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Archive for June, 2010

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Drums1by Jordan Sonnenblick.    p. 273    Grades 6-8

Most younger brothers can be a pain, but 8th grader Steven Alper’s five-year-old brother Jeffrey really takes the cake or pie, that is.  He borrows Steven’s prized pair of drumsticks to stir his dangerous pie, a “zesty blend of coffee grounds, raw eggs and their smashed shells, Coke, uncooked bacon, and three Matchbox racing cars.”   When he’s not trying to keep his mischievous brother from being a pest, Steven is pretty much preoccupied by his two passions–drums and beautiful 8th grader Renee–that is, until his little brother is diagnosed with leukemia.  The diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization of Jeffrey turn Steven’s life upside down.  He’s trying to keep his family’s situation a secret from friends and adults at school but having a difficult time coping on his own–which he is because his mom’s staying at the hospital and his dad is lost in his own world.   Torn between resentment toward his parents for neglect and compassion for  his little brother, Steven loses himself in his music, taking refuge in the basement with his drum set.  He’s feeling pretty hopeless until he takes the school counselor’s suggestion and focuses on what he can change.

Although the story is sad in parts, Steven narrates it with sarcasm and humor and what comes through strongest are the love these brothers feel for each othe and their resilience.  This is a story that will pull at your heart strings.

Connections:  The sequel is After Ever After.   If you enjoy Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie, you would probably also like Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar.  The library also owns nonfiction on leukemia and coping with serious illnesses.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

calpurniaby Jacqueline Kelly   p. 340  Grades 5-8

All twelve-year old Calpurnia Tate wants is to become a scientist.  She’s spent the long hot summer of 1899 in the small town of Fentress, Texas,  as an amateur naturalist recording her observations of and questions about nature in a notebook–questions such as, ” Why don’t caterpillars have eyelids?”  She finally thinks her parents understand her and acknowledge her dream when she begins to unwrap her birthday present from them.  It’s a book, and the first word of the title is Science. Unfortunately, the whole title is The Science of Housewifery!

Calpurnia is the only daughter in a family of seven children.  She has no interest in the traditional home arts a young girl at the turn of the century should be learning to make a good wife.  Instead, she develops a close relationship with her reclusive grandfather, who encourages her to use the scientific method in her quest for answers about the natural world and his own quest for a new species.

This is a very entertaining read with an intelligent, spunky protagonist, family humor, sibling rivalry, and good science.  Let’s hope for a sequel.

Connections:  Each chapter of this novel begins with a quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species, so you may also want to read Charles Darwin : Naturalist by Margaret J. Anderson or Darwin’s Ghost: the Origin of Species updated by Steve Jones.  Other good novels dealing with the theory of evolution are The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer and Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd.