Showing posts with label June 2022. Show all posts
Showing posts with label June 2022. Show all posts

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Meeting Henry Greenfield by Christopher Francis

Genre: Upper Elementary
Source: I received a copy from StoryOrigin to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Alex Thomas has started sixth grade in the worst way possible. He has found himself partnered with the new kid, and gotten himself on the radar of the biggest bully in Timpleville. If I had been introduced to this author earlier I probably would have looked at the order of books. I know some of them are middle grade and some are upper elementary books.  There is a carry over between them. I have already read “Remembering Kaylee Cooper” and “Alex Was Here”. Both of these books are about the main character in this book. In this book Alex has just started sixth grade. His best friend has moved away and his brother has moved on to high school. Then Alex is paired up with the biggest and newest kid in the school, Henry Greenfield.  I was happy to see how the character of Henry had changed from the book “There’s an Ogre-Beast in the Playground”. It is a small change but that is what we want to see in a book. If not the characters feel flat. I think I am loving these books because I teach middle school. For us this begins with sixth grade. I know a lot of places still have sixth grade as elementary. I see the pecking order that is shown in this book and understand what the characters are going through. It is an awkward time for kids. Christopher Francis has done a wonderful job of capturing this in his books. I have to say well done. I have somewhere between 10 and 12 more of his books to read and think I will read and review at least half of them before I move on to other books. After all, why deviate when you have such good books?

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Remembering Kaylee Cooper by Christopher Francis


Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Ghost Story
Source: I purchased a copy

I have to say I am really enjoying my summer selection of books.  Christopher Francis is a very talented author. His story about a young boy who is being followed by a young and annoying girl made my day today. Kaylee inadvertently trips Alex in the Cafeteria one day at school. This created a mess on him, his friends and landed him in the principal's office.  She follows him everywhere.  As the story goes on we are introduced to Daisy, the girl Alex has a crush on. He also is best friends with her step-brother Henry. Then we are introduced to the school Bully Damian and his side-kick Jared. Madelyn is a new girl in school. During Their Mythology class they are discussing urban legends. She tells them one about the house on screaming ridge. She tells them about the family that lived and died there.  This set a whole lot of things in motion. The fact that Alex almost drowned in the river has caused him to react differently to things.

This is a ghost story, but not the creepy, don't go in the house kind of story. This is the story of a ghost who doesn't realize they are a ghost. This is a story of those who have had contact in one form or another with ghosts or who have had near death experiences. This is one of those stories that will keep the reader reading from beginning to end. The characters are believable, the setting is well thought out. Christopher Francis is an author who definitely knows what he is doing.  I purchased his books in ebook format but will definitely be purchases paperback copies for my shelves this year.

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown

Genre: Horror, Middle Grade, Mystery
Source: I purchased a copy

India Hill Brown has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I purchased this book after reading "The Girl In the Lake.  I love a good ghost story.  The difference between other ghost stories and the type that this author writes is the historical message.  Her characters are African American.  Her ghost stories came about because of an injustice. In the case of this story, Iris and her neighbor and best friend Daniel break the rules and go out the night of the first snow. To make matters worse they sneak into the forest across the street so their parents won't see them. What they end up finding while making snow angels is a grave of a young girl named Avery. Now Iris is being haunted. The grave is that of a young girl who was buried in a segregated cemetery. Avery doesn't want to be forgotten. That is why she is haunting Iris.  

If you think this is a long gone issue think again. Iris knows what it is like to be forgotten. She is the captain of her middle school's step team.  Her mom notices on the TV news her middle school and all the club captains being recognized. That is, all except her and her step team. It seems that they are always being forgotten. Emails just seem to get lost. I know for a lot of people who are white like me they often don't see the big deal in this. I do. I have never understood why people feel they should judge other's worth based on their skin color.  I am aware there are many African American Cemeteries that have been run down, forgotten about, or evern worse. bulldozed away to make room for other buildings.  I like the fact that this author isn't afraid to to address these issues. If there is one thing I hope her books do for the kids who read them is spur them into noticing these injustices and working toward a solution. I look forward to many more books by this author, and I look forward to putting them into the hands of my students. Awesome book!

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Lake Never Tells by Alex Tully


Genre:  Young Adult, Mystery
Source: I received a copy from LibraryThing to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I won this book from LibraryThing a while back and finally got the chance to read it. I am sorry I waited so long. I sat and read it through in four hours. I will definitely be looking for more work by this author. I couldn't sleep and got up at 5AM and started reading this book. I am so glad I did.

Zoe and Patrick have about five years difference in their ages. They are like sibling. They live in the same trailer park. Meredith is Zoe's best friend, the daughter of the local sheriff and tormenter to Parker. Ethan is the rich kid who spends his summer at the lake with his twin sister and divorce attorney parents.

All of these kids have issues. Zoe's mother wants her to call her Debbie instead of mom. Zoe is okay with this because she has pretty much raised herself. Her mom drinks and parties with Zoe's friends. Parker lives with his grandmother since his mother died.

Ethan is recovering some something that happened to him the year before. That is the main reason they are at the lake. He still has to see his psychiatrist each week. Together these kids join together as friends and help each other deal with things that have happened to them in the past.

Then Parker finds a dead body on the beach and things really take a change.  I loved the relationship between Parker and Zoe. They truly did act like siblings.  I enjoyed Ethan's attitude. Where Parker and Zoe envied the things that Ethan and his sister own, they soon realize that no matter how much money you have everyone has problems.  Parker's grandmother Shirley was the glue that held them all together. You just didn't see it until farther into the story. I definitely didn't like Zoe's mom and didn't care for Zoe's best friend Meredith. The author did a great job of making them unlikable.  Through the eyes of these kids we learn that when it comes to people, no matter hat your financial situation, people act the same. You have your good people, your weak and needy people, your selfish people and your just down rotten people. The only difference as my dad would say is the size of their toys.  I highly recommend this book. Although I could have done without the F-bomb, it wasn't used so much it took away from the book. If I was going to criticize anything it was the repetitive way the author switched from one character to another. I probably would not have noticed this a few years ago until it was pointed out I had done this with my own first book.  Still it didn't annoy me to the point of taking away a star in my rating. Like I said, I look forward to sharing this book with my students. It is definitely recommended for the older students due to some language and situations. However, I consider it a must read.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Wild River by Rodman Philbrick

 Genre:  Middle Grade, Adventure, Realistic Fiction

Source: I purchased a copy

    One thing I really enjoy about Rodman Philbrick's books is the reality of them. So many authors who write for middle grade students create an ending that is satisfying yet often lacking. In Philbrick's books characters are injured, go through hardships, catastrophes, and yes, some of them even die. They have to fight for survival. 
    In this book five kids are chose to go on a white water rafting trip as part of their school's new "Project Future Leaders". Their two guides on this trip don't get a chance to teach them much about survival. On their first day they change their entry point into the river. They are unable to get their satellite phone to work so they have not been able to call anyone and let them know of their new location. They raft down the first leg of the river, make camp and get to know each other. Sounds like a nice story so far doesn't it? Each of these kids have things the others don't know about them. Some of them are fears, some of them are cover ups for hurts they have experienced. In the middle of the night they are awaken by their two guides and told to run to higher ground because the dam has broken. They are pushed to the top only to watch their guides washed away. Now they are on their own.  That is where I will end my summary. 
    These kids show what they are made of. They show who they are in desperate times. They show what it means to build friendships and rely on each other. My husband looked at me and asked, "You're done with that book already?"  when books are as good as this one is you can't help but read it straight through. I can't wait for the school year to start so that I can put this in the pile for my first week activity that introduces students to my large collection of books.  This is definitely on the top of my list of loved books for this year.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Teaching Children Responsibility

 Below are four children's picture books that are wonderful for Pre-k  and up. These cute stories have wonderful lessons to go with them.

It’s Not My Fault by Michael Gordon

Vigbert is an alien from outer space. He likes playing with his friend Austin. The problem is when Vigbert breaks or spills things he lies about it or argues about whose fault it is. This book is all about standing up and taking responsibility for your actions. A very cute way of teaching the youngest child how to do just that.


It’s the Rules by Michael Gordon

This cute book teaches children the importance of following rules. It shows how they keep them safe and keeps chaos out of the way. Michael Gordon has chosen rules that all children must follow and given the important reason for doing so.


When I Lie by Michael Gordon

Heidi has been telling lies to her parents. At first it seems harmless. As she goes along her stomach is upset and she doesn’t feel well. She fears she will get caught. Sure enough she does and her parents sit with her and explain why telling the truth is a big deal. Once again the author has put his characters in a position that most very young children will find themselves in at one point or another. A great source for teaching young kids about the importance of telling the truth.


I Didn’t Do It By Sarah Read

This is another example for young children about learning to take responsibility for their actions. Each time Sophia is caught doing something she should not be doing the adult in her life gently corrects her. A nice way of teaching this to kids.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

My Name is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin

Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction
Source: I won a copy from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

This last Friday was my last day at school. Our principal told us to make sure we took time for us. Then he called me out in front of everyone. He told me he had talked to my husband about finding a way to make me not focus on work. Yes I admit I have a problem letting school work go. However, after two years of covid teaching I needed a break. I told him I had a stack of books on my couch waiting for me.

This book was one of them I had not been able to get to earlier due to covid teaching.  As a middle school teacher, this book really resonated with me. I see students like Layla every year.  A lot of them fall through the cracks and are never diagnosed with a learning disability. I try to be a teacher who works for each and every one of them.  Layla wants so hard to do better in school. She wants the approval of her mother who works the night shift as a nurse.  She has the support of her older brother Nick.  No matter how hard she tries her undiagnosed dyslexia makes her feel bad about herself. It is her English teacher who believes in her and recognizes her disability that turns things around.

This should be on every classroom shelf. It is true to life. Middle school students will be able to identify with the character and most importantly the events that take place in school and at home.  The fact that Layla is able to find help will give hope to those who struggle, and may just encourage those teachers who aren't real sure how to help a student.  I applaud this author for creating a book that needs to be read by teachers and students alike.