Arcade and the Triple T Token

Arcade and the Triple T Token by Rashad Jennings is the first book in a junveile fiction series probably best for 4-6th graders.

Eleven-year-old Arcade Livingston has some typical kid problems–he’s moved to a new city and is the new kid at school, some bullies have him in their sights and having to take the subway everywhere makes it difficult to check out all the library books he wants. But he also has one very unusual problem… a mysterious token that seems to be transporting him on some pretty crazy adventures.

Together with his older sister, Zoe, Arcade will learn to navigate his new home, while trying to uncover the secrets of this magical token that appeared out of no where.

This was a really fun read and quick too! I found the characters super relatable, each in their own way, and Arcade is someone you can definitely see being a friend. There’s almost this idea of stepping into another person’s shoes that the author is playing with, through the lens of  “what do I want to be when I grow up,” a question that a lot of middle grade kids are just starting to explore. I sort of loved that each of Arcade’s adventures were tied in to one of his friends interests and desires.

Arcade is sort of this “go to guy,” the guy who knows all the answers, even if he has no idea what he wants to be himself. He’s smart in an observant way and I liked how he sees the world around him.

There’s also a secondary lesson going on in the background with this one–this idea of why should we only think inside the box, when there are other ways of looking at the world. It’s a more obscure theme, but it’s there.

The fifth book is about to come out in this series, so I think this would be a great one for both boys and girls in 4-6th grade. There’s a lot to discuss and a lot that can be explored about ones own aspirations. This book gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!



Masterminds by Gordon Korman is the first book in a juvenile fiction series probably good for 4-7th graders.

Eli Frieden has never even stepped outside of his hometown Serenity, New Mexico… but when you live in a town that is perfect in every way, why would you want to. At least that is what he’s been raised to believe, until one day he bikes to the edge of town and everything changes.

Now Eli is questioning everything that make Serenity what it is, even his own father might be in on it… but in on what? Together he and his friends work together to uncover what secrets a town without secrets is really hiding. And what they found out, will shift the way they think about their world forever.

Once the truth is out, will anything ever be the same?

This is actually an older title and I think the entire series may actually be out, which will be a plus to my book club crew because I tend to pick titles that they have to wait for the sequels for.

I sort of love this idea of these kids finding out that they are clones of criminal masterminds and now they are wondering if they are good, bad or something in between. And it was so much fun seeing the little hints of inherited talent that may or may not have come from their DNA.

There’s also a lot of great discussion questions that can be pulled out of this book, while it still being entertaining to the kids. Questions about living in a “perfect” town, living without secrets, value vs love, censorship and more. The discussion we can have over nature vs nurture is going to be really interesting.

Overall, this was a fun book with a lot of good potential for a book club. I’d probably recommend this one for 5-6th graders. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


4-6th Grade Book Club: COG

COG by Greg Van Eekhout is a juvenile fiction book probably best for grades 3-5.

What do you get when a trashbot, a robot dog, and two extremely lifelike automatons steal a smart car? Five allies on a mission with very little real world experiences.

Cog looks like your everyday twelve-year-old, except that his name stands for “Cognitive Development” and he’s a robot built to learn. When a “bad experience” leaves him injured and unconscious, Cog wakes up separated from the only human he has ever known. Now the scientists at UNImind want to take out his brain and study him and Cog thinks this is a very bad idea.

Along with some unusual allies, Cog breaks out of UNImind in search of his creator, Gina. But little does he know, that he is the cog that keeps the wheels turning and the hunt is on for him and his friends.

Will Cog find Gina? And will he escape UNImind’s nefarious clutches?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. COG stands for Cognitive Development. What does this mean and how does this make Cog different from other robots?
  3. Cog learns during his trip to the supermarket that sometimes the best way to increase his cognitive development is to learn from his mistakes. Why is this a good/bad technique for learning? Have you ever had to learn from a big mistake?
  4. Why do you think Gina created Cog and Ada to be twelve-years-old instead of adults?
  5. If you had to pick one of the robots to be, which would you be and why?
  6. Gina creates Cog with a special X-Module embedded in his programming. What is the X-Module and how does Cog use it to get out of trouble throughout the book?
  7. UNImind wants to control the worlds technology, how does Cog use his experiences to overtake UNImind’s primary directive?
  8. One of the main themes of this novel is the ability to choose—to have a choice. Why is this such an important theme and how does the author portray it in the novel?
  9. The world this book takes place in, seems both similar and more advanced then our current society. Would you rather live in a high tech or low tech society? Why?
  10. What did you think of the ending? Is there anything you would change?

STEM Activity: DIY Robotic Hand

Supplies: Construction Paper or Cardstock; drinking straws; Yarn or heavy string; Tape; Scissors. Optional: large knitting needle. 

IMG-0848How to:

-Trace your hand on the cardstock. If you have a tiny hand, you may want to trace an adults hand so you have more to work with. Cut out your hand.
-Put your hand back on and make marks where your finger joints are on the paper. Fold at the joint marks.
-Cut the straws to the length of your finger segments. (Hint: four of your fingers have three segments and your thumb has two.) In total you should have 14 straw pieces for your fingers.
-Cut 6 more straws about an inch and a half in length.  And a few extra about half an inch in length.
-Starting with the fingers, tape your straws to the hand with just a small space between each straw. Your paper hand should look like it’s starting to get a skeleton. You may need to play around with how they are laid and the length of the straws, depending on the size of the hand you are using.
-Once taped, you are going to take your yarn and make a big knot at the end of it. Start threading your yarn or string through the straws, starting at the tip of the finger. The knot should be at the tip of the finger, keeping the yarn from pulling out of the straw. Repeat this for each finger until all five strings are come out through the single “wrist bone” straw. Do not pull the strings tight. Keep them loose for now.
-Now, when you are ready, you can slowly pull the strings. The fingers of your hand should move. You can pull all the strings at once or one string at a time.

What’s happening:

This activity gets kids thinking about how the various parts of the human body functions. We’re using the activity as an engineering experiment but it can also be used to talk about the human skeleton and how joints and bones work together to move our bodies.


How’d it go:

This was maybe too complicated of an activity for the virtual world but we had fun and we had a few new faces too!

That’s all for now!


Spirit Hunters

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh is the first book in a semi-new series by Ellen Oh.

Harper Raine will be going into 7th grade in the fall, but this summer she needs to adjust to leaving her beloved NYC behind for the somewhat less hustling suburban streets of DC. What’s worst is the house her family has moved into seriously gives her the creeps.

Hot spots, cool spots, weird dreams and creeping sensations all make Harper feel unwelcome and unwanted. And when he brother starts acting strangely, she knows something is seriously wrong.

Battling her own traumas and memory lapses, Harper must uncover what is wrong with her new home before it is too late.

I love a good scary movie but I’m not usually running out to get a scary book, but I stumbled across this one and decided to give it a go to up my repertoire of spooky reads for kids. And it was pretty good. For me, it wasn’t overly suspenseful and Harper tried to rationalize a lot of the spookiness away, so the “I’m scared along with the character” feeling, wasn’t totally there. Which is good if you are not really that in to being scared.

What I did really like about this novel was the relationship between Harper and her grandmother and the nods to multiculturalism in the book. I also thought the memory loss and it’s slow return, was handled quite well.

There’s a nice build up for future novels and I believe the second one is already out with the third pending. Overall, this was a good read and probably fun for 4-6th graders. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


The Girl and the Stars

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy that takes place in a familiar world.

Somewhere on the ice, is a hole for broken children. On Abeth, survival depends on the group as a whole and even then, only the strong survive. To survive on the ice, one must be made of tougher stuff and those who can’t cut it must be culled for the survival of all.

Yaz knows that she falls into this category of the weak, the broken. The day she has dreaded all her life as finally arrived; the day of her judgement, the day she would be deemed broken and thrown down the hole for broken children. But when Yaz’s little brother is thrown down first, she does the unthinkable… she jumps.

Will Yaz be able to survive in a world of darkness and terror?

I loved Lawrence’s Red Sister series, so the fact that this series takes place in the same world, but in a totally different area, was an extra bonus for me. And this one didn’t disappoint.

That being said, there was a different vibe to this book then the Red Sister books. There were things we, as the reader, were in on that Yaz didn’t know because we read the other series. And yet, there are still a lot of unknowns–a lot of things that don’t add up based on what we do know. So there was this feeling of discovery as you read and I, for one, was left with even more questions.

I did really enjoy seeing the world outside of the “greenbelt” and learning more about the ice and the tribes. But I couldn’t really get into Yaz as a character. She didn’t pull me in like Nona did in the other series. Perhaps because we don’t witness her childhood and early struggles. But Yaz, as a person, is still a mystery to me; which is unfortunate because a big thing about her is that she wants to forge her own path and be an individual but we don’t see the pieces of her yet, other than her abilities and sense of duty.

Overall, I am excited to continue this series and to be back in the world of Abeth. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!