Series

Book Review: Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe

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bunniculaBunnicula: A Rabbit-tale of Mystery

Written by Deborah & James Howe

Illustrated by Allan Daniel

Published 1979

Ages: 6-9, 128 pages

Genre/Topics: Humor, Mystery

The fun and adventure begins when the Monroe family returns from the movie with a new family addition – a rabbit. The family agrees to name the bunny Bunnicula, since it was found at the movies while watching Dracula. However, two family members are hesitant about Bunnicula – Chester the cat and Harold the dog. We learn about Bunnicula from Harold’s perspective. Chester believes Bunnicula really is a vampire and with Harold’s reluctant help they discover more about Bunnicula. Bunnicula has fangs and stays awake at night. Is Bunnicula really a vampire? Humorous events occur as Chester is determined to prove that Bunnicula is a vampire.

I loved Bunnicula! I really did laugh out loud as Harold described the weird events happening in the house since Bunnicula arrived. The reader learns about Chester’s mischievous behavior and Harold’s family loyalty. The book is mysterious without being scary. Readers will be curious about Bunnicula and want to know more about Chester and Harold’s adventures. There are additional books in the Bunnicula series. I highly recommend Bunnicula for a fun read!

 

Book Review: Among the Enemy (Shadow Children #6)

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Among the Enemy (Shadow Children #6) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published by Aladdin on May 17, 2005
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Adventure, Dystopia
Ages: 10+, 240 pages 
 

In this sixth installment in the Shadow Children series, Matthias from Among the Betrayed (book #3) is the main character. The book begins when the Population Police awaken children at school and take them away where they will work for their country. Matthias, along with his friends Percy and Alia, stay together and attempt to escape. Events occur that causes them to be free from the Population Police, however Percy and Alia are now injured. Matthias witnesses a fight between the Population Police and rebels. Without realizing it, Matthias rescues a Population Police officer who takes Matthias under his wing back to headquarters. Matthias is now in the middle of the place he fears most where he enlists to become a Population Police officer himself. While at headquarters, Matthias discovers that there are hidden individuals secretly planning against the Population Police. Matthias must decide who to trust and how to act in such a threatening environment that without careful steps may lead to disaster.

I enjoyed Among the Enemy, but yet again I was slightly disappointed that there was a new lead character. I really had to refresh my memory, since Matthias was only mentioned in book #3. However, I understand that the Shadow Children series is different from other series, because the problem evolves around an entire society not just one character. The reader gains a new perspective as we learn how different individuals handle the problems. Although, I prefer to follow events through a few constant characters throughout the series. I now have only one book to read in the Shadow Children series.

 

Book Review: Among the Brave (Shadow Series #5)

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Among the Brave (Shadow Children #5) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published by Aladdin on April 27, 2004
Genre/Topics: Adventure, Science Fiction, Dystopia 
Ages: 10+, 240 pages 

*Warning potential spoilers for previous Shadow Children books. *

The tragic end of Among the Barons (book #4) left Luke and his friends with more questions about who to trust and uncertainty about their futures. Luke escaped death when his friend, Trey, safely rescued him from harm. Trey is also a third child who remained hidden until he attended Hendricks School. He never considered himself brave or heroic. However, after his dramatic rescue to save Luke all his friends now view him with increased control and bravery. Trey doesn’t at all feel brave, instead he feels as though he was just lucky in a dangerous situation. After Trey’s friends left him alone at the Talbot’s house his goal is to remain hidden. Soon Trey has the courage to walk to the neighbor’s house that is also Luke’s home. Trey discovers Mark, Luke’s older brother, who is determined to find Luke. Mark and Trey begin an adventure to find and rescue Luke, although it’s hardly an easy task. They find themselves at the Population Police headquarters where Trey impersonates an officer. Even though Trey is at the center of individuals he has feared his entire life, Trey still doesn’t believe that he is brave. What exactly makes a person brave? Does Trey have what it takes to rescue others?

Among the Brave was similar to Among the Betrayed (book #3), because Luke isn’t the main character. Trey is mentioned in previous books, but the reader learns more about the character. I have mixed feelings about this aspect in the Shadow Children series. I enjoy developing a relationship with the lead character and additional characters mixed into the plot. However, the Shadow Children series highlights different individuals each effected by Population Police and laws. So although I don’t feel a strong connection with each character, I still enjoy learning about each individual’s struggles. I enjoyed looking at new aspects to what defines bravery, because Trey’s bravery may not have been the bold ‘standard’ yet events let his characteristics shine.

Book Review: Among the Barons (Shadow Series #4)

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Among the Barons (Shadow Children #4) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by Aladdin June 1, 2003
Genre/Topics: Adventure, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Ages: 10+, 208 pages
 

For the first twelve years of Luke’s life he had always been Luke, until he received the fake I.D. and he became Lee Grant. Soon Luke adjusted to being Lee at Hendricks School for Boys. He never fully wanted to declare himself as Lee, however he was able to no longer remain hidden. Suddenly, Lee’s younger brother, Smits Grant, desires to also attend Hendricks. Luke doesn’t understand why Smits wants to attend the same school, because Smits understands that Lee died. The Grants are barons who are rich and powerful and receive anything they desire. Smits finally attends Hendricks with his personal bodyguard and demands special accommodation, such as his own room and different food from the other students. Luke’s not sure if Smits can keep the secret that Lee has in fact died. Luke must now live in more lies as he pretends to be Smits brother. Can he trust Smits and his bodyguard?

I enjoyed Among the Barons just as much as the other Shadow Children books. This book becomes complex with more characters and new perspectives. Luke’s character evolved as he’s been out of the shadows for a few months. There were story plots that surprised me just as the previous books.

 

Book Review: Among the Betrayed (Shadow Series #3)

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Among the Betrayed (Shadow Children #3) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing on June 1, 2002 
Genre/Topics: Dystopia, Adventure, Science Fiction 
Ages: 10+, 160 pages 

 

This is the third book in the Shadow Children series and it takes a turn from the previous books. In the first two books, Luke is the central character, but in Among the Betrayed, Nina Idi is the main focus. Nina attended a girl’s school similar to the boy’s school. At the end of book two, Among the Impostors, Nina and Jason were arrested as traitors for falsely turning in third children to the Population Police. Now Nina is in prison and must state exactly what occurred or she faces death. However, the prison guard makes a deal for her to betray other imprisoned third children to learn more information about them. When she meets the children she discovers that they are much younger than her. Nina isn’t sure who to trust and whether she should betray the others.

I enjoyed Among the Betrayed, but I was slightly disappointed that Luke wasn’t the main character. However, I think the series’ theme is complex and additional character perspectives add to the plot. Personally, I thought the book was slow at times. Nina’s prison time is descriptive and harsh at times, so I suggest age ten and up. I’m ready to read book four. (I love when I don’t have to wait for the next book to be published.)

 
 

Book Review: Among the Impostors (Shadow Series #2)

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Among the Impostors (Shadow Children #2) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by Aladdin on December 21, 2001 
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Adventure, School Hazing 
Ages: 10+, 172 pages 
 
 

For the first time in Luke’s life he is no longer hiding with the help of a fake I.D. He’s enrolled at Hendricks School for Boys where he must attempt to blend in, because if he’s discovered as a third child the Population Police may kill him. As soon as Luke arrives at Hendricks there is constant teasing and hazing from other classmates. Luke doesn’t know where his classes are, sits alone, and often must follow the orders from others. He begins to get homesick and whispers his name, since now he is Lee Grant. Luke cannot tell the students apart, gets lost in hallways, and doesn’t understand why the school has no windows. One day while wondering the halls Luke notices an unlocked door to the outside. Will Luke have the courage to understand the secrets at Hendricks?

I enjoyed Among the Impostors perhaps even more than Among the Hidden. There are new situations, problems, and characters for the reader to discover. The book surprised me even when I thought I knew what was happening. I’m ready to read the third book in the Shadow series.

Book Review: Among the Hidden (Shadow Series #1)

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Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1) 

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Published by  Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on September 1, 1998
Genre/Topics: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Adventure
Age: 10+, 153 pages 
Book Awards: Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee (2002),Sunshine State Young Readers Award for Grades 6-8 (2001), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (1999)
 

Luke has never gone to school, left his house, or met any other individual beside his family. He lives in the attic and cannot even look out windows. Luke is a third child who lives in the shadows. He must remain hidden, because he lives in a society where there can only be two children. If a third child or anyone attempting to hide a third child is discovered then the Population Police can punish by death. One day while peeking through the attic vents he notices a face in the neighbor’s window. Is it another third child who must stay hidden? How will Luke respond to the face?

I really enjoyed this book, because it had an interesting and unique plot. It contains government context and perhaps mature ideas. The book ended on a great cliffhanger and I’m ready to read the next book in the series.

Book Review: Titanic #1: Unsinkable

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Titanic #1: Unsinkable 

Written by Gordon  Korman
Published May 1, 2011 by Scholastic Paperbacks
Genre/Topics: Historical Fiction, Titanic, Adventure 
Ages: 8+, 176 pages 
 

This is the first book in a series of three about the Titanic’s maiden voyage. The book switches perspectives to four young characters who eventually all meet abroad the Titanic. Paddy is a stowaway who is running away from danger. Alfie is a junior crew member who lied about his age to work on Titanic. Juliana is travelling with her father, a wealthy Earl, who is often drunk and gambling. Sophie travels with her mother who campaigns for women’s rights and was arrested. In this book, Unsinkable, there is great excitement as the gigantic RMS Titanic Ship is about to set sail for the first time and is supposedly unsinkable. The book is a quick read and ends with a cliff hanger. Luckily, all the books are published so you can read the entire series.

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10,...
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 

Written by C. S. Lewis 
Read by Michael York
Originally published on October 16, 1950
Published by Harper Audio
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy 
Audio Edition: 4 hours, 22 minutes
Ages: 8+, 208 pages 
 

Welcome to the land of Narnia. There are two methods to read The Chronicles of Narnia: either by the date published or chronically order. I decided to read the series in the order C.S. Lewis first published them, so The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe makes it the first book. We meet Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie for the first time.

To avoid bombs during World War II in  London, the four Pevensie children live with a wealthy professor in the country. The house is large and mysterious. It is during a game of hide and seek that Lucy discovers Narnia through the wardrobe. Next Edmund journeys into Narnia and meets the Queen. Soon all four children magical enter the world of Narnia.

The White Witch has cast an evil spell that makes it always winter.  The children begin an adventure quest to remove the Witch. Aslan the brave lion slowly takes back power as winter melts away. The children find themselves in the center of a prophecy when two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve return to Narnia to eliminate the White Witch.

They meet talking animals and mythical creatures in the land of Narnia. I won’t address C.S. Lewis’ Christian themes, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a wonderful start for all ages. Please join me as I read the entire series.

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Book Review: The Lemonade War

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The Lemonade War

Written by Jacqueline Davies 
Published: 2007 by Houghton Mifflin
192 pages 
Ages: 8+
Topics: sibling relationship, economics, realistic fiction 
 

I read The Lemonade War during the wrong season, since I wanted a refreshing drink while reading it. Evan Treski deals well with people whereas his younger sister, Jessie, works better at math. Together they’d make the perfect lemonade team, however they’re at war with each other to sell the most lemonade. The tension began when Evan discovered that Jessie would be skipping a grade and both would be in fourth grade together. Normally, they get along fine as siblings but Labor Day weekend they use any business skill to make the most money. Every chapter starts with an economic term that relates to the chapter. The book changes perspectives between Evan and Jessie. I thought this was an enjoyable book that explains math and business in a fun way. The lemon business gets sour as the war ends with an interesting twist that leads into the next book, The Lemonade Crime. A third book, The Bell Bandit, in The Lemonade Series releases May 2012.

 

Book Review: The 39 Clues Series

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The 39 Clues Series
Written by Rick RiordanGordon KormanPeter LerangisJude WatsonPatrick Carman, Linda Sue Park , Margaret Peterson Haddix 
Published: 2008-2010 by Scholastic 
Ages: 9 + Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Suspense 
 

I’m surprised it took me so long to discover the exciting adventures in The 39 Clues. I’ve only read the first book, but I think it has potential for an exciting series. When a relative dies, Dan and Amy Cahill are given the opportunity to take a million dollars or take the first clue that leads them on dangerous hunt to discover the source of the family’s power. Dan and Amy are practically like orphans, since their parents died when they were young and their old aunt hires au pairs. I enjoyed this book for several reasons. The perspectives switch between Dan and Amy, so both boys and girls can view themselves on the hunt for clues. There is a strong and positive sibling connection as they work together, but there’s still humor and normal teasing between brother and sister. The 39 Clues explores secrets and knowledge from the past, since the Cahill family has been powerful throughout history. Readers learn about historic events and important individuals, such as Benjamin Franklin, without being boring. The first book, The Maze of Bonesliterally was a cliff hanger that gets you ready for the next book.

The books themselves are great, but the reader becomes more involved through online interactions and collecting trading cards. You become an agent and attempt to solve clues. One thing I didn’t like was that you needed to put the card’s code that came with the book to gain further access online. Well, I didn’t have a card since I read the book from the library. Individuals sort themselves into the Cahill family with a mini quiz. I’m on the Ekaterina branch. Another great thing about this series is that it’s written by multiple authors. The hope is that readers will discover new authors to enjoy after reading The 39 Clues. 

www.the39clues.com

www.scholastic.com/teachthe39clues

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