Audio Review: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures!

Almost time for the next school vacation!  And if you need a book for a long car trip, I’ve got a good one!

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Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures
By Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater; Read by Cassandra Morris & Peter McGowan
4 Hours, 12 Minutes; 4 CDs

pip bartlett's guide to magical creaturesPip Bartlett has an unusual talent…she can talk to magical animals.  Miniature Silky Griffins, Bitterflunks, Unicorns, Emerald Dunking Ducks…if she meets it, she can talk to it.  The problem is…no one believes her!  Not her parents, not her classmates, not even her aunt, a veterinarian who specializes in magical creatures.  So Pip has to keep her abilities a secret.

Then comes Career Day, when all the parents come to school to talk about their professions.  Piece of cake, right?  Pips parents are  geologists and bring geodes for kids to examine; there’s a dad who’s a chef, a mom with the stringed instrument quartet, an antique dealer dad….and then there’s Marisol Barrra’s parents.  Who raise unicorns.  Pip LOVES unicorns!  But unfortunately, unicorns love no one more than themselves, which Pip finds out from a vain unicorn named Raindancer as he tramples geodes, grills, violins and (almost) classmates and other unicorns, with Pip on his back!

After The Unicorn Incident, Pip is exiled to Cloverton, Georgia, to spend  the entire summer with her Aunt Emma and cousin Callie.  The best part to Pip will the the chance to help in the small vet clinic Aunt Emma runs.  It seems like a vet clinic for magical creatures would be the perfect place for her, but it’s more difficult than you might think NOT to talk to creatures when they’re right in front of you.  Things get a little heated when mysterious tiny fuzzles start popping up all over town, followed by fires that start small and grow to endanger everyone.  Pip and her new friend Tomas jump from the frying pan into the fire when they realize that the fuzzles they’re trying to rescue are actually starting the fires.  If that’s not bad enough, Mrs. Dreadbatch, from the Supernatural/Magical Animal Care, Keeping and Education Department, tries to close down Aunt Emma’s clinic and have the fuzzles exterminated.  Can Pip and Tomas save the town from fire, the clinic from Mrs. Dreadbatch, AND the fuzzles from themselves?  It’s a mystery and a rescue mission, all rolled into one!

pip bartlet audioI loved Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures!  It was a fun and fast story, with lots of humor, an intriguing mystery, some great flights of imagination, and a wonderfully original character right in the middle of it all.   Cassandra Morris narrates the story with lots of enthusiasm and great characterizations, while Peter McGowan jumps in to narrate the selections from Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, Pip’s source of information for everything magical…which she adds to once she meets a creature and agrees or disagrees with the description.  In fact, if you listen to the audio book, you should definitely pick up the print book as well, so see the illustrations for each creature entry.  Pip’s additions are humorous, and the illustrations are beautiful.  If you don’t want to listen to the book on CD, Pip’s story would be a fun read-aloud for a family to read together.

Pip Bartlett would be a great family car trip book for everyone…kids as young as five or six would probably enjoy the story as much as adults, and it’s perfect for third through fifth graders.  A second book just came out–Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training.  I’m looking forward to reading and/or listening to that one too!

So come down to the library and check out Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures!  And if someone else beats you to it, put it on hold and pick up something else while you wait.  Similar titles would be Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, Hatch! by Bruce Coville, or Ten in a Bed by Alan Ahlberg.  Or ask one of our librarians for help finding something perfect, just for you!



Tremendous Trilogies – C Authors

More fun trilogies…moving on to authors whose names start with the letter C!  Do you like long stories?  Trilogies are great because the plot and characters span three books, not just one.  Great for hours of reading!  Here are a few more to try from our library collection.  This isn’t a complete list, so ask a librarian if you’re looking for something that’s not here.

If you missed our list of trilogies from authors whose names start with A & B, look HERE

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Calonita, Jen — Fairy Tale Reform School
fairy tale reform flunked fairy tale reform charmed fairy tale reform tricked
Flunked – Charmed – Tricked
Twelve-year-old Gilly is mostly happy living in a shoe with her parents and five siblings. Times are hard though, so to help feed her family, Gilly steals food and trinkets from the wealthier residents of Enchantasia.  Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).  But then she is busted and sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are reformed villains. Harsh!  When she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns that Fairy Tale Reform School is not all it seems. Someone has a secret, sinister agenda, and Gilly and pals must quickly discern perpetrator and plot, whom to trust, and what to do to avert a not-so-happy ending for everyone. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?
Fairy Tales, Adventure, Humor, Magic

Cameron, Anne – The Lightning Catcher trilogy
lightning catcher trilogy
The Lightning Catcher – The Storm Tower Thief – The Secrets of the Storm Vortex

Eleven-year-old Angus’s world is turned upside down when he is mysteriously whisked away to become an apprentice at the Perilous Exploratorium for Weather and Vicious Storms. At Perilous, the world’s most dangerous weather is studied to protect mankind from its ravages. There, Angus discovers that his parents aren’t boring government workers after all—they are actually famous Lightning Catchers, and they’ve been kidnapped. With the help of two new friends, Angus intends to find them. It’s Angus, Indigo, and Dougal to the rescue. . . . Will they get there in time and all in one piece?
Adventure, Weather, Nature Magic

Carlson, Caroline – The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates
very nearly honorable league trilogy
Magic Marks the Spot – The Terror of the Southland – The Buccaneers’ Code

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle?  Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. There’s only one problem: the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags. But Hilary won’t let this stop her; instead, she sets out to find her own piratical adventure and gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn’t exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas. Read Weston’s very own most famous library graduate’s exciting trilogy!
Adventure, Humor, Magic, Pirates

Carman, Patrick – Floors trilogy
floors trilogy
Floors – 3 Below – The Field of Wacky Inventions

With mystery and adventure on every floor, there’s no other place quite like the Whippet Hotel. Each and every floor has its own wacky design–and its own wacky secrets. The guests are either mad or mysterious. And ducks are everywhere. Leo Fillmore should know everything there is to know about the Whippet Hotel–he is the janitor’s son, after all. But a whole lot more mystery gets thrown his way when four cryptic boxes are left for him…boxes that lead him to hidden floors, strange puzzles, and an unexpected friend or two. Join Leo as he takes the ride of his life, without ever having to step outside. As the hotel starts falling apart and the mystery thickens, there’s only one thing Leo can know for sure: The future of the Whippet Hotel depends on him.
Puzzles, Humor, Hotels

Carroll, Michael – Quantum Prophecy
quantum prophecy trilogy
The Awakening – The Gathering – The Reckoning

It has been ten years since the great battle that wiped out all the superhumans. Whether they all died that day or simply lost their powers and blended back into society, only one thing is certain: They are gone. Or are they? Thirteen-year-olds Danny and Colin have recently begun changing. How can they explain Danny’s newfound ability to move at the speed of light, or Colin’s surprising strength? They can’t, but their parents, the lost generation of superhumans, can. They have been watching and waiting for these changes. So have others—and not everyone is happy about the boys’ new powers. Some will do anything to stop them.
Science Fiction, Superheroes, Adventure

Castle, M.E. – The Clone Chronicles
clone chronicles
Popular Clone – Cloneward Bound – Game of Clones – Clones vs. Aliens
Meet Fisher Bas– 12 years old, growth-stunted, geeky science genius, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning creators of the Bas-Hermaphrodite-Sea-Slug-Hypothesis. No surprise: Fisher isn’t exactly the most popular kid in his school, tormented daily by the beefy, overgrown goons he calls The Vikings. But he senses relief when he comes upon the idea of cloning himself–creating a second Fisher to go to school each day while he stays at home playing video games and eating cheetos with ketchup. It’s an ingenious plan that works brilliantly, until Fisher’s clone turns out to be more popular than him–and soon after gets clone-napped by the evil scientist Dr. Xander. Another trilogy that turned into a quartet when I wasn’t looking!
Science Fiction, Humor, Schools

Catanese, P.W. – The Books of Umber
books of umber
Happenstance Found – Dragon Game – The End of Time

Twelve-year-old Happenstance awakens in a cave with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. Soon a mysterious trio arrives to take him away: the explorer Umber, shy archer Sophie, and Oates, whose strength and honesty are both brutal. Hap and his new acquaintances narrowly escape the cavernous underworld and make their way to Lord Umber’s harbor city, Kurahaven. Once there, Hap learns that Lord Umber is an extraordinary man — he’s a merchant, adventurer, inventor, royal adviser, and chronicler of all things monstrous and magical. But Umber’s accomplishments can’t answer the question closest to the boy’s heart: Who is Happenstance? Desperate to uncover clues in his new, baffling surroundings, Hap accompanies Umber on dangerous and unusual missions. Hap soon learns that there are powerful enemies inside the kingdom, and a ruthless assassin hot on his trail. Faced with many unknowns, Hap knows one thing for certain: There’s a reason Umber has chosen him…if only he could figure it out.
Magic, Imaginary Animals, Adventure

Child, Lauren – Ruby Redfort trilogg
ruby redfort trilogy
Look into My Eyes – Take Your Last Breath – Catch Your Death

Ruby Redfort is a genius code-cracker and daring detective. She gets into lots of scrapes with evil villains, but she’s always ice-cool in a crisis. Ruby gets to prove that when she gets an anonymous call setting a challenge that leads her to the headquarters of Spectrum, a highly secret anti-crime agency. They need her help to crack a code. But Ruby quickly becomes bored with her first Spectrum assignment. With the help of her sidekick/classmate Clancy Crew, she ventures out from her well-hidden office into more dangerous territory to prevent the theft of a priceless jade Buddha statue. Playing a game of cat and mouse with criminals and fellow agents, Ruby finds her way into some dire situations. Can she and her back-up team get her out of them?
Codes and Ciphers, Mystery, Adventure

Clark, Platte, F. – Bad Unicorn Trilogy
bad unicorn trilogy
Bad Unicorn – Fluff Dragon – Good Ogre

It wasn’t Max Spencer’s idea to fight robots, lead an army, or save the world-it just so happens that he’s the only living person who can read the most fantastical book ever written: The Codex of Infinite Knowability. The Codex is no ordinary book, and among other things, it describes Princess the Destroyer, an unusual unicorn who loves nothing more than hunting down, killing, and eating other creatures. And right now Princess is on Max’s trail. Her mission? To retrieve the lost Codex for an evil sorcerer and his mysterious master. If she can do that, she’s been promised an all-the-humans-you-can-eat buffet in Texas. Stuck in another world and with a carnivorous unicorn on his trail, Max must find the courage to save himself, his friends, and, oh yeah…the entire human race.
Wizards, Humor, Urban Fantasy

Clarke, Cassandra Rose – The Assassin’s Curse duology
assassin's curse trilogy
The Assassin’s Curse – The Pirate’s Wish
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.  And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be. Not actually a trilogy, unless you count the novelettes available only as 3-books, it’s too good to miss!
Magic, Adventure, Thieves, Pirates

Cody, Matthew – Powerless trilogy
powerless trilogy
Powerless – Super – Villainous

Twelve year old Daniel, the new kid in town, soon learns the truth about his nice–but odd–new friends: one can fly, another can turn invisible, yet another controls electricity. Incredible. The superkids use their powers to secretly do good in the town, but they’re haunted by the fact that the moment they turn thirteen, their abilities will disappear–along with any memory that they ever had them. Is a memory-stealing supervillain sapping their powers?   The answers lie in a long-ago meteor strike, a World War II-era comic book, the green-flamed Witch Fire, a hidden Shroud cave, and–possibly, unbelievably–“powerless” regular-kid Daniel himself.
Heroes, Paranormal, Mysteries

Cole, Steve. The Hunting trilogy
zrex trilogy
Z.Rex – Z.Raptor – Z.Apocalypse

Adam Adler is thirteen and suddenly on his own. His father, who has developed the world’s cutting edge research on virtual electronic game-playing, has been missing for weeks. And suddenly Adam is being hunted by men with guns, his picture is on the news, and, worst of all, something seemingly impossible is chasing him–a savage, man-eating dinosaur…his father’s greatest creation, which has seemingly escaped from the game. How can that be? Can Adam gain control of Z.Rex and rescue his father from the people who have kidnapped him?
Adventure, Gaming, Kidnapping, Dinosaurs

Colfer, Eoin – W.A.R.P. trilogy
WARP reluctant assassin WARP hangmans revolution WARP forever man
The Reluctant Assassin – The Hangman’s Revolution – The Forever Man
Teenage Riley, an orphan living in Victorian London, is unwillingly apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who uses his unique conjuring skills for murder and other crimes. Riley is saved from having to participate when his intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of W.A.R.P. –the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program.  Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.
In modern London, Riley teams up with Chevron Savano, a nineteen-year-old FBI agent with a bad record. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been altered by his trip through the wormhole. Not only is Garrick evil, but now he also possesses all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie’s possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.
Adventure, Time Travel, Mysteries

Corder, Zizou – Lion Boy trilogy
lionboy trilogy
Lion Boy – The Chase – The Truth

When his parents are kidnapped, what’s ten-year-old Charlie Ashanti to do? Rescue them, that’s what! He doesn’t know who has taken them, or why. But he does know that one special talent will aid him on his journey: his amazing ability to speak Cat. Charlie calls on his clever feline friends –from stray city cats to magnificent caged lions–for help. With them by his side, Charlie uses wit and courage to try to find his parents before it’s too late.
Kidnapping, Survival, Adventure

Up Next: Trilogies D – F

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For help finding any of these books, check the Minuteman Library Catalog, or visit the Library.  We’re happy to pull these books for you, and have they ready for pick up.

Happy Reading!


Fun Summer Reads, #1

Looking for something fun to read this summer?  Try one of our Fun Summer suggestions!

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If I Built a Car, by Chris van Dusen

If you were building a car from scratch, what would you add?  Three headlights?  Jet engines?  A swimming pool, complete with a snack machine and robot driver?

In this fun book, young Jack tells his father exactly what he’d put in a new car.

Filled with a bouncy narration that’s fun to read out loud and illustrations reminiscent of colorful 50s style of cartoons like The Jetsons, this book is wonderful from top to bottom. Make sure to check out the details in the illustrations, as well as Jack’s designs on the endpapers.

If you liked this, don’t miss If I Built a House, where Jack designs his dream home and shares it with his mom!  And really, check out everything by Chris Van Dusen.  They’re all great books for kids of all ages.

if I built a carif i built a car illustrationif i built a house





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Old Favorite: Dealing with Dragons

With all the fairy tale lists I’ve been doing, it seemed like a good idea to bring up a book that isn’t based on a fairy tale, but that has many elements of fairy talew written into the plot. (Hmm. That may be another booklist.  Oh dear.)   Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede is a fun, humorous adventure that feels a bit like a fairy tale, with fairy godmothers, princess-taking dragons, magic frogs, and questing princes…but it’s so much more!

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Cimorene is the youngest daughter of the King of Linderwall. Her six older sisters are each beautiful, with long golden hair and sweet dispositions, but Cimorene has jet black hair and…well, people who are trying to be polite say that she’s stong-minded. (In other words, she’s as stubborn as a brick.)  Her sisters love their lessons on deportment, dancing, embroidery, and etiquette.  Cimorene would rather learn to use a sword, cast a magic spell, speak Latin or cook cherries jubilee. Each time her parents  discover her learning something that’s not within the realms of princess behavior, they protest. “It just isn’t done!” they tell her, and stop the lessons.  Each time, Cimorene finds a new person in the castle to teach her a new skill, until she’s stopped again.

When she turns sixteen and her tutoring sessions on economics and juggling have been discovered and forbidden, Cimorene is bored again. With only etiquette and dancing lessons to look forward to, she summons her fairy godmother to help her find something interesting to do. But the fairy godmother has been talking to her parents, and instead encourages her to enjoy her heritage of being a princess. Totally disgusted, Cimorene sends her away, and tries to find another new skill or interesting topic to learn about. Causing trouble around the palace doesn’t quite work the way she planned though; Cimorene learns that her parents have arranged for her to be married to the very dull, very boring Prince Therandil…before her next birthday!

What’s a contrary princess to do?  After a confrontation with Prince Therandil and an encounter with a talking (and possibly enchanted) frog, Cimorene decides to run away.  Following the frog’s advice, she makes her way to a mysterious hut down the road, outside the walls of Linderwall.  There, she encounters…dragons.

Although several of the dragons want to eat her, Cimorene argues her case quite well, and ends up volunteering to be the princess of the dragon Kazul. The other dragon’s don’t approve, since “it’s just not done!” but neither Kazul nor Cimorene listen to them. She returns with Kazul to her cave, and sets up housekeeping.  Her duties will include organizing and cleaning Kazul’s treasure hoard, repairing those items that need repair, and cooking Kazul’s meals.

Life with Kazul is definitely more interesting than Linderwall!  By the end of her first week, Cimorene has already sorted the piles of treasure for further examination. By the end of the second week, she’s dealing with knights coming to “rescue” her. By the end of the third week, she’s met three captive princesses, had a friendly visit from a witch and dealt with some smarmy sorcerers.  And that’s just the beginning of her life with Kazul as a dragon’s princess.

When Kazul decides to run for the title of King of the Dragons, Cimorene finds herself in a whole new level of trouble. Now, she has to discourage knights, expose evil sorcerers, and learn magic to protect herself, her new friend Alianora, and even Kazul. There’s also a death curse cast on her, and a bit of match-making to do. It’s a tall order, but Cimorene has the motivation and skills to succeed!

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I just love this book! Dealing with Dragons was originally published in 1990, and was popular right from the start.  It is on my personal top ten list of books everyone (but every girl, especially) should read. Cimorene is a great heroine and fantasy character, and a wonderful alternative to all the cartoon movie princesses that seem to be everywhere.  And she’s funny!  Her dry observations of the magic creatures and situations around her will make readers smile. Cimorene is intelligent, determined and just a little bit sarcastic. Every time something new comes at her, she figures it out how to deal with it in a new and creative way. She doesn’t let anything stop her!

Kazul the dragon is also a great character in her own right, powerful and caring. The supporting female characters like Morwen the witch and Alianora, another dragon princess, are individuals with their own stories and reactions to situations. And even though I haven’t mentioned any of the male characters in this book, they run the gamut from the strong Stone Prince to the goofy but well-meaning Prince Therandil.

There are three other books in The Enchanted Forest Chronicles about Cimorene and her further adventures after Dealing with DragonsSearching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons. The first two are about Cimorene, the last one about her son, Daystar.  Actually, Talking to Dragons was the first story of the four to be written, published in 1985. Although you can read it as a stand-alone, it does work best as the final book in the series.  There have been rumors about more stories set in The Enchanted Forest, but so far, nothing. If one ever comes out though, I’ll be first in line to buy it–one copy for me, two for the library!

Dealing with Dragons has been so popular in our collection that we’ve worn out at least three hardcover copies, and several paperbacks.  It’s a great read-aloud for groups and families. Some of the elements of fairy tales coming into the story make it familiar to younger readers, and Cimorene’s character makes older readers enjoy the wit and different take on those elements. We have The Enchanted Forest collection in both our juvenile and teen sections, and the story is great for readers in grades four through eight.

Try Dealing with Dragons, and see what you think. I bet you’ll be looking for the next book in the series as soon as you finish!


If you liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever

Guess what came out today?  Cabin Fever!  And if you’re a fan of the Wimpy Kid books, you’ve been waiting for this one (book six) for awhile.

Kinney, Jeff.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Greg Heffley is in big trouble. School property has been damaged, and Greg is the prime suspect. But the crazy thing is, he’s innocent. Or at least sort of.  The authorities are closing in, but when a surprise blizzard hits, the Heffley family is trapped indoors. Greg knows that when the snow melts he’s going to have to face the music, but could any punishment be worse than being stuck inside with your family for the holidays?

We have three copies, so reserve yours today!

And if you like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, try some of these new titles. They have a similar format, and are just as crazy.  Also, look at our post from last spring for other recommendations!

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Collins, Tim.  Notes from a Totally Lame Vampire: Because the Undead Have Feelings Too!   and   Prince of Dorkness: More Notes from a Totally Lame Vampire
Nigel is your average teenage boy next door. He spends most of his time worrying about getting a girlfriend, fitting in, and dealing with acne. He’s also a vampire…although not anything like the vampires in books.  When Nigel falls head over heels for the new girl in school, he spends his time plotting ways to get Chloe to notice he’s “alive” while writing pathetic poetry declaring his love. You think you have problems? Wait until you see what Nigel has to face!

Griffiths, Andy.  Killer Koalas from Outer Space: and Lots of Other Very Bad Stuff That Will Make Your Brain Explode!
Surprise, absurdity, and laugh-out-loud humor are the hallmarks of this collection of ridiculous short stories featuring zombie kittens, rocket stealing ants, and of course, killer koalas from outer space.  Some stories are cartoons, some are text, but all are funny!

Patterson, James.  Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
Rafe Khatchadorian has an ace plan for the best year ever, if only he can pull it off: With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school’s oppressive Code of Conduct. But when Rafe’s game starts to catch up with him, he’ll have to decide if winning is all that matters, or if he’s finally ready to face the rules, bullies, and truths he’s been avoiding.  Is middle school always this bad?

Seegert, Scott.  Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World    and   Vordak the Incomprehensible: Rule the School
It’s not easy being an evil genius!  Evil mastermind Vordak the Incomprehensible shares his “evilosity” with aspiring supervillains. His comical narration features over-the-top self-congratulation matched by supreme contempt for readers and everyone else.  Pop-culture references and varied elements of grossness are sprinkled in regularly, along with 15 “commandments of incomprehensibility” and repeated references to “diabolically clever yet slow-acting death traps,” which get funnier each time. So does the ironic fact that despite his egotistical rants, Vordak is actually a completely unsuccessful supervillain.

Tashjian, Janet.  My Life as a Book    and   My Life as a Stuntboy
Derek Fallon is looking forward to a summer of fun, pelting the UPS truck with water balloons, climbing onto the garage roof, and conducting silly investigations. But when his parents decide to send him to Learning Camp, Derek’s dreams stutter.  As Derek forges unexpected friendships and uncovers a family secret involving himself (in diapers! no less), he realizes that adventures and surprises are around the corner, complete with curve balls.

Zelnick, Aldo.  Cahoots
As summer draws to a close, Aldo Zelnick ends up on a farm. Aldo’s mom is eager for him to experience her favorite childhood pastimes such as shucking  corn, milking cows, gathering eggs–and enjoying fresh air and living off the land. But Aldo suspects that farm life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and his worst fears are confirmed. The rooster wakes him at dawn, the chores exhaust him, and the cousins—identical twin pranksters—are in cahoots against him. Even the creepy old portrait of his great-grandfather seems to be watching these shenanigans from the frame on the wall. Aldo must endure all this without the consolation of TV or computers, because the farm is (gasp!) technology free.

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So, if you like your books with some cartoon illustration and a dash (a REALLY BIG dash) of humor, try one of these titles.


Old Favorite: The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace

So how did everyone enjoy the surprise snow?  Did you lose your power, or did it stay on?  If you did lose your power, I bet it was cold by Sunday night!

If you lived in the house featured in this week’s Old Favorite: The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace, by Roger Drury, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting cold, whether you’re enduring a freak October nor’easter or a January blizzard.  Why?  Because the Finches have a very different kind of furnace…

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Peter Finch, his parents, and his sister Patsy have to move back to Ashfield, New York because it seems to be the only place where Mrs. Finches’ severe hay fever is under control.  Unfortunately, there are no houses available to rent.  When Peter goes with his father to plead their case with Mr. Marveldale, a local realtor, he tentatively tells them about the house at Number Seven, Pride Street.  Mr Marveldale doesn’t even want to tell them about it, but it is the only house he has available. The last tenants left in a hurry, and no one seems to stay very long. Mr. Marveldale gets very nervous when he tells Mr. Finch and Peter about the very peculiar cellar in the house, which seems to has caused some cracks in the foundation and is the source of some strange smells.  The rent would be very reasonable though, almost nothing.  When Mr. Finch asks Mr. Marveldale if he actually knows what is causing the problems, Mr. Marveldale tells them.

There’s a volcano in the cellar.

It’s just a small volcano, and it hardly spurts any ash. No lava, no rocks, just some tiny, vaguely unpleasant odors.  And it’s not even frequent, just…occasionally.  Mr. Finch knows his family is tired, and they have no place to stay, so they take the house. Overnight. Just so they have a place to sleep.

But once they see the house–all three stories, with a round tower at each corner, a huge lawn, fancy trim and windows and a porch all around–Mrs. Finch falls in love. It’s warm and cozy inside, and the next morning, they find out that the rent is a very reasonable $1.00 a month. For three years.

Mrs. Finch faints.  Then they take it.

Soon, the Finches have moved into the most wonderful house they’ve ever lived in. It’s warm, they have robins on the lawn even on the coldest winter days, and it’s in a great neighborhood. There’s only one condition they have to live by in order to keep the house: not to reveal to anyone the secret in their cellar.

But it’s obvious that there’s something strange about the Finches’ home, and neighbors start talking. Soon people are speculating about the Finches’ secret. Peter and Patsy both love their new house and their new town, and they don’t want anything to ruin it. But when the volcano starts growing, they both worry. Is a volcano–even a small one– something that’s too dangerous to keep secret?

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The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace was published in 1971.  I got it as a Weekly Reader Book Club selection, and I must have read it ten times. It’s funny, the kids are likeable, and (best of all) they end up saving the day.

And who wouldn’t want a volcano in their basement?  I would have liked one this weekend.  It would certainly have helped when the power went out!

So if you’re looking for an easy read (150 pages) that will make you laugh, try The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace. It’s probably best for third through fifth grade readers, but it’s also a great read-aloud, so share it with your family.  And think about how much easier life might be if you had a volcano in your basement!

Well, maybe…


If You Liked…Diary of a Wimpy Kid

One of our new favorites here at the library is the Jeff Kinney’s  Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Did you know that the second Wimpy Kid movie (Rodrick Rules) is coming out this weekend?  That’s an excellent reason to feature Greg and Rowley (two of our favorite middle school characters to hit both the page and screen) and other characters like them!

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Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.  Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things.

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Other recommended titles like Wimpy Kid:

Bruel, Nick.  Bad Kitty series
Pet owners beware! Bad Kitty is a funny series about a cat gone berserk! In the first book,  Kitty is not happy when she’s told that her favorite foods are all gone and all that’s left are an alphabetical array of disgusting veggies! So Bad Kitty retaliates with an alphabetical listing of bad deeds. Uh-oh…  From baths to babysitting to a new puppy, in this series for younger readers,  Bad Kitty deals with things in her own indomitable way!

Cammuso, Frank. Knights of the Lunch Table series
New student Artie King is a nice, comics-loving kid who just wants to ease into life at his new school without attracting attention. But by second period, he already has enemies, including an older kid who stole his lunch (even when warned that the sandwich was out of boogers and soap by Artie’s sister!). To top it off, Artie has been assigned a funky old locker that no one has ever been able to open. Artie does though, and finds the locker full of all kinds useful stuff. He’s also made a few pals in the lunchroom, Percy and Wayne, and the science teacher, Mr. Merlyn, who seems weird but nice…  Camelot Middle School is a strange place, but Artie is convinced he can find his niche!

Ignato, Amy.  The Popularity Papers series
Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang are best friends with one goal: to crack the code of popularity. Lydia’s the bold one: aspiring theater star, stick-fighting enthusiast, human guinea pig. Julie’s the shy one: observer and artist, accidental field hockey star, faithful recorder. In this notebook they write down their observations and carry out experiments to try to determine what makes the popular girls tick. But somehow, when Lydia and Julie try to imitate the popular girls, their efforts don’t translate into instant popularity. Lydia ends up with a bald spot, their parents won’t stop yelling, and Julie finds herself the number-one crush of Roland Asbjørnsen. Will they survive the experiment?

Krosoczka, Jarrett. The Lunch Lady series
Serving justice . . . and lunch! Hector, Terrence, and Dee have always wondered about their school lunch lady. What does she do when she isn’t dishing out the daily special? Where does she live? Does she have a lot of cats at home? Little do they know, Lunch Lady doesn’t just serve sloppy joes—she serves justice! Whatever danger lies ahead, it’s no match for LUNCH LADY! This graphic novel series is a new take on superheroes!

Palatini, Marjorie. The Zoey Zone
Meet Zoey  She’s eleven. Well, almost eleven. Okay—halfway to eleven. And Zoey’s got a few problems: She has the lowest possible score on the coolability meter, a bad hair situation, and growing earlobes. What Zoey needs is a fairy godmother who can give her a very chic makeover and a seat at the primo lunch table. Will Zoey be able to pull it all off? Tune in! So far, there’s only one book (Geek Chic) but this is a projected series from a very popular picture book author.

Peirce, Lincoln.  Big Nate series
Big Nate is in a class by himself! But things don’t always go your way just because you’re awesome. Nate is the classic clever kid who hates school and whose antics land him in ever-hotter water with grumbling teachers. In the first book, he gets a fortune cookie that says: “Today you will surpass all others”. So Nate spends the day trying to be the best at something…only to succeed in a truly unimaginable way!  Probably Greg Helfey’s biggest competition on the book front, Nate also has several graphic novels to his credit as well!  Try both formats and prepare to laugh your way through Nate’s daily adventures.

Pilkey, Dav. Captain Underpants series
Harold and George are two fourth-grade boys who write comic books and love to pull pranks. When they find themselves in big trouble with Mr. Krupp, their principal, they send for a 3-D Hypno-Ring and hypnotize Mr. Krupp, turning him into Captain Underpants, their own superhero creation! This series came way before the Wimpy Kid, but is just as funny to read after it!  Also try Pilkey’s Ricky Ricotta and his Giant Robot series, Oook and Gluck, and Super Diaper Baby!

Roy, James.  Max Quigley, Technically not a Bully
Max Quigley is no angel; in fact one might call him a bully. But even as he taunts “wimpy Nerdstrom,” he also begins to understand him, and a most unlikely friendship grows. In the end, Max wins readers over, keeps them laughing, shows he is capable of change, and ultimately, brings us to a better understanding of boy dynamics. This Australian import isn’t a series…yet…but we hope to see more of Max Quigley!

Russell, Rachel.  Dork Diaries series
New school. New mean girl. New crush. New diary so Nikki can spill about all of it!  Nikki J. Maxwell has just been awarded a scholarship to a prestigious private middle school as a part of her father’s exterminator contract. As she deals with her embarrassing parents, a crush on the hot boy, and making new friends, she details everything in her diary, along with sketches of her new life.

Vernon, Ursula. Dragonbreath series
It’s not easy for Danny Dragonbreath to be the sole mythical creature in a school for reptiles and amphibians—especially when he can’t breathe fire like other dragons. But having a unique family comes in handy sometimes, like when his sea-serpent cousin takes Danny and his best friend on a mind-boggling underwater tour, complete with vomiting sea cucumbers and giant squid. It sure beats reading the encyclopedia to research his ocean report! Danny and his friends are an irresistible set of characters who are constantly finding themselves in sticky situations!

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So if you want to laugh your way through some tricky school situations, try one of these titles. And if you have any other great suggestions, let us know! We always like to share new books…