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.
- TITLE: 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 L.L. Samson
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A mysterious fire threatens a boarding school. Heroic young people rescue the gruff and intimidating headmistress. There is a secret passageway. All this is in chapter one of an adventure story that combines classic literature with a modern mystery. Linus and Ophelia are teen-agers who have been left with their elderly aunt and uncle who own a bookstore while their scientist parents are on a tropical island carrying out their research. It is a miserably hot summer, the stuffy and academic narrator tells us. Bartholomew Inkster cannot tell this story without injecting bits of literary devices, Linus and Ophelia’s history along with background on the literary works they explore. Linus has discovered writings from an ancestor who tells how to bring literary characters to life. In this episode, they bring D’Artagnan and the evil Lady DeWinter to life while trying to solve a real life mystery of who wants to destroy their best friend Walter’s school. But D’Artagnan and Milady are more of a headache than a solution. And Bartholomew keeps putting in his two cents.
Written with humor and a respect for the classics, Bartholomew manages to entertain and provide descriptions of literary devices. The story could be a way to develop a guide for writing. Because the voice is so strong – think a snarky Lemony Snicket – and the characters are so eccentric, this would make a good class read aloud for sixth graders. Even better let them read it to a book buddy as a literacy activity. The students could make several lists, any one of them would be a good reading worksheet: the literary devices, story details from The Three Musketeers, even the instructions on how to make literary characters come to life. There is a great book trailer for the first book in the series on the author’s website: http://llsamson.blogspot.com/. With the commercially-made book trailer as a model, students could make their own trailer for this installment. There is a lot of action, and the story problem is maintained throughout. Not everything seems logical, and the real life villain escapes. We never do meet the three Musketeers as promised on the cover. Still the adventure is a lot of fun.
- TITLE: The Enchanted Attic: Dueling with the Three Musketeers
- AUTHOR: L. L. Samson
- PUBLISHER: Zonderkidz, 2013
- REVIEWER: Risa Brown
- FORMAT: Paperback, 166 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-310-72799-6
- GENRE: Adventure
- LEXILE: 1130, Reading level 6.2
Written by Eden Unger Bowditch
Illustrated by Mary Grace Corpus
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The brilliant children of the Young Inventors Guild are in danger again. In the second installment of the Young Inventors Guild series, their relief at escaping from the evil Komar Romak and the joy of being reunited with their parents is short-lived. The group travels in luxury aboard a train that is suddenly blown up. They are not on the train but their parents appear to be. In a haze of grief and pain, their teacher, Miss Brett, and the five children are swept away by the mysterious men in black, those men who barely speak English but manage to keep them one step ahead of death. Jasper and his sister Lucy Modest are from England; Wallace Banneker is from New York, Noah Canto-Sagas is from Toronto and Faye Vigyanveta is from New Delhi. They continue to build their relationship, learning one another’s strengths and weaknesses, and become a team in order to survive and do the work that each is drawn to do. After a harrowing sea voyage and near discovery, they are taken to a lovely manor house in a small village in Italy. There they are safe to work and explore the grounds. They especially like the village baker, a warm, affectionate woman who bakes them all sorts of treats. The house is a haven but they also discover that it is a vast library of all the brilliant inventors before them. When Komar Romak attacks them once again, they barely escape and can only hope that the manuscripts in the subterranean library are still intact. Because the children work together, their escape is especially satisfying.
There are new situations for the children to explore as they travel, when they are not in danger, that is. Each part of the adventure is filled with amazing inventions and tantalizing mysteries that hint at the centuries-old Guild at the heart of the story. Reading the first installment is recommended. The girl characters are the most believable: Faye pushes everyone away so she deals with trust issues, and Lucy has a perfect memory but remains a babyish little girl. The boy characters tend to be defined by their role in the group: Jasper takes care of Lucy, Noah is a clown and Wallace is painfully shy. Much of the story is told through Miss Brett’s point of view although there is not a clear main character. One literacy activity could be to write a description of each character and list their inventions as a way to predict how they will defeat Komar Romak. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are enticing and other illustrations help explain how the inventions work. The author’s website has a certificate for the Young Inventors Guild: (http://www.younginventorsguild.com/), which could be a prize for reading games. There is an interesting YouTube video about the author being in Egypt during the revolution while trying to finish the first installment of the series, The Atomic Weight of Secrets: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQrlP1ZjwOM). Each volume is very long. Strong readers will take to this series.
- TITLE: The Ravens of Solemano: or The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black
- AUTHOR: Eden Unger Bowditch
- ILLUSTRATOR: Mary Grace Corpus
- PUBLISHER: Bancroft, 2013
- REVIEWER: Risa Brown
- FORMAT: Hardcover, 465 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-61088-104-3
- GENRE: Fantasy
- Grade level: Sixth