Mrs. Archer's Book Notes

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

ARC Review of Lone Bean by Chudney Ross



FTC Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Lone Bean by Chudney Ross

Summary from the back of the back cover: “Bean Gibson is so excited about the first day of third grade, not even her m-e-a-n MEAN older sisters, Rose and Gardenia, can bring her down.

But when Bean’s best friend has a new best friend and Bean’s dad tells her she has to learn a musical instrument, her year gets off to a bad start. Turns out she h-a-t-e-s HATES third grade! Can Bean make new friends, conquer the violin, and get her mom to stop spending so much time at work?”

What I liked about this book: This was a delightful story about the joys and perils of third grade. Fans of Sarah Pennypacker’s Clementine, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody will love Bean Gibson. Lone Bean is a great classroom read aloud. I can’t wait to share this book with my third grade teachers so they can share it with their students. As a parent and an educator, I enjoyed how Bean learned from her escapades. Ross paints a wonderfully entertaining picture of a precocious and very likable third grader. Bean does learn from her mistakes, but Ross doesn’t beat the reader over the head with a message about consequences. Young readers will identify with Bean and her challenges of being the youngest sister and dealing with a best friend who doesn’t want to be her best friend anymore.

I don’t know if this will be a series. I hope so. I would love to read more about Bean’s adventures.

If you would like to learn more about Chudney Ross visit her website.

What I didn’t like about the book: This book is a real winner. I loved it all.

Release date: June 26, 2012
Recommended for: 3rd – 5th grades

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Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli



Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

Summary: Jake and Lily are not just brother and sister – they are twins. They have always been there for each other and shared a special bond until one day Jake decides he wants to be his own person. What’s a twin to do?

What I liked about the book: Last year my school had 17 sets of twins. This upcoming school year we will have just as many, maybe more. So I’ve been on a search for twin stories to add to our collection. You can always count on Spinelli for a good read. He paints a humorous story about the challenges siblings (and especially twins) face. Young readers will enjoy Lily’s adventures and will sympathize with Jake’s wish to have his own identity while understanding Lily’s sense of betrayal when Jake wants to find his own friends. The chapters alternate between Lily and Jake, allowing them to present their own versions of the story. This would be a great read aloud – perhaps even for students to use in a readers’ theater.

What I didn’t like about the book: This was a great read. I’ll be honest – there is one character that I didn’t like – Bump Stubbins – but we are not supposed to like him. Overall, this is a great addition to any classroom or school library.

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate



Summary from the inside left flap: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home — and his own art — through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

FTC DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the Librarything Early Reader’s program in exchange for an honest review.

I won a copy of this book back in March but it didn’t arrive until the summer when I was knee deep in piles and piles of books to be read – both for fun and for review. I almost put it to the bottom of the stack, but decided to move it up since I thought it might be a good fit for my school library. Boy, am I glad I did. This is a wonderful book. If you haven’t read it yet – don’t hesitate. Go out and grab a copy now!

What I liked about the book: This story is told by Ivan – an easy going silver back gorilla. If Ivan were a human I would want him to be my friend. This is a great story about friendship, righting wrongs and perseverance. The rhythm of the story is just perfect, making it a quick entertaining read that both young and old readers will enjoy. The chapters are short, making the book more appealing to reluctant readers. Classroom teachers – this is a good book to use for a lesson on voice or point of view.

What I didn’t like about the book: This has been a good reading summer for me. This is yet another book where I loved it all.

Seriously, whether or not you are an adult or a child, if you are looking for a well written feel good read, this is the book for you. I will certainly be purchasing it for our school library. I’m hoping it is a contender for the Newbery, but that committee never seems to like the books I do. One can hope though.

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 5 of 5

Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

AR Level: 3.6

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Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes



Ninth Ward by Jewel Parker Rhodes

Summary from the inside left flap: Twelve-year old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house, like her uptown family, or lots of friends, like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mamma Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane — Katrina — fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Yah has given her to help them both survive the storm.

This book has been recommended for the Pikes Peak Region Battle of the Books for 2013-2014.

What I liked about the book: Lanesha is a strong, likable character. Rhodes provides colorful details about Lanesha and those around her. The story takes place right before and just after Hurricane Katrina. However, the story isn’t so much about the devastation wrought by the hurricane but about one young girl’s perseverance in the face of adversity. This book would be an excellent tool for a unit on how people react in the wake of disaster. It gives students the opportunity to put themselves in Lanesha’s place. The story does include some paranormal aspects – Mama Ya-ya can see into the future and Lanesha sees and talks with ghosts. However, this does not take away from the seriousness of the story, but rather adds an interesting trait to both characters. I think it would be interesting to have students read this book and Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman and compare/contrast the stories.

What I didn’t like about the book: I really liked this book. I’m hard pressed to find anything negative about it. It is written from the point of view of a young girl which might cause some of my male students to shy away from it, but I think there is enough adventure in the story to overcome that one thing. I read a review by another librarian who stated that Ninth Ward is one of those books that teachers and librarians love and want all their students to read, but in reality would have little appeal to students. When I finished this book I immediately thought of a number of my students who would enjoy this book. That might be because they are like me – LOVE books of all kinds. Then again I might be mistaken. I will order for this for our library collection and I’m interested to see who does or doesn’t check it out.

Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

AR Book level: 3.3

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 4 of 5

ARC Review of Chomp by Carl Hiassen


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

Chomp by Carl Hiassen

Summary provided by Goodreads  (

“Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one. 
When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out. 

They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun . . .

It’s anyone’s guess who will actually survive “Expedition Survival”. . . .”

Chomp is a quirky, mostly humorous read that will appeal to younger and older readers alike.  The wild life adventure aspect of the story may have special appeal for guys.  It is a well written, fast paced book – great for the summer reading list.  Readers who enjoyed Hiassen’s Hoot and/or Flush will enjoy this book as well.

Though it is a humorous read it also includes a serious topic – child abuse.  Tuna’s dad is an abusive gun toting, beer swilling unpredictable character.  His behavior provides much of the action/conflict for the later part of the story.

Readers will laugh at Derek Badger’s ridiculous antics, admire Wahoo and Tuna as they somehow manage to remain calm amidst all the craziness, and cheer at the ending.

Recommended for 5th grade and up.

AR Book Level: 5.2
 Mrs. Archer’s rating 4 of 5.
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ARC Review of Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sarah Pennypacker


Sarah Pennypacker

FTC Disclosure:  I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sarah Pennypacker

Summary from the back of the book:

Stella loves living with Great-aunt Louise in her big old house near the water on Cape Cod for many reasons, but mostly because Louise likes routine as much as she does, something Stella appreciates since her mom is, well, kind of unreliable. So while Mom “finds herself,” Stella fantasizes that someday she’ll come back to the Cape and settle down. The only obstacle to her plan? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. Angel couldn’t be less like her name—she’s tough and prickly, and the girls hardly speak to each other.

But when tragedy unexpectedly strikes, Stella and Angel are forced to rely on each other to survive, and they learn that they are stronger together than they could have imagined. And over the course of the summer they discover the one thing they do have in common: dreams of finally belonging to a real family.

I love Sarah Pennypacker’s Clementine series.  I was curious about this book which is rather darker and targets a slightly older reader.

I don’t want to give too much away, but if you are an adult about to read this book, be sure to suspend disbelief before you start reading.  The girls deal with the tragedy in such a way that doesn’t really seam believable.  But then four young children running away and living in a box car doesn’t seem believable either.  (I love The Box Car Children by the way.)

What I liked about the book:  I really liked the characters.  Angel is prickly, but lovable. I really loved Stella. You can tell that she wants to love her mother, but that deep down she knows her mother is a flake. I really felt for Stella. She doesn’t have many friends and all she wants is order in her life. I found her addiction to Hints by Heloise endearing. I liked how Pennypacker made her seem older than her years while at the same time giving the reader glimpses of the young girl searching for a home.  I enjoyed reading about how the girls spent their summer taking care of the cabins and going about their day to day activities. At times it was almost possible to forget that tragedy had struck early in the story.  (Though every thing does keep coming back to that one event.)

What I didn’t like about the book:  I can’t really think of anything I didn’t like. Some readers (parents) will not like the choices the girls made when tragedy struck.  It is a tad bit callous, but overall the story is very clean read.  There is no drugs, sex, or violence and it has somewhat of an after school special (for those of you who are old enough to remember those) happy ending.

This is a book I can easily recommend to my older readers (especially the girls.)  I have added it to my list of books to order for the school library.

Recommended for 4th Grade and up!

Reading Level:  Not an AR book as of May 17, 2012

Mrs. Archer’s Rating:  5 of 5!

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Dead End in Norvelt (Audio Book) by Jack Gantos




Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

From Goodreads:  Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year’s best contribution to children’s literature and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is “grounded for life” by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack’s way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Every year as the time approaches for the announcements of the Newbery winners I get all excited.  Sometimes, after the announcement I’m still excited.  Sometimes, I’m not so excited.  This year, I was neither. I had not yet read Dead End in Norvelt when the winners had been announced.  Therefore I reserved my reaction until I had a chance to read the book.

What I liked about the book:  It’s historical fiction (not too far in the past).  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres.  Jack is a likeable character. I really liked Ms. Volker. She was quite the feisty older lady.  It had a bit of mystery and if you’ve been following my blog you know how I feel about mysteries.  The audio version is read by the author. I really like it when that happens.  Having the author read the book cuts down on any “missed translations” from the written to spoken word. When the author reads the book it gives the audio version a bit more authenticity.

What I didn’t like about the book:  Personally, I didn’t care for many of the adults in the book. (With the exception of Ms. Volker.) Jack’s parents are not exactly fighting, but they do disagree on a few things. Jack gets caught in the middle and even gets grounded for doing what one of them told him to do.  The main thing I didn’t like about this book – . (And I’m sure I’ll get lots of negative feed back for this.  People seem to think if a book is an award winning book then you are not allowed to NOT like it.) – is that it won the Newbery Award. It was JUST an ok book. Not a bad book, but certainly not comparable to such outstanding Newbery winners like The Giver, Maniac Magee, Holes or The Graveyard Book. To be honest, I’m not sure that my students will actually bother to read the book. It’s not a very exciting read and there doesn’t really seem to be a purpose to the book.  Newbery books should be outstanding works of children’s literature that will actually appeal to children.

Of course, I purchased it for the library. I think it’s important for students to be have access to award winning books, even if I don’t agree that they should have won the award.  Who knows, maybe my students will like the book.

Recommended for 3rd Grade and up.

AR Book level:  5.7

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 3 of 5.

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Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor


Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor


From the back of the book:

Nancy Clancy has everything she needs to be a super sleuth (that’s a fancy word for detective): She has a glamorous magnifying glass complete with rhinestones, a totally professional pink trench coat, and a sleuthing partner with awesome code-breaking skills — her best friend, Bree.

   Now all she needs is a good mystery to solve.  But when crime strikes right in the middle of her classroom, will Nancy have what it takes to crack the case?

Fancy Nancy is back! Only this time she’s the star of a chapter book!  For ages 7-10 this is great step up for young readers who love Fancy Nancy but are looking for more challenging reads.

What I liked about the book:  It’s Fancy Nancy. I LOVE Fancy Nancy.  It’s a mystery.  I love mysteries.  It’ a great pre-cursor to introducing younger readers to the classic Nancy Drew mysteries. Just like in the popular Fancy Nancy picture books, Nancy continues to introduce readers to new vocabulary words. This is not only a fun but an educational read as well.  Readers will have a chance at breaking a secret code and using their own detective skills to see if they can solve the mystery of the missing blue marble.

What I didn’t like about the book:  I liked it all. However, if you are a fan of Robin Preiss Glasser’s beautiful illustrations, you should be warned that the illustrations take a back seat in this book.  As a chapter book, the focus is more on the story, while in the picture books the story and the illustrations work together to create a wonderful book.

Recommended for 1st – 3rd Grade (or anyone who enjoys mysteries/kids books and would like a quick read.)

AR Level:  Not an Accelerated Reader Book as of April 27, 2012

Mrs. Archer’s rating:  5 of 5!  I will be ordering it for our school library.

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The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs


In library, 4th grade students are hearing about the book The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Spring.  We are discussing the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and comparing them to “wonders” around Colorado Springs.

They will be blogging on their school blogs about wonders of Colorado Springs.


The template for their blog post is:


Blog Title:   LIB – The Wonders of Colorado Springs


I think one of the wonders of Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak. It is a wonder because it is so beautiful. It provides a beautiful scenery for the residents of Colorado Springs.  It is a great place to hike.

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The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick


The Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

From the back of the book: ” The book club is about to get a makeover . . . Even if Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma’s already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care, the new book club is scheduled to meet every month.

But what begins as a mom-inspired ritual of reading Little Women soon helps four unlikely friends navigate the drama of middle school.  From stolen journals to secret crushes to a fashion-fiasco first dance, the girls are up to their Wellie boots in drama.  They can’t help but wonder: What would Jo March do?”

I’m very excited to be coordinating a Mother/Daughter book club which is reading Heather Vogel Frederick’s The Mother Daughter Book Club.  We will be skyping with Mrs. Frederick on May 10th.

Today, after school we had a great discussion about the book.  Since, not everyone had finished the book, we only discussed the chapters that take us through Autumn.  As promised, I am posting some questions for the chapters that cover Winter and Spring.  These questions are from the teacher guide found on Mrs. Frederick’s website.  Next week, I’ll post questions for Summer.  I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts. You can answer one or all of the questions.  Check back to see others’ comments.  Let’s make this an online discussion.  It might generate more questions for our Skype visit with Heather.



1. How do Megan and Cassidy get along? Why? Do you think it will always be
that way?
2. How do things get intense once more at the book club?
3. Would you want to attend and dress up for the Christmas party? Why?

1. Describe the Little Women Christmas party. What do you think they’ll remember about it?
2. What does Mrs. Delaney send in her absence? How would you feel in Jess’s place?
3. What makes Emma hopeful that she and Megan might renew their friendship? Does it work?
1. How would you feel if your mom or dad couldn’t come to your most important event? Would you be able to forgive them?
2. Do you think Becca will grow up to be a battle-ax just like her own mother, Mrs. Chadwick? What makes you think this?
3. Explain what happens during the performance. How would you feel?
1. Does Megan feel remorse for the goat incident or not? How has she been influenced by the other girls? Is it an excuse for her behavior?
2. Do you think this argument was necessary for the club to continue? What things are said that needed to be said?
3. How must Megan make it up to Jess? Is this enough?

1. What happens to Cassidy at the championship match?
2. How does her mother handle her worst fear?
3. What small detail reveals how the mother-daughter book club has changed?
1. Why is Patriot’s Day such a big deal in Concord? Do you have any local events which are very important to your community? Describe it.
2. Do you think reenactments are important for understanding history? Would you participate in one?

3. What happens between the fabulous four and the mother-daughter book club?
1. How does Megan save Emma’s outfit?
2. Do you think fashion is frivolous or necessary? Why?
3. Why does Megan think, “Nobody quite got what they wanted.” (p. 181)
1. What would be most difficult about having a parent gone?
2. How does Jess’s dad embarrass her? Do all parents embarrass their children?
3. How does the mother-daughter book club react to his ideas? Are they true friends now, or not?

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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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