made a surprising shock that I didn't see coming.  I am excited to see how Nico fits into the prophecy in the next book.
     It was an okay book, but not as great as the first two in the series.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

     Can I just say, I love Harry Potter?  I love everything about this kid!
This is the second book in the series and my second favorite in the series.  
     The story is well-developed and unique.  I did not expect the story to go anywhere it did, and it made the ride even more enjoyable.
     The characters are also unique.  I loved the little details J. K. Rowling put into the story to help develop the characters, such as Gilderoy Lockheart's photos running off to hide the curlers in his hair.
     One of my favorite things about J. K. Rowling's writing is how she incorporates powerful moral and ethical lessons without being heavy-handed.  Even as an adult, I read her stories and ponder how these lessons impact my life and the world I live in.
     Although this book has been banned for magic and witchcraft, there isn't anything in the book that would harm kids.  The true reason for the banning may be that the moral and ethical lessons shake up the status quo.   I recommend this book for people of all ages.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sea of Monsters

     The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan is the second in the series.  Nick and I loved it just as much as The Lightning Thief.
     The characters were still well developed.  We both absolutely LOVED Tyson, the baby Cyclops.  A close second was Rainbow, the Hippocampus.  And a third was the Laistrygonian Dodge Ball Players.
     The Sea of Monsters is a parallel book for The Odyssey.  For my English teacher friends, struggling readers could read The Sea of Monsters, while advanced students read The Odyssey.  Then they could share with someone who read the other novel and compare the two novels.
     I love this book and recommend it to everyone!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

     I want to live in Hogwarts.  I want to see the ghosts and fight trolls and have a snowy owl.  Okay, I love Harry Potter.  Not the movies, but the real Harry from the books.  Especially the young Harry and friends before they turn into moody teenagers.
    This book is one of my all-time favorites.  You know it's a good book when you reread it for probably the tenth time and you still laugh out loud and share lines with the nearest person, even when he is a stranger.
     I love the lessons in the book and can't see why parents object to the book.  What better lessons to learn than loyalty, standing up for what is right - especially against our friends, love, sacrifice, and friendship.
     Dumbledore is an amazing character.  The movies do not do him justice.  His speech before the feast, leading the school song, a flowered hat, and his deep insight and compassion for Harry make him a literary character worth remembering.
     I recommend this book to EVERYONE!!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Peace from Broken Pieces

     Peace from Broken Pieces is Iyanla Vanzant's journey through the darkest days of her life.  Her daughter Gemmia was her best friend through all of the dark days.
     As the middle child Gemmia tried to be the perfect daughter.  She got good grades, never got in trouble and helped raise her brother and sister.
     As an adult, Gemmia continued to play her role by helping run her mother's business and becoming her best friend.  No matter how hard Gemmia tried to be perfect, her mother didn't really notice her.  After stuffing her anger for years and trying to be perfect, Gemmia died from cancer.
     Iyanla is devastated at the loss of her daughter.  After reading Gemmia's journals from the past ten years, Iyanla tries to come to terms with her role in her daughter's illness and in the lessons she passed on to her about love.  Iyanla realizes that she has unconsciously passed on the dysfunctional family dynamics that she had vowed to change for her children.  After realizing the part she played in Gemmia's death, she begins to start over and change the dynamics for her grandchildren.
     I liked this book, although it wasn't what I was expecting.  I thought it would start with her story and then move into a self-help book to help others through their broken pieces.  She did give bits and pieces of advice, but most of the book was her story.  Although I had just finished a book about the early parts of her life, I still enjoyed learning more about her current life.  I recommend this book if you like Iyanla or biographies.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bull Run

     In honor of the anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run yesterday, I read Bull Run by Paul Fleischman.
     This book can be read as a novel or as a reader's theater.  Each chapter is told by a new character with a different perspective on the battle and the war.   Each character has four or so chapters throughout the book.  The chapters are just over a page long, so it is a quick read for kids.
     Teachers could divide students into groups and give each group a character.  After reading the chapters written by that character, they could do a hot seat activity to share their findings with the rest of the class.
     I enjoyed this book.  I am definitely glad I am not living through the Civil War.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Feathers

     Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson is an amazing book.  It is one of those books that teaches you about life, but doesn't knock you over the head with the lessons. 
     Frannie is in sixth grade when a new boy moves in.  Frannie knows what it is like to be the new kid, but it is even worse when you are the only white student in the school and happen to look like Jesus.  The other students immediately pick on him and start calling him Jesus Boy.  Frannie is fascinated and repelled by Jesus Boy.  When he signs to her, she thinks he is trying to embarrass her in front of the other kids.  They don't know Frannie has a brother who is deaf or that her mother has lost two babies and is pregnant again.  Since death has been a part of her family's life since before she was born, Frannie worries incessantly about her brother and her mother.  She searches for meaning in everything and everyone around her.  After reading an Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope" in school, she begins looking for ways hope is like feathers.
     The novel taught me about the importance of hope, to stop worrying about what life might bring and enjoy the moment I have, the pain of judgement and prejudice, and what it means to be a "good" person.  The author did a great job of incorporating the lessons into the story for Frannie to learn.  
     Feathers won a Newberry Honor.  It is a quick read at 118 pages, so it's perfect for a summer afternoon in a hammock or at the beach.  It is a lower reading level so kids can read it, but I don't think they would appreciate the subtleties of the characters or situations.  However, it is a great book for mature readers, adults, or as a classroom novel with the teacher explaining the themes and symbolism in the book. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yesterday, I Cried

     I love Iyanla Vanzant, but I did not like this book.  It is basically an autobiography, and Iyanla has a very depressing life.  Not only is it a depressing read, it is also boring.  She is honest with her story, but she tells it in a clinical way.  It is strange to read about some horrific events and feel no emotions from Iyanla.  If you don't already love her, I don't think you will enjoy this book.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Nanny Diaries

     It took me a while to get into The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, but once I did, I couldn't put it down.  The authors were both nannies for over thirty families.  They use their experience to write a fictionalized account of being a nanny in New York.
     I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know how the two compare, but I enjoyed the book.  The characters were very believable and I fell in love with four-year-old Grayer (AKA Grover.)  Some people might feel parents couldn't be that self-absorbed and selfish, but I have seen the same things as a teacher.  It is heartbreaking to see the results of families that have no time for their children - intentionally or not.
     My favorite parts of the book were Nanny and Grover.  Grover made me laugh out loud several times.  He also made me cry several times as he tried to deal with his family.  I related to nanny.  She kept finding herself in difficult situations with her employees, but was unable to stand up for herself until the end of the book.  Everyone in her life kept telling her to do so, but she would think of how it would impact her relationship with Grover and decide to let things slide.  When the book ended, I cheered for Nanny and cried for Grover.  Although Nanny spends the last minutes trying to convince the family to change, I don't think they will.
     A note if you want to read this book - there is a lot of swearing and some sexual innuendos because the dad is having an affair with a woman he works with.  It isn't explicit, but it may be offensive to some readers.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Lightning Thief

     Nick and I just finished reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  We both loved it.  If you saw the movie, don't let that stop you from reading the book.  The book is totally different than the movie.  I had read the book before, but Nick had only seen the movie.  He had a great time pointing out the differences as we read.
     Rick Riordan used to tell his son stories about a boy with dyslexia and ADHD because his son had those disabilities.  He turned the two disabilities into advantages for a half-blood hero.  It's one of the things I love about this book.
     The story is very different from other books that are out now.  Although there are lots of double-crossing going on, they are believable and unpredictable.  The characters are well-developed and engaging.  There are Greek monsters and suspenseful scenes, but they weren't too scary for Nick to read before bedtime.
     This book had a bit of everything: suspense, humor, friendship, monsters, and heroes.  The book's messages were positive, but didn't hit you over the head.
     It is one of my favorite books and I loved reading it with my favorite guy each night.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Clock Watchers

     I just read an awesome book for teachers called Clock Watchers by Stevi Quate and John McDermott.  I picked this book thinking it was written by one of my favorite teachers - Cris Tovani.  It turns out she just wrote the introduction, but I am glad I decided to read it anyway.
     This book has six steps to motivate disengaged students.  The authors call them the six Cs:  Caring Classroom Community, Checking In and Checking Out, Choice, Collaboration, Challenge and Celebration.  A chapter is devoted to each of the steps.  The authors give examples from their own classrooms and then give you specific ways you can implement that step in your classroom.  You can choose to implement any or all of the steps, but they work best together.  The last chapter explains how the steps can be implemented together.
     This book had lots of great strategies and examples that I plan to use in my classroom this fall.  It is a great book for teachers of all ages - from preschool to college.   I highly recommend it if you have any clock watchers like I do!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Clues for Real Life

     Clues for Real Life:  The Classic Wit and Wisdom of Nancy Drew is another quick read.  It is a compilation of facts, quizzes, pictures, and quotes from the Nancy Drew books.  I only read a couple of the original Nancy Drew books, but it was still fun to read this compilation.
     My favorite part was the comparison between the original books from the 1930s and the 1959 revision.  I recommend this book for anyone who already loves Nancy Drew or is interested in women's rights.
     The beginning section talks about Nancy Drew's impact on the Suffragette Movement and being a role model for the equal rights movement.

The World According to Mister Rogers

     The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers is a quick read.  Each page has a thought or quote from Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers.  Here are a few of his thoughts that resonated with me.
     "The thing I remember best about successful people I've met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they're doing...and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success.  They just love what they're doing, and they love it in front of others."
     "It always helps to have people we love beside us when we have to do difficult things in life."
     "One of the strongest things we have to wrestle with in our lives is the significance of the longing for perfection in ourselves and in the people bound to us by friendship or parenthood or childhood."
     "I hope you are proud of yourself for the times you've said 'yes,' when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to somebody else."
     "If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person."
     This book is a fast read and can be read all at once or a page a day for inspiration.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

Your Psychic Child

     Your Psychic Child by Sara Wiseman is an incredible book.  I learned something new on nearly every page I read.
     Sara writes with humor and understanding.  Her stories and examples were insightful.
     I really liked the way she included exercises at the end of each chapter to help you practice what you had read about.  I used several of the exercises with Nick and they really seemed to help.
     I also learned a lot about myself by reading this book.  It is a must read for anyone who suspects their children are psychics or spiritually gifted.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

We'll Always Have Paris

     Ray Bradbury is one of favorite authors, so I was very excited to buy a copy of We'll Always Have Paris.  It is a collection of short stories.  I wish I could say that it was as amazing as The Illustrated Man or Dandelion Wine, but the stories weren't very good.  There were lines I liked a lot and some parts of stories I liked, but the stories as a whole seemed old and tired.
     If you haven't read this literary master before, pick up one of his earlier works.  If you love him like I do, it's better to remember him the way he used to be rather than from these stories.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Invasion


      I just finished reading Invasion: A C.H.A.O.S. Novel by Jon S. Lewis.  It was the worst book I have ever read.  The plot is ridiculously contrived.  Fiction requires us to suspend our disbelief, but this book was so improbable, it almost seemed like a farce.  The characters were not developed.  It should have had plenty of action and suspense based on the plot synopsis, but with such improbable events and undeveloped characters, it was incredibly boring.  The author seemed to just throw in as many things as he could to add interest, but he wasn't skilled enough to pull the disjointed events together.  It is NOT a book for reluctant readers, or anyone for that matter.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Psychic Children

     I just finished Psychic Children by Sylvia Browne.  I have been a fan of Sylvia for many years and have read many of her books, but this one was new to me. 
     Each chapter focuses on a different type of psychic child.  After explaining the ability, she gives lots of examples of children experiencing it in their lives.  Then she offers advice to help kids dealing with these abilities.  
     This book helped me understand lots of things that my son is experiencing, as well as something that I struggle with.  If you are interested in this topic or know a child that might be psychic, I definitely recommend this book.  It is written very clearly.  The examples are relevant and not sensationalized.  I finished the book feeling hopeful, rather than fearful.

Friday, May 27, 2011

By the Time you Read this, I'll be Dead

     By the Time you Read this, I'll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters is a very heart-wrenching, but important book to read, especially if you love a child or care about bullying.  The book was well-written and is a realistic portrayal of bullying and suicide.  
     Daelyn has been bullied her entire life.  Her parents try to help with advice like, "Sticks and stones...."  They feel helpless and struggle to help her, but it alienates Daelyn. 
     After being assaulted in the boy's bathroom, she becomes suicidal.  She has tried several times to kill herself, but always "fails."  This time will be different.  Daelyn finds a website called Through-the-Light.  It promises to help you kill yourself, but you must agree to wait for a minimum of 23 days.  Daelyn anxiously counts down days to her death.  In those 23 days we see how daily bullying can lead to a self-hatred so deep, death seems the only way out.  Daelyn cannot stop the bullies, but she can stop the hurt.  It is her way of taking back her own power. 
    I loved Santana.  He seemed very real and I liked him instantly.  Santana was totally different than the other kids in the book, which was interesting because he was also the only kid to be home schooled in the book.  By putting all of the kids together and ignoring their behavior, do they revert to savagery?  Do we as teachers and administrators subconciously (or otherwise) allow bullying to go on because it prepares them for real life?  Do we think they become harder and ready to deal with the cruel world of business?  Hmmmm...
     Although I liked Santana's mom, I felt she was an undeveloped character that just served as a foil for Daelyn's relationship to her parents.  I would have liked to see her develop more on her own merits. 
    The thing I didn't like was the ending.  I have been Daelyn in different times in my life and the ending was not believable.   Daelyn could make the decision she made in time, but it is unrealistic to come to that decision in the last two pages of the book.  I think the author should have spent more time leading her to that decision or have cut out the last chapter and left us to wonder what she would choose.
     This book is more appropriate for high school students because of the graphic details of the assault and the pros and cons of various methods of suicide.  It is a good book for teens dealing with suicide or bullying.  It is also a good book for the adults in their lives that have forgotten how horrible bullying is when you are in school.  Daelyn's parents have forgotten what it is like, so they are unable to help their daughter effectively.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

     Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar is one of my favorite children's books.  Wayside School is a silly school that holds thirty classrooms, thirty stories high.  The students in Mrs. Jewls class are on the thirtieth story. 
     I love the kids in the class, but my favorite story is Mrs. Gorf.  She is an evil teacher that hates children and turns them into apples.  Everyone thinks she is a wonderful teacher because she always has so many apples on her desk.  Everyone knows that kids only bring apples to good teachers, right?  The apples and the last few children fight back in a surprising way.
     The stories are short, have great illustrations by Julie Brinckloe, and are funny.  It is a great book for kids just getting into chapter books or reluctant readers who have low reading levels.  It's also good just to enjoy as a quick read with your favorite child - my favorite way to read it! 

Winter Garden

     Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is an amazing book.  It truly changed me as a woman and mother. 
     By living through the Siege of Leningrad as a young wife and mother, Vera is forced to make decisions that no woman should ever have to make.  She faces devastating losses and manages to keep living because that is what the women in her life have taught her to do.  Guilt and heartbreak close her heart to a relationship with her daughters.  Her husband's dying wish is for her to tell their daughters a fairy tale that she began and never finished.  Like all fairytales, this is the only hope for love and redemption.
     Kristin Hannah is an incredible writer.  Her writing is lyrical and poignant, while staying realistic and believable.  Reading her words made me feel like I was in the fairytale world of Peter's Window to the West.  Like the girls, I waited breathlessly to hear more of the fairytale that could only be told in the dark of night.  Kristin also put the two stories together seamlessly.  Although the ending was a bit hard to believe, I was very thankful she chose the ending she did because I loved the characters as if they were myself and Vera deserved her ending. 
     I often read books for young adults, but this book is written for adults - both content and the depth of life you need to understand the characters.  This book is my new favorite book.  It is a powerful book - especially for women.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Among the Hidden

     My class just finished reading Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. 
     Luke is one of the Shadow Children; the 3rd child born in a family.  In this futuristic world, overpopulation has caused mass starvation and famines.  To alleviate these issues, the government has forbidden many things: pets, junk food, and more than two children per family. 
     Luke is forced to hide day after day in the attic looking out vents at the world he can't be a part of in any form.  Life changes for Luke when he discovers another third child hiding in the house behind his house.    
     After breaking into her house and a few minutes of danger, Luke and Jen become best friends.  Like the best friendships, the two are opposites.  Where Luke is fearful and timid, Jen is defiant and strong-willed. 
     Jen is planning a rally where thousands of shadow children will walk in front of the president's house to free the children. Luke must decide if he is willing to risk his life for his freedom. 
     Since this was our last book of the year, I let my students vote on the book they wanted to read.  The kids loved it!  They couldn't wait to read everyday.  They got very attached to the characters, so much so that one chapter brought many of the girls to tears.  It also led us to great discussions about food shortages, world population, and the One Child Policy in China.  
     It is a great book for reluctant readers, but they will need some scaffolding on the underlying issues in the book about Totalitarianism, government control, overpopulation and what people will do for their freedom. 
     I loved this book and plan to read the sequel because I need to know what happens to Luke.  I love this kid! 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Help

     A friend of mine recommended this book to me.  It took me a while to read it because I had so many other books and projects going on at the same time.  I think that was a good thing because the slow pace seemed to fit the south where the book takes place.
     I learned a lot about the Civil Rights Movement that I didn't know before.  I knew that there were different public bathrooms, but I didn't know that black maids were not allowed to use the same bathrooms in the houses they cleaned.  The scene with Mae Mobley being toilet trained and her mother's reaction shocked me.
   I enjoyed seeing the different points-of-view of the women in the book, but it also made the book less personal for me.  Just as I got attached to one character, we switched to a new character.  It made me feel like an observer, rather than one of the characters. 
     I read the miscarriage scene when I was very sick and unable to leave the bathroom myself.  I felt as if the scene was happening around me.  This scene horrified me and I will never forget it. 
     One of the things I didn't like about the book was that we hear about how dangerous life is during this time.  We hear of people being blinded, beaten, and even killed.  However, we hear about it second hand, so it loses its emotional impact on the reader.  The women in the novel are taking a huge risk and nothing bad happens to them, only to other people.  This seemed contrived to me.  It also seemed to take away from their bravery because it made it seem like it wasn't that big of a risk, when they were truly risking their lives. 
      I was horrified by the prejudice in the book.  Unfortunately, I don't think we have come very far still today.  This book made me think about racism and the ways we treat people. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

     I love this book by Tom Angleberger.  I love Yoda anyway, but this book was hilarious.  I laughed out loud through the entire book.  It is an easy read and has lots of cartoon illustrations to go with the story.
     Dwight is a nerdy sixth-grader that wears a Yoda finger puppet on his finger.  Yoda gives amazing advice, and like the real Yoda, the advice doesn't make sense at the time but is totally on the mark. 
     I loved reading about the sixth graders and found myself remembering similar things that happened to me when I was a sixth grader just starting middle school. 
     I loved the chapter with the dueling Yodas.  Another fun part of the book is that it contains the directions to create your own origami Yoda in the back of the book. 
     This book is great for any Star Wars fans, 3rd-6th graders or reluctant middle school readers.  It is easy to read, funny, and has interesting characters.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Daniel X Demons and Druids

     I am a huge fan of Daniel X, but Demons and Druids Daniel X was a big disappointment.  James Patterson seemed to forget what we loved about Daniel X - the humor, the quirky characters, and the original storylines.
     Nick and I hardly laughed at all in this sequel and that was one of the things we loved best about Daniel in the earlier books. 
     Daniel wasn't his usual quirky self.  He was extremely boring.    
     The storyline had us travel back in time to battle an alien in King Arthur's time with Arthur and Merlin.  When the alien comes forward in time, Daniel defeats him with Stonehenge.  I bet you didn't see that coming, right? 
      The other stories were fun and original and made us fall in love with Daniel.  If you already love Daniel, don't read this book.  If you don't already love Daniel, there isn't really a point to read this book at all. 

I Am Number Four

    
     I am Number Four is written by Pittacus Lore - a pseudonym for James Frey and Jobie Hughes. 
     When Mogadorians attack the peaceful world of Lorien, the guardians take eight small children into a ship and leave for Earth.  The Mogadorians follow them to Earth to  kill the children.  Besides their guardians, the children only have one small protection - they can only be killed in order unless they are together in one location. 
     The first three children are dead when the book begins, and John is number four.  John is now 15 and beginning to develop special legacies that will make him harder to be killed. 
     In the meantime, he needs to stay in hiding from the Mogadorians.  John's guardian, Henri, warns John to fly under the radar, but John falls madly in love with Sarah.  Mark, her old boyfriend, bullies John, trying to break up John and Sarah.
     Stange things are happening that alert the Mogadorians to John's location.  Who will win the epic battle?  Will Sarah be able to handle John's past?  Will John's legacies develop in time to protect him from the Mogadorians' wrath?
     I am Number Four is a great book for reluctant readers.  The first half of the book was a bit slow for me, but my students loved the whole thing.  They enjoyed the love triangle between John, Sarah, and Mark.  They also enjoyed the bullying at the beginning that led to John's first legacy. 
     Once Henri leaves town to find news about the Mogadorians, the book had one thrill after another.  I did not want to put this book down. 
     My favorite character was John's dog Bernie Kosar because he was so original and endearing.  My favorite part of the book was finding out about Sam.  He is a shy teen who is obsessed with alien abductions.  He is certain his dad was abducted by aliens and misses him terribly.  Sam even wears his dad's Coke-bottle prescription glasses so he can see the world through his dad's eyes. 
     I really enjoyed this book and can hardly wait for the sequel.  It is a great book for teenagers who don't like to read, as well as teens and adults who do like to read.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Wave

      The Wave by Todd Strasser is an awesome book for reluctant adolescent readers, if they have enough background knowledge on The Holocaust and Germany in WWII. 
      This book is based on a true story of a high school history teacher in California in 1969.  He is teaching his class about WWII and the Holocaust.  His students have mixed reactions to the lesson.  Some students are horrified at what they saw in the video.  Other students felt it was a sad event, but it had no bearing on life today.   Still others question how the German people could allow this to happen.
      Their teacher decides to set up a simulation to show his students how people could fall into this type of thinking.  His simulation is a shocking success and is soon spreading around the school.  The teacher and the students begin to lose themselves in The Wave.  The Wave gets out of control fast and shocking parallels to Nazi Germany occur.
     My students love this book and it has led to amazing discussions and connections in class.  We have learned about WWII, the Holocaust, and Hitler's Youth.  We have looked at the editorial cartoons from Dr. Seuss during WWII and learned to evaluate propaganda posters from all the countries involved in the war.  They have made intriguing connections with current events in the middle east and with bullying in our school.
     I highly recommend this book to all teachers.  It is scary to see the power we weild in our students' lives.  I also recommend this book to anyone with an interest in WWII or for teachers teaching a unit on The Holocaust.     

Friday, March 25, 2011

Daniel X Watch the Skies

      Daniel X Watch the Skies by James Patterson and Ned Rust is the second book in the Daniel X series.  My son Nick and I read it together because we both loved Daniel X so much in the first book.
      This time Daniel X is fighting a new alien from The List, Number 5.  This alien is filming a reality tv show on Earth to entertain his home planet.  His minions are torturing humans by making them do silly stunts and then killing them for the tv show.  The aliens in the audience love the tv show, and Alien 5 is sure they will get incredible ratings back home.  The aliens are spreading the love by impregnating the women of the town who ate the free sardine samples they found in their mailboxes.  Daniel X has to figure out how to help the pregnant women in his town and stop Alien #5 before he becomes the headline act of the new reality show.   
      I liked this book almost as much as the first one, but Nick was disappointed in the new alien.  He felt that Alien Number 5 wasn't as developed as Seth was in the first book.  He also felt that Daniel wasn't as funny as he had been in the original novel.  Although he didn't like it as much as the original book, he still liked it a lot. 
     This book has short chapters which added to the excitement of the book.  You feel like you are rushing headlong into every experience Daniel experiences.  Daniel has a sarcastic sense of humor that had both of us giggling nearly every night we read.  It is a quick read and one that you don't want to stop reading.  I recommend this book for reluctant readers, especially boys.
    

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

     The Watsons Go to Birmingham is historical fiction about the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama 1963. 
     Byron is a fun character because he does things that I would never do.  This boy oozes confidence.  He is so in love with himself he freezes his lips to the side mirror of the car.  He sets things on fire, bleaches his hair, steals, sluffs school and picks on his little brother. 
     Even though he is the "bad" kid, he has a heart of gold.  He saves his brother, cries over a dead bird, and beats up anyone who dares to pick on his younger brother, Kenny. 
     Byron's bad behavior causes momma and dad to ship him off to grandma's house in Alabama.  Alabama is very different from Michigan.  The Watsons find a very segregated city in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.  The church in Birmingham is bombed, killing four little girls.  Kenny is forced to grow up quickly and brutally at the church.
     The only thing I did not like about the book is the limited time we look at the Civil Rights issue in Alabama.  The story builds up to it throughout the book, but it seemed anticlimactic once we got there. 
     It is a Newberry Award finalist and a great book set in the Civil Rights Movement.  My students and I loved the humor and the information we learned about Birmingham "Bombingham" in 1963. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gone

     You know it's going to be a great book when 8th graders are stealing each other's books to read it.  It took me a while to get into Gone, but if I were 15, I would have loved it. 
     Gone had an interesting plot line, but I was bored through the first half of the book.  The non-stop action wasn't enough to make me care about any of the characters.  I couldn't even keep track of most of them because they were only superficially developed.  Since I didn't feel invested in the characters, the epic battle seemed contrived.  Stephen King did a much better job of portraying the same battle in The Stand because I cared intensely about the characters.  Several characters died in Gone, and Michael Grant tried to make their deaths seem noble, but I just felt indifferent. 
     The evil controlling the book is an unknown force in the pit.  Since we do not truly understand this force, I didn't feel scared or intrigued or disgusted.  Instead it made everything seem hopeless.  If fate controls us and evil is unavoidable, why continue to fight? 
     Throwing man-eating coyotes into a day care with babies was cruel and did nothing to lead the plot forward.  It was a sad commentary on our society.  We have taught our children well.  Left alone they revert into us and willingly kill one another to survive. 
     The only character with a conscience for killing a girl becomes half asphalt and nearly unable to move by the end of the novel.  The character with the guiltiest conscience has the coolest weapon at the end.  He has been rewarded with nearly unlimited power.  It's not hard to see which character the kids will identify with in the novel.
      Okay, so that is my adult take on Gone.  As a kid, it is fast-paced, violent, and gritty.  Many of the characters develop superhero powers and use them to battle one another in huge battles that tear the town apart.  I would love it - especially if I had recently read other dystopian literature lately - like The Hunger Games.  As an adult, read The Stand

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Maze in the Heart of the Castle

     My friend Catherine gave me the book The Maze in the Heart of the Castle by Dorthy Gilman.  It ended up in my pile of books and finally resurfaced this week.  I am so glad it did.  This small book has become one of my all-time favorites.
   This book can be read on two levels - the story of a boy on a quest for a far-off land - or as an allegory, much like The Little Prince
     Colin is sixteen when he loses both his parents and finds himself alone in the world.  Battling his grief, he begs Brother John to explain the age old question we all eventually ask - why?
     Brother John sends him to a castle with a magical maze.  By facing the maze, Colin will find his answer.  Through Colin's adventures, he learns lessons about the human condition.
  • Sometimes the endless maze is self-imposed and we may need to climb over the obstacles to find our way out.   
  • Truth cannot be silenced. 
  • Sometimes we must fight for what is right.
  • Our mind can take us to dark places that incubate us, but we can not stay there without going mad. 
  • Love is worth having, even if the person we love betrays us. 
  • Magic and miracles come to us in our darkest moments.
  • We become what our thougts allow us to be.   
     A beautiful book that is easy to read.  Like Colin, I am a better person for taking the journey.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Matched and The Giver

     I absolutely love both of these books.  I happened to be reading The Giver with my students at the same time I read Matched.  They were interesting books to pair together because they had many of the same themes and questions to ponder.
     Cassia is the heroine in Matched.  She is the perfect daughter, student and citizen.  She knows who she will marry, what her job will be, and that she will die on her 80th birthday.  It all seems so organized and perfect for society.  Cassie never thinks to question the society or her place in it.  Jonas is the hero in The Giver.  Though younger than Cassia, Jonas is also a perfect son, student, and citizen.  He is told what job he will hold, who he will marry and when he will die.  They are both given pills to suppress their desires and emotions.  Both societies are very controlling, but tell everyone it is for their own good.
     Throughout both books, Cassia and Jonas learn of the horrors behind their perfect societies.  Cassia learns the society is not as ideal as it pretends to be - beginning with her grandfather's death.  Cassie learns about the flaws of her society slowly, so it is harder to feel her rage.  Jonas is forced to learn quickly and brutally as he discovers memories and emotions that he must take on for the good of the society.  I will never forget the scene in The Giver when Jonas watched his father "release" the twin baby.  It was horrifying and made me unerstand the horrors of this ideal society.  Cassia didn't experience any horrific moments like Jonas, so it was more difficult for me to see her society as "dangerous."
     Both of the books made me think in new ways.  Matched made me wonder about why we choose the people we love.  Is there one love for all of us that is our perfect match or is there always another person?  By choosing one, do we set a new set of choices in motion or is fate still set because someone knew what we would choose?  What about my job?  Why did teaching always seem like such a certainty?  In our rush to make everything less offensive to everyone, how much do we lose?  Which songs or poems or paintings or books would make the cut?  How much of ourselves would we lose in the choosing or later in the limitations that remain?
     The Giver made me wonder about the euphemisms we use to hide the brutal truth of our lives.  What happens if we lose our memories?  What is wisdom?  When we turn over the hard parts of our lives: war and death and suffering and loss, do we lose our best parts?  Without suffering, can we understand joy?  Without loss, can we understand love?  What makes us human?  In giving up our wisdom, do we lose our capacity to make life-changing decisions humanely?  Is this worth the cost of the hard parts of our lives?  What are we willing to sacrifice for the greater good?  What are we unwilling to sacrifice of ourselves?
     Both of these books are thought-provoking and poignant.  Although both books are easy to read, to enjoy the deeper meanings and questions, I recommend both books to advanced readers.

The Roar

     I chose this book because my 8th graders were excited about reading it.  It wasn't one of my favorite books, but I liked it. 
     The Roar by Emma Clayton is a dystopian novel set in the Earth's future.  The animals have gone crazy and attacked humans, causing terrible diseases.  Humans used nuclear bombs to destroy the rabid animals, destroying much of the land.  Now the humans have retreated behind huge walls in foldable houses.  Their lives are miserable.  There is little sun or food or space or fresh air.  In fact, there weren't any children born for years.  Now that there are children again, evil forces are at work to use the children.  Mika is doing his best to find his sister and stop the evil forces around him.
     Like other dystopian novels, this book holds up a mirror to society.  One of my favorite parts of the book was also the hardest part of the book for me to read.  This is a quote from that section.
_____________________________________________________
--Boom. Boom

"What's that?" he asked as his feet hit the pavement. It sounded like the heartbeat of an enormous beast, as if a dragon were sleeping beneath its treasure, instead of on top of it.

Boom. Boom.

"The Shadows," the chauffeur replied. "haven't you heard?"

"No," Mika said. "what's happening?"

"The mold is getting worse," the chauffeur replied grimly. "And hundreds are dying every day. And they say the government won't help them because it's cheaper to let them die."

"But the people in The Shadows won't be ignored," the chauffeur said. "So they're banging on the pillars holding up the Golden Turrets with huge steel balls on chains. All day and all night they swing them - one time for every person who's died. It was driving people crazy up here when it started on Friday night, but apparently you get used to it."

Boom. Boom.

"I don't think I'll get used to it," Mika said. He gazed at the pavement and tried to imagine what was below, all that darkness and water and millions of people trying to stay alive and balls on chains swinging against the pillars.
____________________________________________________

     This book reminded me of Ender's Game, but I didn't like The Roar as much as Ender's Game.  Mostly because I never really fell in love with the characters or cared what happened to them.  I absolutely loved Ender and felt like I was with him every step of the way.  Although I didn't care for the characters, I liked the ideas in the book. 
     I recommend this book for advanced readers.  It is also a good match for people who enjoy dystopian novels like The Hunger Games or Maze Runner.  At 481 pages, it isn't a good match for reluctant readers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Liberation of Gabriel King

     It is the biggest summer of Gabe and Frita's lives.  Not only is it 1976, the bicentennial, it is also the summer they will overcome their fears so they can move on to 5th grade in the fall.  Gabe is afraid of everything, from spiders to cows.  Frita isn't araid of anything, at least nothing she will admit to Gabe.  She even punches bullies in the nose.  There is only one fear Frita can't help Gabe overcome - 5th grade.  If Gabe moves up to 5th grade, he will be in a new part of the school with the 6th graders.  Gabe has enjoyed his 4th grade year without the bullies in the 5th and 6th grade part of the school.  Frita is determined to help Gabe overcome his fears so they can move to 5th grade together.
     I really enjoyed this book.  A younger reader can appreciate the story of friendship and overcoming your fears.  A more mature reader can read it and understand the deeper fears of the kids, their families, and the town. 
     Gabe is a white boy in a racist town.  He is an only child of poor parents living in a trailer park.  Frita is a black girl in a racist town.  She has an older brother involved in The Black Panthers and parents who fight for civil rights.  Their school is integrated, but many people hate the fact a black girl is going to school there.  Frita is afraid of Mr. Evans because he is mean.  We know she should be afraid of him because he is in the KKK.  This is one example of the many layers in the book.
     I loved Frita and Gabe's friendship without prejudice, their innocence, and the life lessons they learn that summer.   
     I recommend this book for girls who enjoy reading or like books about friendship.  I also recommend it for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement and how it affected children.  It's too slow for reluctant readers and doesn't have enough action to make it a page turner.  It wouldn't be a good match for that type of reader.

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

     There has been a lot of talk lately about how boys have different tastes in books than girls.  If you are looking for a great book for an eleven-year-old boy, you should definitely try The Dangerous Days of Daniel X.  It is one of the best books my son and I have read together in a long time.
     James Patterson is a well-known author for writing great action and suspense.  There is plenty of action and suspense in Daniel X, but it isn't too scary for kids.  Daniel is an alien who looks like a regular boy.  He is an alien hunter looking to rid the Earth of every alien on The List of Alien Outlaws. 
     This book has lots of laugh-out-loud humor for adults and kids.  My favorite part was when Seth, the villain alien, came out of his space ship with his coffee, newspaper, and bathrobe to fight Daniel.  You could tell Seth didn't think Daniel was much of a threat.  Daniel has a funny sense of humor and says little things as asides to the reader. 
     The chapters are very short; most of them were two - three pages in length.  They are just the right amount for a reluctant reader to enjoy and feel a sense of accomplishment. 
     Daniel also has a very cool superpower.  Unlike other heroes, Daniel has the power to create.  He overcomes all of the obstacles in the book by using his brain to create unique ways to escape.  We loved trying to predict what Daniel would do next.
     Nick and I both loved this book.  We finished it yesterday and went to the bookstore to buy the second one today.  Nick's comment was, "He (James Patterson) better start writing faster 'cause we are catching up with him."   We hope you like it as much as we did.