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Friday, October 24, 2014

Gifts From the Sea by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

Gifts from the SeaQuila is twelve years old. She has never been to the mainland even though the lighthouse is just five miles from Maine. She is feeling resentful that her father didn't get her mother to a doctor before it was too late. Quila also feels so much responsibility because she has to do all the chores that her mother had done before her death. If you think that it would be cool to live in a lighthouse, you might not know how much has to be done. You might not know how isolation affects you. Quila has no outlet for her grief or for expressing herself. Quila spots a mattress in the ocean (actually two). She hears a noise and realizes that it is a baby. If Quila thought she had been busy, she has more non-stop responsibility with the baby. Things change when a woman arrives at the lighthouse two years later. What does she want? Will she take the child from them?

This book is based on true events. Creativity is not a main strength of this historical fiction. I completely disagree with the suggested age level for this book. The Lexile score is 990 and the emotional component also affects the consideration for readers. Children ages nine through eleven will probably get the most out of this book. It turns out that the main theme is not lighthouses, but resilience and independence.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin

The Five Lives of Our Cat ZookI could be wrong, but I think the author or the main character should have spelled the cat's name "Zuke". Oona and her brother, Fred, name the cat after fried zucchini. Oona is almost like a small mother to her brother. Their father died two years previously and they are trying to adjust. Oona tries to keep the memories vivid for them by telling stories. Oona had perfected telling whoppers from her father. She even color codes her whoppers.  Things change when their mom has a new boyfriend and when Zook gets very sick.

Oona has a lot of honest spirit. You will also notice the spirit of a close-knit diverse community. Oona thinks about a lot of things while trying to protect her brother from sad moments.  She is a responsible ten-year-old girl who helps her five-year-old brother. She even teaches him to read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is Oona who finds her brother when he suddenly disappears. It is Oona who comes up with eight theories on storytelling. One of them is:
A story doesn't have to be true, but it does have to be real.
So true!

           * Rebecca Caudill 2015 Nominee *

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nerd Camp 2.0 by Elissa Brent Weissman

Nerd Camp 2.0 Zack and Gabe are stepbrothers who couldn’t be more different. Zack likes skateboarding, surfing, playing video games and collecting baseball cards, while Gabe is more into being on the math team, collecting scientific element cards and conducting scientific research. They’ve learned to respect each other’s differences, and Gabe even helped Zack getting into Camp Seneca, a summer camp that’s near the one he attends. But when a fire damages Camp Seneca, Gabe's Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment camp offers to let Camp Seneca share their facilities.  Now it becomes the classic tale of Nerds vs. Cool Kids. Who will win the battle?

Nerd Camp 2.0 by Elissa Brent Weissman, the sequel to Nerd Camp.  It goes back and forth between Gabe’s and Zack’s perspectives, showing the concerns of each side for what seems like harmless fun to others, can be hurtful from a different perspective. I liked the message it represented about accepting each other's differences.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to WaterWould you like to read a book in which people are getting killed by bullets, lions, crocodiles and extreme conditions? I didn't want to read this realistic fiction .This book is so much more than the killings.  It is about hope in the depths of adversity - perseverance for months years. I could not believe how quickly the storyline moves.You won't believe it either.

I was wrong in assuming that Linda Sue Park  would only concentrate on writing certain types of books.  I am still amazed at her Newbery Award winner, A Single Shard. This book is special because it is based on the true story of a boy in Sudan. Salva was in school one day and he had to escape gun fire from brutal rebel soldiers. Escaping meant running away without his family and not knowing where he was going. The book starts when he was eleven. Every chapter alternates with the details of a girl who walks every day - ALL DAY to fetch water. Linda Sue Parks uses the alternate chapters to surprise us and fulfill our yearning to find out how everything really turned out. Not only has Linda Sue Park met the real Salva, she lives in the same town!

                                         * Rebecca Caudill 2015 Award Nominee*

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford

Switched at BirthdayLavender Myrtle Schmitz is short, stocky, and unpopular. Scarlet Martinez is tall, pretty, a soccer star and popular. They have nothing in common except their birthday; they share that day and this year they turn thirteen. The night of their birthday they both have a pink devil's food cake with an ugly orange wax candled shaped like a thirteen. Both make a wish and wake up the next morning in each others body (freaky right)! Now they each get to experience the opposite of what they are used to: Lavender - popular; Scarlet - unpopular. They also get to know each others families and get to see them in a different light. Scarlet and Lavender slowly start to see their own faults and their strengths. These realizations are the beginning of their friendship. Now that they are starting to see their flaws, will they be able to switch back to their old bodies?

If you like the movie, Freaky Friday or the book 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, you will probably like this book. This fantasy book is all about empathy. It reminds me of the Cherokee proverb, "Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes." Said another way it's the ability to be able to feel what it's like to be that person.  A message we all need to remember in life.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Stick Dog Chases a Pizza by Tom Watson

Stick Dog Chases a PizzaChicago-based writer, Tom Watson, has tickled the funny bone again with his loveable dog character, Stick Dog and his friends. This is the third book in the series and again the dogs are hungry and after some friend. Not just any food though; it's PIZZA, my FAVORITE FOOD!

The day starts out as a typical one with the friends all hanging out together. Stick Dog suggests they play frisbee and the other dogs go out to search for one because Mutt ate the last frisbee. Along the way, Karen finds a circular object on the ground an brings it to Stick Dog. He starts to sniff it and smells the wonderful aroma of tomato sauce and cheese. The other dogs start to sniff and lick it too and instantly they are all hungry and must search for more of these white circles. Karen leds Stick Dog over to the box which once contained the white circle. Luckily Stick Dog knows how to read so he finds out the name of the pizza place and the address. From then on, the friends come up with one crazier plan than the next to try to get their paws on some pizza.

 I love Stick Dog books. Stick Dog hangs around with some nice dogs, but they are not the brightest bunch. The other dogs always come up with complicated plans or say something silly, but Stick Dog embodies the traits of a true friend. He never makes them feel bad about the dangerously complicated plans they concoct. He calmly redirects their attention and always makes them feel good about themselves. This is definitely an entertaining book that many boys will enjoy. (I'm a girl and I liked it too.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

Upside Down in the Middle of NowhereArmani Curtis lives in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans with her mom, dad, two brothers, two sisters and her Memaw. Many of her uncles and cousins live close by too. She has a big party planned for her tenth birthday with friends and family, but there is a hurricane quickly coming towards New Orleans. Armani's neighbors are evacuating but Armani convinces her brother not to tell her father so that she can still have her party. Hurricane Katrina hits and her family is forced to stay in their home. The levees break during the storm quickly filling Armani's house with water. The family flees quickly to the attic and then eventually to the roof. When Armani's birthday puppy jumps into the black, churning water, her brother heroically tries to save the puppy. Armani's father jumps into the water to try to save his son. Soon after the remaining family is rescued and make their way to the Super Dome, where they are separated because Armani's baby brother is very sick. Armani is left to take care of her other two sisters and luckily a soldier who knows her uncle gets her into a bus which takes them to a shelter. She does her best trying to take care of herself and her sister, but is scared about what has happened to the rest of her family. Will they ever be together again?

This is a story of a very close-knit and loving family. Armani has a special relationship with her Memaw and her mom and dad are shown as loving parents. The story makes the reader feel like they are there with the family during the hurricane. Many times it brought me close to tears because I knew what was probably going to happen next. The book still left many unanswered questions, but it did end with some hope. Hurricane Katrina was a storm that took away many lives and changed the lives forever of those that lived through it. This book lets you see the hurricane and it's destruction through the eyes of a survivor.

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