Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

By: Rodman Philbrick

Homer is really good at one thing - lying.  And, when Homer's brother is illegally drafted into the Union army during the Civil War, Homer takes off to rescue him.  Along the way, Homer's lying gets him into all sorts of trouble and even helps him out a few times.  Homer also meets many interesting people - some who have bad intentions and some who are there to help him find his brother.

Mrs. Senechal says:
Homer is a very likable character.  He comes from a tough, poor background but still does everything he can to try to get his brother back.  The author does a nice job of weaving in realistic, historical characters that you normally don't think about at the time of the Civil War - traveling performers, a hot-air balloon pilot, a miner, and more.  I also enjoyed the author's descriptions of the characters and the changing setting.

The 39 Clues Book 10 - Into the Gauntlet

By: Margaret Peterson Haddix

This is the exciting conclusion to The 39 Clues series.  Amy and Dan have found out that they are actually part of a secret fifth branch of the Cahill family, and it won't be enough for them to win the hunt - they're also supposed to help all of the Cahills put their hundreds of years of fighting in the past.  Dan and Amy have to use all the skills they've gained as they press toward the end of this race.

Mrs. Senechal says:
I couldn't wait to read this book, and it was a great conclusion to the series!  My favorite things from the previous nine books - suspense, adventure, surprise - were all there.  This tenth book definitely left the door open for more Cahill stories, so I wasn't too surprised that a new 6-book series was recently announced.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The 39 Clues (series)

By: Riordan, Korman, Lerangis, Watson, Carman, Park, and Haddix

The 39 Clues is a series of 10 books.  Nine of the books are currently available, and the tenth book will be in stores on August 31, 2010.  Besides an exciting part to the story, each book contains 6 clue cards which readers can use to try to help solve the mystery by going to

The books follow Amy and Dan, two orphans raised by a grouchy great-aunt and a series of nannies, but loved greatly by their grandmother, Grace.  But when Grace passes away, instead of an inheritance, Amy and Dan, set out on the hunt for the 39 Clues which are said to lead to an amazing and powerful treasure.  Unfortunately, the other members of the family are on the hunt as well, and they will stop at nothing to beat each other to the final prize.  Amy and Dan quickly find themselves using all their wits to escape fires, capture, and deceit while trying to get to the clues before anyone else.

Mrs. Senechal Says:
I am currently reading book 5 in the series, and every book so far has been fantastic!  I love the constant action and suspense.  It's also interesting to read about so many countries and famous people from history.  The adventure in this book reminds me a bit of the National Treasure movies.  I'm looking forward to reading the entire series - glad book 10 comes out soon!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Wanderer

By: Sharon Creech
Sophie loves the sea.  She has studied the sea and sailing, and she longs to be out on the open water.  Her adopted parents reluctantly let her go on a sailing trip across the Atlantic Ocean with her uncles and cousins.  At first, because Sophie is the only girl, the boy cousins and uncles aren't sure if she'll be much help.  Sophie proves that she is a valuable team member through the struggles of the trip.  Through this adventure, Sophie learns more about herself and her family.

Mrs. Senechal says:
This Newbery Honor book was a wonderful read.  I enjoyed that part of the story is told from Sophie's journal, and the other part is told from her cousin Cody's journal.  It is interesting to see the different perspectives on the same events.  The author really makes the adventure come to life, keeping it exciting and using strong descriptions to help the reader pictures the scenes.  Great book!

Igraine the Brave

By: Cornelia Funke
Igraine lives in a castle with her magician parents and her brother, also a magician.  But, Igraine finds magic boring - she wants to be a knight.  Igraine could not have imagined how quickly she would find out just what it takes to be a knight.  When her parents accidentally turn themselves into pigs, and Osmund shows up to try to overtake the castle, Igraine must use her knightly skills to help protect her family and her home.

Mrs. Senechal says:
Cornelia Funke has written one of my favorite trilogies - Inkheart.  This book is a good book for someone who likes fantasy stories but isn't quite ready for the length and difficulty of reading books like Inkheart.  Igraine is a great heroine, and the other characters in the book are fun and unique.  I enjoyed seeing how the story would end!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hard Gold

By: Avi
Early Wittcomb's family is in danger of losing their Iowa farm.  So, Uncle Jesse, Early's best friend, heads west to find gold in the Rocky Mountains.  After Jesse sends a letter saying he's found gold but his life is in danger, Early runs away from home.  He joins a wagon train headed west.  Early makes friends with a girl his age, but he faces many dangers as he tries to get to Uncle Jesse before it's too late.

Mrs. Senechal says:
This is the second "I Witness" book by Avi that I have read.  Again, the author does a great job of creating interesting characters who experience important events in the history of our country.  Because Early travels from Iowa to the Rocky Mountains of present-day Colorado, I recognized many of the Nebraska landmarks described in the book.  Avi really shows readers the adversity and adventure that pioneers faced as they traveled west.  I also thought the book had a good, though bittersweet, ending.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


By: Gordon Korman
Sixth-grader, Griffin Bing, is known as "the man with the plan".  He loves to create and execute a perfectly planned idea.  Griffin is also bothered by the lack of credit the adults in his community give to kids.  So, when a local antique dealer swindles him out of a valuable Babe Ruth baseball card he discovered, Griffin decides to devise the ultimate plan - and steal back the baseball card!

Mrs. Senechal says:
As you know, I have read an enjoyed many books by Gordon Korman.  Swindle is another great book with lots of suspense and action!  I appreciated how Griffin liked to make careful plans and that he used his friends' individual talents to create a team to carry out his grand scheme.  I also like that Griffin and his friends experience real problems as they attempt to complete the plan.  Thanks for encouraging me to read this one, Mackenzie!

A Season of Gifts

By: Richard Peck
This book is a companion to Peck's A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder.  When the preacher's family moves in next to Mrs. Dowdel, they have no idea what they are in for.  She claims she is not a "church person", but seems to find creative, and often secretive, ways to help the family.  As in the first two books, Mrs. Dowdel knows how to create a buzz in her rural Illinois town!

Mrs. Senechal says:
I have loved reading many of Richard Peck's books, and this book was another success.  I love the character of Mrs. Dowdel - I can just imagine what the family thought of her as they moved in.  She seems to be strange and selfish!  However, as the story goes on, the family is continually surprised by Mrs. Dowdel and eventually begins to act as her accomplices in some of her schemes!


By: Anthony Horowitz
Alex Rider is only 14 when his uncle (and only living relative) dies in a car accident.  Suddenly, Alex finds out that his uncle was actually a James-Bond-like spy, and his employers want Alex to take his place!  With only a few weeks of training, Alex is sent to infiltrate a millionaire's computer manufacturing compound.  Alex must find out if there is a secret plot in the millionaire's plan to give away free computers.

Mrs. Senechal says:
If you like spy movies and nonstop action, then this book is for you.  It seemed as if Alex was barely escaping a life-threatening situation every few pages!  I like the excitement of imagining a 14-year-old as a super-spy.  There were a few times when some of the narrow escapes were hard to believe, but I definitely enjoyed the book.  Thanks for the book suggestion, Peyton!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

By: Tom Angleberger

Dwight is the weirdest kid in school, but Tommy wonders if his finger puppet, "Origami Yoda" has magical abilities. It seems that Dwight makes lots of goofy and strange choices, but if the students ask Origami Yoda for advice, it almost always proves to be wise words to follow. This book is a collection of Tommy's and his friends' stories of information about Dwight and advice they've gotten from Origami Yoda.

Mrs. Senechal says:
As a Star Wars fan, I couldn't pass by this book. At first the story seemed a bit silly, but I have to admit that reading all of "Origami Yoda's" lines while imagining I could hear them as Yoda would say them made me laugh. I also thought the author did a good job of portraying what middle school kids are often thinking. It's a quick, fun read - especially if you like Yoda.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Whole Nother Story

By: Dr. Cuthbert Soup

A most interesting collection of characters is found in this book including a hairless dog, secret agents, an inventor, a cowboy poet, and three fairly normal children. The unfortunate part for the children is that they and their inventor father must continually move around, changing their names, and trying to escape from all who want to steal their father's valuable invention. The children would like to live a more normal life and make friends, but if they stand any chance of getting their mother back, they must help their father protect his invention until he can crack the secret code.

Mrs. Senechal says:
I chose to read this book based on the funny things listed on the back cover, and I am glad I did! I laughed out loud all through the book. My favorite character is the youngest brother who constantly wears a sock puppet named Steve on his hand. Steve has some of the funniest lines in the book! Besides being funny, the book has good action. The only part of the book that disappointed me was that the end of the book is definitely not the end of the story! Now, I'll have to wait for the sequel...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Last Olympian

By: Rick Riordan

In this, the fifth and final book of the Percy Jackson series, Percy and his friends find themselves in their most difficult battle yet. Instead of just fulfilling quests or defending themselves against monsters, the fate of all the gods lies with them. In New York City, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Thalia must keep the Titan forces away from Olympus (secretly situated above The Empire State Building). Each of the young heroes will be forced to make difficult decisions and make some incredible sacrifices if they are to succeed.

Mrs. Senechal says:
In an earlier post, I share how much I loved the first four books in this series, and the fifth book does not disappoint! The action starts in the first chapter, and the suspense lasts until the last chapter of the book. I liked how the author tied together pieces from the previous books, and how he developed the characters throughout the series. This is one of the most exciting book series I've read in awhile! Start with the first book, and you'll be hooked for all five!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Twice Upon a Marigold

By: Jean Ferris

In this sequel to Once Upon a Marigold, we find out what "happily ever after" is like for Chris and Marigold. They thought that Marigold's evil stepmother, Olympia, was gone for good, but they didn't know she would wash up on the bank of a small town with amnesia. When Olympia recovers, watch out! Marigold and Chris will have to enlist the help of several unlikely people to save the kingdom.

Mrs. Senechal says:
The fun of this book and its original is the unique spin the author takes on what you would normally expect from a fairy tale. She also has managed to weave in characters from other fairy tales that you might not think about. I really didn't like how awful Olympia was in this book, but it really added to the suspense as I kept wondering what horrible thing she would do next! I thought the ending was a bit of a stretch, but if you like fairy tales, you'll enjoy this book.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians (series)

By: Rick Riordan

As the series begins, Percy finds out that Greek myths he's learned about in school are still true today - and he's a son of Poseidon! Throughout the books, Percy meets many friends - children of other Greek gods. They team up on various quests to foil the plans of some of the evil gods. Along the way, Percy and his friends face monsters, mazes, riddles, tricks, and tough choices. But, through courage, quick thinking, and using their special abilities they are able to defend both our world and Olympus!

Mrs. Senechal says:
I absolutely love this series! While I know that Greek mythology is truly just myths, it is fun to imagine that they could be working behind the scenes of our world. The author of this series, does a tremendous job of creating action and suspense that make these books incredibly hard to put down. I just finished the fourth book in the series, and am anxiously waiting for my order of the fifth book to arrive. I'll add more then!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones

By: Brandon Sanderson

In this, the second of Alcatraz's adventures, Alcatraz finds himself crashing a glass-mechanical-flying-dragon while on his way to find the Library of Alexandria. Along the way, Alcatraz catches up with Bastille, and meets up with an uncle and cousin he didn't even know he had. Once again, Alcatraz is up against some very evil librarians who want to keep all the information to themselves. And, on top of all that, Grandpa Smedry is missing!

Mrs. Senechal says:
Be sure to read Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians before you read this book, it will really help you understand the characters and plot! I enjoyed this book almost as much as the first one. The author does a great job of keeping you in suspense and making you laugh. I think it's very interesting to think about all the things we assume are true, and how our world might be different then we expect. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about librarians actually being evil!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Lemonade War

By: Jacqueline Davies

Evan and his sister Jessie are only one year apart, and they usually enjoy doing things together over summer vacation. But this summer is different, Evan will be a fourth grader in August, and he just found out that the school has approved Jessie skipping third grade - so they'll be in the same class! Evan and Jessie are both nervous about this unusual situation. In the midst of an argument, the two decide to settle their differences by seeing who can earn the most money running a lemonade stand - the "lemonade war" begins.

Mrs. Senechal says:
The author did a terrific job of writing from both Jessie and Evan's point of view. Both kids certainly had things to be nervous about as they looked ahead to fourth grade. I also love all the creative thinking Jessie and Evan do to try to outsell the other. In the end, the kids both learn a lot about themselves and how important they are to each other - and how to sell a lot of lemonade! This is a very enjoyable book!