Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry

The Birthday Ball is a quirky little story by Lois Lowry. It is very different from her Newbery winning books (The Giver and Number the Stars), but it is an enjoyable in its own right.

Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with being a princess. Ignored by her parents, faced with the dreaded birthday ball where she must choose a suitor from among three horrible prospects, she goes seeking excitement on her own by pretending to be a peasant school girl. Disguised as "Pat" she soon makes friends with an orphan girl and finds herself falling for the handsome schoolmaster. Will Princess Patricia Priscilla escape a life of boredom and choose her own path or will she be paired with one of the gruesome suitors? Read the book and see.

More lighthearted than some of Lowry's other books, this story is more in line with her books about Gooney Bird Greene, though not quite as absurd. There is some foreshadowing of events that younger readers might not catch. Overall the writing is fast paced and light hearted. The publisher recommends this book for ages 9-12. AR slates it as at a 5th grade reading level. It would make a nice read aloud for third – fifth grade girls.

Mrs. Archers Rating: Four of Five.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

Fans of magical fantasy will enjoy Sarah Prineas' The Magic Thief Series. In the first book we meet Conn (short for Connwaer), an orphaned street thief, who should have died when he stole his future master's locus magicalicus (a stone that wizards use to do spells.) In the first book Conn must rescue the city of Wellmet's magic, which he does. However, all is not well and the magic is still in danger in book two: Lost. In book two we learn a little more about the magic itself. It is actually a living thinking entity that has "chosen" Conn. The locus magicalus is not just a stone for casting spells, it is the means by which the magic talks to the wizards. In book one, after finally finding his locus magicalus, Conn loses it when it is destroyed in the battle to save the city. In book two, we learn Conn can talk with the magic through pyrotechnics – a practice frowned upon by the city's magisters and one that eventually gets Conn exiled from Wellmet. In book three: Found, Conn must find a new locus magicalicus if he is to save the citizens of Wellmet and the city's magic. Conn is also hampered in his efforts to save everyone by having been branded an outcast. There are several surprising twists and turns that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Fans of Harry Potter and Magyk will enjoy this series.

Titles in the series: Book One: The Magic Thief. Book Two: Lost and Book Three: Found.

Mrs. Archer's rating for the series: Five of five!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hero by Mike Lupica

Disclaimer:  This book has not yet been released. I received an Advanced Reader's Copy from Penguin.

I liked this book, but how much I liked it depends on whether is the first book in a series or whether it is a stand alone story.

Billy Harriman is the only child of a wealthy mother and a famous father. Billy’s father, Tom Harriman, is a problem solver for the president of the United States.   Many would consider Billy’s dad a hero, but what they don’t realize he’s actually a superhero.  Even Billy is not aware of his father’s special gifts until after Tom Harriman is killed in a mysterious plane crash.  Then everything changes, including Billy.  With his dad gone, Billy’s own superhero powers begin to develop and her must learn to handle those powers without a clear guide.
The pacing might be a little slow for those used to Lupica’s fast paced sports stories. Everything seems to be building up to a cliffhanger that doesn’t quite happen.  Yet there are still many questions left unanswered opening the way to a sequel. As a stand-alone book, things are a little vague at times.  Tom Harriman fought against the Bads, but it is not clear just who the Bads are.  It is also difficult to figure out who is on the side of good and who is on the other side. (This could be considered a clever writing ploy as it keeps the reader guessing and wanting to come back to find out.)
The book has a lot to offer young adult readers – girls and boys.  There’s magic, potential love interest, typical teen angst (Billy is plagued by a bully at school), mystery (just who did Billy’s dad work for?) and good vs. evil.
Though I would have liked a faster pace, I have to admit I’m hooked. I want to know more about Billy and the other characters.  The book is scheduled for release in November 2010. I will recommend it to my fourth and fifth grade readers and their older siblings.
If the book is the beginning of a series, then I’d have to say I really like it. I checked Lupica’s website and as of this writing there’s no indication either way. If it’s a stand-alone book,  I’d have to say I like it but not as much as previous books by Lupica.
Mrs. Archer’s rating: 4 of 5 for a series beginning or 3 of 5 if it’s not.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Thirty Nine Clues

The 39 Clues is a series of adventure books written by several authors. The story arc was created by Rick Riordan, author of The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series as well as the first book in The 39 Clues series (Maze of Bones.) The series covers the adventures of siblings Amy and Dan Cahill. Upon the death of their beloved grandmother, Grace Cahill, Amy and Dan, along with their au pair, Nellie Gomez embark on a search for The 39 Clues that will unlock the secret of the Cahill fortune and power. Along the way the children learn how their family is connected to various famous/infamous historical figures (Benjamin Franklin, Amelia Earhart, Nikola Tesla, Picasso, Thomas Jefferson, and Mozart, to name just a few.) The Cahill family is divided into five branches, descended from the original Cahills. These branches are: Lucian, Tomas, Ekatrina, Janus and Madrigal. In addition to the books Scholastic has developed an online game along with trading cards. However the books are enjoyable by themselves.


This series is an excellent way to introduce readers to historical figures. Though the series is fiction many of the characters mentioned were real people. This provides an opportunity for at least one history lesson with each book. Readers who enjoyed the National Treasure movies will enjoy this series.

Book ten: Into the Gauntlet will be released on August 31st. This is the final book in the series, though there is a bonus book The Black Book of Buried Secrets (due out in October 2010) which will provide more information on the Cahill family secrets.


Internet Movie Database (and several other movie sites) have reported that a movie based on Maze of Bones is currently in development with a projected release date in 2011.


Books in the series:

Book One: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

Book Two: One False Note by Gordon Korman

Book Three: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis

Book Four: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson

Book Five: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman

Book Six: In Too Deep by Jude Watson

Book Seven: The Viper's Nest by Peter Lerangis

Book Eight: The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman

Book Nine: Storm Warning by Linda Sue Park

Book Ten: Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Mrs. Archer's rating for the series 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Books, Books, Books, and More Books!

Welcome to Mrs. Archer's Book Notes.  I love talking books, especially books for children. Students at Chinook Trail Elementary will visit the library once a week for 30 minutes. They will get to check out book and learn about all the wonderful books that are in our library.  On this blog, I will discuss new releases and other books that may not have been added to our library collection just yet.

I hope you will join me in a lively discussion of good books.  Check back soon for more information.