Poached – Book Review

Poached by Stuart Gibbs

Reviewed by Daughter, age 10

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About the book, Poached:

poached book coverIt all started when Vance Jessup bullied Teddy Fitzroy into dropping an arm and foot (from a mannequin) into the shark tank at FunJungle.

When he was being chased by security guards, Teddy escaped by hiding in the koala exhibit with Kazoo the Koala.  He still had the backpack that Vance had given him with the arm and foot in it (now mostly empty).  Teddy accidentally fell asleep in the exhibit for half an hour.  When he woke up, the guards weren’t searching for him any more.

Teddy’s situation got worse.  Security video showed him entering the exhibit with a big, somewhat empty backpack slung over one shoulder, and exiting with the backpack on both shoulders – with the backpack looking like it could have something in it.  And, Kazoo the Koala was missing – replaced in a tree by a gift shop stuffed animal.

Teddy knows that Large Marge, the head security guard at FunJungle, won’t bother looking for the real criminal because she is too busy trying to find evidence that Teddy took Kazoo.  So Teddy has to catch the real criminal himself.

What follows are exciting adventures as Teddy works to unearth the truth,including swimming in the shark tank, and talking to Summer McCraken, the daughter of J.J. McCraken, the owner of the zoo.

I loved this book.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes animals or very gripping books.


Seal Island School

Seal Island School by Susan Bartlett, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

sealislandschoolcoverSeal Island, Maine had one school and one teacher.  Forty-nine people lived on the island.  Each year a new teacher came to the school, and each year he or she left in June.  The teachers all said it was too lonely there.

Pru Stanley really liked this teacher, Miss Sparling, and wanted her to stay on the island and be the teacher for a long time.  Pru discoverd that Miss Sparling was saving up money for a Newfoundland dog because, “they’re good company.”

Pru received a pony for her birthday and Miss Sparling taught her how to care for him and ride him.  Pru realized that she had a gerbil, a dog, and a pony, but Miss Sparling was alone.  Pru decided to save up and buy her teacher a Newfoundland dog so Miss Sparling would stay on the island.  Pru and her friend, Nicholas, collected cans for cash, and even worked helping unpack boxes in the local store.

Other story threads include a message in a bottle from a girl on the mainland – the students wrote to her via mail and she wrote back – and even visited; and the worry that the Seal Island School would close the next year because there must be “at least five kids to afford a teacher” – six children attended the school, but one would be too old the next year, and one might move away.

With the help of many friends, Pru succeeded in getting a Newfoundland dog (from a rescue organization) for Miss Sparling and giving it to her at the end-of-year ceremony.  This book has a happy ending – with Miss Sparling staying on as the school teacher, the girl who sent the message in a bottle coming to live on the island, and the school having enough students to stay open.

This is a good book for young readers who are ready for chapter books, but still enjoy shorter chapters with some black and white illustrations throughout.

Fortunately, The Milk

PrintFortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Guest Reviewer — Reviewed by Daughter, age 9


The setting of the book is in the main characters’ house, outside on the street, and in a lot of other places, all over.

FortunatelytheMilkThe main characters in this book are:  the children, their father, and Professor Steg.  The backup characters are:  the people in the jungle, the green, globby aliens, the wumpires, and the volcano god, Splod.

This book is about when the children’s mother leaves to present a paper on lizards.  The next morning, the family runs out of milk.  The father goes to the corner shop to get more and is gone for hours.  When he returns, he tells of being abducted by aliens, nearly being sacrificed to a volcano god, having incidents with wumpires, being rescued from pirates by Professor Steg in a floaty-ball-person-carrier, and an encounter with singing space police dinosaurs.

I would recommend this book to people who like adventurous and hilarious books.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

International Talk Like A Pirate Day – September 19

talk like a pirate dayToday is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Recent dinner conversations in our home have been peppered with silly pirate talk like, “Avast ye scurvy dogs!” and “Shiver me timbers!”  and “Arrr!”

What is International Talk Like A Pirate Day?  and what is the point?  Well.  Um.  I think it is just to be silly….a little lighthearted silliness.  And, couldn’t everyone use a little just plain silliness once in a while?

I’ve recommended a good book with an engaging pirate main character, and included a link to learn to read treasure hunts at the end of the post, so, read on….

According to the official website, http://www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html:

Talking like a pirate is fun. It’s really that simple.

It gives your conversation a swagger, an elán, denied to landlocked lubbers.

In other words, silliness is the holiday’s best selling point.

The folks who started International Talk Like A Pirate Day do point out that they are talking like “movie pirates, the pirates of books, myth and legend. Think Long John Silver in “Treasure Island.” Pretend pirates.”  And, they point out that: “Real pirates were and are bad people and are in no way worthy of emulating.”  This is just a way to be silly, to have fun being silly.

So, me mateys.  Be ye wantin’ te know ’bout pirates?  This be a good read:



Bookworm Bear recommends Jack Plank Tells Tales – you can read the review here.




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These fun treasure hunts help children learn to read – free downloadable learn to read treasure hunts.

Roald Dahl Day September 13, 2013

Roald Dahl Day September 13, 2013

Roald dahl day 2013Some of our long-time family favorite books are those written by Roald Dahl.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Giraffe the Pelly and Me, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Danny Champion of the World.  These books tend to have unlikely heroes, involve creative solutions to problems, fantastical situations, and elements that celebrate childhood.

Today, September 13, 2013, is Roald Dahl Day.  For some fun reading and activity ideas, visit http://www.roalddahlday.info/Resources.aspx.  You’ll find free downloadable pdfs with activity guides, posters, sticker templates, and party packs.

James and the Giant Peach guideThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of James and the Giant Peach.  There is a special Teacher’s Resource Pack – as a free pdf.  This is a fun guide with ideas on exploring teamwork and friendship, science, dance and drama, creative writing, and history.

Celebrate reading, celebrate childhood.  Read and giggle together.  Cheer on unlikely heroes.  Think about an enormous chocolate river, a clever window washing team, a brilliant plan to capture pheasants, and a bighearted giant who sends wonderful dreams to sleeping children.


Toys Go Out

Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

ToysGoOutAccording to the subtitle, this book is “…the adventures of a knowledgeable stingray, a toughy little buffalo, and someone called Plastic.”

The three main characters, StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic, are toys who live in a house with the Little Girl and her parents.  When the family is asleep or away, StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic roam the house, play with the other toys in the girl’s bedroom, and visit TukTuk the towel in the bathroom.  And, they have adventures – with the Little Girl, and just with each other.

The book begins with StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic inside a dark backpack that swings and bumps them.  Their personalities emerge as they wonder what is happening, and where they are going.  StingRay likes everyone to think she is wise – and explains things even if she doesn’t know what she is talking about.  For instance, StingRay suggests they are being thrown away, and taken to the dump where there are garbage-eating sharks.  When the backpack stops moving, the Little Girl reaches in and pulls them out and announces that these are her best friends.  She has brought them to school for show and tell.  (In later chapters, when StingRay tries to explain things, she often adds that she has been to school.)

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about talking toys, and a story told from toys’ point of view.  But, this works – in a fun way.  The toys are childlike in their limited knowledge of the world and their curiosity.  They also have very human character flaws.  Each is likeable – but Lumphy is my favorite.

Lumphy gets into a sticky mess while on a picnic with the Little Girl and her father.  It involves lots of peanut butter on buffalo fur.  The Little Girl says Lumphy needs to be washed.  Lumphy is afraid of the washing machine – it is in the basement which StingRay has described in a frightening way, and TukTuk the towel has said that the machine spins you around in a dizzying way – so he crawls into the closet and hides in a shoe.  Many days later, he hears the Little Girl crying and creeps out to see why.  When he discovers she misses him and thinks he’s gone forever, he thinks about the girl and about the washing machine…and the girl….and the washing machine.  He decides on the girl, and lets himself be found even though it means facing the washing machine.

Lumphy discovers that the washing machine is called Frank, that he is friendly and lonely, and that he can sing.  When Frank starts the wash cycle, Lumphy feels frightened and motion sick.  Franks explains that he has to continue the wash cycle, and suggests Lumphy think of it as a dance, and sings to Lumphy.



Greasy little


Tough-y little buffle-y

Dance that buffalo shuffle with me!

Dance, dance, prance, prance

Dance that buffalo shuffle with me!”

Lumphy sings along, and ends up enjoying his time with Frank the washing machine.  Later, he thinks of ways to get himself sticky again so he can visit Frank more often.

This has become a favorite in our house.  In fact, I even encouraged young people who were out of bed (again) to get back into bed and go to sleep by singing: “Shuffle-o buffalo, sleepy little buffalo, back into bed you go…”

This is a chapter book (6 chapters) with black and white illustrations here and there.  It is best for younger chapter book readers, and works well as a read aloud, too.

There are two other books in this series:  Toy Dance Party, and Toys Come Home.



Jack Plank Tells Tales

Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbitt

JackPlankTellsTalesJack Plank was a pirate, but he wasn’t very good at it.  Oh, he enjoyed sailing on the ocean, and the camaraderie of the pirates on the ship the Avarice.  But, he wasn’t good at plundering.

This was fine until tough times (even for the pirates) forced the captain of the Avarice to send Jack Plank off the ship.  They sailed to a nearby island, and by cover of night, several pirates rowed Jack to shore, and gave him some money (they took up a collection on board).

And so, Jack needed to start a new life.  He looked around the town and harbor, and found a boarding house that he thought might suit him.  As he was dressed as a pirate, he needed to convince the landlady that she and her other boarders had nothing to fear from him.  They decided to give it a try while Jack looked for work.

Each evening around the supper table, Jack told of what he had seen that day, and why a particular kind of work just wouldn’t suit him.  These tales always went back to folks he’d encountered in his life as a pirate.  Jack couldn’t be a farmer because he didn’t want to cross a bridge in case of trolls.  He couldn’t be a barber because it reminded him of a former shipmate with a fine beard.  He couldn’t be a baker because it would remind him of a peculiar fellow the Avarice encountered with a washtub, a story of a mermaid, and a need to bake a cake.

As Jack’s money began to run low, he decided he must leave the boardinghouse and town as he couldn’t find suitable work.  He liked the people at the boardinghouse, and they liked him.  When Jack prepared to leave, the boardinghouse landlady surprised him with a job – telling tales three days a week for paying customers, with tea to follow – one that suited him very well.  And, Jack never ran out of stories.

This is a fun tale of adventure with a likeable main character – well-written by master storyteller Natalie Babbitt.



Igraine the Brave

Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke

Igraine the BraveToday Bookworm Bear is the Guest Reviewer at Mother Daughter and Son Book Reviews!  We’re excited about reviewing one of our favorite books on this great blog.

This is a parent and child book review – staring Mama Bear, and Son (age 11), and Daughter (age 9).  We had a lot of fun doing this together, and may do another mother-child post soon on Bookworm Bear.

You can see the guest review on Mother Daughter Book Reviews by clicking here.


Daughter’s Review:


Daughter, age 9

Igraine wakes up on her twelfth birthday to find a spider on her nose.  She calls for her cat, Sisyphus, to help her because she is scared of spiders – so he helps by eating the spider.  She gets up, puts on the chain mail shirt she found in the castle armory (and has been wearing ever since), and goes down to the moat to feed the water snakes while Sisyphus catches fish.  Odd things begin to happen.

Pink smoke is coming from the tower window of her parents’ magic workshop.  Igraine and her parents receive a warning from Bertram, the horse master at nearby Darkrock Castle, that Osmund the Greedy is now in charge at Darkrock and wants to steal their singing books of magic.  Shortly after that, her parents make a mistake when creating her birthday present and turn themselves into pigs.  Igraine receives a suit of armor for her birthday.

Igraine rides off to find giant’s hairs to turn her parents back into humans because they are pigs.  Eventually she finds the giant Garleff, who lets her climb on top of his head to cut off some of his hairs.  He also introduces her to the Sorrowful Knight who teaches her about the rules of Chivalry and goes home with her where they find the castle under attack.  They sneak in through a secret passageway and help Igraine’s brother defend the castle.

Igraine and the Sorrowful Knight distract Osmund’s army by having the Sorrowful Knight joust with the Spiky Knight, Osmund’s castellan, while Igraine’s parents work the magic spell to change back into humans.  In the end, Igraine becomes the Sorrowful Knight’s squire, her parents successfully turn back into humans and send Osmund away without the singing books of magic.

What is your favourite part of the story?  My favourite part of the story is probably when Igraine goes off and finds the giant’s hairs.  It’s really exciting because you don’t know if she’s going to be able to find the giant, if he’s moved, or if he’ll help her.

 Who do you think would like this book?  People who like medieval things with knights and castles and things would like this book.  I would recommend it to friends.


Son’s Review:


Son, age 11

The main character is a girl named Igraine whose parents and older brother are magicians.  A spell goes wrong and her parents are turned into pigs.  Just after that happens, an evil magician named Osmund shows up at their castle to try to get her parent’s powerful singing books of magic. This is a very inconvenient time for this to happen, because they are out of the final ingredient in the potion needed to turn her parents back into people. After Osmund has gone, Igraine rides out to get the ingredient.

On her way back, Igraine meets the Sorrowful Knight, who helps her get home. When they get there, they discover Osmund came back with an army to try to get the books. The Sorrowful Knight distracts Osmund by fighting his chief knight while the potion takes effect. After that, they all defeat Osmund.

What is your favourite part of the story?   I like all of it – it’s a great book.

Who do you think would like this book?  Someone who enjoys adventure stories and medieval times would like this book.


 Mama Bear’s Review:


Mama Bear

Igraine, who is twelve, is part of a family of great magicians who live in Pimpernel Castle.  Her brother, Albert, is learning to be a magician, too.  But Igraine isn’t interested in magic.  She wants to be a great knight.  All is peaceful until Igraine’s parents have a magical mishap while putting the final touches on her birthday present – a magical suit of armor – and turn themselves into pigs.  With her parents unable to do magic as pigs, and evil Osmund the Greedy preparing to attack Pimpernel Castle trying to capture the family’s magical singing books, Igraine sets off to get the missing ingredient for a spell to turn her parents back into themselves.  Albert stays behind to defend the castle with the help of the magic books, their parents, and the castle’s magical defences (like gargoyles that eat cannonballs and arrows).  Igraine’s adventures continue after she returns from her quest – bringing a sorrowful knight back with her – and involve a little magic, invisibility, distraction, bravery, and the code of chivalry.


I love that Igraine is a strong female character.  She wants to be a brave and honourable knight, and shows courage in doing whatever she can to defend her family and their home.  She is likeable and flawed, too.  She is afraid of spiders, and she can’t help but sneak up to her parents’ magic workshop to see if she can catch a glimpse of the surprise birthday present they are making for her.

Although the book deals with an army besieging a castle, there are lighter elements in the story.  No one actually gets hurt.  If an attacking soldier falls into the moat, he is turned into a fish.  Igraine’s brother, Albert, can melt a battering ram, and send arrows flying back to the archers with a snap of his fingers – but when it comes to food, he can conjure only dry biscuits and blue eggs.  Igraine’s cat can speak (Igraine had sprinkled him with some of Albert’s magic powder), but doesn’t chose to do so all of the time.

There are pen and ink illustrations scattered throughout the book – which fit well with the story.  I enjoyed Igraine the Brave, and would recommend this book to children who like magic and adventure and who read in the 8-12 chapter book range.

Special thanks to Mother Daughter & Son Book Reviews!  Please stop by and check out this great blog.

Understood Betsy

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, illlustrations by Kimberly Bulcken Root

Understood Betsy coverWhen readers first meet the main character, they see a timid, worried Elizabeth Ann, who lives with her Aunt Harriet and Aunt Frances in a city.  Elizabeth Ann is in the third grade at the big, local school.  Aunt Frances devotes herself to taking care of, protecting, explaining, and understanding Elizabeth Ann – and passes on all of her own fears to the young girl in the process.

Things change suddenly for Elizabeth Ann when Aunt Harriet becomes terribly ill with pneumonia, and Elizabeth Ann is sent away to stay with other relatives.  As the next set of relatives have just contracted a different illness, and don’t really want her anyway, Elizabeth Ann is sent to the Putney cousins.  Aunt Frances has told Elizabeth Ann about them – they live in Vermont, are horrible, and make children do chores.

When Uncle Henry meets Elizabeth Ann at the train station in Vermont, he calls her Betsy, wraps her in a warm shawl, and asks her to drive the team of horses for him while he does some figuring (math) on a scrap of paper.  Elizabeth Ann has never driven horses before, but the job keeps her mind busy and distracts her from feeling frightened.  The reader gets the feeling that Uncle Henry is watching, and would step in if there were any real danger – and that the horses know the way home on their own.

The Putney cousins – elderly Uncle Henry and Aunt Abigail, and their grown-up daughter, Cousin Ann – welcome Betsy into their home in their own way.  Soon Betsy has her own kitten to take care of, is walking to the little school on her own, is helping make applesauce, and discovers that she really isn’t afraid of dogs.

At the one-room school, Betsy is confused when the teacher puts her in different levels for different subjects (unheard of in her former school) based on Betsy’s abilities – seventh grade for reading, third grade spelling, and second grade math – but that is one of the many different things about her new school, and her new life.  The teacher asks Betsy to help a younger girl, Molly, with her reading – which is another new experience for Betsy – helping a younger child – and makes Betsy feel good about herself.

Betsy grows to love the Putneys, her new home, and her new life.  Young Molly comes to live at Putney Farm, too, when circumstances make it necessary for Molly to find a new home.  Betsy grows in confidence, and is able to take care of herself, and Molly, when neighbors accidentally leave them at a Fair (think state fair, with livestock judging, food booths, games, and rides) many miles from home.  Betsy has grown healthier, more independent, and happier than she was in the city as Elizabeth Ann.

This book was first published in 1917, and has a few old-timey aspects:  the author steps in as narrator in the first few pages as we meet Elizabeth Ann, but disappears as Betsy lives at Putney Farm.  My children find the few pages of Elizabeth Ann living in the city a little less than thrilling, but really enjoy the story once Betsy leaves Aunt Frances and heads for Vermont (change happens in the first chapter).

The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award has honored children’s literature for over 50 years – students in the 4th – 8th grades in Vermont vote to determine the winning books.  To learn more about this award:  https://sites.google.com/a/cesuvt.org/dcf-award/

More about the author, Dorothy Canfield Fisher:

Named by Eleanor Roosevelt as one of the ten most influential women in the United States, Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1879-1958), brought the Montessori Method of child rearing to America, presided over the country’s first adult education program, and influenced American literary tastes as a member of the Book-of-the-Month Club selection committee from 1926 to 1951. A committed educational reformer and social activists, the popular Arlington, Vermont, writer produced 22 works of fiction and 18 nonfiction books on a wide range of subjects.*

* from biographical information at:  https://sites.google.com/a/cesuvt.org/dcf-award/

For Gifted Young Readers

I’m adding a new page on Bookworm Bear – Young Gifted Readers – a page for those who learn to read very well at an early age.  It is very exciting to have a strong, young reader.  As a parent, you try to help him or her find books that are fun to read, and a little challenging, and that keep your young reader excited about reading.  Because these strong young readers (who read above grade level) are often called “gifted readers,” I’ll use that term to identify my page.

advanced reader photoSometimes it is a little more difficult to find books for these really strong, young readers.  What books do you look for when your preschooler or kindergartner has moved beyond Henry and Mudge?  What books are interesting and written at a good level for advanced readers, and are appropriate emotionally, socially, and in general topic matter?

The books on this page are ones that my young, early (and sometimes very sensitive) readers have enjoyed. I hope the list will help you find books that might work for your young reader, whatever age.  I will include links to books I’ve reviewed on Bookworm Bear, and I will update the suggestions frequently.  Happy reading!