Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen by J.L. McCreedy

Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen
by J.L. McCreedy

The author’s website has a great map of Liberty’s adventures through Germany and links to websites where you can read the Grimm fairy tales for free. I did not find any book trailers online.  **Full disclosure – I received a print copy of this book for free from the author.

Summary from author’s website:

The average ten-year-old girl seldom travels far from home.  She doesn’t worry about being kidnapped by witches or imprisoned in medieval castles where children are ensnared to meet their unspeakable demise.  She rarely gives thought to curses, potions and magic.  She certainly isn’t risking life and limb to decipher ancient rites and lost treasures….

But Liberty Frye is about to discover she is not just an average girl.

When a cryptic note from long-lost relatives arrives, the news it brings flips Libby’s small-town existence upside down.  Soon, she finds herself lured to a foreign land where retired witches, talking bats and geriatric World War II pilots await.  It’s up to Libby to unravel the sinister plot that brought her there in the first place, but in so doing, she’ll uncover a shocking secret that will change her life forever … if she survives the challenge.

Personal Reaction: I liked it!

Any Cautions: Boiled boy imagery

Curriculum or discussion topics: Fairy tales

Connections to other books: Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Complete and Illustrated, The Sisters Grimm series by Buckley, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Gidwitz, Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird by VandeVelde; Germany travel book, cookbooks

Items to display with book: Stuffed animals (goose and raven), recipe cards or family book of recipes, slingshot, letter in yellow envelope, map w/ “future adventure” dots; photo of dilapidated Victorian house, German castle and German cottage; toy robot, walkie-talkies, blue amulet on a silver necklace, map of Germany or Hanau, “Fairy Tale” road map, backpack, photo of P-40 Army Air Corps fighter plane WWII, black cauldron, photo of bright red tree “Baum des Feuers” (here’s a shot of a red maple)

Food items connected to story: Berries (purple – try blueberries or jaboticaba), Herbs and spices (witch’s pantry stuff); tea, any kind of bakery pastry, bread rolls, chocolate cake, fruitcake, strudel, cheesecakes

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Here is the author’s website which includes an enthralling video book trailer and information about the real Ivan. There are other fan-made trailers available on YouTube.

Discussion guide is available for download on the Harper Collins publisher website.

Summary: (from Goodreads.com) Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope

 

Personal Reaction: I loved it. It was extremely moving. (I did hope for more illustrations, they were so well done. Reminded me again of Flawed Dogs by Breathed or The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by DiCamillo). Very simple chapter breaks so you can read as much or as little as you want each day. Try knuckle walking for five minutes!

Any Cautions: Reading aloud to kids younger than 4th grade might cause distress for the death involved and brief discussion & display of cruelty to circus animals, so use your judgment as to age sensitivity.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Animal rights/welfare; responsibility for caring for your pets; here’s an interesting article about animal artists / art – this is a good time to showcase your drawing instruction books (like Draw 50 Animals  by Ames); discussion of elements of a story – how the simplest of illustrations move stories along.

Connections to other books: Saving Lilly by Peg Kehret, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby (this one contains fearful scenes of animal testing); Jackie’s Wild Seattle by Hobbs; nonfiction about zoos – I don’t know of anything for kids grades 4-6, but there might be some, short nonfiction on topics like zoo enclosures, zoo doctors, etc.; books like Amazing Gorillas and Elephants.

Items to display with book: Crayons, markers, paints and paper; stuffed gorilla, small dog and elephant; photos of the real Ivan or a silverback gorilla, reproductions of Ivan billboard signs

Food items connected to story: Bananas, carrots, Pepsi, apples, oranges, cake with chocolate frosting, yogurt raisins (animal fare);  soft pretzels, popcorn, hotdogs, pink cotton candy, lemonade, ice cream cones (circus fare) *You could be gross and serve me-ball meatballs!

Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex

Here’s the author’s website  which includes three videos (2 “Vampire Hunters” shorts and one infomercial for “Re-Vamp”). I did not find any book trailers online, but this video is a Skype interview with the author about writing the book.

Summary: Doug is turned into a vampire by another newbie vampire crazed with bloodlust. That vampire is hot, Doug is not and is now worried about spending all eternity as a dweeb. While trying to find a balance to his new life without hurting anyone, his best friend Jay tries to help him sift through the myths. Meanwhile, Sejal is a new guest student from India who is trying to forget an incident from her previous addiction to the Internet and make a new, “good” life for herself in the States. Doug becomes obsessed with Sejal. Doug is tracked by the production crew of a reality tv show “Vampire Hunters.” Things go wrong.

Personal Reaction: The good – I had no idea that the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” was still captivating the teen set after all these years. There’s typical adolescent obsession with who-likes-whom and it is not much of an issue whether the couples are hetero- or homosexual. There are dead and undead with various orientations. The bad – I thought maybe I might be able to like Doug’s character… but then I never really did, so it’s hard for me to praise the story. I was practically wanting to reach into the book and beat him with a stick for being so slow in the bloodmobile. He has constant foot-in-mouth disease when it comes to treating Jay with true friendship. I actually liked Sejal’s storyline more than Doug’s.

Any Cautions: The f-word is used (not often, but enough), a few instances of underage drinking.

Curriculum or discussion topics: online & offline bullying, LGBT lit, internet addiction

Items to display with book: vampire fangs, Rocky Horror poster, vlog/blog example, civil war soldier photo, stuffed bat or wolf, fake tv commercial or print ad for “Vampire Hunters,” and theater bulletin for “West Side Story”

Food items connected to story: pizza, any red liquid beverage will do (V-8, dark punch, etc.)

Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz, but first Raven’s Gate!

Amazing, amazing, amazing conclusion to the Power of Five / Gatekeepers series. There is an author video on his website about his research for the book and this is a video of the author talking about the plot of Oblivion on the publisher’s YouTube channel.

If you haven’t read them all, I do NOT recommend that you jump to the end with this book! Start at the beginning with Raven’s Gate. I read it years ago and knew: AWESOME. You can read the first chapter of book 1 on Horowitz’s website. It’s dark and demonic and delicious.

Summaries from author’s website –

Book 1 – Raven’s Gate:

Matt has always known he has unusual powers. Raised in foster care, he is sent to Yorkshire on a rehabilitation programme, only to find himself in the midst of sinister goings-on. Matt investigates and uncovers a terrible secret – eight guardians are protecting the world from the evil ones, beings banished long ago by five children. But devil worshippers want to let the evil ones back in…

Book 2 – Evil Star:

After his experiences at Raven’s Gate, fourteen-year-old Matt Freeman thinks his days of battling evil are over. But soon he is pulled into another horrifying adventure when he discovers a second gate exists. Matt and his friend Richard travel to Peru and, assisted by a secret organization known as the Nexus, follow a series of clues to the gate’s whereabouts. But there is a traitor in the Nexus…

Book 3 – Nightrise:

Fourteen-year-old twins Scott and Jamie Tyler have never known who they are or where they came from, but they have always known that they possess extraordinary powers. When Scott is kidnapped by the sinister Nightrise Corporation and Jamie is framed for murder, they realise that they must use those powers if they are going to survive…

Book 4 – Necropolis:

The outlook for the future of mankind has never been bleaker. The sinister corporation known as Nightrise is gathering strength and the long suppressed Old Ones are poised to unleash their dark powers on an unsuspecting world. Matt and his fellow Gatekeepers have no choice but to commit themselves to a dangerous path, knowing that their course might save the planet – or spell their doom…

Book 5 – Oblivion:

We find the Five scattered in a hostile and dangerous world and struggling to re-group. The earth has almost been destroyed by the forces of darkness. Those who have survived are barely human, drifting in a world ruled by famine, terrorism and war. Any last hope now rests with five extraordinary teenagers: the Gatekeepers. The Five must find each other and make a final stand against Chaos, King of the Old Ones … but Chaos is everywhere. He calls to them from Antarctica, where he is gathering his forces, preparing for a last battle in the frozen wasteland of Oblivion. And one of the Five has turned traitor. The others know that without him they cannot win…

Personal Reaction: I have waited so long for this finale. You should read them all.

Any Cautions: This series is full of demon-worshipping murderers, monsters and zombies. It can be VERY disturbing. Book 5 tested my faith in humanity and I did cry for Matt. I do not recommend this to sensitive souls. In fact, I might not recommend to any student younger than a mature seventh grader.

Connections to other books: Similar fiction –  Super Human series by Michael Carroll; The Abhorsen Chronicles (Abhorsen Trilogy) by Garth Nix; The Demonata Series by Darren Shan; the Midnighters series from Scott Westerfeld; nonfiction choices about the places where the kids have been in this book or throughout the series – England, Brazil, Peru, Dubai, Italy, Egypt, Hong Kong, Naples, London, Nevada – or choices that investigate telekenesis, mind reading, healing, etc.

Items to display with book: Put the whole series on display. Zombie & demon figurines – or you could have an art contest for those students who have read the series to create or find online what they picture in their heads when they think of the Old Ones and Chaos.

Tales From a Second Hand Wand Shoppe by Robert P. Wills

Author’s etsy (where you can buy a wand to go along with your book), no video book trailer found.

Summary: (from Amazon.com) They were the Best of Gnomes, They were the Worse of Gnomes.
Two Gnomes – Grimbledung and Drimblerod- are just trying to get along in life when their worlds collide. Drimblerod runs a moderately reputable Second Hand Wand Shop that does pretty well at moving inventory. Grimbledung runs a disreputable Second Hand Wand Wagon that he moves regularly to avoid the authorities.
Everything changes when they combine their talents:
City ordinances are broken. Neighbors are annoyed. The Constable becomes involved. Even the Magician’s Guild sends over some Enforcers to deal with them. Things are looking up for the Gnomes!
From multi-headed travelers looking for a good time, to Half-Orcs just trying to obey their mates, everyone seems to come to the Second Hand Wand Shoppe to either buy or sell a wand. Along for the ride are a neurotic Jousting Dummy, an immortal (so far) Rat, a Trolless who runs the Tavern and Restaurant across the street, a Dwarf next door with (alleged) Mob ties, and the Head Mistress of the local School of Magic (with definite Mob ties).
Did we mention the Halfling Army that’s out for blood? They’ll have to deal with them as well!

The author has done very well in mastering the way to communicate the tone of each character’s personality through the written word! I had a few good chuckles, especially from Rat. Even the unspoken “body” language of Dummy is perfect. If you child is good at “hearing” the tone while reading, then this will work. If not, then use it as a read-aloud so you both can enjoy it while teaching the skill! The illustrations are good enough for the kids – as an adult, I wanted more texture (maybe an occasional color-plate like in Breathed’s Flawed Dogs).

Cautions? Yes, the gnomes drink beer and have a hangover. Yes, Dimblerod has a thing for big females… Because it’s so much fun, I want to recommend it to all ages, but the humor is kind of like watching the movie Shrek – much of it is for the adults. Even if the kids don’t get it, they still enjoyed it, right?

Items to display with book: Wands, wands, wands. Any kind of gnome figurine or halloween mask. Stuffed rat (or a real one, if you’ve got it.) You could make some Gatherer Division patches and/or an Abyssmal box.

Food items connected to story: Tea, Toast & jam, stew, eggs, grits, there’s so much served at Big Julie’s school you can use too.