Merging my two blogs


I am merging the two blogs that I write.  The new website will be, which, in the past, I have only used for Harvest Park Library news and book-related news.  Please bookmark this website to stay in touch with the book reviews that I do and also Harvest Park Library and other book-related news.

Thank you for your support,

Jamie Renton

Aside | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Shaking the Foundation: Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

Book cover image of Shaking the Foundation:  Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

image from

Part biography, part science, part history, this provocatively titled book takes readers from the Industrial Revolution through today, explaining how Darwin developed his theory of evolution.  Darwin never actually used the term “evolution”-he most often used the phrase “descent with modification” to describe his theory. His theory “shook the foundation” of long-held religious beliefs and scientific theories. Many important and interesting primary source photos, illustrations, and diagrams, as well as interesting sidebars, add to the accessible and well-written text.  In eight chapters, Johnson presents the information in a factual, informative style.   Johnson also discusses transmutation, uniformitarianism, eugenics, social darwinism, and intelligent design.  Backmatter includes a glossary, source notes, selected bibliography, suggested reading, and an index.

This book is not yet available at the Harvest Park Library, but will hopefully be added in May, 2013.

Posted in Nonfiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes

Book cover image from Saving the Baghdad Zoo:  A True Story of Hope and Heroes

image from

U.S. Army Major William Sumner, trained in archeology,  went to war-torn Iraq in 2003 to restore the Iraqi cultural heritage. But when the need arose for him to help save the abandoned animals at the Baghdad Zoo, and other local zoos, his mission changed.  This photo essay may initially draw readers in by the fascinating color photographs, but the text is as impressive. Each short chapter focuses on a different animal that was saved; from pelicans to bears, and even dogs.  Sidebars provide additional interesting information. Whether for or against the war, the animals plight is an ultimately uplifting story of how people from different cultures can come together to make a difference.

This book is not available at the Harvest Park Library.  Do you want it to be added?  If so, please let me know!

Posted in Nonfiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation book cover image

image from

This third book in the Charlie Joe Jackson series (Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading, 2011, and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit, 2012) is a winner. Entertaining, substantive, and endearing, Charlie Joe, in a moment of weakness, agrees to be sent to Camp Rituhbukkee (pronounced “Read-a-Bookie”). Once there, he will do anything to get the nerdy campers to be less nerdy, and more like him. Charlie Joe becomes an unlikely leader and it turns out he has more integrity than he thought. Interspersed with complimentary black and white illustrations and letters to and from friends back home, reluctant and avid readers alike will enjoy Charlie Joe’s summer vacation. This series is good for readers who are ready for the next step up from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Review based on an ARC.

This book will be published on May 14, 2013.  It will be added to the Harvest Park Library then!

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by J.P. Coovert

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading book cover image

image from

Link to Harvest Park Library: Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading 

Reluctant readers, and avid readers, will really like this book.  Charlie Joe Jackson will do anything to avoid reading!  Narrated by middle schooler Charlie Joe, it reads a little like a journal, with funny tips throughout about how to avoid reading.  But here’s the surprise (at least it was to me)-Charlie Joe is likable, the story has substance, and the characters are believable. I highly recommend this book to upper elementary and middle school kids, whether they’re reluctant or avid readers.  I can’t wait to read the second one!

Posted in Humor, Realistic | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan book cover image

The One and Only Ivan

Applegate, Katherine.  The One and Only Ivan.  Patricia Castelao, illus.
Harper, 2012. 305 p. $16.99, 978-0-06-199225-4
Grades 4-7

I was tempted to give this book 3.5 stars because the first half of the book was a little slow and predictable. The last third, however, was a page-turner and was excellent.  I really wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to all the characters.  There is plenty of white space on each page, so even though it’s about 300 pages, it reads fast.

Even though this book was a work of fiction, it was based on a real-life gorilla.  I got so wrapped up in the story, that at the end I wished there had been a call to action or a list of resources of how I can help.

Posted in animals, booktalks, Relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shadow by Michael Morpurgo

image from

Aman and his mother escape Afghanistan with the help of Shadow, an Army sniffer dog, to live in England.  After living in England for six years, they are denied asylum and have to go back to Afghanistan.  Aman’s best friend in England, Matt, asks his grandfather to go to the immigration removal center to talk with Aman.  Aman tells Matt’s grandfather his harrowing story. Outraged, Matt’s grandfather knows he has to do something to get Aman and his mother granted asylum.  This middle grade war story, originally published in Great Britain in 2010, is braided with compassion, brutality, and perseverance.  Morpurgo, whose many books are often about war and animals, has postscript information about the Afghanistan War, sniffer dogs, and the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal center.

Posted in animals, Fiction, Realistic | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert by Marc Aronson

image from

In August, 2010, 33 miners were trapped 2,300 feet underground in a Chilean mine for over 60 days.  Trapped details the miners struggle to stay alive, along with the rescuer’s challenges and the family’s unimaginable fear of never seeing their loved ones again. Readers will be hooked by the miner’s plight and the race to rescue them.  It was fascinating how the rescue effort brought experts in from all over the world. There are quite a few interesting and helpful drawings and pictures that complement the text. In the back, there is a timeline, glossary, “The World of the Miner” and an interesting author note titled “How I Wrote This Book” which gives helpful advice to student researchers.  Aronson is an award-winning author, but I did think that the writing style in this book was a little distracting.  The author sometimes glossed over interesting areas yet gave more detail to areas that didn’t need it. I recommend this book for students in grades 6-8.

Posted in Nonfiction | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

On My Honor book cover image

This short book packs a powerful punch!  Joel and Tony are best friends.  Tony has a very adventurous spirit, which often times makes Joel feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes Joel wonders why they are best friends, but truth is, Joel finds everyone else boring in comparison.

Tony really wants to climb the bluffs at Starved Rock.  Joel is scared and doesn’t want to do it.  Someone died trying to climb them last year.  Joel tries to convince Tony to go swimming instead, but Tony won’t budge.

While Joel and Tony were talking about Starved Rock, Joel’s Dad comes outside.  Joel sees this as the perfect opportunity to get out of going because he knows that if he asks his Dad if he can go, his Dad will say no.  Even though Joel knows Tony will get mad at him for asking his Dad, Joel goes ahead and asks him if they can ride their bikes out to Starved Rock.  To Joel’s surprise, his Dad says yes.

On their way out to Starved Rock, Tony stops at a bridge that is over the dangerous Vermillion River.  Tony dares Joel to go in. Joel is a good swimmer, but the Vermillion is so dangerous!  Caving in to Tony’s relentless daunting, Joel goes in after Tony.

To find out what happens next, read On My Honor.  It’s a suspenseful, gripping story that will be sure to leave a powerful impression with you long after you finish the book.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

A/R Reading level: 4.7

Interest level:  Grades 6-8

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog: On My Honor

Posted in booktalks, Realistic | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan

Homeless Birds book cover image

Whelan, Gloria. Homeless Bird. 212p. Harper Collins. 2000. ISBN:  978-0-06-440819-6.

Homeless Bird, a National Book Award winner,  is a beautifully written story about a 13-year-old Hindu girl, Koly, living in India.  As is the custom, her marriage is arranged for her.  Unbeknownst to Koly and her family, the young man, Hari, himself only 13-years-old, is very sick, and the only reason his parents want him to get married is so that they can get a dowry (money) from Koly’s family to be able to pay for him to make the journey to the suppposed healing waters of the Ganges River.

Koly’s sass (Mother-in-law) treats Koly very poorly.  Between Hari being very sick and his mother being so cruel to Koly, she becomes very lonely. She finds hope in embroidery, Hari’s sister, and Hari’s father, who reads with her.

Events take a turn for the worse.  Koly’s sass tells her she is taking her to live in Delhi, but instead Koly is suddenly alone in a city with thousands of widows.  Is this how the rest of her life is going to be?

Beautifully written, Koly’s story is unimaginable, yet hopeful. I couldn’t imagine how lonely she was.  Yet she perservered. Highly recommended.

Genre: Historical fiction

coming-of-age, family, India, culture,

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

Awards:  National Book Award winner, ALA Notable Children’s Book

A/R Reading level: 4.1

Interest level:  Grades 5-8

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Homeless Bird

Posted in booktalks, historical fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment