Final Bullet-Reviews of 2018 with @IowaAmberReads

Oh, hey! It’s been a while! I’m just over here grappling with the fact the fact that today is the last day of 2018! I feel like I was just setting personal reading goals for the year and now I’m wrapping up those goals and thinking of a goal for 2019! Watch for a post on goals and a post with my favorite middle-grade reads of 2018.

I have been reading a lot the past few months so I thought I’d do a quick Bullet Review post!

The Prophet Calls by Melanie Sumrow
·     For fans of: Amal Unbound, George, Refugee, A Night Divided

·     First line: “Let’s play apocalypse!” my cousin yells.

·     The book: The Prophet Calls is about Gentry who was born into a polygamous community in New Mexico. She lives apart from the outside world and its “evils.” Things happening in Gentry’s community make her uneasy and she begins to question the Prophet, who is in prison but calls frequently with his revelations from God. What happens if Gentry continues to question the Prophet? What will happen to her family when the Prophet has a revelation that could destroy her family? You will not want to put this book down.

·     The author: The Prophet Calls is Melanie Sumrow’s debut novel. She has studied world religions for my many years now. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a lawyer working with many teens and children. Find Melanie on Instagram and Twitter @melaniesumrow

·     Read it for: That “edge-of-your-seat-just-one-more-chapter” feeling. I haven’t read anything like this and I’m officially looking for more.

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Sweeping up the Heart by Kevin Henkes
Release Date: 3/19/19
·     For fans of: For All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Every Day, Sarah Dessen

·     First line: “Poor Amelia Albright. Gordon Albright’s daughter. Poor thing, people said.”

·     The book: Do you ever have kids in your class that like romance but they’re too young for YA? This is perfect because the love story is so innocent and sweet (but not too sweet, it’s very realistic). This book will be perfect those fans. PERFECT!

·     The author: Kevin Henkes is best known for his picture books like Chrysanthemum and Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, but his chapter books are also fantastic. I love an author that can do it all!

·     Read it for: A sweet love story with a lot of depth.

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Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson
·     For fans of: One for the Murphy’s, Eight Keys, Georgia Rules, and Out of My Mind.

·     First line: “Mom’s voice flew back at me from the front seat. ‘Annabel. Did. You. Eat. Your. Sandwich?’”

·     The book: Annie (Annabel) just wants a summer of freedom. Away from her overprotective mother and just wants a chance to spread her wings to be herself. She meets California, who is visiting her grandfather’s farm nearby. California seems like the perfect partner to help Annie break out of her shell. Annie learns about true friendship and just how fragile it can be.

·     The author: Nanci Turner Steveson really knows how to write a story that will tug at your heartstrings! She interactive online and loves to connect with kids she sent my group that was reading this book bracelets and bookmarks and they were SO EXCITED!

·     Read it for: a beautiful story about secrets and friendship.

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A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
·     For fans of: historical fiction, A Night Divided, Refugee, Amal Unbound and El Deafo.

·     First line: “Going was easy. Going, the big plastic container held only air.”

·     The book: A beautiful non-fiction narrative about two kids in Sudan Nya and Salva. You don’t know why both stories are being told simultaneously but when you find out The story is mostly about Salva and how he tries to survive in Sudan after walking away from his war-torn village when he’s just a boy.  

·     The author: Linda Sue Park has won a Newbery for her book, A Single Shard and has written picture books and poetry as well as fiction, historical, and contemporary for young readers. She worked as a journalist, a copywriter, and a teacher of English as a Second Language. She now writes full time.

·     Read it for: a moving true story that will stick with you.

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Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Release Date: 5/07/19
·     For fans of: One for the Murphy’s, Fish in a Tree, Out of My Mind, Counting by 7s, Because of Mr. Terupt.

·     First line: “There are two kinds of people. People who like surprises and people who don’t.”

·     The book: Delsie is at that stage of her life where she is figuring out what is considered socially “normal” and she’s learning that her family, her house, her lifestyle is not “normal.” Lynda Mullaly Hunt knows how to create characters that latch onto your heart and won’t let go. I adored Delsie just as much as Ally and Carley.

·     The author: If you teach upper elementary and up, you probably know Lynda Mullaly Hunt. If you don’t, well, you’re in for a treat. Her books are so relatable and her characters are phenomenal. Her books are on many awards lists and should not be missed by kids and adults alike.

·     Read it for: a realistic fiction story with a lot of heart.

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Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older
·     For fans of: historical fiction with a twist, The Night Gardener, and The Boundless

·     First line: “Margaret!” Magdalys Roca sat on her bed in the girls’ bunk at the Colored Orphan Asylum and closed her eyes. Her day satchel was packed, her uniform was on, shoes buckled; she’d wrestled her hair into a tight bun the way the matrons insisted she do. The triceratops wagon was leaving any second of the theater

·     The book: It’s 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil war wages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker.

·     The author: This is Daniel Jose Older’s debut series for young adults and he nailed it!

·     Read it for: something fun and different. If you or someone you know loves historical fiction and can handle a fantastical flip, then pick this one up!

 Thank you @rebeccaksansari and @harpercollinsus for this review copy. ⁣
How many times did you flippantly wish your sibling would disappear? That is exactly what happens to Charlie O’Reilly one morning when he wakes up and his brother Liam has vanished and nobody remembers him. Even his parents have forgotten that Charlie has a brother. ⁣
Where did Liam go? Is Charlie crazy? Charlie is convinced he can find Liam and sets out on a journey to get his brother back with his friend, Ana, the only person who believes him. ⁣
This intense, magical middle-grade novel will keep you on your toes and flipping the pages as fast as you can. My class got a lot of extra reading minutes with this one because I couldn’t put it down!⁣
Out in March 2019.

The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca Ansari
Release Date: 3/05/19
·     For fans of: The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, When You Reach Me, Holes, and Margaret Peterson Haddix

·     First line: Charlie O’Reilly was an only child. It, therefore, made everyone uncomfortable when he talked about his little brother.

·     The book: Have you ever wished for something that deep down you didn’t *really* want? What if you wished your little brother would go away and then he did? Charlie’s brother Liam is gone one day. Not abducted or ran away gone, but never-existed gone and Charlie is an only child. Except he knows he’s not really an only child. This book is SO GOOD. DO NOT MISS IT.

·     The author: Rebecca K.S. Ansari is a former ER doctor. This is her debut novel for kids. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, four sons, and some seriously massive pets. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter @rebeccaksansari

·     Read it for: a middle-grade type thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and flipping pages as fast as you can. It’s hefty, but I have kids reading it that rarely read books bigger than 250 pages and they aren’t missing a beat.

What have you been reading? Tell me in the comments below or find me on Twitter or Instagram @IowaAmberReads. Happy reading! 

FAVE 2018 releases - suggested MUST HAVE in MG classrooms


Children of Jubilee

As a kid, I always dreamed of doing adventures on my own. I would use my imagination and escape to a whole different world where I had to fight bad guys and figure out ways to survive. When I think back to my time when I lived by the lake and how I would walk down to the neighborhood docks just to pretend and have all of these amazing adventures - the Children of Exile series fits into that thought perfectly. If I could have recreated and wrote about one of my "missions" - Margaret Peterson Haddix did just that, and executed perfectly. 

The Children of Exile series is a three part series. The first book: Children of Exile was beyond un-put-down-able. I luckily had the second, Children of Refuge, right then too so I was able to continue the story line. I then had to wait for the third Children of Jubilee (out now!).

 This was my review of the first in the series: As if Haddix wasn’t already the Sci-Fi queen… I have had several friends recommend this book and then her sequel, so I had to get Children of Exile in my reading vocabulary, and o m g. I by no means ever thought I would be intrigued by science fiction, but this story seriously had me hanging on the edge of my seat for every single conversation, every movement, every thought. What would happen? What is happening? If this happens next, the whole story could take a turn for the worst. 

Student who find themselves curious about outside worlds, aliens, the unknown, I highly, highly recommend. 

Here are three of my close friends and their thoughts: 

 My review of book 2 (Children of Refuge): 

Queen of sci-fi has done it again y'all. Just finished Refuge and am speechless, need book3 NOW! This storyline is so futuristic in a complete alien anarchy fighting to take over the entire Earth basically. Rosi and Edwy's stories are ones you will cling to and hope for positive outcomes. Exile is from Rosi's POV and already out, Refuge is Edwy's story and out in September! You don't want to pass up MPH's stories in your classroom!

Again, here are some friends thoughts on the series who teach middle grades or are librarians:

And finally... the final release to the Children of Exile series: Children of Jubilee! 

I absolutely loved the way the series ended. Please take note though, if you have not read the first two - there are spoilers, so you definitely need to read the first two before finishing out with Children of Jubilee. This story is told from Kiandra's point of view which is definitely different than how the first two were. 

At the end of the last book, Children of Refuge, the children were forced to run due to the Enforcers coming in to take control of their city. You begin reading and do feel like they have successfully gotten away only to be sorely mistaken. The Enforcers then capture the children and they transport them to another planet. The kids have to work together to figure out how to outsmart the Enforcers and regain their lives as usual. 

I will definitely miss following the kids and their story. Once you get through all three you discover how truly invested you are in their lives and making sure they are okay. Their courage was something that all students will need to see and hear. Even if your students don't feel like they are science fiction readers, this series will hook you. 

All three are also audiobooks and I have to say they are very exciting on audio, as well. 

With Christmas coming up, this is a great series to purchase for those readers in your life! 

*Affiliate links


Books for Those Cold Winter Nights

My students are seasonal readers. Their reading choices are influenced by weather. Right now they're clamoring for book that takes place in the winter. Here are the most popular reads right now!

Book blurbs courtesy of Amazon.


The Language of Spells student/teacher book review

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr 

Thank you TLC Book Tours for the free review copy of this book. 

Why did you pick up this book? 

Finlay: It looked very interesting and fun and has an interesting back that made me want to read it. Such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.
Mrs. Kuehler: I was approached by TLC book tours about reading and reviewing this book. I was instantly intrigued by the gorgeous cover!

What genre is this book? Is it a genre you typically read? Why or why not? 

Finlay: The genre of this book is fantasy.  Yes, this is the typical genre I like to read.
Mrs. Kuehler: This book is firmly in the fantasy genre, but there was a lot of real-life lessons that could be taken away from it. I’m not usually drawn to fantasy novels, but I’m almost always glad when I read them!

Were the characters believable? Why? 

Finlay: In a way I guess they were believable but otherwise like what the characters were not really. I guess their situation is kind if believable if you think of the characters are real people and not dragons.
Mrs. Kuehler: What Finlay said! ^^ I completely agree that the situation is believable as in a group of people being oppressed for something silly like skin color (in the book, dragons were oppressed for eye color)

If you were recommending this book to a friend, what would you be sure to tell them? 

Finlay: This is a magical book with fun characters. This book is a great read if you like fantasy books. I really enjoyed it and I think you might too. If you have read or wanted to read Harry Potter or Percy Jackson this might be a book for you.
Mrs. Kuehler: I would tell them to stick with the book because in the beginning, Grisha is a teacup and it got a little slow. I was dying to know how Grisha was rescued from being a teacup!

Without giving anything away, what was the most exciting part of the book? 

Finlay: Near the middle of the book in chapter fifteen when Maggie has some information the people needed to know.
Mrs. Kuehler: When Maggie decides to leave without her father’s permission …

Which character in the book did you like best? Why? 

Finlay: My favorite character was the dragon itself Grisha. He had a little bit of a sad life at the beginning of the book but then came over it.
Mrs. Kuehler: I loved Grisha. He did have a sad life, but I loved his personality and optimism.

If you could ask that character any question, what would you ask? 

Finlay: Why did you feel like you had to go to Vienna? Was it just because all the other dragons were there?
Mrs. Kuehler: I would love to talk to Maggie now and see how she feels…

Spoiler below. Stop reading if you don’t want to know…

Were you happy with the ending? Why? (Use quotes or examples from the novel to support your answer) 

Finlay: (spoiler alert!) It was a little sad for me how she just gave up her ability to talk and see Grisha but otherwise I thought it was a very good ending.
Mrs. Kuehler: I thought the ending was believable, but it still made me really sad for Maggie and Grisha.

Who would you recommend this book to? 

Finlay: I would recommend this to people who magic and fantasy books and to people who like magical creatures. I would also highly recommend this book to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson fans.
Mrs. Kuehler: I would recommend this book to anyone that needs a book with a magical setting to get lost in.


5th Grade Homeroom Favorites (so far)