Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Reading Marathon

I came home from work last night and immediately after dinner began to read.  I figured I could fit two or three books in before bed.  I also figured I would sleep in until 7 AM and then start again.  This had all been planned in advance and my family was made aware it was a reading marathon day for me.  Little did I know I would be rudely awakened by my cat at 5:30 AM.  He saw another cat in our backyard, went berserk trying to track the other cat.  The neighbor's cat likes to jump on our hot tub and walk along the edges.  Said hot tub sits outside my office window.  My cat jumped up on my desk, slipping and sliding around on the books that cover it and began knocking things off of the desk as he desperately tried to get through my now broken blinds to get to the cat on the other side of the window.  Everyone slept through this except me.  I was unable to go back to sleep and so I began my reading marathon shortly thereafter.  Here are four reviews for books I have read so far this morning.

Big Nate:  In a Class By Himself - Lincoln Pierce
Publisher:  HarperCollins     Pages:   224
Source:  Purchased               Genre:  Middle Grade Humor

This is another book along the lines of the Wimpy Kids Series.  A lot of kids will identify with Nate.  He is kind of squirrely, (I can think of one student like him right now), constantly finding himself unprepared and often in trouble.  Nate things he's going to have a really great day but it turns out you can't always trust what is on that little slip of paper in a fortune cookie.  I've been teaching my students about foreshadowing.  I believe the beginning of this book would be great for teaching that concept.

Orphan - John Weber
Publisher:  Westside Books           Pages:  266
Source:  Review Copy from publisher           Genre:  Middle Grade Historical Fiction

It is the 1930's and on his 13th birthday Homer learns he was adopted.  He and his best friend Jamie set out to find his "real" family in New York.  They mode of travel is to hop aboard a train and travel like the hobo's.  They quickly learn how dangerous this can be.  They are taken under the Wing of Smiling Jack, a hobo and taught all about the code and culture of the hobo.  In my opinion, although I was not born during that time this was a very accurate depiction of the 1930's.  I believe this will be a great addition to my library at school and a book I will definitely promote.  However, having said this I believe that parents should be warned there is some violence and references to sexual content so I would not give it to an upper elementary kid.

The Dog in the Wood - Monika Schroeder
Publisher:  Front Street             Pages: 162
Source:  Received review copy from publisher       Genre:  Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Based on events in the life of the author's grandfather, "The dog in the Wood" is just one story of what happened after the Russians occupied Eastern Germany.  This is a topic most students know little about. Fritz his mother and sister live on his grandparents farm.  The grandparents take their own lives after learning the Nazis have lost because they were strong supporters of the Nazis.  When the Russians come, they take what they want including the farm.  Then the mother is accused of a crime and hauled off.  The courage Fritz finds to help his mother is amazing.  I have several students who have recently worked on research projects about the events that took place after WWII in Germany.  I believe they will enjoy this book as much as I have.  Not all of my students will understand it.   It is definitely not a book for those who are very sensitive.

Milo:  Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze - Alan Silberberg
Publisher:  Aladdin            Pages:  288
Source:  Received review copy from publisher         Genre:  Realistic Fiction

How does a kid come to grips with the death of their mother?  That is exactly what this book is about.  The fact the author has found a humorous way to help deal with the tough topic of the death of a parent is amazing in itself.  This book is a creative look through Milo's eyes at his life since his mother's death.  The added benefits of reading this book, its healing effects are just gravy on top.  I think with the recent death of one of our teachers this may give some students still dealing with that a little better perspective.

(The opinions expressed here are mine and not those of the other panalists)

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