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Mrs. B's Favorites
...books that Mrs. Ball has read and enjoyed

Summer Reads 2014 

Giant George: Life With the World's Biggest Dog
by Dave Nasser, with Lynne Barrett-Lee 

Wonderful, fun nonfiction for the dog-lovers! This is the story of George, the runt of his litter who grew up to be not just the tallest dog in the world, but the tallest recorded dog EVER. George is a Great Dane, owned by Dave and Christie Nasser of Arizona. This is their story as well. After they were married and Dave talked Christie into moving from California to Arizona, they decided to get a puppy. After researching good calm family breeds, they settled on a Great Dane puppy, and located a reputable breeder, who agreed to ship them their new puppy. George arrived in a crate at the airport, bewildered and shaking from the travel ordeal of being in the darkened hold of the airplane all alone. He was little, but he had enormous feet, as many large breed dogs do when they are young. Christie held him in her lap all the way home, and everyone fell in love with little George. George didn't stay little long, though. Even the experienced vet was astonished at his growth rate --eventually getting to five feet tall, seven feet long, and 245 pounds.  That is a LOT of dog!  Eventually friends started to joke about George going for a Guinness Book record, which led to his eventual title, Facebook page, website, appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show and other national shows! George's family experienced some serious sadness along the way, when Christie lost two babies before they were born, but after baby Annabel was born healthy and happy, life took a much happier (and more chaotic) turn. 7th grade and up, recommended as great chapter nonfiction.

The World Series: Baseball's Biggest Stage

by Matt Doeden

When it comes to history and tradition, nothing can match the World Series.  Since it started in 1903, it has provided baseball fans with measures of drama, scandal, inspiration, triumph, and heartbreak. 

  This is one for the serious baseball fans among us!  After a fast-moving history of the World Series, the chapters are organized into greatest games, best performers, memorable moments, and what the future of the game will hold.  As an accomplished sportswriter, Doeden knows how to describe the games and plays and keep the excitement up.  There are lots of mentions of statistics, but they don't overwhelm the individual stories of the players and the games.  I especially liked how he compared legendary players to more modern players, like putting Babe Ruth next to Pablo Sandoval in the best performers section.  I also liked his explanation of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, and its consequences for the players and the game.  Full of archival photos and incredible game photos, this was one delight for the sports fan!  Excellent design and interesting organization of the information.  6th grade and up. 

by Alethea Kontis 

 "Me?" asked Saturday.  "But I don't have any magic.  You must have me confused with another sibling.  It's a common occurrence..."  "You were not born with magic, but you can channel it, contain it, control it.  You must use that power to defeat the lorelei... If you don't kill her, she will destroy the world," said Cwyn.  "And if she does kill the lorelei, the dragon will wake and the mountain will fall," argued Betwixt.  "Save a few, or save the world." Cwyn kissed Saturday's hands and released them.  "The choice is yours." 

 Sequel to Enchanted, but reading the first one isn't necessary to enjoy this one on its own.  Saturday Woodcutter is the only one of her siblings without any magical powers -- she's strong, athletic, tall... and nothing like her lovely magical sisters.  When her cousin/brother Trix runs off after hearing news of his biological mother and Saturday accidentally unleashes an ocean in the backyard, things start to take an epic turn.  Saturday and her mother board her pirate sister's Thursday's ship to try to find Trix.  Add a giant kidnapping bird, a blind witch bent on finding a way to destroy the world, a mountain prison, a sleeping dragon, a cursed young man who has to pretend he's the witch's daughter to survive, and a snarky chimera named Betwixt.  A fractured fairy tale full of action, humor, magic, and just a little romance!  6th grade and up.

Messenger of Fear 
by Michael Grant
*advanced reader copy from Book Expo 2014* 

 "What.  Of.  The.  Wrong?"    "I guess," I said, "they should pay something.  Be made to...  They should..." I could go no further.  The Messenger turned away from me to face the two... "This wrong demands punishment," he said.  "I offer you a game.  If you win, you will go free, unbothered by me or by my apprentice... If you lose, then you will face the thing you fear most."

What form does justice take?  Some people believe that human law is enough, other believe in religious vengeance or karma.  Michael Grant gives us the Messenger of Fear, and his new apprentice, Mara.  They move through time and space, calling upon the Game Master to cause the most horrific and heartwrenching choices and games imaginable as punishment and payment for crimes of wickedness, bullying, and teenage thoughtless cruelty.    If the players win the game, they go free -- though they are all changed from the experience of the game.  If they lose, they must face their greatest fear.  The idea of justice ought to involve some satisfaction, or feeling of triumph of good over evil, but as Mara discovers,   justice takes from those who deliver it just as it does from those who receive it.  Good and evil, choices and consequences... and there is no black and white, unless you're looking at how The Messenger is dressed.  Horror that will make you think -- for 8th grade and up.  Publication date 9/23/2014.

Curiosity's Mission On Mars: Exploring the Red Planet
by Ron Miller 

The Mars Science Laboratory mission has one overarching objective: to determine if Mars is habitable.

 On August 5, 2012, the spacecraft carrying the Curiosity rover arrived in the atmosphere of Mars, and deployed for landing on the surface.  Curiosity is the most recent of the almost 40 attempts to reach Mars, including the Viking and Mariner spacecrafts, and the much smaller rovers Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity.  NASA and the other world space agencies are working  hard to get information about Mars, in order to plan for manned missions to the red planet.  NASA has set a date of 2030 for the first manned mission, which seems very far away, until you look at all of the problems they have to solve in order to send astronauts that far from Earth and successfully bring them home at the end of the mission.  How long will it take to get there?  What dangers will the astronauts face on the way there and on the return trip home?  How will they bring, grow, or create enough food and water to survive and be healthy?  How long will they stay on Mars, and how will they survive the conditions on the planet?  These are just a few of the questions that scientists are working on, and the information on climate, soil, geography, and history of the planet that Curiosity and the other missions have given us will be part of the solutions.  Interplanetary travel takes a lot of planning!  Excellent nonfiction with plenty of amazing images for anyone interested in space -- when the 8th grade went to DC, we had the chance to see an exhibit of Curiosity's photos from the surface of Mars, and they were fascinating. Strong 6th grade readers and up.

Bombs Over Bikini: The World's First Nuclear Disaster
by Connie Goldsmith 

The atomic bomb was a completely new weapon at the time, and scientists wanted to learn more about the bomb's capacity...  U.S. President Harry Truman ordered military officials to select a place to carry out nuclear testing. Admiral Blandy... named the atomic bomb testing program Operation Crossroads.  "Sea power, air power, and perhaps humanity itself are at the crossroads."

 After World War II ended in August 1945 with the dropping of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two superpowers emerged: the Soviet Union and the United States.  Both nations were working to develop atomic weapons, and this new Cold War led to the atomic testing program which would be located in the Marshall Islands, specifically Bikini Atoll.  Far from any large cities, with predictable winds and few islanders who would have to be moved, the remote location seemed ideal.  The first atomic bomb was detonated in the air above Bikini Atoll on July 1, 1946.  The second was detonated underwater only a few weeks later on July 25, with far more devastating consequences.  The islanders of Bikini had been moved to Rongerik Atoll, about 125 miles from Bikini, but near Rongerak Atoll, where other islanders lived.  Between 1946 and 1958,  the US detonated 67 nuclear bombs in the area.  The 12th bomb, Bravo, was the worst.  Unlike all previous fission bombs, this one was a fusion bomb.  Far more powerful and deadly, it was placed on  Nam island at the edge of Bikini Atoll.  On March1, 1954, its detonation left a mile-wide crater in the ocean floor, vaporized part of Nam, and sent a 25-mile-high mushroom cloud of radioactive steam and dust into the atmosphere.  The islanders nearest had not been evacuated, and suffered radiation poisoning and longterm health problems for years.  Many of the soldiers and sailors ordered to be part of the program also became seriously ill, some suffering for years.  Was the scientific knowledge gained from all that testing worth the cost in lives, damaged health and damaged environment?  Solid research, lots of historic photos, and excellent design.  7th grade and up.

Outcasts United
by Warren St. John
**Official Greenwich Reads Together Selection** 

"No one person can do everything...  But we can all do something."

Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian immigrant to the United States, was living in Atlanta when she discovered a Middle Eastern grocery store that carried many of her favorite foods in nearby Clarkston.  As she made more trips to Clarkston, she noticed many groups of children playing soccer in parking lots.  She was coaching soccer for the YMCA at the time, and had played for years herself.  It turned out that the kids playing soccer (barefoot, often with only a raggedy ball) were refugees who had been moved into Clarkston with their families from all over the world.  Soccer was what they had in common, but none of them could afford the fees to play for organized school or community teams.  Luma decided to start her own team, which came to be known as the Fugees.  The boys who joined the team needed everything, so Luma had to find ways to get them equipment, jerseys, and often food.  Coming from more than a dozen nations shredded by war, many of the boys had seen horrific violence and death, and most had lost family members to the wars.  They needed help with learning English, catching up from being years without formal schooling, and learning to get along in a team of many different cultures.  This is an inspiring story of one person who has chosen to make a difference for others by investing her time and her talents in the children of her community.  Perfect for the World Cup fans this summer!

The Raft
by S.A. Bodeen

Shudders and squeaks and an anguished mechanical groan...  Max barrelled down the aisle toward me and with a loud grunt, ripped the exit window open...  The wind and rain burst in...  Putting up my hands to protect myself, I shouted, "My life vest!"  He just tightened his grip on me and screamed back, "Hold your breath and kick for the surface!  The raft will be there!"  And then he threw me out the window.

Robie has grown up on Midway Atoll, where her scientist parents have been working at a research station.  Her aunt lives in Hawaii, where the supply planes come from, so Robie's been able to take the supply flights back and forth for visits.  This time, though, she decides last minute to return home to Midway, and her name is mistakenly left off the flight manifest -- the record of who and what is on the plane.  When it crashes into the Pacific during a violent storm, no one knows she's on the plane.  With the injured co-pilot Max on the yellow inflatable raft, Robie must conquer her fears and use everything she knows about  the ocean and survival in hopes that someone will find them and rescue them.  I don't know if I could have done some of the things that Robie has to choose to do in order to survive, and I probably would have lost my mind when the sharks showed up!  Courage isn't about not being afraid -- it's about doing what you have to do even though you ARE afraid.  

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library

by Chris Grabenstein

"Today I am pleased to announce the most marvelously stupendous game ever created: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library!  The entire library will be the game board.  Your children will be the game pieces.  The winner will be famous all over the world.  The first to use what they find in the library to find their way out of the library will be crowned the winner.  They can only use their wits, cunning and intelligence to decipher clues and solve riddles that will eventually lead them to the location of the library's super-secret alternate exit.  Participation, of course, will be purely voluntary.  Should anything go wrong, we have paramedics, firefighters, and a team of former Navy SEALs - each with the heart of a samurai - waiting to swoop in and rescue your children.  It'll be like The Hunger Games, but with lots of food and no bows and arrows."

Shades of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!  Mr. Lemoncello, world famous billionaire toy and gamemaker has returned to his Ohio hometown to open the world's most amazing public library, designed and built under the utmost secrecy and security.  Twelve 12-year-olds have won the chance to spend the night in the library, and play his best game ever, with all sorts of prizes at stake -- including a job in advertising for the Lemoncello company.  This is one of the most fun books I've read in quite some time -- full of humor, action, puzzles, clues, and characters you'll love (and love to detest!).  Highly recommended for everyone.

More reviews coming shortly!  Guarded by the intrepid house book kitties, Addie and Cassius,
ere's what's on my reading table stack:


Comments and/or suggestions for books I should read?  Come see me in the media center or email me at Karen_Ball@greenwich.k12.ct.us

Eastern Middle School       51 Hendrie Avenue, Riverside, CT 06878      Phone: 203-637-1744      Fax: 203-637-3567

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