Lego Batman

Lego Batman. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Inc., 2008. $19.99 ISBN 993929020720

Plot Summary: Batman and Robin must save Gotham City from the villains recently escaped from Arcane Asylum.

Critical Evaluation: This game was pretty fun, but after about thirty minutes I was confused about what I was supposed to accomplish. I couldn't figure out how to defeat Clayface and soon gave up. If I was a better video game player I may have kept going, or looked up what I was supposed to do. It would be a better game if playing with a friend, which it has the option of doing. I will probably give it another try.

Reader's Annotation: Legos and Batman come together for an action packed video game to follow Batman and Robin as they defeat the villains from Arcane Asylum.

Author Bio:

Genre: Science Fiction, Comic, Adventure

Curriculum Ties:

Booktalking Ideas: Show some legos, preferably Batman themed Legos, and a few Batman comic books and smash them together (carefully) to illustrate the fusion of Batman and Legos in the action packed video game.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 9 and up

Challenges: The violence may be an issue.

Reason for including: I love Batman and Legos, so this was a great combo. It says E (for everyone), but I felt that it best suited the tween group because it is in between the kid world of Legos and teen world of action packed comic books.

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M, Walker

Walker, Sally M. Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland. New York: Carolrhoda Books, 2009. 144 pages. $22.95 ISBN 9780822571353

Plot Summary: Written in Bone describes the work of archaeologists, scientists, forensic anthropologists, and archivists (among many more) as they uncover the history of the Chesapeake Bay region between Maryland and Virginia. They find many clues in to the life and death of the nations earliest European settlers, as well as the first facial reconstruction of an early "American colonist of African ancestry". The book is full of detailed information and many illustrations and photographs.

Critical Evaluation: This book is full of information but is presented in an engaging way, with lots of pictures and illustrations. The layout of the book breaks up the descriptive text with detailed pictures and up-close photos of the action. It is interestingly written, presenting the information in a way that will keep a reader reading, but also sounds authoritative.

Reader's Annotation: Fascinating look into the bones and lives of colonial Jamestown, VA and around the Chesapeake in Maryland.

Author Bio: Sally is the author of over 50 books on science topics for kids and young adults. She lives in De Kalb, Illinois but worked with archaeologists, scientists, forensic anthropologists and archivists in Jamestown, VA and around the Chesapeake in Maryland. She won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Medal in 2006 for Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: SOlving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley and was also on the ALA Notable list with Fossil Fish Found Alive.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Archaeology, History

Curriculum Ties: Great addition to archaeology discussion or East Coast/settlement history from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Booktalking Ideas: Talk about the early American settlers. Discuss the fact that still not much is known for sure about how the settlers lived and died. Show some pictures of the digs featured in the book.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 9 and up, Grades 4 and up

Challenges: The photos of the skeletons and graves may cause some concern.

Reason for including: Living in Maryland, I thought this book was very interesting. I am also very interested in archaeology, so history on Maryland archaeology was a plus.

Lines, Vines and Trying Times by Jonas Brothers

Jonas, Kevin, Joe Jonas and Nick Jonas. Lines, Vines and Trying Times. Hollywood Records, 2009. 47.8 minutes. $11.99 (iTunes).

Plot Summary: The latest album by the Jonas Brothers is a catchy pop album featuring collaborations with rapper Common and fellow Disney-ite Miley Cyrus.

Critical Evaluation: Great album for dancing and singing along to, the pop trio have created another hit. The sound is very similar to their past albums, but the themes are more "mature." There isn't one terrible song on the album, although their Common collaboration is a little off from their usual.

Reader's Annotation: Jonas Brothers hit it again with another power chord driven pop album featuring collaborations with Common and Miley Cyrus.

Author Bio: Joseph, Kevin and Nick Jonas grew up in Wyckoff, New Jersey with very musical parents. Their parents encouraged the boys to pursue music careers from early on. The brothers hit it big when featured on the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons soundtrack and were soon big Disney stars. They have five full length albums, It's About Time (2006), their self titled Jonas Brothers (2007), A Little Bit Longer (2008) and Lines, Vines and Trying Times (2009) as well as a live album. The brothers have appeared in several Disney shows and movies, including their own comedy series Jonas, and TV movie Camp Rock. Kevin recently became engaged and Nick branched off to form a new band called Nick Jonas and The Administrators.

Genre: Pop

Curriculum Ties:

Booktalking Ideas: All you have to say is "Jonas" and tween girls will be eager to listen to anything you have to say.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Appeals to ages 8 and up.

Challenges: Some themes on this album are becoming more "adult," so some parents may take issues with lyrics.

Reason for including: I'm a sucker for the Jonas brothers. I watched every episode of their Disney series, and laughed hysterically as my husband shook his head with disgust. I'm a fan of their albums and know quite a few tweens who are big fans like I am.

Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail by Danica McKellar

McKellar, Danica. Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail. New York: Plume, 2008. 296 pages. $15.00 ISBN 9780452289499

Plot Summary: Math Doesn't Suck is packed full of step-by-step math instruction geared toward the tweenage girl. Danica covers topics such as factors, multiples, fractions, decimals, percentages, word problems and algebra. She uses real life examples to illustrate her points, cute drawings and easy to follow guidelines and practice problems. The book is a girl friendly, tween engaging way to help struggling students succeed in math.

Critical Evaluation: This book is fantastic. Not only is it a great math help book, but it is also fun and encouraging. Danica is an amazing woman, moving between acting and mathematics. The book is full of great step-by-step directions for solving all sorts of math equations encountered during middle school. The book is geared towards girls, with cute illustrations, real-life examples like choosing a party outfit, and quotes from tween girls about math.

Reader's Annotation: Learn how to survive middle school math with actress and mathematician Danica McKellar.

Author Bio: Danica McKellar is most famous for her role as Winnie on The Wonder Years with Fred Savage, Josh Saviano and Dan Lauria. After The Wonder Years, Danica graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics. She is a firm supporter of promoting math education for girls and spoke before Congress about the importance of women in math and science professions. She recently starred as Elsie Snuffin on The West Wing, but continues to focus on math and published her second math book, Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss, in 2008. She also coauthored a mathematical physics theorem called The Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Mathematics

Curriculum Ties: A great suggestion for math help.

Booktalking Ideas: Discuss the value of math and that it doesn't have to "kill" you in middle school. Talk about how Danica used to be a TV star when she was their age and is now a successful author and mathematician.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12 and up, Grades 6-9

Challenges: None!

Reason for including: I was a fan of The Wonder Years. A few years ago my dad sent me an article about Danica and her life work in mathematics. It was shortly before this book came out and she was talking about how she wants to get girls more interested in math and science. I was very interested in the book and thought it would be a great addition to tween materials.

Meet Addy by Connie Porter

Porter, Connie. Meet Addy. Middleton, WI: Pleasant Company Publications, 1993. 78 pages $6.95 ISBN 9781562470753

Plot Summary: Addy and her mother escape from the plantation on which they are slaves after Addy's father and brother are sold to another master. Addy, only nine-years-old, and her mother must leave Esther in the care of other slaves in order to escape. Separated on their way to a safe house, Addy worries she will never see her mother again and whether they will make it to Philadelphia.

Critical Evaluation: Rereading this book as an adult I am even more drawn to Addy's character. The book is so powerful and emotional, even when geared towards younger readers. I forgot that they have to leave Esther, Addy's baby sister, with other slaves in order to escape. This really caught me and I was surprised by the tragedy of the book. Although the subject is intense and tragic, it is necessary that kids learn about this time in our history.

Reader's Annotation: Nine-year-old Addy and her mother make the perilous journey from their plantation in the south to Philadelphia on foot.

Author Bio: Connie Porter grew up in a housing project, the second youngest of nine kids. She earned degrees from both SUNY Albany and Louisiana State University and has taught English and creative writing at Milton Academy, Emerson College and Southern Illinois University. Connie has published several books for children and young adults including the Addy Walker series for American Girl/Pleasant Company, and modern day fiction. Connie currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties: A great choice for pairing with Civil War/Slavery studies.

Booktalking Ideas: Talk about not only the dangers and hardships of traveling hundreds of miles on foot, but also the terror of being caught and brought back to slavery.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 8 and up, Grade 2 and up.

Challenges: The subject matter is very intense and emotional, and may be too much for some kids to handle.

Reason for including: I was a BIG American Girl fan when I was a kid, and Addy was one of my favorites. I still have my Addy doll. This seemed like an essential pick for tweens, at least tween girls. I read the books until I was thirteen.

The Bad Beginning: Book the First by Lemony Snicket

Snicket, Lemony. The Bad Beginning: Book the First. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1999. 176 pages $12.99 ISBN 9780064407663

Plot Summary: Newly orphaned Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are moved from the terrible Mr. Poe house to the even more terrible Count Olaf house. The children try to move back to the slightly less terrible Poe house, but Mr. Poe will not here any of it. They know Count Olaf is evil, and just wants their money, but have no help in stopping him. Ultimately their fate is in their own hands.

Critical Evaluation: This is quite a quirky book. If I thought a book about orphans would be depressing, a book about rich orphans whose only relatives don't want them and just want their money is even more depressing. And yet, I found myself giggling through much of the book. The book is very clever and I'm interested in how much worse the lives of the Baudelaire children will get through the rest of the series.

Reader's Annotation: Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire fight for their right to the family inheritance and fair treatment in the shadow of mean Count Olaf.

Author Bio: Lemony Snicket is the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events, the picture books The Composer is Dead, The Lump of Coal and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming as well as Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid and Unfortunate Events tie-ins. Lemony Snicket is a pen name for author Daniel Handler. Handler has published three books under his own name, The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth and Adverbs. Handler graduated from Wesleyan University in 1992 and married Lisa Brown, whom he met in college. The couple lives in San Francisco with their son Otto.

Genre: Modern Fairy Tale, Drama

Curriculum Ties: None.

Booktalking Ideas: Reading the first chapter would be a great way to lure students into reading the series.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 9-12, Grades 3-6

Challenges: The murder of the parents may be an issue, but the author doesn't go into detail.

Reason for including: I have been intrigued by this series for a while, but had only seen the movie until this semester. I know it is very popular, probably among younger tweens.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Westerfeld, Scott. Leviathan. New York: Simon Pulse, 2009. 440 pages. $19.99 ISBN 9781416971733

Plot Summary: In 1914, The Great War begins between the Darwinists and the Clankers. Aleksandar Ferdinand is prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, son of royalty and a commoner. He is disturbed one night by his tutor Otto Klopp and fencing master Count Volger. They take him out in a walker, a large walking machine, only to tell Alek that his parents were murdered. Deryn just wants to be an airman in the British Air Service. Unfortunately she's a girl and they only take on boys. However she is determined, and disguises as a boy in order to join. Alek and Deryn, from completely different worlds and different sides of The Great War, are forced together on board the great ship Leviathan.

Critical Evaluation: This is a fantastic book, full of crazy plotlines, interesting characters and beautiful illustrations. Westerfeld collaborated with illustrator Keith Thompson to move back to the time when all books were illustrated. The novel is perfectly accented by Thompson's detailed pen and ink illustrations. This alternate history is fascinating blend of steampunk, Eastern European history and adventure.

Reader's Annotation: In an alternate 1914, Alek and Beryn are forced into each others' lives by the great war and the magnificent Leviathan.

Author Bio: Scott Westerfeld is the author of many books for young adults and adults including the Uglies series, Midnighters series and now the Leviathan series. His wife is Australian, so he spends his time alternating between New York City and Sydney, Australia.

Genre: Fantasy

Curriculum Ties: Not sure if this would go well with modern Eastern-European history.

Booktalking Ideas: Show the book trailer. It is one of the most extravagant book trailers I have seen and sure to spark many tweens interests.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 11 and up

Challenges: None.

Reason for including: I read Uglies over the summer and loved it. As a fan of steampunk I was very excited to find out that Westerfeld was publishing a YA steampunk alternate history, with illustrations! I felt this book would appeal to tweens because of the action, sci-fi and illustrations.