Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ category


May 28, 2014

Today in Mrs. Keane’s library class, I asked the students to write a book review of a book they have LOVED in their time here at CPS. I was pleased with the results: here are some of them.

cardboard1CARDBOARD by Doug Tennapel
If you’re a person who likes action then this graphic novel is for you.

It’s Cam’s birthday and his dad is really poor and looking for money for a present. He went to his boss and his boss gave him 78 cents so he starts driving back to his house. But then he sees a stand on the side of the road and stops at it. It is selling toys. Then the store clerk gives him suggestions and he gives him a cardboard box, but what Cam’s dad doesn’t know that it is magical. So he buys it for 78 cents and drives to his house. And Cam loves it. They build a pro boxer and he names him Bill and that night he comes alive. But these stupid bullies spray Bill’s legs the next day. So they have to build a cardboard maker and make Bill new legs. Then the bullies steal it and they make evil Cardboard people and monsters. Can Cam and his dad get it back or will the town be overrun with these horrible creatures?


Inkheart_bookINKHEART by Cornelia Funke
When Meggie sees a mysterious stalker outside her bedroom, and Mo, her father, is kidnapped by mysterious men just for a book, she is caught in the story (literally) of her missing mother. An evil maniac, a white washed assassin, and a scarred fire-eater came to being and forced Meggie’s mother into it. To escape the clutches of the maniac Capricorn, Meggie must harness the magic that subdued her own mother to the paper prisons of the pages of Inkheart.


spiderwickTHE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES  by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

The Spiderwick Series is amazing. It brought me to a whole different world. The books are about three kids and their Mom living in an old house that has a circle of mushrooms around it to keep the trolls out from their house so they can’t get to the book that has every little secret about the secret life. The writing is more than descriptive. If you read the first book you would be amazed and you would most likely read the whole series. When I was reading it, it felt as though it was happening.


naturegirl200x305NATURE GIRL by Jane Kelley

Want to know a great book? Well here’s one, Nature Girl. If I had to put this book in one word it would be AMAZING! This book is about a girl who gets lost and travels part of the Appalachian Trail. She ran away from her sister, then realized she was just going to visit her friend, who couldn’t come with her for summer vacation because her mom has cancer. When I read this book, I tried to put it down about ten times, but I couldn’t, because I wanted to know how her adventure ended. Did she get eaten the bear? Did she get caught? Did she ever find her way to her friend’s house? This book taught me not to ever wander off because you might get lost.


holesHOLES by Louis Sachar

This book will leave you on the edge of your seat. This book is about a boy named Stanley Yelnats. He’s accused of stealing a pair of shoes, but did he? You will have to read the book to find out. There’s also other exciting things going on all throughout the book. I think it’s an amazing novel and once you start reading it you won’t want to stop.Stanley also goes to a camp where he has to dig holes because they think he did something bad a.k.a steal the shoes.You should read this book – it won’t disappoint you, trust me.



This book is about a boy named Leo who sells newspapers. Leo is poor and he needs money for his family. Leo gets bullied by two kids named Fletch Skies and his “sidekick” Wilkie Barnes.But one day something happened that is considered an earthquake. Do you think he will survive or not? This book will leave you at the edge of your bed.


the new girlTHE NEW GIRL by Meg Cabot
This book made me feel better and not scared when I found out I was moving to a new school. This girl named Ali is moving to a new school and she is very nervous because in her old school she got bullied. This book gives you advice on moving to a new school. That is why I read it when I found out I was moving to a new school.
I read this whole series they are really good books. I could not let go I was so into it.

junie bJUNIE B. JONES, BOSS OF LUNCH by Barbara Park

This  is a hilarious book.

When Junie B. goes to lunch, with her lunch box from home, and everyone else has lunch from school, she sees a sugar cookie on her friend Herbert’s tray. When she takes a bite out of it, the cookie reminds her of the lady in kindergarten who used to bring cookies into her class. “Mrs. Gutzman”, yells Junie B., then she sees her in the kitchen. She runs into the kitchen and gives her a hug and goes on talking, What will happen when Junie B. goes in the kitchen? What will Mrs. Gutzman do? I read this whole series with my Mom when I was in second grade. It was really funny and Junie B. has a really good personality.


WHAT THE MOON SAID by Gayle Rosengren

April 13, 2014

imgresI just read a great historical fiction book that I found touching and moving. WHAT THE MOON SAID is about an extremely likeable young girl and her family relocating from Chicago to a farm in Wisconsin during the Depression (1930’s) after Pa loses his job. Despite the harsh conditions – the farm is rundown, has no electricity or indoor plumbing – Esther loves the animals and responds to the adventure of living “pioneer style”.  Esther desperately wants her mother , a Russian immigrant who is very superstitious, seeing signs in everything from rings around the moon to the number of birds on the fence post, to show her some affection.  She wants her to be more like her best friend’s mother, but Ma is caught up in the grind of farm life. Through the course of the book, we see Esther respond to tough issues involving school, sickness, and a new best friend, yet she never loses hope or the willingness to try again. If you like the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, WHAT THE MOON SAID gives you the same feeling.  The past is brought to life as a charming, believable young girl deals with real life situations in ways that make you cheer for her.

FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo

February 28, 2014

flora_cvr_usatoday_rev-3_4This year’s Newbery Award, given to the most distinguished book for children by an American author, goes to FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo.  The author of many popular books such as THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX,  BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, and the MERCY WATSON series, this is a smart, heavily illustrated story with a lot of humor and heart.

Flora is a lonely girl.  Her mother spends all her time writing romance novels, and Flora doesn’t see her father very much (her parents are divorced).  Flora reads a lot of old comic books about “the great Incandesto”, a superhero.  One day she looks out the window and sees a squirrel getting sucked into the neighbor’s vacuum cleaner.  Flora saves the squirrel, who now seems….different somehow.   Has he become a superhero?  How will Flora’s lonely life change because of this squirrel named Ulysses?

EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett

January 21, 2014

imgresIt’s winter, and we’re all trying to stay warm…plus have a few laughs. I’ve been reading EXTRA YARN by Mac Barnett in lots of my library classes. It is an award-winning  picture book fable about a little girl named Annabelle who lives in a dreary black and white town. She finds a box full of yarn of every color and knits sweaters for everyone in town, plus the pets and the houses, but the yarn never runs out! When a greedy archduke sails in from across the sea and steals her box of yarn, you might think that would be the end of her yarn adventures. The ending puts a smile on everyone’s face, and reinforces the notion that good always triumphs over bad, and kindness can transform a community. EXTRA YARN will give you a warm feeling on a cold winter day.

The Christmas Truce of World War I

December 16, 2013

Last year I discovered these three books about the famous Christmas truce that happened during World War I.  In varying degrees of illustration and text, all three books tell the amazing true story of the Christmas Eve in 1914 when the British and the Germans stopped fighting, sang Christmas carols together (in different languages),  exchanged small gifts and conversation, and even played a rousing game of football.  My fifth grade classes have truly had their eyes opened by this gem of a story, which gives us a glimpse of peace and humanity in the midst of the harsh, violent realities of war.

The “BOO” books by J.H. Lee

November 26, 2013

What are the most popular books in the CPS Library lately?  The “Boo” books by J.H. Lee.  Basically they are pictures with captions of this adorable Pomeranian who has been groomed to look like a teddy bear:

When Bella, a second grade student, asked me if I had any books “about the dog who looks like a teddy bear”, I went to the internet and quickly found what she was talking about.  I now have two copies of each of the books, and they are checked out the minute they come back.  Sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a picture book that make you say “awwwwww” on every page.


October 18, 2013

galaxy zackHave you ever wondered what it would be like to live on another planet? Are you interested in what the future might be like? The “Galaxy Zack” books might be a good series for you!

In this new  easy chapter book series, a boy named Zack moves with his family from Earth to a planet called Nebulon. The sky, land, and water are different colors than on Earth, the cars fly, and the Nebulites speak very differently. Zack is nervous to move and he thinks no one will like him at school. He has to get used to everything on Nebulon.  There are amazing gadgets; for instance, when Zack pushes a button, his bed comes down from the ceiling at night!   There’s  an Indoor Robotic Assistant (IRA) that is wired throughout the house and does almost everything for Zack and his family.   There are fun pictures on every page, making these books great for beginning chapter book readers, but they would be great for a family read-aloud, too.

New Year, New Books!

September 12, 2013

Welcome back to another wonderful school year.  It is my 19th here at CPS, and it feels just as exciting to start a new year as it did 19 years ago.  Of course there are always plenty of new books to read and share, and  I will highlight a few of my favorites here.

water castleTHE WATER CASTLE by Megan Fraser Blakemore

When Ephraim’s dad suffers a stroke, his family moves back to the Water Castle, their ancestral home in MAINE.  There is  a legend that the Fountain of Youth exists on the grounds of the castle.   Follow Ephraim and his friends on their quest to find the amazing healing water.  This book combines history, science, mystery, and family secrets in a very exciting way.   If you are a fan of THE SECRET GARDEN, you may find some similarities in this book.

spy campSPY CAMP by Stuart Gibbs

Hurray!  A sequel to SPY SCHOOL!  These are two great books about 12-year-old Ben Ripley who receives a surprise visit one night from a famous spy, informing him that because of his amazing math skills he is needed at a special school for CIA spies-in-training.  The first book chronicles his first year at this school, full of dangerous and humorous situations.  The second book, SPY CAMP, finds our young hero at the summer camp run by the spy school.  He is the target of SPYDER, the enemy spy group, and he spends the summer trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, who are trying to recruit him to “the dark side”.  He receives help again from  Erica,  the smart and pretty top student at his school.

esacpe from...ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein

Do you like games and puzzles?  Full of library humor and positive vibes about reading and games, this book is a fun twist on CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.  Kyle, an avid games, and 11 other sixth graders win the chance to spend the night at their town’s brand new futuristic library, designed by the world’s most famous game maker, Mr. Lemoncello (who bears a striking resemblance to Willy Wonka).  The library, which takes up half a city block, has holographic projections, hover ladders to help you reach books that are on bookcases three stories in the air, an IMAX theatre, and an Electronic Learning Center.  The night the children spend there is full of amazing fun and games.  In the morning the doors remain locked, and the eccentric Mr. Lemoncello announces a twist no one was expecting:  the children must all use what they find IN the library to find their way OUT of the library. They will have to use their wits to decipher clues and solve riddles leading them to an alternate exit.

Mrs. Conrad’s Class: Fifth Grade Book Reviews

June 3, 2013

In library class today, I had each student write a book review of a book that they have loved during their 6 years at CPS.  Here are their reviews:


brian's returnBrian’s Return by Gary Paulsen

I just finished reading the second book of the Hatchet series, BRIAN’S RETURN, by Gary Paulsen.  This book is about a boy named Brian who needs, really actively NEEDS, to go back to the wilderness because after he got lost in the wilderness he doesn’t fit in the city anymore.  So he goes.  He runs into a bear, makes a new friend, and canoes through a chain of lakes.  But his destination is a mystery for you!


Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events

bad beginningBook I:  The Bad Beginning

When smoke rises from their parent’s house, three orphans are informed that their parents have burned to ash in a massive fire.  Being orphans, they are delivered to their legal (but evil) guardian, a nasty villain called Count Olaf, who will do anything to get his dirty hands on the immense fortune that the orphans’ parents left behind.  The orphans, Sunny, Klaus, and Violet, desperately try to stay out of the way of the criminal, but with the dastardly plan he has, well, what’s a couple of brilliant orphans to do?


dog on his ownA Dog on on his Own by Mary Jane Auch

This book is about a dog that ran off from his owner.  He does not trust people and he finds two other dogs from the shelter.  He gets hurt, and  Peppy and Pearl help him get better and find shelter and food.  This book is so scary and happy and great!


elephant in the gardenElephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

Fifth grade was a year of excellent books.  I’m sure I can’t remember all of them, but I know this one will be with me forever.

A woman and her son visit an old woman in a rest home, where the mother works.  Soon enough they become lost in an incredible story of her childhood in Germany during World War II.  A thrilling adventure unfolds as she retells the story of her expedition across the country with her brother, her mom, and an elephant!  How do you survive a Nazi attack with an elephant to take care of?


wildwoodbookWildwood by Colin Meloy

This whole story is about when Pru, a young girl and the main character, is babysitting her baby brother Mac.  When they’re walking around, a murder (which means like a flock) of crows lifts her brother right out of the wagon!  Pru, as anyone probably would, goes to find her brother.  She figures out that the crows brought Mac into the Impassable Wilderness, which no one has ever gone in and has ever returned to tell his/her tale!  Pru ventures in with her friend Curtis to find her brother.  But, the woods is filled with jails, big birds, bandits, and an evil Dowager who is ready to feed Mac to Ivy to awaken it.  Can Pru, Curtis, and their friends stop the Dowager Governess and save Mac?


TangerineI just finished TANGERINE by Edward Bloor.  Paul Fisher is one of the best soccer players in Tangerine County, Florida, even though he is legally blind.  When his school is sunk into a sinkhole, that changes his life forever. His dad just pays attention to his brother Erik who is a jerk.  His mom is nice but still pays a lot of attention to Erik.  Why?  Because Erik is some football superstar.  There is a very dark secret in this family.  When you are reading the book you will figure out the dark secret, and how Paul learns friendship, bravery, and courage.



When I read Swiss Family Robinson the first time, it taught me to have imagination.  It’s about a family of six people stranded on an island where they learn to survive.  The island is pretty much like the whole world on a small island.  They have lots of exciting adventures and they build a house out of solid rock.  They ride a buffalo, an ostrich, and a mule.  There are funny parts and sad parts.  It’s really easy to read, but it really paints a picture in your mind.  When you read it you feel like you’re right there.  It’s truly a great book for all ages.


capt underpandsCaptain Underpants series

Captain Underpants is the best series of books that I read because it’s all about two kids getting into adventures with Captain Underpants who is the kids’ principal.  You will find out how the principal is Captain Underpants.  It is hilarious.


runaway twinRunaway Twin by Peg Kehret

Sunny Skyland is a 13-year old girl who has been in seven foster homes since age 3 because her mother and grandmother were killed in a car crash and her dad was nowhere to be found.  She had been separated from her twin sister Star at the age of 3 as well. Sunny has kept all of her memories of Star under her bed including a picture of them the day they were separated.  During a nice walk in the woods, Sunny finds a canvas bag with $800.  She puts out signs to try to figure out whose bag it was that she found, and no one claimed it.  So she set out on a journey to find Star, From Nebraska to Washington.  On the way Sunny comes up to a stray dog outside of McDonald’s in the parking lot.  Her trip is harsh and hard to get around, but with the help of the $800, does she make it or does she fail?


May 30, 2013

FuneralI’m reading this book with two Literacy Groups now, and it is such a funny,  beautifully  written book.  It takes place in the early part of the 1900’s in the rural midwest.    Russell and his brother Lloyd find out on the last night of summer that the teacher of their one room schoolhouse  has died. For today’s children, that would be a very sad event,  but for these boys and the five other students in the tiny country school, they feel  like they’ve won the lottery.  Maybe school will be cancelled for good! But when they find out who the new teacher is, they almost wish that mean old  Miss Myrt Arbuckle wasn’t dead after all.   Once you get used to the author’s “down home” style and you figure out what all the old fashioned terms mean (privy, buggy whip, drawers, crick, etc.) you are in for a real treat as you go through the school year with Russell and his classmates.    The characters are so colorful,  you will find yourself laughing out loud. And you might even wish you went to their school!