A few new favorites

So, I’ve been reading up on my state readers’ choice award books to prep for my booktalks and my read-a-louds. There are some great books on these lists this year.

My favorites so far in each category are:

The Bluestem Readers’ Choice Award

Swindle by Gordon Korman

Swindle couldn’t have been named more aptly. When this mean-spirited baseball card collector cons Griffin Bing out of his most valuable card, this young sports maven is forced to call in his little band of misfit helpers. A high-spirited romp about trying to set things right.

The World According to Humprey by Betty G. Birney

You can learn a lot about life by observing another species. That’s what Humphrey was told when he was first brought to Room 26. And boy is it true! There are always adventures in the classroom and each weekend he gets to sleep over with different students. Humphrey learns to read, write, shoot rubber bands (only in self-defense, of course), turn off TVs, teach English as a second language, and more. With a lock-that-doesn’t-lock and an adventurous spirit, what more could a mischievous hamster want?

With a fresh voice and an engaging, hamster’s-eye view of school, families, and treats to hide in a cheek pouch, Betty G. Birney’s Humphrey will elicit laughter and demands for hamsters in every elementary classroom.

Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm

In this action-packed cartooning adventure, kids will have as much fun making comics as reading them!

Once upon a time . . . a princess tried to make a comic. And with the help of a magical cartooning elf, she learned how – well enough to draw her way out of an encounter with a dangerous dragon, near-death by drowning, and into her very own adventure! Like the princess, young readers will discover that they already have the drawing and writing skills it takes to make a comic – they just need a little know-how. And Adventures in Cartooning supplies just that.

You can find the complete list here.

The Monarch Readers’ Choice Award

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

From the award-winning author of Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink comes a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s signature humor here there’s also a subtle lesson for kids who don’t know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing reading it again!

Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

Day One I swam around my bowl. Day Two I swam around my bowl. Twice. And so it goes in this tell-all tale from a goldfish. With his bowl to himself and his simple routine, Goldfish loves his life…until one day… When assorted intruders including a hyperactive bubbler, a grime-eating snail, a pair of amorous guppies, and a really crabby crab invade his personal space and bowl, Goldfish is put out, to say the least. He wants none of it, preferring his former peace and quiet and solitude. But time away from his new companions gives him a chance to rethink the pros and cons of a solitary life. And discover what he’s been missing.

You can find the complete list here.

Have you guys read any of these? I can’t really pick a favorite right now.

2012 Bluestem Award

The Bluestem Readers Choice Award is on it’s second year and I’m so excited about these books as I was last year. Students have to read 4 books out of the 20 on the list, a mix of older and newer books, nonfiction, fiction and even some graphic novels this year.

So, here is the list, I haven’t read all of them but I’ll chat a little about the ones I have.

14 Cows for America by Deedy, Carmen Agra

*Not read

Adventures in Cartooning by Sturm, James

This was one awesome graphic novel. It describes to readers how to make a graphic novel while having a plot that is interweaved. I laughed hysterically while reading this and could not keep it on the shelves at school for long.

All Stations! Distress! April 15, 1912: the Day the Titanic Sunk by Brown, Don

*Not read

Animal Heroes: True Rescue Stories by Markle, Sandra

*Not read

Bad news for outlaws: the Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux

*Not read

Bunnicula: a Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Howe, James

*Not read

Dying to Meet You by Klise, Kate

I don’t believe I’ve actually read Kate Klise before, but this start to a new series really impressed me. It’s about an abandoned boy, a writer and a ghost and is quite a funny story that I will find the time to continue on with soon.

Extra Credit by Clements, Andrew

*Not read

Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds

*Not read

Flight of the Phoenix by LaFevers, R. L.

Another fun series that I hope will gain some popularity now that this is on a list. I enjoyed the adventure in this one and the discovery of such magical creatures. A boy finds out he comes from a long line of beastologists and embarks on his first adventure with his aunt to see a phoenix become reborn. They encounter trouble and he ends up having to protect the phoenix himself.

Just Grace by Harper, Charise

This is a super cute serious about a girl who is called Just Grace in school because there are too many girls named Grace in her class. It’s a bit along the lines of Ivy and Bean and Mallory and is already a series I can see hitting off with my girl readers.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales &Mostly True Stories by  Scieszka, Jon

*Not read

Passage to Freedom: the Sughihara story by Mochizuki, Ken

*Not read

Riding Freedom by Ryan, Pam Munoz

Not only written by a fantastic storyteller, Riding Freedom is also illustrated by Brian Selznick, who is an amazing illustrator. I fell in love with this book about a girl who runs away from the stable, pretends to be a boy and successfully starts to run her own carriage business and become the first female to vote (although under the guise of a man). Definitely a fantastic piece of historical fiction that I hope the students love.

Rules by Lord, Cynthia

I read this one when it was up for the Rebecca Caudill nominee and loved it. It’s about a girl whose little brother is autistic and she goes with him to doctor’s appointments and meets a young man her age who can only speak through pictures. She is an artist and decides to make him more pictures for his book so he can better explain himself. Definitely a book that is moving and was surprisingly a big hit with the boys when it was up for the Caudill.

Secret Science Alliance & the Copycat Crook by Davis, Eleanor

Probably one of my favorite graphic novels. This one is about a new boy in town who is rather geeky and ends up getting taken under the wing of two very tough kids who are also way into science and experiments in their hidden laboratory. When a real scientist steals their ideas, it’s up to them to take them back.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Sachar, Louis

I read these books so long ago, it’s time for a reread. I do remember such wonders as the teacher who actually had eyes on the back of their head and the teacher with an ear on the top of her head. SO fun. These books never stay on the shelf, even as old as they are.

Sisters Grimm: the Fairy‐Tale Detectives by Buckley, Michael

I love this series. It’s full of mystery, hilarious moments, and some interesting fairy tale characters. Definitely a series you don’t want to miss.

Swindle by Korman, Gordon

*Not read

World According to Humphrey by Birney, Betty

*Not read

So, I’m about halfway there. A lot of the shorter ones I won’t read until school starts and I prep for my book talks for the 4th and 5th grade students on our program. Last year I had 30 students read 4 books and vote during our pizza party. It was hectic but fun and I can’t wait to do it again.

Have you read any of the ones I haven’t? What did you think of them?

Series for Boy Readers


My male students are always asking me for suggestions of new series, but I’ve found much of the time they stray towards these series in my library.

Secrets of Dripping Fang by Dan Greenburg

Nobody wants to adopt the Shluffmuffin twins. Wally’s feet stink something awful, and Cheyenne is allergic to everything. Then why are the Mandible sisters so eager to take them home? And what sort of old maids would choose to live in a place called Dripping Fang Forest, where zombies wander the woods singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and ten-foot-long glowing slugs want to suck the feet right off your ankles?

Would it seem ungrateful of Wally to point out the Mandible sisters’ extra arms? Or to question their all-chocolate, all-the-time menu? Or, um, to venture into the cellar, where the twins have been told to NEVER, EVER, EVER go?

Yeah, perhaps that last bit was a mistake. Now there’s nothing left for the Shluffmuffins to do but run—run for their lives!


Wiley & Grampa’s Creature Feature by Kirk Scroggs

Thrills! Chills! Monster trucks! Hot sauce from hell! Here’s a hoot-aloud, laugh-a-page early chapter book series that will have kids howling for more. After all, who can resist a goofy Grampa-an eight-year-old in an eighty-year-old’s body-who takes his grandson to a monster truckshow in the middle of an R5 tornado? It’s there that Grampa and Wiley meet Colonel Dracula, whose primo vampire truck turns out to feed on some pretty sinister “gas”. With nonstop humor and absurd adventure (did we mention the giant mechanical lobsters?), here’s a treat that will turn reluctant readers into ravenous readers!


Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey


When naughty George and Harold hypnotize their headteacher, they accidentally create the greatest superhero in the history of their school – Captain Underpants! His true identity is so secret that even he doesn’t know who he is…but he’s fighting for truth, justice, and all things pre-shrunk and cottony!! If you’re a naughty villain like the diabolical Dr Diaper, watch out! Captain Underpants has wedgie-power on his side, and he’s coming your way.


Ricky Ricotta by Dav Pilkey

Ricky Ricotta may be a small mouse, but he has a VERY big friend—a giant flying Robot! And when an evil, outerspace villain named Mr. Mosquito invades Earth with an army of Mutant Mosquitoes from Mercury, Richy and his Robot know exactly what to do! Young readers will cheer as Ricky’s Robot battles the bad guys. And when Ricky finds a very smart way to play a trick on Mr. Mosquito, it’s plain to see that even a little mouse can be a BIG hero!



Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

Just when you thought it was safe….the 25 top-selling titles in the series that revolutionized horror for kids are back w/ a fresh new look. The updated design will make you scream. The original artwork will give you nightmares. And the classic bone-chilling stories from the master of horror will just kill you.

This spine-tingling series sparked a licensing phenomenon & made R.L. the #1 author in the U.S.–and it’s STILL the “must have” collection for true horror fans. Now a whole new generation will discover the thrill of reading …and they’ll never be the same again.


Spaceheadz by Jon Sciesza


Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?


Funny Families by Jackie French


Horace’s dad is not like other dads. He has silver wings and a green and orange tail. But that’s not the worst of Horace’s problems. Nasty Sir Sneazle, the most evil teacher at Horace’s school, has given him the worst homework assignment of all time: Horace has to kill a dragon. Why couldn’t he be told to rescue a damsel? Even writing a hundred pages, like Horace’s friend Bernard has to, would be better. Horace knows there’s no way he can kill a dragon. Especially since his dad is one. How can he get out of this awful mess?


My Weird School by Dan Gutman


Something weird is going on.

Miss Daisy, who teaches second grade, doesn’t know how to add or subtract. Not only that, she doesn’t know how to read or write either. She is the dumbest teacher in the history of the world!


Jimmy Sniffles by Bob Temple


Now younger readers can have their own graphic novel adventures in books especially designed for them. Robots, giant bugs, ninja heroes, aliens from outer space and a boy allergic to danger are just a few of the loopy and lively characters that readers will meet in these side-splitting pages. Good-humoured stories with wacky comic book-style artwork will spark the imagination of any reluctant reader.


Buzz Beaker by Scott Nickel


Dracula has kidnapped Buzz Beaker and is holding him hostage to build a machine to allow him to be able to go out in the sun. Dracula misses hanging out at the beach and getting a tan. Well, Buzz Beaker is happy to help – even though he was kidnapped – and ends up helping Dracula fight against his own minions who turned against him!


The Midnight Library by Damien Graves


Drop by the Midnight Library for more spine-tingling terror. In this installment, a gamer named Simon blurs the line between reality and virtual reality. Catherine worries how to handle a kooky customer. Juliet gets strange text messages with urgent content. How will these three tales turn out?



What do a lot of these have in common? A combination of hilarious, scary, and gross. 🙂

What other books do you think my boy students would enjoy?

New Series for Upper Elementary/Middle Grade

Some of my students have been racing through some of the action/adventures series in my library, so I’m making it my goal to find some new series for them to lock onto. Thanks to some suggestions from Drea and also some browsing through School Library Journal and Booklist, I’ve picked up a few this week that look like they have some potential.

Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Thirteen-year-old Falcon Quinn and his neighbors, Max and Megan, board bus number 13 for school on an ordinary day in Cold River, Maine. Only the bus doesn’t take its ordinary route, and Falcon and his friends soon find themselves in an extraordinary place—on Shadow Island, at the Academy for Monsters.

With a student body stranger than the cast of any monster movie Falcon has ever seen, the academy is home to creatures and oddities of all kinds. In the academy’s atmosphere, Falcon’s friends begin to unleash and enjoy their monster natures, from flying with Pearl, La Chupakabra, to decaying with the “Zombie Snap.” Falcon has always felt different, with his one bright blue eye and one shadow-black eye, but is he really a monster? Will he discover the other thing that makes him different when he finds himself in the Black Mirror? And when he learns that the school’s mission is to teach students to hide their aberrant natures, Falcon and his friends need to find a way to fight back for their monster selves.

Bestselling author Jennifer Finney Boylan introduces Falcon, Max, Megan, and their band of monster friends in this first installment of a hair-raising and sidesplitting adventure of monstrous proportions.

Conspiracy365: January by Gabrielle Lord

On New Year’s Eve, Cal is chased down the street by a staggering, sick man with a deadly warning…”They killed your father. They’ll kill you. You must survive the next 365 days. Hurled into a life on the run the 15-year-old fugitive is isolated and alone.



Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

A statue; a coin; an old book. They look as dusty as everything else in the Faulkner Antiquarian Bookstore. But when Sam Saulkner slips the coin into the statue, he’s swept back to Scotland in 900 A.D. – the age of the Vikings!—where he must find both the statue and another coin in order to escape. It’s the first journey in an adventure that will take him to ancient Egypt, World War I, even Dracula’s castle…and a mystery that will end only if Sam can find his father in time – literally.


What other series would you suggest I try. I’m looking more at 4th and 5th graders reading these. I already have Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, Alex Rider and a few others. Any hidden gems you think I should look into?

Favorite Fantasy series for 4th and 5th grade

I love fantasy. I’m actually looking into finding some new series this summer to read to update my recommendations for my students in 4th and 5th grade who know I love fantasy.

But here are some of my favorites, and probably my most recommended series.


Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken — Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good — powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.


Septimus Heap by Angie Sage

The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a new born girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?

The first book in this enthralling new series by Angie Sage leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters and magykal charms, potions, and spells. Magyk is an original story of lost and rediscovered identities, rich with humor and heart.


Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan


After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There’s little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.

This first installment of Rick Riordan’s best-selling series is a non-stop thrill-ride and a classic of mythic proportions.


Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan

He had always wanted to be a warrior. The Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways, made him nervous. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now fifteen year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t realize yet is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied . . . .


Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is a one of the greatest criminal minds the world has ever seen. He is heir to the Fowl family empire-a centuries old clan of international underworld figures and con artists. He is arguably the most cunning Fowl of all. He is also twelve years old.

Artemis’ interest in mythology and an obsession with the Internet leads him to discover proof of the existence of “The People”- otherwise known as fairies, sprites, leprechauns and trolls. He learns every fairy has a magical Book. If he can find the Book, it will lead him to “The People’s” vast treasure of gold. With his brutish sidekick, Butler, he sets his plans in motion. Artemis tricks a drunken old fairy woman into loaning him her Book, a tiny golden volume, for thirty minutes. He scans it with a digital camera and emails it to his Mac G6 computer. Back in his mansion in Ireland, he is the first human to decode the secrets of the fairies.

Artemis needs a leprechaun to help him with this plan. He and Butler hunt down Holly Short, a tough, female LEPrecon, part of a gung-ho Fairy commando unit, who is on a reconnaissance mission. He kidnaps her, and a major battle begins. It’s satyr against gnome, man against elf, and for the first time in his life, Artemis must decide what he values most.


Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

When eleven-year-old Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, bats, cockroaches, and rats—but the fragile peace is about to fall apart.

Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures. He just wants to find his way home. But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland’s uncertain future, he realizes it might be the only way to solve the biggest mystery of his life. Little does he know his quest will change him and the Underland forever.

Rich in suspense and brimming with adventure, Suzanne Collin’s debut marked a thrilling new talent, and introduced a character no young reader will ever forget.


The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony Diterlizzi

Three curious kids discover a world of brownies, fairies, and other fantastic creatures in this ultra-enchanting launch to Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s Spiderwick Chronicles.

When the three Grace children — Mallory, Jared, and Simon — and their mom move into Aunt Lucinda’s old house, readers know there’s magic afoot. The kids uncover a nest of assembled junk, and on a visit to the secret library via the dumbwaiter, Jared finds a note describing “my secret to all mankind.” After a few mysterious pranks that get blamed on Jared, the boy finally digs up the real prize: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. Fortunately enough, the kids meet one of the critters listed in the guide — a brownie named Thimbletack — who makes it all “real” and helps provide the book’s suspenseful conclusion: “‘Throw the book away, toss it in a fire. If you do not heed, you will draw their ire.'”


Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can “read” characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie’s mother disappeared into the story. This “story within a story” will delight not just fantasy fans, but all readers who like an exciting plot with larger-than-life characters.


I’m going to be investigating Erek Rex, Falcon Quinn, and Charlie Bone this summer. Any other suggestions for me to try out?