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    Flora and Ulysses

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    by Kate DiCamillo
    261 pages
    Reviewed by The Junior Book Dealer (Elena Elizabeth Hynes)

     
    “She stood at the window and watched as the squirrel was vacuumed up.
    Poof. Fwump.
    ‘Holy Bagumba,’ said Flora.
     

    Flora Buckman is a self-proclaimed cynic. She dreams of having a superhero in her life like the ones she reads about in her comics. One day, that dream comes true when a squirrel gets vacuumed up in Tootie Tickman’s new Ulysses 3000 vacuum. Flora performs CPR on the small rodent in order to keep him alive, and what happens next is unbelievable.
     
    Suddenly, the squirrel was very hungry. Not only was he hungry, but he understood Flora. The story gets better and better as more characters are introduced. We learn that Flora’s mother and father are divorcing, and the Tickman’s have a visiting great nephew named William Spiver who also has his share of problems, including his “temporary blindness.”
     
    Ulysses brings all these characters together with his poetry and incredible powers.…

    A Certain October

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    by Angela Johnson
    158 pages
    Reviewed by The Book Dealer

     
    Scotty’s life has been turned upside down by an accident that lands her autistic brother Keone in the hospital and leaves a classmate dead. How is a teen supposed to deal with such life issues when what should be on her mind is Homecoming and a surprising budding romance.

     

    Angela Johnson once again creates characters that are real. You laugh. You cry. You feel like you are part of the story. This tale of dealing with trauma, as well as the strong relationships that help Scotty through troubling times is a treasure. With a host of minor characters that are her friends, this book is one that makes the reader reflect on the importance of friendships and family.

    Notes to Teachers: mild language and reference to intimate relationships
    Suggestions for Possible Concepts: Family, Friends, Dealing with Grief, Struggles and Perseverance

    The Complete Robot

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    by Isaac Asimov
    244 pages
    Reviewed by Dr. Russ Yocum
    Grade 4

     
    The Complete Robot is the most complete anthology of Isaac Asimov’s short-stories set in his “robot universe.” Though most of the stories originally appeared in various science fiction magazines or other collected volumes between 1941 and 1977, it is convenient to have them all in one edition. With ever-increasing advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and computing power, these stories are just as relevant (if not more so) today than when they first saw print.

     

    In these collected stories, readers will get to know some recurring characters (Powell, Donovan, and Dr. Susan Calvin – – all employees of US Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation) as well as a variety of robots. Some of the robots are little more than computers or factory-like machines intended for one specific purpose; other robots can learn and adapt. Asimov coined the term “robotics” and with his “Three Laws of Robotics” that appear in many of his robot universe stories has had a lasting influence on modern computing and robotics: “1.…

    Million-Dollar Throw

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    by Mike Lupica
    244 pages
    Reviewed by Tommy Jennings
    Grade 4

     
    “And the deal, as I recall, went something like this: This isn’t a job for you. It’s an adventure,” she said.

    “I am almost sure you stole that from somebody.”

     

    Nate Brodie and Abby McCall have been life-long best friends. Nate, a kid with a golden arm, is a great quarterback and the biggest Tom Brady fan you’ll ever meet. Abby is just good at everything.

     
    Shortly after his 13th birthday, Nate, his mom, and his best friend Abby McCall make a trip to SportStuff, where Nate is finally able to buy the limited edition autographed Brady football for which he’s been saving $500.00 Abby looks at a poster and finds there is a contest to throw a ball into a twenty-inch target from the 30 yard line.
     
    It’s a one-in-a-million chance, but Nate wins the contest and a shot at the big money.…

    Floors

    Floor

    by Patrick Carman
    261 pages
    Reviewed by McKayla G.

     
    “This is the weirdest hotel ever,” said Remi.
     
    “That’s what you said about the last one.”
     
    “Yeah, but this time I really mean it.”
     
    They arrived at the opening of a narrow tunnel, which would require getting down on their knees. A creepy, slurping sound came from inside.
     
    “No way,” said Remi. Not gonna happen. Whatever’s in there is going to eat my face off.”
     
    “For crying out loud, Remi,” said Leo, sitting down in front of the opening and patting the ground. “Come on, sit down. Let’s just take a break and get back in the game.”
     
    Remi sat on the far side of Leo, away from the opening, and a spider the size of a tennis ball drifted down in front of his face. Remi was having some trouble breathing until Leo batted it away with his hand, and it went scurrying into the dark.…

    The Wishing Spell

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    by Chris Colfer
    438 pages
    Reviewed by Sarah M.
    Grade 4

     
    “It had been more than five minutes since Alex had gotten home when The Land of Stories started acting up again. She ran up the stairs to her bedroom and promptly shut the door behind her. Alex took The Land of the Stories out of her school bag and placed it on her bedroom floor. She opened the cover and the room lit up from its golden glow. She smiled to herself. She had always hoped something magical would happen to her, and now something finally was. She pulled out a pencil from her school bag and placed it on top of the book and watched it disappear. Alex looked around the room for other disposable items she could drop in the book. She was out of pencils, and the books left on her bookshelf were the ones she wanted to keep.…

    Double Dog Dare

    DDD

    by Lisa Graff
    290 pages
    Reviewed by The Junior Book Dealer: Elena Elizabeth Hynes
    “Nice tutu,” she said to him with a smile.
    “Nice hair,” he replied. Her smirk quickly faded into a frown. Kansas almost didn’t believe she had really done. It. But she had. Francine’s new green hair hung down in front of her face like vines in a jungle.
    “I can’t believe you made me do this,” she said, jabbing a finger toward her head. “You’re so mean. I would never do anything so mean to you.”
    “I’m so mean? “ Kansas replied.
    The door whipped open.
    “Why hello there, you two!” It was their teacher, Miss Sparks, white teeth flashing. “I thought I heard some students out here. Come inside, won’t you. You both look incredible for spirit day, by the way.
    Incredible? Kansas was pretty sire that what they looked like was two circus freaks! (p.…

    Rapunzel: Twice Upon a Time

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    by Wendy Mass
    288 pages
    Reviewed by The Junior Book Dealer: Elena Elizabeth Hynes
     

    You have heard the tale of Rapunzel, but Wendy Mass’s Rapunzel is very different because the two main characters are more interesting in this story. Rapunzel is trapped in a castle because her parents traded her for an herb that would make them rich. Benjamin, the prince, is not your normal prince charming. He is a bit clumsy at the normal prince games, and he wishes he could be a knight instead of a prince.

     
    Also in the story there are a few twists. Both characters are a bit awkward. There is a green troll named Stephen that helps save their lives, and the witch has even more attitude than the one in the original story.

     
    The ending is filled with action and, of course, is not like the original version. Read Rapunzel if you like humor mixed with fairy tales.…

    Tilt

    Tilt

    by Ellen Hopkins
    312 pages
    Reviewed by The Book Dealer(s)
     

    “…every word an author writes is like tossing a stone into a pond. And you don’t know where they’ll go, or who they’ll touch, or when they might come back to you. I think everything you do is kind of like that, too (p. 602)” Harley- Character in Ellen Hopkins’s Tilt.

     

    Back in the days when I was teaching 9-12th grade reading in “The Reading Trailer Park,” Hopkins’s books were those that were passed from student to student to student to student. These learners were enticed by Hopkins’s realistic portrayal of teens. Although as a teacher, one should be aware that her subject matter delves into adult themes and, at times, portrays teens making poor choices with little or no lasting negative consequences. These mature young adult themes will make for rich class discussions for the educator who takes the time to understand how these themes play out in students’ lives.…

    Themes

    Possible Concepts/Themes for Choice Reading

     
    Justice
    Choices
    Consequences
    Loss
    Relationships
    Community
    Struggles/Perseverance
    Destiny
    Other Worlds
    Diversity
    Humor
    Heroes
    Identity
    Love
    Courage
    Coming of Age
    Integrity
    Culture…

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