Ryan’s Summer Reading Log #3: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl #4: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

The Artemis Fowl series is set in Ireland, and it is about a very rich boy who has a big, tall bodyguard named Butler. One day Artemis and Butler meet Captain Holly Short, who is a fairy. Together with Butler and Holly, Artemis Fowl has many adventures in saving the fairy world and human world from different evil enemies that threaten it.

In book four, The Opal Deception, an evil pixie named Opal wakes up from a self-induced coma after a whole year. Opal wants the human world to find out about the fairy world, but that could be dangerous to the fairies. She wants to make this happen to get revenge on the Fairy Police because they stopped a rebellion she started right before she went into the coma.

Holly comes back together with Artemis and Butler after being separated from them for the same year that Opal is asleep in the coma. Holly is a fugitive from the law as she is suspected of murdering someone even though Opal is the real killer. Together they stop Opal from making her evil plan happen and Holly eventually clears her name.

I recommend this series to readers who like science fiction and fantasy. Recently I heard Eoin Colfer speak at the Mega Awesome Adventures event and I thought he was very funny. Hearing him speak made me want to read more of his books. I think he should be a comedian, too!

In this post, Robin asked questions, Ryan talked, and Robin typed.


“And Though She Be But Little, She Is Fierce.” – William Shakespeare

My friends will tell you I am a Pinterest lover. I find it useful and inspirational for cooking, decorating, parenting, and travel. It’s great for Type A planners like me. Recently I have stared following the pinboards of several library groups. This helps me stay on top of new books for the kids and me. Recently it led me to a website called A Mighty Girl, which catalogs “the world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident and courageous young girls.” My favorite page on this site is The Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess, where I discovered the two books I want to review today.

Last week I picked Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure and Dangerously Ever After from the library.

Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure by Robert D. Souci and Sally Wern Comport is a classic folktale with a strong female lead. Margaret seeks adventure and finds love and courage in this beautiful book. The illustrations gorgeous and the pacing of the story makes for a great read-aloud. Halfway through reading this to Maegan I had to flip back and check the date of publication; the story is obviously meant to sound archaic but the language is almost forced. Still, my six year old listened with wide eyes and delighted squeals while I read this exciting story. Seafaring adventure, an old hag, dragons and giants – Brave Margaret has it all!

Meanwhile, back in another kingdom, we read Dangerously Ever After by Dashka Slater and Valeria Docampo, which is the adorable story of Princess Amanita and all the unpleasant things she loves. Amanita is not made of sugar and spice at all, but much fiercer stuff. Amanita’s garden is filled with “prickles and stickles,” plants that sting and plants that stink.

The delightful story of Araminta and her new friend Prince Florian shows that although not all people are necessarily drawn to mainstream interests, we can usually find a common connection if we try. It also highlights some of the dangers of wandering off on your own; having a friend by your side might be the better way to go. Even if you love the scent of a good compost pile, who could not help but be drawn to a place that smells like “sleeping in the sun, staying up late, secrets and summer?” Nice alliterations, and charming illustrations, too. You will hear many giggles from your mighty princes and princesses when they read or hear this story.

This review was written by Robin.

Ryan’s Summer Reading Log #2: Ranger’s Apprentice

Ranger’s Apprentice Book Four: The Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan

This is the fourth book in John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series. This story is set in medieval times. It is about a boy named Will, an orphan who wants to be a warrior. When he asks Sir Rodney, the principal of Battle School, if he can be an apprentice in Battle School, he is told he is too small. He ends up becoming an apprentice of a Ranger; this is perfect for Will because he is quick and quiet. The kingdom is split into 50 fiefs; each fief has a Ranger to protect it. The Rangers Corps is a group of people who are expert archers who can blend in with their surroundings.

In book four, The Battle of Skandia, Will and Evanlyn, who is secretly a princess, have just escaped from slavery in the kingdom of Skandia. They are found by friends, but quickly discover that an army from a kingdom to the east is trying to conquer the entire western hemisphere. The four adventurers eventually team up with the people who captured Will and Evanlyn in the first place to defeat this army.

This series is cool because it is set in a different time period, there are a lot of interesting creatures in this world, and there is a lot of action. It is also a tale of friendship between Will and Horace, who are unlikely friends because they are so different.

Another series by John Flanagan is The Brotherband Chronicles, which is also really good, but I recommend starting with the Ranger’s Apprentice series first. I also recently downloaded a Ranger’s Apprentice app for my iPod; it’s a cool archery training game.

In this post, Robin asked questions, Ryan talked, and Robin typed.

Maegan’s Summer Reading Log #3: the Araminta Spookie series

Araminta Spookie #’s 1 & 2, My Haunted House and The Sword in the Grotto by Angie Sage

Hope you had a great holiday! It rained all day on the 4th but we celebrated on the 5th.

Araminta Spookie is a little girl who lives with her Aunt Tabby and her Uncle Drac in a haunted house. The house is haunted by two ghosts: Sir Horace and his page, Edmund.

In the first book, My Haunted House, you learn about the family living together in a haunted castle. Araminta finds Sir Horace’s secret room. It has a balcony! There is another family, The Wizards, who want to buy their house, but Araminta plans an awful ambush to try to stop this from happening. In the middle of the awful ambush, Aunt Tabby catches Araminta and stops her. Intead, Aunt Tabby agrees with Mrs. Wizard to share the house. Wanda Wizard can turn drinks blue and make them fizz!

In the second book, The Sword in the Grotto, it is about to be Sir Horace’s 500th birthday, and Araminta wants to get him a present. Wanda Wizard, who has become Araminta’s friend, helps Araminta to find Sir Horace’s sword in the grotto. A grotto is a cave and this one is located near the castle.

There is a really exciting part in this story. When Araminta and Wanda are in the grotto, they get trapped inside! The sea comes up and is about to fill to the top of the grotto. Edmund comes in and saves them by showing them another way out through a gap in a rock. Sir Horace’s birthday party turns out great and he loves his present because his father gave the sword to him a long time ago and he had lost it.

This series is not spooky or scary. It is adventurous and sometimes funny. Now I am reading the third book in the series, called Frognapped. I’ll report back in about it when I’m done but in the meantime I recommend Araminta Spookie to anyone who likes a little adventure.

Mom’s note: for older readers who also like a little adventure, fun characters, spells and charms, Ryan and Mr. Horrigan recommend Angie Sage’s middle grade series about a character called Septimus Heap. In this post, I asked questions, Maegan talked, and I typed.


Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader

Over the past few years my family has become involved with a wonderful nonprofit group called Catching Joy, which provides age-appropriate community service activities for children and families. One organization we support that is near and dear to my heart is Reach Out and Read, which has an amazing partnership with primary care providers to make reading materials available to children from all types of backgrounds. Their mission is meaningful to Ryan and Maegan as well, as they simply cannot imagine a life that is not filled with books.


Earlier this year I assisted the Canton Girl Scout Service Unit in a day of service. We made Valentines to be delivered to February Meals on Wheels clients, centerpieces to cheer up the dining room of the local nursing home, dog toys for the animal shelter, joke cards to cheer up children in hospitals, and upcycled book marks to accompany the donations of new books, which were the price of admission to participate in the activities. During the winter the rest of the materials were delivered to their receiving organizations, but it suffices to say that it took me a while to get organized on a major delivery to Charlestown.

poster group bookmarks

Today Jim helped me deliver the four cartons of books and bookmarks to the Reach Out and Read headquarters, where we were very warmly received. Flat Stanley made his first trip into Boston to visit the wonderful staff.



This post was written by Robin.

Maegan’s Summer Reading Log #2

The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport by Laura Lee Hope

The Bobbsey twins are actually two sets of twins that are all brothers and sisters. There is a boy and a girl in each set of twins. The older set of twins’ names are Nan and Bert. The younger set of twins’ names are Flossie and Freddie. I really like the name Flossie.

This story is about the twins helping an old lady named Mrs. Marden to find her valuables before her house was going to be smashed down. It was going to be smashed down because it was so old. So this story is a mystery, which is my favorite kind. I think all the Bobbsey Twins books will be mysteries.

Mrs. Marden used to have a cat, and she had to give it away to a friend named Mr. Ryan. The cat runs away and goes back into Mrs. Marden’s house. It gets into the chimney. When Freddie and Flossie rescue the kitty out of the chimney, they discover a metal box with Mrs. Marden’s valuables inside.

There is another boy named Danny who plays tricks on all the twins. So they decided to play a trick on him! The twins took a stuffed kangaroo of Flossie’s and then put a hot water bottle that was filled with hot water into the kangaroo’s pouch. When Danny opened his desk at school, he thought there was a real kangaroo inside. It was so funny.

In this post, Robin asked questions, Maegan talked, and Robin typed.

Ryan’s Summer Reading Log

Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson

This weekend I finished reading Shell Game, which is book five of the Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson. In this series five teenagers are elected to be DHIs, which are Daylight Hologram Images. This means they are holographic guides to tourists in Walt Disney World; but that’s not all they are! The truth is that this program was devised by the Disney Imagineers in effort to stop the Overtakers…or all the Disney Villains such as Maleficent, Jafar, Ursula the Sea Witch, etc. from committing crimes and doing evil things.

The main character, Finn Whitman, goes to sleep one night and while he is asleep, he is awake in the Magic Kingdom as a hologram. Finn and the other four DHIs have many scary adventures that take place in Walt Disney World after dark fighting the villains.

By the 5th book, Shell Game, the DHIs have become known as the Kingdom Keepers. In this story, the Keepers board the Disney Dream ship, which will be the first cruise ship to travel through a new area in the water. There were many other boats whose captains wanted to be the first to do this. The Keepers soon find out that every single Overtaker is on board this ship and that they have now created their own DHIs, but the Kingdom Keepers manage to shut down the Overtakers’ DHI server. Because of an upgrade in DHI technology, the Kingdom Keepers can now become holograms when they are awake. This helps them to escape many bad situations, because they can just walk through the wall!

In a shell game, a person puts something, like a ball, under a cup with two other cups beside it. A person watching the game observes as the cups are moved around quickly and then has to guess which cup is now covering the ball. In this story, there is somebody aboard the ship who is not supposed to be there – a stowaway placed by the Overtakers. He is hiding in an empty stateroom but keeps moving. The Kingdom Keepers try to find which one of the empty staterooms he is in but they just can’t seem to locate him, and so it is like a shell game.

This book was good because the mystery was really well done. It kept me wondering what would happen next. It was also very exciting because in several parts things happened that made me think the villain would win, but then the hero did. There are funny parts and that keeps the story bright. This series will be most fun to read for kids who have been to Walt Disney World.

Recently I heard Ridley Pearson speak at an authors’ event called the Mega Awesome Adventures, which also featured Rick Riordan and Eoin Colfer. This event inspired me to start reading this series. Mr. Pearson loves to talk about his books and seems to have neat inside connections at Walt Disney World. He has been allowed to preview attractions before they open and is allowed to be inside Disney World after dark, which helps him write his stories. He has an awesome job!

Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

The Amulet is a series of graphic novels. There is very little text in this book, so it is really like a comic book. The Stonekeeper is about Emily and Navin, a brother and sister whose father recently died. They had to move to a new house because they couldn’t afford their old one. On the first night of being in the new house, their mother is captured by a monster with tentacles! They follow the monster into the basement and through a secret door into another world. There, they find a mansion in the middle of a lake. They go to the mansion and find their great grandfather, who gives Emily an amulet. An amulet is a special stone with powers, and Emily’s amulet is supposed to help her find her mother. Emily and Navin try many times to rescue their mother, but they fail. When their great-grandfather dies of a sickness, the robots who were working in his house become Emily’s property. At the end of the book, there is a cliffhanger when they turn the house into a vehicle and go up a mountain!

I am very much looking forward to reading the second book to find out what happens to Emily and Navin. I hope they find their mother. I recommend this book for grades 3-6 and I think boys or girls would enjoy the story. The illustrations are fun and scary.

In this post, Robin asked questions, Ryan talked, and Robin typed.

Robin’s Top Ten Young Adult Novels

Robin’s Top Ten Young Adult Novels

#1 Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park is a wonderful, smart example of how really good young adult literature is still being written every year. Set in the 80s, Eleanor and Park begin their awkward relationship in silence, with her reading his comics surreptitiously on the school bus, where they are stuck sharing a seat. But then Park holds his books open a little wider, takes longer to turn the page. Next he leaves her a stack. And then comes…drum roll, please….a mix tape. How authentic and so very 80s can you get? Park and Eleanor are both misfits who end up fitting well together. They soar, they dip, they smile, they cry, and of course, they make out whenever they are alone.

References to both classic literature and classic rock left this reader wanting desperately to meet Rainbow Rowell for coffee. I think we’d have a lot in common. Rowell remembers what it is like to be a teenager, and that’s why she tells it all so well. Looking forward to reading more from this author.

#2 Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

Anne Shirley desperately wants puffed sleeves on her dresses, to be called Cordelia, and to be loved. Get to know this quirky heroine and Prince Edward Island, and make sure you have a box of tissues by your side. Many sequels follow, and the PBS television show is also quite satisfying if you fall in love with her.

#3 Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

This absorbing, compulsively readable, award-winning book is the quintessential young adult story about a teenage girl with real problems. After her Dad is murdered, Davey’s Mom uproots her and her little brother from their home on the Jersey shore to live in New Mexico with relatives. The friendships she develops and the choices she makes ultimately help her deal with the rage and sadness she feels so deeply. Will she ever be able to move on? Davey Wexler, in the flesh. Enjoy her.

#4 The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

I read this book in 24 hours and fell in love with it “the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” This tender story of two teenagers with cancer who meet at support group and fall in love feels genuine and will break your heart. Tissues required. “Okay? Okay.”

Green’s other young adult novels, such as An Abundance of Katherines, were readable and worthwhile, but ultimately disappointing after Stars. My very well-read niece Jamie, who is entering the 8th grade, refers to Stars as Green’s “magnum opus.” A nice reference on her part to our beloved Charlotte’s Web.

#5 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The first installment of this popular young adult series touches on many themes: independence, activism, and first love. It’s not great literature but it is a great story of survival, and also an important commentary on the modern fascination with reality television. Just how far are we willing to take things to entertain ourselves as a society? This novel will also make teenagers question how independent we really are in the land of the free. Friends of my son were reading this in fourth grade, but I really don’t recommend it for the middle grades, unless as a parent you are really interested in discussing the story with your child. It’s not a challenging book but the themes are mature and it is best left for grades seven and up.

Completing the trilogy is a must; Catching Fire is the second installment and it is good, but the third book is a real disappointment. You can almost feel the editor leaning over Collins’ shoulder telling her to hurry up and finish Mockingjay, as main character Katniss Everdeen continuously passes out and wakes up in hospital after a major time lapse. Kind of lazy storytelling, but you’ve gotta know how it all wraps up!

#6 The Outsiders by SE Hinton

The Outsiders is a must-read for every teenager. It is a bit of a period piece, taking it back to the early 60s division of American Midwestern social hierarchy that cut groups into two sides: preppies and greasers. This moving story is complete with crushes across social boundaries and a very sad tragedy at the end. The characters are engaging and likeable, and the 1983 movie adaptation is decent with a lot of familiar faces from the 80s silver screen.

#7 A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It all begins on a dark and stormy night.

30+ years ago this Newberry Medal winning novel was a real stand-alone as an early introduction to science fiction for children, and it was also published during a time when there was almost a complete absence of strong young female characters in children’s literature. Aside from time and dimensional travel outside the universe to planets unknown, this book also touches on themes of love on every level: between parent and child, siblings, and friends. Recommended for 6 graders and up, especially if “wild nights are your glory.”

#8 The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Although ultimately I feel this book is a young adult novel to read on paper, it is really appropriate for all ages and makes a wonderful read-aloud. Our whole family listened to the author (of Glee fame) read this on CD while on a long road trip, and we all loved the story, the creativity, and the characters. The Land of Stories series takes a modern twist on classic fairy tales, giving the heroes and heroines new life and personality. The second installment in the series is equally pleasing.

#9 Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

Although not technically a young adult novelist, the late Maeve Binchy is one of my favorite authors, and her books helped me to bridge the gap between young adult and classic fiction. I first read this book at the end of high school in anticipation of the upcoming movie adaptation starring Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell, on whom I had an enormous crush. As you might imagine, eventually I got over the actor, but the experience opened the door to a lifelong love of Maeve Binchy’s lovely stories.

As is the case with many of Binchy’s novels, Circle of Friends takes place in Ireland, which is as much a character in her stories as the people she writes about. This one traces the lives of childhood friends Benny Hogan and Eve Malone all the way up to their placement at University College Dublin, where they become friends with the glamorous Nan Mahon. It’s a lovely tale of friendship, trust, and some heartbreak in mid 20th century Ireland.

#10 The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Stephen King is another mainstream American author who does not technically write for young adults, but some of his novels helped me to bridge the gap between young adult and classic fiction. I’ve always had a thing for something a little scary, and this story is a great introduction to the horror genre if you or your son or daughter have a leaning in that direction. This is definitely different from his usual stuff; not so much of the supernatural (although there is some) but more focus on a young girl’s psychological will to survive.

Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland gets separated from her Mom and her brother while on a hike, and spends days wandering the deep New England woods all by herself, with only a battery-operated radio and a staticky transmission of the Red Sox game for comfort and company. She’s a big fan of the Sox relief pitcher, Tom Gordon, and she fantasizes that her hero will save her. King is a great storyteller who writes with rich and vivid detail. You might want to put on some bug spray before you read, because you will swat away invisible mosquitoes while you lose yourself in this amazing tale of survival.

Robin’s Top Ten Early & Middle Grade Chapter Books

#1 Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant

This book was introduced to me earlier this year by my friend Jenn Ryan, who recommended it as a wonderful read aloud. She was spot on. Maegan and I loved the unlikely friendship between a dog, a squirrel, and a hermit crab.

#2 Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary

All of the Ramona books are wonderful and I read them over and over again as a child, but this one is my favorite. Life isn’t easy for Ramona, but you grow and change with her as she learns that although things don’t always go your way, they turn out all right in the end.

#3 The BFG (The Big Friendly Giant) by Roald Dahl

It’s hard to choose just one Roald Dahl novel for a top ten list, and I had a particularly tough time deciding between this one and Matilda. I feel better having mentioned them both. My husband would select a third title: Danny, Champion of the World. There, now he feels better, too. Dahl’s humor is a little dark but his language is wonderful and the storytelling is without equal. In The BFG, a little orphan named Sophie is snatched from the window of her orphanage in the middle of the night by a big, friendly giant. Their adventures will delight the whole family. Makes a great read-aloud.

#4 Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

This series changed the world of children’s literature more than fifteen years ago, and it is easy to see why. Rowling’s magical world leaps off the pages and creates a stunning landscape for the imagination. It’s tempting to allow advanced early readers slip through the walls at Platform 9 ¾, but this is really best saved for ages 9 & up. I cried through the last pages of the final book, not only because they were sad, but because this series that I love so much was coming to a close. The Boy Who Lived will live in your heart if you let him in.

#5 Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume

This book is tangentially related to the popular Fudge series. Sheila the Great is tough as nails on the outside but really, she’s afraid of her own shadow. When she goes to spend a summer in a town away from her comfort zone, she makes new friends but will she be brave enough to show them her true colors?

#6 Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade by Barthe deClements

This was one of my favorites as a kid; I read it over and over and feel like the characters are real kids from my childhood. Barthe deClements tells it like it is – how kids can be cruel to one another as well as how they can be true friends. If you like the character of Elsie Edwards, stick with this author and find out how she grows up with How Do You Lose Those Ninth Grade Blues? as a young adult selection, followed by Seventeen and In-between.

#7 The Babysitter’s Club: Kristy’s Great Idea

I read the entire series in grade school, and of course all the super special editions as well! As a 2014 parent it is interesting to think about how much independence and responsibility Kristy Thomas and her friends take on as they start their babysitting business together.

#8 The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White

Louis is a trumpeter swan, but not only is he not able to trumpet joyfully, he can’t make a sound. The sweet story of how he overcomes this handicap is a must-read, especially for Bostonians.

#9 Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater

This delightful story of Mr. Popper the housepainter and his house full of penguins will delight children of all ages.

#10 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Misselthwaite Manor, a secret garden, and a boy locked behind closed doors. Need I say more? Dive into this wonderful, enchanting classic.

Maegan’s Summer Reading Log

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

Stanley Lambchop is a regular boy until one day a bulletin board falls on top of him and makes him flat. He is about my size except he is only one inch thick! He learns there are a lot of things you can do when you are flat, like slip under doors, be a kite for someone, and mail yourself in a giant envelope.

I have my own Flat Stanley I can take around with me this summer. I wonder where we should take him?

Grimmtastic Girls: Cinderella Stays Late  by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Cinderella is just starting at Grimm Academy. She finds out that the lockers they have are actually trunks that stand up the tall way!  She makes three new friends: Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater’s pumpkin gets lost, but the friends find a map that shows where the pumpkin is going. If it jumps over a certain wall, it would be in “our” world and not the Grimm Academy world. The mystery is continued to the next book, which is called Red Riding Hood Gets Lost. I can’t wait to read it.

Ivy & Bean Take the Case (#10) by Annie Barrows

I love Ivy & Bean. They didn’t like each other at first but now they are friends. In this story Bean watches a mystery TV show and the girls decide they want to make their own mystery TV show. They do not make a TV show in the end but they are happy anyway because they thought it was fun just pretending to have their own show.

In this post, Mom asked questions, Maegan talked, and Mom typed.