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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen

Readers' theater is popular so it is great that you will find a play in the last part of this book. Imagine a severe storm comes up after school. The boys still in the building find their way one by one to the safest place without any windows - the restroom. YIKES  The first one in is a boy with a nose-bleeding gusher (anxiety produced). One of the boys get caught bringing a stuffed cat to school (a coping strategy). Not one boy loses control. The time period occurs only during the storm warning. This book is short and is considered a novella. Gary Paulsen hints at the fine line between being disagreeable and abusive. The boys all add insights and coping strategies. They try to practice deep breathing and saying "It's alllllllll goooooooood".
Gary Paulsen was very astute not to give any adult interference. The children did everything themselves. They did not make fun of teachers, but one boy did a spot-on impression. Gary Paulsen gives all characters an equal voice as witness by the dialog in the play. I would be interested to know if you liked the novella better than the play.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Weekends With Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

PaxPizza, Pizza, Pizza
and more pizza
What's with all the pizza? The spy names are even named after pizza. Max plays Agent Pepperoni and his dad plays Agent Cheese. Max lives with his father every weekend. They truly make the most of their time together and help each other grow with creativity and thankfulness. Max thanks his dad for selecting a box for his habitat project. Max tells his father that he has to do the rest himself or else it won't be his project. You will spy in this beginning chapter book that Max comes up with a better idea than to break into the school where he left his material. You will also notice that he doesn't go out and buy things - he creates and finds what he needs.
Your mission - if you choose to accept it, is to spy:
the words on his dad's license plate.
the porcupettes
your favorite illustration by Katie Kath
This new book was just published in 2016. This is number one in the trilogy. I shall make it my mission to read the other two before you do.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

El Deafo by Cece Bell

PaxEl Deafo
That really is the title. El Deafo turns into a superhero to show her resilience. She has a hearing loss and she just wants to fit in with the other children. She comes across pushy friends, inconsiderate friends and friends who have a hard time dealing with differences. With sensitivity and insight, Cece brings the joy and frustration that many people can't even imagine. Cece has surprising reactions and preferences - just like everyone else.

This graphic novel is almost autobiographical. I could sense that the author has a hearing loss .In just this one book, examples about classrooms, television viewing and playing outside are included. Cece Bell ties in degrees of deafness,, various causes of deafness and different reactions. I apologize for not writing about this book sooner. It has already won the 2015 Newbery Honor Award. Now it is a 2017 Bluestem Award nominee. Let's hear it for anyone with differences. Cece - I hear you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtlif

PaxRose Red is the granddaughter of the Witch of the Woods.  You might know Rose Red better as Little Red Riding Hood and the Witch of the Woods as Granny.  Well as you can tell by Granny's title, she knows a little magic and Red as some magic in her as well, only her magic tends to backfire on her.  After she almost kills her grandmother using magic, Red vows never to do magic again.

 Red's mother sends her to visit Granny while they go out of town for a few days.  When she gets there, Granny is ill and doesn't have the strength to cure herself.  So Red decides she is going to find all the ingredients for a recipe to make Granny well again.  She just needs to go find some pixies and wolves.  So Red ventures out into the Woods on her voyage to get the recipe ingredients.  What she didn't expect was Goldie.  That's right folks, thee Goldilocks of The Three Bears fame.  And let me tell you that Goldy is very annoying - always babbling about something.  Red is not a fan.  However, their relationship changes as they encounter one dangerous situation after another.  Will Red be forced to use her magic to save Granny?  Will Goldy ever become less annoying?

I have read Liesl Shurtliff's other titles, Rump and Jack, but I think this is my new favorite (and I really liked Rump!).  Liesl Shurtliff does a fantastic job of weaving other fairy tale characters into her stories and this one I felt was loaded with them.  I was totally tricked by the Huntsman and have a whole other perspective of wolves from this story. The themes of friendship and destiny were woven throughout the story and I thought were very heartfelt, especially at the end.  Don't forget to read the Author's Note at the end of the story.  It made me smile and had a nice message about the importance of family.  I can't wait to see which fairy tale she takes on next!

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Slacker by Gordon Korman

SlackerWhen I saw Gordon Korman had a new book out, I just knew I had to read it.  Cameron Boxer lives to play video games.  He would do it 24/7 if it weren't for school and sleep.  He even plays through the local fire department axing down his door because he forgot to take the ziti out of the oven and the house is full of smoke.  His parents are not happy campers and tell him he has to get involved in something other than video games (yet they let him keep his game system - that wouldn't happen in my household).

So Cam creates a fake club for middle school, the Positive Action Group (PAG), in which he is the president.  His friend Pavel posts it on the school webpage figuring no one will notice it.  How wrong they were.  A super-motivated Daphne shows up at his front door (or I mean plywood door since the fire department axed the other one), demanding to be part of the group.  When she doesn't get much response from Cam the slacker, she gets guidance counselor, Mr. Fanshaw, to force Cam to get the group started.  Soon, a class president wannabe, a football player whose on academic probation, a student who needs to do court appointed community service, plus a huge number of other students want to join the club.  Their first club act - help at a senior citizen housing facility with pulling weeds from their gardens.  Cam ducks inside to play video games on his phone but ends up saving an elderly lady's life.  Overnight the club becomes famous and everyone wants to join.

This doesn't sit well with the high school club, the Friends of Fuzzy.  Jen, their leader, wants herself and the club to be in the spot light.  After all, she wants to get into Harvard and can't let middle schoolers ruin her chances.  So Jen leads the group into sabotaging all the good the P.A.G. is doing in the community.  Cam is told that the P.A.G. has to be disbanded, which he is fine with since it frees up his time for playing video games.  However, the P.A.G. has made a difference in the lives of the middle schoolers who recognize it way faster than Cam does.  Their community is being threatened with economic disaster as their highway off ramp is about to be demolished.  Will the P.A.G. come back together to find a solution?  Will the Friends of Fuzzy try to ruin it?

This book is told through the perspective of the various characters.  My favorite minor character is probably Melody, Cam's younger sister.  She is delicious!  Also I like the self-awaking the middle schoolers went through, like Xavier and String. Any fan of Gordon Korman will enjoy his new edition.

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamara Will Wissinger

Gone FishingThis book hooked me - hook, line and sinker. Sam just wants to spend some time alone with his dad. To his shock, his little sister is tagging along on this fishing trip. Sam already sees that she has been messing with his tackle box. What else could possibly go wrong? With Sam's determination and his sister's spirit this funny adventure keeps on getting funnier.
What a great read-aloud this would make! The poetry does not interfere with the plot; it only enhances it. It is creative and varied.
Do you like poetry with two lines?
You might try couplets.
3 - try tercet and haiku
4 - how about quatrain
5 - you knew there was going to be five - cinquain
6 - no way can there be six.  Yep, sestet
7 - oh yeah, rondelet
8 - how great, triolet

This story is very good, but there are additional surprises at the end of the book. You will not believe how many whimsical line drawings Matthew Cordell (Justin Case series) did for this book. The author and illustrator both live in Illinois. If you see them, please tell them what a creative job they did. In the back of the book is the poet's tackle box - resources and fun facts. Rhyme, rhythm. poetry techniques and poetic forms are included. I hope that when you write a book someday, you will include your own "tackle box" with resources at the end.

              * 2017 Bluestem Award Nominee *

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

PaxPeter and Pax
Pax and Peter
We get to know their different perspectives with alternating chapters. Pax is a fox that Peter found on the day of his mother's funeral. Pax was an orphaned kit and Peter's father allowed him to "keep it for now". This is five years later and Pax has never known the wilderness. Before going off to war, the father stops the car and makes Peter leave the fox in the wood to fend for itself. Consumed by guilt and responsibility, Peter starts a journey of hundreds of miles from his grandfathers house in order to find Pax. In his heart, he knows that Pax is searching for him. The only assistance he gets is from Vola. Vola has a war story of her own. In the little time that they are together, Vola makes Peter deal with reality and responsibility.
You will notice that this is yet another book that has a library in the story. The library is crucial and serves as a beacon of hope. This book is not just about war - also wilderness, loss and friendship. Sara Pennypacker was very smart not to give any clues as to the place of the war or the year. It's just one more thing to ponder about in this thought-provoking book. Jon Klassen's striking illustrations are unforgettable. This book was just published this year. Pax means peace. "Pax" to all that read this book.

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