How Rude! By Alex J. Packer

How Rude! by Alex J. Packer (Free Spirit Publishing, updated edition May 2014) is a hilarious and down-to-earth guide for teenagers about, as the subtitle says “good manner, proper behavior, and not grossing people out.”

Each chapter covers a category of social etiquette, including what to say, how to act, what to wear, how to groom oneself, and so forth. Encompassing matters that teenagers would find most interesting as well as those they may not have considered, How Rude! is truly a refreshing reminder and learning manual for teenagers to actually enjoy reading. Continue Reading

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo

Rejoice! Deckawoo Drive, home street of the beloved pig Mercy Watson, is now open to stories once again! My son loves Mercy Watson, and every time he rereads the series (he’s read them all 5 or 6 times, I think), he asks, “Has this author written any more about Mercy Watson? I want more!”

It is easy to see why. First off, Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson books are humorous (they star a pig, of course). In what other stories do beds nearly fall through the floor and pigs go trick or treating? Besides that, the reading level is perfect for beginning readers, those who have just barely graduated out of the easy readers. The books have short sentences, short chapters, and clear dialogue and description. Plus, the Mercy Watson books have been illustrated by the marvelous Chris Van Dusen, which only adds humor and interest to the stories.


Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Tales from Deckawoo Drive Number 1) by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press, August 26, 2014) is the first of a new series of stories relating to Mercy Watson. Although our favorite “porcine wonder” only makes a cameo at the end, the star of the show is Mercy’s friend Leroy Ninker, who works at the drive-in theater. (He previously appeared in Mercy Watson #6.)Continue Reading

Chitchat by Jude Isabella


Chitchat by Jude Isabella (Kids Can Press, September 2013) is a delightful exploration of language for a young adult reader. It explores so many aspects of language that I felt like I was a little bit in heaven since I appreciate and love languages and words so much. At 48 pages, it obviously only skimmed the surface, but for a young reader, it’s tone, illustrations, and length would be just right.Continue Reading

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

In early nineteenth century Russia, one’s status is decided based on how many enslaved workers (serfs) under your name. Likewise, property owners do not pay taxes on the land own but rather on the number of serfs assigned to them at the last census. Even if a serf dies, a property owner must pay taxes on him or her until the next census rights it. In Dead Souls, Chichikov is an up-and-coming middle class man who has cleverly decided on a get rich quick scheme: buy dead serfs (called “souls”) from property owners to use as collateral in purchasing things for himself.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (published 1842) is a complex satire. And yet, supposedly Gogol did not intend it to be a satire. In all seriousness, he wrote that this part of the novel (part 1 was the only part he completed; part 2 was unfinished and part 3 never begun) was representative of Dante’s Inferno. This is, to me, a stretch, but I can see it. With the humor in the text, however, I saw Dead Souls as far more than a look at the depredation of man’s soul in post 1812 Russia. I saw it as an amusing satire of Russian society in general.

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