Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 4, 2011 Activities in Massachusetts

Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. There are so many wonderful activities and chances for families to enjoy local activities. I decided this year I would keep a list as I located them so I could direct friends and families to the resources I found and others could enjoy them, too.

Boston Harborfest


Combined List of Fireworks and Activities

Find Local Fireworks Locations

Find Parade or Concert

Sturbridge Village

Sudbury Parade

If I find more resources, I will add them before the holiday.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Starcross is the second book in the Larklight series. After recovering from the giant spiders and rescuing the British Empire, Myrtle, Art and their mother are enticed to go on vacation to Starcross a luxury hotel. As anyone who reads fantasy or science fiction knows, vacations are never peaceful for heroes in these novels.

Reeve did find an original villain. Who would suspect evil top hats? Mother and the children along with Jack are engaged in another adventure to save the Universe from danger.

Art matures a great deal in this book and carries the burden of telling the story. Myrtle's diaries are not a part of the tale as they were in Larklight. We learn more about Mother's history and abilities in Starcross. Jack and Myrtle's relationship continues to progress slowly with typical challenges and issues.

A younger relative will be receiving this series this summer to keep her entertained during down times during her visits. I will be interested to hear her thoughts on the books.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rise of the Evening Star

Rise of the Evening Star is the second book in Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series.

Those who have challenging experiences with classmates will appreciate Kendra and Seth's experience at the end of the school year. Their challenge really is a monster that wants to do nothing but cause them harm. Since they cannot share their knowledge of creatures with their friends or reach their grandparents who understand, they must figure out how to deal with the situation on their own. The children come to realize this transfer student is part of a larger plot from the Evening Star to cause problems for Fablehaven.

The children manage to reach their grandparents who provide assistance in removing the children from the local dangers. The children's grandparents arrange for the children to spend the summer at Fablehaven where they deal with new challenges and challenges left over from the first Fablehaven book.

People keep trying to compare this series to Harry Potter and I must admit I do not see the comparison. The series have completely different attractions. It stands as a strong series without bouncing of the popularity off Harry Potter. I love helping kids make connections between characters and novels. However, I do think the Harry Potter comparison has become a crutch to get kids to read something new. It is time to encourage children to read new series on the series merit, not hoping that kids will find it Harry Potter like.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Throne of Fire

I finished the library's copy of a The Throne of Fire and it was worth the wait. Rick Riordan's second installment of the Kane Chronicles was as good as I had expected. He has set an aggressive writing schedule releasing a book every sixth months for his Kane series and his The Heroes of Olympus series. The next Olympus book is due out in the fall of 2011.

The children have new recruits from the messages Sadie left at the end of The Red Pyramid . Sadie is struggling with the responsibility of training other children and worrying about the coming struggles with Apophis.

Listening to this story on audio is an advantage as you can hear the change in narrators and hear the difference in voice literally as well as figuratively.

As the children struggle with the decision to bring back Ra they continue to deal with story lines left over from the previous story. Carter wants to find the girl he lost, only to discover he may not have ever had her. Sadie discovers having two male interests is almost as hard as being alone.

The journey demonstrates that being a God is not always protection against harm. Their visit to a nursing home for aging Gods demonstrates that those who are forgotten, regardless of their previous stature, become lost.

This was another great Riordan adventure. I will admit I had to look up a few references, as I was not aware of a couple of things he mentioned. I consider that a positive about his books. It is a chance to engage children in learning more about Egyptian history while getting them interested in an adventure series.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ancient Egypt: A Guide to Egypt in the Time of the Pharoahs (Sightseers)

Ancient Egypt: A Guide to Egypt in the Time of the Pharoahs (Sightseers) is part of the Sightseers series. The books are written as travel guides.

I used this book with my Ancient Egypt unit. The book presents historical information to students as if they still could travel to Ancient Egypt. The reader is introduced to how to travel, what to wear, eating, accommodations, shopping and leisure time. From here the author moves on to life in Egypt including chapters on hunting, mummification, the pyramids, farming and health and legal warnings for your journey.

This book is a great supplemental resource or general interest reading for children. The series makes history accessible to students and it may be a fun project to try with your students. Can they create their own travel materials?

This book is currently out of print, but available in libraries and through second hand resources. This book and the rest of the series is a wonderful way to engage children in bringing history to life and imagining what it would be like to visit another time period.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Frog Princess

The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker is the first book in a series that puts a twist on the old fairytale.

The story diverts from the original story when we learn Princess Emma comes from a magical line. Her family practices magic and this ultimately has an effect on Emma's future.

Emma is not thrilled with her prospects of marrying Prince Jorge. While out avoiding the prospect of marriage, Princess Emma meets a talking frog, Eadric. Following the traditional story, Eadric claims to be a prince in need of a kiss to restore himself to his true self. Emma thinks over his request, but eventually provides him with the traditional fairytale request. Here is where the story changes. Instead of turning Eadric into a prince, Emma finds herself turned into a frog.

Eadric helps Emma adjust and survive her life as a frog. They survive an experience with a less than qualified witch and travel back to Emma's castle. Their journey provides a sweet romantic tale.

I was able to get the first book on audio CD through my local library service. It may take me longer to get the second book, as I have to use the state library service to find it. It does not appear to be as widely circulated on CD.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


There are not many modern science fiction series written for children. I was interested when I heard about Philip Reeve's Larklight series. I requested the first, Larklight from the library.

I was amused at the comparisons people made about this book. As usual everyone compares all children's adventure series to Harry Potter. Others saw Star Wars. While I did see a Scotty reference from Star Trek I actually thought the pirate story focused on orphans reminded me more of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance.

This story is set in an alternate universe where Isaac Newton discovered space travel and the British Empire has extended to create a Victorian space empire. Larklight is the home of a brother and sister who live with their father there. Mother's fate seems uncertain. Father's fate soon becomes questionable during a spider attack on Larklight. A space pirate who take pity on their orphan status rescues them.

The story follows their adventures in space and we learn more about the origins of the spiders and the fate of the children's parents. Without giving any spoilers, there is more to Mom's story than the children could possibly imagine. As the children learn more about their mother and their home Larklight, they become an integral part of solving the problems facing the Empire.

This is one of the better attempts at science fiction for young adults I have read in a while. I have picked up the second book from the library so I will have a chance to see how the series continues. The series was written as a trilogy, so it would not be too challenging for most children to complete.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Movie

I had a chance to borrow The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader from the library recently. I missed the movie when it was in the theaters, but wanted to continue watching the series.

For those looking for a book companion, this is not the movie. The movie condenses and changes the book to make a movie script that they felt would work. C.S. Lewis did not write for future screen adaptations. The books are not written with a focus on action and dialogue necessary for screen success.

I do think reading the book and watching the movie afterwards can be a good exercise for children. It is a great chance to discuss what is left out or changed in the movie. The discussion should ask children why they believe these choices were made. This is a way to encourage reading comprehension. You cannot understand what has been left out, changed, or added unless you remember what happened in the original book. Instead of punishing students as generations of English teachers have done by creating tests and papers that catch students who only watch the movie instead of reading the book, this can be a way to encourage students to do both.

There are rumors that Walden Media may be producing another Narnia film. I was surprised to read that they are considering skipping to The Magician's Nephew for their next film. This would leave the The Silver Chair and The Horse and His Boy unmade. This leaves me with hope that someone may finally make a movie version of The Last Battle, a movie I have always wanted to see.

I wish Walden Productions well in their efforts to continue production of the series. I do hope they complete the effort.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Fablehaven is the first book in a fantasy series written by Brandon Mull.

Fablehaven shares traditional fantasy series elements and creates new twists to entertain readers. Kendra and Seth provide the traditional brother and sister who arrive in a magical family situation and learn of a connection to magic that they were previously unaware of prior to their visit. This premise is not new to fantasy. Kendra and Seth are sent to visit their grandparents at Fablehaven, a sanctuary for magical creatures. Grandmother is strangely not present and grandfather has a list of rules that the children must follow.

As is usual in most fantasy novels the children are not able to follow the rules leading to magical chaos. The children unleash forces and discover Grandma's fate. The forces they unleash kidnap Grandpa and force the children to manage circumstances they could never have imagined.

While many people compare this series to Harry Potter, I do not. I see this more as a transitional series to the more complicated adult fantasy series. While Harry Potter pulled adults into reading children's literature, this series seems more designed to prepare young adult readers to become audiences for adult fantasy series. As I have been reserving the other books in the series, this opinion has become stronger. The themes and plots seem to be moving more towards adult fantasy series traditions and less towards children's fantasy novels. It is a great marketing strategy to attract new readers to a genre.

I checked this book out from the library at the suggestion of a younger relative who is eagerly waiting to get a copy of the second book. I have the second book from the library to read so we should be able to discuss the series this summer.

Free Fablehaven Resources:

Online Quiz

Teacher's Guide from Brandon Mull

Writing questions answered by Brandon Mull

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mr. Revere and I

Mr. Revere and I: Being an Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere,Esq. as Revealed by his Horseis the second of Lawson's fictional biographies with an animal narrator.

A former British army horse, Scheherazade, lost by her officer in a dice game to a colonist, is the narrator of this Paul Revere biography. She enters Revere’s life when Sam Adams entices her new owner to donate her to provide Paul Revere with transportation for his courier position. There is just one minor issue, Paul Revere cannot ride and must learn.

One of the values of this book is that it starts with Paul Revere's early journeys, not his ride to Lexington and Concord. Readers learn more about his activities for the Sons of Liberty and the Committees of Correspondence.

Scheherazade’s transition from British army horse to Sherry, Paul Revere's rebel horse is an interesting one. Her transition is provided to show readers that the liberty the colonists were fighting for was so clear that even a horse would eventually understand the difference between tyranny and liberty.

I would suggest reading this book along with more factually accurate sources. While this story will generate interest, it does fictionalize enough information that children should be aware of the factual events and how they compare to the novel.