Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











Clara Barton Angel of the BattlefieldFrom Goodreads: While exploring The Treasure Chest, Felix and Maisie are transported to a Massachusetts farm in 1836. Disappointed that they have not landed in their beloved New York City, they wonder why they were brought to Massachusetts to meet a young girl named Clara Barton. Perhaps Clara has a message for the twins? Or maybe they have one for her?

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While I don’t usually seek out and read MG books, I’m really glad that the publisher gave me this novel to read at my leisure. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I would read it for review or not, but since it’s such a quick read, I decided to give it a shot, and I’m happy I did. Though definitely a novel for young readers, the story itself is interesting—with a little bit of drama, lots of snooping around, and time travel, I was hooked almost from the beginning, genuinely interested in the lives of twins Felix and Maisie, especially because they’ve had it so rough as of late. Due to their parents’ divorce, Felix and Maisie find themselves uprooted from their home and moving into the servants quarters of a 70 room mansion—a mansion their great grandfather built, but that his daughter turned over to the preservation society in order to help with its upkeep. Of course, everything is new for the twins, and the loss of their stable home has them rather upset, so it’s easy to connect with them from the start. Hood does a great job fleshing out the twins, and in no time they are exploring their new home, sneaking around the mansion when they know they aren’t supposed to, and a sense of mystery and magic permeates the story as it begins to take flight.

I can see how much a 3rd-5th grader would really love this story, but I also think students as old as 9th and 10th grade would enjoy it as well. Hood really has a way with words, and this novel delivers in all the right places. While these wasn’t much in terms of Clara Barton’s story—more so frivolous information in the beginning—Hood ties it all together for Maisie and Felix, and I can see this historical fiction series becoming a favorite within the classroom. Four stars.

4 stars

I was given this novel for free by the published during NCTE 2013.

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516GSS5DDBLFrom Goodreads: Welcome to Bluford High. This widely acclaimed teen series set in an urban high school features engaging, accessible writing and appealing, contemporary storylines.

Roylin Bailey is living a nightmare–and it’s all his fault. It started when the new student, Korie Archer, arrived in his history class. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and unlike most people at Bluford High, she seemed to like him. But when Roylin tried to impress her, he made a terrible mistake. Now one of his friends is gone, and someone is out to destroy him. Caught in a tightening web of lies and threats, Roylin is desperate for a way out.

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I picked this up because a student asked me if s/he could use it for a project, so I read through it to see what the reading level was prior to giving her the go ahead.  I think this will be an interesting read for a lower MG reader, but it’s a little too low level for a high school project, in my opinion, which is what I ended up relaying to my student.  But, the themes and overall ideas presented in this novella are good ones, so I suggested that if it’s something my student was interested in, that s/he should go ahead and read it just for fun.

Now, in terms of the story itself, I can’t help but think the main character lacks common sense (of course, I’m an adult looking in, so…). Roylin wasn’t my favorite character in the world–he’s rude, obsessive, and greedy.  Likewise, the writing didn’t pull me in, but again, this is for lower MG. My main issue with the dialogue was that it jumped between every day language and proper language which, in my opinion, reduced the overall validity of the story.  Sometimes contractions were used, and other times they were missing, and as a teacher and reviewer, this lack of fluidity irked me to no end.  But again, I don’t think MG readers are necessarily going to be picking up on this as much as the they will on the overall themes and plot, regardless of its holes. So, while it was just a tad too juvenile for me, I believe this novel will spur younger readers on to find out what really happened to the elderly man living next door to Roylin. I, personally, can only give it two stars, though.

2 stars

I borrowed this novel from the school library.



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