Technology: Cubelets review

Cubelets Review

We are always on the lookout for new technology to add to our library makerspace and, thanks to a generous gift from our school’s Parents and Friends fund raising group, we were able to make a significant purchase of new robotics. After much research I choose to request the purchase of Cubelets from Modular Robotics.  Have you seen these super cute modular robots? The tactile and seamless design of these robots was the first thing to catch my attention. And the students agree. “Ohhh, pretty” is the usual first reaction, along with a quick grab to study these cube-shaped robots. So, let’s take a deeper look at these robots, their use in our makerspace and our reaction.

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Book Review: The Queen’s Resistance

The Queen’s Resistance – Rebecca Ross – The Queen’s Resistance #2 – HarperTeen – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

Finally, Brienna is a mistress of knowledge and is settling into her role as the daughter of Davin MacQuinn, a disgraced lord who returned to Maevana to reclaim his house. Though she’d just survived a revolution, one that will finally return a queen to the throne, she faces another difficult challenge. She must prove herself trustworthy to the MacQuinns. But as Queen Isolde Kavanagh’s closest confidant, she’ll have to balance serving her father’s house as well as her country. And then there’s Cartier, a wholly separate but desirable factor in her new life.

Aodhan Morgane, formerly known as Cartier Évariste, is adjusting to the stark contrast between his pre-rebellion life in Valenia as a master of knowledge and his current one as the lord of a fallen house. During his castle’s restoration, he discovers a ten-year-old boy named Tomas, whose past and parentage are a complete mystery. So when Cartier’s former pupil Brienna is as taken with Tomas as he is, he lets his mind wander—what if he doesn’t have to raise him or his house alone?

As the Lannon trial rapidly approaches, Brienna and Cartier must put their feelings aside to concentrate on forging alliances, executing justice, and ensuring that no one interferes with the queen’s coronation. But resistance is rumbling among the old regime’s supporters, who are desperate to find a weakness in the rebels’ forces. And nothing makes a person more vulnerable than deep-seated love.

My thoughts

Stunning. Truly beautiful and heart-capturing, The Queen’s Resistance is an epic sequel to The Queen’s Rising and everything I was daring to hope it would be. The Queen’s Rising was my surprise book of 2018. Surprise, because it totally took me by surprise with how amazing it was, how much I enjoyed it, and the beauty of the world Rebecca Ross created. So, the sequel, The Queen’s Resistance instantly became one of my most anticipated reads for 2019. And it did not disappoint. The Queen’s Resistant is stunning. It is beautifully crafted, the threads of intrigue, alliances, betrayal and deception are carefully woven with strands of love, family, justice and a thrilling quest to right the wrongs of the past. This is by far one of my all-time favourite fantasy series, and I can not recommend it highly enough.

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Book Review: Cold Day in the Sun

Cold Day in the Sun – Sara Biren – Amulet Books – Published 12 March 2019

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Synopsis

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

My thoughts

Cold Day in the Sun is a fun YA, sport-centred novel with a tender heart and a very important message about equality and the strength and determination it takes to stand up for what you want (and there might be some very swoony romance thrown in as well). I absolutely love ice hockey novels. I’ve never played, never even watched a full game and yet there is something about the cold, crisp setting, the devotion of the fans, and the commitment and hard work of the players that makes this game so alluring in YA fiction. Throw in a story about a girl playing on a guy’s sport team and this novel was certain to be an absolute winner.

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Display: Two new middle-grade releases

Display – Two new middle-grade releases = A winter wonderland

October and November 2018 presented two very exciting new books in the world of middle-grade fiction: The Ice Monster by David Walliams and Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney. As our school year was in the process of winding down, we decided to celebrate the releases of these two titles at the start of the 2019 school year. The overt winter theme provided a wonderful tie between the two titles, enabling us to turn our junior reading room into a winter wonderland (in the middle of summer, mind you).

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Book Review: Searching For You

Searching For You – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #3 – Bethany House Publishers – 4 December 2018

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Synopsis

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won’t abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he’s in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

My thoughts

Searching For You is the third book in the delightful Orphan Train series. This historical Christian series is absolutely delightful, combing heartfelt stories of challenges overcome with the love and bond of sisters, as well as amazing (swoon-worthy) romance.

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Book Review: Together Forever

Together Forever – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

My thoughts

Together Forever is the second book in the Orphan Train series. It picks up where book one left off, but this time telling the story of the second-eldest Neumann sister, Marianne. Marianne grieves the loss of her younger sister, who ran away. Marianne blames herself and is determined to do everything she can to find Sophie. Marianne joins the Children’s Aid Society as a placing agent on the Orphan trains, hoping to use their records to find Sophie. On her first journey, Marianne is drawn to her fellow agent, outgoing and charming Drew Brady. But with a romance forbidden between agents and with each of them with a past that is holding them captive, any future between them seems unlikely.

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Book Review: With You Always

With You Always – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #1 – Bethany House – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

My thoughts

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read all three books in the Orphan Train series all together (one benefit of waiting for an entire series to be published before starting book one). And I am so glad that I could, because as soon as I started the first book in the series I knew I wanted more of this charming family facing such difficulties. More of swoon-worthy romance. More challenges overcome through faith, love and community. As soon as I finished each book I eagerly picked up the next. While each of the three titles in the Orphan Train series could be read as a standalone, I believe that it is much better to read them as a series, better to understand the depth of each of the characters, their relationships and their journeys, separate at times and yet each interconnected.

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Book Review: If You’re Out There

If You’re Out There – Katy Loutzenhiser – Balzer+Bray – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she’s baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all. Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing, and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that the friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility. Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails. Maybe she can’t.

My thoughts

If You’re Out There is an ode to the power of friendship. And while this YA title’s focus is on the friendship between two girls, there is the added bonus of sweet romance, diverse characters, and interesting and complex family dynamics, as well as the thread of mystery that weaves throughout the story. All in all, If You’re Out There is unique and delightful.

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Book Review: Waiting For Fitz

Waiting For Fitz – Spencer Hyde – Shadow Mountain – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

Addie loves nothing more than curling up on the couch with her dog, Duck, and watching The Great British Baking Show with her mom. It’s one of the few things that can help her relax when her OCD kicks into overdrive. She counts everything. All the time. She can’t stop. Rituals and rhythms. It’s exhausting.

When Fitz was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he named the voices in his head after famous country singers. He loves puns, foreign films, and T-shirts with witty sayings. The adolescent psychiatric ward at Seattle Regional Hospital isn’t exactly the ideal place to meet your soul mate, but when Addie meets Fitz, they immediately connect over their shared love of words, appreciate each other’s quick wit, and wish they could both make more sense of their lives.

Fitz is haunted by his past, and he’s often not sure what’s real. One memory weighs heavily on his mind—a tragic death he fears he may have caused—but he knows if he can just get to San Juan Island, everything will be okay. If not, he risks falling into a downward spiral that may keep him in the hospital indefinitely.

Escaping the hospital becomes the first step of a journey for Fitz and Addie as they learn about life and love, forgiveness and courage, and what’s necessary to let go and what’s worth waiting for.

My thoughts

Waiting For Fitz is author Spencer Hyde’s debut novel. Drawing from his own experience, Hyde has created a one-of-a-kind story about friendship, mental health and the value of waiting for the things you find are the most important.

Addie counts everything. Heartbeats, blinks, the number of times she washes her hands. When Addie’s mother suggests moving to a psychiatric ward to help control her OCD, Addie didn’t expect to make friends or to meet someone as special at Fitz. Fitz has schizophrenia and has spent the last two years on the ward. When he and Addie connect over their shared love of grammar and dry humour, he convinces Addie to help him break out of the ward to complete a special task.

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New Book Releases February 2019 – Children’s and Young Adult Fiction

Children’s and Young Adult Fiction New Book Releases for February 2019

Well, 2019 has well and truly begun. Maybe your new year’s resolution was to read more or maybe you are just looking for a good book recommendation. Here is my list of top new release picks for February 2019. Click on covers for more information and reviews.

Children’s Fiction

 Song for a Whale – Lynne Kelly – Delacorte Press – Published 5 February 2019

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to “sing” to him! But he’s three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him? Read more.

Children’s Fiction: Animals, Adventure. Continue reading