Book & Audio Review: The Great Treehouse War

Have you ever wanted to have your own treehouse?  In this book, Winnie had never really thought about it.  But once she had the absolutely most perfect treehouse, in the biggest tree in the state, it was hers, and hers alone.  Or was it..?

Be careful what you wish for…

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great treehouse warThe Great Treehouse War
By Lisa Graff, Read by Ariana Delawari with a Full Cast
4 CDs; 4 hours, 11 minutes

Winnie life was pretty normal right up until the last day of fourth grade.  Sure, her parents were fighting a lot, and didn’t really listen to each other, but other kids had problems too, right?  Then, on the last day of school, her parents sat her down on the x marked in the exact center of the sofa and sat on either side of her to tell her they were getting a divorce.  But both her parents assured her that they still loved her, and that splitting Winnie’s time equally between them was important.

So they sold the house Winnie had grown up in (through fourth grade), and each bought the only two houses on Circle Road, where the two backyards met, not far from Uncle Huck…her mother’s brother and her father’s best friend.  Between the backyards was a giant linden tree, not on either parents’ property.  It was perfect for them–Winnie (and her cat Buttons) could spend Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays with her mom;  Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays with her dad, and every Wednesday, she and Buttons would live by themselves in the treehouse designed and built by Uncle Huck.  Her parents thought it was perfect.  Winnie wasn’t so sure.

But at first it didn’t seem too bad.  Winnie loved her round treehouse, with its own kitchen and living room, bathroom and loft.  And she really enjoyed having a day to herself, with just Buttons for company.  Her parents were even being pretty cool with the equal time thing.

But then Winnie’s mom realized that Winnie would be celebrating Thanksgiving with her father.  So she decided to create another celebration to make up for no Thanksgiving; Flag Day.  Winnie was more confused than happy about the over-the-top celebration, but told her mother it was fun.  And then her dad saw them out in their yard from his back window; so he got into the act with World UFO Day.  Suddenly, both her parents started trying to outdo each other with daily parties, events and field trips when they had Winnie, to make up for each celebration she got to spend with the other.   From International Tongue Twister Day to Ice Cream Sandwich Day to Flossing Day to Cow Appreciation Day to Peach Day, the celebrations started growing and growing and growing…and getting totally out of hand.

Winnie’s frustration also started growing.  As both parents spend the whole afternoon and evening celebrating weird holidays with her on “their” days, Winnie finds less and less time to do her homework, until she was spending Wednesday doing all her homework as well as catching up with her sleep.   It didn’t work as well as she thought, since by February she was falling asleep at her desk during school.  But the last straw was when Mr. B, her teacher, told her she was in danger of flunking fifth grade.

Or no, the real last straw was when her father decided that she was going to spend the summer with him collecting animal feces for examination in the desert, and her mother said that she would then take over all the Wednesdays until summer, to equal out Winnie’s time.  No. Way.  Winnie was not going to lose her only peaceful day.  It was time to declare war!

Winnie got all the supplies she needed and went up to the treehouse, with no intention of coming down until her parents talked to each other.  Her friends were supportive and helpful, keeping up her morale and providing her with supplies.  And as Winnie’s parents decided to wait her out,  one by one each of her friends decided that they also had issues with their parents.  Winnie needed the support, and they needed to raise issues as well.  Before she knew it, Winnie was joined by Squizzy and Lyle and Tabitha and Greta and Joey and Brogan and Aayush  and Logan.  Things get complicated pretty quickly and teachers and television reporters and kids around the world get involved.  It’s kids vs. parents in The Great Treehouse War!  Who will win?  Read and find out.

great treehouse war audioThe audio for The Great Treehouse War is produced as a full cast recording.  As the story begins, Winnie narrates the action,  each of the characters–kids and adults– have a different actor narrating their part of the story.  This works very well for this book because much of the print story is told through letters, books, Declarations, comic strips, clippings, calendars, homework, school reports and notes.  I actually love full cast audio recordings–narrations from a single, great reader are absolutely wonderful,  but occasionally having voice acting from a cast of several people is just amazing.  Since there were different voices, the story felt like it went faster, and listeners know exactly who speaking at any time.  The voices are wonderful, as is the acting.

With that said, if you haven’t read the book and are only listening to the audio version of The Great Treehouse War, make sure that you pick up a copy of the book to look through.  All the documents and notes and school assignments are funny, and the quirky hand-drawn artwork adds so much to the personalities to each of the characters.

The Great Treehouse War is written for ages 8 – 12, but it could be listened to by kids (and adults) of all ages. Lisa Graff is a very popular author; some of her other books are A Clatter of Jars, A Tangle of Knots and Absolutely, Almost.  The Great Treehouse War is one of her funnier ones.  So what are you waiting for?  Try it!  You’ll like it!

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So there you are!  If you enjoy humorous fiction and stories about friends, you’ll enjoy this book.  Kids who liked books by Kate Klise like Regarding the Fountain and Letters from Camp will also enjoy this book.  Fans of ongoing conflicts between friends or families, like Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s The Boy/Girl Battle or Jacqueline Davies’ Lemonade War series will enjoy this book. Fans of Peggy Giffords’ Moxy Maxwell series will like this book.

Some other humorous full-cast recordings at the library:
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper by Jean Van Leeuwen
House of Robots by Chris Grabbenstein and James Patterson

If you would like help finding these or any other books in the library, just ask us!  All our librarians are happy to match you with the perfect book or audio–any time, any day!  And until then…

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

 

great treehouse war detail

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Book & Audio Review: Beyond the Bright Sea

Are you a summer visitor to the Cape?  Does the idea of living on an island fill you with delight?  How about adding a bit of treasure hunting, and an unsolved mystery?  If all of those things sound enticing, you’ll love this book!

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beyond the bright seaBeyond the Bright Sea
By Lauren Wolk, Read by Jorjeana Marie
6 CDs, 7 hours, 16 minutes

Crow lives on a nameless, tiny island; part of the Elizabeth Islands, off the cost of Massachusetts.  As long as she remembers, she’s been there with Osh.  But she wasn’t born there.  No, Osh found her as a tiny wailing baby, only hours old, in a small boat, washed up on the shore.  He took her in, cleaned her up, and fed her.  Now they live together in the tiny island home Osh created for them, surrounded by the sea and Osh’s art.

If she’d been a normal baby, someone would probably have taken her away from Osh, thinking he wasn’t fit to raise a small girl.  But Crow wasn’t what most of the islanders would call normal–too sickly, her eyes and skin too dark, her arrival on the small skiff too mysterious.  But most of all, people were afraid that she came from Penekese,   Penikese, the island next closest to their tiny island after Cuttyhunk.  Penikese, home of the leper colony.  Not knowing where Crow came from makes everyone on Cuttyhunk and the other small islands worried that Crow is dangerous.

But it doesn’t bother Crow, not really.  She has her island, she has Osh, and she has Miss Maggie, who she visits almost every day on her farm across the sandbar and who worries over her just as much as Osh does.  Crow also has her imagination and her curiosity.

But Crow’s life changes when she spots a fire over on Penikese, and she starts questioning everything she knows.  Once her curiosity is roused, she starts to look for answers to some of her questions:  Where did she come from?  Who are her “real” parents and why did they send her away?  What is her “real” name?  Why are there lights on Penikese and who is over there?

As Crow searches for answers, she finds herself on a dangerous path, involving menacing strangers and missing treasures.  Will she get her answers, or will she endanger the life she already has?

beyond the bright sea audioThe audio recording for Beyond the Bright Sea is absolutely marvelous.  Jorjeana Marie is suburb; her narration of Lauren Wolk’s gorgeous prose perfectly suits the story and the characters.  You’ll feel like you’re right there beside Crow as she explores the world around her.  I can’t say enough about how beautiful both the story and the narration of that story are.  It’s a perfect package.

Beyond the Bright Sea is perfect for anyone who likes stories of growing up, of discovering who you are, and of carefully plotted mysteries.  The writing is gorgeous.  It’s written for fourth through sixth grades, but the audio recording would be good for kids ages 8 through adults.  If you have ever visited Cape Cod, or are planning to visit, you should read this book: the portrait of the Elizabeth Islands and life on the Cape in the early part of the century is amazing.  You’ll be left wanting to know more about Crow and her world.

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If you can’t tell, I loved this book!  You can practically smell the salt air and hear the seagulls as you listen to Crow’s story unfold.  The pacing of the mystery leaves you on the edge of your seat; and Crows relationship with Osh and Miss Maggie is so, so good.  Really, everyone who lives in Massachusetts needs to read or listen to this book!

Some books and audios that have similar themes or feelings:
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holt
The War That Saved My Life by Jennifer Brubaker Bradley
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

As always, if you need help finding this or any other book or audio in the library, or you’re looking for suggestions on what to read next, ask me or any of our other librarians.  We’re happy to help!

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

 

 

Audio & Book Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

A great new family for readers of middle grade fiction!

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vanderbeekersThe Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
by Karina Yan Glaser, narrated by Robin Miles
5 CDs, 5.5 hours

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street.  Twins Jessie and Isa are the oldest, and as different from each other as possible–Jessie is scientific and practical, Isa is musical and quiet.  Oliver is the only boy, something that can be a trial, coming in the middle of four sisters.  Hyacinth loves animals and making crafts.  And Laney, the youngest is imaginative and active.  She has to be, to keep up with the others!  They have a dog named Franz, a cat named George Washington, and a house rabbit named Paganini.  And they love their home…from the basement to the rooftop.  The only drawback is that the Beiderman, their landlord, lives on the top floor.  He’s grouchy and doesn’t like kids.  Or so they’ve heard…they’ve actually never seen him.  He just calls their parents to complain.  Luckily, the Vanderbeeker kids have learned how to get along with his demands…and it’s not like he’s right above them.  Their apartment and his are divided by the second floor apartment, where Miss Josie and Mr. Jeet live.

So it comes as a total shock when their parents tell them that Mr. Beiderman has decided not to renew their lease…and they have only eleven days to pack up and find a place to live.  What makes it worse is that it’s only four and a half days until Christmas; who can think of presents and holiday spirit when they may lose their home?

The Vanderbeeker children decide that there’s only one course of action–to make the Beiderman realize that they’re the perfect family for 141st Street.  If they can make him love them, then he won’t ask them to leave!  Thus begins the secret (because they don’t want their parents to get caught in the middle) plan to overwhelm the Beiderman with kindness and crafts and cooking and music and anything else they can think of that may make him change his mind. Will it work?  As each of their well-intentioned plans go wrong, the kids despair.  They only have eleven days and counting to make the Beiderman realize how wonderful they are…

vanderbeekers audioThe audio recording for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is perfect!  The narrator, Robin Miles, has a wonderful voice for both children and adults.  She does a great job creating the voices of people of many different ages from a variety of cultures with accents and cadence.  And each of the Vanderbeeker children sounds different as well, which isn’t always easy to do.

I would highly recommend The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, as both a book and an audio recording.  Fans of The Penderwicks, the Melendys, and The Moffats will love these siblings just as much.  The kids run from age 4 though age 13, so the book is probably best for third through fifth grade.  The audio could be enjoyed by all ages…parents will probably appreciate the Vanderbeeker children and their desperate quest to save their home just as much as their kids do.

Some similar stories (besides the ones listed above) to read or listen to if you liked The Vanderbeekers:
Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
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So if you’re looking for a family story with siblings you’d like to have, look no further than the Vanderbeekers!

If you would like help finding this book or getting any suggestions for other books to read, just ask one of our librarians.  We love to help people find books!

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

 

 

Audio and Book Review: The Magesterium

If you have the time, listening to series is fun!  It’s sort of like reading a really, really long book.  Sometimes it’s great to take a break between each book, and sometimes it’s good to keep reading each book in the series one after another until you get to the end.  On the Magisterium series, I’ve stopped listening to them in the middle, because I needed a change of pace.  I may end up reading the other books in print, just because that’s faster, and I want to know what happens!

How do you read series?  All in one gulp, or alternating with other books to prolong living in that particular book world?  Do you listen to audio series the same way?

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The Magisterium Series:
iron trial and copper gauntlet
The Iron Trial
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Read by Paul Boehmer
9 CDs, 10.5 hours

The Copper Gauntlet
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Read by Paul Boehmer
7 CDs, 8 1/2 hours

iron trialCallum Hunt knows that he’s one of the “weird kids” at school.  He doesn’t know why, but part of it might be that he’s angry all the time…and the other kids know it.  He’s angry that his father is different from other fathers, angry that he can’t play sports normally because one of his legs is shorter than the other, angry that he doesn’t have a mother.  But mostly, he’s angry because all kinds of things seem to go wrong around him.  Call’s  father has told him that it’s because of the magic he’s inherited. But even though magic sounds cool, and like something that would be fun, Call’s father has forbidden him to even think about it.  Because magic is evil, it’s twisted, and it killed his mother.

Magic?  At first Call thinks his father is crazy, but then one day he picks up Call in his antique Rolls Royce from school and drives the two of them to a run down old airplane hanger.  The large room is filled with kids and parents.  All the kids are excited and happy…ready to complete several tests to qualify to go to The Magisterium, an elite school for mages.  There are even several kids from his school in the group!

Even though the Masters of the school have an opening announcement that makes magic and attending the Magisterium sound like an exciting adventure, Call’s father has told him that he has to fail the tests.  If Call succeeds the Trials to get into The Magisterium, he will end up so deep underground in the school’s cave system that he’ll never see the sun again.  He says that the caverns are dark and sinister and full of danger.  According to Call’s father, any use of magic, whatever the intent, will kill him, if it doesn’t warp him first.

To please his father and save his life, Call works hard to do his worst at every Trial.  But even though he fails the trials quite spectacularly, he’s still chosen by Master Rufus to be an apprentice.  As he’s leaving for the caverns of the magic school, his father throws a knife to him…or is it at him?  Callum isn’t sure, but the warning his father shouts is unmistakable.  Then his father is dragged away by the other mages, and Call ends up at The Magisterium with Master Rufus and his fellow apprentices Aaron and Tamara.

Call finds that the Magisterium, the masters and the apprentices are nothing like what he had been warned about.  The school is dark and frightening, but magic is interesting and absorbing. As he takes lessons and learns more about magic and his past, he’s left wondering if his father was right…or was he hiding something from Call?  Once his education in magic begins, Call is finding out there’s a lot more to Mage Magic than he expected.

iron trial audioThe audio for The Iron Trial was very well done.  I loved Paul Boehmer’s vocals; he did a great job making all the characters sound different.  From the low and deep voice of Master Rufus to the sinister hissing of the lizard fire elemental to the voices of Call and his friends, everyone sounds very different. His pacing was excellent.  The language is fun, the cast is diverse, and the plot twists around and around through both volumes of the series that I listened to.

I quite enjoyed both The Iron Trial and the sequel, The Copper Gauntlet, about Call’s second year at the Magistirium. (The other books are The Bronze Key and The Silver Mask.)  I would highly recommend them to fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.  If you like books about learning magic or uncovering secrets, you will enjoy The Magisterium series.  The two authors–Holly Black and Cassandra Clare–are also authors of two other popular series for kids and teens–The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Mortal Instruments Series.  If you liked those books (or even the movies!) you’ll like The Magisterium series.

The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet would be great audios for a family car trip with older elementary or middle school students.  There is quite a bit of darkness to some of Call’s past and present at the school, so it might not be good for younger elementary students.  If you managed to get through the fourth volume of Harry Potter, this is on par with darkness of The Magisterium.  But try it for yourself, and see what you think!

magisterium

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And that’s it…I have yet to read the last two volumes, so if you finish them first, come and tell me what you think!

As always, if you need help finding these or any other books in the library, ask one of our librarians.  We are always happy to help match you with your best book choices!  Until then…

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

 

Book & Audio Review: Flunked!

It’s time for another audio book review!  If you like fairy tales, a little bit of villainy, and a dose of magic…Flunked is a book you should like!

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Flunkedflunked
By Jen Calonita, Narrated by Kristin Condon
5 CDs, 5.25 Hours

Gilly isn’t a bad kid, but she is a thief.  It’s not like she has a real choice…she has five brothers and sisters and lives in a boot.  True, her father is a master cobbler, but there’s no longer a demand in the kingdom for shoes made by hand.  Magic slippers are all the rage.   So Gilly HAS to steal…her thievery provides extra food to keep her siblings fed and healthy.  And if she steals something special for a birthday gift here and there…well, it’s not like the stuck up royals will even notice that something is gone.  They’ll just replace it, right?

But when Gilly steals from the wrong royal, in the wrong shop, she’s found out.  And since it’s her third offense, she’s sentenced to Fairy Tale Reform School by Headmistress Flora, formerly the Evil Stepmother.  Princess Ella even signed the order.   There’s nothing Gilly or her siblings or even her parents can do about it.

But Fairy Tale Reform School — FTRS for short — isn’t anything like Gilly expected.  Sure, their mission is “To turn wicked delinquents and former villains into future heroes”, and Gilly expects to be stuck in a dungeon and fed bread and water while being lectured about being good.  But there is no dungeon (for the students anyway) and instead of being stuffed in the toe of a boot with all five siblings, Gilly has a spacious room with only one roommate, delicious and plentiful food, and classes on everything from magic to history to sports.

Of  course, Gilly doesn’t like following rules, even if they do kind of make sense.  And she wants to go home to take care of her siblings; even the promise that they can visit her doesn’t make things much better.  She does start making some friends though, and as they pool their information together about what they know about the school and how they might escape, they discover a mystery.  Who is trying to sabotage the school?   Are their lives in danger?  Gilly and her new friends Jax, Kayla and Maxine may be reluctant students of FTRS, but they will have to put their heads together and use all the somewhat illegal skills they have to get to the bottom of this mystery.

flunked trilogyThe audio recording of Flunked was  quite charming.  (heh!)   Flunked is a first-person story, so everything is relayed through Gilly.  The narrator has the perfect voice for Gilly…young, a little bit inquisitive, scrappy…and reluctantly impressed with her new surroundings.  Her voice for other characters, seen through Gilly’s eyes, are varied by accent, pacing and attitude.   Letters from Gilly to her family, notes from teachers and The Happily Ever After Scrolls–updates on the action at the school, as reported by a nosy reporter for FairyWeb- enhance the story and give an outside view of the action.

Flunked is the first of the Fairy Tale Reform School trilogy, followed by Charmed and Tricked.  I would recommend the series for kids who like an off-beat take on fairy tales, an anti-hero heroine, or just an entertaining read.  Fourth through seventh grade readers would enjoy the book, while the audio would probably work with second grade and through adults.

Some read alikes include Sarah Mlynowski’s Whatever After series, Shannon Hale’s Ever After High series, Soman Chainani’s School for Good and Evil series, and Suzanne Selfor’s Ever After High series (apparently a popular series title!)

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So pick up book, or the whole series, and enjoy!  If you like it, let us know!

As always, if you need help finding books or audio books to read, ask one of our librarians.  We’re always happy to help!

::Kelly::

Book & Audio Review: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Getting ready for the holidays?  This is a great book to share with friends and family…and if you add chocolate, it’s even better!

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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart
By Stephanie Burgis, Narrated by Jill Frutkin
8 CDs, 9.25 HoursDragon Chocolate Heart

Aventurine is the youngest member of her family…and she hates that everyone can tell her what to do, from her only-slightly-older-brother Jasper to her know-it-all older sister Citrine to Mother and all the aunts and her Grandfather Grenat.  Even though she has her own treasure hoard, she is not allowed to leave the cave or fly, since she’s too young and her wings are untested.  Worst of all, everyone believes that she’s lazy, just because she hasn’t found her Passion yet.  Every dragon has a Passion–the thing that gives their life meaning.  Jasper is interested in learning, and reads every human philosophers’s book he can get his claws on.  Perfect Citrine already has other dragons worshiping her and building her palaces for the epic poetry she writes, but Aventurine has a passion too!  It’s out there…somewhere.

But how is Aventurine supposed to find out her Passion if she’s stuck in a cave? It seems to her that if she could go out in to the world, to hunt on her own, to see humans with her own eyes, she would find her Passion, and show her family!

Escaping a dragon cave isn’t difficult when you’re a small dragon, but trying to do it secretly means scraping through some tight spaces…and during her flight, Aventurine manages to injure her wings.  Not having wings means hunting isn’t as easy as she thought, and Aventurine doesn’t like being hungry.  When she discovers a strange human, making something over a fire, she knows exactly what that means–dinner!  Aventurine pounces.  Unfortunately, her injured wings get in the way, and she puts a claw in the fire.  And that’s when she smells it…something rich, and sweet, and spicy.  Something absolutely delicious that the human is cooking over the fire!  She demands to know what it is, and the human tells her “chocolate”.  He even offers her some to drink.  Aventurine can’t resist the wonderful aroma…she drinks deeply, and the chocolate explodes within her.dragon with a chocolate heart uk

When she wakes up, Aventurine has no claws, no smoke in her throat, no wings.  Instead, she has a soft skin, strange furry stuff on her head, and cloth coverings instead of scales.  Aventurine has been changed into a human.  But she has found her Passion–Chocolate.  The human mage leaves her with the advice to get to the nearest city and find a job or apprenticeship…maybe one of the Chocolate Houses will take her.

With no idea about what it means to be human, the transformed Aventurine makes her way toward the city.  One small, puny human who used to be a dragon against the whole world.  She survived barely a day as a dragon, how will she manage to survive the human world?  Will she find a way to turn chocolate into her Passion?   What about her family?  Will they even notice, or care, that she’s gone?

That is quite a bit for one small girl to deal with, even if she is a dragon inside.   But Aventurine is not a quitter, and there’s chocolate out there, somewhere.  She just knows she can conquer one small city and find her Passion.  She’s certainly going to do her best.

 

dragon with chocolate heart audio

I loved, loved, loved The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.  Aventurine is brave and passionate and learning so much about herself in her journey.  She has no idea what humans are like, but she doesn’t let that stop her.  The writing reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones or Jessica Day George…lots of adventure, a touch of humor, and characters who will stay with you after their story is finished.

With that said, I had some real issues with the sound recording of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.  When if first started, I really enjoyed the youthful, kind of scratchy voice of the narrator, and I liked the slow pacing during the first chapter, when Aventurine was a dragon.  However, when Aventurine because human and the story moved into the city I became very frustrated.  The pace stayed slow and the narration felt very much like a singsong bedtime story trying to put listeners to sleep.  I wanted a button to speed it up.  The other issue was that every character had the same voice…there were only a couple that sounded distinctly different.

So while I loved the book of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, I didn’t enjoy the sound recording.  That may be only me though!   But my recommendation is, if you have a choice, read the book and imagine your own voices.  I can almost guarantee, when you finish reading, you’ll want to hear more of Aventurine’s story.

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Dragons and chocolate!  Who knew they’d go so well together?  I would recommend The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart to readers in fourth through seventh grades.  If I didn’t scare you away with my assessment of the sound recording, I think it would be accessible to listeners as young as second grade, although there are a couple scary scenes.  If you’re just trying to put someone to sleep, you might be able to go even younger.

Some read-alikes you might like:
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede
A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep.
Stephanie Burgis also has a wonderful trilogy that starts with Kat, Incorrigible, that readers of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart would enjoy as well.

As always, if you need any reading or listening suggestions, visit the library and ask one of our librarians for help.  We’re always happy to match books with readers and listeners.

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

Book and Audio Review: Fuzzy

Beginning a new year of school is not so easy.  But when you’re a robot, it’s REALLY difficult.  From Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami YodaInspector Flytrap and QwikPick Papers series, as well as Horton Halfpot and Fake Mustache comes another humorous and heartfelt story about a unique character.

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Fuzzy
By Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger, Narrated by Erin Moon
4 CDs, 4.5 Hours

fuzzyMax Zelaster is a pretty average student a Vanguard One Middle School.   Of course, to even BE at Vanguard One, you have to be pretty bright; the weekly UpGrade Tests see to that; if kids don’t meet their potential they’re DownGraded to a less desirable school in the Federal School Board Program.  The one thing Max excels at is robots…she just loves everything about them…from programming to design.

So when Vanguard One becomes the test site for RIP, the new national Robot Integration Program, Max is hoping that she might get a chance to participate.  When the awkward-looking robot shows up, Max is less than impressed…especially when it trips and falls, barely missing her as it crashes to the ground.  Her quick actions in getting it back up and running though brings her to the attention of Dr. Jones and Lieutenant Colonel Nina, the people running the program.   The two ask Max to be the robot’s guide in the school.  They explain that Fuzzy–whose name is classified, but the nickname comes from the fuzzy logic he uses to problem solve–might be good at retrieving information and learning from experience, but he has no idea how to be a student.  Max agrees.  What an opportunity to learn!

Soon Fuzzy is immersed in Max’s classes, and Max is finding out more and more about Fuzzy.  And even though he’s proving to be a very good friend, she’s asking more and more questions about why a robot is being integrated into a middle school.  It’s kind of weird, right?  Why would a robot have to learn how to be a kid?

Unfortunately, as soon as things start to go smoothly in their classes, Fuzzy manages to get Max in trouble with Vice Principal Barbara, the artificial intelligence that runs the school.  Fuzzy may be making friends and learning all kinds of new skills, but Max is racking up discipline tags, tardiness tags and citizenship tags…and so is Fuzzy.

What is going on with Vice Principal Barbara, who seems to be lurking around every corner, through her view screens, janitorial robots and the eyes, hands and ears she has (literally!) all over the school?   She seems to have it in for both Max and Fuzzy…and all those tags are mounting.  Even though the adults don’t believe them, Max and Fuzzy know that half of the tags are for things that never even happened.  Through the Vice Principal’s actions, Max becomes a student At Risk.  If she’s DownGraded, she could lose her place at Vanguard One, as well as all her friends and any chance to find out more from or about Fuzzy.

Through some excellent code-cracking and a little sneaking around, Max and Fuzzy  start to uncover some truths about the Robot Integration Program and about Rossum Technologies, which runs the program for the government.  They’re sure they’re onto something, because as soon as they start getting some answers, armed men (and one woman) try to kidnap Fuzzy!  When they get him back, it’s Max’s turn.  With some quick  teamwork by Max and her friends, the kids are onto a government conspiracy with Fuzzy at the center.

Can Max and Fuzzy save Fuzzy from being turned into scrap…or worse?  Can they save Max from being kicked out of Vanguard One Middle School?  Can they discover what, exactly is going on with Vice Principal Barbara and Rossum Technologies?  Only time, friendship and a lot of detective work and effort will tell.

fuzzy audioFuzzy is such a fun audio book!  Narrator Erin Moon is a professional actor and award-winning narrator of over 150 audio books.  She gives each of the characters a distinct voice, and the overall package is wonderful.  I love the short chapters in the book, and the terse style translates very well to the audio.  In fact, I want to go look up Erin and see what else she’s narrated, just because I enjoyed Fuzzy so much.

I would highly recommend Fuzzy as a book or an audio book for kids from fourth through eighth grade.  The whole question of artificial intelligence and school tests, which would probably pass unquestioned by younger readers, would be a great discussion topic by older readers.  The book is deceptively easy, because there is a lot of weight to the subject matter.  Like all of Tom Angleberger’s books, there’s also a lot of humor.  Just ask anyone who has read Origami Yoda, or Fake MustacheFuzzy is a science fiction book with a bit of humor, a smidgen of adventure, with a bit of mystery thrown in.  Anyone who likes any of those things should love Fuzzy.

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So if you’re looking for a good book for a car trip, or just to read around town, try Fuzzy.

Some similar books are: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks,  Robot Revolution by James Patterson, or Eager by Helen Fox.

Some similar audio books are: Crunch by Leslie Connor and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

As always, whether you’re looking for a book or an audio book, our librarians can help you find the perfect one to suit your needs!  Just ask us…we love to help.

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!

::Kelly::