August 9, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
After taking a red-eye flight home from Phoenix, I had just about twenty-four hours to unpack, do laundry, and repack for the annual vacation with my husband’s family. Who needs sleep? Saturday morning we loaded up the car and headed to the Wisconsin Dells. We had a great time hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park, touring Circus World, playing at a water park, seeing the sights on a Duck Tour, playing miniature golf, and eating lots of good food. (My absolutely favorite part was watching my nephews perform a magic show for the family every evening. These guys have a future in show business.)
No trip in my life is complete without books. Since I didn’t have to deal with the carry on restrictions from the airlines, I could stuff my bag full of good reads. My husband was horrified at the number of books I took (and bought), but I read six of out seven of the books I packed and three of the six books I bought in Wisconsin. Here are the highlights of my vacation reading.
Dog Gone by Cynthia Chapman Willis (Feiwell and Friends 2008)
Dill is desperately trying to hang onto life as she knows it. Her mom is gone, and her dad seems to grow more distant every day. Now her dog Dead End won’t stay home, and there are reports of a pack of wild dogs attacking livestock. Dill refuses to believe that Dead End could be involved. Even the help of her best friend Cub and the support of her grandfather may not be enough for Dill to face the truth. Yes, this is one dog story that will make you cry. At least I needed to keep the tissues handy while reading.
Deck Z by Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon (Scholastic 2012)
We all know that the boat sinks, but did you know the Titanic carried a terrible secret to her watery grave? Theodor Weiss, a German scientist, is fleeing the German military who wants to use the zombie-causing virus he discovered as a weapon. Despite his best efforts, the virus escapes and infects both passengers and crew. In this scenario, it’s a good thing the boat sank before it reached shore. I’m not a huge zombie fan, but those readers who adore the brain-eating monsters will eat up this story. I did like the portrayal of Captain Smith as a sword-fighting expert and true hero. How could he keep the ship from hitting an iceberg when he was down below slashing off the heads of zombies?
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (Scholastic 2012)
I am so glad to have another good mystery to add to my bookshelves. I’m not the only one who thinks this is a good book since it won a Newbery Honor this year. Miss Moses LoBeau is the perfect combination of endearing (to those who love this lucky girl), infuriating (to the detective trying to solve a murder), curious (to those who have something to hide), and exuberant (to everyone). Throw in a whole cast of quirky characters, a cold-blooded murder, and a brewing hurricane and you have the makings of a great read.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Harper Collins 2012)
Not only did I read a Newbery Honor book, I also read the book that won the latest Newbery. After hearing all my Nerdy Book Club friends rave about Ivan, now I get it. This is a mind-blowing book. Ivan is a gorilla who lives in a cage at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Even though his domain is small, his heart is larger than any cage. He listens to the stories of Stella the elephant and shelters Bob the stray dog. When Ruby, a baby elephant, joins the motley group, Ivan is determined to find a way to save them all.
Rotten by Michael Northrup (Scholastic 2013)
One of my students last year bought this book at the book fair and read it before school ended. He assured me that it was one of the best reads ever. He was right. It’s another dog story full of heart. JD is looking for a second chance when he comes home after spending the summer away. No one believes his story about visiting an aunt. When he walks in the door, he does not expect to be surprised by a giant Rottweiler with neurotic problems of his own that JD names Johnny Rotten (yes, after that guy in the Sex Pistols). Will JD and Johnny get a second chance, or will one snap of Johnny’s teeth bring it all to an end?
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (Scholastic 2013)
Six years. Ten concentration camps. Unimaginable horror and loss. Yanek Gruener survives the impossible as a Jewish boy growing up in Poland after the Nazi invasion. Somehow–through a combination of luck, wits, and determination–Yanek survives when everyone around him is dying. This gripping account is based on the true story of Ruth and Jack Gruener. I could not forget that as I read. The courage and inspiration I found in Gruener’s story will stay with me for a long time.