Archive for 2012

Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology Rock!

Written by Michelle M. Houle
Illustrated by William Sauts Bock

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A different take on the Greek myths.  This book supplements Greek myths with history, archaeology, and psychology for an interesting explanation of many common stories.  The well-known story of Prometheus bringing fire to humans is told with more detail.  The fire incident was not his only intervention between the gods and humans, thus making Zeus’s punishment a little more understandable.  Each chapter has a section of “Expert Commentary.”  In the chapter on Prometheus, the experts emphasize how much Prometheus has inspired people as humankind’s best and earliest benefactor.  The preface includes useful information about Greek culture and religion.  By showing how the myths played a part in a Greek’s everyday life, their approach to festivals and worship is clarified for modern-day readers.  Other stories include a creation story, the Titans, Pandora, Demeter and Persephone, Dionysus and his followers, Baucis and Philemon, Echo and Narcissus, and Helius and Phaethon.  Special features include a chart of the gods and goddesses, a map of the ancient Greek world, a question and answer section for each story, a glossary, chapter notes, further reading, internet sites and an index.

For students who can’t get enough mythology, this gives them more than simply a collection of stories.  The illustrations give it a graphic novel look.  Yet, it has a rather scholarly tone, so the recommended level of 6th grade and higher is accurate.  The publisher’s website provides a reading level of 7.8 so it could even appeal to high school students taking world history.  The question and answer section could provide a literacy activity but, since the answers are given, the questions would need to be used in a discussion or retyped into a reading worksheet.  With all the history that is included, a book trailer or PowerPoint would be a fun way to approach reports.


  • Greek MythologyTITLE: Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology Rock!
  • AUTHOR: Michelle M. Houle
  • ILLUSTRATOR: William Sauts Bock
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • FORMAT: Paperback, 128 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-329-4
  • GENRE: Mythology, Classics, Ancient Greece
  • LEXILE: 1130, Reading level 7.8


Written by Bryan Davis

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In the last, twisting, turning, tense installment of the four-part series, Davis succeeds in keeping each character’s story tense until the end. We jump into this book in the middle of the war on the planet Starlight. Dragons fight humans, slaves are yet to be set free and many people are dying of disease. Starlighter Cassabrie holds a secret that may help, but her plan is risky. Moving to peace means not only finding a resolution with the dragons, but discovering a cure for the disease, and changing the attitudes of both slave holders and slaves. With the epic’s cast numbering in the tens, keeping up with all their perils is a bit of work, but worth it in the end. Jason, Elyssa, Koren, etc. all of them have their own personal troubles. These individual issues allow us to see their war as something that affects these people personally. And we know that the outcome of the war, good or evil, will not just be affecting a wash of humanity, but our “friends.”

As with most books from this publisher, the religious overtones are strong, though no particular religion is mentioned. Instead, as all technology and magic fall away, the war will be won or lost because of the young characters’ abilities to live up to high standards of truth, love, faith, courage and mercy. Sixth grade readers and above will enjoy this book, especially if they have read the earlier installments. However, some of the references to Christianity may be beyond their comprehension.

  • LiberatorTitle: Liberator
  • Author: Bryan Davis
  • Publisher: Zondervan, 2012
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Format: Paperback, 432 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-310-71839-0
  • Genre: FICTION/ religious/Christian/fantasy

Carrying Mason

Written by Joyce Magnin

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Young people enjoy reading about people their own age facing and conquering difficulties.  Carrying Mason will be of interest to those at the sixth grade reading level. This story requires good comprehension at the sixth grade level, but is not a strenuous read for that age.

Luna is thirteen years old and lives with her parents, three sisters, and a brother in a small town. It’s a full house, but, for the most part, a happy one. Until, that is, Luna’s best friend Mason dies when hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Luna and Mason had a very special bond. It affects the whole town, but Luna more than anyone. Anyone except Mason’s mother, Ruby Day. Mason had taken such good care of his mother. She is somewhat developmentally delayed and, while some are cruel to her, many in the town look out for her. But she needs more than that. When Luna visits Ruby Day, she finds mildewed clothes in the washer and dirty dishes in the sink and realizes Ruby Day hasn’t bathed in too long. Luna decides it is up to her to take care of Ruby Day. She convinces her parents to let her move in with Ruby Day and promises she will keep up with her school work and will go to college when the time comes. She does remarkably well in her new role, but is faced with her greatest challenge when a relative shows up and insists she should take Ruby Day away. Luna is in for the fight of her life.


Young people will cheer for Luna and appreciate the difficulty of her situation. Most will imagine what it is like to take on such responsibility and will be interested in the idea of living away from their family. They will learn the kind of strength of character it takes for such a task and will also learn they have that kind of strength within themselves. There are a lot of discussion starters in this book. It is more of a girl’s book than a boy’s book, but many boys will probably like this one. The author’s page can be found at

  • Carying MasonTitle: Carrying Mason
  • Author: Joyce Magnin
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz, 2012
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-310-72682-1
  • Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age
  • Lexile Score: 810

Aldo’s Fantastical Movie Palace

Written by Jonathan Friesen

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Chloe is in her first year of secondary school and hates school with a passion. It’s not so much that she hates school, as that she hates the other kids. Chloe had been in an accident, which left her neck and face scarred, and that made her a target for bullying. The family’s Movie Palace had been a safe place to hide all summer, but now school was starting up again and so would the bullying. Chloe was hoping that because she was now starting secondary school, with new kids from all over the school district who wouldn’t know the dreaded name the kids called her, that this would be a better year. Then she spotted a new kid at school, a blind kid, complete with a seeing-eye dog, and she had real hope that he would replace her as the target. That hope didn’t last long.


Creativity ran in Chloe’s family. There was her inventor father, who Chloe hated, because the accident had been his fault. And grandpa, who painted just about anything he came in contact with, including windows and walls. Then there had been Aldo, Chloe’s great-grandpa, who built the Fantastical Movie Palace. Chloe and her mom struggled to keep the Movie Palace up and running, but it was out in the middle of nowhere, and was costing more to run than it made.

Nick was an angry young man, who took his blindness out on everyone. His safe place was to get lost in a screenplay he was writing. It was about another land, where things were different, and the blind man was the hero.

Chloe’s mom asked Nick and his family over for dinner, and that was where the adventure started. Chloe discovered Nick’s screenplay, and started making changes in it, without asking. When Nick confronted her about it while Chloe was working in the projection room, they somehow ended up going through the projector and the screen, landing in a very strange land; the very same land that was in the screenplay.

This is a coming-of-age book, about how Chloe and Nick struggle to come to grips with what they perceive as their deformities and how they must fight the evil that is taking over. Chloe must decide who the real blind person is, try to spot the lies, and reach beyond herself to save those around her.

There are some difficult subjects covered in this book, including death, so it may not be a good read for the younger crowd, unless they can get involved in a discussion group to work through some of the issues.

I would recommend this book for sixth grade and up as a good way to open up discussions on bullying, self-esteem and death.

View the Book Trailer on youtube:

  • Aldos Movie PalaceTitle: Aldo’s Fantastical Movie Palace
  • Author: Jonathan Friesen
  • Publisher: ZonderKidz, 2012
  • Reviewer: Carole Robishaw
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0310721105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310721109
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
  • Lexile Score: 810, Grades 5-8

Passion Blue

Written by Victoria Strauss

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If you think this is about the passions of a young woman, you’re right. But it turns out her real passion is painting, and passion blue is a specific color that is not easy to reproduce. In the Italian Renaissance, women were considered incapable of complex thought. Giulia is a seventeen-year-old girl who loves to draw, but she is at the mercy of an evil stepmother. Her father, who was never married to her mother, has died and left money for her dowry. His widow uses the dowry to buy Giulia’s way into a convent. Determined to get out and find a husband, Giulia uses sorcery and astrology to aid her in her quest. When the nuns discover her artistic talents, she is assigned to apprentice in a workshop famous for making altar pieces. While she plots to leave, Giulia finally figures out that what she really wants is to paint, and that a husband would frown on that pursuit. This complex tale is about coming of age, being happy with who you are, and the plight of women and other people who are suppressed.

Recommended for sixth grade readers and up, the text includes a lot of detail about what life was like in the Italian Renaissance and also what it’s like to be at someone else’s mercy. Reading activities could include learning more about the era, the rights of women, about specific painters, and about painting itself. How do you get a true blue? How is tempera made? Why do many painters prefer oil? This may appear to be a book for girls, but boys can certainly benefit from reading it. Giulia does conduct clandestine meetings with a young man, but there is no sex to shock the reader.

  • Passion BlueTITLE: Passion Blue
  • AUTHOR: Victoria Strauss
  • PUBLISHER: Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
  • ISBN: 978-0-0-7614-6230-9
  • FORMAT: Hard cover, 346 pages
  • GENRE: Women, Italian Renaissance