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Posts Tagged «outsiders»

Guitar Boy

Friday, May 13th, 2011
guitar boyby M. J. Auch      260 pages        Grades 6-9
Travis is out on the street.  His father, at his wits end after his mother’s accident, lost his temper and kicked him out of the house with nothing but the clothes on his back and his mom’s old guitar. Not only does Travis have to worry about how to survive on the street,  he is also worried about the rest of his family. His younger sister had to give up going to school to take care of their three younger siblings; the three little ones are missing their mom, and don’t really understand what has happened to her; his father is so distraught he has lost one job and cannot find another; his mother, rather than being helped to recover, has been housed in a convalescent home with a lot of people not expected to get any better.

Travis has his hands full, and his pockets empty. Guitar Boy is a different kind of survival story.

Other stories about difficult family situations are Bloomability, by Sharon Creech, and If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko.

 

The Unknowns

Monday, February 7th, 2011

unknownsby Benedict Carey,    259 pages,   Grades 6-8

Until now living in Folsom Adjacent, a trailer park bordering the Folsom Power Plant on a circular island, has been pretty boring. In fact, Diaphanta, a.k.a. Lady Di, and Tamir al-Khwarizmi, a.ka. Tom Jones, had nothing to do but work on trying to pass math and stay out of the way of the bullies until people in their community start to disappear.The Crotona police don’t seem to be doing anything, so when their friend and math tutor vanishes from her trailer leaving behind a clue Lady Di and Tom Jones decide to see if they can solve the puzzle and save their teacher.Di and Tom, and eventually a few other allies, follow a series of math clues through the tunnels under Adjacent and battle adolescent and grown-up bullies trying to save their friend and the dirty little town that is their home.

This book will satisfy fans of Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society, or anyone who enjoys puzzling out math problems from different points of view.

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.

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.

Nation

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Terry_Pratchett_NationBy Terry Pratchett  367 pages  Grades 7-10

The tsunami seemingly washed away their distinctly different worlds and left them both stranded.  After the wave, Mau returns by dugout canoe from his coming of age quest to his village (the Nation) gone, and the trail of destruction leads him to the grounded wreck of the Sweet Judy, the ship that was to bring Daphne from her home in Victorian England to join her father in the “South Pelagic.”  With supplies from the wrecked ship and Mau’s knowledge of the land, the two start to rebuild the Nation as wounded survivors start arriving from other islands and as Daphne holds out hope that her father will come find her.  Daphne (known as the ghost girl), with her curious customs, strange clothes and white skin, struggles to communicate and fit in with her new community while Mau, the very young chief of this new Nation, is called the demon boy for having no soul without the completion of his manhood ceremony.  As this group struggles to survive, they live in fear of the inevitable arrival of the Raiders.

Connections:  For other tales of shipwrecks or deserted island survival, try reading Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, Overboard by Elizabeth Fama or Seaborn by Craig Moodie.  For more background on the book and the process of writing it, watch this video interview with the Terry Pratchett.

The Unnameables

Friday, November 13th, 2009

unnameablesby Ellen Booraem.  p. 318  Grades 6-9

In a world where things and places are simply named for what they are and people are named for what they do, how would you expect a boy named Medford Runyuin to fit in?  He doesn’t.  Instead the people of Island are wary of him and the children teasingly call him Raggedy or Plank Baby because of his messy look and his arrival on the island tied to a plank when he was a baby.  To make matters worse, Medford has a secret that he is trying keep hidden from the people of Island, and the mysterious arrival of the stinky Goatman is likely to blow his cover, literally.

For other stories of characters fighting the unfair rules/laws of their world, try reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, Maximum Ride:  The Angel Experiment by James Patterson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Among the Hidden or Running out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

To learn the story around the creation of the crazy character the Goatman, check out the author’s website http://www.ellenbooraem.com/evolution.html

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.