Dear Know-It-All: Set the Record Straight! by Rachel Wise

153 pages

Published by Simon and Schuster, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4445-4

Interest Level: 4th-8th grades

Reading Level: 4.0


Samantha “Sam” Martone loves to write for the middle school newspaper and dreams of travelling the world as a journalist someday. When her teacher, Mr. Trigg gives her the assignment of being the anonymous writer for the “Dear Know-It-All” column of the newspaper, Sam is thrilled! But this assignment is not as easy as it might sound. She has to keep it a secret from her very best friend, and even from her crush and fellow reporter Michael Lawrence.

When Sam writes a response to a letter received in the “Dear Know-It-All” mailbox, she thinks her answer will be a huge success. However, when she begins receiving bullying messages because the results of her advice go wrong, she’s not sure what to do. First, she ignores them, then becomes increasingly scared as the messages become more threatening. Who can she turn to for help when she is doing her best to remain anonymous as the column writer?

From the Reviewer: This book was very easy and quick to read, and engaging as well. I was able to read it in one sitting, and I believe most readers age 9-13 would be able to read it in 1-3 days, time permitting. This was an enlightening read for me, especially as I have children in the age ranges of the characters in the book. Cyber-bullying has become so commonplace these days and is a very important issue to address. I think that for young readers, this book addresses what to do in the case of cyber-bullying in a way they can easily understand: 1. Tell your parents, 2. Tell a teacher or principal, 3. Understand that it is not your fault, there may be issues the bully needs help dealing with, 4. and most importantly…Do Not try to deal with cyber-bullying on your own!

Some of the press for this book series has the age range of readers being 8-12 at grade levels 3rd-7th. While I realize that cyber-bullying can be an issue at very young ages, I feel the target age group for this book and others in the series is 9-13, and grade levels 4th-8th, maybe even higher for reluctant readers. As always, I recommend that parents peruse this book and others in the series to determine if it is right for your young reader.

Category: 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade | Comments Off on Dear Know-It-All: Set the Record Straight! by Rachel Wise

Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson

288 pages

Published by Scholastic Inc., 2013 – First published in 2011 by Orchard Books

ISBN 978-0-545-55223-3

Interest Level: 4th – 8th grades

Reading Level: 5.6

The book opens with the Dark Lord finding himself laying on the hard ground in a world he does not recognize. He does not remember how he got there, and is appalled to find he is trapped in the puny body of a small human boy. Powerless to do anything about it, the Dark Lord finds himself being called Dirk Lloyd and being studied by other human beings. He discovers that his Ring of Power that he worked thousands of years upon and his Cloak of Endless Night were not working, and his Helm of the Hosts of Hades was gone altogether! What is an Evil Overlord to do?! He is now truly at the mercy of these human beings! He soon comes to realize that he has suffered the ultimate defeat at the hands of his arch-nemesis, Hasdruban the Pure. Or as he likes to call him, the Meddling White Wizard! But the Dark Lord is determined to find a way back to his world.

The Dark Lord, er, Dirk Lloyd is sent to live with what he calls the “Guardians of Purity” – his foster family; the Purjoies. Thus begins his humanly existence in another world. As Dirk becomes accustomed to the life of a 12 year old boy, he forms alliances, albeit strange ones, with Christopher Purejoie, Susan – aka Sooz, and Sal Malik, the local head jock at his school. Dirk eventually figures out a way home to his own world and enlists the aid of Christopher, Sooz and Sal. But even the best laid plans can go awry…

From the Reviewer: It took a while, but I finally finished this book! It is not a grab you right at the beginning kind of book, but if young readers like a more involved and advanced writing style, this book is a winner. The author does not talk down to the young reader, he expects them to keep up. He is writing from the perspective of an imperious, thousands year old dark overlord, and maintains that tone throughout the book. There were some laugh out loud sections in the book for me and once I was able to devote time to reading it, I finished it in one sitting and enjoyed it. Early in the book it is too easy to put down. I had to re-read the first three chapters a couple of times because I was away from it for too long. Also, some of the visuals conjured up are a little intense for the lower end of the targeted age group. An example: “…He always imagined eggs on toast were a kind of Blood Porridge, made from the eyes of the White Wizard, toasted Halfling-flesh, and the blood of a Brown Elf.” Funny from the perspective of a Dark Lord, and I did laugh at this, but might be too descriptive for younger readers. As always I recommend that parents peruse this book beforehand to make sure that your 4th grader and even some 5th graders can handle it.

Category: 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, Reviews | Comments Off on Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson

“Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket

258 pages

Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2012

ISBN 978-0-316-12308-2

Interest Level: 4th – 8th grades

AR Level: 5.5


Who is S. Theodora Markson and what does the S. stand for? Why have they been hired to retrieve a stolen artifact? Who is Hangfire and why is he kidnapping people? What is a Bombinating Beast anyway? These and other wrong questions are asked in this book.

A young Lemony Snicket is the main character of this book. He is taken in by a chaperone named S. Theodora Markson. They have been hired to retrieve a stolen artifact by a woman who may or may not be who she claims to be. Lemony meets a girl by the name of Moxie, who writes for a newspaper that no longer exists. He meets Ellington Feint, a girl whose father has been taken by a mysterious person that calls himself Hangfire. As Lemony tries to find answers to the strange occurrences surrounding his current situation, more qestions arise. Some are the right questions, but most are the wrong ones…

From the Reviewer: This is one of those books that cannot be given too much description in the synopsis, or else you give away the book! Lemony Snicket is up to his usual tricks of writing a book that makes sense, yet makes no sense at all. A book that is confusing, yet perfectly clear. I thoroughly enjoyed it! This one took me a little longer to read, as once or twice I went back and re-read a few paragraphs to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.  I would recommend this book for 5th or 6th grade and up, for more advanced readers because the plot is a little confusing. But once you get past Lemony Snicket’s writing style, it’s actually a funny book. Since this is the first in the series, I’m looking forward to reading the next book to see how the story progresses. This book is challenging and intriguing, and well written.

Category: 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, Grade Levels, Reviews | Comments Off on “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket

Underworlds: The Battle Begins by Tony Abbott

101 pages

Published by Scholastic Inc., 2011

ISBN 978-0-545-30831-1

Interest Level: 3rd – 5th grades

Reading Level: 3.6


Underworlds, Mythological Creatures and Hades…Oh My!

Owen Brown begins what he considers a typical day in his life. That is, until his friend Dana disappears into the floor right in front of his eyes! As the floor opens up, he sees hundreds of eyes looking up at him and hears the words “The…battle…begins….”

It’s up to Owen, his friend Jon and the new girl, Sydney to find out what happened to Dana and rescue her. But along the way, they find out that they are up against much more than a weird occurrence such as the floor opening up. They find out that someone is unleashing all of the creatures from Norse, Greek, Egyptian and Babylonian mythology loose in the real world. Now, not only do they need to rescue Dana, but they have to stop the creatures from destroying the real world before it’s too late!


From the Reviewer: I really enjoyed this book. It was fast paced, but still fairly detailed. It’s written in such a way that a fourth grade reader would not have too difficult a time with it, but someone in upper grades that does not like to read too much might enjoy as well. At 101 pages, it is a quick read, taking anywhere from 1-3 days to read. I was able to start and finish the book on the same day. Admittedly, there are some big mythological words to read, so your reader might need your help if they are younger (3rd or 4th grade). The only issue I had with the book was the back cover description of the main character, Owen. He is described as being an average fourth grader, but as I was reading, I felt as though he might be a sixth grader. Somehow the book made more sense to me to think of him as being older. This story kept my attention, didn’t stray from the plot line and was mythologically detailed.



Category: 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, Reviews | Comments Off on Underworlds: The Battle Begins by Tony Abbott

The Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki



325 pages

Published by Scholastic Inc., 2011

ISBN 978-0-545-38643-2

Interest Level: 4th – 8th grades

Reading Level: 4.8


Timothy July was your average 7th grader: Stuck in a history class when he’d rather be elsewhere, getting ready to do yet another boring project with his long time best friend and neighbor, Stuart Chen. All that changes however, when Timothy accidently raises his hand and ends up with Abigail Tremens as a partner instead. What was supposed to be a boring trip to the historical museum turns into a series of bizarre and terrifying events. Not only is Timothy and Abigail affected, but Stuart and Mr. Crane, Timothy’s history teacher become involved as well.

It all starts several years earlier when Abigail’s grandmother, Zilpha Kindred takes a picture of a July 4th sky as the fireworks begin. In her picture, she also captures the kidnapping of her best friend, 14 year old Delia Benson. Delia is never found and her kidnapper denies taking her. Zilpha testifies against the kidnapper, and he is  sentenced to life in prison, where he later dies. Revenge has a funny way of rearing its ugly head, and this time it has it’s sights on Zilpha and Abigail, Timothy, Stuart and Mr. Crane and others who were involved in the kidnapping case….

Timothy had already been having nightmares about his brother Ben who was injured overseas when his unit was attacked. But now the nightmares were terrifying. Abigail had already been having nightmares about two mean girls that she had nicknamed The Nightmarys. But now they were appearing in her room at night, faceless and taunting. Stuart nearly drowns because he is attacked in the pool by a monster only he can see. The nightmares are turning into real and deadly threats. It’s up to Abigail and Timothy to find out what sort of revenge the kidnapper from years ago has somehow cursed them with.


From the Reviewer: I was able to start and finish this book in one day, so I won’t say that it is a boring book. I will say that it is choppy and jumps from known character to unknown character often. I didn’t quite understand what the unknown characters’ ties to the story were until near the end, so it was kind of annoying. I’m all for an intricate read, but this one was just too choppy. I also had a hard time with the idea that Timothy would dye Abigail’s hair for her after only knowing her for a day. Normal 7th graders don’t behave that way in my opinion. The author did have a great premise with the book; nightmares becoming so real that they are able to inflict real trauma to the victim, but I felt that the author didn’t follow through. Some of his nightmarish visuals were just too outlandish to be believable, even for a young reader’s book. I also felt there was alack of character development. I would recommend that children at least 5th grade and older read this book as some of the mind pictures the author creates could cause real nightmares in younger readers. I would suggest parents peruse this book to be sure your young reader can handle the content.