Mighty Jack and the Goblin King


Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (paperback)

by Ben Hatke


I really enjoyed Mighty Jack, but it left me hanging.  Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is the second installation, and as far as I know, Hatke only has or plans to write these two.  Jack and Lilley have gone into the garden to look for Jack’s sister, who was captured by a giant.  When they get there, they discover a world with Goblins (who turn out to be good), Giants (who are bad), and these weird rat things that chew through the vines and pipes.  Jack and Lilley are separated, but both face danger in search of Jack’s sister.  They make allies and fight the bad guys, and have a final challenge at the end that will appeal to all of my female students.  It doesn’t leave us hanging, but segues into another of Hatke’s series by introducing us to some of his other characters.

What I liked about this book was the girl power.  Lilley took charge and was given an important job where she faced tough choices, but came out on top.  Jack had to rely on Lilley’s quick thinking a few times, which is a nice change up from “the boy saves the girl.”  However, there was the porch scene that was a nice surprise.

What I didn’t like about this book was the way is was crammed in.  I felt like there was potential for other parts to be developed and explained, but overall, Hatke did a great job of writing an engaging graphic novel for my sixth grade readers.  And their teacher.

Book 55 of 40

(Book 21 of 2018)


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway (paperback)

by Jeff Kinney


The Getaway is officially my favorite of the Wimpy Kid series!  I made the mistake of just reading “the first few pages” while my class took the writing benchmark, and ended up finishing the entire book at school while giggling and distracting them in my silent testing environment.  Luckily, most of my students have read at least one of the books in the series, so they could relate.  Several have even read this newest book in the series, and they kept asking what part I was at.

Greg and his family go on vacation to a warm, sunny, tropical, Spanish-speaking resort for Christmas.  From the time they left home for the airport, they all got themselves into dilemmas as a family and individually.  Greg, as usual, is ignorant to his parents’ wishes and finds himself in awkward situations, but always finds his way out of them.  This book was laughs from beginning to end.

What I liked about this book, besides the humor, is that I finally realized it is small moment after small moment, which serves as a great example for my students who are working on narratives based on small moments during Writer’s Workshop.  I still can’t believe I was such a snob about this series, because it has turned out to be one of my favorites.

What I didn’t like about this book... I have nothing.  There was a big hairy situation with a big hairy spider, but since it was all drawings, it didn’t bother me like I thought it would, although parts were a little cringe-worthy, like when the spider lost a leg.

Book 21 of 40

Binge Reading the Wimpy Kid series


I decided since nearly every review would be nearly the same, I’d save us all some time and just write about the last 6 books in one post.  Instead of writing about each book individually, I’ll just write the 5 things I enjoyed most about this series as a whole.

  1. They are FUNNY!  There were several parts of each book where I was actually laughing out loud at Greg’s antics.  I found myself taking pictures of the pages and sending them to my friend to convince her to read the series.  I appreciate any book written for children that can entertain me the way this series did.
  2. The illustrations add to the humor, story, and readability of this book.  Some of the illustrations go along with what is happening in the story, while others provide a little extra humor.  I also like the way Kinney is consistent with his illustrations of characters.
  3. Greg, despite being egocentric (typical middle schooler), is likable (or even lovable).  You want him to come out on top, even though he is clearly the sand in a teacher’s or parent’s bathing suit.  He manipulates people and situations to get his own way, but that makes him believable and relatable as a character.  I remember doing the same things when I was his age.
  4. They are fast reads.  I’d say each book took me no more than 2 hours tops, although I never got to sit down and read one beginning to end.  Some books took several days due to the holidays and my own children.  If my students are looking for a fast read, these are great recommendations, because they are also very engaging.
  5. The AR level is in the fifth grade range.  I’m not HUGE on reading level, because I think students should read for enjoyment, and book level often limits their choices.  However, it is a bonus that there are inferences to be made and higher level vocabulary in these books.  There are also moral dilemmas that students would have to think about in order to relate to the story.

I think it goes without saying that I enjoyed the series, and I do take back my snobbery.  I didn’t think this series had as much to offer, but I am now eating my words!  I recommend it to students, but I also think any adult who can relate to children would also enjoy it.


Cabin Fever Book 26 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Third Wheel Book 27 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Hard Luck Book 28 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Long Haul Book 29 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Old School Book 30 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Double Down Book 31 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (paperback)

by Jeff Kinney

AR Level 5.2, 3 points


Since this is the fourth book in the series, I won’t bother with “what I liked” and “what I didn’t like” other than it wasn’t my favorite, but I did appreciate the semi-lesson at the end.  Greg realized he and his dad have a decent relationship and they don’t have to agree on everything.  I also like the way he reflected on his mom’s photo album: “the person who takes the pictures is the one who gets to tell the story.”  This is a great example for my young writers during Writers Workshop and their personal narratives, or even the autobiographies I make them write each year.

Book 23 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw (hardcover)

by Jeff Kinney

AR Level 5.4, 3 points


Of the 3 Wimpy Kid books I’ve read, The Last Straw may be my favorite so far.  Greg decides to help others with their New Year’s resolutions since he is already near perfect and sees nothing to work on himself.  I’m sure you can see how that goes.  He also makes a decision about Holly Hills, gets  himself into some more shenanigans involving soccer, his brothers, Rowley, and even military school.  Again, it doesn’t have the problem-solution plot line that most books I read have, but it is entertaining and made me literally laugh out loud several times.  I will say it again- I was wrong about this series.  While it may not have higher level vocabulary nor a complex plot, it is great for looking at voice and point of view, analyzing character (Greg), and author’s style.

What I liked about this book was the way Greg, while not someone I would want to be friends with or have in my class due to his ignorant self-seeking behavior (I say that in the most loving way), is intelligent and creative enough to get himself in and out of pickles, and keeps me laughing.  I’m regretting not reading with post-its (as I lecture my own students to do), because there were certain pages I actually wanted to quote, but now I can’t remember which ones.  I appreciate Greg’s creativity and I think my students could take a lesson from him.

What I didn’t like about this book… it wasn’t my favorite book in the world, but it was my favorite in the series so far, so I have no complaints.  🙂

Book 21 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Land of Stories


The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (paperback)

by Chris Colfer

AR Level 5.0, 15 points


Have you ever read a book that you WISHED you liked?  That’s The Land of Stories.  With rave reviews from my students, the fact that I couldn’t keep it on my shelf to the point of ordering extra copies, and it being written by a Glee star, I thought, this has to be awesome.  I’m going to love it.  Oh my gosh.  I wish that were true.

This is the story of a set of lonely twins, Alex and Conner (Alex is a girl).  Their father died tragically, and their mother is financially challenged.  School isn’t going great for them, and then they come across a magic book that transports them into a magical land where fairy tales and characters become real.  They  meet nearly every character from a fairy tale you can imagine and go on an adventure that has all the drama, mystery, adventure, and even romance you could want from a fairy tale.  It ends with a few “shockers” (unless you’re a half way-decent hypothesizer, in which case, it’s just exactly what you expected to happen).

What I like about this book is the fact that it is so engaging for my students.  I was so excited to hear them fighting over the books, and I even had to buy a new, hardcover copy of the newest book, because I had a student who was so excited to read it, she couldn’t wait.  If it gets readers to read more, exposes them to fairy tales they might or might not know much about, or engages them in mystery, I’ll stock it.  Just don’t make me read the rest of this series.

What I didn’t like about this book was the fact that it was so predictable.  Seriously, as soon as they found themselves in the fairy tale world, I knew what was going to happen at the end, and I was totally right.  I also didn’t like that it wasn’t very realistic.  I’m not talking fairy tales, because duh- they’re fairy tales.  No such thing as fairies or talking wolves or magic mirrors.  I mean, I spend my day with fifth and sixth graders, and their dialogue was not that of sixth graders.  The things they said, the emotions they felt, etc. were not relatable.  I hope I’m the only one who feels this way, though!  I will continue to encourage my students to read this series, because it really is engaging for someone their age, but it was not the book for me.

Book 34 of 40 (year 2)