Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus by Tom Angleberger

pickletineGuess what just hit the bookstore??? The latest and last (noooo!) book in the Origami Yoda series! I’m eager to see what will come next from Tom Angleberger. If you haven’t been to his website, you should. It’s super interactive and has quite the community of Super Folders who also love origami and who send in samples and photos of their work. Tom Angleberger is so awesome that at the end of this book, he thanks the grownup people that helped him with his ideas and writing and support, and then he lists the screen names of a bunch of the Super Folders who contribute to his site.

That. Is. Cool.

I love it when I read a book and discover that the setting is a real place that I have visited before, so I can visualize it clearly, but also so I can remember all of the fun details of my own vacation at the same time.  In Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, the kids from McQuarrie are on a field trip to Washington DC. (I’ve been there! It’s an amazing place–put it on your bucket list if you haven’t already been. Heck, even if you have been, go again, because there is so much to see!)  Here’s the catch: Principal Rabbski has banned origami on this trip. How will anyone know what to do without their origami alter-egos?

Dwight has brought his lunch. No, wait, it’s a bag of green Fruit Roll-ups. Fruitigami Yoda? Not to be outdone, Harvey produces a pickle version of Emperor Palpatine from his underwear. (He says it was in his sweatshirt. We’ll never really know. Eww.)  Guess who else goes as a chaperone? Mr. Good Clean Fun, and with him as always, Soapy the monkey puppet.  Mr. GCF is pretty busy cleaning everything with antibacterial wipes and he has trouble managing his group, not a big surprise. I bet he has a song about it!

Some people have a great time, some people get in trouble.  Some people start dating, ooOOooooOoo!

There’s a part at the beginning when the kids are debating which buddies to choose, which groups to be in, and which bus would be better for their long trip. There’s a section written by Cassie called “Nobody Wants to Pee on the Bus,” in which she details all of the stresses involved in using the bathroom on the bus, and I totally relate. (Airplane bathrooms, no thank you!)  Needless to say, her explanation made me laugh so hard. Because the kids can’t make origami on the drive, they become inspired by Dwight and Harvey and begin imagining all sorts of food-based Star Wars characters and we get 5 pages of hilarious sketches, so that was another highlight of the book for me.

So many things happen, including a run-in with a very angry security guard at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the kids buying $150 of freeze-dried astronaut ice cream because Fruitigami Yoda said to do it, a breakdown, a dance party, and a punch in the face. We also get a new version of Yoda at the end, which is SO perfect that I was both sad and happy at the same time with how clever it was. If you are a Star Wars person, you’ll totally get it.

Oh, and there’s a surprise at the end.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

Please read Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus if you’ve read the others in the series. You have to, end of discussion. Read this book, you must. How can you not? No AR info is available on this book yet because it is just too new!



Doll Bones by Holly Black

doll bonesDo you like creepy stories? Not scary or gross, but just creepy. And creepy in that kind of “this could be a true story” kind of way. Do you think that porcelain dolls are unnerving? They are fragile, too realistic, and a little bit unfriendly? They are clearly up to no good at all. I’ve got a book for you!

This is a story of Zach, Alice, and Poppy, three best friends who have grown up together. They have a long-standing game of pretend that involves a story they have clearly been developing for quite a while, and they use action figures to design sets and act out these adventures about pirates and thieves and heroes and quests. Ruling over all of these stories is the Great Queen, an old porcelain doll who lives in a glass-doored cabinet in Poppy’s house. The Great Queen is apparently very valuable and the kids are not allowed to play with her.

One night, Poppy and Alice come to Zach’s house in the middle of the night. Poppy reports that she is being visited by a ghost of a young girl who is connected to the Great Queen– her cremated ashes are actually INSIDE the doll. (Ohhhhhkay, no thank you, ghost girl!)  She needs Poppy to bury the doll so she can be at rest. Alice and Zach are not quite sure if they believe Poppy, but they agree to embark upon a journey to complete this task. Odd things happen while they travel with the haunted doll.

All the while, the three are trying to deal with their changing relationships, as can sometimes happen at this age. Zach’s father has thrown out all of his toys so that he can’t play the pretend game anymore, but he doesn’t know how to tell the girls. Alice has a crush on Zach, which upsets her BFF status with Poppy. Is Poppy even telling the truth about the ghostly messages she’s received? So much uncertainty!

I really enjoyed this book and it was a fast read. I think those dolls are slightly scary anyway, so it was not hard to believe that this could actually happen. (Like Zach, Alice, and Poppy, I also have an excellent imagination!) It reminded me of a kind of reverse telling of The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn. This book was also about growing up, taking risks, speaking up for one’s self, and loyalty to friends. I also liked the change that Zach’s father went through, which I could relate to and understand, from the perspective of a child and a parent.

Doll Bones was a Newbery Honor Book for 2014.  It has an AR level of 5.4 and is worth 7 points.


The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo & Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

I read two books in two days, and at first I was planning to write two separate posts about them. As I finished the second book, I started thinking how nicely they fit together thematically, and then I realized I could bundle them together even though the subject matters are totally different.  So, let’s try it!

thetigerrisingFirst up is The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. Rob, our main character, lives at the Kentucky Star motel, which is actually in Florida, with his father. They are a depressed pair, and you can tell that things were much different when Rob’s mother was still alive. Rob and his father don’t talk much, even though Rob is dealing with bullies at school and is under so much stress that he is breaking out in an itchy rash. One day a new girl arrives at school. Her name is Sistene and she is fierce and scrappy, getting into fights every day. They are kindred spirits, both struggling with loss, but they each deal with their problems in different ways. They also share a secret– a tiger, in a cage, in the woods behind the motel. This tiger in a cage becomes a great metaphor for the emotions that Rob and Sistene are trying to manage. Some things just can’t be kept locked up for very long, nor should they be. This book packed a powerful punch for being so small, and it caught me by surprise. The imagery and symbolism would make for great discussion as a classroom read-aloud.

mr.teruptThe second book is Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. I thought this book was very new, but it turns out to have been published in 2010! Grownup readers will note that the blurb on the cover and the introduction is written by John Irving. How’s that for an endorsement? Mr. Terupt is the new fifth grade teacher at school, and the story is told by seven different students in his class. They all give their version of the same school year, dealing with family stuff and bullies and mean girls, and this teacher who is not quite like any they’ve had before so far. He’s good. He’s really good, but makes a few rookie mistakes. An accident happens, which leaves the classmates hurt and confused. Will they stand together or fall apart completely?

Both of these books struck me right in the gut, which I was not anticipating. Emotions, forgiveness, empathy, and friendship are the Big Ideas for these books. I might have shed a tear or two while reading. Okay, I did. You got me. Read either of these if you like realistic fiction and you are okay with the happy/sad roller coaster ride that they both provide. The more I think about these books, the more pleased I am that I happened to read them back-to-back this week.

The Tiger Rising has an AR level of 4.9 and is worth 3 points.

Because of Mr. Terupt has an AR level of 3.7 and is worth 5 points. I love that this book was written by a teacher! Congratulations to Mr. Buyea on his first book. I’m adding his next book to my TBR list!