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

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 Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson


117 pages

Published by Harper Collins, 2004

ISBN 0-06-027862-5

Interest Level: 3rd – 5th grades

Reading Level: 5.4


No Halloween this year. NO HALLOWEEN???!!!

That’s what the mayor has decided. All because of the Herdmans. The Herdmans were a group of kids to be feared: they stole the flag on Flag Day and stole a tree on Arbor Day. They let all the kindergarten mice out of their cages and filled them up with guinea pigs. They managed to get eight kids stuck in the revolving door at the bank, and they switched the sardines for guppies at the pizza parlor. These and other occurrences caused the mayor to put an end to Halloween. He was not going to take a chance that the Herdmans would find a way to ruin that holiday as well.

This meant of course no candy at the stores, no trick-or-treating, no dressing up in costume at school, no Halloween decorations; nothing! The adults did at least decide to throw a “safe” Halloween party at Woodrow Wilson School on Halloween night. But all the kids know that it’s going to be a totally boring night with no excitement at all. Or will it? Strange things begin to occur after everyone arrives at the school. Could the Herdmans be involved after all?


From the Reviewer: This was a cute book, perfect for the Halloween season. Great for 3rd and 4th grade readers. It’s not too long, not too detailed, just right. ***Spoiler Alert!*** I like how the book ends with the Herdmans being not so bad after all…

I would have liked to have seen a little more description of the main characters, but I’m assuming the author kept it simple to keep the story light and lively. This book jumped around a little to me, but again, that could have been the author’s intention.

A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin


182 pages

Published by Scholastic Inc., 2007

ISBN 978-0-439-71700-7

Interest Level: 4th – 8th grades

Reading Level: 5.1


A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray is about Squirrel, a stray dog that was born along with her brother, Bone in an old shed in the backyard of the Merrion family. At first life is wonderful for Squirrel. They have Mother to care for them, they have the mice and cats who live in the shed with them to keep them company; somewhat. And they have plenty of food that Mother brings back for them. When the Merrion’s are at the house in the summer time, they have even more food from the garbage pile. Then one day, Mother does not return home from a hunting trip leaving the two to fend for themselves.

At first everything is fine for Squirrel and Bone. But as the two grow older, Bone decides it is time to leave the shed and Squirrel follows her brother as she always does. What follows is a series of very difficult turns of events for Squirrel: She loses Bone when he is picked up by some humans and she is left alone. She finds a companion in Moon, a little female dog, until she is killed by a car. Squirrel is injured in the accident as well, but is taken to the vet, healed and taken in by the family that struck her. Everything is fine for a while, until the family leaves the home they are staying in and do not take Squirrel with them. She is once again forced to fend for herself and becomes wary of humans. It is not until Squirrel is well into her adult life that she finally finds a home and the companionship she so desperately needs and deserves.

From the Reviewer: This is a very touching and heartwarming story told from a dog’s point of view. Even though it is written by a human, I felt that this is what it must be like to be a dog out on the streets with no one to care. My fourth grade daughter read this story and loved it as did her fourth grade class when the teacher read it aloud. Good care was taken in writing the book from a dog’s perspective. I would have liked to have seen a little more put into the last few chapters or maybe even another chapter or two to go deeper into the relationship between Squirrel and her final owner, Susan. The last chapters felt rushed to me.

Category: 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade | Comments Off on A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin