Archive for 2011

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice

Written by Chris Moriarty

Buy on Amazon

The Inquisitor’s Apprentice is a fun, complex, and delightful mystery chapter book for fifth grade level readers and above. The story involves early twentieth-century New York atmosphere and history fictionalized to keep the reader engaged in the activities of the main character, Sacha Kessler, who has the keen ability to see witches and witness magic. These skills are of utmost importance to the police department’s star inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf.

Sacha’s abilities earn him the apprenticeship to the police department and he becomes one of the main investigators to find who wants to kill Thomas Edison. This investigation leads the fifth grade reader on a wild adventure through New York City’s finest neighborhoods where magic prevails in most interesting and secret ways. The story weaves Jewish history and language into the plot, making this a spring board for further lessons on Jewish culture and history, always a great plus for teachers of 5th grade level students.

Although the author includes additional information regarding the parts of New York history that has been fictionalized, the 5th grade level reader will come away with a feeling of knowing more about New York and it’s famous Jewish neighborhoods. And even those students who don’t like reading about witches and magic will enjoy the overall mystery and detective work that the main character encounters.

The book has a twist at the end, and the 5th grade reader will come away with more experience in reading and comprehension of a complex plot, reading fictionalized and interesting history, and how magic and superstition plays an important part in the lives of many. The fifth grade reader will also come away  wanting more of the main character and his inquisitor apprenticeship activities. Kudos to the author for writing what this grade level wants to read. This book is a great addition to the 5th grade level classroom library.

  • Inquisitors ApprenticeTitle: The Inquisitor’s Apprentice
  • Author: Chris Moriarty
  • Illustrations: Mark Edward Geyer
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-5813-4
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Edition: Hardback, 345 pages
  • Genre: Juvenile fiction, mystery, magic

Taylor Swift: Music Superstar

Written by Jeff Burlingame

Buy on Amazon

Taylor Swift proves that a young person can achieve big things.  In spite of all her accomplishments, she remains down-to-earth.  She believes she owes everything to her fans and she stays accessible to them by social media and talking with them one-on-one after performances.  Her life experiences are woven into all of her songs and her fans feel like her songs could be about their own experiences.  She began singing, acting and writing early in her life because she loved them.  She won a national poetry contest in the fourth grade which naturally led to songwriting.  She also showed business sense at a young age.  When she was eleven, she and her family traveled to Nashville where she took homemade CDs of her singing karaoke and she dropped them off at record label offices.  No one called, but she proved she was persistent.  When she was fourteen, Taylor was offered a contract with RCA.  She tried working with them for a year, but she felt they wanted to categorize her so she walked away from renewing her contract.  She played everywhere she could and after one performance, a man approached her.  He wanted to start a new record label and he wanted to sign her, promising her she could sing her own songs and follow her artistic vision.  It was a good collaboration.  She sold million of recordings, began winning awards and shooting up to the top.

This easy-to-read biography is full of quotes and personal stories, analyzing the different aspects of her successful career.  Readers will enjoy the many color photos.  The reading level makes this a good choice for a Powerpoint presentation or an audio book.  The publisher’s website has Core Curriculum literacy activities for another book in the series, but it could easily be adapted to use with this book: (
Taylor Swift

  • TITLE: Taylor Swift: Music Superstar
  • AUTHOR: Jeff Burlingame
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 48 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-286-0
  • GENRE: Biography, celebrity
  • LEXILE: 840

Friends: Snake and Lizard

Written by Joy Cowley
Illustrated by  Gavin Bishop

Buy on Amazon

Remember Frog and Toad? Now we have Snake and Lizard, and they are just as entertaining. The first book in this series, Snake and Lizard, won the 2008 New Zealand Children’s and Young Adults Book of the Year Award. This sequel is destined for similar accolades. It was named to several reading lists in New Zealand, having been published there in 2009. But it was too good to keep to one country. It’s now hit the United States and Japan.

The story follows Snake and Lizard as they share an oversized burrow in the desert as a result of a collapsed wall. Of course, they have very different needs and very different ways of looking at things. While Lizard enjoys the curtain a spider has graced them with over one entrance, Snake enjoys the taste of the spider in her tummy. But they also find much to agree on. They generally enjoy helping other desert creatures. And they enjoy their withers together, which would be walks if Snake could actually walk. » Read more

The Adventures of Titch & Mitch: The King of the Castle

Written by Garth Edwards
Illustrated by Max Stasyuk

Buy on Amazon

Garth Edwards’ amusing and whimsical story follows the exploits of two pixies who can’t help but get themselves into hilarious trouble. The characters are funny and charming, and totally engaging for young readers. The beautifully illustrated book captivates the reader and pulls him into the magical story.King of the Castle is the third book in the series, The Adventures of Titch & Mitch. In this book, Titch and Mitch are at it again! But this time, they are kidnapped by the King of the Castle to make pixie stew.

The grammar and vocabulary levels of this book are appropriate for the 5th grade reader to promote reading comprehension. Students will be captivated by the witty, off the wall story and they will not want to put this book down. The King of the Castle fosters children’s imaginations through magic and adventure.
This book is a real page turner! It makes a wonderful addition to any classroom, school or home library. The Adventures of Titch & Mitch: The King of the Castle should be included in any school’s fifth grade reading list.

It would be great to include The King of the Castle in a unit about adventure stories. Students will be learning writing techniques and literary genres and would benefit from having this book on their reading list.

Check out the author’s website,, where you can meet the characters from the books, read about the author, and download pictures for coloring!

  • King of the CastleTitle: The Adventures of Titch & Mitch, The King of the Castle
  • Author: Garth Edwards
  • Illustrator: Max Stasyuk
  • Publisher: Inside Pocket Publishing
  • Reviewer: Alessandra Oliveira
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-9567449-7-5
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • Lexile Score: 1140