Contact PMSDirections to PMSSite Map

pmslibrary@piedmont.k12.ca.us Subscribe to my updates

Posts Tagged «family life»

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

18079754by Brenda Woods, 222 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Violet is happy; she loves her family. She even loves her perfect sister, though she is a bit envious. Her sister is gorgeous and talented and fits in perfectly at home and in public; no one ever questions how she is a part of their family. Violet’s father was African American and her mom is white. Now that her dad is dead, she is growing up as the only person of color in a white family and just being seen as part of the family out in the world is not simple. No one can just see that she belongs, and even though she is close to her mom and sister she longs for somewhere to fit it without anyone questioning it. Her father’s mother is an artist and is doing a show nearby. Violet is determined to go to the show and convince her grandmother to be a part of her life; since her father died her grandmother has not contacted their family out of both grief and anger. It is time Violet finds a connection to the rest of her personal identity and her father’s family, but is this angry grandmother the way to find it?

If you like stories about personal identity you might also enjoy My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman, A Mango Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, or My Name is Mina, by David Almond.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Friday, January 9th, 2015

 

ypl_woodson_Brown_Girl_Dreamingby Jacqueline Woodson, 336 pages, Grades 4-7

 

Jacqueline grew up in the 1960s living some of the time at her grandparents’ home in the south and later with her mother in New York City. Historic accounts of the civil rights movement run through her stories as these events impact her and her siblings’ lives. Jacqueline’s childhood is not easy; her mother leaves her father when she is still the baby of the family, living in the south makes her acutely aware of the racial divide in this country, and following her genius sister just a year behind in school makes her feel like a disappointment sometimes, but Jacqueline and her siblings are surrounded by people who love them and this lifts her spirit and warms her heart.  Jacqueline’s favorite gift growing up is a notebook, but it takes her some time to understand that writing will really be her occupation; people in those days thought of writing as a hobby. Jacqueline Woodson is an acclaimed author today, and this is her memoir in verse.

 

If you enjoy reading memoirs about the civil rights movement you might also like: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip M. Hoose, or  Warriors Don’t Cry: a Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High School, by Melba Beals.

 

The Lions of Little Rock

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

by Kristin Levine, 298 pages, Grades 6-8

lions of little rockMarlee is growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas the year after the famous Little Rock Nine integration. In the aftermath of that difficult year, the town is pushing back against the federal integration order, and the schools that are refusing to integrate are shut down.  Marlee is in middle school and has her own personal struggles. She is great with math, but speaking aloud is a real struggle, in fact to many she appears completely mute. This year there is a new girl in her class and when they are partnered up for a project Marlee finds herself able to talk to Liz; they become close friends. Liz is smart and confident and enjoys Marlee’s company as well. Unfortunately, Liz has a secret. A secret so big that she cannot even tell Marlee no matter how much she wants to trust her; a secret so big that it might endanger both girls lives.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction about the civil rights era in the United States, you might also enjoy: The Watson’s Go To Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis, or One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Wild Things

Friday, December 14th, 2012

wildthingsby Clay Carmichael, 241 pages, Grades 5-8

Zoe, who is eleven years old, has had a hard life already.  She hasn’t grown up with a lot of motherly affection or concern, and she has had to deal with a number of her mother’s boyfriends stealing her mother’s attention over the years as well.  

When Zoe’s mother dies, her Uncle Henry takes her in, but Zoe is not sure what she thinks about the arrangement.  Having been left to her own devices all her life has made Zoe very independent and capable; she knows how to take care of herself, but she is not sure if she can ever bring herself to trust anyone else.

Adults in her life have not really panned out, is Uncle Henry up for the challenge of a wild thing like Zoe? 

If you enjoy books with characters facing a challenging family situation, you might also like Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Things a Brother Knows

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

brother knowsby Dana Reinhardt     242 pages     Grades 7 and up

Student Review

Levi Katznelson’s older brother, Boaz, has just returned from three years in the marines, years that were very difficult for Levi and his family. The whole town is excited he’s back. Everyone is calling Boaz a hero. But Boaz has changed since the last time Levi saw him. He stays shut in his room and refuses to open up to Levi. Unfortunately, Levi’s attempts to get Boaz back to his old self are shut down by Boaz’s unwillingness. When Levi discovers that Boaz is planning on leaving again, on a trip that will last all summer, he decides to go with him.

This young adult novel by Dana Reinhardt is not too long, but delivers a powerful message. It is a book is for people who are comfortable with adult humour and, at times, emotional situations. Narrated by Levi, a high schooler who has lived in his older brother’s shadow all his life, the story frequently reflects back to before Boaz left for the army when he was a high school star.  The best kind of novel is the kind that makes you reflect back, and thats exactly what Reinhardt has done. Through her writing you can feel the emotions of Levi whom, even though he is physically back, tries to bring his older brother home. AH

If you enjoy books that have to do with family in the army and finding yourself you might also like: Greetings from Planet Earth, by Barbara Kerley and Dogtag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

The Other Wes Moore

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

the_other_wes_moore_bookcoverby Wes Moore, 239 pages, Adult Biography

READMONT BOOK OF 2012-13!

The author Wes Moore had a challenging childhood.  His father died when he was very young, his mom had to work multiple jobs to support their family after his death, and they had to live in neighborhoods plagued with drugs and gangs.  

Moore survived his turbulent youth, however, and went on to become a decorated war veteran, college graduate, and Rhodes scholar.  It was when he was in South Africa on his Rhodes fellowship that his mother told him about another young man, about his age, and from his home town, who had just been arrested for robbing a jewelry store; the robbers had killed a security guard. This young man’s name was also Wes Moore, and this Wes Moore was convicted to a life sentence in prison.  

The shock that there could be another person, with his identical name, growing up in a very similar situation who ended up in such a different place made the author want to understand the other Wes Moore, and how their lives had diverged so significantly.  This is the biography and autobiography of the two Wes Moores.

If you enjoy reading biographies of contemporary people, you might also enjoy The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba, or Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, by Karen Blumenthal, or Aung San Suu Kyi, by Sherry O'Keefe.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Unforgettable

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Unforgettableby Loretta Ellsworth, 256 pages, Grades 6-9

Baxter can remember what his mom was wearing when she came to pick him up from kindergarten ten years ago including what her voice smelled like to him.  It seems like it would be a cool trick, like photographic memory, but Baxter also cannot get rid of these memories or any information, and they can be a burden.  Also, this kind of gift can be used for evil, and, in fact, his mom’s last boyfriend thought of an illegal way to profit from Baxter’s gift. This criminal boyfriend is just about to be released from jail for those crimes; Baxter had been a key witness, so he and his mother are moving to a small town across the country to escape his anger.  It is hard to be new in a strange town, but Baxter has found someone from his past to connect with, and even though she can’t remember their kindergarten days together, of course, Baxter can.

If you enjoy books about kids with unusual abilities, you might also enjoy Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

My Name is Mina

Monday, September 24th, 2012

minaby David Almond, 300 pages, Grades 6-8

Mina lives with her mother and she loves sitting in the tree in her front yard.  The view from her tree is “extra-ordinary”!  Sometimes there are baby birds and other beautiful and amazing things she can see from the tree, but most of all, Mina loves the night.  

Even though Mina bubbles with optimism and joy, her life has not been easy.  Her grandfather who used to send her treasures from his travels has given her his last gift, she has a lot of trouble fitting in at school; finding friends and living up to teachers’ expectations, and she misses her dear dad who died.  Mina is trying to figure out how to be herself and still find a place in the world around her; luckily her surroundings are brimming with surprising possibilities.

If you like books about young people who have trouble fitting in, you might also enjoy Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise, or  Anything but Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli.

This is the companion book to Skellig, by David Almond, if you are home you can watch this youtube book trailer about Skellig.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

A World Away

Monday, September 17th, 2012

world awayby Nancy Grossman, 394 pages, Grades 7 and up

Eliza has lived her whole life sheltered from modern technology, and she has also lived a life free of modern problems like materialism, consumerism and deceit.  Eliza and her family are Amish and she has never left the Amish community where they do not have telephones, movie theatres, or shopping malls.  They do not listen to music, and the girls do not wear pants.  

Once in their lives Amish adolescents are offered an opportunity to see what it is like to live among “the English” – as they call people living outside the Amish community. During this important year, called Rumspringa, Amish teens are allowed to explore the world outside and decide which life they prefer.  Once they promise themselves to the Amish, they cannot leave without shame, so the decision is made very thoughtfully.  

A World Away is the story of Eliza’s Rumspringa year.  The magic of technology in all its forms is exciting, but there are things about her home she misses terribly.  Which life will she choose?

If you enjoy reading about adolescents challenged to make difficult decisions, you might also like reading:  The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Chol, or Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Scrawl

Friday, November 19th, 2010

ShulmanScrawlv2Finalby Mark Shulman  p.  230   Grades 7 and up.

Tod Munn has a bad reputation; he has been known to steal the wimps’ lunch money, push his way into the front of the  lunch line and shove people into the lockers when they least expect it.  He is not someone you want to mess with if you don’t want to get hurt.  Naturally Tod has landed himself in detention, and this time it is for something really bad, but he is not outside raking leaves with his “droogs,” instead he is spending time one-on-one with the school counselor, Mrs. Woodrow.

For detention he has  to write in a journal every day after school.   He spends weeks with the counselor in a hot school room writing and writing until it feels like his hand might fall off.  Tod thinks the counselor is trying to “fix the bad guy,” and he doesn’t think it is going to work, either. Who do you think is right; is the bully really a bad guy, or is there more to the story than meets the eye?

Connections:  If you like books about tough kids you might like Small Steps by Louis Sachar or if you enjoy books written in journal form you might also enjoy Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech.

Blessing’s Bead

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

blessings-bead-debby-dahl-edwardson-book-cover-artBy Debby Dahl Edwardson, 178 pages  Grades 6-9

The mysterious blue bead in her grandmother’s sewing basket and the stories of her Inupiaq ancestors provide the grounding Blessing needs when she is forced to live with her grandmother in a remote village in northern Alaska while her alcoholic mother is in treatment.  This novel, in two parts, starts in 1917 with the story of Blessing’s great-grandmother’s experiences with the arrival of Siberian traders and survival of the Spanish influenza epidemic.

Connections:  Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George is another story of a girl caught between worlds in Alaska.  For a story that focuses on the effect of influenza on a small Alaskan village, read The Great Death byJohn Smelcer.

Totally Joe

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

totallyjoeBy James Howe, 189 pages  Grades 6-8

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>“Being who you are isn’t a choice.”Although he had always lived this life lesson, it wasn’t until his favorite aunt gave him a button printed with these words that thirteen, year-old Joe really thought about what it meant for him, as a gay 7th grader, as well as for his schoolmates.Joe’s family and friends have always encouraged him to be himself (including dressing-up in dresses, playing with Barbies and cooking in an Easy-Bake oven) and he has always embraced his originality even when it led to teasing. Through an alphabiography project for his teacher, Joe shares his growing awareness of himself and his friends.

Connection:  Joe and the other characters were first introduced in Howe’s novel, The Misfits.  For other stories where characters share their life experiences through school writing assignments, try reading Love That Dog or Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge, or Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.

The Big Game of Everything

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

The Big Game of EverythingBy Chris Lynch, 275 pages  Grades 6-10

“You have to love your family.  You do, even if you don’t right?  You don’t have to agree with them or appreciate them or go to concerts with them, but you have to love them.”  Twelve year-old Jock’s “hippy-frippy” parents named him Union Jack after their stay in England, and they run a barbershop where they try to convince their customers not to get haircuts.  Jock is constantly jousting verbally with his money-obsessed brother who is a year younger and 30 pounds heavier. His grandfather owns an unfinished golf complex with 13 holes, where customers must replay their favorite 5 holes to golf a full game.  Jock is looking forward to spending the summer at the golf complex, but he and his brother need to avoid the town bullies and help their grandfather get back on course after a visit from two of his old buddies.

Connections:  For other golf fiction, try reading The Million Dollar Putt by Dan Gutman.

Keeping Corner

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Keeping Cornerby Kashmira Sheth    p. 272  Grades: 6-8

Twelve-year-old Leela, betrothed at age two and married at age nine,  suddenly becomes a widow when the husband whom she’s never lived with dies in a tragic accident.

It’s 1918 in Gujarat, India, and widows are not allowed to remarry nor to participate in community celebrations or activities.  They are viewed as bad luck and must shave their heads and spend the first year in their parents’  home “keeping corner.”  Life seems over for Leela until a tutor arrives to help her get an education.  Gandhi is not only working toward freeing India from British rule but also for women’s rights, especially rights for young widows.  This compelling story shows a young, self-absorbed girl growing into an accomplished, confident young woman against the backdrop of  India’s independence movement.

Connections:  Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelen also tells the story of a teenage widow, but in contemporary India.  Neela by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni tells the story of Gandhi and the Independence Movement.   Kashmira Sheth’s other novels are also excellent:  Blue Jasmine and Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet.

Child of Dandelions

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

child of dandelionsby Shenaaz Nanji, p. 210  Grades: 7-10

What do you do when your whole world seems to be falling down around you?  Do you deny that it is happening?  In 1972, when President Idi Amin of Uganda gave all foreign Indians 90 days to leave the country, fifteen year-old Sabine didn’t think that included her family, as they were all Ugandan citizens.  When her uncle disappears mysteriously, she convinces herself that he will turn up soon.  When her best friend, Zena turns against her, Sabine hopes she will come around eventually.  But, when the soldiers come looking for her father . . .

Connections:  Some other stories that deal with conflict between different groups within one country include Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

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.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Best bad luckby Kristin Levine, p. 264 – Grades 6-9

While many of the townspeople in early 20th century Moundville, Alabama were shocked at the arrival of the new African-American postmaster, twelve-year old Dit was disappointed when he realized the postmaster’s child, Emma, was a girl rather than the playmate he had been hoping for.  Adventuresome Dit is sure that he will never enjoy spending time with bookish, refined Emma, but he grudgingly shows her around and eventually the two end up finding common ground in the digging of a fort in Dit’s favorite hill mound.  With the start of school in the fall, Dit comes to more fully understand the realities of the Jim Crow laws as Emma is forced to go to a different school and his buddies tease him about their friendship.  Racial tensions in the town really erupt when the the town’s African American barber is charged with a crime against the overtly racist sheriff, and as witnesses to the crime, Dit and Emma can’t help but get involved.

Connection:  For another story about a friendship challenged by racism, read Tony Johnston’s Bone by Bone by Bone.

Thirteenth Child

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Thirteenth-Childby Patricia C. Wrede, p. 344 – Grades 6 & Up

Eff and her twin brother Lan live in a magical, alternative version of the the western frontier.  Eff is born the thirteenth child, a position that is thought to bring bad luck to the family, while her brother is lucky 14 and the 7th son of the 7th son, a position that brings extraordinary magical power.  The family moves from the civilized and secure east  to the western frontier where a magical border keeps dangerous creatures like the dreaded steam dragons away from the settlements.  Despite her difficulties learning and controlling magic, Eff’s teacher Miss Ochiba teaches her not only Avrupan magic but also the Hijero-Cathayan and Aphrikan styles.  An expedition to the settlements outside the Great Barrier Magic tests her magical skills.

Connection:  For another story that brings a magical alternative to a historical setting, try reading The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer.

Masterpiece

Monday, April 27th, 2009

masterpieceby Elise Broach, p.292 – Grades 4-8

Marvin (a beetle and the narrator of the story) lives under the sink in the house in NYC where James lives with his mother,  step-father and baby brother.  Marvin remains hidden with his family until one day he uses ink from James’ new pen and ink set to make the boy a birthday drawing.  Their growing friendship and Marvin’s drawing talent lead the two to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and into a mystery around some missing Albrecht Durer drawings.

Connection:  The talented bug is remniscent of The Cricket in Times Square, and the mystery surrounding the art brings a couple of books to mind: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and  Chasing Vermeer.  –CRW