Tag Archives: harper collins

York #1: The Shadow Cipher (Laura Ruby)

26 Jul

Codes, ciphers, secrets?  Count me in!  If you want an adventure that requires a bit of thinking and a lot of running, you’ll definitely want to pick up Laura Ruby’s York: The Shadow Cipher.


York 1 - Shadow Cipher


1.  I have been waiting and waiting for the next great puzzle adventure, and I’m glad that it is the York series.  We love The 39 Clues (by various authors) and The Copernicus Legacy (by Tony Abbott), and now, we’ve got York to add to the list.

2.  I’m not a fan of time-travelling stories, but I LOVE stories where people in the past leave clues for folk in the future.  In 1798, Tess and Theodore Morningstarr begin their work of revamping New York City using mysterious technology that is super avant-garde.  Just before they disappear, they leave behind a puzzle called the Old York Cipher.  How cool is that?  If you like stories with advanced technology, you’ll love all the gizmos and gadgets in this one.

3.  Fast forward to the present day, and Tess and Theo Biedermann, along with their friend, Jaime Cruz, go all around the city, trying to solve the puzzle that no one has been able to solve since the Morningstarrs bequeathed it to NYC.  And for them, it’s not a matter of just getting the right answer … because solving the puzzle could mean saving their homes.  I love it when characters are tasked with impossible tasks.

4.  The twins are great in this story.  They don’t always get along; in fact, they often get on each other’s nerves.  I like that Ruby decided not to have twins who are completely in synch with one another.  This way, there’s more excitement.  And since this is only the beginning of the series, I do wonder if Ruby will make her readers gasp by … separating the twins at some point.  Oh, boy, would that be fun to read.

5.  Jaime’s story is one I definitely want to know more about.  Ruby’s given us bits and pieces, but I want more.  His and his grandmother’s close relationship is very enviable, and, I think, a great, calming force in the story.

6.  Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, which makes for an interesting read.  In the beginning, I had to flip back to the first pages of the chapters to remind myself who was narrating, but you get used to it.  It’s a great way to get to know more about the characters through what they want you to know about them.

7.  This is an excellent book for school and classroom libraries.  I will probably be adding this to my curriculum next year, so check back to see the questions and activities I create!


4.5 Squinkles


Laura Ruby’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Chapters/Indigo

Thank you, HarperCollins and Walden Pond Press, for sending me a copy of York 1: The Shadow Cipher in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.


My Weird School Fast Facts: Geography and Sports (Dan Gutman)

11 Oct

I love learning random facts, though I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always remember what I’ve learned.  If you’re into geography, sports, or random trivia, you’ll find Dan Gutman’s My Weird School Fast Facts: Geography and My Weird School Fast Facts: Sports very awesome reads.


My Weird School - Geography Squinklethoughts

1.  Are you already a fan of Gutman’s My Weird School (and My Weirder School and My Weird School Daze) series, which began in 2004?  My students love these stories, which are full of memorable characters and funny dialogue.  We particularly enjoy their rockin’ rhymin’ titles like Mrs. Yonkers is Bonkers! and Mr. Harrison is Embarrassin’!.


My Weird School - 1-21 

2.  In both Geography and Sports, you get to hang out with A.J. and Andrea outside of school.  Their very different personalities make for great banter between them.  I’d like to think that they are still friends-ish even though they bother the heck out of each other a lot.

3.  There were so many places I had already known (like Pangæa and Lake Vostok), but many others that were completely new to me (like Chimborazo and West Quoddy Head).  You’ll learn a TON of new geography facts.

4.  And I haven’t forgotten about you sports fans.  You’ll love learning about how “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” began and why Ulrich Salchow’s and Alois Lutz’ names are mentioned very often in the winter.


My Weird School - Sports  

5.  I particularly enjoyed how Gutman divides each book: Geography has chapters based on various elements like water, the continents, and natural disasters.  I really liked the section where he names a few interesting facts about each US state.  Makes me want to go on a road trip!  Sports is, as you can guess, divided into chapters based on different sports.  The one on baseball is really long, so my only disappointment is that the other chapters (like the one on hockey) were just as long.  I am glad that curling and table tennis were mentioned though!  And I loved learning lots of cool stuff about the Olympics.

6.  Jim Paillot’s artwork is phenomenal.  You’ll enjoy the the drawings on each page that help bring Arlo’s and Andrea’s narrations come to life.  Definitely check out his website!


4 Squinkles 

Dan Gutman’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Chapters – Geo | Chapters – Sports


Thank you, HarperCollins, for sending me a copy of My Weird School Fast Facts: Geography and My Weird School Fast Facts: Sports
in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Bookcation 2016 #12: Wing & Claw: Forest of Wonders

21 Mar

Linda Sue Park has been around for ages. In fact, many of my students had read her books long before even I did. I was introduced to her because I loved The 39 Clues series so much, and she wrote the 9th novel of the original plot line, Storm Warning. Now, she’s got a brand-new series that I think you’ll enjoy.


Wing & Claw - Forest of Wonders 

Forest of Wonders is the first novel in the Wing & Claw series. It’s about a young apothecary called Raffa who is rather gifted at his craft but suppressed by his father who doesn’t want him experimenting. One day, he comes upon an injured bat, so he concocts a cure using a rare plant in the forest. His medicine is effective … so effective, in fact, that Echo, the bat, develops a curious ability. And this is when Raffa’s life changes.

This is an adventuresome read that you’ll rip right through. I especially love the apothecary bits because I’ve always had a fascination for botany (mostly to learn about which plants to avoid!). I hope you enjoy this first installment. Let me know what you think about it!

Life Between Summers (Episode 2015-2016)

8 Sep

Hello, Squinks!

Can you believe it’s September already? This school year, I’ve got big plans for us to explore worlds both strange and familiar; befriend characters (some good, some bad); and live lives completely unlike our own—yet so incredibly recognizable nonetheless.  By the time June rolls around, I’m absolutely positive that all of you will have been changed for the better, thanks to the journeys we will take.

This is it, Squinks.  Adventure awaits.

This is the beginning of your next Life Between Summers.


Peter Pan Map

Positive (Paige Rawl)

1 May



So many feels come from reading this book that I must tell you now: Paige’s story isn’t just for anyone – it’s for everyone.

  • Anyone (everyone) who’s ever been bullied will find someone to relate to in this book.
  • Anyone (everyone) who’s ever had to deal with people who equate a long-term illness, disability, or health condition with being worthless or unintelligent will find something worthwhile in this book.
  • Anyone (everyone) who’s ever watched someone be hurt by others and found it challenging to do more will understand the helplessness that parents often feel.
  • Anyone (everyone) who’s ever felt that no one else understands the challenges that being different – because of gender, religion, race, or HIV status – presents will find a friend in Paige Rawl.

Positive is the story of Paige’s journey through elementary and high school.  In her back pocket, she’s armed with two innate tools: her HIV-positive status and her strength of character.  Just with that bit of information, I’m sure you can figure out that life has not been so easy for Paige, but what makes this a book for all people is the way Paige handles herself in the face of adversity.  She’s not perfect, and she sometimes mishandles situations, but her tenacity in refusing to stay down for long is incredibly admirable.  I think it’s important to cry, especially when you don’t understand things.  And Paige has had her turns of tears.  But after every setback, she rises stronger.  She refuses to let malicious or ignorant people dictate her life, and even in times of great disappointment or injustice from the powers that be, she recognizes that all is not lost.  She summons the strength to keep fighting for what’s right.  She ensures that love wins.

There are so many life lessons that teachers try to pass on to their students on a daily basis, but sometimes, the words of one who has lived through (and continues to fight) battles are more effective than any scripted lesson plan.

This book will make you run through a gamut of emotions, but I’m willing to bet that at the end of your reading experience, you will have learned a few things about what it’s like to be HIV positive, and your heart will have grown just a little.  You’ll be a little more understanding and a lot less judgmental; you’ll be a little more compassionate and a lot less disdainful.  Paige’s story may not work miracles in fixing all that’s wrong with the world, but if there are even a few more ounces of goodness in people, I think she’d take that.  And I would, too.


4 Squinkles


Paige Rawl’s Online Corners

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters


Thank you, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of Positive
in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions and suggestions expressed herein are entirely my own.

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