Sunday, December 19, 2010

Candy Bomber, by Michael O. Tunnell

Candy Bomber, The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot", by Michael O. Tunnell (2010, 104 pages).

This book is about a pilot who drops candy over East Berlin, so that the kids have a treat. You've probably heard of the second world war, and probably about the Berlin War...but here's some background information.After WW II, Germany was divided into 2 parts--the allies of Great Britain, the US, and France took one half, and the Soviet Union took the other. Berlin was in the Soviet half, East Germany, so the western alliance decided that Berlin should be split as well, into east and west halves. Then in 1948 the Soviets decided to starve out the West Berliners, and so giant aircraft started flying from the west to bring food to the western half, because there was no other way to get food into that part of the city.

Back to the story. One US pilot, Gail Halvorsen, saw a bunch of kids backed up against a fence on one of his missions. He saw that they wanted more than just food, so he gave them the only candy he had, two sticks of gum. To his surprise, they didn't fight over it--they broke into many pieces, to share. And he went back to his plane, and flew off.

He soon decided that he easily drop parachutes with candy attached, and so the candy bombing of West Berlin began. When he had candy to drop, he would wiggle the wings of his aircraft--and so Operation Viggles was underway. It brought happiness and hope to the children, many of whom still remembered the deadly bombs from the end of the war.

An excellent piece of non-fiction, with lots of information contained in both historic pictures and words. I greatly enjoyed reading this!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The pickled times; first ever issue!

Hey guys! You are looking at a historic post--the very first ever Pickled Times!

Here I will give you updates, fun facts, and sneak peaks about what books I might be reviewing next!


Poptropica: coming soon, Cryptid Island! A great one for fans of Nathaniel Flood, Beastologist!

Dragonfable: First Snow is here! Have you completed the Falcon Reach Idol quest?

And my igloo on Club Penguin is decorated to the herring gills with Christmas goodness!

Fun Facts:

One of the best places for this is io9, but you have to ask your parents for permission--some of it is a bit too old for those of us younger than 12.

From my little brother: "I am reading the Harry Potter books. I started three weeks ago and have almost finished Book 4, The Goblet of Fire."

Sneak Peaks:

The book I want most for Christmas: Book 3 of the Prometheus Project--Surrounded

Books coming soon on pickledbananas: The Edge Chronicles, vols. 1 and 2, and Candy Bombers.

In issue 3, my very own comic strip will be here!

See you soon!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science (my 50th post!)

Case Closed? by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Michael Wandelmair (2010, Kids Can Press) is a very excellent piece of non-fiction, probably one of the best books I've ever read. Inside it, it offers answers (as far as is possible) to nine most intriguing and puzzling mysteries ever. They include the stories of the INS Dakar, the Anasazi, and what befell Hapshepsut. So you can see, the book is global in scope.

They used lots of different approaches in solving the mysteries. The scientists involved used computer simulations, archaeology, genetics, forensics, historical evidence, and, in at least one case, the search for the legendary city of Ubar, satellite imagery. It was fascinating!

The most intriguing thing is, is that some of the mysteries here aren't fully understood--for example, what happened to Hapshsut's father, King Thutmose I. But in some cases, you actually get the answer--Anastasia, the lost princess of Russia, was never really lost, and neither was her brother--they were just buried separately!

I'd like to see a sequel, because I know some mysteries they've missed--things like Shangri La, and King Arthur, Flight 19 in the Bermuda Triangle....

I'd recommend this to kids above the age of eight, because some of the pictures are a little disturbing (dead people) as are some of the stories (like the burial and exhumation of the Romanovs).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Whipping Boy

The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman, is a brilliant work of literature. A whipping boy is a boy plucked off the streets, and when the prince does something naughty or bad, like tying all the lords and dukes powder wigs to the chairs, the whipping boy is called in to take the prince's punishment.

The setting is long ago-there are horse drawn carriages, and powdered wigs, so it seems Georgian. Also there a boiled potatoes--so it has to be after the European discovery of America. The main events take place in a castle, a forest, a town, and a fair.

There are two main characters. First is a spoiled and obnoxious prince, known as Prince Brat. His silliest maneuver--while fleeing the castle (more about this later), he takes his crown with, probably to make villains kneel before him, says the narrator. The second is Jemmy, a boy from the streets, is the whipping boy of the title. Cool fact--Jemmy started out as a rat catcher, but as a whipping boy, he learned to read and write.

In this book, Prince Brat, who is probably one of the most naughty boys in the land, decides to get out of the castle because it is so boring. He has done every single prank he can imagine, and none of them are to his liking. So he decides to run away with his whipping boy...who by the end of the book is his best friend...Jemmy of the streets. In their journey they meet two of the most dreadful villains ever, Hold Your Nose Billy, and Cutwater. They take all the food the boys have, which was mostly packed by Prince Brat, and worse, they ask them to write a letter to the king saying that if he ever wants to see his son again, he will have to bring them a wagon load full of gold. A wagon load. How much is a wagon load? Probably if you got a wagon load full of American dollars you'd be a millionaire.

After easily running away from the baddies, the boys run into a girl with a dancing bear, who scares off the villains who are still on their tail. Then boys, girl, and bear hitch a lift with the hot-potato man who is going to the fair. There they run into Cutwater and Hold Your Nose Billy once again. They flee through sewers...will they be eaten by rats, or will they find some way to escape?

This is probably one of my favorite books. I first heard of it when it was used as a piece of literature we had to correct in my classroom, and my teacher suggested reading it. I looked in her library, but it wasn't there; happily, I found it in the public library. I liked it because the characters were very interesting, and the plot was great!

One especially interesting thing, I think, is that the chapter titles (things like "In which we observe a hair-raising even") treat you not as a reader, but as a character. My mom says this is just an old fashioned style of chapter titling, but I liked it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A very funny YouTube clip for Lord of the Rings Fans!

Check out what my dad found on YouTube:

Isn't that hilarical!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Prometheus Project--Trapped

The Prometheus Project is a very good work of science fiction for middle grade kids. To date, there are two books in the series--Trapped (2006) and Captured (2007). My mother first got these to review on her own blog last year, and now finally I have read them.

In Trapped, two very ordinary kids, Ryan and Regan Resnick, move to a very boring town called Brewster, PA--"more like snooze-ter," they think. When they overhear a discussion between their parents about secret codes at the mysterious Protract Company that their parents work for, their curiosity is overwhelming and they decide to go explore the Protract Company for themselves.

What they find is something that is completely out of this world. Really.

The Protrac Company has been been working on something called the Prometheus Project. A bit of history--Prometheus was one of the Titans, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. Fire, if used correctly, is very useful. But it can also be very dangerous. The same is true for the secret of the Prometheus Project. Beneath a cloud of trees, in a building whose signs warn of lethal amounts of radioactivity, lies an alien city.

And Ryan and Regan made it through all the security elements (including guards) and gotten into the city, where an accident with a generator kills their mother, and they go back in time. Will they be able to go back and save their mother, or will they be trapped in a paradox forever?

As you can see, because there is a sequel, the answer to this question is obvious...and I'm glad, because I found these books so interesting! The descriptions of the technology, and the technology itself, is fabulous, and the characters are brilliant. Overall, the book is great. I would recommend this to kids who love science fiction, time travel, and things that involve technology, and even people who like non-fiction!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Call (The Magnificent 12 Book 1)

The Call (The Magnificent 12 Book 1), by Michael Grant (2010), is one of the best books I've ever read! It falls into the top five most favorite books of my life! It combines the outrageous, the impossible, the amazing, and the hilarical into one thing. It's a fantasy book gone mad!

A very ordinary kid named Mack gets himself in hot water with his school's head bully, Stefan. When Stefan accidentally punches his fist through thick glass (instead of Mack's head, as planned), Mac ends up saving him from bleeding to death. Stefan decides to take Mack under his wing....and then Grimlock, a weird guy, old and stinky who sort of looks like like a ghost, appears and things start going nuts. This old guy has plans for Mack, plans that involve defeating an ancient evil that was imprisoned for three thousand years...the Pale Queen!!! aka the Dreaded Foe!!!

So Mack, with his bodyguard, Stefan, are whisked off on an airplane to Australia...but things go wrong (in an ancient evil returning sort of way), and the boys are almost killed. Will the spell Mack learned from Grimlock save them, or will one of Mac's phobias come true, and he'll get eaten by sharks? Find out in THE MAGNIFICENT 12 THE CALL!

Grimlock's story about his fight with the Pale Queen is told in separate chapters, and it was sometimes a bit confusing. But that was the only thing wrong with the book.

I recommend this for all kids my age! A very good choice if you are in a local bookstore and have the money to buy it!

There's also a cool website, with games and information about the characters and places and objects--here it is.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary

The Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary (DK 2009) is a giant compendium of lego Star Wars models (duh--kind of obvious from the title). In this book you can find your favorite characters, ships, droids, and tons of other stuff you never knew had become lego! (and probably never needed to know). All the podracers from Episode 1 became legos, there are more bounty hunters than I knew existed...and so much more. There's lots of Star Wars information, and, of course, lego information alongside each model pictured.

My brother and I have spent hours browsing through this books-it's one of our favorites! And each book comes with a minifigure--we got and Episode 4 Luke!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's a Secret! by John Burningham

It's a Secret! (2009), written and illustrated by John Burningham, is an excellent picture book. It's about a cat whose name is Malcolm. Usually he slept during the day, and every night he went out. One day, Marie Elaine, Malcolm's owner, wanted a drink of water in the night. So she went down stairs and found that her cat was dressed in handsome clothes! He was going to a party, and he invited Marie Elaine to come. She became small enough to fit through the cat flap, and off they went. Then Norman, a little boy in the neighborhood, saw them, and came along to the party too!

But, to get the party, they had to make it past the mean old dogs...and they did! And that's all I'm going to tell you, because I don't want to spoil the story!

It's silly and magical and fun! Nothing is explained...which room for a lot of imagination!

I like the story better than the illustrations--the illustrations look too much like a kid's drawings for me.

Friday, August 6, 2010


THE mostly TRUE ADVENTURES of HOMER P. FIGG, by Rodman Philbrick (The Blue Sky Press, 2009)

Told in the first person, from Homer's point of view (but not a diary).

Homer and Harold Figg--two orphans, living with their mean old uncle, Squinton Leach, who hates everything, thinks people are better when they're gloomy, and keeps the boys in the barn, likes animals. While Homer and Harold are feeding the pigs, Homer decides to take a piece of the stale crust for himself. When Leach sees this, he goes into a fury. Harold stands up for his little brother, and tells Leach that he feeds the hogs better then them.

So Harold gets sold to the Union Army illegally, and is sent off to fight in the Civil War. Homer runs away to find his brother, and on that adventure he faces slave hunters, guardian fail, even more guardian fail, a medicine show full of treachery and deceit, and the War itself!

This is a great book if you want a bit of action combined with history. If Homer was in my school, I'd automatically want him to be my friend--he's someone who gets things done the right way, but sometimes he has no idea where the train will turn...

This was one of my summer reading books, and I'm making a power point about. Great read! I suggest that everyone read it, because it might well become a classic (and in fact it was a Newbery Honor book).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My brand new wii!

On Monday I got a brand new Nintendo wii for my birthday, and ever since we've got it, the amount of time spent playing on the computer and watching tv has plummeted! I like a lot better because it is a lot more active, and everyone in the family likes. So it's a good thing to have.

I also got books, and an egg drop kit--I've read them all (reviews coming some). Even though I was playing the wii...Time these days. It seems to have loose ends...

(I haven't had a chance to build the egg protector yet. Perhaps tomorrow).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ragtag, by Karl Wolf-Morgenlander

Ragtag, by Karl Wolf-Morgenlander (2010, Clarion, 226 pages)

Ragtag is a swallow who lives in Boston. He's one of the members of a group of birds called the Feathered Alliance. I won't tell you much about the Alliance, because I don't want to spoil the book. But I'll tell you a little--the Alliance is a group of non-predatory birds, led at first by the great owl Hoogol (even though he's a carnivore, he doesn't eat other birds).

The Talon Empire (raptors) is attacking Boston! The other clans of birds are trying desperately to defend themselves. Ragtag goes from an outsider to the leader of the Feathered Alliance, and using his quick wit, stubborn personality, and a few tricks (in the form of eagles!), helps his friends win the war.

I loved this book because of Ragtag's personality (he reminds of my little brother--he's very stubborn, and even annoying). It's a great book for anyone eight and up. High quality action.

I can't quite visualize what the human residents of Boston made of the whole thing--some were good, some were bad, and they all posed problems to the birds. But more to the Talon Empire....

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Nest for Celeste, by Henry Cole

A Nest for Celeste, by Henry Cole (2010, HarperCollins) is about a mouse looking for a home.

Celeste is a mouse; to be precise, a basket-maker mouse. She lives in a hole in the side of the dinning room wall. Her only company is the big black cat (who wants to eat her!) and two rat bullies--not much company there! Then one day when she is out foraging, she is chased up the stairs by the cat, into a room, and under the bed....there she finds a boot in which to make a home, and she makes it comfortable with a sock and some leaves.

That morning a man named Joseph finds her there, and makes her his pet. As Celeste finds out, Joseph is a very good friend. Joseph paints birds, but instead of doing it the way his master does (he takes dead birds and pins them up), Joseph likes to paint from real life.

In her adventures with Joseph, Celeste meets a bird called Cornelius, an osprey named Lafayette, and she goes through floods, death-defying chases, and another nasty encounter with the rats. Her basket making skills come in useful....

And in the end, Celeste has a home (a lovely one!). And that is what she wanted.

This is one of my all time favorite books. It is really moving. I cared a lot about Celeste. The illustations were great too. If you have ever read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it is sort of like that, because it is both pictures taking up whole pages, and also a lot of writing.

Guess who Joesph's teacher is! (he's the most famous bird painter in America....he has a society named after him...and his name starts with "a").

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children

Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children, by Conn Iggulden, is imaginative, strange in a silly way, and takes explosion to a high art. In this thrilling collection of three stories, we met the Tollins. Here's what Tollins aren't:

"Tollins are not fairies. Though they both have wings, fairies are delicate creatures and much smaller. When he was young, Sparkler [a Tollin] accidentally broke one and had to shove it behind a bush before its friends noticed.

In addition, fairies cannot sing B-sharp. They can manage a very nice B-flat, in a quite sweet voice, but B-sharp comes out like a frog being run over by a bicycle. Tollins regard fairies as fluttery show-offs and occasionally use them to wipe out the insides of cups." (page 15)

They aren't like us, either. They are small, and have wings. Unfortunately, because they weigh so much, they can only use their wings for short hops over the ground.

In these stories, a young Tollin named Sparkler and his friends and family survive all the world can throw at them--being fired up in rockets by greedy fireworks makers, thrown into jail, and encounters with mysterious Dark Tollins from up north (note--although most of the other Tollins were used in fireworks, Sparkler was the only one who got thrown in jail).

The episodes include:

1. How to Blow up Tollins
2. Sparkler and the Purple Death
3. Windbags and Dark Tollins

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys either small mystical creatures or things that go boom. Or people looking for a good book to read.

Age: Any. It was pretty easy to read, and there were lots of illustrations.

Iggulden also wrote The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Legend of Hong Kil Dong

The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea, by Anne Sibley O'Brien, is about courage, strength, and determination. It is about a boy who lived in Korea long ago. He was born into a wealthy family, and was favored by his father, even though his mother was a maid servant. Before Kil Dong's birth, his father had seen clouds, lightning, even a dragon! It was a good omen for the child. And he had a birth mark on his leg, proving that he was like no other.

But Kil Dong could not address his father as "father," and his brother would inherit everything (even though Kil Dong was smarter) so he went to train with the monks, where he could seek greater knowledge. Eventually he met an old sage (a mountain spirit?) who taught him magic and martial arts. Then he found the camp of bandits...and that is all I'm going tell you.

Begining a graphic novel, I could see what emotions went through Hong Kil Dong. This brought the story alive. I've read this book many times, and enjoy it in some deep way.