Book & Audio Review: A Possiblity of Whales

It’s been awhile since our last audio review.  There’s been many audios listened to, just not the time to review them.  But I have a New Years resolution–at least one 5 Books and one Audio review each month…we’ll see how that goes, since it seems I’m starting in February.

So now…time to go on a whale watch!  (Literally.  Or, not literally…but in a literal and auditory kind of sense.)

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A Possibility of Whales
by Karen Rivers, narrated by Stina Nielsen
7 CDs, 8.25 hours

possibility of whalesNat has always been her own person.  Living with her father, the famous actor XAN GALLAGHER, has taught her to be self-reliant.  Moving with him every year or so to various movie locations has taught her the importance of people and places, not things.  And growing up without a mother…well, that’s just left her wondering about the woman who named her and left.  Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher knows her mother must have loved whales, because her middle name is French for whale, and it’s the heart of her name.  But what kind of mother would love those things, but not a newborn?  What kind of mother would  just up and leave her kid?  Nat is suddenly questioning everything about her mother, and her life.

Starting over with her dad, living in a tiny trailer in Sooke, a small town in British Colombia, Canada is a big difference from the gigantic house they left behind in San Francisco.  It’s a good move for Nat though, getting her and XAN GALLAGHER away from the paparazzi, even if it means leaving her best friend Solly behind.  Her best friend who didn’t act much like a best friend in the end.  But postcard updates might mend their fractured friendship, and now she may have a new friend–Harry.  But Harry has troubles of his own, and just because Nat wants to be his friend, it doesn’t mean he wants to be hers.  Solly is growing up, and Harry is growing away.  Nat wants things to stay…not the same, but she doesn’t want them all leaving her behind.

Talking to Birdy (Mom), a sort of substitute-mom-figure-adopted-by-way-of-a-prank-call on her found (stolen?) cellphone phone helps.  Having Orcas come right up to her on French Beach is life changing, and helps–a lot. Getting a break from the paparazzi gives her breathing space.  Even her hobby of collecting words from other languages to explain things that can’t be explained in English makes explaining things that happen easier.  But growing up happens, even when you might not want it to happen; and Nat’s questions and experiences lead her on a journey of self-discovery that will change her life forever.

possibilty of whales audioThe audio for A Possibility of Whales is wonderful…I loved the narrator’s voice.  She did a great job with all the voices, from Nat and Harry to Solly (who I pictured throwing her hair over her shoulder every time she spoke) to Birdy and Nat’s famous dad, XAN GALLAGHER.  (I have to mention, I knew from the audio book reading that XAN GALLAGHER had to have been capitalized throughout the book every time it appeared–and I was right!)  With all the flashbacks, the narration could have been confusing, but it wasn’t.  It was perfect.

I loved this story so much!  It’s a bit Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, mixed with Counting by Sevens with a bit of Beyond the Bright Sea thrown in.  Told in two parts–Canada and Mexico–with many flashbacks to San Francisco interspersed, this story goes back and forth in time.  Some chapters are also told from Harry’s perspective, and Harry has just as interesting a story as Nat.  And I haven’t even mentioned anything that happens in the second half of the book!  There’s a vacation in Mexico, more whales, a birthday, and lots more.

This is a great story about friendship, families and growing up.  Nat is turning thirteen and is in seventh grade; Harry knows he’s a boy, even if he was born a girl.  Both of them are looking for answers about who they are.  There are funny moments, heartfelt moments, and lots of family love for both characters.   I would recommend this to upper elementary and middle school readers.  Some read-alikes are Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, The Higher Power of Lucky, My Sister Sif, George, and books by Cynthia Lord.

Karen Rivers is the author of Love, Ish, The Girl in the Well is Me and The Encyclopedia of Me, along with multiple teen and adult books.  Stina Nielsen also narrated The Lemonade War series and the Princess Posey series.

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So if you like whales as much as Nat, you’ll love this book.  If you like a little adventure, mixed with a new friendship, a famous father and a little mystery about what happened between Nat and Solly, you’ll love this book.  Just try it!  Let me know what you think.

As always, if you need help locating any of the books mentioned here, or if you just want some book suggestions, ask one of our librarians.  We’re here to match you with a book you’ll love!

Happy Reading!


Five Books Featuring…Storytellers in Danger!

Tell a Story, Save Your Life!
Storytelling is very important to librarians.  In these five books, telling a story is a central theme.  Like Sherazade from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, who had to tell 1,001 stories to save her life, the main characters in these books have to tell a story to save their life…or the life of someone important to them.  How would someone even be put into that situation?  Well these books mostly involve being put into that situation with magic, which also makes these titles fantasy.  But they’re a very specific kind of dangerous fantasy!

Our Five Books Featuring are five books related by topic–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite of library staff–but you’ll have to guess which is which! Each book has a short synopsis and link to the book in the catalog, so you can easily find and request it.

Read on, and find out what life is like when you have to talk fast, think fast, and create stories even faster!

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The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxiernight gardener

Irish orphans Molly and Kip travel to England to work as servants in a crumbling manor house where nothing is quite what it seems to be.  Despite her young age and the warnings of a local storyteller, Molly uses the power of her own words to secure work, but soon realizes that something is not right;  soon the siblings are confronted by a mysterious stranger and secrets of the cursed house.  Each member of the Windsor family struggles with personal demons, and a strange footprints appear at night.  They discover that the Night Gardener  haunts the estate, dooming its inhabitants with foul dreams while a magical tree grants wishes to entrap the recipients. Molly’s stories help drive the darkness away for a bit, but soon both Molly and Kip must face their own dark secrets to release the Gardener’s hold and end his evil enchantments.


Shadow Spinner  Susan Fletchershadow spinner

When Marjan joins the Sultan’s harem in ancient Persia, she doesn’t know she will be called on to save her queen’s life.  Every night, Queen Shahrazad begins a story. And every morning, the Sultan lets her live another day — providing the story is interesting enough to capture his attention. After almost one thousand nights, Shahrazad is running out of tales. And that is how Marjan’s story begins.  She is tasked to  help Shahrazad find new stories — ones the Sultan has never heard before. To do that, the girl is forced to undertake a dangerous and forbidden mission: sneak from the harem and travel the city, pulling tales from strangers and bringing them back to Shahrazad. But as she searches the city, a wonderful thing happens. From a quiet spinner of tales, Marjan suddenly becomes the center of a more surprising story than she ever could have imagined.


Inkheart  by Cornelia Funkeinkheart

Meggie lives a quiet life alone with her father Mo, a bookbinder.   But her father has a deep secret: he can “read” characters to life.  One day a mysterious stranger arrives who seems linked to her father’s past. Who is this sinister character and what does he want? Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books. Somehow, Meggie and Mo must learn to harness the magic that conjured this nightmare. Somehow they must change the course of the story that has changed their lives forever.  Suddenly Meggie is involved in a breathless game of escape and intrigue as her father’s life is put in danger. Will she be able to save him in time?


The Book of Story Beginnings by  Kristin Kladstrupbook of story beginnings

Oscar Martin was fourteen when he mysteriously disappeared from his Iowa farmhouse home in June 1914. His sister claimed Oscar had rowed out to sea – but how was that possible? There is no ocean in Iowa. When, nearly a century later, Lucy Martin and her parents move from their city apartment to that same farmhouse in Iowa, it is not long before Lucy discovers the strange and dangerous BOOK OF STORY BEGININGS. When the stories start coming to life, Oscar reappears.  Realizing that by beginning a new story in the enchanted book she has placed her father in deadly peril, Lucy enlists Oscar’s help to take her into that otherworld where their stories have come to life not in dreams but as cold, hard reality. Can these two distant relatives use the stories to save Lucy’s father?

Tiger Moon  by Antonia Michaelistiger moon

Farhad doesn’t want to be a hero, but he doesn’t want to be a worm either. When the young thief is caught stealing an amulet that belongs to a god, he is given the seemingly impossible task of rescuing a princess from a demon king. He reluctantly begins a journey across India to the demon’s desert stronghold, and is joined on his quest by a sacred—and often sarcastic—white tiger named Nitish. The companions battle floods and fire, soldiers and scoundrels, yet it is their unlikely friendship that is the true key to rescuing the princess, if they can reach her in time.

Meanwhile, in the far-off desert, a reluctant young bride spins a tale of rescue to a kindly servant boy as she awaits certain death at the hands of her new husband. She dreams of a hero who will arrive just at the right time.   Will these tales come together?  And who is the real storyteller?


Nightbooks by J. A. Whitenightbooks

Alex has loved scary stories his whole life, but he never imagined he’d be trapped in one!  But when he sneaks out in the middle of the night, he is trapped by the witch Natacha in her magical apartment.  Only Natacha holds the keys that will get Alex and his fellow prisoner, Yasmin, out  of the apartment and back to their world.  Natacha will never give up the keys, but her one weakness is stories.  Now Alex’s original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping Natacha happy, but soon he’ll run out of pages to read from and be trapped forever. He’s loved scary stories his whole life, and he knows most don’t have a happily ever after. Now that Alex is trapped in a true terrifying tale, he’s desperate for a different ending–and a way out of this twisted place.

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So there you have it.  Are you inspired to go out and write or tell a story now?  Or at the very least, to rush to the library and check out one of these featured titles?  🙂

Here are a few other books featuring Storytelling…but not danger.  At least, not danger  in exactly the same way…

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

Catching a Storyfish  by Janice N. Harrington

When the Sea Turned to Silver  by Grace Lin

cornelia and the audiaciousstone girls storyhour of the beescatching a storyfishwhen the sea turned to silver

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If you would like help finding these or any other book in the library, please ask for help at the Youth Services Desk.  We love to help you find the perfect book!

Happy Reading!

Five Books Featuring…What Time is It?

Five books … What Time is It?

This is a bit of an interesting list.  In these particular books, people are “living” in two times at once—either voluntarily or involuntarily—but there’s no time travel.  How would you like to recreate living on the American Frontier?  In Colonial times?  During the Civil War?  Some things may be easier, but if you’re used to those modern conveniences.  Would you give us your cell phone, internet and comfortable life to live in 1840?  What if it wasn’t exactly your choice..?

Our Five Books Featuring are five books related by topic–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite of library staff–but you’ll have to guess which is which! Each book has a short synopsis and link to the book in the catalog, so you can easily find and request it.

Read on, and find out what life is like when you’re living in two different times at once!

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Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Belllittle blog w

Gen’s family is more comfortable spending time apart than together. They all have their own “things”.  But when Gen’s mom thinks they’re growing too far apart as a family, she  signs them up for Camp Frontier–a vacation that promises the “thrill” of living like 1890s pioneers. Forced to give up all of her modern possessions, Gen smuggles her cell phone in (don’t ask!) and manages to email her friends back home about life at “Little Hell on the Prairie,” as she’s renamed the camp. It turns out frontier life isn’t completely without good points–like the cute boy who lives in the next clearing.  When her friends turn her smuggled emails into a blog, Gen is happily surprised by the fanbase that springs up. But just when it seems Gen and family might pull through the summer by working together, disaster strikes! A TV crew descends on the camp, intent on discovering the girl behind the newest nationwide blogging sensation.  Will they ruin what is turning out to be the best vacation Gen has ever had?


Cartboy Goes to Camp by L. A. Campbellcartboy goes to camp

Hopelessly hapless Hal Rifkind, (a.k.a. Cartboy) is happy to be done with sixth grade.  He is SOOO ready to spend the summer vegging out and honing his video-game skills.  But with only a day’s notice, Hal is informed that he is being shipped off to a rustic summer camp.  And not just any old camp, but a completely crazy history camp! At Camp Jamestown, campers have to learn how to churn butter, plant maize, and carry water from the stream.  If they don’t do those chores, they get punished…in the stocks!  As if that isn’t bad enough, someone he was happy to leave behind at school shows up as a fellow camper.  What else could possibly go wrong for Cartboy? At least he has his journal.  Filled with photos, drawings, and timelines, Hal’s journal chronicles his hilarious adventures at Camp Jamestown–where absolutley nothing has changed in 400 years!


Running Out of Time by Margaret Haddixrunning out of time 3

Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana, in 1840 — or so she believes. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie’s mother reveals a shocking secret to her daughter: it’s actually 1996, and she and her family are living in a reconstructed village that serves as a tourist site. In the world outside, medicine exists that can cure the dread disease, but the people running the site are reluctant to sacrifice the “validity” of their historical community.  In order to save the other children, Jessie’s mother has gathered some resources and is sending her on a dangerous mission to bring back help.
But beyond the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and threatening than she could have imagined, and soon she finds her own life in jeopardy. Can she get help before the children of Clifton, and Jessie herself, run out of time?


Past Perfect  by Leila Salespast perfect

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too.
Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….  (in the Teen Collection)


Colonial Madness by Jo Whittemorecolonial madness

Tori Porter is best friends with her mom, and most of the time it’s awesome. Not many girls have a mom who’d take them to a graveyard for hide-and-seek or fill the bathtub with ice cream for the world’s biggest sundae!  But as much as Tori loves having fun, she sometimes wishes her mom would act a little more her age…thanks to her mom’s poor financial planning, they are in danger of losing their business and their home. But an unusual opportunity arises in the form of a bizarre contest put on by an eccentric relative.  Whoever can survive two weeks in the Archibald Family’s colonial manor will inherit the property. The catch? Contestants have to live as in colonial times: no modern conveniences, no outside help, and there will be daily tests of their abilities to survive challenges of the time period.
Tori thinks it’s the perfect answer to their debt problems!  Unfortunately, she and her mom aren’t the only ones interested. The other family members seem to be much more prepared for the two weeks on the manor–and it doesn’t help that Mom doesn’t seem to be taking the contest seriously. Can living in the past save their future?

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This one doesn’t really fit living in two times, but it does having a family living two lives in two different “worlds” in common, so…one last addition!

Greetings from Witness Protection! By Jake Burtgreetings from witness protection

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive.  The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals.  If the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, then adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.
Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past…

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All of these books are exciting reads….go ahead and try one!  And see if you would give up your modern life for the adventure of recreating the past.

If you liked these books, ask one of our librarians for help finding others on a similar—or on a completely different!—topic.  We love to help match books and readers!

Hapy Reading!

Five Books Featuring…Magicians!

Did you know that we just celebrated International Magic Week?  At the library we had a display of our books on famous magicians (Harry Houdini, Adelaide Herrmann, Harry Keller, Sid Fleischman),  books on how to perform magic tricks (J 793.8), and middle grade fiction featuring magicians and kids learning how to be magicians (the rabbit-producing kind of magic, not Harry Potter magic).

Because there were several fun and exciting titles, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for a Five Books Featuring… book post!  So, here you go:  Five Books Featuring…Magicians!  Just know they’re the performing kind, not the fantasy wizard-y magic-making type of magic.

Our Five Books Featuring are five books related by topic–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite of library staff–but you’ll have to guess which is which! Each book has a short synopsis and link to the book in the catalog, so you can easily find and request it.

Read on!

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AbrakaPOW   by Isaiah Campbellabrakapow
Try as she might, cheeky middle schooler Maxine Larousse (aka The Amazing Max) has yet to learn the one magic trick she needs the most: how to reappear in New York City. That is where she used to live with her parents before her father, Major Larousse, was put in charge of a Nazi POW camp in Abilene, Texas. At least in this desolate wasteland she’ll have plenty of time to practice her illusions, even if the only audience member is her ferret Houdini.
When she’s tasked with entertaining the Nazi prisoners with a magic show, the pressure may be too much. But with the help of some classmates and an unexpected magic expert, the performance is a hit–until twelve Nazi prisoners escape during her final act. Will Max be able to track them down before her reputation as a magician is destroyed forever?
Based on a true story of a prisoner escape during WWII.

The Magic Trap by Jacqueline Daviesmagic trap
A magic show, card tricks, and a disappearing rabbit named Professor Hoffman—Jess and Evan Treski are at it again as they try to put on a professional magic show in their own backyard. They practice, they study, and they practice some more.  But will they be able to put on the show? Maybe not! With the show date coming up, so is an approaching hurricane. But nothing prepares them for what blows into town next… Their father, who has done a good job of disappearing over the past few years.
Jessie and Evan have waged a lemonade war, sought justice in a class trial,  unmasked a bell thief, and stood at opposite ends over the right to keep secrets.  Now they take on the challenges of magic and illusion all while discovering some hidden truths about their own family.  The fourth book the the Lemonade War series, this can be read as a stand-alone…but read the whole series!

The Vanishing Coin by Kate Eganvanishing coin
Want to see something cool?  I can make that quarter vanish.  All it takes is a little magic…
Fourth grade was supposed to be a fresh start, but Mike’s already back in the principal’s office. He’s not a bad kid. He just can’t sit still. And now, his parents won’t let him play soccer anymore; instead he has to hang out with his new neighbor Nora, who is good at everything!
Then Mike and Nora discover the White Rabbit. It’s an odd shop–with a special secret inside. Its owner, Mr. Zerlin, is a magician, and, amazingly, he believes Mike could be a magician, too. Has Mike finally found something he’s good at?  The first in a fun series…with an afterword that lets you learn some of the same tricks Mike performs!

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evanshortens miraculous
Enter a wonderful world filled with magic, mystery, and danger.
As if being small and having S. Horten as his name isn’t bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart’s swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony–a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth–and Tony’s marvelous, long-lost workshop.  Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who’s also desperate to get hold of Tony’s treasures.  Who will find the workshop–and the valuable secrets within–first?

Mr Mysterious and Company  by Sid Fleischmanmr mysterious
A magic show is in town! See Jane float through the air. Watch the head in the box move its lips and talk (that’s Paul behind the whiskers). See tall, light-hearted Mr. Mysterious–Pa himself–make a cow lay an egg and a chicken give milk. Follow the adventures and high comedy of this family of magicians traveling in a show wagon through the Old West. The wonder workers are heading for California, where Pa intends to retire the show so that the kids can go to school. But the frontier has tricks of its own up its sleeve, and the magicians find themselves in hairbreadth escapes and nose-to-nose encounters with villains galore.  Mr. Mysterious & Company (otherwise known as the Hackett family)  is a traveling magic show making its way across the country toward California. When this family passes through town in their brightly painted wagon, anything can happen–even the capture of a notorious bandit, the Badlands Kid!

The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harrismagic misfits
When street magician Carter runs away from his uncle, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.
After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso’s villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth through some tricky situations.  Magic Misfits: The Second Story has just been released, and there are four titles projected for this series.
(Psst. Hey, you! Yes, you! Congratulations on reading this far. As a reward, I’ll let you in on a little secret… This book isn’t just a book. It’s a treasure trove of secrets and ciphers and codes and even tricks. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll discover more than just a story–you’ll learn how to make your own magic!)

Nothing Up My Sleeve by Diana Lopeznothing up my sleeve
When sixth-grade best friends Loop, Dominic, and Z stumble on a new magic store in town, they quickly decide to become amateur magicians and participate in a competition held by the Texas Association of Magicians.  They can’t wait to spend their summer mastering cool tricks to gain access to the Vault, a key holders-only back room bound to hold all kinds of secrets.  They work on their card tricks, sleights, and vanishing acts, trying to come up with the most awesome routines possible….Problem is, the trip is expensive, and it’s money that each guy’s family just doesn’t have. To make things worse, the shop-owners’ daughter, Ariel (who just so happens to be last year’s competition winner), will do anything to make sure the boys don’t come out on top. Even pit them against one another. Will these friends make it to the competition? And if so, at what cost?

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Oh dear.  My list of five has magically expanded.  Well, all the better for reading! 🙂

If you would like any other books about magicians, magic or anything else, ask one of our librarians for help.  We always like matching books and readers!  Until then…

Happy Reading!

Five Books Featuring…Elephants on Adventures!

Elephants!  What’s not to love?  One of my favorite books growing up was Little Burma, by Robert McClung.  It was about a boy in Revolutionary America, who rescued a baby elephant and tried to help him, after they both escaped from a traveling side show.  It’s not available in Minuteman, but my old, beat up copy is still somewhere in my mom’s attic.  Elephant adventures have always been appealing since then, the more adventurous, the better!

So this week, when two brand new adventures featuring elephants and kids came in for the kids collection, it seemed like a great time to feature an animal everyone loves.  And so, for our first entry back after way too long, we present…Five Books Featuring…Elephant Adventures!

Our Five Books Featuring are five books related by topic–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite of library staff–but you’ll have to guess which is which! Each book has a short synopsis and link to the book in the catalog, so you can easily find and request it.

Read on!

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elephant in the darkCarrick, Carol.  The Elephant in the Dark
With a sick mother and nowhere else to go, Will Sleeper is taken in by the Sandersons, the village storekeeper and his wife.  His duties will be to help feed and care for Toong, an elephant they are boarding for the winter. Even though at first Will is afraid of Toong, after he loses his mother some of Will’s grief and loneliness are eased by the friendship that develops between the boy and the elephant.
As they spend more time together, Toong learns to accept Will’s directions and even lets him rides on her back. But just when Will becomes comfortable with the Sandersons and with Toong, the elephant is sold. This time, Will isn’t willing to be left behind, and he determinedly follows Toong and her new owners on foot, sure that his destiny and Toong’s are intertwined and that they belong together.
Although Will is fictional, this story is based on a real elephant, Old Bet, who toured Massachusetts and New England in the early 1800s.

Harris, R.P.  Tua and the Elephanttua and the elephant
Tua–Thai for “peanut”–has everything she needs at home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, except for one thing she’s always wanted: a sister. In the market one day, Tua makes an accidental acquaintance–one with wise, loving eyes, remarkable strength, and a very curious trunk. And when Tua meets Pohn-Pohn, it’s clear this elephant needs her help. Together, the unusual team sets off on a remarkable journey to escape from Pohn-Pohn’s vile captors. From the bustling night market to the hallowed halls of a Buddhist temple and finally, to the sanctuary of an elephant refuge, this clever girl and her beloved companion find that right under their noses is exactly what each has been searching for: a friend.

High, Linda Oatman.  One Amazing Elephant one amazing elephant
Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus–and the circus is their life. If your mother were a trapeze artist and your grandparents traveled with a circus, you might imagine that you’d get such perks as free cotton candy, the chance to befriend sideshow performers, and behind-the-scenes tours. While this lifestyle might excite most tweens, Lily Pruitt views the circus as dangerous. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.
Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man–and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

Kehret, Peg.  Saving Lillysaving lilly
Erin Wrenn and her friend David are in big trouble when they refuse to go on a field trip to the Glitter Tent Circus. They wrote a report on the sad lives of circus animals and discovered that the Glitter Tent Circus is one of the worst animal abusers of all. However, their teacher Mrs. Dawson is determined to give her students the happy circus experience she remembers from her childhood; she won’t let Erin and David share their report or pass around a petition asking for a different field trip. Erin is determined to force Mrs. Dawson to change her plans…or she’ll stage a sit-in at school.
Then Erin sees an even bigger problem: Lilly, a mistreated elephant, is about to be sold to a hunting park. How can she save Lilly before it’s too late? It seems impossible.
Can one girl — and an entire class of sixth graders – really make a difference?

Kelly, Lynne.  Chainedchained
After Hastin’s family borrows money to pay for his sister’s hospital bill, he leaves his village in northern India to take a job as an elephant keeper and work off the debt. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and hurt with a hook until she learns tricks perfectly. Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can, but he knows that the only way they will both survive is if he can find a way for them to escape.

Kerr, Jane.  The Elephant Thiefelephant thief
When young pickpocket Danny accidentally buys an elephant at an auction, he finds himself swept up on an unforgettable adventure. Offered a job by a zookeeper, all he has to do is ride Maharajah from Edinburgh to Manchester in one week.  Everyone in the country is watching, even the Queen, but the journey soon proves to be filled with drama and danger. A rival zookeeper will stop at nothing to make sure they fail, and soon Danny’s shady connections from his past threaten to overturn the mission.  Can Danny win the trust and friendship of the elephant and guide him home? Can the two of them stick together through the odds and win the day?

Morpurgo, Michael.  An Elephant in the Gardenelephant in the garden
Frail and in a nursing home, Lizzie recalls when she was a teen and her family, including an elephant named Marlene, escaped the devastating 1945 bombing of Dresden, Germany…
Lizzie and Karl’s mother is a zoo keeper; the family has become attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene.  Because of the war, Marlene is supposed to be destroyed as a precautionary measure so she and the other animals don’t run wild should the zoo be hit by bombs. The family persuades the zoo director to let Marlene stay in their garden instead.
Marlene takes to her new family, particularly to Lizzie’s little brother, Karli, and when the bombers actually do arrive, Marlene accompanies them on their flight across Germany, away from the invading Russians and toward the advancing American army. Along the way, they meet a wounded Canadian soldier, who himself becomes an integral part of this makeshift family.
Inspired by a true story about an elephant rescued from a Belfast zoo during WWII.

Walters, Eric.  Elephant Secretelephant secret
Samantha Gray is known as the “elephant girl.” She lives with her Dad and helps care for all the elephants in her family’s sanctuary. Raised close with the herd, Sam’s ability to connect with the elephants transcends human understanding. In fact, she bonds and interacts with the elephants much better than she does with people; especially with her dad’s new girlfriend, Joyce.
When a beloved elephant dies giving birth, Sam develops a connection with baby Woolly–who isn’t actually an elephant but was cloned from woolly mammoth DNA. The family is horrified to discover that the billionaire genius behind the cloning experiment will stop at nothing to protect his investment.
Smart, determined, and loving, Sam stands up to this powerful adversary to protect the sanctuary and her family…her herd.

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(Shhh…we’ll just pretend there were just five books, not eight.  I couldn’t decide which book to pick for the “new” choice!)   So many elephants, so many good reading choices!  Some of them we even have as audio books, so they would be good family choices as well.

Most of these books are middle grade, which means they would be good for third through sixth grade readers.  If you’re an elephant fan, you can’t go wrong with one of these choices.  So try one and see what you think.  And because I found so MANY elephant adventures, this would be a good place to put the rest of the elephant books.  No blurbs to entice you as a reader, but every single one of these is a great book to read.

Applegate, Katherine.  The One and Only Ivan
Burchett, J.  Safari Survival
DiCamillo, Kate.  The Magician’s Elephant
Dinerstein, Eric. What Elephants Know
Jacobson, Jennifer.  Small as an Elephant
Kadohata, Cynthia.  A Million Shades of Gray
McCall Smith, Alexander.  Akimbo and the Elephants
St. John, Lauren.  The Elephant’s Tale
Smith, Roland.  Thunder Cave


Happy Reading!

Book and Audio Review: The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop

What could be better than a lot of chocolate, a little magic, and some secret agents?

Not much…

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The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop
By Kate Saunders, Read by Jayne Entwistle
6 CDs, 6 hours, 52 minutes

whizz pop chocolate shopOz and Lily Spoffard grew up in a tiny house in Washford Common in London.  Even though the family was cramped, they loved it.  But with a new baby on the way, the twins know that they will have even less space.  But that’s when an unexpected letter from a solicitor in London comes… Their father has apparently inherited a mysterious large house on Skittle Street from his great-uncle on the other side of London.  The solution to all their problems?  Maybe…

They go to visit the house and discover that not only is it a house, but it’s a house with a chocolate shop and chocolate-making laboratory on the first floor!  Although it’s been deserted for more than fifty years, everything is just a little dusty, and the water and electricity are in perfect order.   It even still smells like chocolate!

Oz is reluctant to leave his violin tutor, but Lily can’t wait to get away from her tutor; neither of them will really miss their school.  So arrangements are made for new lessons, and the Spoffards move in.

The first person they meet in their new house is a very grumpy cat named Demerara who tells them that their uncles didn’t only make chocolate, they made magic chocolate.  And now, there’s someone after the recipes.  Luckily, Demerara is an agent for SMU–The Secret Ministry for the Unexplained.  She has the contacts to get Oz, Lily and their new friend Caydon some training to deal with the spies who are now lurking around their house and trying to find some magical chocolate molds.

But even with training, will three kids, a talking cat, a ghostly elephant and a cheeky rat be able to topple the forces of evil trying to take over the world?

whizz pop chocolate shop audioThe audio for The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop is great fun.  I love the British narrator, who manages to make everyone sound different.  (She also does a great American accent!)  The pacing is excellent.  The characters really come to life while you’re listening.

This is a great book to listen to as a family, maybe on a long car trip this summer?  The book is written for third through sixth grades, but the story can be enjoyed by all ages.  There are a couple scary spots in the story–but not too scary–so you can reassure younger listeners that everything will turn out okay.

Some read-alikes include The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, Bliss, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Candy Shop War.

dragon with the chocolate heart bliss charlie and the chocolate factory candy shop war

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So if you like magical chocolate, talking cats, and a mystery that spans four generations, try this book.  You’ll like it!

As always, if you need help finding this or any other book, ask one of our librarians.  We love to help!

Happy Reading!


Five Books Featuring…Robin Hood!

What’s better on a grey rainy day than something green?  Put yourself in the mindset of merry old England, with these books featuring  the legendary outlaw Robin Hood!  Okay, so one of our books is a dystopia, one is set in space, and there are just as many female as male Robin Hoods in this list…it’s not exactly the same Sherwood Forest you might have heard about.  But if you try one of these adventurous tales, you’ll be sure to be thinking about the myths and the legends (and the re-imaginings) of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John, Will Scarlet and the rest of the Merry Men!

Our Five Books Featuring are five books related by topic–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite of library staff–but you’ll have to guess which is which! Each book has a short synopsis and link to the book in the catalog, so you can easily find and request it.

Read on!

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Five Books based on the Legend of Robin Hood…

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody
will in scarletWill Shackley is the son of a lord, and though just thirteen, he’s led a charmed, protected life as heir to Shackley House.   While his father is away on the Third Crusade with King Richard the Lionheart, the winds of treason sweep across England.  Shackley House becomes caught up in a dangerous power struggle when King Richard’s brother John tries to take the throne and sends his representative to take Will into custody. After wounding Sir Guy’s manservant with a sword, Will becomes an outlaw and flees to Sherwood Forest, taking the name Will Scarlet. He joins a ragtag band of thieves and, bent on revenge, throws himself into adventures that force him to face hard truths and figure out where his path lies.

League of Archers by Eva Howard
league of archersSent to live in a nunnery after her mother’s death, Ellie spends her days as a novice nun and her evenings hunting in the woods with her friends. She and her friends call themselves The League of Archers, and try to be like their hero Robin Hood by sneaking out to hunt on the lands belonging to the village Baron and stealing from him to feed their poor neighbors. One night, Ellie encounters a mysterious man in the woods, wounded by a poisonous arrow. She brings him back to the nunnery only to discover that he is Robin Hood and the kind abbess of the nunnery is Maid Marion.
With the abbess’s secret revealed, the Baron immediately arrests Marian. But he needs a scapegoat for the murder of Robin Hood, and who better than a young novice nun? Ellie is proclaimed a hero–the person who killed the famous outlaw Robin Hood–but the villagers don’t agree.  Now Ellie is on the run, and Marian set to hang unless the League of Archers can find a way to contact the disbanded Merry Men and mount a rescue.
Will Ellie and her League of Archers be able to find the real killer, free Maid Marian, and keep Robin Hood’s legacy alive?

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
outlaws of sherwoodRobin is an apprentice forester in the woods of Nottingham. The arrows he makes and sells earn barely enough extra coin to retain the title to his father’s small lands. The sheriff of Nottingham’s jealousy toward Robin’s father is just as fierce towards his son, and the sheriff’s men take every opportunity to harass the young woodsman. When Robin defends himself and accidentally kills one of the sheriff’s men, he flees to Sherwood Forest, knowing that he has not only lost his father’s land and good name forever, but that he will live the rest of his days as a hunted man.
Joined by his friends Much and Lady Marian, who both believe the disaster that has befallen Robin is also an opportunity for others cast out or outlawed in ways equally unjust, to gather together. As more and more people join them, Robin builds a community of Saxon outlaws deep in Sherwood who risk the gallows and the sword for the sake of justice and freedom.

Shadows of Sherwood by Scott Magoon
shadows of sherwoodOne night when after returning from a midnight adventure scavenging for the poor of Nott City, Robyn Loxley finds her parents missing and her home in disarray. Grabbing the secret items her father has trained her to take in case of emergency, Robyn flees. Following the advice of her parents to head for the woods, she ventures into rough-and-tumble neighboring Sherwood City.  Robyn has no choice but to join a band of strangers-misfit kids, each with their own special talent for mischief. Setting out to right the wrongs of Crown’s merciless government, they take their outlaw status in stride. But Robyn can’t rest until she finds her parents. As she pieces together clues from the night they disappeared, Robyn learns that her destiny is tied to the future of Nott City in ways she never expected.
If you liked Shadows of Sherwood, you should read Rebellion of Thieves and Reign of Outlaws, the next two books in the Robyn Hoodlum Adventures .

Robin Hood: The One Who Looked Good in Green by Wendy Mass
robin hood looked good in greenRobin has a bad habit of getting into trouble–and a better habit of getting out of it (barely). He lives on an isolated outpost in the middle of nowhere and has no idea why his parents disappeared years ago. Then a strange delivery arrives at his doorstep.
Marian was raised to be a powerless girl in a very powerful family. But that hasn’t stopped her from making her own adventures – and trespassing in some places her parents definitely don’t want her to see. She has no idea what life should be like outside of her home–until a mysterious invitation forces her to leave everything behind.
Robin and Marian have lived very different lives in very different places. Their paths should never, ever cross–but before they know it, they are thrown together on a quest that requires legendary bravery, quick-witted escapes, and the ability to get along. With each other!  The sky’s no longer the limit on what Robin and Marian can do, as long as they manage do it together!