Sweet Sounds: Mossflower by Brian Jacques

Goodreads Synopsis:

The thrilling prequel to "Redwall". The clever and greedy wildcat Tsarmina becomes ruler of all Mossflower Woods and is determined to govern the peaceful woodlanders with an iron paw. The brave mouse Martin and quick-talking mouse thief Gonff meet in the depths of Kotir Castle's dungeon. The two escape and resolve to end Tsarmina's tyrannical rule. Joined by Young Dinny the mole, Martin and Gonff set off on a dangerous quest for Salamandastron, where they are convinced that their only hope, Boar the Fighter, still lives.

Audio Review:

Brian Jacques, in my opinion, is one of the few authors in the last thirty years whose works crossed the line from just "books" to "literature." What is the difference? A fictional book becomes literature when, at minimum, it contains excellent vocabulary and sentence structure, a semi-complex plot, and well rounded characters that develop and grow throughout the course of the story. Redwall does not disappoint in any of these respects. This series is enjoyable to read, but even more fun to listen to. (Just ask my twenty year-old brother who after discovering the series about ten years ago has listened to all the Redwalls available on audio at least four times a piece and is still listening...) The recently deceased Jacques with a full cast of actors narrate all the Redwall audios. 

The only negative I would mention is also one of the aspects that gives Redwall its unique charm. Jacques has given many of the species of animals an unusual accent. The most notable example of this are the moles who articulate with exceedingly thick brogues and use such words as "girt." As a result, there are times when it can be difficult to understand what the characters are saying. If you are new to Redwall, there are a few different places you could start.  I would suggest beginning either at the beginning with "Redwall" or with one of the prequels such as "Martin the Warrior" or "Mossflower." I particularly enjoy "Mossflower," as it chronicles the events that lead to the founding of the famed Redwall Abbey and gives the listener a tingly, delicious, sense of beginning. 

The thing I probably appreciate most about this series is the multiple narrator format. In my opinion it makes the story more engaging and helps keep the multitudinous characters distinct. For these stories this works well, but I have found that I also enjoy a single narrator. For example, John R. Erickson does a phenomenal job narrating the Hank the Cowdog series. (You can read more about Hank here.)

What do you think of audiobooks with multiple narrators and radio theatre? Do you prefer this format or a single narrator?

If you like Redwall, check out these obscure gems:


Urchin of the Riding Stars (The Mistmantle Chronicles, Book 1)

Note: these are not available in audio format that I am aware of.


The Safest Lie

The Safest Lie 

Release date: July 10, 2015
Audience: Ages 8 and up 
Pages: 192

"The truth has many faces."

The Story 
(From Goodreads

In 1940, nine-year-old Anna Bauman and her parents are among 300,000 Polish Jews struggling to survive the wretched conditions in the Warsaw ghetto. Anna draws the attention of Jolanta—the code name for the real-life Resistance spy Irena Sendler, who smuggled hundreds of children out of the ghetto. Jolanta wants to help Anna escape. Anna's mother drills her day and night, teaching her a new identity, that of Roman Catholic Anna Karwolska. Soon Anna is whisked out of Warsaw to a Catholic orphanage and then to a foster family where she must hide and hope that her family survives the war. 


 I haven't read too much on the subject of smuggling Jews out of Ghettos. I think that the author touches on a different subject matter for this genre in middle grade, and that is what makes this book special. You can tell as a reader that the author did a great deal of research to write this book, and I really appreciated it. I especially appreciated that she touched on how many Jewish kids lost their identity in the war. To me, this is a great opportunity for discussion. 

For my older tweens, I think this will have some appeal due to the curriculum on WWII. 

I always get asked for books like The Diary of a Young Girl  I think this might be a great fictional read alike book that might interest my kids & the character's name is even Anna! Or it might even be a great book for those younger siblings that want to learn about the Holocaust with their older siblings. 


I don't usually weigh cover appeal in my reader's advisory, but I feel like this one will  impact its appeal. I am afraid that if I try to get one of my kids to read this book, they will be turned off by the cover (I know I was). I wish this book had more of a cover appeal to draw in more readers to its beautiful story.  

I also think  that the author should have included an epilogue. I became invested in the character Anna, and I wanted to make sure she was okay. With the conclusion of the War, I felt like this book ended suddenly.  I suppose the author could have ended it this way to show the uncertainty that the real survivors felt, but I wish I knew more!

Overall, I felt like it was an interesting read.  I finished it in one setting. I was drawn into Anna's tale, and I became really interested in the history of Irena Sendler. I have not heard of this individual before. After I got done reading this story, I found myself looking up information about her. 

Here are some of the most interesting resources I found: 

Facts about Irena

Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers - this is a documentary done by PBS. I would highly recommend it for more information.

Irena Sendler Obituary

For more information, check out these non-fiction books for kids:

I hope you will find her story as interesting as I did.


The Worst Class Trip Ever

The Worst Class Trip Ever
By: Dave Barry 

Release Date: May 5, 2015
Audience: Ages 8 and up
Pages: 224

The Story 

Twelve- year- old Wyatt is going on a class trip  to Washington D.C.  When he gets on the plane in his home town of Miami, he sits next to his best friend Matt. According to Wyatt, this is where the trouble begins. As the friends embark on their flight, two mysterious strangers sitting behind them catch Matt's eye. He tells Wyatt he thinks they are terrorists. This sets into motion a hilarious journey of the boys trying to stop the mysterious strangers from a would be attack on the capital. All while they try to juggle school.


I really liked that this book discusses Washington D.C. sites in just enough detail to spark some interest into these landmarks. I am hopeful it will spark enough interest to pair this book with some non-fiction read a likes.

With this, this story has so much kid appeal! It is filled with action & humor. It is perfect for reluctant readers and for my tween boys.


This book is predictable. In my mind, I picture it as a Disney or Nickelodeon TV movie.

There could have been more character development. The characters were pretty flat, and this did bother me. I also personally did not like that it bought into some of the cultural stereotypes, but I don't think these minor things will bother my library kids.

Obviously, this book won't win a Newbery, but I think my kids will be attracted to its faced paced plot and humor. It is perfect just for fun read for fans of James Patterson, Marc Barnett, or even Jeff Kinney.

More Books Like This: 




What are you reading?


Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Mark Twain Nominee Monday! 

By Sage Blackwood 

The Story

The Urwald is the only place Jinx has ever known. Dark and mysterious, the tall trees of the Urwald are home to menacing werewolves, werebears and trolls, devious witches, and sinister wizards. Even as a young boy, Jinx knows about the Truce of the Path: You are protected as long as you remain on the path. But one day his cruel stepfather takes Jinx off the path, intending to leave Jinx to fend for himself. 

Just as Jinx is about to give up hope, he’s saved by a wizard named Simon.  As the years pass, Jinx begins to trust the wizard. 

 Although Jinx is kept safe and well-fed, he longs to explore the world. So after a terrible fight with Simon, Jinx sets out on a quest. Jinx’s life-changing journey takes him from the safety of Simon’s castle to ominous  home to the evil, bloodthirsty Bonemaster.  Jinx must now find a way home all while battling the most feared wizard of all. 

 Summary based off of : Chapter Book Explorer Blog

My Thoughts

I had a really hard time with this one. I usually enjoy fantasies, and I was really excited to try this one out. Sadly, I felt like this book was really slow!  I kept having flash backs to Disney's The Sword & the Stone. Does anyone else see Simon as Merlin? Or am I just crazy?

I know this is a series, but I didn't feel like this book had much of a climax. There was a lot of lead up to this adventure that Jinx goes on, but it takes more then half of the book to go on it. Once it got there, I felt like the book just flopped for me. I felt like nothing was resolved.

By the end of the book, he was off on another adventure. I just felt like there were so many plot holes that I fell through as a reader.

Even though I personally did not enjoy this book, I do think that it would be a fun fantasy book to recommend to young fantasy lovers.

Discussion Questions 

Jinx’s stepfather said Jinx was cursed.  Do you think Jinx is cursed? Did he bring misfortune to Simon & Sophie?

Why does Sophie live in Samara and not with Simon and Jinx?

In the book, Simon does many good and bad things. Is he a good person? Or is he an evil wizard?

Jinx thinks that it is important to travel to learn. What can you learn by traveling? What are some things you learned while traveling to a different place?

Jinx has a strange power to see emotions. Do you think this was useful? Would you want this ability? If you could chose any power, what would you choose?

What do you think Reven’s curse is? Why is he called the “Great Terror?” Reven robs Jix and then asks to travel with him. Why do you think that Jinx allowed him to come with him?  

Why did Jinx see Elfwyn before he met her? How did she help or harm Jinx?

Jinx can read emotions by the color of cloud around someone’s face. Can colors represent emotions? If so what are they?

If Jinx never left Gooseberry Clearing, how would he be different?

The Bonemaster says that knowledge is meant to be free for everyone. What are some ways that you can gain knowledge for free? Is this true?

More Books Like This One 

- Pamela

The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Tweens Read Thursdays

Goodreads Synopsis

Sophie loves the hidden shop below her parents' bookstore, where dreams are secretly bought and sold. When the dream shop is robbed and her parents go missing, Sophie must unravel the truth to save them. Together with her best friend—a wisecracking and fanatically loyal monster named Monster—she must decide whom to trust with her family’s carefully guarded secrets. Who will help them, and who will betray them?



The Girl Who Could Not Dream is delightfully random. From ninja bunnies to yellow glittery dreams one can drink, the content is sure to amuse tweens (who are quite random themselves). You know a book is entertaining when a monster tells the main character to "frolic in a field and think pugnacious thoughts." My favorite bit of randomness is a dream pegasus unicorn named Glitterhoof who lives on the clouds and walks on rainbow highways. Glitterhoof fills my inner 90's child/five year old self with glee.

Monster is a fun, but peculiar character who made the book for me. Most of Durst's better writing is evident in Monster's lines and character development.  Durst paints a shimmery world that is filled with possibilities, but also tinged with loneliness. She deals well with important tween issues such as friendlessness and feeling different. 


This was undoubtedly a typical, formulaic, middle grade novel. Girl is lonely with no friends, has special powers, and has to learn to rely on herself when her parents are taken out the picture. By the end of the book she has friends, including the cutest boy in school, and a stronger belief in herself. Sound familiar? In addition, Durst's writing is extremely choppy at the beginning. This gets a little better as the story progresses. The writing is also somewhat cheesy. I actually laughed out loud at a line comparing Ethan's smile to sunshine.

Despite the recurring issues rampant in current middle grade novels (can somebody please write a book with good vocabulary and sentence structure?!) there is something about this book. It does possess a fascinating uniqueness in spite of its formulaic nature that leaves me with overall good feelings. (Or maybe it's just the sparkle from Glitterhoof's mane.)  The Girl Who Could Not Dream releases next month, so give it a read and recommend it to your tweens with big imaginations!

What is your opinion of the current "formula" for middle grade novels? What are some of your favorite middle grade novels that combine real life with fantasy?


Disclosure: My review is based off my reading of an Advanced Reader Copy I won as a Goodreads giveaway. 

Ava & Taco Cat

Ava and Taco Cat 
By: Carol Weston 

Release Date: April 7, 2015
Age Range: 8 and up 
Pages: 224 

Please note: Ava and Taco Cat is the second book in  the Ava and Pip series.

The Story 

Ava comes from a literary loving family. She is obsessed with palindromes and trying to find them in her everyday life. When her 11th birthday comes up, Ava wants nothing more than to have a pet cat. With the help of her sister and some careful persuasion, Ava is able to convenience her parents to get her a cat. Since Ava is obsessed with palindromes, she naturally names the cat Taco Cat.  Once Ava brings the cat home, she quickly discovers that having a pet is not what she imagined. The cat hides under the couch, won't let anyone pet him, and even gets sick. Just as Taco Cat starts to adjust, a lady shows up at Ava's household and claims that Taco Cat is hers. Ava must try to navigate the ways of pet ownership and save Taco Cat! 


Being a cat lover, I had to snuggle close to my cat and read this book.

This was a heart warming tale of an 11 year-old girl and her quest to try and get her parents to get her a pet cat. I felt like I related to the character in this aspect & I think a lot of readers will too. I found it to be really cute, and I did enjoy the literary discussions and creative writing tops within the book.  


When I try to find an audience for this book, I really struggle.
 To me, I felt like this book would have been best if it was written at a lower reading level, but it is written in a way that it would be more appropriate for kids that are older.

With all of the literary puns and sayings within the book, I am not sure if this would have appeal.
Perhaps a young reader who is reading above their reading level may enjoy this book? Or a middle grader who has a passion for writing?

I will have to try and book talk it to my kids, and see if I have some takers!
Since it is about a cat, I do think that it could have some readers.

Either way, I do think it has some merit and would make a great family book. It would be the perfect opportunity for adults to discuss the meanings of some of the words (like palindromes) and the responsibility of having a pet.

My cat, Dexter, gives it two paws up.

- Pamela 

Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree 
By: Lynda Mullaly Hunt 

Release Date: February 5, 2015
Audience: Grades 5 and up 
Pages: 288

The Story 

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

Provided by Goodreads 

The Book Trailer 


This gives a wonderful overview of what it is like to have a learning disability. I am really appreciative to have a book that covers Dyslexia so well. I think many kids and educators will benefit from reading this & I appreciate that it brings awareness of it in the classroom. 
Since many students deal with these issues, I think this book also has a lot of kid appeal that will promote some positive discussions. 


I felt like the bullying was a little much. An aspect of it was needed to give a realistic look at learning disabilities, but I think the author could have toned it down a little. I also wish the author touched on how learning disabilities are hereditary. I think it would have been more powerful if we found out that Ally's mom or dad struggled with these issues too. 

Thoughts from a Dyslexic

I am not normally one to pour my heart out online. In fact, it is a rule of mine not to.  After I read this book though, I had so much to say. 

This book is really near to my heart. I myself have Dyslexia. I am not someone who cries, but this book really got to me! I found myself crying like a baby. 

As I read Ally's story, I was put back into my childhood struggles. Let me just say it is unbelievable  hard to be Dyslexic. 


I felt like the book did a wonderful job of detailing the struggle of learning to read, but it didn't cover other aspects that dyslexia impacts. 

I wanted to take a moment to talk about these, because  I still struggle with my dyslexia everyday.

 It isn't something you grow out of, and it isn't something you are done with once you learn to read.

Here are a few things that I still really struggle with: 

1. Conversation 

People with dyslexia often have difficulty putting thoughts into words; speaks in halting phrases; leaves sentences incomplete; stutters under stress; mispronounces long words, or transposes phrases, words, and syllables when speaking

When I am in a conversation with someone, I will often forget a word I am trying to say. This usually ends up in what comes out as an incomplete sentence, and leaves the other person confused.  

This is a direct result of how a Dyslexic's  brain is hardwired. 
I think in pictures & my picture that represents a word isn't the same as the socially acceptable word. 

In addition to this, I never learned the sounds of letters. So I often mispronounce words or I have to stop and think about how to say a word within a conversation.  

The words I know are all memorized & are the result of auditory learning. I have to listen to someone say a word before I can get it down.  

For people who aren't around me a lot, this can be awkward.

I am so thankful for Google, my family, and my close friends.

2. Presentations 

People with dyslexia often have anxiety and other mental health issues such as depression and low self-esteem. Thankfully, I only struggle with anxiety. 

It has been so many years since I was in school, but I still get anxiety reading out loud. 
It gets so bad sometimes that I literally have to try not to run out of the room, because those memories of being forced to read in front of the class are still there. I think it is an association I will never grow out of.

In my quest to become a librarian, this has been really difficult for me. Thankfully, I work with really great people that are considerate and don't put me on the spot. It becomes really difficult in a professional setting though.

3. Directions 

It is common for people with dyslexia to
be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right & over/under.

Since dyslexic's brains are hardwired differently, it is common for us to get letters, sounds, and directions mixed up. I have trouble with all of the above. 

I  especially get my left and right mixed up all the time! You don't want to take directions from me. My family and friends just take the direction I am pointing as the direction I mean and not what a I say. Again, in a professional environment this is hard. Especially if a guest asks for directions. It doesn't look very professional to give someone the wrong directions

4. Overall Health 

People with dyslexia get sick. They are more
prone to ear infections; sensitive to foods, additives, and chemical products.

I have Celiac Disease.  It is also not uncommon for these symptoms to worsen with stress.

Have test? Forget about eating. You will die.

Okay, that was a bit dramatic. I do get really sick though.
Just imagine having a flu like stomachaches every time you get stressed out.
These are just some of the things that impact me on a daily basis.

So is this book realistic? 

I have seen a lot of reviews about this book  in regards to  how annoying it was that the main character went so long without being diagnosed. Many commented that that it was unrealistic. 

If it wasn't for my parents advocating for me, I wouldn't have learned to read. 

I even had an IEP in school. This means that my teachers knew what was wrong and they were supposed to work with me, but let's be honest they didn't always do that. 

When a teacher has a class of 32, they aren't going to pay too much attention to a quiet kid 
(even if they have an IEP).  Their focus is more realistically going to be on the overall classroom management

As a kid, I didn't want to be singled out. Who wants to be called out of the classroom to go to a special class? If you do, the kids target you for being "special."  As a result, I would often not take extra time on tests because it would make me a target for other kids. This was my own fault, but I think sometimes we forget to take this into consideration.

As passionate educators, we want to believe that everyone who needs help is helped.  In reality, without parent involvement many kids get left behind. This isn't the school system's fault. The school is a partnership with families to provide the best education possible.  

Since the character's parents couldn't be involved in Ally's education, they didn't know what was going on and they didn't know that she needed help. So I can see this realistically happening, because it does happen every day. 

Please remember though that it only takes one teacher or educator to change everything. 

For more information, please check out the links below: 


Dyslexia Statistics

Literacy Statistics

Understanding Dyslexia

- Pamela 

The Water Castle

It is Mark Twain Monday!

Here is the nominee discussion questions and overview of the week:

The Water Castle

By: Megan Frazer Blakemore 

Book Overview 

Provided by: Amazon

Ephraim Appledore-Smith is an ordinary boy, and up until his father's stroke he lived an ordinary life. But all that changes when his family moves to the Water Castle--their ancestral home in the small town of Crystal Springs. 

There he meets Mallory Green's family who has always been the caretakers of the Water Castle--and the guardians of the legendary Fountain of Youth, hidden on the estate grounds. 

When Ephraim learns of the Fountain, he's sure finding it can cure his dad. Told in alternate perspectives, the kids try to solve the mystery of the fountain of youth to try and save Ephraim's dad. 

My Thoughts 

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. With its flashbacks and alternate perspectives, it makes this book very sophisticated for a middle grade novel.  A majority of the book flashes back to 1909 to the families ancestor's story of how they struggled to find the fountain of youth. With this, it also details the character's interest in the exploration of the north pole in 1909. I thought this was a very sneaky way to teach kids about this exploration history. With that being said, I think this book would be  great pair to non-fiction books on this subject manner.

NEW Polar Explorers for Kids: Historic Expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic w

The Exploration of the North and South Poles

Here are some other lessons you could pair with it as well.

Explorer Activities & Lessons

Who Got to the North Pole First?

Antarctica Printables & Worksheets

Overall, I felt like this book was a fun read. I liked its history content, and I enjoyed the fun fantasy element as the kids try to find the fountain of youth.

Discussion Questions 

The explorer Robert Peary had a motto, “I shall find a way or make one.” What does this mean? Is there a time in the book where the characters go by this motto?

If the fountain of youth was real, would you use it? What would be the consequences? Do you think that it is real?

What makes Crystal Springs different?

Henry claims that “every story has a purpose.” Is this true? What are some examples to support or to not support this claim? Does this story have a purpose?

In the book there is a disagreement about who reached the north pole first. Does it matter who was first? Would it have been better if they worked together to reach this goal?

The kids in this book find radioactive water in their home. This is very dangerous!!! If you found this in your home what would you do? What should the characters have done?

The Water Castle was built differently than a normal home. Why was it built this way? If you could design your own home, how would you build it?

The kids believed that Will & Ephraim were saved by their fall due to the power of the water. Was it the water that saved them or was it something else?

Why was there a family feud between Will’s family & the Appledores? Why did their fight last for so long? How should they have resolved it?

The end of the book left many questions. Do you think that Harry & Nora are Mallory’s parents? Is Ephraim’s dad better because of the water? What do you think will happen to the families now? Will Ephraim’s family go back to Cambridge? If you could write a second book for The Water Castle, what would you like to happen?

More Books Like This One 

Until Next Time,


Willie's Redneck Time Machine by John Luke Robertson and Travis Thrasher

Willie's Redneck Time Machine

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this four-book juvenile fiction series featuring the popular Robertson family of Duck Commander and written by Phil's grandson John Luke Robertson (with Travis Thrasher), readers are invited to participate in the zany fun of the Duck Commander world. After a few chapters, readers can choose to go down different paths--all filled with humor and life lessons.In this volume, Willie finds a mysterious wooden crate in the Duck Commander warehouse. Only John Luke is around, so the two of them open up the box and find a strange device. It turns out it's a time machine that looks a bit like an outhouse. Willie and John Luke test out the machine and find themselves journeying back and forth in time. They have crazy adventures but know they need to make it back to West Monroe. But will they make the right choices to get back at the right time?


I have to admit, I was pretty excited when I found this book in the stacks. Duck Dynasty is a show I find vastly amusing and a "Choose Your Adventure" style book starring the Robertsons sounded like a good time to me. This was my first time reading this style of book and I discovered that it is not my favorite. This is a purely personality based judgment. I am a goal-driven individual and relish being able to measure progress, even in a book I absolutely love! (This is one reason why e-readers will probably never work for me.) In this particular format, there is absolutely no way to measure progress. Additionally, I have to read every single page in a book to feel like I can mark it "Read" in Goodreads. (Because, of course you haven't actually read a book unless it's on your Goodreads...)   In order to complete "Willie's Redneck Time Machine," I had to thumb through every page of the book to make sure I had followed all the storylines. With that being said, I can absolutely see the draw to this style. It is perfect for reluctant readers and for kids who enjoy a fast paced read!  As far as writing quality goes, this one isn't winning any awards, but the plots were so entertaining, I actually did not care that much about the quality of the writing. One final note: one of the stories continues in another book in the series and I thought that was kind of cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater...
And the verdict on "Willie's Redneck Time Machine?" Three out of five ducks. Quack.

Go read this book. It's very fluffy, but so amusing!

Are you a fan of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" style? What are some of your favorite books or series in this format? 


The Blackthorn Key

The Blackthorn Key 


Age Range: 10 and up
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 384

The Story 

 (Based off of Goodreads)

"These ingredients are gifts that the Lord has given us. They are tools of the trade. What you must always remember is that they are only that: tools. They can heal, or the can kill. It's the hands-and the heart-of the one who wields it."

Christopher Rowe is on his way to becoming an apothecary in the summer of 1665.
As an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn in London, Christopher is learning how to mix ingredients to make new things. But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret & to stop the killer. 

The Book Trailer 

Strengths: This is a really exciting book. It is very plot driven, and the characters are well developed.
I loved the friendship between Christopher & Tom & trouble / adventures they went on.
When the book opens with the boys using gunpowder while the master is out, I was hooked.

 I was especially drawn to the mystery aspect of the book. I wanted to find out who the killer was & it kept me reading.

Weaknesses: This was a little violent for me personally. I realize that for the nature of this book it is appropriate. It is after all a murder mystery, but for this reason I think this book will not be suitable for everyone. I would only recommend it to my older tweens.  The older audience would also be appropriate for the recipes within this book. The book does reveal how to make gun powder. I can see some of my tween boys deciding to try and make this at home so I would recommend some supervision!

For reader's advisory, I think it would be best for a reader who enjoys historical fiction & or mystery stories.

More Books Like This One 

For the apothecary aspect: 

For the mystery:

For the adventure:
Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg, #1)


How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel (My Life Is a Zoo)

How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel (My Life Is a Zoo)
By: Jess Keating 

Release date: January 6, 2015 
Ages: 8 and up 
Pages: 304 

Please note 

How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel is the 2nd book in the My Life is a Zoo series. Even though this novel does stand well on its own, also be sure to read the first one: 

The Story 

Ana's grandfather is a world famous TV animal personality and he is opening a new exhibit at the zoo-with sharks. Ana is assigned to help put get the exhibit together with her arch enemy Ashley. As she works with Ashley though, they slowly become friends.

Something mysterious begins to happen though.  The sea horses are overfed and  someone didn't lock the hermit crab cage. Ana immediately thinks it is Ashley trying to sabotage her. Until this summer, she was her arch enemy after all. Ana tries to get back at Ashley for trying to sabotag the new exhibit, but is Ashley really behind it? Ana learns about acceptance, friendship, and how to adapt to middle school.


*This book is refreshingly positive. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Ana is trying to find a swimming suit. She is really self conscious about her changing body, and has trouble finding clothes. So the character Ashley goes with her and helps her find a swimming suit, and she says one of my favorite lines in the book: 

"Just remember, if something doesn't fit, that's the clothes' fault. Not yours. Keep trying things on until your find something that looks like it was made for you. Everything in your closet should make you feel good." 

Can all my tween girls read this, please? Or better yet, lets just post this in all dressing rooms! :) 

*It has animal facts at the beginning of every chapter. This will appeal to many of my middle grade kids, and it makes it easy to pair with non-fiction animal books. Tweens tend to be really interested in animals in general. So this is a huge plus for appeal!

* One of the characters bakes cookies in the book, and the author includes the recipe at the end of the book. This is perfect book club food. Plus I had to make them immediately after finishing this book. No Bake Cookies, anyone?

Image result for no bake cookies recipe

Weaknesses for Reader's Advisory 

*This book would primarily only appeal to only tween girls. I do like this though, because there aren't many positive tween girl books like this one that would appeal to a wide range of tween girls.

*The character Ana does accuse the character Ashley of making her life a living hell. This was only used once, but this may make some reader's uncomfortable. I would be careful to mention this to parents if this is something they want to avoid in their child's reading.

*The ending was predictable and a little cheesy, but I am still excited to read the next book:

Release date: October 2, 2015


I am a sucker for animal books, but I really enjoyed this one. I put in a request for my library to buy  this series & I already recommended this series to one of my tween girls this evening. I am thankful that Cybils has opened my eyes to this book. I wouldn't have normally read it. I tend to get stuck in my history genre. So I am really appreciative.

 Please make sure your favorites are on the list. Your nominations count!

Visit this link for more information:
Cybils Nominations

For more books like this one, check these out!  

For the animal facts

For the zoo & animal adventure: 

For the family animal connections & the animals: 

For more fun, check out this live camera from the Baltimore Aquarium. This is a similar exhibit as the one in the book.


Own Your Space Program

Alyssa and I wanted to try a program free of fandoms. We finally decided on a room decorating program.  Knowing that tweens are trying to find themselves and their own decorating style, we thought this would be a great DIY program for our tweens to explore. 

When looking for ideas on decorating, we of course looked to Pinterest for help.

Alyssa found these wonderful ideas that we turned into stations. 

Station #1:  Paint Sample Calendar

For this first station, our building and grounds department donated a bunch of paint samples.  With this, all we did was set out a piece of poster board, scissors, and glue. We had two girls that spent the entire hour camped out here. They were super crafty and decided to use their time finding colors in the paint samples and an arrangement they liked. From there, our participant wanted to put the paint samples in an old frame from the Dollar Tree. She thought she could better recreate a reusable calendar like in the picture above. It made me so proud of my crafty little tween.

Station #2 : Wall Art


This was the most popular station.  For this station, we just set out a collection of  mattes, paint, and masking tape.

Using masking tape, we invited participants to make patterns or words. From there, participants used paint to paint over it. They turned out really neat! I wish I had taken pictures. If you do decide to try out this station, however, I would caution the use the paint. It got very messy! Always have a staff member on hand or at this station in particular. 

Station #3 : Yarn Art

If you are looking for a fun project to do while sitting on the sofa, this is it. Make easy DIY wall art out of any word using cardboard and yarn!

Using cardboard, participants drew and cut out a word. Once they cut out the word, they covered the cardboard in yarn. This was the most challenging station, and the only one that I would not repeat again. We ran into the issue of not being able to cut out the cardboard easily. Alyssa and I spent the whole program rushing around trying to get these cut out for the tweens. We did not take into account how difficult it would be.  There were a few tweens who really enjoyed this station, but if we repeat it again, I would like to use a different material. 

Station #4: Online Room Decorating

We knew not everyone might not want to actually create something. To help meet this need, we set out a computer and allowed the tweens to create an online room. In addition to adding some variety to our program, it also helped to spark some ideas for room decorating.

Station #5: Get Inspired

Cover art

For our final station, we had decorating books set out. The purpose of this station was to hopefully spark ideas & to show off our collection.

How it Went 

This program went over very well. Our primary audience was tweens girls, but we were not surprised by this. We got a lot of positive feedback from parents whose tween wanted to get rid of their childhood bedroom and needed ideas and outlets for it. They appreciated the cost friendly ideas we provided.

 I personally really enjoyed hearing the feedback from the tweens. They were so excited make decorating pieces for their room.  This was also an easy program program for us and it we just recycled materials that we had in the department. So it was budget friendly as well.

In the future, I would like to repeat this program. I think it would be a great way for us to reuse some of the supplies we have and it would also be another outlet for tweens to explore.

Have you done a program like this before? How did it go?

Until next time,