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Archive for July, 2009

Zen and the Art of Faking It

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

zen and the art of faking itby Jordan Sonnenblick.   p. 264   Grades 6-8

It’s tough being the new kid especially in January of the eighth grade.  San Lee has moved around and changed schools a lot, and this time it’s because his dad has gone to prison for fraud.  His mom’s short on money because of his dad’s legal fees, and even though it’s the middle of the winter in Pennsylvania, San heads off for his new middle school in sandals and the light windbreaker that were fine in Texas.  Adopted from China as a baby, San is the only Asian American at his new school.  When he discovers that his social studies class is studying Buddhism, which he studied last year, he pretends to be  a Zen master.   This deception wins him the attention of a beautiful girl but spins out of control in both serious and comical ways as more and more kids believe he’s the real thing.

Connections:  Books where a new kid makes a big impact on the other students in a school are Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Gypsies Never Came by Stephen Roos, Schooled by Gordon Korman and, for mature readers, Jake Reinvented by Gordon Korman as well as Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardner.  If you’d like to know more about Zen Buddhism, try browsing the 294.3 section of the library.

The Underneath

Monday, July 20th, 2009

The Underneath by Kathi Appeltby Kathi Appelt    p. 313    Grades 6-8

This amazing book has it all–chills, thrills, tears, fears; strangers and dangers; monsters and heroes; prehistoric and modern times; dogs and cats, love and hate; cruelty and compassion; animals and humans; magic and realism, shape-shifters and kittens; revenge and redemption; loneliness and friendship.  This strange and magical story begins in a Texas bayou  when a calico cat about to have kittens hears the lonely howls of a chained up dog.  She and her kittens take up residence with him underneath the shack where the hound’s cruel master, Gar Face, has chained him.  They are safe until one of the kittens ventures out from the underneath and is caught by Gar-Face.

Connections:  If you like sad animal stories, try these titles: Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, Sounder by William Armstrong, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien, and Watership Down by Richard Adams are other wonderful fantasies where animals form communities to help each other.

Ranger’s Apprentice series

Monday, July 20th, 2009

ranger's 1by John Flanagan   p. 250 (about)  Grades 5-8

If you like fast-paced, exciting adventure series, here’s an excellent one.  In The Ruins of Gorlan, book one of the series, fifteen-year old Will becomes apprenticed to Halt, a senior member of the Rangers, a group of dark-cloaked, mysterious spies whose espionage protects the kingdom.  His training–rigorous, often grueling–prepares Will to face the challenges to the kingdom by Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, including gigantic, ferocious wild boars and the Kalkara, ape-like creatures that use their piercing stares to paralyze their opponents.

Connections:  Here are other fast-paced adventure series:  Maximum Ride by James Patterson, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, and Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz.

 

 

ranger's 3

ranger's 2

Word Nerd

Monday, July 20th, 2009

word-nerdby Susin Nielsen.  p. 248   Grades:  7-8

What do a 7th grade misfit with a severe peanut allergy and a twenty-five-year-old ex-convict, former drug addict have in common?  SCRABBLE!!!  After Ambrose nearly dies when three bullies slip a peanut into his sandwich, his overly protective mother removes Ambrose from school and has him do a correspondence course from home.  While she is at work, Ambrose secretly forges a friendship with his landlords’ son, Cosmos, who has just gotten out of prison. He cons Cosmos into taking him to the West Side Scrabble Club.  While Ambrose becomes hooked on Scrabble competition, Cosmos becomes hooked on beautiful Amanda, who runs the club.  This moving book is filled with lots of humor, word play, interesting characters and even danger.

Connection:  Other good reads with clever, outsider characters are Schooled by Gordon Korman, the Shredderman series by Wendelin Van Draanen, Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick, and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of the Tree by Lauren Tarshis.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Emma-jean-lazarus-fell-out-tree-lauren-tarshisby Lauren Tarshis.  p. 169 Grades 5-8

Emma-Jean Lazarus is different from the other seventh graders at William Gladstone Middle School.  She’s super smart and super logical and finds the social interactions among her peers interesting but totally irrational.  Yet she is drawn to use her super problem solving skills to help sweet, hypersensitive Colleen when Emma-Jean discovers her crying in the girls’ bathroom.  Emma-Jean’s meddling not only leads to some hilarious situations but also to her beginning to make friends.  In the sequel, Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love, Emma Jean develops a crush herself while trying to help Colleen discover the secret admirer who left a note in Colleen’s locker.  If you enjoy quick, humourous reads about quirky characters, you’ll love Emma Jean Lazaus!

emma-jean

 

 

 

Connection:  Other good novels with quirky characters include The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen, Susan Patron’s Higher Power of Lucky, Way Down Deep by Ruth White and the adult novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Way Down Deep

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

way down deepby Ruth White, p. 197 – Grades 4-7

In Way Down Deep, WV during the summer of 1944, a cute, red-headed toddler was found on the courthouse steps.  Raised by Miss Arbus, the owner of the local boarding house, Ruby Jane spends the next ten years living a comfortable life in the quiet little town filled with lots of quirky, loveable characters.  When a bank robber and his family are taken in under the collective wings of the townspeople, Ruby Jane starts to piece together the puzzle of her mysterious past.

Connection:  For other books with quirky characters set in a small town, try reading Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder or Susan Patron’s Higher Power of Lucky.

Anything but Typical

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL JACKET COVERBy Nora Raleigh Baskin, p. 195 – Grades 4-7

Twelve year-old Jason, a creative writing whiz, is easily able to point out the differences between his “neurotypical” peers and autistic self but struggles with filtering out the noises, sensations and smells that distract him and make it hard to behave the way people expect him to.  He is most comfortable when logged into his favorite story sharing website, Storyboard.  Through the site, Jason starts a friendship with a girl, Rebecca, who admired one of his stories.  He even goes so far as to describe her as his girlfriend.  Jason gets the opportunity of a lifetime when his father offers to take him to the Storyboard conference but panics when he realizes that he might meet Rebecca in person.

Connection:  For other stories with a protagonists on the autism spectrum, try reading Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery or Suzanne Crowley’s The Very Ordered Existence Merilee Marvelous.

Partly Cloudy: Poems of Love and Longing

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

partly-cloudy-poems-love-longing-gary-soto-hardcover-cover-artby Gary Soto, p. 100 – Grades 6-9

Told from the point of view of both teen boys and girls, these poems capture the sweetness, heartache and confusion of young love.  This meaty yet easy to read collection is divided into two sections: “A Girl’s Tears, Her Songs” and “A Boy’s Body, His Words.”

Consequence
When a stone bridge fails,
you can rebuild it with your hands.
With love, when it falls,
The rocks shoot sparks.  Gossips
Gather at the river’s edge,
Skipping stones across the water,
Asking intently, “Who brought it down?”

Connection:  For another book of poetry dealing with teenagers try Paul B. Janeczko’s Proposterous; Poems of Youth.

Knucklehead

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

KnuckleheadBy Jon Scieszka.  p. 106 – Grades 4-7

Have you ever wondered where the author of the Stinky Cheese Man gets his wildly hilarious ideas?  Well, this very funny autobiography of Jon Scieszka will answer that question.  Scieszka grew up in a family of six boys, and the stories he tells about his childhood include listing all the swear words he knows for his parochial school nun, charging the neighbor kids money to watch his little brother eat cigarette butts, and playing a game called Slaughterball.  Caution:  includes some bathroom humor.

Connections:  Other humorous memoirs include How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen, Chicago Days and Hoboken Nights by Daniel Pinkwater, Living Up the Street by Gary Soto, Oddballs by William Sleator, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan, and the country vet books by James Herriot.  Check out this video of Jon Scieszka.

The True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

homerfiggby Rodman Philbrick.  p. 244 – Grades 5-8

Like adventure?Enjoy humor?Interested in American history, especially the Civil War?Then this is the book for you because it has lots of all three.Orphan Homer P. Figg runs away from the cruel uncle who is raising him after this guardian illegally sells Homer’s older brother Harold into the Union Army.In his quest to rescue his brother, Homer has many dangerous, but also hilarious, adventures along the way.Homer is a chronic liar and his ability to stretch the truth gets him both into and out of some very tight spots.This is a fast-moving tale filled with interesting characters, many surprises, and lots of twists and turns.

Connection:  For other humorous adventures with historical American settings, try Sid Fleischman’s Bandit Moon and Jim Ugly, Walter Dean Myers’ The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.