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Posts Tagged «families»

The Boy on the Porch

Monday, March 10th, 2014

boy on the porchby Sharon Creech, 151 pages, Grade 6

John and Marta wake up one day to find a boy asleep on their porch. There is also a note that reads: Be back when we can, so John and Marta take care of the boy. It is not easy for them because they have never had children and this boy does not speak at all, so understanding his needs and how to help him is challenging. The boy on the porch teaches John and Marta a lot as well, and their lives are never the same again.

If you like stories about unusual family situations you might also enjoy: Deliver Us from Normal, by Kate Klise, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

So B. It

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

sobitby Sarah Weeks, 245 pages, Grades 6-9

Lucky for Heidi and her mom their neighbor Bernadette helped raise Heidi and take care of her mother as well since Heidi was a tiny baby. Heidi’s mother loves her, but she really could not have taken care of Heidi by herself; she is mentally disabled to the point that she only has about 27 words in her vocabulary. One of those words, “soof,” drives Heidi crazy because she cannot figure out what it means! Heidi, at 12, is becoming more and more curious about her past; she wants to understand who she is and where she fits in the world. When an old camera turns up in the back of the closet and provides some photographic clues Heidi is off, determined to find herself and her past without any help from anyone!

If you enjoy books about kids who persevere and triumph despite the odds, you might also enjoy Counting by7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

 

Zeitoun

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Zeitoun_loresby David Eggers, 337 pages, adult biography

Zeitoun is the biography of a man living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina.  His full name is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, but everyone calls him Zeitoun for short.  He and his wife Kathy have been living in New Orleans for years raising their four kids and running their business, so when the threats of the hurricane come in at first they think the reports are exaggerated and that they will remain in the city and ride it out.  Eventually, though, they decide that Kathy will leave with the children for a few days, just to be safe.  Zeitoun wants to remain behind so that he can watch after all the different properties they own, and try to minimize the damage.

The hurricane, of course, does more damage than anyone can imagine and Zeitoun uses his canoe to row around the city helping those he can and keeping an eye on his property.  At least he does this until the Homeland Security police scoop him up and unlawfully throw him into a prison.  He is not given a call, or a lawyer and his family does not even know where he is. This frustrating and harrowing story reads like an adventure even though it is a true account of this family’s ordeal.

If you enjoy biographical adventure stories you might also like:  Into The Wild, by Krakauer, or Three Cups of Tea, by Mortenson, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Ralston.

 

Year of Wonders

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

by Geraldine Brooks, 308 pages, adult fiction, but great for adolsecents.

Anna Frith’s is a story of survival during the years of plague beginning in 1666 in Europe.  Her life was already filled with hardship even before the plague arrived to their village.  Her mother died when Anna was very young, her dad remarried, but the woman was not much of a mother and her father became more and more verbally and physically abusive to his children.  Anna got out of the house by marrying young, but even before their second child reached one year old, her husband died in the mines.  Anna’s tough and optimistic spirit helps her meet all of these challenges and it might be just these qualities that give her the strength to survive the horrors that the Black Plague brings.

If you enjoy historical fiction you might also like:  Now is The Time for Running, by Michael Williams, or Looking for Me, by Betsy R. Rosenthal.   Also, Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson is another historical fiction novel of survival in a time of devastating disease.

 

Outcasts United

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Warren St. John, 226 pages, Grades 7 and up

This is a book of many true stories beginning with Luma Mufleh.  She is a Jordanian exchange student and avid soccer player, who decided to remain in the United States after completing her education at Smith University in Massachusetts.  She made her way to the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia and stumbled upon a very interesting city called Clarkston.  

The U.S. government had been relocating refugees since the 1980s and this little town had become extremely cosmopolitan.  People fleeing wars in their homelands of Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Ethiopia and many other countries all ended up thrown together in the town of Clarkston.  Mufleh was drawn to the place when she noticed their grocery store carried food she missed from home, but the thing that really grabbed her attention was the groups of young boys playing soccer on every available field she saw.  All of them were playing in bare feet, but they showed more passion for the game than any of the kids she was coaching in the suburbs.  She decided to bring a soccer program to Clarkston.  Mufleh coaches three teams of boys called the Fugees; this book is a collection of their stories and the teams’ stories.  

To watch a video about the team go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ItUYQhQ_CHg#!

 

 

The Mighty Miss Malone

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

miss maloneby Christopher Paul Curtis, 307 pages, Grades 5-7

Deza lives with her parents and her older brother, Jimmie, in Gary, Indiana.  It is 1936, and even though her parents are both hardworking people, the Depression has taken its toll on their family.  Her father lost his job a while back and even though he is always looking for work there is just nothing to be found.  

Deza makes her family proud because she is the gets the highest marks in her class and does her best to keep her brother in line as well; this is how she earns her nickname, “the Mighty Miss Malone.”  It is a good thing she is mighty, because their family is put through the wringer; it seems like whatever can go wrong does go wrong, and the question is can Deza tough enough to help her family make through the terrible trials of the Depression?

If you like historical fiction you might like other titles by Christopher Paul Curtis such as: Bud Not Buddy, Elijah of Buxton, or The Watson’s Go To Birmingham.

A Mango Shaped Space

Friday, December 14th, 2012

mangoby Wendy Mass, 270 pages, Grades 5-8

Mia has been seeing colors for as long as she can remember, but she hasn’t told anyone about it since fourth grade when she tried to explain that numbers and letters come in certain colors.  The entire class burst into laughter; this was not only humiliating, it also made Mia feel like a freak.  Until then, she thought everyone saw colors the way she did.  She even named her grey and white cat Mango after the color he leaves in the air when he moves.  Finally, she is diagnosed with synesthesia, a condition that affects many people, and she begins to explore her identity trying to connect with others like her.

It is a relief for Mia to find people who see the world the way she does, but unfortunately this self-discovery alienates her from her friends and family just when she really needs them most.

If you enjoy reading about people who see the world differently, you might also like Anything But Typical, by Raleigh Baskin, Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper, Kissing Doorknobs, by  Terry Spencer Hesser or Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos.

Wonder

Monday, September 17th, 2012

121009_DX_WonderBook.jpg.CROP.article250-mediumby R.J. Palacio, 315 pages, Grades 5-8

Going to a new school is always hard, especially if you have to be the new kid in a middle school, but for Augie it is even more difficult than that.  August has never attended school before; he has been home-schooled because he could not attend consistently since he was busy having so many surgeries.  

He had to have surgeries because he was born with several different facial malformations.  His face does not look like everyone else’s; he is used to being around people who know him and love him, but to suddenly find himself in a school with a bunch of adolescents he doesn’t know is pretty scary.  He is not sure if he will find a place to fit in, and if everyone will get to know who he is beyond his outward appearance.  

Who is the real Augie and can he manage to get known for something other than his unusual face?

If you enjoy reading books about kids who overcome obstacles, you might also enjoy Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erksine,  Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper.

Looking For Me

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

looking.for.meby Betsy R. Rosentahl, 165 pages, Grades 6-8

Edith is number four in a family with 12 children. They call her the good little mother because everyone counts on her to take care of the smaller children, but she is not sure this label really fits her. The novel is written in verse, each poem illustrating a piece of Edith’s life and coming together to form a complete coming-of-age story full of challenges.  She has to overcome bigoted teasing, her family’s financial hardships, and personal loss as she learns to understand who she among the chaotic comings and goings in this big huge family.
If you enjoy stories of kids who overcome against the odds you might also like: Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis, Small Acts of Amaing Courage, by Gloria Whelan, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

Ghetto Cowboy

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

ghetto_cowboy_coverby G. Neri, 218 pages, Grades 5-8

Cole has caused his mom so much trouble that she has decided to deliver him to his father’s in the hopes that Cole’s dad can shape up her 12 year old before it is too late.  Cole has never met his father, so he’s unsure what to expect, but when he finds out his father lives like a cowboy in the middle of the city racing horses and teaching city kids to ride, he is beyond shocked.  He cannot believe his mom is leaving him in this crazy place; his father doesn’t even have an extra bedroom for him, and his idea of helping out around the house has Cole shoveling horse manure!  Who is this ghetto cowboy, and how could his mom trust him to take care of Cole, when everything around here seems to be falling apart?
If you enjoy reading books about different cultures right here in our country, you might also enjoy Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch. If you like books about families dealing with troubled teens you might also enjoy Watson’s Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech.

Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

curveballby Jordan Sonnenblick, 285 pages, Grades 7-9

Peter and his best friend are the dynamic duo on the baseball field until Peter severely injures his elbow at the end of eighth grade.  Peter begins high school trying to figure out who he is, if  he is no longer a pitcher, and how he can fit in. On top of that something strange is happening to his grandfather, who is his best friend, and he can’t talk to his parents about it.  Luckily his photography teacher partners him with a cute girl who is actually pretty hilarious, so maybe he won’t have to figure it all out on his own.
If you enjoy books about personal struggle and identity you might also enjoy Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, The Cardturner, by Louis Sacher, Scrawl, by Mark Shulman, or Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt

Elsewhere

Monday, August 13th, 2012

elsewhereby Gabrielle Zevin, 276 pages, Grades 7-10

Lizzie’s end begins on a boat on its way to Elsewhere, but Lizzie doesn’t understand how she got there or where she is going.  The last thing she remembers was her bike ride to the mall; she was supposed to meet Zooey to pick out prom dresses.  This must be a dream:  a boat full of old people, no one almost 16 like Lizzie, and a rock star who says that he is dead.  But Lizzie can’t wake up.  Elsewhere is a backwards world of young grandparents, tattoos that grow brighter and disappear instead of fading, auto accidents that do not cause pain, and pets who communicate with people.  Why does Lizzie find herself in Elsewhere and how can she get back home?  Will she get her driver’s license as planned? Will prom happen without her?
Other books for those who enjoy alternate realities and after-death possibilities include Everlost, by Neal Shusterman, or The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

Jefferson’s Sons

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Jeffersons-Sons-Coverby Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 360 pages, Grades 6-9

History shows that Thomas Jefferson had a second family with one of the women enslaved on his plantation.  Sally Hemings was the mother of four of Thomas Jefferson’s children:  Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston.  
Bradley’s work of historical fiction uses the president’s sons, Beverly, Madison and Eston, as narrators.  Each eleven year old boy tells his part of the story, so the novel, in three parts, is an adolescent’s point of view.
There are many things that happen on the plantation that are scary and frustrating for the enslaved people who live there; almost nothing is in their control. It is clear that Jefferson’s children are given special privileges for enslaved people: music lessons, work in the house instead of in the field, etc, but, in the end, they are still trapped and controlled by their white master.  The children are never allowed to refer to Jefferson as daddy or papa, but he has promised each of them freedom when they come of age.  Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings hope that those children who are light complected can pass into white society and improve their situations.  This would mean never seeing their mother again; whites and blacks did not freely associate in those days. And what about the children who cannot pass for white?  Will Jefferson’s sons find freedom and find better lives off the plantation?
If you enjoy historical fiction books about people struggling for justice you might also enjoy Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, or Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan.

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.

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.

Wildwood

Friday, January 6th, 2012

wildwoodby Colin Meloy, 545 pages, Grades 4-7

Student Review

        Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary until a murder of crows kidnaps her baby brother Mac. They take him into a place called “Impassable Wilderness.” This place is a big green area labeled “I.W” on every map of Portland, Oregon. Prue and her friend Curtis have to venture into this wilderness from which no one has ever returned alive. They travel through forests finding not only warring creatures,  and menacing figures, but friendship, as they struggle for the freedom from this wilderness. Prue and Curtis uncover a whole new secret world hidden within the trees; a wilderness called Wildwood. From talking coyotes and birds to bandit camps and an evil governess, Wildwood is packed with mysteries. Can they save Prue’s brother and get out alive? You’ll have to find out.  MC

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

 

Waiting For Normal

Friday, January 6th, 2012

waiting-for-normalby Leslie Connor,  290 pages, Grades 6-8

Addie’s life has a lot of “twists and turns” that she doesn’t expect.  She used to live with her Mommers, Dwight and her two little sisters, but after what she calls her big mistake everything changes.  Now, she and Mommers are moving into a trailer home and “the littles” (her sisters) are moving away with their dad, Dwight.  

Addie is good at making the best of almost every situation; her mom calls the trailer a piece of junk in the middle of no where, but Addie calls it an adventure and sees her new loft-room as cozy, not cramped.  Even when there is no food in the house, she can create a delicious meal, in fact, she has invented a repertoire of toast-dinner recipes.  

Addie’s winning personality makes her a lot of friends, but her life is far from normal; she might need more than optimism to get her to out of danger in the end.

Other stories about challenging family situations are:  Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Grounded, by Kate Klise, and Ruby Holler, or Bloomability, by Sharon Creech.

 

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

Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

revolutionby Ying Chang Compestine, 249 pages, Grades 5-8

Ling is nine, her parents are both doctors and they live in China surrounded by neighbors who are their friends.  Little by little the China they know begins to change around them.  The young people call themselves revolutionaries and say they value equality for all, but soon their chants “Down with the bourgeois!” and actions turn against people like Ling’s parents who have been educated.  Ling faces challenges of school bullies, the disappearance of friends and family, the lack of food and necessities as well as the abuse of loved ones as the China she knew transforms into a different place entirely.

If you would like to read more about this time period you might also enjoy a biography called:  Red Scarf Girl, by Ji-ling Jiang, or Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Chun Yu

 

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

Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

small actsby Gloria Whelan, 209 pages, Grades 6 and up

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Rosalind, an English girl growing up in India, prefers to spend her days exploring the city streets and bazaar with her friend Isha, but her parents don’t know that.  Her father is away at war and her mother is still grieving over Rosalind’s brother who died while he was away at school in England.  It is her brother’s death that made it possible for Rosalind to remain in India – her mother cannot bare to part with her only child now even though most British children are educated in England – but her father is becoming concerned about Rosalind’s education and behavior; her disobedient, unconventional ways might get her sent to England after all, and just as she is becoming interested in Indian politics, in particular a dynamic leader working for India’s independence through peaceful protest named Ghandi.

If you enjoy this book you may also like other titles by Gloria Whelan including:  Parade of Shadows, Homeless Bird, or Angel on the Square.  They are all historical fiction novels with strong female characters.

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

A Long Walk To Water

Thursday, January 5th, 2012
alongwalktowaterby Linda Sue Park, 120 pages, Grades 5-8
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Salva is at school when they attack.  The teacher sends the boys running out the back door and into the forest to get away from the invading rebel soldiers.  

This is the beginning of Salva’s journey through southern Sudan into Ethiopia on the run from the war sweeping his country, and he is on his own; he was separated from his family when their village was attacked.  

This novel is based on the true life of Salva Dut who now lives in the United States and has started an organization that digs wells to help people in the country where he grew up.

Salva Dut’s website:  http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/salvas-story/

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

If you enjoy stories about ingenuity and survival you might also like the biography by William Kamkwamba called:  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

The Cardturner

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

the_cardturnerby Louis Sachar,  336 pages,   Grades 7-adult

At first Alton thought being forced to visit his elderly uncle was going to be pretty boring.  He was pretty sure his uncle didn’t even know who he was, even though his mother had been making him call Uncle Lester, a.k.a. Trap,  his “favorite uncle” ever since he was little.

He was even more certain that this was going to be boring when his uncle explained that what he needed was a cardturner for his bridge games each week since he could no longer see the cards; Trap had recently lost his eyesight.   Alton could only remember old people playing bridge, and the game seemed to include a lot of complicated rules, not particularly, but he agreed to help his “favorite uncle.”

His “favorite uncle” also turned out to be pretty crabby at first, and was not a man to give compliments very often, but everyone has a story; there is a lot more to Trap’s story than Alton ever could have guessed. The mystery of Trap’s past is entertaining, bridge is intriguing, and when a pretty girl enters the picture Alton’s boring summer turns into one of the best of his life.

Connections:  If you enjoy Louis Sachar, you might also like Holes. Another great read about younger and older generations connecting is called The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly.

 

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

Elijah of Buxton

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

elijahofbuxtonby Christopher Paul Curtis,  341 pages,   Grades 6-8

Elijah wishes he was not quite so fragile.  He can take off running when he sees a snake, or might feel like crying when someone tells the sad story of escaping from slavery in America.  His parents worry that his fragile nature might make his life difficult, but it is that very nature that turns him into a hero.

Buxton was a real town established in 1849 by an American abolitionist who hoped to give people escaping American slavery a place to live as free human beings. The story of Elijah is fictional, but things that happen are realistic for the time and place.

Even though his family thinks he is a delicate soul, Elijah finds courage deep inside himself and takes a lot of risks to do the right thing.  It is a dangerous time to be African American; Elijah’s adventure is truly heroic.

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

Connections:  Christopher Paul Curtis is gifted at creating exciting stories that happen to be set in realistic times in history.  If you like Elijah of Buxton, you might also like Bud Not Buddy, or The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, both by Curtis as well.

Heist Society

Friday, May 13th, 2011

heist societyby Ally Carter, 287 pages,  Grades 6-10

Kat knows a lot about famous works of art, she is an expert when it comes to museums, but she is not a museum curator or an art history major; she is a teenager.  Kat was raised surrounded some of the greatest criminal masterminds in history; her mom died when she was young, but her dad and her Uncle Eddie taught her everything she knows, and she knows a lot!

Kat thinks she is taking a break from the family business; she is enrolled in a private boarding school, but then her dad is in trouble and she has to pull a heist herself to save him.

If you liked any of the Oceans movies you’ll enjoy Heist Society; it is Oceans Eleven with teen criminals and a female in charge.

 

Grounded

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Groundedby Kate Klise 196 pages Grades 6-7Daralynn’s father, brother and baby sister died in a plane accident, and Daralynn is only alive because she was grounded that day and had been forced to remain behind.

After the tragedy, her mother becomes the hairdresser for the dead at the local mortuary to make ends meet, but it is not easy to recover from such a shattering loss.  Daralynn’s mother is not only over-protective of her, but also seems to be angry about everything, and kind to no one.

Even Daralynn’s Aunt Josie, her father’s sister, is often the victim of Mother’s attacks.  When Josie starts dating Daralynn’s mother’s competition, things really heat up.  But, there is something suspicious about “Uncle Clem,” Josie’s new beaux, and Daralynn’s investigation might just prove to be the thing her family needs to pull them back together.

If you enjoyed Regarding the Fountain by Klise, you won’t be disappointed by this sweet narration.  Another great book about family perseverance in the face of tragedy is Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine

 

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

mysterious howlingThe Mysterious Howling (Book 1)

by Maryrose Wood

The book begins with Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, on a train headed to her first job.  Miss Lumley is a teacher and governess; she is especially excited (and nervous) about this first job at Ashton Place.  Her interview with the lady of the house goes quite well and she is hired on the spot, even though they were often interrupted by some mysterious howling from outside. The noise, she is surprised to find out, was being made by the children she has been hired to teach.  It turns out the master of the house had found these children while hunting and until now they had literally been raised by wolves.  Many would run away from such a daunting task, but Miss Lumley is not only optimistic, she is determined to do a good job for these “three waifs;”  their predicaments are often funny, and their story is sweetly told.

Incorrigible-210x300The Hidden Gallery (Book 2)

by Maryrose Wood

This sequel is even more exciting than the first book.  Miss Lumley suggests that she might take the children, who had been raised by wolves until Miss Lumley arrived, to London to visit Miss Mortimer, her former headmistress from the Swanburne Academy.  Lady Constance, who has been terribly bored and out-of-sorts because the house at Ashton Place has still not been completely repaired after the children destroyed it while chasing a squirrel in the previous story, is delighted and decides to move the entire household to London for a spell.  A number of suspicious adventures follow, and Miss Lumley and the children narrowly escape danger while trying to unravel the mystery of the children’s condition and other strange goings on about London.
Another difficult-to-put-down sequel is sure to follow.

 


The Running Dream

Friday, March 25th, 2011
running dreamby Wendelin Van Draanen,  336 pages,  Grades 7 and up“‘Fifty-five flat!’ Kyro shouts, ‘Fifty-five flat!’

It’s a new personal best for me.
A new record for the league.” (11)

At sixteen Jessica is on top of her game, about to take league, maybe even go to state, when the track team’s bus is hit by an out-of-control car.  One of the team loses her life, and Jessica’s right leg is crushed.

Jessica is a runner; running is not just something she likes to do, it is woven into her identity, so the accident takes more than her leg, it makes her question who she is.

Personal strength, friendship, family, and courage pull Jessica forward on her journey to discover who she is and who she can become.  It is as inspirational a journey as the many true journeys of people in similar situations.

The following is a link to a TED talk with Aimee Mullens, also a runner, called “Aimee Mullans and Her 12 Pair of Legs.” http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html

Matched

Friday, March 25th, 2011

matched_book_coverby Ally Condie,    366 pages, Grades 7 and up

In a future world where no one has to fear disease, malnutrition, crime, or other problems of past cultures, people trust The Society to make the best decisions about everything: the food you should be eating, the clothes you wear and even who is best suited to be your partner for life.

Cassia has reached the age of her matching, and at the ceremony while others are paired with people from other cities far away Cassia is surprised and grateful to find her match is Xander, her best friend from childhood.  She leaves the ceremony feeling confident this is her ideal mate, but when she uses the computer to find out more about her match the face of another boy she knows flashes on the screen!

This little “mistake” opens Cassia’s eyes to the possibility that The Society might not really be as perfect as she has been brought up to believe; could this doubt put everyone she knows in danger?  And, who is her real match?

If you enjoy dystopian fantasy, fiction that takes place in a future that is the opposite of an ideal world,  you might also like: Unwind by Neal Shusterman, or Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Crossed, the sequel to Matched will come out in 2011.

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom

Monday, February 7th, 2011

george clooneyBy Susin Nielsen,  229 pages,  Grades 6-8

Violet is having a hard year.She almost poisons her step-sisters (unintentionally, of course), she breaks a classmate’s nose (less than unintentionally), she crashes into a movie star’s car (honestly by mistake), only to name a few of the mishaps of her seventh grade year.Really, Violet is only tying to make it through middle school, survive visits with her dad and Jennica (her dad’s new wife, who is fake in more ways than one), and make sure her mom doesn’t fall for the wrong guy again, but somehow nothing seems to go as planned.If only she could get George Clooney to write her back, she is sure he will love her mom and make her real sister’s and her life much better.

If you enjoy realistic fiction with a bit of humor like Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison, orAbsolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, then Dear George Clooney… might be for you.

The Danger Box

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

danger boxBy Blue Balliett, 306 pages  mystery for Grades 5-8

Zoomy is legally blind, but he can see things if he holds them close up.  He loves to read  and play games on the computer, and he also loves to investigate and collect things.

He arrived on his grandparents’ front step when he was a newborn baby.  They love him and take him in;  they know their son, Zoomy’s father, can’t take care of a baby, because he is running wild; an alcoholic who is always in a lot of trouble with the law.

Zoomy’s life is going along just fine until the summer his dad shows up in a stolen truck and dumps a stolen box in their garage.  His father’s mysterious  appearance is the beginning of Zoomy’s life spiraling out of control.  First, his grandparents let him investigate the contents of the stolen box, then his dangerous dad threatens Zoomy while he is alone at the library,  then his grandparents are visited by a mysterious stranger, and finally there is a big fire at his grandparents’ shop that doesn’t seem like an accident.

What will happen to Zoomy? Could it all come down to the contents of the stolen box?

If you enjoy this book you might also like:  A Dog for Life, by L.S. Matthews, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, or  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly.

Mockingbird

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

mockingbird-by-kathyrn-erskine-book-cover-1By Kathryn Erskine, 235 pages, Grade 6-8

Caitlin and her father are feeling broken after tragedy strikes their family a second time.  Caitlin’s mother died of cancer three years before and now her brother, Devon, is dead after a violent incident at school.   On “the day their lives fell apart”, as Caitlin calls it, Devon’s door was slammed shut and Caitlin doesn’t feel like she can open it.  She misses her brother, and his  room and all it holds especially a special place next to his bed where she used go for comfort.  It was Devon who used to help her cope with the worlds of the town, the classroom and the playground.   He  always said Caitlin was brave; he even liked to call her Scout after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Now that Caitlin’s dad spends a lot of time crying  and Caitlin, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has to be especially brave.  She would like to help her family put the pieces back together, but she is not sure how to do that.  After talking to the school counselor one day, she decides what they need is  “closure” and she is on a mission to get it.  But, first she has to find out what it is and how you get a hold of  it.

For other stories about how families find closure try Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori (Book One)

Friday, September 24th, 2010

nightingale floorBy Lian Hearn, p. 305 – adult fiction

Takeo has never known his father, who died many years before, and he has been growing up in a remote and peaceful Japanese village surrounded by the rest of his loving family.  The rest of Japan is not so;  it is a time of warlords, and secret societies in the middle ages, and Takeo’s home is attacked and destroyed by a warlord named Iida who is threatening to take over the whole country.  When Takeo returns from a walk in the woods and  sees his village burning, something inside him takes over.  He scares the warlord’s horse and causes Iida to fall to the ground.  Understanding his fatal blunder, he runs back into the woods chased by the warlord’s soldiers.  They all run into a man on horseback who fights for Takeo, cutting off the arm of one of Iida’s best warriors.  This mysterious man turns out to be a lord of the Otori clan, another of the powerful families of Japan.

Takeo’s life changes completely from this day forward.  He is adopted by the Otori and  he discovers his father was a famous assassin.  He also finds out his real heritage is the Tribe, a kind of secret ninja society; he possesses some of the Tribe’s extraordinary abilities.  He can hear details across a crowded courtyard, or through a wooden door, he can make himself “go invisible” and become as silent as a ghost.

In these turbulent times, talents like these are desired by many, and Takeo finds himself pulled in different directions, but he is determined to complete the final task for his adopted father:  kill Iida, the same  lord who burned his village and killed his family.  The trouble is the only way to reach the warlord in his palace is to cross the nightingale floor, a huge room covered in a floor that sings whenever anyone touches it.  How can he  cross the nightingale floor and avenge his family?

Connections: For other stories taking place in medieval Japan try The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard, or The Sword that Cut the Burning Grass: A Samurai Mystery, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

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.

Kaleidoscope Eyes

Monday, September 14th, 2009

kaleidoscopeby Jen Bryant.  p. 257  Grades 5-8

It’s summer vacation and what could be better than sneaking out at night to look for buried treasure with your two best friends?!  After thirteen-year-old Lyza’s grandfather dies, she finds an envelope in his attic marked ”For Lyza ONLY.”  It containis three maps, a key, and a letter with rather crypic directions which lead Lyza, Malcolm and Carolann on an adventure to find pirate William Kidd’s buried treasure.  Set in 1968, this novel is told in verse against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the cultural revolution of the sixties.

Connections:   The Voyage of the Arctic Tern by Hugh Montgomery is another pirate adventure in verse. For more books on pirates, try Sea Queens : Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen, Piracy & Plunder : a Murderous Business by Milton Meltzer, Piratica by Tanith Lee, Bloody Jack by Carolyn Meyer, Voyage of Plunder by Michele Torrey, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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.