MSBA Book Buzz

A place for you to buzz about the books you are reading!

Book Talk: Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan June 12, 2012

Filed under: Historical Fiction — msbabookbuzz @ 3:08 pm

Chiengli is a 13-year-old orphan boy who lives in China in 630 A.D. For many years he was cared for by “Old Cook” a family friend. When she gives him a strange piece of jade with mysterious writing on it, Chengli begins to hear a “ghost” wind calling him to the deserts his father, an inspector who was murdered, once traveled.  He gains a job as a camel boy with a caravan that is charged with delivering the Emperor’s spoiled daughter, Princess Mei Ling to her groom.  Along the way Chengli makes friends with another camel boy, Fourth Brother but when he discovers Fourth Brother has a dark secret, Chengli must make a difficult choice.   As he struggles with what do to about Fourth Brother, the caravan is attacked by bandits and Princess Mei Ling is kidnapped. Vowing to protect his family’s honor, Chengli sets off on his own to rescue the princess, discovering that the harsh winds and heat of the desert aren’t the most dangerous things he must deal with.  To find out if Chengli is able to rescue the princess and honor his mission read this adventurous historical fiction story.

This book surprised me and wasn’t my first choice of books to read.  I don’t normally like historical fiction but the author included just the right amount of adventure and mystery, which I love, to keep me reading.  Even though the story started out a little slow at the beginning, I was drawn in by the ways the characters changed as the story continued.  I would recommend this book to kids in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade even if historical fiction isn’t their favorite.  The adventure and mystery will keep them hooked to the end!

Madelyn Farley, 5th Grade


Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri February 6, 2012

Filed under: Historical Fiction — msbabookbuzz @ 7:19 pm

Ghetto Cowboy is about a kid named Cole. His mother is tired of him always being in trouble so she drives him to his dad, Harper’s house, in Philadelphia. The problem is Cole’s dad hasn’t seen him since he was born. At first it seems Harper doesn’t like Cole and Cole sure feels the same way! Cole discovers that his dad is a horseman who keeps horses in the middle of the city but the city is threatening to close down the stables. Will Cole and his dad be able to work together to save the horses? And what about Cole’s mom? Will she come back for Cole? Read this amazing book to find out!   – Marty M.  Grade 5


War Games by Audrey Couloumbis December 23, 2010

Filed under: Historical Fiction — msbabookbuzz @ 6:21 pm

book jacket

Interesting read. Brief look into the lives of one family during the German occupation of Greece. Of course, since WWII went on for years, the book only holds a short period of time, hence no true conclusion but still very worth taking the time to read. Gives plenty of food for thought — “What if it happened to you?” This one family endures. They give food and shelter to resistance members, look out for their neighbors and struggle to maintain in spite of having their belongs taken by the Germans for their own uses, and having a German Officer has a houseguest. There are no choices in these matters, they are a fact of life.

Overall: I liked it.

Favorite Elements: Plot, Conflict

Recommended for 4th-8th graders.

– Kathie, McArthur Library Children’s Room


A Season of Gifts December 1, 2010

Filed under: Historical Fiction — msbabookbuzz @ 4:21 pm

Bobby Barnhart knows that being the preacher’s son and a new kid in town might invite problems, but he never expected to be hung upside down and naked in his neighbor’s privy. That encounter was just the first of many with the town bullies, but it introduced him (embarrassingly) to his strongest ally, Mrs. Dowdel. 

 Here’s a little peek at how these two meet:

“Then the privy door banged open.  Filling the doorway and then some was Mrs. Dowdel. A copy of the Farm Journal and three corncobs were in one of her fists. I hadn’t seen her up close. I’d never wanted to be anywhere near this close to her. Her specs crept to the end of her nose. We were nose to nose. She didn’t welcome surprises, and I came as one. All she’d wanted to do was use her privy, and here I was barring her way, naked as a jaybird in my own personal web.”

The Barnhart family, Bob, his older sister Phyllis, younger sister Ruth Ann and their parents have moved to the small mid-western town so that Bob’s father can take a job as a minister.The year is 1958, and while the country is not experiencing a depression, many people exist just barely above the poverty level.  The Barnharts are no exception.  As Christmas rolls around, the Barnhart family realizes that they’ve found a true home – and a neighbor who gives gifts that will last a lifetime.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Grandma Dowdel in Richard Peck’s earlier books, Newbery Award winner A Year Down Yonder and Newbery Honor A Long Way From Chicago let me just say she is someone you won’t soon forget!  Although she seems to be grouchy and standoffish, Mrs. Dowdel proves that her kindness, resourcefulness and generosity are only outdone by her sense of justice and fair play. During the story each of the Bob’s family members becomes the benefactor of one or more of Mrs. Dowdel’s gifts.  Though her gifts don’t come from stores or wrapped in pretty paper and bows, they certainly have long-lasting effects. 

This story is filled with funny events and characters you will enjoy getting to know.  You don’t have to have read Mr. Peck’s first two books about Grandma Dowdel to understand this story, but once you meet her,  you probably won’t be able to help yourself.  The BIS Library has a copy of A Season of Gifts on audio CD’s  and of course both the BIS Library and McArthur Public Library have copies of the book.

~Mrs. Dee


The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate November 17, 2010

Filed under: Historical Fiction — msbabookbuzz @ 10:31 pm

This was my favorite book that I read last year, and I truly do think it should have won the Newbery instead of a Newbery Honor.  I hope that gives you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book.

Calpurnia Tate is the middle child out of seven, and the only girl.  Can you imagine a worse situation?  The time is 1899 and the place is central Texas, where it is hot and stuffy and there is no air conditioning.  Callie Vee, as Calpurnia is called, is 11.  She can spend some time  outdoors, exploring the land and discovering lots of things about nature.  Her grandfather shares this interest and helps Calpurnia along on her discoveries, including what might be a brand new species of plant.  However, her mother has other ideas.  In her opinion, Calpurnia needs to  learn the “womanly arts,” such as cooking, playing the piano, sewing, and lace-making.   Calpurnia is not particularly fond of, or good at, those tasks.  Will there be a way for her to balance her love of science and what society at the time expects of her?

This is a work of historical fiction.  I think it will appeal to those who enjoy that genre, as well as people who enjoy reading books about science, humorous books and books about families.  The interactions between Callie Vee and her grandfather are quite well done. 

-Sam, McArthur Public Library Children’s Room Assistant