Category Archives: News & Reviews

Cool Book: ‘FBI Heroes: 10 True Tales’ by Allan Zullo


Don’t miss these 10 true stories of real-life FBI heroes! The stories include someone is mailing poisoned letters to members of the U.S. Supreme Court, a terrorist hatches a plot to plant a bomb, a Florida mother and her two young sons are ruthlessly kidnapped.

Who will help? Join FBI special agents as they work together to solve the world’s toughest crimes. You will never forget these incredible true stories.

Kids’ Books Are Longer Due To the ‘Harry Potter Effect’


If you’re like a lot of kid readers, you’ve already devoured the entire Harry Potter series. If so, you must have noticed the gargantuan length of the books. The truth is Harry Potter set a new benchmark for Middle Grade and Young Adult books. In fact, since the Harry Potter series launched nearly 20 years ago, the average page length in kids’ books has increased by 115 percent.

The Booklist Reader calculated the average length of middle-grade novels for every decade since 1976. Kids’ books have gotten 173 percent longer in the past 40 years, but most of that growth has taken place fairly recently. In 2006, the average middle-grade book was 174.5 pages long and that average has since risen to 290 pages. 

How has Harry Potter changed the way you read? Do you look for giant, epic sagas or prefer smaller one-off stories? Let me know in the comments below.

Top 5 Adventure Books for Guys


As long as there have been books to read, there have been epic stories of adventure and the great outdoors. Here are five of our favorites:

The Call of the Wild by Jack London


The Call of the Wild is usually considered to be the best book written by legendary author Jack London. It’s the gripping tale of a heroic dog that is thrust into the brutal life of the Alaska Gold Rush, ultimately facing a choice between living in man’s world and returning to nature.


The Lord of the Flies by William Golding


This compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island is modern classic. At first, all seems normal and fun for the group of guys, but the fun before long becomes furious and life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic and death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them — the world of cricket and homework and adventure stories — and another world is revealed beneath, primitive and terrible.


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

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Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present—and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent’s divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair—it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.


Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson


Set in the eighteenth century, Treasure Island spins a heady tale of piracy, a mysterious treasure map, and a host of sinister characters charged with diabolical intentions. Seen through the eyes of Jim Hawkins, the cabin boy of the Hispaniola, the action-packed adventure tells of a perilous sea journey across the Spanish Main, a mutiny  led by the infamous Long John Silver, and a lethal scramble for buried treasure on an exotic isle.


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien


Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.


5 Star Wars Books To Read Now That You’ve Seen ‘The Force Awakens’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Star Wars: Before the Awakening


Star Wars: Before the Awakening focuses on the lives of Star Wars: The Force Awakens lead characters Rey, Finn and Poe before the events of the movie. Presented in three sections, each tells the interesting and mysterious origins of the now-beloved characters. Find out how Rey got her staff, why Finn is a Stormtrooper and where Poe learned to fly so well.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


This is the official novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Set years after Return of the Jedi, this stunning new action-packed adventure rockets us back into the world of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker, while introducing a host of exciting new characters.

Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent. Yet the simple belief in good can still empower ordinary individuals to rise and meet the greatest challenges.

 Star Wars: Lost Stars


This thrilling Young Adult novel gives readers a macro view of some of the most important events in the Star Wars universe, from the rise of the Rebellion to the fall of the Empire. Readers will experience these major moments through the eyes of two childhood friends — Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell — who have grown up to become an Imperial officer and a Rebel pilot. Now on opposite sides of the war, will these two old friends reunite, or will duty tear them — and the galaxy — apart?

Star Wars: Lost Stars also includes all-new post-Star Wars: Return of the Jedi content, as well as hints and clues about the Star Wars: The Force Awakens, making this a must-read for all Star Wars fans.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary


The definitive guide to the characters, droids, aliens, and creatures of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Beautiful photography and never-before-read text names and explains all the details of costumes, weapons and accessories.

The book also includes three exclusive, specially commissioned cutaway models produced by Industrial Light & Magic model maker John Goodson.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections


See the vehicles of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in unparalleled detail with this newest addition to the Star Wars Incredible Cross Sections series. Twelve enormous artworks bring the new craft to life, showing all of the weapons, engines, and technology, while engaging text explains each vehicle’s backstory and key features.

New Trailer For ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

Harry Potter fans rejoice! There’s a brand-new Harry Potter movie coming soon. Well … kind of. J.K. Rowling’s 2001 book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is finally getting a big-screen adaptation. It’s not exactly a ‘Harry Potter’ book, but it takes place in the same universe.

It’s written as if it’s Harry’s textbook from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and includes several notes inside it supposedly handwritten by Harry and his best friend Ron Weasley about things they did in the book.

The movie will be about the book’s writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.And, yes, it’ll feature lots of cool wizards and crazy creatures.

Boys’ Life Fiction: ‘The Chase’ by Todd Strasser


Fiction by Todd Strasser | Illustrations by Michal Lisowski


“Will you look at that,” Daggoo muttered.

“What is it?” Elijah asked.

The big sailor with the dyed yellow hair and flame tattoos rising from his eyebrows didn’t answer. Instead, he quietly crept toward the bow of the chase boat.

Fifty yards away, a creature floated on the blue ocean surface as if napping while it absorbed the sun’s heat through the black hide of its back. The span of its black wings was at least 12 feet.

In the bow, Daggoo silently wrapped a large, rough hand around the grip of the tag pole. “Get us closer,” he hissed.

Elijah had never operated a chase boat. Back on Earth, anything this large was strictly autonomous. Otherwise, there was far too much likelihood of accidents.

“But —” he began to protest.

“Do it!” Daggoo snapped impatiently.

“It’s a terrafin. No one’s ever tagged one before.”

His heart beating its way up into his throat, Elijah stepped uncertainly behind the controls. Back on the ship, he’d heard talk of terrafins, rare and mysterious creatures only recently discovered here on Cretacea.

He placed one hand on the cold steel wheel and the other on the thruster lever. As he gradually nudged the lever forward, a humming sound came from the engine compartment and the boat began to slowly creep ahead.

Daggoo frowned, then nodded sharply, signaling that he wanted to go faster. Elijah pressed the thruster harder. Suddenly, the engine’s hum became an angry whine and the chase boat lurched forward. Daggoo stumbled backward, just managing to catch himself before he fell.

Elijah quickly yanked on the thruster. The chase boat shuddered, and the next thing he knew, they were starting to reverse! He pushed the lever forward again. This time the engine coughed and stalled.

A small cloud of white smoke rose from the engine compartment. The chase boat drifted silently on the ocean’s surface. Daggoo glared at Elijah, and then at the spot where the beast had been. All that remained was a circle of ever-widening ripples.

“Way to go, greenhorn,” the big sailor snarled angrily.

Elijah knew it wasn’t his fault. You couldn’t expect someone who’d never driven anything to know how to operate a chase boat. Nonetheless, he felt bad and wished his parents had never sent him to this planet to begin with.

His father said it would be an exciting vacation with Uncle Ahab, the captain of the Essex, a research vessel studying the migratory habits of large seagoing creatures.

But now Elijah decided that as soon as they got back to the ship, he would tell his uncle that he wanted to go home.

A few moments later, Elijah sat on the bench seat and held tight while Daggoo stood at the controls, steering the chase boat toward the Essex.

The exotic sensation of wind and spray was in Elijah’s face as the boat splashed over the waves. It was a far cry from the protected, quiet world of his domed city back home.

Too bad. Cretacea might have been an infinitely more beautiful and interesting planet than gray, arid, environmentally devastated Earth, but it wasn’t for him.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, Elijah thought he saw something leap into the air and splash back into the sea. He turned just in time to see the terrafin’s long rope-thin tail disappear below the surface. Elijah glanced back at Daggoo, but the sailor’s eyes were fixed on the Essex in the distance.

When the beast leapt a second time, Elijah quickly pointed. Daggoo swiveled his head and, an instant later, cut the engine. Riding the ghost of momentum, the chase boat drifted forward.

chb4CeWas Daggoo thinking about trying again? Elijah looked up into the big sailor’s eyes and saw uncertainty, as if he was debating whether another attempt would be a waste of time.

Elijah tried to tell himself that he didn’t care whether they tried for the beast or not. But it didn’t feel right.

His father had always said that quitting was never the answer. Deep inside, he wanted another chance. Not because he felt he needed to prove anything to Daggoo, but because it was the right thing to do.

He stood up and gestured silently for Daggoo to get the tag pole. The big sailor rolled his eyes doubtfully, but proceeded to the bow.

A moment later, Elijah was once more at the controls. A hundred yards away, the terrafin had again settled quietly on the surface. In the bow, Daggoo turned to Elijah and gave him a curious scowl as if wondering what the boy planned to do.

“Hold on,” Elijah warned and pushed the thruster forward.

When the chase boat jumped ahead, Daggoo had to grab a rail to steady himself. It must have seemed to him that Elijah thought he could speed straight up to the beast without spooking it. But just as the big sailor angrily swiveled around to yell at him, Elijah cut the engine and let the boat glide.

An instant later, the chase boat was slipping silently ahead, getting closer and closer to the unsuspecting beast.

Daggoo blinked with astonishment, then again kneeled down in the bow, gripping the tag pole tightly.

They glided nearer. … Suddenly Daggoo heaved the pole forward, harmlessly pinning the positioning and data storage tag to the base of the small dorsal fin near the terrafin’s tail.

With a splash, the startled creature vanished into the deep blue depths, leaving a swirl of froth on the smooth surface of the ocean. But no matter where it went, the marine scientists aboard the Essex would now be able to track it, and learn about its feeding and migratory habits.

Standing in the bow with his hands on his hips, Daggoo turned to Elijah, a smile slowly working its way into his lips. With an approving nod, he said, “Good work. Take us back to the ship, sailor.”

Elijah returned the smile and pressed the thruster lever forward.

“Aye aye, Sir.”


About author Todd Strasser

Todd Strasser is an award-winning author of more than 140 books for tweens and teens. his latest is The Beast of Cretacea, a futuristic reimagining of Moby Dick. Here’s more about The Beast of Cretacea:

BookCoverWhen seventeen-year-old Ishmael wakes up from stasis aboard the Pequod, he is amazed by how different this planet is from the dirty, dying, Shroud-covered Earth he left behind. But Ishmael isn’t on Cretacea to marvel at the fresh air, sunshine, and endless blue ocean. He’s here to work, risking his life to hunt down great ocean-dwelling beasts to harvest and send back to the resource-depleted Earth.

Even though easy prey abounds, time and again the chase boat crews are ordered to ignore it in order to pursue the elusive Great Terrafin. It’s rumored that the ship’s captain, Ahab, lost his leg to the beast years ago, and that he’s now consumed by revenge. But there may be more to Captain Ahab’s obsession. Dark secrets and dangerous exploits swirl around the pursuit of the beast, and Ishmael must do his best to survive—if he can.

Don’t Miss These Seriously Spooky Books


What better way to celebrate the spookiest time of the year than with a few scary books. Here’s a few of the best Halloween books ever written.

51YpY9BT-PL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_The Witches by Roald Dahl

This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches. Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them.

Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories—but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah Howe

515MBTEMKYL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_It all began when the Monroes went to see the movie Dracula. At the theater Toby (the son) found something on his seat: a baby rabbit that he took home and named Bunnicula. Soon though, the family started noticing strange things about the new bunny.
For one, thing he seemed to have fangs. And the odd markings on his back looked a little like a cape. Furthermore, Bunnicula was awake only at night. Was Bunnicula really a vampire? Only Bunnicula knows for sure.

harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-cover-imageHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradburyhalloweentree

A group of eight boys set out to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, only to discover that a ninth friend, Pipkin, has been whisked away on a journey that could determine whether he lives or dies. Through the help of a mysterious character named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, they pursue their friend across time and space through Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, and Roman cultures, Celtic Druidism, Notre Dame Cathedral in Medieval Paris, and The Day of the Dead in Mexico. Along the way, they learn the origins of the holiday that they celebrate, and the role that the fear of death, spooks and the haunts has played in shaping civilization.

51gQrGXfEnL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Coraline by Neil Gaiman

When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own . . . except that it’s different. It’s a marvelous adventure until Coraline discovers that there’s also another mother and another father in the house. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to keep her forever!

Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz51rg-Zr1+AL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm (and Grimm-inspired) fairy tales. An irreverent, witty narrator leads us through encounters with witches, warlocks, dragons, and the devil himself. As the siblings roam a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind the famous tales, as well as how to take charge of their destinies and create their own happily ever after. Because once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.


All About ‘Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular’


Smart siblings — and amateur scientists — Nick and Tesla Holt are back in another STEM-focused adventure. In Nick and Tesla’s Special Effects Spectacular, you’ll not only solve a tricky mystery, but also get to try a few science projects along the way. By Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith; Quirk; $12.95 hardcover. All ages.

Learn more here.

Cool Book Alert: Guinness World Records 2016 Edition



To celebrate the release of the Guinness World Records 2016 Edition, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the lesser-known Guinness World Records. Who doesn’t love reading about cool Guinness World Records? From the tallest human to the most expensive car to the fastest roller coaster, Guinness has been collecting epic world records for more than 60 years. So, without further ado, take a look at the twelve oddest, most bizarre world records I could find.

Longest Fingernails on a Single Hand

Most Balls Caught By a Dog in One Minute

Heaviest Weight Lifted With the Tongue

Loudest Purring Cat

Most Walnuts Smashed with a Nunchuks in One Minute

World’s Heaviest Strawberry

Fastest Tortoise

Fastest Time To Pierce Four Coconuts with One Finger

Most Bananas Snapped In One Minute

World’s Tallest Cow

Fastest Time To Type Using the Nose

Most Keys Removed From a Keyring By a Parrot

Bnus: Tallest Staircase Built In One Minute In Minecraft

OK, this one’s not that weird. But it seems like something one of you Minecraft experts might be able to top. Do you think it’s possible to break it? Take a look: