Archive for August, 2012

The Boxcar Children Beginning by Patricia MacLachlan

The Boxcar Children Beginning. By Patricia MacLachlan. Albert Whitman & Company, 2012. 144 pages. $16.99

Newbery Medal Winner Patricia MacLachlan presents an intriguing back story for the invincible Boxcar Children; Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden. The children enjoy life with their parents at Fair Meadow Farm removed from the dire economic conditions of the Depression. Eventually, though, that changes and the Clark’s including children, Meg and William, and family dog, Joe, stay with the Alden’s after being stranded near the farm. The two families bond and there are many long faces and tears when the Clarks resume their journey after Mr. Clark repairs their car. The Clark’s were only the first of a series of out-of-work families who stay with the generous Alden’s at Fair Meadow. Then tragedy strikes and the scene is set for the long popular Boxcar Children series. MacLachlan’s story is believable up to a point. The children’s transition from happy family to kids-on-the-road is abrupt and seemingly devoid of emotion. Having said that, young readers will enjoy reading about the Alden’s life before the mysteries. Suitable for 2nd to 5th grade readers.

Rope Burn by Jan Siebold

Rope Burn. By Jan Siebold. Albert Whitman & Company, 1998. 82 pages. $5.99 (paperback)
Recently re-released, Rope Burn, is certainly worth another look. Richard’s not especially fond of writing. Especially when Mr. Best assigns writing about proverbs and how they reflect on student’s lives. There is too much material in Richard’s 11-year-old life. His parents have recently divorced, he’s moved to a new neighborhood and school, he’s just made friends with James, and he’s trying to conquer his fear of rope climbing, and that’s just the beginning. Through the series of assignments, Richard begins to address the uncertainties in his life. Like Siebold’s Doing Time Online, this short book quickly engages readers, making it perfect for those who struggle or who would prefer not to read. Each chapter begins with a proverb and can stand on its own as a short story allowing for contemporary connections to traditional literature. Suitable for grades 4-6.

Summer Reading

It’s officially the end of summer for me. School starts next week, the library is looking ready to go, and first week lessons are planned. I’m wondering what I’ll wear on the first day of school and hoping that I’ll make a new friend or two. (See, some things never change!)

My summer reading focused on classics — Hemingway, Faulkner and Tennessee Williams topped the list. I enjoyed rereading Gone With the Wind and pairing that with The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The last few weeks I have been drawn to thrillers and can highly recommend Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Tigers in Red Weather by Liz Klaussmann, and Broken Harbour by Tana French. I was also intrigued by Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. This multilayered, coming-of-age, adventure story kept me riveted.

Now its back to reading children’s literature. This fall has some wonderful offerings, including the long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s The Giver titled simply Son. It will be available in early October. Don’t miss it!

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli

Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli. Balzer & Bray, 2012. 352 pages. $15.99
Growing up is awfully hard to do and especially so if you are twins. Jake makes the first move to expand his social circle outside of his twin, Lily, leaving her adrift and bereft. Lily turns to her beloved grandfather Poppy for company and consolation. He encourages Lily to build her own life separate from her twin and she proceeds with fits and starts, and ultimately succeeds. Meanwhile, Jake, under the influence of peer pressure, allows Ernie, the new kid in town to be bullied. Jake realizes that he has hurt people he cares about and sets out to make things right with both Ernie and Lily. With Jake and Lily alternating the narration, readers get both sides of the challenges of their growing up, but not apart. Newbery winner, Jerry Spinelli, has created memorable characters and a credible story line. Suitable for 3rd-6th grade readers.

Penelope Crumb by Shawn Stout

Penelope Crumb by Shawn K. Stout. Philomel Books, 2012. 176 pages. $14.99
Move over Malory and Piper Reed! Meet fourth-grader Penelope Crumb! Penelope has to learn something new about her family in order to create a coat of arms for art class. Her mother’s side of the family is pretty average and provides little in the way of artistic motivation. She sets out to discover Grandpa Felix, her deceased father’s father. Exhibiting ingenuity and street smarts, Penelope tracks him down and “noses” her way into his life with the coat of arms being only a part of what she gains! Penelope is sassy and smart, clever and creative, and sure to win over readers in a big way. Suitable for 3rd to 5th grade readers.

STAT #1: Home Court by Amar’e Stoudemire

STAT #1: Home Court by Amar’e Stoudemire/ Scholastic, Inc., 2012. 144 pages. $17.99 HC/$5.99 PB
New York Knick’s captain, Amar’e Stoudemire, in addition to being devoted to basketball, is on a mission to get kids to read. More than just hype, he has authored a credible entry in the sports series genre. The series is “STAT,” an acronym for “Standing Tall and Talented,” and that is an apt description for the hero Amar’e. Loosely autobiographical, Amar’e works hard at school, helps his dad with his landscaping business, practices skateboarding moves, and plays basketball with his friends. When bullies threaten to monopolize the local court, Amar’e uses both his physical and mental abilities to lead his team. This is the perfect time for fans of Rondi and Tiki Barber books to switch to basketball. Suitable for 3rd to 5th grade readers.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Liar & Spy. By Rebecca Stead. Random House Children’s Books, 2012. 192 pages. $18.99
When Georges, named after artist Georges Seurat, looks at his life, he sees a series of unconnected dots, the uncertainties of middle school, an unemployed architect father, and a hospital nurse mother who is ill and occupying a bed herself. Add to this; a new apartment; Safir, his new neighbor; the Spy Club; and the suspect Mr. X. Newbery Award winner, Rebecca Stead merges the dots into a perfect whole. Suspense filled until the last chapter, readers won’t put this book down. Suitable for 4th to 8th grades.

About Average by Andrew Clements

About Average. By Andrew Clements. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012. 128 pages. $16.99
Everything about Jordan Johnson is average, her grades, her looks, and her talents. Until disaster, in the form of a classic Midwestern tornado, strikes and Jordan leads her classmates, including her nemesis Marlea, to safety. At that point, Jordan is anything but average. This is Andrew Clements at his best with believable characters and a well-developed school story plot line. A great tie in with science units focused on weather or disasters. Suitable for readers in 4th to 8th grades.

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills

Rocket Writes a Story. By Tad Hills. Random House Children’s Books, 2012. 40 pages. $17.99

Rocket, who recently learned to read, is now ready to tackle writing. Facing the problems many writers face, including problematic plot development and writers block, Rocket perseveres with help from his reading coach and buddy, the little yellow bird. Rocket’s writing method; gathering words, identifying inspiration, and sharing the results with a community, is worthy of emulation. A perfect book for aspiring writers of all ages and in particular for beginning readers and writers age 4-8.


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