Thursday, December 10, 2009


By: Gary Paulsen

Lyle Williams is known as "Mudshark", a 12-year-old know-it-all. Due to his love of books and his experiences with his younger triplet sisters, Mudshark is extremely observant and helps the students at his middle school solve their problems. It's a good thing, too, because right now his school has an escaped gerbil, a psychic parrot, and 65 missing erasers!

Mrs. Senechal says:
This is a great, quick-read book - only 83 pages long! I really enjoyed the story, and I loved the beginning of each chapter which starts with an intercom announcement from the principal - they're very funny announcements! I hope that there will be further adventures of Mudshark!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's a Dog's Life

(Hank the Cowdog series)
By: John R. Erickson

In this, the third adventure of the series, Hank has to leave the ranch for a few days after getting caught eating the steaks that had been thawing for dinner. Once in town, Hank visits his sister and her puppies. Hank decides he needs to teach the puppies important cowdog behaviors such as teasing cats and digging under fences. Eventually, this leads to Hank getting captured and thrown into the dog pound!

Mrs. Senechal says:

I actually laughed out loud while reading this book! The main character Hank thinks he knows a lot more than he really does which leads to some very funny conversations and situations. If you enjoy cowboy tales and funny stories, you'll really like this book (and series)!

P.S. I had the opportunity to meet this author at the Plum Creek Literacy Festival in Seward, Nebraska, in October of 2009. It was wonderful to hear him speak and even read parts of several books! Erickson does all the voices for the audio versions of his books which are very fun to listen to. In addition, I appreciate that Erickson is not shy about his Christian faith.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Island (series)

By: Gordon Korman

Six kids are sent to the island of Guam to be part of a program designed to help troubled kids turn their lives around. All there for different reasons, the six were to participate in a boating experience that would build character and help them make positive changes in their lives. Little did they know how drastically they would be changed! Through a terrible storm at sea, an explosion, wild animals, smugglers, and many other dangers, the six young people learn valuable lessons about what is really important in life.

Mrs. Senechal says:
This is an amazing series! The author creates a story with so many suspenseful events - I loved it! I actually listened to these three books on my iPod, and I had a hard time turning it off. It's really neat to learn about the six different characters and how their wide range of differences are what help them to survive. If you like exciting adventure books, I highly recommend this series!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Mysterious Benedict Society

By: Trenton Lee Stewart

Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance for the Mysterious Benedict Society after passing a number of difficult tests and meeting Mr. Benedict. Mr. Benedict has discovered that the supposedly good Mr. Curtain is using the students at his "Institute" to plant secret messages that will allow him to control the world. Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance were chosen because of their unique and genius abilities. They enter the Institute as spies to figure out how and when Mr. Curtain plans to begin his takeover. Once inside the institute, the four children face numerous challenges. But, they realize they must succeed - or the world will be lost!

Mrs. Senechal says:
Wow! This is a deep-thinking book. The four main characters are all very smart in their own ways, and they use their different talents to help solve the many problems throughout the book. I love how suspenseful the story is - there were many times I just had to keep reading to find out what would happen next. While this is a long, more challenging book, it is definitely worth the extra effort!

P.S. I just read the second book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first! Now, I need to read the third one...

P.P.S. I loved the third book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma. I'm only sad because the ending seemed to really wrap things up for the four friends - does that mean it was the last in the series?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peter and the Shadow Thieves

By Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

This book is the sequel to Peter and the Starcatchers (the story of how Peter Pan came to be...). Peter must leave the island and travel to London to try and warn Molly and her family of an evil man who is after the "star stuff". The evil Lord Ombra is able to kidnap Molly's mother, but Peter arrives just in time to rescue Molly. Then Peter and Molly must try to find Molly's father in time, or all will be lost!

Mrs. Senechal says:
I highly recommend that you read Peter and the Starcatchers before you read this book. But, I really liked both stories! I always enjoy reading a book where the author tells the story behind another story - I think that takes a lot of creativity! This particular book is very suspenseful, which makes you want to keep reading! It's also neat because different chapters tell the story from the point of view of different characters.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Ballad of Lucy Whipple

By: Karen Cushman

Lucy's mother moves their family from the east coast to California. Moving west had been a dream of Lucy's parents before her father died, and Lucy's mother chose to still pursue that dream. Their family runs a boarding house in Lucky Diggins, California, for the miners of the Gold Rush. Lucy's real name is "California", but she doesn't want to be called that because it's a place - a place that Lucy hates. She wants desperately to return home to Massachusetts.

Mrs. Senechal says:
The most interesting part of this book was the descriptions of the tough, challenging conditions these early California settlers had to face. They had to haul water, hunt their own food, plant and harvest a garden, and do all of the cleaning chores as well. At times, Lucy and her family live in tents! I liked that Lucy loved to read and even lent her books to the local miners. The author gives many historical details about what it was like to live at that time in the mining towns of California. While I liked this book, I think it would be more enjoyable for students in fifth grade or older.

Friday, July 24, 2009


By: Gail Carson Levine

This is called a "companion novel" to Ella Enchanted. In this case, that means the fairy tale is set in the same kingdom, and you'll recognize many of the creatures and a few of the characters. Aza is the daughter of two innkeepers who adopted her after her birth mother left her at the inn. Aza is very self-conscious of her looks, and believes she is ugly. However, Aza has a beautiful singing voice. Eventually she even teaches herself how to "throw" her voice so it sounds like it is coming from other parts of the room. By chance, Aza gets to go to the king's wedding, and the queen chooses Aza to be her lady-in-waiting. But, when the queen asks Aza to deceive the entire kingdom, Aza has to decide what to do.

Mrs. Senechal says:
I read this book immediately after Ella Enchanted. Fairest is longer and a bit more difficult, but follows the same patterns of a girl who must overcome something about herself. In this book, singing is very important, and the author writes out the verses of many of the songs - I didn't like this as much, even though I love music and singing, I tended to skim these verses and get back to "the real story". There were good twists and turns in the story, and it had a happy ending!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ella Enchanted

By: Gail Carson Levine

This Newbery Honor book follows Ella, and the challenges she faces after a fairy gives her the "gift" of obedience as an infant. Ella must follow direct commands - she can't disobey, even when she wants to. When her mother dies, Ella is sent to finishing school where one of the other girls discovers that Ella will do whatever she is told. Eventually, Ella runs away from school, but she still has to figure out how to break the curse.

Mrs. Senechal says:
Great book! It is amazing to think about what life would be like if you had to obey every command given you, good or bad. Ella has a good sense of humor, and the other characters are fun, too. The author really makes the fairy tale lands and creatures come to life through her descriptions. This is a wonderful story!

Monday, July 13, 2009

No More Dead Dogs

By: Gordan Korman

Wallace is a very honest 8th grader. In fact, he gets detention for telling how he truthfully feels about a book his teacher assigned the class to read. Wallace doesn't like the book - especially because the dog dies at the end. However, his teacher loves the book and gives Wallace detention until he can write a better book review. This means Wallace has to sit through play practice with his teacher after school instead of being at football practice.

Mrs. Senechal says:
I originally got this book because it was by Gordon Korman (author of the Chasing the Falconers series). But, I also wanted to read it because, like the main character Wallace, I hate it when the dog dies at the end of a book. I like how many of the characters change and learn new things throughout the story. And, I enjoyed the surprising ending!

*There are two times when one character calls another an inappropriate name.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Iron Thunder

By: Avi

The battle between the Merrimac and the Monitor was one of the most important battles in the Civil War. In this book, the story is told by Tom, a boy who finds a job working on a brand new type of ship in the navy shipyard in New York City. The North was rushing to finish the Monitor to protect the Union from the South's ironclad, the Merrimac.

Mrs. Senechal says:
I really enjoyed this book! I learned so many new things about these two ships and their importance to the Civil War. In addition, the story has a lot of suspense as the North tries to complete the ship and Tom has to face up to Confederate spies. There are pictures, photos, and maps in the book, too. I also appreciate that the author put a glossary and notes on how the story was written at the end of the book.

The White Giraffe

By: Lauren St. John

When Martine's parents are killed in a fire, she must leave England and move to South Africa to live with the grandmother she didn't even know she had. Martine is nervous yet excited to live with her grandmother who runs a wildlife reserve. As Martine tries to get used to her new life, she faces challenges at school and trying to find out if the legend of the white giraffe is real.

Mrs. Senechal says:
The best part of this book was the author's description of the landscape and animals found in South Africa. It really made me want to see these places and creatures for myself. Some of the story is unrealistic with some mystical powers, but overall I enjoyed this story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kenny & the Dragon

By: Tony DiTerlizzi

When Kenny Rabbit meets Grahame the Dragon, he realizes that the dragons he's read about are very different than Grahame. But, when the townspeople finds out there is a dragon nearby, they set out to kill Grahame. It's up to Kenny to help his friend stay alive!

Mrs. Senechal says:
This was a great, short book with some wonderful illustrations! Even though it's short, it had lots of good words like "frenetically" (to be frantic, hurried and worried). I even have a new favorite word - "kerfuffle" (a commotion). I really enjoyed this story!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

By: Lynne Jonell

At the beginning of this story, Emmy feels like she is invisible - her teacher can't remember her name, her classmates never hear her or even seem to see her. Emmy's parents travel, and even though she knows they love her, they are rarely at home. Emmy has to put up with her nanny who makes her take lots of lessons, see the school counselor, and eat weird foods. But, when Emmy starts hearing, and talking, to the class's pet rat, things begin to change. Emmy finds out some rodents have mysterious powers!

Mrs. Senechal says:
As I read the first few chapters, I wasn't sure if I would like this book. I felt sorry for Emmy, and the book seemed kind of depressing. But once Emmy starts to find out what her nanny has been up to and begins to make some good friends, the book was more exciting. It was good modern fantasy!

Nim's Island

By: Wendy Orr

This book is a great adventure about a girl and her father who live alone on a beautiful tropical island. When her father doesn't return after a scientific boat trip, Nim is forced to face problems with the help of her animal friends and e-mails from a stranger.

Mrs. Senechal says:
This book is a "quick" read (about 125 pages), but was very fun! It made me wish that I could be one of the characters and see that island myself!