Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt August 18, 2016

book cover2Ally knows she is different from the other kids. Reading is hard for her, almost impossible. She’s gotten good at hiding it from teachers, her mother, everyone. She’s become the master at creating a diversion, saying something funny, even getting sent to principal’s office if she has to, just to keep her secret. But her secret is draining to keep. It feels like she’s carrying a heavy weight that makes it hard to keep afloat. When she starts sixth grade, her teacher Mr. Daniels sees what’s really going on. It is a relief for Ally, like the weight has been taken from her shoulders. But can Mr. Daniels really help her? As far as she knows, there’s no cure for dumb.

This is a heartwarming story about a girl with dyslexia. It is both believable and unbelievable that her parents and previous teachers did not catch on to her struggles. I want to believe that someone would have noticed, but I’ve heard many stories about kids slipping through the cracks. I would recommend this story to upper elementary or younger middle schoolers who will be able to relate to Ally’s desperation to have her problems disappear and wanting to blend in with her classmates.

3 out of 5 stars


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley March 11, 2016

War That Saved My LifeThe story begins as Ada is punished for looking out the window of the dingy one-bedroom London apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother Jamie. Ada is nine years old and has never been allowed to leave the apartment. Her mother tells Ada that people would be disgusted by her twisted foot. She accepts her lot in life. At least she has Jamie to keep her company. But when Jamie starts school and spends more and more time away, playing outside with his new friends, Ada realizes the little she has in life is slipping away.

Ada begins to prepare. For what, she doesn’t know. She teaches herself to walk on her crippled foot. It is painful, but she is used to pain. When Jamie comes home from school one day, he says a war is coming and they are sending the children away from the city into the safety of the country. Ada realizes this is her chance to escape her cruel mother, the nights spent locked in the cupboard as punishment for the slightest infraction, the life spent trapped. She and Jamie run away and find themselves thrust into the home of Susan Smith, a strange but kind woman. Ada finally has a life of freedom, but can she really trust that things are as good as they seem? Or do all good things come to an end?

This was an outstanding historical fiction novel about vulnerability, trust, and redemption. Ms. Bradley’s books pack an emotional punch and present history in an interesting and relatable way. I would recommend this to older children and teens. I also think this would be a great read aloud for a classroom.

5 out of 5 stars


Almost Super by Marion Jensen April 22, 2014

Filed under: ages 9-12,humor — Bethany @ 8:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Almost SuperIt’s a leap year, February 29 to be exact. Rafter and Benny Bailey are gathered with their family in the living room. On this day on a leap year, at 4:23 pm, every member of the Bailey family over the age of 12  gets his or her super power. Rafter is hoping for super strength like his grandpa. Benny wants super speed. When the moment finally arrives, they both get their powers. The problem? Their powers are really, really lame. Benny can pop his innie belly button into an outie. Rafter can light a match on any polyester surface. How are they going to help the family fight the villainous Johnson family with powers like that?

This book was super cute and funny. The descriptions of the super powers, the battles of good versus evil, and the humor make it a good recommendation for boys (and girls) in upper elementary or middle school. The underlying themes of friendship and the vulnerability kids feel at that age make it a book adults will like for kids.

5 out of 5 stars


Still Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper March 21, 2013

Still Just GraceGrace and her best friend Mimi watch as a new boy moves in next door to Mimi. When Grace and her family leave for a trip to Chicago, Grace worries that Mimi will become friends with the new boy and disgusting Sammy while she is gone. When Grace returns, it seems as if her fears have come true. Also, her plan to convince her new student teacher not to call her Just Grace (she is one of four girls named Grace in her class) not only doesn’t work, but she must work with the other Graces, including Big Meanie, to do a big school project. Will things work out for Just Grace?

Our copy of the first book in the series, Just Grace, was checked out, but I hoped I would be able to catch up. Grace is a down-to-earth character with problems at school and navigating friendships that girls this age could relate to. She also solves problems in realistic and positive ways. I will recommend this to upper elementary girls.

3.5 out of 5 stars


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan December 22, 2012

Lightning ThiefPercy Jackson is often in trouble, but not for normal things like having a messy room or talking back to his parents.  During the last class field trip, a teacher turned into a monster and he fought her with a pen that turned into a sword.  No one will believe him.  In fact, they deny the teacher even existed.  Percy soon finds out he is not crazy and he is not a regular kid.  After a series of events lead him to a camp of kids like him, he and his two friends are sent on a quest to resolve a conflict between the gods.  Percy soon learns that nothing is as it seems when you’re a demigod.

This was a decent story that boys would love.  The main character is a boy with ADHD who is always getting into trouble but later learns he’s actually someone very important and his struggles with school are due to his special powers.  I probably won’t read anymore of the series, but it really hits the mark with its target audience.  The reader for the audiobook does a great job making the story come to life.  I will recommend to boys who liked Harry Potter and other adventure/fantasy stories.  As an added bonus, this series has inspired readers to ask for books about Greek gods.

3 out of 5 stars


11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass August 28, 2011

Friends Amanda and Leo have celebrated their birthdays together since they learned to walk.  Now it is time for them to turn 11, but this time they will be celebrating separately.  Amanda and Leo haven’t spoken for a year after Amanda overheard Leo say something she can’t forget.

Amanda just wants her birthday to be over.  She doesn’t want to wear the itchy costume her mother picked out and see that everyone has chosen to go to Leo’s party instead.  But when Amanda wakes up the next morning, it is her birthday all over again.  Will this miserable day ever end?

This was a cute, quick read about friendship and second chances.  It was a little cheesy in parts, but you were rooting for things to work out between Amanda and Leo.  I would recommend this to middle school girls.


Savvy by Ingrid Law May 13, 2011

Mibs (short for Mississippi) is about to turn 13.  For the Beaumonts, turning 13 is a big deal, but not because they are teenagers.  This is the day the savvy is revealed.  Her brother caused a massive hurricane on his 13th and the family was never the same.

The day before Mibs’ birthday, they find out their father has been in a major car accident and is in a coma in Salina, Kansas.  When the younger kids are left behind with the preacher’s wife, Mibs realizes her savvy could be just the thing to save her father’s life.

The Beaumont and the preacher’s kids stow away on a pink Bible bus and set out on an unexpected journey that will change all of their lives.  Will they make it in time for Mibs to save Poppa?

I didn’t love this book.  It was a decent coming-of-age story about a girl who realizes she is no longer a child with some magic thrown in.  Being a Nebraska native, I wasn’t a fan of portrayal of Nebraskans either.  (I’ve never told anyone to “get frittered.”)

2009 Newbery Honor Book

2010-2011 Golden Sower Honor Book


Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls- Or Does It? May 11, 2011

Hank Zipzer is supposed to write five paragraphs about his summer.  Five!  Impossible!  Instead, Hank comes up with a great idea.  Instead of doing a boring essay, he’ll build a working model of his summer vacation to Niagara Falls.  With the help of his friends Frankie and Ashley, he just might pull it off.  Or he might have a disaster on his hands.

This was a quick read that is funny but touches on the “learning differences” some students have that make a five paragraph essay seem impossible.  The main character had a great voice and the plot was authentic.  (Hank is the class clown to cover up his difficulties with school and his parents assume he doesn’t do well because he is lazy.)  This is a great book, especially for reluctant readers and boys.


Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer April 19, 2011

Filed under: ages 9-12,humor — Bethany @ 11:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

Will thinks life is hard with four brothers, but things are about to get a lot harder.  His parents decide he and his older brother need something to do during the summer- a (gulp) educational hobby.  Marty and Will are sent to the public library.  Their parents think the librarian is a nice older lady, but kids know the truth.  She is known as Spud Murphy, named for the gas-powered spud gun she keeps under her desk to shoot soggy potatoes at anyone who makes trouble.  Will the boys survive a summer surrounded by nothing but books under the watchful eye of Spud Murphy?

This was a great book about boys being forced to spend their summer at the library only to discover they like reading and the terrifying librarian is not so bad after all.  This book is funny and imaginative enough to interest the reluctant reader and would be especially appealing to boys.


Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine is having a rough week.  It all starts when she helps her friend Margaret with her hair.  Even though she is helping, she ends up in trouble with Margaret’s mother, the principal, and eventually Margaret herself.  Everyone is always sending Clementine to the principal’s office and telling her to “pay attention,” when she notices things that no one else does.  Maybe if she can find a solution to The Great Pigeon War and clean her room and do everything an easy child would do, she wouldn’t be in so much trouble all the time.

Clementine is the modern day Ramona.  She has a good heart but always ends up in trouble.  She is funny, quirky, and endearing.  Highly recommended for anyone in second through fourth grades.


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