Mrs. Archer's Book Notes

An elementary school librarian's blog about books and library happenings.

ARC Review of When No One Is Watching by Eileen Spinelli


When No One Is Watching

FTC Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from Librarything’s Early Reviewer Program in exchange for an honest opinion

When No One Is Watching by Eileen Spinelli

Goodreads Summary:  When no one is watching, it’s easy to be brave — to dance and sing, growl and cheer. But when everyone’s watching, this book’s shy young narrator finds it far easier to hide. With her best friend, Loretta, though, she doesn’t feel shy, embarrassed, awkward, or odd — not one bit. Together they’re like two peas in a pod, whether anyone’s watching or not.Any readers who have felt shy will certainly recognize themselves within the pages of this adorable book, which will encourage even the most timid of audiences with its celebration of the value of a good friend.

Even as an adult, I could identify with this beautifully illustrated story about a shy bashful young girl who is so many things “When No One Is Watching.”   This is an excellent read aloud for classroom and at home reading. It is also an excellent resource for character education classes. I will be recommending this to the counselor at school and I’ll be ordering it for the school library.

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Mrs. Archer Recommends – December 7, 2012



Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

I have been a big fan of Olivia since I first read the original book to a group of kindergarten students about a decade ago. Olivia may be exasperating to her mother, but I love her independent nature, originality and self confidence. She is a strong role model for young girls. Olivia’s adventures in this latest installment highlight all of those character traits.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a series of Olivia books based on the popular Saturday morning TV show. While I appreciate these books for early readers, I have missed Falconer’s original artwork. I was very happy to see it in this new book. I also love the addition of pink into the illustrations. I know Olivia would be disappointed in me, but I do love pink.

I like the Olivia books so much I named my newest hedgehog Olivia.

Other books about Olivia include:


Olivia Saves the Circus

Olivia Forms A Band

Olivia and the Missing toy

Olivia Helps With Christmas

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Mrs. Archer Recommends


Mrs. Archer Recommends is a new weekly post.  Check back each Friday to see Mrs. Archer’s latest recommendation.

The Giver

The Giver



The Giver by Lois Lowry

  “It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.”

Thus opens this haunting novel in which a boy inhabits a seemingly ideal world: a world without conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice, or inequality. It is a time in which family values are paramount, teenage rebellion is unheard of, and even good manners are a way of life.

December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve year old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man -the man called only the Giver -he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.

Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs. (re-printed from Lois Lowry’s website – – November 29, 2012.)


This 1994 winner of the Newbery Award is one of Mrs. Archers’ favorite young adult books.  The story continues with Gathering BlueThe Messenger, and Son.

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Winter According to Humphrey by Betty Birney


Betty Birney

Winter According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

Summary from the inside flap:  The holidays are coming and Humphrey is unspeakably excited.  He loves hearing about all the different ways his friends in Room 26 celebrate and watching them make costumes and learn songs for the Winter Wonderland program.  (He even squeaks along!)

But with so much to do, will the holidays go according to plan?  Do-It-Now-Daniel is having trouble practicing, Helpful-Holly can’t stop worrying about making presents for her friends, and Humphrey still has to find a gift for Og!

Good thing Humphrey is one smart hamster who can help them all fill the season with JOY-JOY-JOY.”

Since this is one of my all time favorite series, it will come as no surprise that I LOVED-LOVED-LOVED this latest installment.  This is just a an all around good series. I highly recommend any book in the series for a classroom read aloud.  I will be using an excerpt from this installment for my 5th grade indoor snowball fight. (I read an excerpt about snow.  Then I have the students take three slips of paper, they wright a descriptive word about snow on each slip of paper. Then they crumple them up into snow balls.  For the next five minutes we have an indoor snowball fight.  At the end of the fight each student hopefully has 3 snowballs. They use the words on the snowballs to wright a poem about snow on their class blog. They love it.)

Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

AR Book Level:  Not an AR book as of November 20, 2012

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 5 of 5!

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Mysteries According to Humphrey


Mysteries According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

Mysteries According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

Summary from the inside left flap: It’s fall and everyone in Room 26 is excited that Halloween is coming, but this year something even more fur-raising is going on — Mrs. Brisbane is missing from Room 26! She’s stopped coming to school and Humphrey has no idea where she is.

The class has a substitute teacher, Mr. E., but he can’t fill Mrs. Brisbane’s shoes. Humphrey has just learned about an unsqueakably smart detective named Sherlock Holmes, who is great at collecting clues and following leads — just what Humphrey will have to do to solve The Case of the Missing Mrs. Brisbane.

The Humphrey books are one of my favorite elementary grade series. The books are always well written and are just perfect for elementary students. They are a quick read and make an excellent class read a loud. Students will be entertained by Humphrey’s antics. Adults will appreciate the lessons he teaches (and students won’t mind either as the lessons are relayed in a very kind friendly way).

Kids who are just getting into mysteries will enjoy the mystery of the missing teacher in this latest installment. Adults will enjoy the interesting ideas Birney has for teaching. All in all, as Humphrey would say, this is a book that everyone will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

I highly recommend this book (and the whole series) for elementary library collections as well as classroom collections.

Recommended as a read a loud for 2nd grade and up.
Recommended for independent reading: 3rd grade and up.
AR Reading Level: 3.8

Mrs. Archer’s  rating: 5 of 5!

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The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons


ARC Review of The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons

FTC Disclosure:  I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book from the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for an honest opinion.

The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons by Barbara Mariconda

Summary from Goodreads:  An enchanted flute that vibrates when danger is near, sparkling mist that unlocks a drawer of family secrets, and a bookcase that expands to conceal her hiding place—these are the bits of magic Lucy P. Simmons has experienced since her parents drowned at sea.

The magic is helping Lucy keep her house—Father’s beloved “ship on shore”—out of the hands of her greedy uncle Victor. Lucy thinks the magic is coming from Marni, a mysterious woman who seems to be one with the sea itself . . . and who bears a striking resemblance to the mythical siren in the painting in Father’s study.

Together, Lucy and Marni devise a plan to stop Uncle Victor’s conniving ways. In the process, Lucy makes unexpected friends and discovers that courage may be the most powerful magic of all. But will it be enough to prevail in the face of her evil uncle?

This is an ok middle grade read, not one that I will rush to recommend to my students.  My first reaction was “oh here’s yet another story about an orphaned girl mistreated by her guardians.”  Then the author woven in a little magic, a hint of a curse, a mysterious woman who might be a sea witch and a mysterious missing aunt.    These are all elements for a good story, but somehow they never quite merged together to create that good story.  It’s as though the author was in a hurry to get the story told and didn’t quite take the time to develop it properly.

I was also bothered by the fact that despite the title, Lucy doesn’t embark on a voyage until the end of the book.  The ending left so many unanswered questions, that I’m guessing there must be a sequel planned. However, I’m not sure I’ll spend my treasured reading time, reading it.

Rating 3 out of 5.

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Teaser Tuesday


Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:Grab your current read • Open to a random page • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Voyage of Lucy P. Sims by Barbara Mariconda

This is a book that was sent to me for review. I’m working my way through it and considering purchasing it for the library.  Does the teaser make you want to read it?

“It was only the smallest of movements out there that caught my eye and held me at the window.  There was someone outside — someone on the path of moonbeams.”

The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons

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Top Ten Tuesday


Another blogger hosts a weekly meme, Top Ten Tuesday.  The topic for this week’s list: top ten books you’d want to have with you to pass the time on a deserted island.

This was a hard one. For me books are like potato chips. You can’t have just one and trying to limit myself to just 10 is almost impossible, so I tried to pick books that I wouldn’t mind reading over and over.  Actually, I sort of cheated and picked several series.

1. The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

3.  The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary

4.  The Shadow Children Series by Margaret Haddix

5.  The Percy Jackson and the Olympian Series and The Lost Hero Series by Rick Riordan

6.  The Mother Daughter Book Club Series by Heather Frederick

7.  The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel Series by Michael Scott

8.  Love Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

9.  The Judy Moody Series by Megan McDonald

10.  The Clementine Series by Sarah Pennypacker


What books would you take?

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Olivia and The Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer



Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Good Reads Summary: Olivia is having an identity crisis!  There are too many ruffly, sparkly princesses around these days, and Olivia has had quite enough.  She needs to stand out!  She has to be special!  She wants to do more than just fit in! So what will she be?

What I Liked About This Book:  I have been a big fan of Olivia since I first read the original book to a group of kindergarten students about a decade ago.  Olivia may be exasperating to her mother, but I love her independent nature, originality and self confidence.  She is a strong role model for young girls.  Olivia’s adventures in this latest installment highlight all of those character traits.

In recent years, I’ve noticed a series of Olivia books based on the popular Saturday morning TV show.  While I appreciate these books for early readers, I have missed Falconer’s original artwork. I was very happy to see it in this new book.  I also love the addition of pink into the illustrations.  I know Olivia would be disappointed in me, but I do love pink.

What I Didn’t Like About This  Book:  There wasn’t anything I didn’t like. The Olivia books are always a good choice for young children.  They make a great read aloud and are must for any school classroom or library collection.

If you are shopping at the Book Fair this is one of the many wonderful books you can purchase.

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St. Viper’s School For Super Villians by Kim Donovan


FTC Disclosure:   I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary from Goodreads:   The series is set in St Viper’s School where it’s good to be bad. And World Domination is lesson one. Demon Kid wants to be the best super villain at St Viper’s but he’s in for a fight. Between masterclasses in sinister science and fighting with flames, he needs to prove to everyone he’s an evil genius. Now, if he can just survive till the end of term . .

What I liked about the book:  This is a fun book. That is very important when looking for books for children. This is an excellent choice for a read aloud.  It is also a different take on the “hero” story.  I’m hoping to order this for the school library soon.

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I am returning this year as the librarian for Academy Endeavour Elementary. I am a complete and total bookworm. I love talking books with students and parents. If you ask me what my favorite book is I will tell you that it changes every day. I hope you will stop by this blog often and discuss books with me. Or drop into the library and see what our wonderful students are learning.

Mrs. Archer reading one of her favorite books.

Ramona, named after one of Mrs. Archer's all time favorite book characters.

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