Sunday, October 18, 2009

Second batch of books read for Cybils

I was so excited to be selected to be on the Middle Grade Panel for the Cybils that I started reading the books the minute the lists went up. I kind of forgot to let everyone know that I was doing this. I am working with a great bunch of people. I hope the are enjoying reading the books as much as I have. The first books I read can be found here , here, and here.
Here are all of the wonderful people on this panel and links to their sites. Check them out.
Zorgamazoo – Robert Paul Weston
Publisher: Razorbill, 2008
ISBN: 2595241995
Source: Library

When I read an excerpt of this book I knew that I had to read the whole book. The way the story flows in rhyme made me think back to my childhood, and reading Dr. Seuss books. I loved them then, and I love them now. They tickled my insides. This story did the same thing. Weston, in my opinion is a very talented writer. To write a novel in verse takes a lot of talent. This is something he definitely does not lack.

Katrina Katrell is stuck with her evil guardian, Mrs. Krabone. All she wants Katrina to do is sit down and shut up. Katrina keeps trying to tell her about the strange creatures she keeps seeing. She runs away and actually runs into one of those strange creatures. His name is Morty. They end up on an adventure that takes them to the moon where they are trying to solve a mystery. I borrowed this book from the library but have it on my wish list to purchase. This is one of those books that just has to be shared with my students.

Callie’s Rules - Naomi Zucker
Publisher: EgmontUSA, 2009
ISBN: 160840274
Source: Library

I really related to this book. I see new students enter middle school every year. I watch them try to figure out what middle school is all about. Many of them get so overwhelmed they just burst into tears. I have never had any like Callie. Call gets to school and realizes that things are very different from what she is used to. She doesn’t want to mess up again so she decides to write down all of the rules. When Halloween is replaced by the Autumn Fest Callie is upset. What really upsets her is that the councils seems to keep changing the rules so they don’t have to listen to any protests. This is where Callie says enough is enough and decides to come up with her own rules. I really enjoyed this book. I was one of those funny, lite reads that you can sit and giggle with (okay so maybe that is just me and maybe that is why my students kept looking at me laughing). This is another one of those books I borrowed from my local library but will soon be a purchase to be placed on my shelves. This would make a great read aloud at the beginning of the year. I would recommend it to all of my students.

Annie’s Adventures - Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Publisher: Sandpiper, 2008
ISBN: 054705338X
Source: Library

I was disappointed when I first got this book and started it. It seemed unbelievable that eight young girls (Octuplets) could realistically be left alone and take care of themselves. As I read through the book it took on a little more charm. This is the first book in the series about eight young girls whose parents suddenly disappear. They decide not to call the police because they would probably be split up. They received a mysterious message telling them they each need to find their power and their gift and then they will be able to solve the problem of what happened to their parents. This was cute. I don’t really think my middle school students will be interested in this series. I felt it was more for the upper elementary age. It was not a book I would necessarily recommend to my students or put on my shelf.

The Problem with the Puddles – Paula Wiseman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1416949615
Source: Library

Mr. Puddle loves living in the country and Mrs. Puddle loves living in the city. They have two children, Baby who is eight and Tom her older brother. Mr. and Mrs. Puddle had another son. He was their first born son and they had given him up at birth because they felt they were too young to have children. The Puddles waited several days for the rain to let up so they could leave. They always disagreed about everything. When the rain finally stopped they rushed around packing the car and then sped off without their dogs. They argue about whether they should continue on and call the neighbors or if they should turn around. The dogs have realized they have been left behind and start making their way toward the city. The puddles have car trouble along the way and that is where their adventure really begins. This was a funny book. At times I felt like I was reading a book that was a cross between Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket. It is just quirky enough that I think my students will like it. I really didn’t think I was going to like it when I first picked it up. I decided it looked like an easy read so I would get it done and over with. Little did I know that it would charm its way into my heart. I can’t wait to order it and put it on my shelf.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters – Lenore Look
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-375-85705-8
Source: Library

This was not one of my favorite books. I like books with a little more meat to them. This was a cute little story about a boy afraid of everything. His father decides to take him camping and his little sister tags along. There are problems galore to be solved in this book. I like things a little more realistic. Are there children out there afraid of things? Yes. I know of very few who are afraid of life the way that Alvin is. One of my middle schoolers picked this book up and read the first two chapters. He handed it back and said, “I know you said we have to read at least 3 chapters but Miss, I can’t, it hurts to read this. It seems so dumb. My brother might like it, he’s in fourth grade.” Maybe that is where the problem is. It seemed too childish. I hope there is someone out there that likes this type of material. There were some funny parts to it but for the most part it is not a book I would recommend.

Love, Aubrey - Suzanne LaFleur
Publisher: wendy Lamb Books (June, 2009)
ISBN: 0385737742
Source: Library

It took me a couple of days to read this book because I kept crying. After my first crying spell I knew I would not be able to read this book while I was at school. This is the story of a young girl who loses her father and younger sister in a car crash. She and her mother survive. She is left with a scar. She wakes up one morning and hears her mother’s car leaving. She tells herself that her mother is just going for a drive to clear her head. Her mother doesn’t return. After several days her grandmother shows up and takes her back to Vermont while they try to locate her mother. This was a fabulous story of survivor’s guilt, and learning to cope with the death of those you love. This is a book that is beneficial to any age. I am always talking to my students about making connections. This reminded me of my cousins who lost her grandson in a terrible accident. She, her new husband, middle and older son survived. Her baby died. The back of the van was wrapped around the older son and the middle child walked around the house for days unable to sleep. His grandmother had to take him in. Eventually the husband left the mother because he felt she should be over the grief after a month. Everyone deals with death differently. I felt sorry for Aubrey, her mother and grandmother. I felt their pain.
This is a definite for my shelves and a must read for my friends and students.

Fiona Finkelstein, Big-Time Ballerina – Shawn K. Stout
Publisher: Aladdin, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4169-7927-2
Source: Library

Fiona Finkelstein has wanted to be a ballerina forever. However, she doesn’t do recitals. Not since the time she threw-up all over Benevolence Castle’s Can-Can costume. Now she is faced with a dilemma. Her ballet class is supposed to dance in the Nutcracker.
Sure that disaster will strike she tries to seek help from her actress mother and her weather reporter father. Fiona soon realizes she must solve her own problem. At first all I thought about was how simple this book was. I felt it would be better for upper elementary aged students. I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was when Fiona created a disaster in a restaurant. It reminded me of my own daughter who would tap her way into restaurants, down grocery isles and twirl her way through our kitchen. I lost most of my porcelain pieces those first two years. We found that there was no safe height for my porcelain pieces. With her long legs they could reach extreme heights. I was never so proud as when I watched her dance, knowing she didn’t get this natural talent from me. This is a book I will be purchasing for her as she and I have started a collection of dance books for her daughter, with a focus on ballet. If I had an elementary class I would put this book on my shelf. The school I am in this would not reach very many students.

All the Broken Pieces – Ann E. Burg
Publisher: Scholastic, 2009
ISBN: 0-545-08092-4
Source: Library

Matt Pin remembers broken pieces of his life in Vietnam. He was one of many children airlifted by the Americans. He like many Vietnam Vets are holding on to memories that hurt to remember but need to be released. Encouraged to try out for the baseball team he faces a new problem, prejudice by a team member because he had lost his brother in Vietnam. What will it take to start the healing process? This was a very quick book to read and one that is a definite must buy for my shelves. I grew up during the Vietnam era and remember the treatment of returning soldiers. The message found in this book was very simple, yet hit you on a deep level. I can’t wait to recommend this book to my students.

I So Don’t Do Mysteries – Barrie Summy
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-73602-2
Source: Library

Sherry’s father is getting remarried during their upcoming Spring Break. To make matters worse, he is marrying a teacher at her school. Sherry is doing everything she can to avoid a melt-down. After all it has only been a year and a half since her mother, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. The honeymoon is to be in Hawaii and everyone knows you don’t take your kids with you. Her brother Sam is being shipped off to Grandma’s house. Due to recent events, Sherry has managed to manipulate her dad into sending her and her best friend to her aunt’s house in San Diego. What recent events you ask? The reappearance of her ghostly mother and her dead grandfather who now resides in the body of a bird. The reason is simple, they need her help to stop a murder in San Diego. I thought this was a fun book. Sherry puts up with a best friend that thinks she is nuts, her best friend’s boy crazy cousin who tags along to drive them around, and through it all meets the boy of her dreams. All the twists and turns in this book made it fun and hard to put down. This is one I think many of my students, especially the girls would like. They could relate to many of the feelings that are expressed in this book.

The Last Newspaper Boy in America – Sue Corbett
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile, 2009
ISBN: 0525422056
Source: Library

I grew up in the country but still remember my cousins who lived in town having a paper route. Wil can’t wait until he turns twelve. He only has to wait one day for that to happen. He will then be able to take over his brother’s route. This route has been handed down generation after generation and Wil is excited to carry on the tradition. Then Wil receives the call that tells him the paper route is to be cancelled in his town. Wil of Steele is his nickname and it fits. Wil sets the wheels in motion that will solve this an several other problems in his small town. This was a great book. I held off to read it almost last as I really didn’t think I would like it. I was so wrong. The characters and setting were so developed that I wanted to live in his small town and be one of his friends. Corbett did an excellent job of pulling the reader in and keeping them entertained throughout the story. It brought back a piece of Americana long gone.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes – Gennifer Choldenko
Publisher: Dial Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3460-9
Source: Library

This is the sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts. Moose still lives on Alcatraz island where his father is a guard. Thanks to Al Capone his autistic sister has found a place into the Esther P. Marinoff School. Moose is grateful until he receives a note in his shirt that says “your turn”. Another note tells him that Mae Capone is coming for a visit and she loves yellow roses. Now he has to find a way to give her yellow roses without getting his father fired. This was a great book. It was filled with more adventure than the first one. Moose gets to see both sides of Al Capone, the decent and the conniving side. The story is full of prejudices, overcoming prejudices, learning to be a friend to someone with out setting boundaries and learning to forgive. Moose’s sister Natalie plays a larger role in this book as well. I know they didn’t have a word for Natalie’s condition back then but the author draws upon her own experiences of having an autistic sister. I have worked with many autistic children in school and was able to make that subtle connection. It personalized the book in so many ways. I saw the kids the same way I see my students at school with some of the same problems such as, boyfriend, girlfriend problems, parent problems, friend problems and in some cases reacting inappropriately or making bad choices because of people who abuse authority. This will go on my shelves next to the first book.

The opinions expressed in these review are mine alone and do not represent the views of the panel.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an honor. I'm sure you'll do an excelent job.
    Maureen Hume.