Saturday, June 29, 2013



Lois Lowry (2012)

The conclusion to The Giver etc....

Loved the first 60% of the book then suddenly there's some sort of magic involved??  Maybe it was late and I didn't read it right, need to finish it tonight.

Finished! And it turned out fine, just had me a little worried for a minute. The evil magic part is the weakest aspect, but it does tie in with the series characters having supernatural-ish "gifts" such as healing and future sight. It was an abrupt change from the rest of the book but I should have trusted the great Ms. Lowry. She does know what she's doing, after all. And of course now I need to go back and read all the other books.

Very well done conclusion (or is it?) to the series. The characters and stories all tie together, which may help students still confused and concerned over The Giver's ending. I might even suggest skipping from book 1 to book 4, then going back to the middle ones. I think Jonas was such a strong reader connection it is hard to have the ambiguous end to his story. The mother in this book, Claire, is also a strong character who shows courage, strength, fierce determination. Great Middle School discussion book, lots of Why's to ask.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z 

Kate Messner (2009)

"One can do worse than be a swinger of birches."

A lot going on in this book, seems like a good one to take your time on with a class. The pretty and popular girl bully angle, mother/daughter communication and understanding, procrastination on school projects, art brain vs over organized brain (also the mother/daughter deal), grandparents dealing with old age and possible Alzheimer's, funerals, running track, young romance, the poetry of Robert Frost, plus lots and lots of trees.

Personally I'm going to try to get my 6th grade boy to read it, although the only hook for him may be the electronic genius friend (sorry son, no dragons, robots, or time travel). But my father does suffer from cognitive issues and this might be a way to see if he has questions about that. It's not all serious stuff, it's an entertaining story with good characters and some humor.

4/5 stars

Monday, June 24, 2013

Secrets at Sea

Secrets at Sea

Richard Peck (2011)

It's Downton Abbey with mice!

Cute story with good dialogue, including a cockney accent, about a family of mice following their family of humans on a cruise to England. Lots of sister dynamics, ball gowns, and a few weddings.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013



Tony Abbott (2006)

A 7th grade boy's world is shaken up by a new student who was horribly disfigured in a fire. He seems to be the only person in the class who is aware the girl may have feelings, and when his best friend rejects being kind to her the boy finds the courage to be her friend and face what happened to her.

Short book, a bit emotional, the main character spends most of last quarter of book crying, but good for discussions on injuries, disabilities, accidents, making the "different" kid feel welcome. The ex-best friend has issues to explore too, plenty of reasons shown why he acts the way he acts.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt

Jack Gantos

Newbery Medal 2012

Kind of a funny book, lots of people like it (hence the awards) but it's not a typical story. A lot happens, something on almost every page, and the dialogue is quick and realistic (swear I heard my mother's and grandmother's voices throughout). Humor, strange events, but realistic and lots of historical elements (WWII, Cold War, New Deal, the Roosevelts).

I've seen this called a mystery, but it's not really. The mystery is downplayed until the end and really not important, or I guess not treated seriously. And the Hell's Angels? They're there, then not there....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate
Newbery Medal 2013

Rare is the book that makes me want to gather up the neighborhood kids and pretend I had a class of my own to read this to. The only distraction as I read was all the lesson ideas popping in my brain. Loved it.

"Magic Realism" children's book style: Ivan is a gorilla and an artist telling us his story, from capture in Africa to shopping mall circus* to a home at the zoo. Sad but warm, cute but real, simple but thought-provoking. Would go nice with Dahl's Magic Finger in helping students learn to respect the animal kingdom.

5 out of 5 stars, highly recommend.

*Do they really have such things? Never heard of it. I could see a petting zoo maybe, but elephants and JCPenny?

I Funny

I Funny

James Patterson (2012)

Are all Patterson's books written with someone else these days? Whoever wrote what in this one did well, and the illustrations work very well also.

James is in a wheelchair, lives with uncaring family and a bully cousin, but wants to be a comedian. Using humor to deal with/avoid the pain in his life he learns to trust the people who care for him and have confidence in himself. Quick read with good message.

Lots of classic humor, great way to introduce students to some old time comedy.

Waiting for Normal

Waiting for Normal

Leslie O'Conner (2008)

Unfortunately, living in a trailer and dealing with hunger, neglect, reading issues, and separated families is the norm for too many children. This book touches on all of this (and more: cancer! music recitals!) in the life of a 6th grade girl but does it with a positive, confident cast of characters that brings hope to the story and reader.

Realistic but not too grim, great characters, humor. A good book to connect with lessons on empathy and recognizing other' circumstances.