Thanks to my sister-in-law, Cindy, for suggesting this book.  It is as good as she said.  The next time anyone asks me for a scarey book this is for sure the title I will suggest. 

The Old Willis Place is a ghost story but in an unusual way.  It is scarey but it has character development and relationships along with the mystery and adventure.

Diana and Georgie are living in the woods.  They are dirty and unkept but seem to have rules suggesting parents do care about  their activities.  They are forbidden to leave the woods and forbidden to be seen by others.  So, they spend their time watching the activities and sneaking around the old mansion in the woods.  New caretakers come and go after unusual activities in or near their home.  The new caretaker is a writer with a daughter close to Diana age. Suddenly, Diana wants to break the rules and become a friend to Lissa.  Will the breaking the rules ruin Diana and Georgies relationship?  Will Lissa want to be friends with Diana?  What “bad thing” happened to Georgie and Diana that has kept them bound to the rules they must not break?

Stuart has just moved to a new town and EVERYTHING is going wrong.  His box of treasure were mistaken for trash, he has no friends, and school starts in three days.  What if he is the shortest kid in his class?  What if he has no friends?  This is all TOO much for Stuart… he needs an adventure to get his mind off his troubles.  Where can you find an adventure?  Stuart decides that all the super heroes have adventures because they are wearing a cape.  Stuart needs a cape.  Stuart staples 100 ties together and the adventures begin! 

I love the understated humor in this book.  I love Stuart.  I want a cape made of ties!  Well done, Mrs. Pennypacker!  Sara Pennypacker is also the author of the Clementine books. Clementine is a little girl with a lot of spunk.  Clementine and Stuart would be great friends. 

The Stuart books and the Clementine books are great books for the second and third graders who need to move beyond the first start easy books but they are not difficult.  There are engaging illustrations that are important to the story line.  I would love to see more from Sara Pennypacker.  I hope she is working on some sequels with both characters.

For Eben McAllister, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence world.  He is fascinated with the seven wonders of the world and spends his time wishing to be some place exciting… anywhere but in Sassafras Springs.

Eben’s Pa, a wise man, gives his son a challenge; find seven Wonders in Sassafras Springs.  If Eben is able to find seven things in seven days Pa will buy him a ticket to see some relatives living in the Colorado mountains. 

So the scene is set for adventure!  Not everyone likes a kid coming around asking questions.   Eben  soon finds himself saddled with a annoying pest who wants to follow him as he tries to find Wonders.  Eben does his best to ditch the Rae Ellen the pest, but she stays hot on his trail with a “Wonderful” of her own to show him.

My favorite part of the story happens when tough Coogie Jackson, sends for Eben to show him an outhouse and tell him about a Wonder.  Could an outhouse in the middle of nowhere be a wonder?  Was it a trick?  Eben has little time to decide if he believes the story before Coogie is sending him inside to get the proof neded to verify the story. 

This is a delightful story full of rich country language and descriptions.  The stories Eben gathers and the Wonders he finds give him a new perspective for seeing common things.  This story is perfect for reading aloud. 


You can read about the author Betty G. Birney.

For ages 9-adult

For ages 9-adult

“What-the-Dickens” are the first words the newborn creature heard, and assumed that was his name.  His lack of information came from the fact that he is an orphan.  What-the-Dickens thinks he is alone a world he doesn’t understand.  Bravely, he does his best to get adopted by a cat.  When that doesn’t work out he finds himself in a tiger’s mouth examining a sore tooth.  One day the creature sees a someone who looks like he does and can fly like he does.  It is a skibbereen (tooth fairy) going about her business of exchanging teeth for money.  What-the-Dickens finally has someone who can tell him about himself, but she wants nothing to do with him.  So goes the story Gage tells to his cousins in the middle of a terrifying storm.  As the story grows more suspenseful, the children are able to put aside their fears and concentrate on the troubles What-the-Dickens finds himself confronting.  This is really two stories in one. The author is skilled at getting the reader to the edge of one story and weaving the other story back into the readers mind in surprising ways.  While the children deal with the lack of electrical power, adequate food, and howling winds, the skiddereen have to deal with a harsh assignment given as punishment for allowing What-the-Dickens to enter the secret colony of fairies.  The two stories intersect when Gage tells how he met What-the-Dickens and his friend Pepper on the night of this secret assignment.

Book 1

Book 1

Interesting and enjoyable.  It was a stretch for me because of the graphic format but I wanted to read it to be able to recommend it to students.  And I will certainly recommend it. I know several students who will become faithful readers of this series. 

This book is told in a graphic book format along with regular pages of words.  I liked that.  Too much comic book style just tires me out.  I like the flow of words and sentences and paragraphs.  This graphic novel did not have too much comic book style for me.  But, the text is not to much for those who find reading a chore.  The illustrations told much of the story and make the reader aware of things not told in the pages of text. 

The setting is somewhere (hopefully a long time from now) when humans no longer inhabit the earth.  Some animals can talk and even learn to read.  Thelonious is a chipmunk who gets carried away from home by a flood.  He ends up making friends with a porcupine who lives in a bookstore and a female bear who built and flew an airplane.  Their goal is to get the bear back to Fog Mound.  Of course, there are those with evil intent who want them stopped. 

I can’t wait to get this one into the hands of the students and I can almost bet they will be sending me back for the next two in the series.


Find out about the next books on the authors’ website.