Archive for the ‘Conceptual: 8 and up’ Category

Movie review: The Thin Man

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

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Recommended for ages 12 and up

Released in 1934, this was the first in the series of Thin Man movies.

We watched this as a family. Perhaps it is less confusing on the big screen. I am not terribly good at mysteries and I am also not a very keen observer of film, but for the first hour of this film, neither my cinematically literate husband nor daughter could differentiate between the women in the movie nor could they follow the action or dialog. I ended up having to explain everything to them and since I guessed most of the plot within the first 10 minutes, I accidentally ended up telling them what happened early on too.

So, anyway, your standard oblivious, not-kind-to-others genius disappears, and a couple of rich dilettantes who are much smarter than the bungling detective assigned to the case help find out what happened, even though they drink pretty much constantly, and what’s in those glasses is not water.

The women’s dresses/gowns are astonishing (think all-Bjork-all-the-time). The dog is adorable. The bad guys are ugly. There’s no food at any party, just liquids (not water). The dialog is fast-paced, delivered in varying degrees of New-York-ese, and old-fashioned.

Challenging to follow, maybe not a bad thing in a film. But really — a mystery that I solved within minutes? I who never predict plot twists in film unless they are blasted out to me? Maybe I saw this film before in a previous life….

Get The Thin Man

Book review: In Search Of Mockingbird

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

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Author:Loretta Ellsworth
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2007

This is a book about a girl who spends three days on a bus to visit Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill A Mockingbird". Her mom died when she was a baby, and Erin, who is exactly sixteen, just wants to know her mother before her father re-marries.

When she discovers that Mockingbird was her mother's favorite book, (it's her favorite too), Erin decides to make a pilgrimage from her home in Minnesota to Lee's in Alabama on a Greyhound bus.

On her journey, Erin meets many interesting people who cheer her on and help her to discover herself.

I like this book, because a seemingly normal girl decides, on a whim to discover something about herself. Written between the style of a diary, or someone telling a story, it is put together very nicely, and very satisfying.

--Fizzy, age 14


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Book review: People of Sparks (Books of Ember)

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

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Author:Jeanne Duprau
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction

This is a story about a city of people who escaped underground while humans basically destroyed themselves with war... In the prequel the people from the underground city of Ember emerge into what seems like an empty world of sunlight. But in this book, they find a village that attempts to adopt them. In the end there is almost another war, because some of the people are just cruel.

The book is a little bit preachy (the author tells us what is right and wrong), but i agree with her, and she understands people well.

--Fizzy, age 14

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If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: People of Sparks, The (Books of Ember)

Book review: The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 5)

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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Author:Rick Riordan
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2009

A great ending to a great series, which is about a kid named Percy who discovers he's the son of Poseidon (the ancient Greek sea god) and that all of the "mythology" he learned in school is real.

In this book, Percy must fulfill a prophecy and save the world... no big deal.

Anyway, very fun. Definitely a stay up to finish the last page book (I actually stayed up late to start it, then stayed up even later to finish it.)

I like how in the end, the world goes on: it's not just "and they all lived happily ..."

--Fizzy, age 14

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If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Last Olympian, The (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 5)

Book review: The Prophet of Yonwood (Books of Ember)

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

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Author:Jeanne Duprau
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2006

Very preachy and had a LOT of people blindly following orders, which bothered me. The book was written as if the reader was like five, which also bothered me.

The two books in the series before this were also very easy reads, but at least had interesting plots and you didn't know exactly what was going to happen... However, the ending was satisfying, and the two prequels are pretty good.

--Fizzy, age 14

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Book review: Nobody’s Princess

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

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Author:Esther Friesner
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2007

Kinda cute... the princess doesn't want to be girly, but wants to learn to fight and hunt and other things that only boys are allowed to do. The book is about Helen of Sparta before she was queen or beautiful.

Although it wasn't a very fresh idea for the plot of a book, i am going to read the sequel because i am wondering how Friesner is going to connect this story to the big myth and the Trojan war.

--Fizzy, age 14


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Book review: Dragonhaven

Monday, May 4th, 2009

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Author:Robin McKinley
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2007

This book was very slow for a long time in the beginning, but good. It is from the perspective of a teenage boy who lives in our world, which, it seems, has dragons in it. A protected species, of course. I know that sounds very cheezy, but it is well put together, and a fun, quick read (except the beginning).

Jake finds a dragonlet and then, all of a sudden, the novel gets interesting when it is up to Jake to save Smokehill Dragonhaven Natural Park...

--Fizzy, age 14

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Book review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

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Author:Brian Selznick
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2007

At the advanced age of 12, and although my precocious reader loves reading chapter books, she still misses having pictures in her books.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret solves this problem. A Dickensian fairy tale, told in words and beautiful, complicated charcoal drawings, Hugo Cabret tells the story of the rediscovery of a silent film director and a young boy in Paris of the early 1930s.


My sensitive reader gasped at the way adults failed to take care of Hugo throughout his young life, but rejoiced at the way he is able to create a family for himself which does, eventually include responsible adults.

A lovely celebration of train stations, automata, clock mechanisms, and film.

The depth of the illustrations and the gentleness of the words would make this a great gift for book lovers and film lovers of all ages.

-- Emily Berk

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Invention of Hugo Cabret, The

Book review: The Boggart

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

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Author:Susan Cooper
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction

After reading The Dark Is Rising, I never would have imagined that Susan Cooper was capable of writing a book in which all characters are not either entirely good or entirely evil. And yet, here we meet the Boggart, an Old Thing, whose purpose in the world is to play tricks on people. He never intentionally harms anyone, but he almost always acts impulsively and many of his actions result in chaos at best.

Accidentally exiled from his castle in Scotland, the poor Boggart discovers peanut butter and that playing around with electricity and streetcars in modern-day Toronto can lead to dire (unintended) consequences.

Even the gifts the Boggart bestows on his hosts, ten-year old computer nerd Jessup and his twelve-year old sister, Emily, cause terrific problems.


The Boggart is the story of several families -- some are families by blood, others by community -- separated by miles and in some cases oceans, and by history -- who come to know and cherish each other. Parents, children, actors, friends, and one magical creature draw on prodigious, if often hidden, talents and work together to understand each other as awesome (and often dangerous) supernatural events nearly destroy them.

The depictions of:

  • The rocky but eventually trusting relationship between the siblings,
  • The Gang of Five who are obsessed with writing a computer game,
  • The dilemma of parents who are concerned that perhaps their children are possessed (most parents must believe that sometimes) and that their children's friends might not be the most upstanding citizens,
  • The life of an old-fashioned gentleman who lives on a remote island in a remote community in Scotland,
  • The hard work of a regional acting company, and
  • The interesting character of the Boggart, who really does love his humans, even as he schemes to come up with more annoying tricks to play on them,
are truly delightful.

Note: The limitations of the personal computers that existed when this book was written play a significant part in the story. And for that reason, the fact that the author's descriptions of how computer operating systems work are a bit off deflated the story a little for me. If I were to make a movie of this book (and I think it would make a fantastic one), a slight change in a couple of the nouns would resolve this issue.

Highly recommended.

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Book review: The Hidden Treasure of Glaston

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

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Author:Eleanor M. Jewett
Illustrator:Frederick T. Chapman
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Genre:fiction, historical
Year of publication:1946

Gentle tale of Hugh, whose family is caught up terrible violence, and who is sheltered and healed in the monastery at Glastonbury during the reign of Henry II of England.

Fascinating meditations on the monastic life and the men and boys who lived in monasteries, King Arthur, the Holy Grail and its mythology, the value of the written word, and the tensions between State and Church.

As a scandalized observer of US missteps in the Middle East of the 21st century, I was interested to learn how carelessly the Knights Templar planned their military adventures to the Holy Land, and that they considered taking their children with them on their Crusades an honor.

There is SO much we can learn from history, even fictionalized history.
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If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Hidden Treasure of Glaston, The