Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Weekend of Reading

Take the Mummy and Run – Mary Amato
Publisher: Holiday House, 2009
Pages: 226
Source: Library

Wilbur and Orville love making up games and having an adventure each day. When they are told their cousin Amelia will be visiting them for awhile they decide to see what kind of person she is. She turns the tables on their jokes and they like her immediately. They set out to solve mysteries and have fun from the beginning to the end of this book. I had a hard time getting into this book. Maybe if I were much younger I would have enjoyed it.

Extra Credit – Andrew Clements
Publisher: Atheneum
Pages: 192
Source: Library

Abby Carson is flunking sixth grade. She loves P.E. because they do rock climbing, so that’s all she focuses on. When her guidance counselor sends a letter home saying she will be retained she decides to do whatever it takes to pass. She must meet “B’s” the rest of the year in all subjects and do a special project for Language Arts. Her project involves writing to a pen pal in Afghanistan. Sadeed is the best student in his village. When the letter arrives from America it is decided he will secretly help his sister write letters to Abby as it would be inappropriate for a young boy to write a young girl. Little do they know that these letters will cause controversy on both sides of the ocean. This was a great book. It gave a glimpse into the culture of those in Afghanistan. Highly recommend this to my students.

The Kind of Friends We Used to Be – Frances O’Roark Dowell
Publisher: Atheneum
Pages: 234
Source: Library

Kate and Marilyn had always been friends. When they hit seventh grade things changed,. Marilyn was a cheerleader and Kate was learning to play the guitar. This is a story about true friendship and change. In this story both girls get a peek at what they really are, what they want to be and learn that even though they both change, they can still be friends.

Piper Reed Gets a Job – Kimberly Willis Holt
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 149
Source: Library

Piper Reed and the Gypsy Club need a clubhouse. Unfortunately it will cost close to $2000. Piper decides to get a job. She puts a sign in her front yard that says she designs party planner. She decides to help her younger sister by illustrating her book and when her older sister needs someone to cover her babysitting job she takes on that task as well. Add to all of this her school project and you have a disaster in the making. This was an easy and wuick book to read, and a lot of fun.

Scat – Carl Hiaasen
Publisher: Knopf Books fro Young Readers
Pages: 384
Source: Library

Once again Carl Hiaasen has given us an environmental story that keeps us on the edge of our seat. There are several mysteries to be solved in this book. Hiaasen does an excellent job of tying everything together. This story takes place in Naples, Florida. I live only an hour from there. Mrs. Starch the Biology teacher has taken her class on a field trip into the Everglades. When a fire breaks out, the trip is cut short. When everyone their teacher is missing. Hiaasen throws in a weirdo substitute teacher named Wendell Waxmo, a suspect named Duane who has a history of setting fire, an oil company trying to find a way to drill in the Everglades and a couple of kids who try to solve it all. My students who have read and loved Hoot and Flush will enjoy this one just as much. I enjoyed it because the Everglades is a place my husband and I try to go to every year. It is worth saving.

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner
Publisher: Walker Books
Page: 208
Source: Review Copy from publisher

This story will definitely resonate with middle schoolers. Gianna Z. needs to turn in the science project to compete with the track team. She has a habit of leaving things until the last minute. For the project she has to collect and classify 24 different leaves. Throw in to this mess typical changes that occur in middle school and you have a great story. Gianna’s childhood friend has started looking at her through a “boys” eyes. Her grandmother Nona lives with them and she loves doing things with her. She has started getting forgetful. As she collects the leaves she starts looking at those around her and comparing them to certain leaves. There is a lot of coming of age in this book. I think it will make a great read aloud to my class.

Standing for Socks – Elissa Brent Weissman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 200
Source: Library

Fara Ross accidently wears two different socks to school. Everyone takes it to mean she is expressing her individuality. She starts a whole trend she wasn’t trying to start. She has become very popular and believes if she runs for Student council president she stands a chance of winning. Inadvertently she closes out her best friend. Suddenly everyone is becoming more focused on her socks and not on her issues such as recycling. Fara learned some valuable lessons through the experience. This was a fun book full of “sock jokes and puns”. I think my students will really enjoy it.

Solving Zoe – Barbara Dee
Publisher: Margaret K.. McElderry
Pages: 240
Source: Library

This has a theme similar to so many I have recently read. Zoe starts middle school and realizes things change. Boys become interested in girls. What made this book so different from my other recent reads is that Zoe loves breaking codes. This was an okay book for me but not something I would re-read. It was well witten but not a topic I could really sink my teeth into. I will recommend this to my ESOL class because we just finished a couple of stories that involved codes.

Chains – Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Atheneum
Pages: 336
Source: I own it.

One thing I love about Laurie’s books is her ability to bring her characters and settings to life. You don’t just read their story, you live it. When I read her books I often feel like the boy in the movie “The Neverending Story”. He is seeing the story unfold as he reads it. The story is alive.
Isabel is a slave during the Revolutionary War. She is only thirteen so I know my middles school students will be able to relate that way. Through Isabel we see the hardships, pain and evil inflicted on slaves. She set her story in the north which is the opposite of where we usually associate slavery. It was well researched and though out. It is not for those who want a quick. Light read. This book takes the reader into depths of slavery. I think all American History teachers should have a copy in their classrooms.

The Evolutions of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Pages: 352
Source: I own it.

In the story, Calpurnia is torn between her love of Science and all her grandfather can teacher her and the world her mother thinks is appropriate for females. You know the one, cooking, cleaning, doing needlework. Calpurnia dutifully does her mother’s bidding as is appropriate. She is torn between what is expected of her and what her true passion is. Her family is wealthy and therefore has an image to uphold. One thing that I had a problem with is that Calpurnia was too adult like. Very few of my students could relate to this book in any way. Most of them would consider it dry and too long. Most of my students live at or below the poverty level.

Journey of Dreams –Marge Pellegrino
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Pages: 256
Source: I own it

This was an emotional read for me. I have taught ESOL students for years. I’ve had students from all over the world who have had to flee because of political and religious reasons. This is the story of Tomasa and her family’s struggle for survival. When a plane sprays chemicals over their fields and people begin to get sick Tomasa’s mother speaks out. This begins the threats against their family. Her mother and older brother are the first to flee to keep him from being drafted. When soldiers come to their village to relocate them, Tomasa, her younger brother and sister and their father flee. They make their way to Mexico and finally to America. Most of our students or American children today would not be able to survive. Tomasa had to grow up so fast. This is an excellent book. I look forward to putting it on my shelves for my students.

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

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