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Archive for March, 2012

Dead End In Norvelt

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Dead-End-in-Norvelt-Coverby Jack Gantos, 341 pages, Grades 5-8

“School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it.”  

Isn’t that a great way to start a book?  

The surprise Jack’s mom has in store for him is that he will be working this summer for the old lady next door.  It seems like that might be boring, but this is no ordinary old lady. When he arrives his first day Miss Volker is boiling her hands in a pot on the stove, next thing you know Jack’s breaking-and-entering in a neighbor’s house on her orders.  Miss Volker is an expert on the town’s history; it was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt.  She needs Jack’s help to write obituaries for all the town’s original residents who are suddenly “dropping like flies.”

Poor Jack.  Between covering for his dad who wants to build an airport in their yard for the plane he is hiding in the garage, trying to avoid arrest for polluting, spying on the Hell’s Angels, and working for his crazy neighbor, his summer is not delivering the fun and games he had hoped for.

If you like funny fiction with a bit of history you might also enjoy:  A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Walking Across Egypt, by Clyde Edgerton, or The Worst/Best School Year Ever, by Barbara Robinson.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

A Monster Calls

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

monstercallsby Patrick Ness, 204 pages.  Grades 7 and up.

Connor has been making his own dinner, and putting himself to bed for a while now.  His mom has been sick a long time. The treatments seem never-ending.  There is always something new to try; something that will surely work this time.  It is hard for him, but he has it under control, and he is managing just fine, until some bullies start bothering him at school, and a monster moves into his backyard and starts waking him up in the middle of the night trying to scare him.

The monster takes Connor on a journey of stories, each more unexpected than the next. On the way he learns that things are not always what they seem and he finds the strength to face his worst fear of all.  

The combination of the illustrations and the writing is so powerful that it brings the reader along on Connor’s emotional journey in a way that feels tangibly genuine and raw.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you like sad stories you might also enjoy:  After Ever After, by Jordan Sonnenblick, or The Poet Slave of Cuba, by Margarita Engle.

Now Is The Time For Running

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

nowisthetimeforrunning__spanby Michael Williams, 233 pages, Grades 7 and up

Deo is playing soccer when the soldiers arrive.  At first they hope that they will shout and shoot into the sky and then move on to the next village to show their power, but the soldiers are serious about violence this time.  Deo and Innocent narrowly escape the massacre and run from their home with only a few possessions. Deo is the younger brother, but Innocent is disabled and suffers from emotional fits when he isn’t able to calm himself with his radio, so it is Deo who has to make all the decisions to make sure they are safe.

The teens face immense difficulties as they make their way to the border, but it is when they get there that the real challenge begins. Deo and Innocent have to make their way across a raging river and through a wild animal preserve just to escape the war, but even away from the war safety is very hard to find.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy reading stories about real places and situations that are very different from your own, you might also like:  No Ordinary Day, Breadwinner, or I Am A Taxi, by Deborah Ellis, or Crossing the Wire, by Will Hobbs.

No Ordinary Day

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

noordinarydayby Deborah Ellis, 155 pages, Grade 5-7

The day Valli leaves her miserable coal mining village and sets off on an adventure is no ordinary day; it is her happiest day so far.  Valli is a clever survivor; she ends up in Kolkata, India and lives alone on the streets borrowing and begging to fill her belly, and sleeping in the cemetery when she can sneak by the guards.  Life is hard, but she is stubbornly optimistic.  Valli approaches strangers to ask for food, dives to the bottom of the river to collect change; she has a gift for getting what she requires and when she is finished with something she makes sure to give it to someone else in need.   

One day she meets a lady doctor whom she is sure will give her a few rupees (Indian money), but while they are talking Valli steps on some burning coals.  The doctor is alarmed, but Valli doesn’t feel a thing; she tells the doctor that she has magic feet, nothing can hurt her.

Leprosy is one of the most feared and misunderstood diseases probably because of the way it disfigures its victims.  Even today people with the disease are considered outcasts of their societies.  In reality, leprosy is hard to get, and, in fact, can be cured if diagnosed and treated.  Unfortunately, often those who contract it are not in a position to get assistance.  

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy reading about social situations much different from our lucky circumstances here in Piedmont, then you might also enjoy The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis, Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan, or Now is the Time for Running, by Michael Williams.

The Absolute Value of Mike

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

absoluteby Kathryn Erskine, 247 pages, Grades 6-9

Mike is not into math, in fact it is his very worst subject even though his dad is practically a math genius.  Mike cannot get his dad to understand that, but Mike’s dad is pretty tuned out when it comes to his son.  It is not a big surprise when he decides to send Mike off to some long lost relative instead of taking him along to an engineering conference in Europe over the summer.

Mike winds up in a crazy town with his great Aunt Moo who has no Internet, a cell phone that she cannot work which is lost somewhere in her purse anyhow, and a car named Tyrone that she drives like a maniac.  When he arrives the whole town is on a mission to raise money to help adopt a little boy from Romania: a shy gorgeous singer named Gladys, some guys who make Porch Pals, Moo and her famous vinegar, and homeless guy named Past are all trying to raise $40,000.  Mike’s great uncle, Poppy, is supposed to be helping too, but he just sits on his recliner and eats Spam sandwiches watching a blank TV screen.  Somehow Mike finds himself leading this crazy team of fundrasisers.  Wait, won’t there be math involved here?

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you like books with quirky characters you might also enjoy: Grounded by Kate Klise, Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, or Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise.