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Posts Tagged «fiction»

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.

Flawed Dogs

Friday, May 7th, 2010

flawed-dogs-book-cover-01by Berkeley Breathed  p. 216  Grades 6-8

Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County and Opus fame has now written a very dark but funny novel and illustrated it with pictures as bizarre as the premise of his story.  After fourteen-year-old Heidi McCloud liberates a highly prized breed of dachsund from his crate at the airport, she takes him to live with her at her uncle’s estate and names him Sam the Lion.  Soon a jealous poodle in the household frames Sam and leaves  him for dead, but Sam survives this ordeal plus a stint in an abusive animal laboratory.  Then he and a group of disabled and disfigured mutts from the National Last Ditch Dog Depository come up with a hilarious plan to get revenge on the prestigious Westminster kennel club dog show.  Lots of slapstick humor.

Connections:  Other humorous dog stories include Uncle Boris in the Yukon : and Other Shaggy Dog Stories by Daniel Pinkwater, Wanted.. Mud Blossom by Betsy Byars, Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, and My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen.

Science Fair: a Story of Mystery, Danger, International Suspense, and a Very Nervous Frog

Friday, April 30th, 2010

science fiarBy Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson ,  p. 394  Grades 5-8

Okay, we all know that some parents help their kids with their science fair projects and maybe a little too much, but at Toby’s middle school in the suburban Washington, D. C. area, the parents of the rich kids are going too far.  Not only is the competition unfair, but it may also endanger the security of the United States government!    For several years, these parents have been giving their kids a lot of money to have a scientist actually build the projects, and one of these kids always wins the competition.  This year, the leaders of a small foreign country have designed a terrorist plot against the U.S. and are using the unwitting eighth graders to build a superweapon to be used against America.  Only Toby realizes what is going on, and he gets suspended from school on suspicion of cheating when he tries to let the adults know about the real cheating and the devious plot. If you can suspend disbelief, you are sure to enjoy the over-the-top, very silly humor and fast-paced action.

Connections:  Here are some other titles with science project plots:  The Chicken Doesn’t Skate by Gordon Korman, The Mulberry Project by Sue Park,  and Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo  by Greg Leitich Smith.  Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have also collaborated on the humorous Peter and the Starcatchers series.

Fat Cat

Friday, April 30th, 2010

fat catby Robin Brande   p. 327   Young adult

No exploding volcanoes for seventeen-year-old Cat (Catherine) Locke’s science fair project!  Instead, the smart, competitive overweight teen makes herself the guinea pig for her project.  Her goal is to live for seven months as a Homo erectus, an early prehistoric human, which means no technology (cars, cell phones, computers except for school work) and no processed foods including sugar.  Cat is determined to win the science fair, mostly to get revenge on her former best friend and rival Matt McKinney, whom she believes betrayed her most terribly in seventh grade.  All the walking and healthy eating causes her to lose weight and feel better, and after her best friend Amanda takes her shopping for stylish clothes, Cat starts drawing a lot of male attention.  This young adult novel is filled with funny, clever teen conversation and portrays friendship at its best.

Connections:  These young adult novels also deal with weight and weighty issues:  Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher and Dough Boy by Peter Marino.

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

jessicasguidetodatingonthedarksideby Beth Fantaskey     p. 351  Young Adult

More vampires anyone?   Jessica’s adoptive parents wait until she’s a high school senior before telling her that her birth parents were vampires in Romania!  They’ve also neglected to tell her that she was betrothed at birth to a vampire prince who has just shown up in her hometown to claim her as his fiance.  Of course, this very rational mathlete doesn’t believe in vampires and so is having a very difficult time dealing with the arrogant, but very good looking, stranger who is posing as a foreign exchange student at her high school and living in the apartment above her garage.  Filled with suspense, drama, romance, and humor this is a great read for Twilight fans.

Connections:  Here are some other young adult vampire novels you might enjoy:  Suck It Up by Brian Meehl, Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, and The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause.   Though not about vampires, Beastly by Alex Flinn is a good romance with the beauty and the beast theme.

Pop

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

pop-gordon-korman-book-cover-artby Gordon Korman  p. 260  Grades:  6-9

Pop!  That’s the feeling and imagined sound that comes from taking the hit in tackle football and that sixteen-year old Marcus has come to love.  Before this summer, Marcus had always held back as quarterback, fearful of being injured.  New in town and hanging out in the park to practice his football maneuvers, he meets Charlie, an eccentric older man who challenges Marcus and teaches him to play rough and tumble football fearlessly.  Disappointed that Troy Popovich gets to start as quarterback, Marcus takes on his role as lineman with a vengeance, winning him not only the acceptance of his teammates but also Troy’s former girlfriend.  The tension grows between Marcus and Troy when Marcus learns that Charlie is Troy’s father and discovers the reason behind Charlie’s increasingly odd behavior.  Korman delivers lots of football action as well as a thoughful story.

Connections:  Here are some other good football novels for teens:  Crackback by John Coy, Necessary Roughness by Marie Lee, and Gym Candy by Carl Deuker.  Matt Christopher writes football stories for younger readers.

Operation Redwood

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

operation redwoodBy S. Terrell French, 353 pages.  Grades 5-7

While forced to stay with his wealthy, manners-obsessed aunt and uncle so  his mother can photograph temples in China, twelve year-old Julian Carter-Li discovers emails describing his uncle’s plan to level an old growth redwood forest and the even more horrifying plan to ship Julian off to math camp for the summer.  With the help of his buddy Danny and a new email buddy, Julian creates Operation Redwood in the hopes of foiling both plans.

Connections:  For other eco-minded adventure stories, try reading Gloria Skurzynski’s National Park Mystery series or Hoot or Flush by Carl Hiaasen.

Bystander

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

bystander-james-preller-paperback-cover-artby James Preller   p. 226   Grades 5-8

Bully?  Accomplice?  Bystander?  Victim? Upstander? Which will Eric be?  As a new student at Central Middle School, he quickly sizes up the situation and recognizes immediately that pudgy David is a victim and that good looking, charming Griffin is at the top of the pecking order.  At first, Eric is drawn in by Griffin’s charisma and attention but soon sees the creep beneath the smile.  When ulitmately Eric refuses to do what Griffin demands, he becomes the target.   Eric, however, is not a victim, and with the help of Griff’s ex-girlfriend, he devises a plan.

Connections:  Other books with this theme are Shredderman: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen, Schooled by Gordon Korman, and  Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn.  Young adult titles for mature readers include The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, Don’t Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer, and Inventing Elliot  by Graham Gardner.  For nonfiction, try Bullying : How to Deal with Taunting, Teasing, and Tormenting  by Kathleen Winkler, Sticks and Stones by Karen L. Maudlin or Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain written and illustrated Trevor Romain.

The Georges and the Jewels

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

the georges andby Jane Smiley   p. 232  Grades 5-8

If you own a horse or wish you did, this is the book for you.  Famous adult author Jane Smiley, who wrote Horse Heaven, seems to have written this book with middle school girls in mind.  Seventh grader Abby Lovitt lives on a horse ranch in California.  It sounds like a perfect situation for a girl who loves horses, but it isn’t.  Her father buys and trains horses to sell.  He doesn’t want the family, especially Abby to become attached to the horses, so he won’t allow her to name them.  The geldings are all called George and the mares are Jewel.   But each horse has its own personality, and Abby adds an adjective to each name.  Ornery George becomes her challenge.  Her dad can’t sell the horses until they are tame enough for a girl to ride them.  Ornery George has bucked Abby off so many times that she defies her strict father and refuses to ride him  . . . until one day when a stranger arrives at the ranch.

Connections:  Here are some other good horse stories:  Dairy Queeen by Catherine Murdock; Willow King by Chris Platt; and Hero by S. L. Rottman.  Two short story collections are Horse & Pony Stories compiled by Christine Pullein-Thompsonand Horse Stories edited by Felicity Trotman.  Classics include King of the Wind by Margerite Henry, National Velvet, and My Friend Flicka.

Cricket Man

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

cricket manby Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  p. 196  Grade:  Young Adult

During the summer before eighth grade, Kenny Sykes has begun each morning rescuing the hundreds of crickets that keep jumping into his backyard swimming pool.  As an inside joke with his little brother, Kenny assumes the super-hero identity Cricket Man and creates a t-shirt that he wears to school concealed under his regular shirt.  The rest of his time he spends skateboarding or spying on and trying to get the attention of his beautiful sixteen-year-old neighbor, Jodie Poindexter.  When Jodie appears to have fallen into a deep depression, it’s Cricket Man to the rescue.

Connections:  These novels for young adults also focus on special and unusual friendships:  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes; The Wild Kid; Stoner and Spaz and Define Normal.

Adam Canfield Watch Your Back

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

adam canfieldby Michael Winerip.  p. 329  Grades 6-8

Adam Canfield is literally shoveling in the money on a Snow Day by clearing his neighbors’ walks–when older bullies pull up in a van and mug him.  Not only is he a victim of a crime, but he also becomes the embarrassing focus of a media campaign by The Slash to stop bullying.  This sequel to Adam Canfield of the Slash is as good as its predecessor.  While Jennifer and the other Slash staff take on bullies, saving a tree, and discrimination, Adam launches an undercover operation to expose the fact that parents are doing their kids’ science fair projects.

Connections:  If you enjoy the Adam Canfield books, try these other novels based on school newspapers:  The Landry News by Andrew Clements and Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and Other Commandments I Have Broken by Rosemary Graham.  The Watergate Scandal in American History by David K. Fremon describes how Washington Post investigative journalists broke the Watergate case.

Beastly

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

beastlyby Alex Flinn.  p. 304  Young Adult

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Attention Twilight fans!   This compelling romance puts a contemporary spin on the Beauty and the Beast tale.  Popular fourteen-year-old Kyle Kingsbury is incredibly good looking, charming, rich, and really mean.  After playing an especially cruel trick on a homely girl,at a dance, a witch casts a spell on Kyle turning him into a beast–making him as ugly on the outside as he has been on the inside.  He only has two years to break the spell or live as a beast forever.  In order to do so, he must fall in true love with someone who will love him back and give him, of course, a kiss!

Connections:  Here are some other excellent versions of the Beauty and the Beast story:  Beast by Donna Jo Napoli; Rose Daughter and Beauty by Robin McKinley.

H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

H_I_V_E_-_The_Higher_Institute_of_Villainous_Educationby Mark Walden.  p. 309  Grades 5-8

A school for bad kids?!  That’s what H.I.V.E., the Higher Institute for Villainous Education, purports to be.  Kids who appear to have special talents that could be used for evil are kidnapped and brought to this school located on a remote island where adults interested in world domination train the students in various nefarious skills.  The island appears to have no escape, but as soon as thirteen-year-old Otto arrives, he and three of his new classmates begin plotting their get away.  A counterpoint to Hogwarts, at H.I.V.E., technology and brains replace magic and wizardry.

Connections:  Other fast-paced adventures set in special schools include:  David Lubar’s Hidden Talents and its sequel True Talents; James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series; Trenton Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society; and Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You.  PMS Library also owns the sequel–H.I.V.E. : the Overlord Protocol .

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