Archive for August 30, 2013

Falcon in the Glass

Written by: Susan Fletcher

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Renzo is an apprentice learning to blow glass and earn his own place among the best glass makers in mediaeval Venice. But he only has two weeks to prove that he can do all of the required steps or be left as a drudge waiting on others in the shop for the rest of his life. What he doesn’t know is that there are things, and people more important than blowing glass into a beautiful goblet or bowl. While trying to save himself and his family, he must decide whether or  to save others. His understanding of the problem will make readers ask if they would take such chances for strangers.

Fifth grade readers will enjoy this look into the dark and mysterious canals of Venice. They will also be enthralled by the early process for making glass and the hard work and extreme heat required.

The story shows what happened to people who lived on the fringes of society at that time. It is a most sobering look at how orphans were left to fend for themselves as outcasts in an earlier time.

The dialogue and action make the story fast paced and engaging for grade 5 readers, as well as those younger and older. For classroom or home use, this book makes a fantastic read aloud option for children from grades 3 – 9.

Extras: End pages give information for readers wanting more information about blowing glass, old Venice during the Renaissance or the annual Carnivale that continues even today. Readers can also meet the author and get more extras by going to:

  • Falcon in the GlassTITLE: Falcon in the Glass
  • AUTHOR: Susan Fletcher
  • PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Elizabeth Swartz
  • FORMAT: Hardcover/300p
  • ISBN:  978-1-4424-2990-1
  • GENRE: Historical Fiction
  • LEXILE: 660


Geometry (Ace Your Math Test)

Written by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson

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Geometry (Ace Your Math Test) delivers a succinct review of geometry concepts, vocabulary and skills. Although this book is written on a fifth grade reading level, it is appropriate for older students and will most likely appeal to middle and high school students interested in test preparation.

In one or two-spread chapters, the text presents math concepts such as triangles, perimeter, Pythagorean theorem, symmetry and the coordinate plane. Topics are typically presented through a minimum of text and include a call-out box with definitions, one to three brief steps of explanation and sample test questions; however, some topics are covered through only definitions and sample questions.

The book does not provide repetition, practice sets or multiple examples. Instead, it offers only the highlights of the topic and a quick refresher question or two. The concise text may appeal to those who struggle with reading comprehension. For those who want more practice, additional practice worksheets are available at (

The book design offers lots of white space, clear diagrams, and easy-to-find topics. Geometry also offers an introduction about taking tests, frequent sidebars with helpful test-taking hints and explanations of many geometry symbols. The hints vary, but are mostly simple ideas such as “mark your answers clearly” and “focus on each problem.” The sample questions include “multiple choice,” “show your work” and “explain your answer” examples. This variety and the specific techniques addressed with each one may be valuable to homeschoolers or other readers who are not used to standardized or typical classroom tests. The backmatter includes books and websites for further practice as well as an index.

  • GeometryTITLE: Geometry (Ace Your Math Test)
  • AUTHOR: Rebecca Wingard-Nelson
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow Publishers
  • REVIEWER: Heather L. Montgomery
  • EDITION: Paperback: 104 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1464400100
  • GENRE: Nonfiction/Math/ How-to
  • LEXILE: 860

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

Written by Kathi Appelt

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The scouts in this exciting adventure in the deep, boggy southern swamp happen to be two raccoons but that only adds to the enjoyment in store for fifth grade readers. The readers will understand the pair are on duty inside an abandoned car even though the raccoons have no idea of what a car actually is in the outside world. The idea of it adds humor without end as recurring thunder storms add a bit of zip and lightning to their otherwise cozy outpost.

But back in town, twelve-year old Chap Brayburn is doing everything in his power to help save the swamp. It was always a special place where his grandpa would spend time and then come back and tell endless stories about it. Now there are developers from the far away big city that want to buy the swamp and change it forever. Chap is not about to let that happen and pledges to do whatever he can to save it because he knows that’s what his grandpa would do if he were still alive.

It will take more money than one boy and his Mama can make by cooking and selling sugar pies.  But through comprehension of many well placed clues, readers will begin to see parallel plots between the ‘coon brothers and Chap and their hopes will rise for the salvation of the swamp. Many surprises and twists are in store for readers in this excellent new book by award winner Kathi Appelt, who is well known for her books, The Underneath and Keeper. This will make a fantastic read aloud for home or school for grades 4-7 even though it has been assigned a reading level of 5.4 for the average independent fifth grade reader.

Readers will appreciate the short chapters, fast paced action and good hearty belly laughs.

  • True Blue ScoutsTITLE: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
  • AUTHOR: Kathi Appelt
  • PUBLISHER: Atheneum Books For Young Readers
  • REVIEWER: Elizabeth Swartz
  • FORMAT: Hardcover/327 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4424-2105-9
  • GENRE: Fiction: Adventure, Humorous
  • LEXILE: 810
  • EXTRAS: Meet the Author Video and other extras at



July Titles

Pdf: July Titles 5th Grade


The Arab World Thought of It by Saima S. Hussain, ISBN 978-1-55451-476-2

… It is a picture and text guide to exciting and little known facts about some things very familiar to readers, but who may not know much about the Arab contributions to our world. …


Deviants: The Dust Chronicles by Maureen McGowan, ISBN 978-1-6121-83671

Get ready for a fast-paced read through a well-thought out dystopian world. Glory, sixteen years old, is left alone in a harsh post-apocalyptic society, not only to fend for herself but also to take care of her crippled brother. …


The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia, ISBN 978-0-7636-5685-0

A lively story about choices facing today’s Muslim American girls.  Aliya is a typical fifth grade girl: she wants to talk to a boy she has a crush on …


Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup, ISBN 978-0-7636-5685-0

Princess Adela wishes everyone would stop treating her like, well, a princess. She would rather dirty her hands in the garden than learn how to embroider or waltz or drink tea. …


Losing It by Erin Fry, ISBN 978-07614-6220-0

The most unlikely kid finds comfort by running.  Bennett Robinson and his dad bonded over baseball games and hamburgers, talking more about the Dodgers than his mom’s death …


Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom and the Challenges of Bad Hair by C. C. Payne, ISBN 9780761462255

“Let your light shine” is the piece of advice from Grandma Bernice that Lula does NOT want to follow.  She is bullied by her former BFF, Kali, and she is afraid to try out for the talent show.…


Mirage (Above World) by Jenn Reese, ISBN 978-0-7636-5418-4

In book two of the Above World series, Aluna, the sea-dwelling Kampaii, and her three genetically modified friends race across the desert to the great city of Mirage…


Ruby Redfort: Take Your Last Breath by Lauren Child, ISBN 978-0-7636-5468-9

Ruby’s parents get thrown overboard a ship. They are assumed dead. All the sea animals seem to have gone crazy. …


Showtime: Meet the People Behind the Scenes by Kevin Sylvester, ISBN 1554514878

Ruby’s parents get thrown overboard a ship. They are assumed dead. All the sea animals seem to have gone crazy. …


Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey by Gary Golio, ISBN 0547239947

This is the latest in a series of books by Gary Golio about Jazz musicians. Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey is a brief, but compelling biography of John Coltrane’s journey …


The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis, ISBN 978-0-547-64023-5

Micay, Beautiful Round Face, is known by far too many in her Incan tribe as Millay, the Ugly One. She keeps to herself as much as possible because her ugliness has been a source of torture for her as long as she can remember. …

Lara’s Gift

Written by Annemarie O’Brien

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Above everything else, Lara loves the dogs. Lara works with her father, a kennel steward raising borzoi — a special kind of wolf-hunting dog.  In imperial Russia, where the Tsar still rules, the winters are endless and the wolves must be kept at bay, therfore the dogs are highly valued. Lara knows how the kennel works, but she also dreams of what will happen to the dogs she loves. These dreams let her get to the births faster, and ease their pain earlier. Lara’s mother says the visions are a blessing; her father says they are a curse. Lara herself must come to terms with the visions before she can go to battle for her own destiny. How can she convince her father and herself that despite her gender and her visions, she should continue to work with the dogs?

Lara’s challenging coming-of-age story is also a study of contrasts. The coziness of the kennels contrasts with the vast Russian wilderness. The sweetness of the dogs she works with contrasts with their fierceness when dealing with wolves. And her own image of her work stands starkly against what the norms for a Russian girl at that time. This will make an exciting read aloud for third grade and up, though fifth grade and sixth grade readers may want to zoom ahead on their own too.

We move back into time and across the continents, not only with the story, but with the words O’Brien uses. Her characters use Russian slang, which is explained in the glossary. Their tone feels slightly formal, which also befits the estate they are living in. And in O’Brien’s extensive author’s note, she offers a short history of the area, a history of the dog breed, and a note cautioning readers not to run out and get one of these giant dogs.
Laras Gift

  • Title: Lara’s Gift
  • Author: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-93174-0
  • Genre: fiction, historical
  • Lexile: 1010