Tuesday, November 26, 2013



by Lane Smith
Published by Roaring Book Press
Copyright 2010
Review by Anthony Kendrick

A monkey, a mouse, and a "Donkey" walk into a library... and so begins the joke.

The monkey is quietly looking at this rectangular thing that opens up, and the inside is covered with words that seem to run left to right top to botton. The "Donkey" ;) understandably, has no idea what he is doing with that contraption or what it is for.

"It's a Book" is one of the funniest books I have ever read, and it is quite apropos for the generation that we live in where paper and ink seems to be antiquated and children are not developing the fine motor skills necessary to turn pages, but seem to have rapid eye and thumb dexterity. Pick up a real book now, and start with this one "It's a Book". You'll thank me.


By “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Published by Quirk Books
Copyright © 2013

Review by Anthony Kendrick

Encyclopedia Brown meets Bill Nye the Science Guy in this tweener Mystery with lots of great projects to keep you busy long after you finish the book.

Nick and Tesla have been sent to live with their Uncle Newt for the summer while their parents are in Uzbekistan studying soybean irrigation. Uncle Newt is quite the eccentric inventor and struggles mightily as the parent/guardian sort, but on the up side he doesn’t keep tabs on their whereabouts and he says “My laboratory is your laboratory. Go nuts!” So Nick and Tesla just might do that as they try to figure out what is going on at the strange old house at the end of the drive where there is always a remodeler's van but no work is ever done, two Rottweilers viciously protecting the property, and a strange pale looking girl at an upstairs window.

Nick and Tesla’s HVDL mixes science and fiction in just the right amounts to produce a fun little mystery that 4th-7th graders should really enjoy. And the directions for creating electromagnets, bottle rockets, burglar alarms and the like (with parental supervision) are bound to keep kids busy long after they finish the book. This would make a great summer reading book. (With the growing emphasis on STEM training in our public schools this is a great book to keep kids interest in science and technology.)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Breakfast On Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays

Edited by Rebecca Stern & Brad Wolfe
Published by Roaring Book Press
Copyright © 2013
Review by Anthony Kendrick

Ah Essays, a student’s arch-enemy; the bane of their existence. The most boring of boring school assignments. Students are forever being given assignments on social/community issues like - “Many people believe that television violence has a negative effect on society because it promotes violence. Do you agree or disagree?” – or – “According to some people, elderly drivers should be required to reapply for their driving licenses because with age comes diminished vision, hearing, and reaction time. How do you feel about this issue?” While these essays serve a purpose they certainly aren’t very interesting.

“Breakfast on Mars” turns the same old essay assignment on its side. Stern & Wolfe have compiled essays from 37 authors who write on fun and interesting topics such as: the existence of Sasquatch, Donkey Kong: the real victim, meeting penguins in Antarctica, The quandary of the morality of puss in boots, and many more.

While the essay types will always remain the same the essay prompts in this book are simple and a bit broad allowing for the greatest fun, interest, and creativity. Some examples are: “Pick a myth or an urban legend and argue why it must be true”, “Put yourself in the shoes of a villain and write an essay from his or her perspective”, or “If you could change an event in history, which one would you choose and why?”

This book is a great resource for teachers and students alike. Teachers can make quick use of the Essay Type and Essay Prompt Indices in the back of the book to find prompts to assign along with good examples of that sort of essay, and students will be happy to have the essay shackles loosened. Readers in general will enjoy this book for the creativity, personal insights, and occasional laughs found within.

Book Club December

The North Whidbey Middle School Book Club will be meeting again on Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 at 2:30. We will be discussing the book "Punk Rock Etiquette" by Travis Nichols. To attend students must get a permission slip signed by their parents allowing them to leave school later than usual. Parents may pickup, students may walk, or they can take the tutor bus home.

Friday, November 22, 2013


By Rich Wallace
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright © 2009
Review by Anthony Kendrick

“Two brothers. One championship.” One really annoying dad.

Zeke and Randy are brothers. Zeke is a senior and Randy is a freshman. Both play chess and are playing in a regional tournament in Scranton, Pennsylvania with the hopes of winning a $1,000 scholarship and an invite to the state tournament. Randy is easy going and friendly and Zeke is a bit of a jerk. Although these boys are very different from one another and don’t generally get along, It is at this tournament that they both reach their breaking point with their meddling father.

Not too long ago I read “One Good Punch” which was set in Scranton, PA as well, and featured a teen track star with a problem. Now reading “Perpetual Check”, I’m beginning to see that Rich Wallace really has a knack for writing quick reading sports dramas. 

I really appreciated how in just 112 pages he takes us into the youth chess world, introduces us to a dysfunctional family, and presents us with signs of a resolution to sibling rivalry and parental interference. It isn’t burdened down with chess match details he just provides enough so that the novice and the experienced player get the picture. In addition, the resolution does not feel forced or contrived. While he occasionally gives us a glimpse into the past of these characters, Wallace mainly just gives us a day in the life of these two characters, and it just happens to be the day that they both come together and have had enough. Teens 13 and up will really be able to relate to this characters, and it may just spark their interest in the game of chess.