The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham

The author’s website (doesn’t mention DB except in bio) There is a video trailer on his website for another book, Goblins! which I liked very much, though there are a few curse words in that one.  Here is a fan-made video trailer for Dead Boys.

Summary from There’s a dark side to Teddy’s new town…

When Teddy Mathews moves to Richland, his main concern is making new friends. But something is not right about this quiet desert town: All the boys he meets seem to vanish before his eyes, while the imposing shadows of the giant tree outside his house appear to be hiding more than darkness.

With the branches of the massive sycamore scratching at his window, Teddy’s life becomes a waking nightmare that no one else believes. Can Teddy escape the tree’s terrifying grasp and solve the mystery of the missing boys before he becomes the next boy to disappear?

Personal Reaction: Very dark and very twisted story. I get that this is a supernatural thriller, but at the end I kept wondering how a kid would survive being held hostage for years without food/water while being part of the tree’s fertilizer.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Environmentalism?

Connections to other books: (I kept coming back to the movie Poltergeist for the creepy tree imagery.) I can’t think of any other evil tree books! I would definitely recommend House of Dark Shadows by Liparulo for fans of Dead Boys. How about Thirteen Days to Midnight by Carman, Revenge of the Witch by Delaney (movie on the way), and City of the Dead by Abbott for creepy suspense?

Items to display with book: photo of creepy gnarled old tree next to dilapidated house, photo of nuclear power plant, photo of housing development in desert or construction site;  real or fake news articles about missing boys; sand; old yearbooks

Food items connected to story: water, granola bars, milk/cereal


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 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!

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

author’s website                  fan video book review

Summary:  Sarah is new to her school and very left out. During an Everglades field trip, she receives an offer from local boy (Andy) to take her on an airboat ride, so she lies to her teacher to get out of a morning tour and the two teens take off on their own. When the airboat sinks, they are miles from help and must walk until they find it.

Personal Reaction: I think I’ve found my SSYRA winner. Survival story is perfect.  The duck addition to the plot adds heart – I was more worried for “Teapot” getting eaten than the main characters. Surprise character cameos at the end – I loved that book too!

Classroom use: Excellent choice for Florida units (ecosystems, survival, etc.) whether Science, Social Studies or PE. I even think that Home Ec or Food & Nutrition classes could get in on the unit and talk about wild foods (cattails and sawgrass hearts are edible)

Related books: Everglades River of Grass by Douglas; Sawgrass Poems by Asch; A Land Remembered by Smith; Lostman’s River by DeFelice; Welcome to the River of Grass by Yolen; biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas; guide book to the Everglades like Paddling the Everglades Wilderness Waterway

Realia: bug spray, stuffed duck toy or photo of mallard duck & ducklings; alligator head; photos of Everglades, airboats (or toy model), Burmese pythons (especially this one), backpack, rubber boots, bandana, empty Gatorade bottle; bowl of minnows; cattails and sawgrass

Food for book parties: Spam, pumpkin bread, canned chili, canned fruit, Gatorade, leather belt!

SSYRA books & video links

Videos available for promotion of the 2012-13 Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award program books for grades 6-8:

Allen, Crystal     How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-sized Trophy (fan creation), author’s website

Carmichael, Clay    Wild Things (author’s creation),  author’s website

Catanese, P.W.   Happenstance Found (author’s series vid),  author’s website

Flores-Galbis, Enrique     90 Miles to Havana (author’s creation),  publisher’s website with excerpt

Gaiman, Neil     The Graveyard Book (publisher’s creation), author’s website with author video readings from book tour

Grant, Katy     Hide and Seek (no video found), author’s website … plus read this cool info on geocaching in school from SLJ blogger Diane Chen 

Greenwald, Tommy     Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading (commercial creation),  publisher’s website with link to author’s website, excerpt and video  

Korman, Gordon     The Juvie Three (fan created), author’s website with first 3 chapters

Park, Linda Sue     A Long Walk to Water : Based on a True Story   author’s website with links to 2 videos

Patterson, James     The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (short fan creation),  author’s website with excerpts

Philbrick, Rodman      The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (fan created),  publisher website with booktalk

Rallison, Janette     My Fair Godmother (author’s website with video for this title and sequel)

Rorby, Ginny      Lost in the River of Grass  (fan review only),  author’s website with cool extras

Vigilante, Danette     The Trouble with Half a Moon      author’s website with video links, excerpt, and teacher guide

Woods, Brenda     Saint Louis Armstrong Beach (no video found), author’s website not yet updated to reflect this book

By moviesofthemind Posted in videos Tagged

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading by Tommy Greenwald

author’s website and book trailer

Summary:Charlie Joe doesn’t like to read and will work twice as hard to find ways not to do it. Timmy is a long time friend who has been doing Charlie Joe’s reading in exchange for ice cream sandwiches. When they argue before a major research project is due, Charlie Joe knows that he needs to find a replacement reader and he’s willing to sacrifce his crush (Hannah) and the trust of his parents to the process.

Personal Reaction: Illustrations for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid set, frequent stops for short lists and less-than-a-paragraph chapters designed to amuse and provide tips to get out of reading. The book feels like it’s for 6th graders, but main characters have insightful 8th grader-ish moments. Best friend Katie is an example of a girl who is older than her years. Charlie Joe definitely has his girl-radar going. Adorable last second plot twist.

Realia: stack of library books (especially books on cliques and baseball fiction – the book Billy’s Bargain does not exist), cell phone, stuffed dogs, a copy of one or more of Charlie Joe’s lists, Beatles album, year end school dance flyer

Foods related to the story: ice cream sandwiches, school cafeteria tray with any selections will do fine

Books connected to the story: (see Realia) biggest book you can find of Mark Twain writings, Cliques, or Heat.