Posts Tagged 'realistic fiction'

DK Adventures: Horse Club by Patricia J. Murphy

DK Adventures: Horse Club. By Patricia J. Murphy. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 2014. 128 pages. $16.99/hardcover and $5.99/paperback

Saddle up, readers and get ready to enjoy a rollicking good time at the Paddock Promises Horse Academy and Stables! Emma, her sister Amanda and their friends from Horse Club go to riding camp over winter break. While not without incident, their camp experience fulfills their wildest dreams, including the sisters pulling off a not-to-be-believed special trick at the Horse Show-and-Tells before a stunned audience of family and friends.

The text is peppered with a great deal of factual information on horses including riding, equipment, and breeds. For the most part, this information is placed at the end of the chapters, allowing readers to learn along with the riders. Occasionally however, these spreads are placed within the chapter, interrupting the flow of Patricia J. Murphy’s galloping narrative.

Horse Club, as the newest entry in Dorling Kindersley’s DK Adventure series, deserves a top billing all its own. Murphy, author of over 150 children’s books, has created a sure fire winner for the middle grade set. Not just for horse lovers, this title has appeal for developing readers in 2nd-4th grades.

Counting by 7’s

Counting by 7’s. By Holly Goldberg Sloan. Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group USA Inc.), 2013. 384 pages. $16.99

Willow Chance is brilliant. She has an encyclopedia knowledge of medical conditions and plants.. She thinks of the world as a pattern of 7’s. An outlier? Definitely. But she fits right in with her warm and supportive, albeit small, family. Then Willow ’s life is changed in a heartbeat. Her parents die in a tragic accident and she faces the very real possibility of being swept into the foster care system.  Friends she didn’t know existed step up to provide her a place to live and a buffer against the system. In the spirit of Polacio’s Wonder and Lord’s Rules, Sloan opens our world to the possibilities of those who are differently abled. She writes with the same clarity and strength that she bestows upon Willow, who you’ll come to admire for her resiliency and determination. Counting by 7’s is achingly sad, funny, and heartwarming. A wonderful book for grades 4 and up.

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

After Iris. By Natasha Farrant. 272 pages. $16.99

Imagine having your twin die. And then imagine life going on. That, in a nutshell, is the story of After Iris by Natasha Farrant. Life for the Gadsby family goes on after the death of Iris, but things will never be the same for Flora, Jasmine, Twig and their parents. But most of all, life won’t be the same for Iris’ twin, Blue. Blue disengages from the family viewing them, as they grieve separately rather than together, through the lens of her movie camera. When Zoran, the Bosnian male au pair, and Joss the new-boy-next-door enter the scene, things can go either way. Will it be further disruption or a mending of the family? Farrant has crafted a poignant story about the fragile emotions that envelope a family as they cope with what life has wrought. At times funny, at times sarcastic, at times heartfelt, all-in-all this is an engaging read. For grades 4-8.

Screech Owls Series by Ray MacGregor

The Night They Stole the Stanley Cup and Mystery at Lake Placid. By Roy MacGregor. Tundra Books, 2013. 176 pages and 272 pages, respectively.  $8.95

They Shoot! They Score! The Screech Owls are back in full force in this reissue of the popular Canadian hockey series. Authored by award-winning hockey writer Roy MacGregor, these books are spot on accurate with the thrills, chills and checks of youth hockey.  Add in a solid mystery and there’s no doubt, these books will be hits with a new audience.  Notable is the inclusion of girls who are offer exemplary skills and sportsmanship. Having noted this forward step in gender equity, I was puzzled by the boys’ attempts to view adult movies while at the hotel and the comparison of the hockey rink markings to female anatomy. This female hockey fan is not amused by boorish “boys will be boys” behavior. Maybe those changes will be in the next reissue. Suitable for sports fans in 4th to 7th grades.

Todd Hasak-Lowy Author Visit

Thanks to The Book Stall in Winnetka, I was able to host Todd Hasak-Lowy, author of 33 Minutes, at my school. He held the rapt attention of 125 hoping-for-a-snow-day fifth graders, no small feat in and of itself, with stories of his own middle school years and how those experiences became part of the 33 Minutes narrative. Mr. Hasak-Lowy’s entire presentation was as fast-paced and quick-witted as his writing. His ability to engage students in the conversation was remarkable and even that rogue questioner, whose question is meant to get a few chuckles from his peers, was acknowledged and his question legitimized.  Of great delight to the teachers and students, was the discussion of revisions. Mr. Hasak-Lowy read a portion of the first draft and the comparable section of the published text and led the students in an insightful critique of the two versions. So open another tab on your browser and send off an email to Todd Hasak-Lowy at hasaklowy@gmail.com .  Schedule a visit for your school. You and your students will not be disappointed.

February 26, 2013 at Roosevelt School, Park Ridge, IL

February 26, 2013 at Roosevelt School, Park Ridge, IL

Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

Road Trip. By Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen. Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House Children’s Books, 2013. 128 pages. $12.99

Like dogs? Love a good road trip? On a school bus? Add in a cast of colorful characters and you have the book Road Trip, a joint venture of Gary Paulsen and his son Jim. Dedicated to “all the dogs who make us better people,” Road Trip is in fact a homage to all that is good about dogs and our unique caretaking relationship with them. Narrated in part by Atticus, the family Border Collie, we are treated to a special a dog’s eye view of the goings on complete with his insightful editorial comments. The first person narration of Ben holds up well in the comparison to his beloved canine.  Best read snuggled up next to a furry friend. For 4th to 6th grade readers.

Authors Galore

Its been a week filled with writers and discussions of writing! Thanks to my friends at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL, Clare Vanderpool came to speak to the 4th and 5th graders at my school. Ms. Vanderpool was promoting her recently released book, Navigating Early.

Navigating Early is the quest of two boys, Early Auden and Jack Baker. The boys don’t quite fit in at their Maine boarding school and when a school holiday leaves them to fend for themselves, they set off on the Appalachian Trail to discover the great black bear. A second, parallel, quest is featured in the book. Early, being a math wiz, has created a story of pi. Not the number, per se, but of Polaris, nicknamed Pi. Vanderpool’s ability to weave the two narratives into a cohesive whole is nothing short of masterful. I was spellbound by her practice of the craft — multiple story lines and nuanced characters brought to like with beautiful descriptions and authentic dialogue. It doesn’t get any better than Navigating Early.

Several weeks ago, I reviewed Todd Hasak-Lowy’s novel 33 Minutes. The launch party was held on the weekend at The Book Stall. I wanted to meet Mr. Hasak-Lowy. There were references in the book to locations that I was sure I knew from my high school years in Farmington Hills, MI. Sure enough, Todd graduated from the same high school I attended. Comparing notes on his setting was great fun!  The reasons I liked 33 Minutes still hold and I enjoyed hearing Todd describe the writing process for the novel. Using such a narrow time frame to tell the story is not all that common, maybe even unique.

I enjoyed the week immersed in books and talk of writing. Thank goodness for the lingering warm feelings it created as we settle in for a cold week here in the Chicago area.

 

 

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. 224 pages.

33 Minutes and counting until Sam Lewis has his date with destiny. Or at least a confrontation at recess with his former best friend Morgan Sturtz. The likely outcome? Sam’s butt will be kicked. But Sam is saved by the bell — actually a food fight followed by a fire alarm, but who’s keeping track? Moments of 33 Minutes are laugh-out-loud funny and yet, there is a certain poignancy to Sam’s dilemma as he navigates his middle school world. Hasak-Lowy creates a nuanced bully/bullied relationship, with Sam understanding he has some culpability in his situation and its resolution. The book will have broad appeal — beginning with readers who have exhausted the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise and are looking for something equally funny, but a little meatier. For 4th to 6th grade readers.

Mr. Terupt Falls Again by Rob Buyea

Mr. Terupt Falls Again. By Rob Buyea. Delacorte Press, 2012. $16.99

Anyone who read Because of Mr. Terupt wanted to be in his class… the adults included. The masterful teacher with amazing insights into his students is back for 6th grade along with his seven narrators. Following the format of the first book, the student voices relate the trials, tribulations, challenges, and joys of the school year including a special celebration. Sequels don’t often surpass the original, but this one just might! For 5th to 8th grade readers.

A Smidgen of Sky by Diana Dorisi Winget

A Smidgen of Sky. By Dianna Dorisi Winget. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. 208 pages. $16.99

Piper Lee DeLuna misses her dad. He’s been missing for four years and thought to be dead in a plane crash. Piper’s mom has plans to marry again and Piper will get not only a step-father but a cranky step-sister in the deal. Piper comes up with an ingenious plan to get the wedding called off. A tragedy is narrowly averted and Piper realizes how much she cares for all of the people in her life. A notable effort by newcomer Dianna Dorisi Winget. Suitable for 4th to 7th grade readers.



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