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Posts Tagged «humor»

I Kill The Mockingbird

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

51oaVjNtcUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Paul Acampora, 163 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Lucy loves reading, so when her English teacher assigns To Kill A Mockingbird as summer reading she is looking forward to it. Other students are not as enthusiastic, so Lucy and her friends concoct a scheme to get people talking and wondering about the book. Her group makes all of the copies of To Kill a Mockingbird “disappear” from every bookstore, and library, and in their place the group leaves a flyer that says: I kill the Mockingbird. Suddenly social media and the local TV news has picked up the story and their small time prank turns into something much larger than they imagined; will their idea really get people interested in reading To Kill a Mockingbird like they are hoping?

 

If you like stories about friends working together you might also like The Misfits, by James Howe,  Every Soul a Star, by Wendy Mass, or Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett

The Hypnotists

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

hypnotistsby Gordon Korman,  232 pages, Grades 6-8

Jackson Opus thinks he is a normal, albeit persuasive, twelve-year-old, but little does he know he is the descendant of two of the most famous hypnotists of all time. When the Sentia Institute shows interest in him, he begins to understand the power and scope of hypnotism in the world around him. But is it ok to use this power to control world events, or even people’s decisions? Jackson is learning how to control his gift, struggling with the ethics of hypnotism, and trying to escape the evil hypnotists who want to control him all at the same time. He really would prefer to return to the life of a normal kid, but when you have a gift like Jackson’s you have to grow up in a hurry.

Gordon Korman writes a lot of great books.  Comedies:  No More Dead Dogs, The Chicken Doesn’t Skate, Ungifted.  Adventures: Dive, Island, and Everest series. Mystery: Swindle series.

 

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

Twerp

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

twerpby Mark Goldblatt,  275 pages,  Grades 6-8

As punishment for bullying Danly Dimmel, Julian Twerski is forced to write an explanation for his English teacher. Julian’s “explanation” meanders describing a series of funny and embarrassing events Julian and his friends get themselves into. Somehow Lonnie convinces Julian to write a love letter to the girl Lonnie likes, but when Julian delivers the note, she believes Julian is the real “secret admirer.” Another time, when Julian trades partners on the field trip to help out a friend from his block, he gets attacked by a kid who thinks he is trying to steal the girl he likes. Julian’s obliviousness makes each of the situations funnier and each of his mistakes are highlighted by his older sister’s explanations. Even though some of these situations are humiliating, Julian learns a lot and is grown up enough by the end of his writing-detention to come up with a way to pay for what he had done to Danly, and become a better person for it.

Another book about a kid doing detention is called Scrawl by Mark Shulman, and book about being an upstander is called The Misfits, by  James Howe.

 

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

The Bad Beginning

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

badbeginningby Lemony Snicket, 162 pages, Grades 6-8

*Student Review*

If you enjoy reading books with happy endings, or happy beginnings, or even a few happy bits in the middle, this is not the book for you. I'm sure there are plenty of books out there about cheerful little elves surrounded by unicorns and rainbows that you could read. This book, however, I am sad to report, is a very unpleasant story wrought with misfortune and despair, a word here meaning "extreme sadness" or "depression". This book details the struggles of the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, an inventor, a reader, and a biter. We follow them on their journey through many unfortunate events as they try to escape Count Olaf's devious, a word here meaning "mischievous" or "evil", schemes. In this book, you will encounter a repulsive villain, a disastrous fire, spaghetti, itchy clothes, a troupe of actors, and a plot to steal a fortune.

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket is one of my favorite books, and the Series of Unfortunate Events series gets better and better as you read on. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, quick, read. Lemony Snicket never ceases to amaze, and this book is the start of an amazing series.

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

Out of My Mind

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

OutOfMyMindby Sharon Draper, 295 pages, Grades 5-8

Melody has an amazing memory for detail; she is extremely observant and intelligent.  The only problem is, no one around her can tell how much she understands because her cerebral palsy makes it almost impossible for her to communicate.  Her parents believe she is smart and her caretakers can see she has a good brain, in fact, one of her caretakers comes up with a system that helps Melody communicate simple things, but Melody craves so much more. All of her ideas, thoughts, jokes and insights are trapped inside her.  How can she get the recognition she deserves for her brilliant mind if no one can really tell what is going on in there?

If you enjoy books about kids who overcome adversity you might also enjoy Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

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.

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.

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.

 


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.

Boom

Monday, November 29th, 2010

boom cover UKby Mark Haddon, 195 pages.                   Science-Fiction Mystery.

Jimbo’s sister, Becky,  tries to scare him into thinking he is about to be kicked out of school, so Jimbo and Charlie bug the teachers’ room with walkie talkies to find out if it could be true.  Instead of finding anything out about Jimbo,  they catch two of their teachers speaking a strange language, and it isn’t a human language!

The boys are determined to solve the mystery, and when none of their other tactics yield answers, the boys decide to sneak into Mrs. Pearse’s house. This a big mistake; now they know too much.  They are sure aliens are after them, but their families think they are crazy, and then Charlie disappears!

What would you do if your best friend might have been abducted by aliens?  Go after him, of course.  Jimbo and his sister Becky are on their own in the wilds of Scotland trying to save Charlie, and maybe a lot more than that!

For other crazy alien stories try:  Nosepickers from Outer Space by Gordon Korman, or The Doom Machine, by Mark Teague

Smile

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

smileBy Raina Telgemeier, 213 pages  Grades 5-8

The author, Raina Telgemeier, was just racing her friends to the front door after a Girl Scout meeting when she tripped, fell and knocked out her two front teeth.  From that moment, middle school became a blur of surgeries and dentist/orthodontist appointments mixed with the more typical crushes, teasing and embarrassments.  This graphic memoir vividly depicts the mixed bag of middle school.  Will high school be better?

Connections:  For other humorous autobiographies/memoirs, try reading John Sciezka’s Knucklehead or How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen.  For other graphic memoirs/biographies with a much more serious tone, check out Maus by Art Spiegelman or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

as-easy-as-falling-off-the-face-of-the-earthBy Lynne Rae Perkins, 352 pages  Grades 7 Up

Do you believe in Murphy’s Law?  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  Fifteen year-old Ry seems to be living Murphy’s Law, starting with his train to camp pulling away as he stands at the top of a nearby hill in the middle of nowhere Montana, trying to get cell phone reception.  The next thing you know, Ry is on a cross-country road trip trying to get home, and each of his missteps leads to a new adventure in this humorous and absurd quest.

Connections:  If you enjoy the combination of adventure and humor, you might try reading The Adventures of the Blue Avenger by Norma Howe, The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater, Backwater by Joan Bauer, or Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen.

Stuck On Earth

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

stuck_on_earthBy David Klass, 227 pages  Grades 6-9

In a tale that is not always what it seems, Ketchvar III is an alien, snail-like creature who is charged with the important task of evaluating human beings’ worthiness before possible extermination (vaporization by Gagnerian Death Ray).  In order to get close to the humans, he inhabits the body of 14 year-old Tom Filber by crawling in through Tom’s nose.  As it turns out, seemingly ordinary Tom’s life is not so typical.  Ketchvar questions the value of humanity when he finds himself dealing with a dysfunctional family and bullies at school (“voluntary daily incarceration”).

Connections:  For other humorous tales of alien/human interaction, try reading The Doom Machine by Mark Teague, Boom! by Mark Haddon or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

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.

The Doom Machine

Monday, May 17th, 2010

doom machineBy Mark Teague, 376 pages.  Grades 5-7

When Isadora Shumway and her mother get stuck in a small town after their car breaks down, the last thing they expect is to be abducted by aliens.  Soon logical, studious Isadora finds herself allied with the local juvenile delinquent, Jack, in an interstellar fight to keep the spider-like alien Skreeps from finding and using the space travel machine that Jack’s uncle invented.

Connections:  For other titles with space/time traveling students, try reading Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars by Daniel M. Pinkwater or I was a Sixth Grade Alien by Bruce Coville.

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.

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.

The Brain Finds a Leg

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Brain-Finds-a-Leg-Coverby Martin Chatterton    p. 212    Grades: 6-8

Farfetched but fun!   The Brain does find a leg.  It used to belong to Biff Manly, a seventeen-year-old surfer, who has been found dead at the bottom of a quarry.  Theophilus Brain, a thirteen-year-old self-described genius and Sherlock Holmes disciple, has figured out that a saltwater crocodile (who thinks he’s a dog) severed the leg and hid it underwater.  The crocodile is just the first of list of bizarre-behaving Australian wildlife who show up in this zany science fiction mystery which includes koalas that attack in gangs, possums  that steal SUVs, kangaroos that rob supermarkets and whales that toss tourist boats.  The Brain enlists Sheldon McGlone as his sidekick, and the two are fast on the trail of the murderer and the secret to what’s making the animals act so strangely.

Connections:  Other creepy creature stories include The Cryptid Hunters, The Underneath, and Loch.

Crows & Cards

Friday, February 26th, 2010

crows and cardsby Joseph Helgerson   p. 279   Grades:  6-8

Twelve-year-old Zebulon Crabtree is angry with his father for shipping  him off on a Mississippi riverboat to St. Louis to become a tanner’s apprentice.  He quickly decides to disobey his dad when  Chilly Larpenteur, a cardshark and con man, tricks him out of his money and convinces Zeb to join his racket.   Zeb pretty much becomes Chilly’s prisoner, being locked in the cupboard of the gambling house each evening and forced to work the wire that signals Chilly about his opponent’s cards, so he can cheat.   Zeb’s only hope is to escape, and with the help and friendship of a slave and a Hidasta Indian chief and his daughter, he may succeed.  This is a humorous, rollicking adventure reminiscent of Mark Twain’s novels.

Connections:  The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventues of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by W. R. Philbrick.

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.

The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

6277972by Dene Low.  p. 196    Grades 5-8

What a funny, frothy farce!  Set in Victorian England, this improbable mystery concerns sixteen-year-old Petronella who is about to have her London debut when her guardian Uncle Augustus swallows a giant beetle and develops an insatiable hunger for all insects.  The story begins at Petronella’s sixteenth birthday party on her large country estate where her uncle swallows the bug, two of her celebrity guests disappear, and we meet the romantic Lord James Sinclair.  Filled with Petronella’s witty observations and banter, lots of slapstick, luscious language,and some romantic possibilities, this books is a delight to read.

Connections:  If you enjoy this book, try the short stories and novels by P.G. Wodehouse such as How Right You Are, Jeeves, Carry on, Jeeves, and Leave It to Psmith.

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

enterainerby Sid Fleischman, p. 180  Grades 6-9

The Great Freddie is a washed-up ventriloquist (he can’t speak without moving his lips) living in Europe following WWII until one night in Vienna, Austria he opens the closet in his hotel room and finds a dybbuk or Jewish spirit of a boy (Avrom Amos Poliakov) killed by Nazi soldiers during the war.To repay a debt he owes the boy for an incident that happened during the war, Freddie allows Avrom to possess his body and speak through him for the purpose of tracking down the boy’s killer and becoming a bar mitzvah.In the process, Avrom turns The Great Freddie’s ventriloquism act into a smash success and finds a platform for speaking out about the atrocities against Jews by the Nazis during the war, but Freddie finds himself in some awkward situations with his girlfriend.

Connections:  Some other great fiction titles that illustrate the treatment of Jews during World War II try reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, or Hitler’s Canary by Sandy Toksvig.  Check out this video interview with the author.

One-Handed Catch

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

one-handed-catch-mary-jane-auch-paperback-cover-artby M. J. Auch  p. 246  Grades: 5-8

The summer before sixth grade,  Norm loses his left hand when it gets caught in a meat grinder.  Poor kid!  His mom’s not cutting him any slack, and his dreams of making the baseball team seem hopeless–until he hears about a one-handed major league baseball player and a customer gives him a right-handed baseball mitt.  Now it’s up to Norm.

Connections:  Here’s some other great baseball fiction:  Hang Tough Paul Mather by Alfred Slote;  Some Kind of Pride by Maria Testa; Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter; High Heat by Carl Deuker; and Hard Ball byWill Weaver.  Browse 796.357 for baseball nonfiction and search baseball biography in the catalog for famous players.

Zen and the Art of Faking It

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

zen and the art of faking itby Jordan Sonnenblick.   p. 264   Grades 6-8

It’s tough being the new kid especially in January of the eighth grade.  San Lee has moved around and changed schools a lot, and this time it’s because his dad has gone to prison for fraud.  His mom’s short on money because of his dad’s legal fees, and even though it’s the middle of the winter in Pennsylvania, San heads off for his new middle school in sandals and the light windbreaker that were fine in Texas.  Adopted from China as a baby, San is the only Asian American at his new school.  When he discovers that his social studies class is studying Buddhism, which he studied last year, he pretends to be  a Zen master.   This deception wins him the attention of a beautiful girl but spins out of control in both serious and comical ways as more and more kids believe he’s the real thing.

Connections:  Books where a new kid makes a big impact on the other students in a school are Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Gypsies Never Came by Stephen Roos, Schooled by Gordon Korman and, for mature readers, Jake Reinvented by Gordon Korman as well as Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardner.  If you’d like to know more about Zen Buddhism, try browsing the 294.3 section of the library.

Word Nerd

Monday, July 20th, 2009

word-nerdby Susin Nielsen.  p. 248   Grades:  7-8

What do a 7th grade misfit with a severe peanut allergy and a twenty-five-year-old ex-convict, former drug addict have in common?  SCRABBLE!!!  After Ambrose nearly dies when three bullies slip a peanut into his sandwich, his overly protective mother removes Ambrose from school and has him do a correspondence course from home.  While she is at work, Ambrose secretly forges a friendship with his landlords’ son, Cosmos, who has just gotten out of prison. He cons Cosmos into taking him to the West Side Scrabble Club.  While Ambrose becomes hooked on Scrabble competition, Cosmos becomes hooked on beautiful Amanda, who runs the club.  This moving book is filled with lots of humor, word play, interesting characters and even danger.

Connection:  Other good reads with clever, outsider characters are Schooled by Gordon Korman, the Shredderman series by Wendelin Van Draanen, Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick, and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of the Tree by Lauren Tarshis.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Emma-jean-lazarus-fell-out-tree-lauren-tarshisby Lauren Tarshis.  p. 169 Grades 5-8

Emma-Jean Lazarus is different from the other seventh graders at William Gladstone Middle School.  She’s super smart and super logical and finds the social interactions among her peers interesting but totally irrational.  Yet she is drawn to use her super problem solving skills to help sweet, hypersensitive Colleen when Emma-Jean discovers her crying in the girls’ bathroom.  Emma-Jean’s meddling not only leads to some hilarious situations but also to her beginning to make friends.  In the sequel, Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love, Emma Jean develops a crush herself while trying to help Colleen discover the secret admirer who left a note in Colleen’s locker.  If you enjoy quick, humourous reads about quirky characters, you’ll love Emma Jean Lazaus!

emma-jean

 

 

 

Connection:  Other good novels with quirky characters include The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen, Susan Patron’s Higher Power of Lucky, Way Down Deep by Ruth White and the adult novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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.

The True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

homerfiggby Rodman Philbrick.  p. 244 – Grades 5-8

Like adventure?Enjoy humor?Interested in American history, especially the Civil War?Then this is the book for you because it has lots of all three.Orphan Homer P. Figg runs away from the cruel uncle who is raising him after this guardian illegally sells Homer’s older brother Harold into the Union Army.In his quest to rescue his brother, Homer has many dangerous, but also hilarious, adventures along the way.Homer is a chronic liar and his ability to stretch the truth gets him both into and out of some very tight spots.This is a fast-moving tale filled with interesting characters, many surprises, and lots of twists and turns.

Connection:  For other humorous adventures with historical American settings, try Sid Fleischman’s Bandit Moon and Jim Ugly, Walter Dean Myers’ The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Antsy Does Time

Monday, June 15th, 2009

antsy does timeBy Neal Shusterman, p. 247 – Grades 6-9. 

If you enjoyed meeting Antsy (Anthony Bonano) in the Schwa Was Here, you’ll love encountering him again in this humorous teen novel in which he gives Gunnar Umlaut a month of his life.  When classmate Gunnar tells Antsy that he only has six months to live, Antsy draws up a contract giving Gunnar a month of his life, which earns him the attention and a kiss from Gunnar’s gorgeous older sister.  Soon other kids and even the principal want to donate months of their lives to Gunnar.  Time passes, and Gunnar isn’t showing symptoms.  What’s up?

 

Connection:  Other humorous novels where schemes get out of hand are The Schwa Was Here by Neal Schusterman, The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian, and Peeled by Joan Bauer.