The Terrible Two Get Worse

This time last year, I had the opportunity to read a hilariously funny book from the team of Jory John, Mac Barnett, and Kevin Cornell. That book was The Terrible Two. As soon as the book was released, it earned a place on my library shelves, and, to be honest, I haven’t seen it since. (My students know a good book when they see one.)

Now, almost a year later, I’ve been lucky enough to read the sequel to The Terrible Two, aptly named The Terrible Two Get Worse. (Thank you, NetGalley!) This second installment will be released a month from tomorrow, and, just like its predecessor, it will be added to my school library as soon as I can manage it.

I must confess that I liked the first book in this series more than the second, but the sequel still managed to keep me chuckling and eager to turn the page. It’s a quick read that will definitely appeal to any budding pranksters or anyone who enjoys a good laugh.

Miles and Niles make up the Terrible Two, the most excellent pranking team Yawnee Valley has ever seen. Their legendary pranks are sure to be recorded in the history books of the International Order of Disorder, especially since their primary target is Principal Barry Barkin (and his insufferable bully of a son, Josh).

Unfortunately for Miles and Niles–and Principal Barkin–the pranking has come to the attention of the school board. They wonder if Principal Barkin has what it takes to run the school if he can’t figure out who’s pulling so many pranks and bring them to justice. It doesn’t help that the former principal, who happens to be Barry Barkin’s father, agrees with the school board and decides to take matters into his own hands.

Now, Miles and Niles have to contend with a new leader in their school, Principal Bertrand Barkin, and this guy is not messing around. He vows to put an end to pranks…once and for all.

At first, the Terrible Two figure they can get something over on this new guy, but the elder Barkin proves to be one tough customer. He simply doesn’t react to any of their pranks, and what good is a prank without a reaction?! Pretty soon, pranks are a thing of the past at the Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy, and Miles and Niles simply don’t know what to do with themselves. Something’s gotta give, right?

The Terrible Two eventually figure out what they must do to end Bertrand Barkin’s reign of terror…but they’ll need some help. That help, though, may have to come from an unexpected source. Could Miles and Niles possibly–*gasp*–join forces with their former principal, one Barry Barkin, to prank someone who is virtually unprankable? Find out when you read The Terrible Two Get Worse!

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As with The Terrible Two, this second book is a perfect book for any reader with a bit of a mischievous side. The text and illustrations mesh perfectly, and the book also emphasizes such important concepts as creativity, teamwork, perseverance, and friendship.

I would say that The Terrible Two Get Worse is highly recommended for any collection that serves readers from 4th grade on up. Some of the humor resonates more with older readers than with kids, but there’s definitely something here for everyone. I, for one, am hoping that we’ll see even more Terrible Two stories in the future.

For more information about this awesome series and its creators, check out the websites of Jory John, Mac Barnett, and Kevin Cornell. And make sure to pick up your copy of The Terrible Two Get Worse on January 12th!

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School

As of last Tuesday, we now have ten books in the wildly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. This weekend, I devoted a little time to reading the 10th book, Old School.

In this latest installment, Greg Heffley is wondering if life was really better in the old days. He always hears his parents and his grandfather talking about the “good old days,” but he doesn’t see what’s so good about them. No decent electronics, little privacy…and no baby wipes. It all sounds pretty awful to Greg.

This year, Greg is getting a little taste of the “good old days.” For one thing, his grandfather has moved in. This causes a bit of a shuffle in the Heffley house, which means Greg now shares a room with his little brother. There’s also some added stress because Greg’s dad realizes just how much his kids don’t know how to do themselves. This leads to even more changes, like Greg taking more responsibility for himself…and older brother Rodrick getting a job.

Greg’s mom is also getting into the whole “old school” thing. She’s organizing a city-wide weekend with no electronics. This means no TV, phones, gaming systems…nothing. She wants neighbors to get outside and reconnect with each other. Greg isn’t nearly as enthused as his mother. This can only end badly for him.

And finally, there’s the big field trip his class is taking. One whole week roughing it at Hardscrabble Farms. Greg learns fairly quickly that he’s just not cut out for doing things the “old school” way. He’s a kid that enjoys his modern conveniences…and he’s not the only one.

Join Greg as he attempts to try things the old-fashioned way…and realizes that, though people in the past may have been tougher, being a wimpy kid in the present isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

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While this probably wasn’t my favorite Wimpy Kid book, I strongly related to Greg in Old School. I admit that I am spoiled, and I wouldn’t last a day without many modern conveniences (especially air conditioning). I also LOATHE camping and have little to no interest in actually going outside and talking to people. (Basically, I want to be a hermit with WiFi.)

I predict that many of my students will also relate to Greg in this book, but there will be others who think he’s crazy. They would rather be out in nature–hunting, fishing, camping–than anywhere else. But even with their differing perspectives, every kid will be able to identify with Greg in some way. Whether it’s his frustrations with his family, his attempts to make a quick buck, trying to find short-cuts around hard work, or letting situations get away from him, Greg is a thoroughly relatable character for anyone who’s ever been a kid…wimpy or not.

Now, I’m going to check the copy of Old School I borrowed back into the library and watch the kids argue over who gets to borrow it. (The nine other copies I purchased went very fast.)

If you’d like more information on Jeff Kinney and the entire Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, click here. Also, check out more about Old School in the video below.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

Let us all do the Dance of Joy! I’ve finally finished the last of this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees! I’m pleased as punch that I can finally return to the books that I actually want to read…not that most of the SCCBA nominees weren’t great. I enjoyed most of them, but some weren’t books that I would’ve chosen to read. And I guess that’s one of the great things about the Book Award program.

Anyhoo, my last SCCBA nominee is probably the weirdest of the bunch. (I say that with love.) The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is unlike any book I’ve ever read. It has a crazy cast of characters, including two raccoons, a very large snake named Gertrude, feral hogs, an alligator wrestler, a con-artist, a pie-maker and her son, and, of course, the Sugar Man, cousin of Sasquatch and guardian of the swamp. Like I said…weird. But weird is good, at least in my book.

Bingo and J’miah, raccoon brothers, are the newest Official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts. They gather information vital to the survival of the swamp, and, should they ever need to, they wake the Sugar Man if the swamp is in danger. Pretty soon, they’ll have to do just that. A band of nasty, vile, feral hogs are on their way to the Sugar Man Swamp, and they’re sure to destroy anything in their path. Our loyal, beloved Scouts simply can’t let that happen. They must find a way to wake the Sugar Man, who has been sleeping for over sixty years.

While Bingo and J’miah are working for–and trying to wake–the Sugar Man, a twelve-year-old boy named Chap is doing his own part to protect the swamp where he lives. An awful man, Sonny Boy Beaucoup, wants to pave over the swamp and create an alligator wrestling theme park. In the process, he’d force Chap and his mom out of their pie-making business and the only home they’ve ever known, not to mention all of the plants and animals that would be destroyed. Chap just can’t let that happen, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep his home…even if that means coming face-to-face with the Sugar Man himself.

As hogs are coming from one direction and theme park developers come from another, Chap and the Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp are both working to save their homes. They’ll have to be both creative and relentless in their quests to protect the swamp.

Will the raccoons wake the Sugar Man in time to beat back the horrible hogs? Will Chap find some way to convince Sonny Boy to abandon his theme park schemes?

Trouble is surely coming for this precious swamp, and only one thing can really set things right. It’s time for the Sugar Man to wake up!

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Now, some of you might be asking why I’m posting on a book like this, one featuring talking swamp creatures, here. After all, this blog typically focuses on middle grade and YA fiction. Well, I have to say that this particular book has something for everyone. Yes, younger readers will like the precocious animal characters, but, in my most humble opinion, the humor in this book is geared more to older readers, even adults in some cases. There’s a reason this book was a National Book Award finalist.

The narrator of The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is what really sets this book apart. I got the sense that the narrator was speaking directly to me (and my fellow readers), and he/she (in my head, it was a feisty, Southern woman) made the book come alive. I don’t quite know how to explain this particular aspect of the book any better. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.

This book also featured some fairly complex vocabulary. That could deter some younger readers–and some older readers–from picking up or finishing the book, but I would encourage them to persevere. The challenge is worth it, and they’ll expand their vocabularies in the process. It’s a win-win!

If you’re at all intrigued by The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, I urge you to learn a bit more on the author’s website. Her site includes a book description, a short video, and activity pages that go along with this excellent book. (I plan to use some of the activities with my students very soon.)

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Now, my dear friends, it’s time for me to bid you adieu. I’m headed to Myrtle Beach for a few days, so I will be incommunicado for a while. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish a few books during my much-needed vacation, and I’ll share those with you as soon as I return to real life. Happy reading!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

As you may know, a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was released yesterday. After I voted, I rushed to my closest bookstore and purchased ten copies for my school library. (I’m fully aware that this is probably not enough.) Before I took the books to school, though, I sat down to read this ninth installment, The Long Haul.

In The Long Haul, Greg Heffley is about to take part in that most dreaded of family activities–the road trip. Greg’s Mom thinks this will be the greatest summer activity in the world, and she’s billing it as a vacation and learning experience all rolled into one. Well, it’s definitely a learning experience, but I doubt dear old Mom had these lessons in mind…

From rundown hotels to lost wallets and cell phones to destructive pigs to unfortunate car mishaps, the Heffley family goes through loads of mayhem and madness on this most epic of road trips. Everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong on this horrible vacation.

Crammed in the back of the family van, Greg tells readers all about his vacation misadventures, and readers young and old will find it all too easy to sympathize with Greg’s plight. (Who hasn’t endured a heinous family road trip?!)

Will Greg and his family make it out of this with their sanity intact? Can anything go right for them during this trip? What more could they possibly endure?

Join Greg Heffley on yet another wild ride when you read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul!

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I don’t have to do a whole lot to sell this book to my students. Setting it out on the shelf is usually enough. I do plan to tell them, though, that The Long Haul is probably my favorite of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. It’s just so relatable, no matter what the reader’s age may be. I can remember long car rides with my family–my sister and I fighting over the smallest things, my parents getting more irritated by the minute, all of us fussing about my dad’s choice in music, having no escape from all the togetherness. Oftentimes, we needed another vacation from our vacation. I think lots of readers–like myself–will be able to see themselves in everything that goes wrong with the Heffleys’ road trip.

I’m sure we’ll see more of Greg Heffley and his infamous diary in the future. The Long Haul didn’t wrap up in a nice, neat little bow, so be on the lookout for another book this time next year.

For all things Diary of a Wimpy Kid, be sure to visit wimpykid.com. For a quick look at The Long Haul, you may also want to take a peek at the video below. You can find loads more videos on the Wimpy Kid YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Fortunately, the Milk

I love Neil Gaiman, and reading Fortunately, the Milk has only increased my adoration. This book, which features illustrations by Skottie Young, is a journey through the ridiculous. Fortunately, the Milk is targeted to a children’s audience, but I’d wager that many older readers will be enchanted by it.  I certainly was.

Who knew that being out of milk would lead to such craziness? Well, that’s exactly what happened one morning in a perfectly normal household. The father went out to get the milk, but he had quite the story for his disbelieving children when he returned.

After getting the milk that his kids needed for cereal–and he wanted for his tea–it seems that Dear Old Dad got a bit sidetracked by a few things. Things like spaceships, green globby aliens, pirates, piranhas, a professorial stegosaurus with a time-traveling Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier (hot air balloon), an ancient volcano god, ponies, wumpires, the space-time continuum, the galactic police, and dancing dwarves.

Is the father’s story true? Could he have possibly gone on a time-traveling adventure with the strange Professor Steg? And how did he ever get the much-needed milk home to his children? Read Fortunately, the Milk to find out!

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Anyone who enjoys convoluted stories–maybe fans of Roald Dahl or Doctor Who–will love Fortunately, the Milk. It is full of crazy, fantastical fun, and those who’ve ever been subjected to insane tales told by dads, uncles, granddads, or other relatives will definitely appreciate the story.

I do recommend reading the entire book in one sitting. (It’s a very short, fast read that will likely take most readers less than an hour to finish.) The action moves so quickly that this will not be a problem. In fact, if you put the book down, you’ll probably find yourself having to reread entire passages to put things in context.

Fortunately, the Milk, in my opinion, would be a great read-aloud for students in upper elementary or middle grades.  (Some of the vocabulary may be a little too difficult for younger readers.) Even high school students may appreciate this book as a read-aloud. It’s that funny and awesome.

If you’re looking for a super-quick read that is totally strange, whimsical, and ridiculous, you should definitely give Fortunately, the Milk by the amazing Neil Gaiman a try. You’ll be enraptured by both the text and the wonderful illustrations (which were kind of a cross between the works of Shel Silverstein and Tim Burton.) You won’t be disappointed!

If you’d like to learn just a little more about this book, check out the book trailer below. It features the King of All Things, Neil Gaiman himself!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

Yesterday, there was a run on my school library.  We got eight copies of the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Hard Luck.  (I skedaddled to the store Tuesday so that we would be able to have copies available for students first thing on Wednesday.)  Many of my students have been looking forward to this eighth installment in the popular series for months, so I knew I would have to do my part to meet demand.

I did keep one book back to read myself, though.  (After all, you can’t recommend a book if you haven’t read it yourself.) I finished it last night, so here we are with a post today.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of our protagonist, Greg Heffley, I related to him more in this book than any of the preceding books. (Normally, I find him to be extremely selfish. That didn’t change much in this book, but his circumstances did.)

Greg Heffley’s life is not going well.  His best friend Rowley now has a girlfriend.  Where does that leave Greg?  Out in the cold. Suddenly, Greg has to walk to and from school by himself, carry his own books, sit with other people at lunch, worry about who to play with at recess, and find something to do after school.  Who knew that losing your best friend would cause so much trouble?!

Middle school is no picnic at the best of times.  It’s even worse when you don’t have a best friend (and you’re not sure how to make more friends).  Eventually, though, Greg thinks he’s found a way to make things a little better.  He’ll leave his fate up to a Magic 8 Ball!  This shouldn’t cause any problems at all, right? Right?!

Join Greg Heffley as he navigates the halls of middle school–girls, cafeteria seating, recess games, making friends–and his somewhat unpredictable family.  Will Greg’s luck ever change?  Find out when you read Hard Luck, the eighth book in Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series!

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Most people realize that middle school is the time when people begin pairing off.  Well, when you’re not part of a pair, things can get kind of dicey.  I was never part of a couple in middle school (or even high school), so it was very difficult for me to keep from being the “third wheel.”  Many times, my friendships with those in couples tended to fall by the wayside.  That’s why I relate so strongly to Greg Heffley in this book.  (I think a lot of readers may feel the same way.)  Some kids just aren’t interested in becoming part of a couple, and it’s not always easy to adapt when their friends find someone else to spend their time with.  (I know Diary of a Wimpy Kid is supposed to be a very light read, but, in this case, it brought back some not-so-great memories. I probably need therapy.)

Like all of the other books in this series, this book sells itself.  I don’t think I need to do a ton of promotion here.  I put eight copies of this book on the shelf yesterday, and they’re all gone today. We’ll probably have to order a few more soon.  Kids just love these books, and I think I’ve illustrated that adults may just find something to enjoy (or at least relate to) as well.

I’m sure we’ll see yet another DoaWK book this time next year. In the meantime, visit  http://www.wimpykid.com/ for all things wimpy!  Enjoy!

 

Fake Mustache

Sometimes, in my role as an elementary school librarian, I’m introduced to books that are completely ridiculous. Some of them are, shall we say, less than great. Others, like my latest read, make me laugh hysterically and think of ways to highlight this book and recommend it to my students.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that Fake Mustache fell in the latter category. It’s by Tom Angleberger, author of the absolutely fabulous Origami Yoda series. That’s the reason I picked the book up, after all. In Fake Mustache, Angleberger once again uses humor to tell a captivating story that, hopefully, will make kids of all ages think. Yes, readers will have to suspend reality just a bit, but anyone who gives this book a try is in for one crazy, entertaining ride!

Our story begins with two best friends, Lenny and Casper, visiting Sven’s Fair Price Store in their hometown of Hairsprinkle. Lenny purchases a sticky stretchy hand, but Casper…well, Casper, after spending a lot of money on a suit, purchases the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven, the world’s greatest fake mustache. This mustache is made from real human hair and has the power to make people do strange things…as Lenny is about to find out.

Shortly after Lenny and Casper make their fateful purchases, a short, suited man with a handlebar mustache begins robbing banks. Lenny is sure that Casper is the culprit, but no one believes him. Even when he tips off the police as to the identity of the robber, no one takes him seriously…no one except Casper–now known as the powerful, rich, and enigmatic Fako Mustacho–who makes Lenny into Public Enemy Number One.

Fako Mustacho seems to have everybody fooled. Bands of people are going around the city doing his bidding. Only a few people are immune to the power of the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven. Lenny is one of them, and, surprisingly, one of the others is Jodie O’Rodeo, former teen cowgirl queen. These two kids join forces to put a stop to Fako Mustacho’s shenanigans. But how can they battle the brainwashing power of the Mustache?

Join Lenny and Jodie as they try to figure out how to stop a criminal mastermind from taking over the country. What dangers will they have to face? Will anyone ever believe them? Find out for yourself when you read Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger!

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If you’re looking for a hilarious, totally unbelievable book to recommend to kids in upper elementary or middle grades, Fake Mustache is a great choice. It could even open up some discussions with older kids on why people choose the leaders they do. (This is something especially timely right now. Maybe some of our Congressmen are controlling people with fake mustaches. Makes just as much sense as anything else.)

Pair Fake Mustache with I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil, and I Want to Be Your Class President for readers who are interested in just how much other kids can get away with. Both books will leave them laughing uncontrollably.

If you’re interested in Fake Mustache and other books by Tom Angleberger, check out http://origamiyoda.wordpress.com/. Have fun!