Ruby Redfort: Take Your Last Breath

Written by Lauren Child

Buy on Amazon

Ruby’s parents get thrown overboard a ship. They are assumed dead. All the sea animals seem to have gone crazy. Bodies keep showing up strangled. And it all has something to do with Redfort family’s long lost rubies. Now our new junior detective must disobey and lie to her superiors at Spectrum to save the day again. She continues to lean on her best friends, especially Clancy, to come to her rescue every time that she goes out on a limb, and even a wooden plank, as she deals with pirates and giant sea animals. An additional variance includes Clancy’s fear of water in this seafaring adventure where modern pirates clash with psychopathic bad guys. The story starts out a little confusing until the pieces start to make more sense like any good mystery.

The multiple twists and turns of this 5th grade comprehensive reading book keeps readers actively involved as the action causes them to stay focused because they do not want to miss anything. Each chapter leaves subtle clues to where Ruby looks next and even musical notes add a creative touch to how she solves this mystery.

These fun loving characters add layers and dimensions to this plot driven book where the past catches up with the present in this teenage detective novel where everything happens for a reason and science even plays a role in it. This book belongs on any reading list for mystery buffs that enjoy light reading combined with creative intrigue.

  • Ruby RedfortTitle: Ruby Redfort
  • Author: Lauren Child
  • Publisher: Harper Collins Publishing
  • Reviewer: Julia Beiker
  • Hardcover Edition
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-7636-5468-9
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Lexile Score 910

Garden Princess

Written by Kristin Kladstrup

Buy on Amazon

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. As Queen Cecile nags her to pretty herself so she can land a suitor, Adela dreams of traveling the world to collect and study exotic plants. So when her friend, Garth, receives an invitation to review the enchanted garden of the mysterious Lady Hortensia, Adela worms her way into the party.

The rumors are true: Hortensia’s garden is indeed magical. Colorful spring and summer flowers burst in full bloom even though it’s October! But as Adela tours the grounds on her own she makes an astonishing discovery. Hortensia has been turning all the beautiful female guests into flowers and pocketing the gems and jewels they leave behind. Then she casts a spell on the handsome male guests, making them swoon over her like lovesick puppies.

Hortensia’s thieving servant, a talking magpie named Krazo, becomes an unlikely ally as Adela tries to figure out a way to escape from this witch’s lair. Krazo believes a secret treasure buried underneath an attacking rose tree could break Hortensia’s spell, but she catches Adela first and transforms her into a weedy dandelion to be clipped and tossed into the rubbish heap. Krazo rescues her and transforms back into the young man he once was. Adela and Krazo fall in love and, in an untraditional fairy-tale twist, they do not rush to get married, but instead choose to travel the world together.

Fifth grade girls will appreciate Princess Adela, who stays true to her convictions despite how others think she is supposed to behave. Her down-to-earth nature and self-reliance makes her easy to route for and a good role model for this age group. Most of the characters in the story are in their late teens, but the romance scenes are modest (hand holding, swooning) and appropriate for a fifth grade reading level. With themes of self-esteem and beauty on the inside, readers who enjoy magic, talking animals, light romance, and yes, happy endings won’t be disappointed with Garden Princess. 

  • Garden PrincessTitle: Garden Princess
  • Author: Kristin Kladstrup
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5685-0
  • Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
  • Lexile Score: 1070

The Ugly One

Written by Leanne Statland Ellis

Buy on Amazon

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. The young men her age, particularly Ucho, never let her forget the fact that she is different. They make fun of her because her face is marred with a scar that extends from her right eye to below her lip. Of course, she wishes things were different; she wishes she were beautiful like her sister. But since she is not, she just wants to be left alone at which time she can draw comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God. One day a stranger traveling from the jungle to Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw. Her life takes on new meaning as the bird blossoms and connects her with Paqo, the medicine man, or Shaman. Will her scar eventually heal so that she can be like others, or is she destined for greater things?

Readers will feel Micay’s pain and rejoice in her victories. Putting themselves in her shoes, girls at the third to fifth grade levels will cheer at every advance Micay makes toward discovering her mission in life and boo whenever bullying rears its ugly head. Ellis provides such wonderful detail that the reader is transported to the times when the Incan Empire ruled. Boys will enjoy reading about these wondrous times. Finally, teachers will appreciate the reference materials at the end of the book. Reading comprehension for these fifth grade readers should be at an all-time high in this beautiful story about Incan culture.

Author’s Website: http://leannestatlandellis.com/Home.html

  • The Ugly OneTitle: The Ugly One
  • Author: Leanne Statland Ellis
  • Publisher: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Hardback: 245 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-64023-5
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 780

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana

Written by Patti Wheeler & Keith Hemstreet

Buy on Amazon

Ever dreamt of going on an African Safari?  Well, now you don’t have too thanks to this 5th grade book by Pattie Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet.  Listed in some places as non-fiction, the first offering in the Travels with Gannon and Wyatt series takes readers to the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  Their journey is presented through the alternating journal entries of twin 15-year-old boys with black and white snapshots interspersed within the text.

The book provides enough detail about the animals, people, wildlife, and flora/fauna of Botswana to satisfy the most hungry travelers and wannabe adventurers.  It is highly recommended for lovers of nature and geography who like a small dose of danger and excitement mixed into their discovery.  Near the beginning, Wyatt and Gannon’s mother is nearly attacked by a Rhino protecting her babies.  The middle of the book finds the twins accompanying an adventure guide and an elder bushman on a search for a lioness who’s been shot by a poacher.  Along the way they encounter vultures, a sleepy croc, black mambas, a cobra, cape buffalo and the rest of the big five… all while battling fevers, lack of food (thanks to an opportunistic baboon)  and unfavorable weather conditions.   The pacing is good and there is enough going on to keep the most reluctant of readers turning the page.

Those seeking a solid story line with a plot arc and character development may be disappointed, however.  Although Gannon and Wyatt are described as stereotypical opposites – Wyatt is an introvert with a love of science, while Gannon is much more outgoing and interested in people – it is often hard to tell, within the text, whose journal entry you are reading.  The author guides us through this by identifying the writer at the start of each entry along with the date and a description of their location and the weather conditions (with Wyatt’s being more detailed than Gannon’s.)  But the amount of information they provide and the advanced age at which they write is essentially the same.  Apart from Gannon’s inconsistently casual voice and occasional use of slang, it is hard to image the astute observations and precious commentary on human nature coming from the journal of an average middle grader.

Gannon and Wyatt are real 15-year-olds, however, who liken their journals to the work of historic explorers such as Lewis and Clark, Dr. David Livingstone, and Captain James Cook.  Based very loosely on the “research missions” of these home schooled teens (who visited Botswana along with mother and co-author, Patti Wheeler, and collaborated with Keith Hemstreet to create the adventure tales over fireside chats) the book definitely delivers on it’s promise to provide travelogue mixed with educational material that you can’t get in textbooks.  It would work well as a classroom read aloud or book assignment in conjunction with a topic specific geography or social studies unit.  Other destinations in the planned book series include Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, Egypt, Greenland, and Iceland.

With book trailers and short “episodes” (http://www.youtube.com/user/gannonandwyatt), a blog of field notes on their website (http://www.travelswithgannonandwyatt.com/blog), plus an invitation for readers to join the Youth Exploration Society (YES) the authors have succeeded in providing something for every student – from those who crave information to those more interested in exploring the visual parts of Gannon and Wyatt’s travels.  The reading activities teachers can apply to these books are endless, especially as the series continues to expand.

  • Travels with GannonTitle: Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: BOTSWANA
  • Author: Patti Wheeler & Keith Hemstreet
  • Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length: 76 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60832-585-6
  • Genre: Nature, Adventure

 

Chincoteague Ponies: Untold Tails

Written by Lois Szymanski with Pam Emge

Illustrated by Linda Kantjas

Buy on Amazon

Fifth grade readers who are enthralled with horses will be captivated by this photo essay of the “wild” horses of Assateague Island. Chincoteague Ponies: Untold Tails pairs over 200 photos, oil paintings and brief stories of individual ponies to illustrate their life in a scenic yet rugged environment.

While the specific vocabulary and sentence structure of this book indicate a much higher reading level, readers on the fifth grade level will grasp most of the concepts presented. The design and non-sequential nature of the book lends itself to browsing and many readers will become so engrossed in the photos that they skip the text and lengthy introduction altogether. If read straight through, the text presents a loose narrative by presenting an overview of the history and culture surrounding the ponies and round-ups, then introducing the stallions and the mares, followed by the action of the round-ups, and concluding with hints of fall and winter.

Both full page and full spread photographs of individuals and groups of ponies with an array of scenery are included as well as full-page oil paintings of individual horses. The pairing of a photograph and an oil painting of the same pony will allow teachers to help students compare and contrast and consider the advantages of each medium. In some cases, the photo is stronger, in others, the painting. Kantjas’ love of the ponies is obvious and the time and dedication put forth are evident by the vast number and diversity of illustrations.

The text includes snippets of information about the ecosystem and history of the island but focuses on individual stories. It names and renames individual ponies, tracing their lineage. It chronicles the efforts of the Chincoteague Fire Department to care for and maintain the herd. This book provides insight into people who support the effort and purchase the ponies through buy-back program. It would be a wonderful accompaniment to any trip to the island.

For teachers interested in supporting the Common Core State Standards in Language Arts, this book provides an ideal informational text to pair with the fictional Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Avid fans of the ponies can find more information at (http://www.chincoteague.com/ponies-by-name.html) and (http://www.pony-chincoteague.com/).

  • Chincoteague PoniesTITLE: Chincoteague Ponies: Untold Tails
  • AUTHOR: Lois Szymanski with Pam Emge
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Linda Kantjas
  • PUBLISHER: Schiffer
  • REVIEWER: Heather L. Montgomery
  • EDITION: Paperback, 144 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0764340857
  • GENRE: Nonfiction, Nature
  • LEXILE: 1220

Being Henry David

Written by Cal Armistead 

Buy on Amazon

Many books are about finding yourself, but what if you really had no idea at all who you are? What if you wake up in New York’s Penn Station with a copy of Thoreau’s Walden as your only possession? No name. Nothing. You can only guess you’re about seventeen years old. Using Thoreau as his guide, “Hank” gets back to essentials. He doesn’t want to go to the police in case he’s running from them. He ends up accepting help from another kid, who introduces him to his sister and shows him a spot to sleep in an alley. Then he really gets into trouble. He’s injured in a knife fight and uses his opponent’s cash to leave town and work his way to Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau’s home. In Concord, he follows Thoreau’s footsteps and befriends a Thoreau impersonator and a local girl. Slowly, his memory returns, but he’s still not sure why he’s running. The word sister means something to him. He knows how to play a guitar, but he doesn’t realize he’s playing a Beatles song. Eventually, he decides he needs to follow through on Thoreau’s plan to climb Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. This also means something to him outside the reference to Thoreau.

Kids as young as fifth grade can get a lot out of this adventure. It has a few scary moments, but the rewards outweigh the trauma in the end. An excellent guide for discussion and reading activities appears on the publisher’s website (www.albertwhitman.com). This book has already received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and is recommended by The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

  • Being Henry DavidTitle: Being Henry David
  • Written By: Cal Armistead
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard cover: 304 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-0615-8
  • Genre: Young adult, self-discovery
  • Lexile Score: 780

Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries

Written by Elizabeth MacLeod

Buy on Amazon

How did King Tut die? Who was the man in the Iron Mask? Who killed the Mayan royal family? Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries probes into these mysteries and more through the lens of forensic analysis. This book, aimed at the fifth grade level, builds on the intrigue of ancient murder, disappearing royalty, sabotage, and other crimes. It will appeal to history enthusiasts as well as those with an analytical mind who enjoy solving puzzles.

Seven historical puzzles are presented in separate chapters. Each begins with a “Crime-Solver’s Arsenal” blurb that addresses one forensic tool or technique (such as DNA analysis, deductive reasoning, medical imagery) used by modern investigators to delve into age old conundrums. The mystery itself is presented in a you-are-there voice and includes sensory details that bring the story to life but make this section feel fictionalized. Historical information is presented in two sections of varying length, followed by sections on clues, suspects/speculation, and verdict.

Bones Never Lie hooks readers with the gruesome deaths of the past and allows them to see the value of deductive reasoning, analyzing all the evidence, questioning the source of information and the use of technology in a historical context. As is true with many crimes, a number of the mysteries in the book are unresolved. This may disappoint readers, but has the advantage of exposing readers to the many historical questions which remain to be solved.

Upon first reading, readers may be confused by the non-chronological presentation of the mysteries. This approach allows MacLeod to sequence the book by forensic technique, building conceptually from the more well-known archeological techniques to the more complex DNA analysis.

The text is visually supported by historical photographs (portraits of individuals, photos of letters, etc.), images of modern technology (CT scans, models of DNA, etc), spot art in the margins, and eye-catching chapter openers (an ashen foot with a tag attached,  a hand holding a pistol, etc). Although the spot art of a microscope, test tubes, latex gloves, an evidence bag and more works well in the first chapter, it is repeated throughout the book with no obvious connection to the text it accompanies. It loses its positive effect. Informative sidebars are placed within the frame of an electronic device such as a tablet, a graphic probably intended to appeal to readers interest in current technology, but this technique seemed forced at times.

Teachers might choose to use the book to support curriculum on the fifth grade level and higher as the concepts, vocabulary, reading level and comprehension will challenge upper elementary and some middle school students. Bones Never Lie could also used as for teaching the usefulness of a timeline, index, glossary, and other components found in informational texts. The concept of using grim riddles from the past, combined with intriguing crime-solving tools of the present is the strength of the book and may be just the hook for students entranced by recent forensic shows on television.

  • Bones Never LieTitle:  Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries
  • Author:  Elizabeth MacLeod
  • Publisher: Annick Press
  • Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
  • Paperback: 156 p.
  • ISBN: 978-1-55451-482-3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, history, forensics

 

The True Story of Miracle Man

Written by Lois Szymanski

Buy on Amazon

Miracle Man didn’t start out with his stars in alignment. If he hadn’t been discovered, apparently abandoned on Assateague Island, and then captured and taken to the Leonard family’s ranch, this book wouldn’t be a testament to his legacy. Fifth and sixth grade horse lovers will be drawn to this story based on true events of a Chincoteague pony’s return to health after weeks of fever from an infection in his leg. The ‘miracle’ in his name refers to his unlikely survival after all the standard medical measures have been taken and nature is left to take its course. His young care-taker, Cynthia Leonard, dubs his recovery a miracle and re-names him accordingly.  An interesting afterword includes a newspaper clipping of the original story along with a recounting of another of Miracle Man’s legendary accomplishments years later.

Although the book’s overall size is more like a picture book, inside the text is dense, presented in double columns with a small font. This may be off-putting to younger readers. Dedicated horse fans and fans of Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteque series won’t be put off however. The color photos, all showing the main character as a full-grown horse are nice.  A glossary is included.

The author is a longtime horse lover. You can read about her here; http://loisszymanski.weebly.com/author-bio.html

To learn more about Assateague Island where Miracle Man now lives you can look here:http://www.nps.gov/asis/naturescience/horses.htm

If you want to read more about the Chincoteague ponies from Assateague Island with their names, look here:http://www.chincoteague.com/ponies-by-name.html

  • True Story of Miracle ManTitle: The True Story of Miracle Man
  • Author: Lois Szymanski
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
  • Reviewer: Carol S. Surges
  • Hardcover: 47 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4420-6
  • Genre:  Nonfiction, Animals

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

Samphire Song

Written by Jill Hucklesby 

Buy on Amazon

The summary for Samphire Song doesn’t begin to tell teachers and parents or students the heartfelt emotional story Ms. Hucklesby tells within the pages of this novel. Fourteen year old Jodie has many family issues she keeps inside and working with the horses is where she best fits in. From the very first page the author sucks the reader in with all five senses and a realistic feel for being nose to nose with the horses.

What 5th grade level reader doesn’t love horses and wouldn’t be able to relate to having at least one issue with their personal family situations? Samphire Song is an excellent example of fiction where fifth graders and higher level readers will be totally engaged in the story from beginning to end.

The book is written with a complexity of emotions yet with easy to comprehend clear sentences and paragraphs making this a good book to use when teaching 5th grade readers the skill of writing too. Characters are well rounded and realistic, the plot is one that students can relate to, and the crisp writing is excellent examples of the use language.

Samphire Song is well worth adding to a home, school, or fifth grade classroom and is suitable for girls or boys even though the main character is female. The experiences and emotions so cleverly described  for the 5th grade reader are clearly understood by either gender.  The family issues within the plot also make a great opportunity for teachers or parents to discuss feelings and choices within the classroom setting.

The publisher website offers more information about this and other fine books for 5th grade level readers at www.albertwhitman.com

  • Samphire SongTitle: Samphire Song
  • Author: Jill Hucklesby
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
  • Reviewer:  Terri Forehand
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-7224-5
  • Edition: Hardback, 287 pgs
  • Genre: Juvenile-Fiction, Horses, Family problems

 

 

« Older Entries Recent Entries »