Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: Guys Read: Other Worlds by Jon Scieszka

ReluctantReaderColorTales of a (formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my oldest son John,  a formerly reluctant reader) discusses books that he thinks other reluctant readers (former or not) will enjoy!  Today’s book is Guys Read: Other Worlds :

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0061963798
  • Source: Publisher

I don’t read a lot of fiction, but when I do I am most excited about books about outer space and spaceships, maybe because I’m such a big Star Wars fan. My mom calls this science fiction. I call it awesome.  Anyway, I’m a big fan of the Guys Read series already, so when my mom told me they were coming out with one about science fiction I was beyond excited. Then (it gets even better!) I saw that it included stories from some of my favorite authors like Tom Angleberger and Rick Riordan and I was sold. Epic, right!?

What I’ve learned is that while I don’t always like to read long books (sorry mom!) I don’t have a problem reading shorter stories. I think a lot of kids who don’t like to read will like this, too. It’s like you get a really great story in just a few pages. I can read an entire story in just a few minutes. It’s brilliant, really.

I don’t want to say too much about each of the stories so instead I will tell you about my favorites:

Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo by Rick Riordan: Ok, this one was just funny!! We all know who Percy Jackson is, right? Anyway, in this story he’s trying to celebrate his friend’s birthday when they run into Apollo. Yes, that Apollo. Apparently Apollo is trying to do a concert but he’s missing one of his backup singers. I’m totally serious! Percy has to help find this singer because, really, who can say no to Apollo. My mom says this story isn’t printed anywhere else so, Percy Jackson fans, don’t miss this!

Bouncing the Grinning Goat by Shannon Hale: I really liked this one! The main character is a girl who is pretending to be this really tough warrior from this place that has a really bad reputation. She’s able to lie about it for a while but has to face the truth when they are actually attacked by some really bad creatures. I guess it sort of teaches a lesson about being true about yourself. I just thought it was awesome.

The Scout by D.J. Machale: This one was my favorite, by far!! You think you are reading about this kid who is a Scout (I thought Boy Scout because I am one) and is trying to get out of camping with the other Scouts. Turns out to be far, far different than what I could have every imagined.

The Dirt on Our Shoes by Neal Shusterman: This is another one of my favorites. These people have been in space for 60 years and are finally landing on a planet that they will call home. Turns out the whole point of the trip was a lie. It has some pretty gross scenes in it (that involve…you know…poop and stuff) but overall it was pretty great.

So these are my favorites. I liked the other stories but probably not as much as these.  The other stories are from authors that my mom really likes: Shaun Tan (he writes graphic novels) and Ray Bradbury (we read his book The Halloween Tree every year). I mean, I liked them enough but the Ray Bradbury one was  kind of creepy.

What I really want to say is how great this book would be for kids who have a hard time reading a really big book. This just shows that sometimes big things come in smaller packages (kind of like me, haha!). And I know my mom says it’s not nice go call books boy books or girl books. This definitely looks like a boy book (it does!) and it is called “Guys Read” but I think girls would really like it too.  So, run out to your favorite bookstore and pick this one up. It just came out yesterday so be the first of your friends to own it. If they don’t have it, though, I’m sure you can find one of the other Guys Read books. They are all pretty awesome.


Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson

Tales of a (formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my thirteen year old son, John (a formerly reluctant reader) shares this thoughts on books geared toward reluctant readers. The review below is entirely his own with no alterations other than corrections in spelling.

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (February 26, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062071858
  • Source: Publisher

Haley a pretty normal teenage girl living with her family in Connecticut. All of her friends are looking forward to spending their summers going off to fun camps. Haley’s plans are a bit different; she plans on spending the summer driving around the country with her very supportive parents, investigating the disappearances of several people thanks to a grant from a mysterious research foundation. There’s more than just missing persons, though. Around the same time they go missing, the towns they live in undergo a lapse of time in which they don’t remember what happened. Sixteen minutes are lost with no explanation. Haley uncovers a group of people referred to as We are the Missing,who claim to have experiences with alien abduction.

Dodger lives in Washington and, like Haley, is awarded a grant to investigate the unusual. Unlike Haley, he doesn’t really have a supportive family and is always trying to get the approval of his father. Haley and Dodger meet when the foundation supporting their research mission calls everything off when things get too dangerous. Haley and Dodger soon become the ones investigated, instead of the ones investigating. They are the only ones who can find out the truth about these disappearances and must do so before they too go missing!

Wow…was this an intense book! Normally, I’m not really in to alien abductions or anything spooky like that but this book changed my mind! From the very beginning, the story grabbed my attention. It was almost as if I was watching a movie rather than reading a book!  One of the things I really liked about the book were the two main characters, a boy and a girl. Both Haley & Dodger were very interesting people, Dodger maybe more than Haley because he heard voices. But because there is both a boy and a girl character, I think this book would be interesting to both boys and girls my age.

Also, the journey the two go on is pretty sweet! All-expense paid two week vacation!? Yes please! The investigations they go on are pretty intense so this also almost feels like a mystery as well. Maybe a sci-fi mystery? In any case, I’m going to be telling all my friends about this book! Now I need to come up with an exciting way to spend my summer vacation!

Guess what! My mom says that one lucky reader of this blog can win a copy of this book. Awesome, right? To enter, just fill out this form below. The winner will be emailed by my Mom on Friday, March 15. Tell all your friends about this giveaway! Trust me, you don’t want to pass this up!

Mx3 Review: Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy

Today I’m pleased to welcome my thirteen-year-old son, John, for a guest review. As you may have seen my seven-year-old, Justin, reviewed a book earlier this week. Of course his older brother had to get in on the action! The review that follows is John’s in its entirety.

  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; 1 edition (July 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 159990836
  • Source: Author

Lilah Bloom is a normal twelve-year-old girl. Things change when, attending her mom’s wedding, she gets struck by lightening. When she wakes up she can hear voices. At first she thinks she’s losing her mind but soon realizes it is the voices of the dead that are popping into her head. The first she hears is that of her grandmother, Bubby Dora, a woman that isn’t afraid to voice her opinion. Bubby is worried about Lilah’s dad who still hasn’t gone out on a date even though his ex-wife has gotten married. Bubby becomes obsessed with making Lilah’s father attractive to the opposite sex and making sure his life is happy.

Lilah has a lot on her mind already. She has a crush on Andrew Finkel but afraid to do anything about it. She’s helped when Andrew’s dad, who passed away recently, makes his presence known. Joined by Bubby, Andrew’s dad, and a bunch of other spirits, Lilah gets the courage to go to the seventh-grade dance with Andrew.

Ok, you may notice that I am a boy and this book is about a girl. That actually never made a difference to me when I agreed to review this book for my mom’s blog. I’ve never had a problem really reading books with girl characters. The only thing I say no to are princess books. I have to draw the line somewhere, right?

My point is that this doesn’t feel like a girl book. Lilah is obviously a girl but I didn’t really notice, you know? I mean, there were parts that were a little…awkward…like when she goes shopping for bras. Yikes. Other than that, though, her being a girl really wasn’t obvious.

This was a really fun book to read. Lilah is a pretty hilarious girl who is going through a lot of things kids my age are going through like bullies, school, dating…you know, teen stuff. So when she starts to hear voices, that sort of stresses her out a bit. It would me, too. If I started hearing voices I might think I was going crazy!  What helps is that Lilah isn’t afraid to tell her friends about her new gift. Overall, they are pretty supportive and understanding, which is pretty awesome.

So, this is a fun book to read if you want something with a touch of the supernatural, but it is definitely a book that can be read any time of the year. I think anyone my age would enjoy reading this, girl or boy!



Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: I Have Opinions

Typically, this feature is reserved for my formerly reluctant reader son, John-John, to discuss books that he’s read recently. Specifically, books that he believes will appeal to reluctant readers. Instead, I’m turning over the blog today to John-John so he can discuss some issues he’s been having with books and the opinions he’s aching to share.  So, without further ado….

Hi everyone! Today I’m not here to talk to you about a book but instead I wanted to talk about some issues I’m having with books. My mom calls me a formerly reluctant reader because I used to hate to read. Now I really like it, but I’m getting frustrated. My favorite books have always been non-fiction. I like to learn about things, especially space, history, military and more. I’m trying to read more fiction (my mom says it will open up a whole new world for me) but I’m having challenges finding fiction that interest me.  See, I like fiction that is based on “real” things. I loved the Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus books.  Now what? It seems to me that not nearly as many books are geared for boys, especially reluctant readers,  if you take a look at the books for girls. Not a lot of my friends that are guys read and maybe this is why? If people want boys to read more, write more books for us!

Another thing-I sort of get overwhelmed when I see a huge gigantic book on the shelf. Another way to attract kids who don’t like to read is by making books that are shorter, broken up either by pictures or comics. This is why I loved books like Frankie Pickle, Big Nate, and The Wimpy Kid. I didn’t feel like it was a challenge to read them because all of the writing was broken up.  Now those books are below my reading level but I return to them when I can’t find anything else to read.

Also, I love graphic novels. But you know what? Not a lot of graphic novels are available for kids my age.  The violence level is usually too high or there is too much foul language. I discovered the Star Wars Clone Wars graphic novels and love them but there should be more like those.

I was lucky enough to discover books published by Capstone Books, books that are written for kids like me. They are one of the few publishers out there that seem to “get” kids like me. They publish books in graphic novel format, books on subjects that interest me. Hello, Tony Hawk! They’ve got him! You would think that other publishers would do the same, but they don’t.

I guess the point of me writing this post was to ask publishers to write more books for boys like me. I’m not into sports and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a bit of a nerd. So, publishers and authors out there, can you please write more books for nerds like me?



Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: Star Wars, Clone Wars: Incredible Vehicles

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my twelve year old son, a formerly reluctant reader, reviews a book he particularly enjoyed! These words are his own and in no way influenced by his mother :)

  • Reading level: Ages 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: DK CHILDREN (August 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0756686911
  • Source: Publisher

We have a lot of Star Wars books in our house. Since I can remember, I have been a fan of them movies, characters & books. I have books that discuss the characters and the storylines of most of the movies.  Even after I have read all of these books, I think this is one of the best Star Wars books I have ever read. It describes in great detail nearly every vehicle mentioned, including spacecraft, landcraft, and watercraft in Star Wars Clone Wars.

The image shown of each of these vehicles are far more detailed that I have ever seen.  Here is an example: 


Each vehicle is shown, every little aspect of that vehicle diagrammed and described. You can find out which class each vehicle is in, the weapons it has, and more.  Cross-sections are provided for some of the larger vehicles. Never could I have imagined what each of these ships looked like inside!

Star Wars fans of all ages will love this book, I promise. You may notice that this book is published by DK. That is reason alone to buy this book! The pictures and details they put in each of their books is amazing! I spend hours exploring each of their books! So go out and buy it (or in my case, have your mom buy it!). I’d love to know what you think!




Frightful Friday-Guys Read: Thriller, Edited by John Scieszka

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. Feel free to grab the button & join in!

Since my twelve-year-old son John & I are doing a joint review of this book, this is a very special Frightful Friday!  As many of you know, John has his own feature on my blog, Tales of A (Formerly) Reluctant Reader! So today you are getting two memes for the price of one! This week’s featured book is Guys Read: Thriller!




  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback:288 pages
  • Publisher:Walden Pond Press (September 20, 2011)
  • Source: Publisher

In the second installment of John Scieszka’s Guy’s Read Library, a host of writers delight readers with a series of pulse-pounding stories.  John & I fought over shared a copy of this book & today we’re going to share with your our favorites & why!

The Double Eagle Has Landed by Anthony Horowitz

John: I liked this one because it was pretty silly. This kid, Nick, decides he doesn’t want to go off to Australia with his parents so he sneaks off the plane & ends up staying with his big brother who claims to be a private detective, Ted Diamond. What’s funny is that Ted Diamond is a complete idiot! He’s so clueless I doubt he’ll ever solve a case!  They get called in to investigate a case only to learn they’ve been tricked. I liked it not because it was particularly thrilling or anything, but pretty hilarious! Also, when I saw this story was written by Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series, I knew I had to read it!

Jenn: A fan of Horowitz’s writing myself, I knew going in we’d love this short story. It’s witty; it’s funny. Perfect level of engagement for a young male reader. Horowitz is clearly a kid at heart; he “gets” his readers & never fails to capture their attention.

Thad, the Ghost, and Me by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Two boys think they are going to a haunted house hosted by the local 4-H club. Turns out they had the address wrong; they are at a real haunted house, with the spirit of a young boy trying to save his family home and put it in hands of the rightful owner.

John: Ok. I’ll admit it. I don’t like ghosts. Or anything spooky. Not at all. My mother, the queen of Halloween, tries to get me to read scary stories this year and usually I turn her down. For some reason, I liked this one. It wasn’t too spooky, the ghost seemed like he was a pretty normal kid, other than the fact he was dead. I’ve never read any of Haddix’s books before but think I’ll give them a try now!

Jenn:  I’ve been trying to get John to read some of Haddix’s writing for some time now; I’ve read a few myself and I’m impressed how she turns a piece of fiction into a learning experience, providing historical detail, etc. This short story, this tiny taste of her writing, opened his eyes to something he’d never been willing to experience.  I’m hoping he really will go on to read more of her writing; I find it to be particularly fascinating.

Nate Macavoy, Monster Hunter  by Bruce Hale

Nate’s friend Jeremy goes missing. Nate’s not concerned that Jeremy has been kidnapped or anything like that. He knows, without a doubt, that something happened to Jeremy while hunting for a cryptid (creatures like Big Foot, Loch Ness monster) or something similar.  So Nate does a bit of investigating and learned of a type of cryptid native to their state: Pukwudgies.

Pukwudgies are troll-like creatures that can appear & disappear, turn themselves into whatever shape they like. It becomes Nate’s mission to track down the Pukwudgies & save his best friend, no matter what the consequences.

John: Ok, this was another one I wasn’t too sure about at first. As I said already, I’m not a fan of anything spooky. Luckily this one was just a tiny bit scary. I’m not familiar with this author’s other books but I hope to check out more of his stuff!

Jenn: How can one not like a story about two monster-hunting little boys? It’s suspenseful, leaves you hanging at the end. What more can you ask for!?


And our favorite!!

Ghost Vision Glasses by Patrick Carman

Kyle is a typical ten-year old little boy. He’s fond of weird stuff, collects things like magic tricks, fart putty, etc.  He’s taunted by the meanest kid in the neighborhood, Scotty Vincent. For some reason Kyle’s parents think they are friends, inviting Scotty & his parents to trips to their family cabin.

It is on one such trip that Kyle discovers an old set of comic books in a dusty old box. If that wasn’t cool enough, inside the comic books are offers for some pretty weird stuff, like a handshake shocker, Vulcan ears, crime detection lab, and…the ultimate….Ghost Vision Glasses. Since the comics were from the 1970s the prices for all these items were ridiculously cheap; Kyle ordered a whole list of items for just under $30.

Most of the orders he mails in are returned as undeliverable, except the order for the Ghost Vision glasses. Eventually, he receives an envelope telling him where to pick up the glasses.  They just happen to be hidden in his family’s cabin.

When he finds them they are more than he could have ever imagined. Put them on and you can see and talk to ghosts. Take them off…nada. When he puts them on for the first time, he is greeted by a particularly friendly ghost. He’s warned to only wear the glasses in the cabin. One look outside & he sees why: dozens of not-so-nice ghosts are roaming around.  As long as Kyle is willing to follow the rules, the ghost is willing to hang out in the attic with him, answering all his questions.  But then Scotty Vincent gets his hands on the glasses and does the worst thing possible: puts them on outside. He sees ghosts everywhere and begins to go crazy. Jumping in the lake is the only way to rid himself of the ghostly visions, and unfortunately the glasses themselves.

John: I know, I know. This sounds like another spooky story. It’s really not though.  Why did I like it? Because the bully gets what he deserves at the end! And hello!? Patrick Carman! I HAVE to read everything this guy writes!

Jenn: I have to admit; I did a little cheer when mean Scotty Vincent got what was due to him!  Patrick Carman is an author John has always loved, always been willing to take risks for!


Bottom line, Guys Read: Thriller is a book perfect for reluctant readers! Written by authors recognizable by young readers, they get a small tidbit of the author’s style and writing. Hopefully, as it did in John’s case, they will be inspired to read more by that author.  Highly, highly recommended. John & I can’t wait to read the next installment of Guys Read!

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: The Capstone Edition!


Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my eleven-year-old son, John, reviews books as a formerly reluctant reader. He gives his opinion of the book, detailing why he thinks this book would be good for reluctant readers.

In this edition of Tales of A (Formerly) Reluctant Reader, John reviews several of his favorite books published by his favorite publisher, Capstone!

As a mother, I love Capstone for many reasons but mainly because they helped my son develop an appreciation for reading through some pretty impressive graphic novels and a line of books specifically geared toward reluctant readers. So without further ado, I’ll let John take the reins!

Hello everyone! I originally planned to do several posts about the books I’ve been reading lately, but when my mom noticed that many of them were Capstone books, she suggested I do one post with many little reviews instead. Ok, here it goes!

Can You Survive Antarctica?: An Interactive Survival Adventure by Rachel Hanel

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback:112 pages
  • Publisher:Capstone Press (August 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1429673451
  • Source: Netgalley

This is one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I love! Obviously, it’s set in Antarctica. I chose the path of an explorer in 1911, on a team trying to reach the South Pole first! Unfortunately, the path I chose lead to eventual death, but I didn’t let that get me down! The book shared great tips for surviving extreme cold temperatures, how to deal with hypothermia, and more. It even mentioned several people who survived treks to Antarctica.  I think maybe my favorite part was the survival quiz.  Since I’m a Boy Scout I had the advantage! I learned about treating hypothermia months ago so I passed the quiz with flying colors!  This is a great book for kids looking for a little adventure and don’t mind learning something along the way! For example, did you know that Antarctica is considered a desert even though it is covered in ice!?

Can You Survive the Titanic?: An Interactive Survival Adventure by Allison Lassieur

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback:112 pages
  • Publisher:Capstone Press (August 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1429673516
  • Source: Netgalley

You guessed it! Another “Choose your own Adventure!” This one, surprise, surprise, takes place on the Titanic.  You are a passenger on the Titanic. It’s a pretty awesome ship, nearly 4 city blocks long. You notice, though, that there are only 16 life boats, not enough for the 2200 people on board.  You don’t freak out though because there are enough life vests for everyone. Plus, what are the odds you are going to need to use them?  But bad things do happen and the ship crashes into an iceberg.  At this point you get three options on which character you will play in the story. I, of course, chose the 12-year-old boy traveling with his father to New York.  I know this probably isn’t the best decision since the others include a surgeon’s assistant or the governess to a wealthy family, but it’s the closest to who I actually am.  It was quite perfect because it turns out this little boy (me!) is a Boy Scout! This time I have better luck and my father & I survive!

After the “adventure” the book explains why only 705 of the 2200 people survived. Most of them were third-class passengers.  This is the part of the boat that hit the iceberg, flooding first. Also, this part of the ship was separated from the rest. The rich believed third-class carried diseases so they were kept away.  But since they were separated, the third-class passengers couldn’t reach the life boats.

Another reason was that many people didn’t want to leave the ship to get on the life boats. I don’t think they understood how serious the situation was. When they did realize, it was too late and the life boats were gone.

The end of the book lists several of the real survivors of the Titanic, including the youngest passenger on the Titanic, a little girl who was only two months old!  She lived to be 97 years old and was the last living survivor of the Titanic sinking.

I didn’t do as well on this survival quiz because I haven’t quite learned what to do if a ship begins to sink, but you better believe I know now!

Like the Antarctica book, I liked this book because I got to take part in an adventure but also learned a lot!

Obama: The Historic Election of America’s 44th President: The Historic Election of America’s 44th President by Agnieszka Biskup

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback:32 pages
  • Publisher:Capstone Press (August 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1429673397
  • Source: Netgalley

In the last election, voters came out in record numbers, over 130 million Americans voted.  The first African American man was sworn in as President of the United States

This is our time…to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one…and those who tell us we can’t…that while we breathe we hope.  We will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.


The election of Barack Obama will always be an election I remember. Like President Obama, I come from a mixed family. His election gave me hope that even I could be president! This book was nice and short, only about 34 pages. It was a great summary of President Obama’s election, starting from the very beginning. I think it would make the perfect addition to a classroom, too. While there are some people who aren’t happy with the President right now (at least that’s what I get from the few minutes of news I watch at night) Barack Obama’s election was still a historical one. Nothing will ever change that, or my appreciation and admiration of this man.


Thank you again to John for stopping by with these reviews. Thank you to Capstone Publishers for producing such quality books!

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: The Mistaken Masterpiece by Michael D. Beil

Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my eleven-year-old son, John, reviews books as a formerly reluctant reader. He gives his opinion of the book, detailing why he thinks this book would be good for reluctant readers.

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (June 14, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0375867406
  • Source: Publisher
  • In the third book in the Red Blazer Girls series, Catholic school girls Sophie, Margaret, Becca, and Leigh Ann are on an investigation of another mystery.

    The book starts off with a swim practice.  Sophie is sharing a lane with her arch-nemesis, Livvy. When Livvvy “accidentally” hits Sophie in the nose, breaking it, Sophie can’t get over the idea she did it on purpose.  As if that isn’t bad enough, Sophie & the other girls are supposed to meet Nate Ethan, their movie star crush, actor in a vampire movie called No Reflections.

    The meeting goes over well, Nate is so impressed by Sophie that he asks her to watch his dog, Tillie, while he travels. Sophie has always wanted a dog…plus how could she say no to Nate? Meanwhile, Father Julian has asked them to help authenticate a painting that has been in his family for years. Problem is, the painting in his possession might be a fake; it is up to the Red Blazer Girls to determine if it is real.

    So, while trying to keep under control a dog that has a sudden change in behavior, a jealous not-really boyfriend, oh, and a broken nose, the girls must find a way to proof the painting is real. Oh, and let’s not forget the secret odd packages Sophie begins to receive. Who is sending these random packages and what do they represent?

    John’s Review: Ok, I admit, when my mom asked me to read and review this book with her I wasn’t too thrilled about it.  Really? A book about a bunch of school girls who solve mysteries?  I wasn’t convinced…at first.  But then they started talking about baseball, and other things I found pretty interesting and I was won over! I started to forget that the characters were girls. Ok, not really forget but it wasn’t that big a deal.  Oh, and the vampire movie actor? That almost turned me off to this book, too.  However, in the end, I became very excited about the mystery the girls were investigating and decided the other things didn’t matter.  In my opinion, this book would be perfect for both boys & girls in 4-6th grade. I enjoyed it!  My mom got copies of the two previous books on CD and I can’t wait to listen to them! These girls get in a lot of messes, but seem to be able to find their way out of them!

    Jenn’s Review: Yes, I too was skeptical when I asked John to review this book with me.  As a child, I grew up reading Nancy Drew and other female-led mystery books.  I can confess to wanting to relive my childhood, right? In any case, I was really impressed with this book & it’s ability to keep John’s attention, despite the female characters.  He really enjoyed the main character, Sophie, a no-nonsense girl.

    The pacing was spot-on, the storyline kept John’s attention throughout.  We had some great discussions about art, baseball history, etc. I’m happy he wants to continue the series becaus I do as well!

    While this is the third book in the series, in our opinion it is possible to pick up the series with this book, without reading the prior two.  The author gives substantial character history and back story so the reader becomes familiar with the characters right away.

    If you are looking for a middle-grade book with strong female lead characters, this is the book for you! Highly recommended.

    Check back tomorrow for a guest post (and giveaway) by the author, Michael Beil!

    Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

    Hi everyone! John here!  I know it’s been a while (Mom says months!) since I’ve posted anything.  The thing is, I’ve been enjoying so many books lately that I don’t have the time to review them.  Plus, now that I’m in the 5th grade, just months away from middle-school, I’m really working hard on my school work.

    Instead of writing a bunch of reviews, I decided to list a few of the books I’ve been reading over the last few months & explain why I enjoyed them. So…here we go:

    Fablehaven by Brandon Mull-My mom brought this book home after one of her many trips to One More Page books.  I didn’t think I would like it at first but boy was I wrong!  Two kids go off to stay with their grandparents. They soon learn that Fablehaven is really a sort of “reserve” for mythical creatures who are all at risk for extinction. How cool is that!? I’m still reading this one so I don’t know how it ends yet but I’m really liking it so far! Plus, mom tells me it’s a series and I LOVE SERIES!

    Emerald Atlas by John Stephens-ALL the kids at school were talking about this one.  There’s this girl in my class who reads super fast and read this one in one day.  She said it’s pretty awesome and sort of reminds her of Harry Potter.  So, when Mom said she was going to the bookstore I asked her to pick up a copy for me (Mom edit: Actually, he said “Don’t come home without that book!”).  Mom also heard great things about this book from my Ma-Ma so she couldn’t say no. Plus, really…who can say no to me?  Anyway, I started reading this on Saturday and all the good things I heard about it are true.  This book is EPIC! This might very well be my favorite book of the year!  Plus, it’s the first of a series. So.Awesome.

    The Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan-I think this was another book that Mom brought home for me from the bookstore. Will is a 15 year old kid who gets assigned to a Ranger for training.  Will wanted to be a knight, so he’s not very happy about this.  But what he learns is Rangers are pretty cool, using all kinds of stealth to protect the kingdom.  Yes, this is the first book in another series. The awesome thing is that this series is  really long so I don’t have to worry about waiting for the newest book!

    Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz-This is the first book in the most awesome Alex Rider series. I actually discovered the graphic novel version of this book first and once I read that I had to read the original one.  Alex Rider’s uncle, Ian, gets killed.  Alex thought he worked at a bank but that wasn’t true; he was actually a spy for the British government! Now the government wants Alex to take over his uncle’s job. This entire series is so exciting; I’m on the 5th book now and love it.  It’s full of action and excitement, plus the gadgets Alex gets to use are pretty cool!

    This Book Made Me Do It: Cool things to make, do and explore by DK Publishing-Ok I actually picked out this book myself!  I really liked The Dangerous Book for Boys so when I saw this one I had to have it.  It tells you how to do all sorts of things, like how to make hot chocolate from scratch, how to do oragami, how to become a sports pro, and more.  I like all the books this publisher makes; they are full of great pictures and details.  This is one of those books I will hold on to for a while!

    Ok, I think that’s it for now.  I’ll try not to go so long without posting something.  With summer just around the corner I will hopefully have more time to read!

    Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader: Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys: The Rat Brain Fiasco by Julie Gardner Berry


    Tales of a (Formerly) Reluctant Reader is a feature in which my eleven-year-old son, John, reviews books geared toward reluctant readers. 

    • Reading level: Ages 9-12
    • Paperback: 208 pages
    • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (August 12, 2010)
    • ISBN-10: 0448453592
    • Source: Publisher

    Cody Mack is used to getting into trouble.  The principal’s office is his second home. This time it’s different, however.  Sitting outside the principles office while his parents are inside, Cody realizes this visit isn’t like the others.  First, this meeting is lasting much longer than most.  Second, he’s overhearing words like “remedial neuro-therapies.”

    When he is finally called into the office, he notices a tall strange man in the room.  The man, Dr. Farley, runs a special school for naughty kids.  His parents quite readily sign the forms & Cody leaves with Dr. Farley that afternoon.  When he arrives, he realizes that the Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys isn’t your typical boarding school.  It’s hidden away in a dark & dangerous forest.  The teachers are all monsters: vampires, werewolves, and mummies.

    His first day at Splurch Academy, Cody is thrown into the the dungeon, surrounded by rats.  He soon learns of Dr. Farley’s evil plan: to swap the brains of these rats with the boys at Splurch Academy using a horrendous device called the “Rebellio-rodent Recipronator!” The “rat-boys” are then controlled using a remote control device worn by Dr. Farley.  Parents will see their “behaved” boys & Dr. Farley will be famous!  Unfortunately, Farley has met his match with Cody!

    John’s review:

    Don’t even think about misbehaving at school ever again or your principal might send you away to the Splurch Academy!  You’ll wear prison outfits, eat disgusting food and you won’t have TV or video games!

    I’m not a disruptive boy, but this book made me want to behave better so I don’t have to even worry about a punishment like this.  I think Cody deserved his punishment, but I was happy to see that he wouldn’t let Dr. Farley take control of his brain!

    One of my favorite things about this book was that it is a combination chapter book/comic book.  The comics break up the chapters, making them seem shorter.  The graphics were both funny & scary at the same time.  I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read the third book, which my mom says comes out next month.  Kids who like to read about monsters, but not get too scared, would really love this book.

    Jenn’s review:

    I truly enjoyed reading this series with John!  As he mentioned, the breaking up of chapters by comic panels really add to the story.  In addition, they helped keep John’s attention; not once did he ask to stop reading or complain. In addition, the chapters are quite short, just 2-3 pages long.  This helped with the pacing of the book; the short chapters kept things exciting.

    This series is the perfect one for reluctant readers, specifically boys. John & I are quite hooked on this series;we read both books in one weekend!  We’re both counting down to the release to the third book in the series, The Colossal Fossil Freakout!