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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Story of the Blue Planet by Andri Snaer Magnason

The Story of the Blue PlanetIf you want a book that will open up your world, consider reading this cautionary tale. It has been published in twenty-two countries. It has many worldly names such as Brimer, Hulda, Elva and Magni. Blue Planet is only inhabited by children. When a villain lands on the planet, he offers to trade a small amount of youth for the power to fly. What child could resist that offer? "Youth is the most precious stuff in the world. It's more valuable than gold and diamonds and...". Of course children want to fly. In order to fly, the villain has the sun up all the time on their side of the planet. This throws off the entire ecosystem.

Problems arise because there are children on the other side of the planet.  The majority of the children vote for bombs - though not one person throws a bomb. Does a majority make it right? What good discussions about democracy could come from this book. Brimer is the one to sacrifice his heart. He truly is a leader. However, it is Hulda who comes up with a solution. See if you agree with me. I think the best vocabulary word is on page 123.  GOBSMACKED

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Melonhead and the We-Fix-It Company by Katy Kelly

Melonhead and the We-Fix-It CompanyMelonhead and best friend Sam star in another adventure when they accidentally (and grossly) discover a tarnish remover. True to form, Adam's mom slips on the concoction and dents the family heirloom teapot. The boys start a fix-it service to earn money to pay for the repairs to the teapot. To further complicate matters, Melonhead’s aunt has promised an amusement park trip if he can stay out of trouble for a month (very impossible for Melonhead to do). The fix-it service has more mishaps than accomplishments, but the boys still manage to earn money in an unexpected fashion by making five different concoctions to help clean or to help get sticky things unstuck! Melonhead’s mom decides not to have the teapot repaired so that a new story can be added to the teapot's history. Melonhead’s friends get to enjoy the fruits of their labor by going to a totally cool amusement park.

The book is entertaining and lively and captures the spirit of boys being boys at its best. (I love when they keep rhyming!) The characters are funny without being sarcastic and they are still creative and inspired by the world around them without having to rely on video games and the like. The boys are surrounded by good friends who all respect each other as well as very positive role models who don't try to squish the boys free spirit!

 Also at the back of the book are the five fix-it mixtures the boys created and sold. Try them out; but make sure you have an adult help you too!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

UngiftedDonovan Curtis is a nice guy who just happens to have poor impulse control. He whacks at a huge statue at school. It rolls down a slope and does huge damage to the school.  He gets sent to the office. It is there where his name is placed on a wrong list; the list is for the gifted school.
The gifted school is called the Academy for Scholastic Distinction and his school is called Hardcastle Middle School.
How creative is that?
Each chapter is an "un" word: unfailing, unrockin', unburdened . . .
How creative is that?
How many references to the Wizard of Oz can you formulate?
How creative is that?

Each chapter tells the I.Q. of the person and each chapter gives a different perspective using multiple points of view. Donovan Curtis doesn't fake being gifted. He is almost a hero to the gifted students because he can shine in the robotics class. He even gets to name the robot.

The main theme of the realistic fiction turns out to be tolerance. Donovan assists the "gifted" and "ungifted" in really understanding each other.  Donovan might not be gifted, but he certainly has many gifts.

                                  *    2015 Rebecca Caudill Award Nominee   *

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Odd Weird & Little by Patrick Jennings

Odd, Weird & LittleToulouse Hulot (pronounced ooh-LOW, a new student from Quebec, Canada enters Woodrow's classroom one fall afternoon and changes Woodrow's life immediately. Toulouse is really short, wears a suit and tie, has tiny, round wire-rimmed glasses, a hat and black leather gloves. He would catch your attention, right? Well that he does, especially the attention of Garret and Hubcap, the two bullies of Woodrow's class. Usually it's Woodrow they make fun of because Woodrow has some different hobbies, like making creations out of duck tape. Plus Woodrow is clumsy and is a bit of a bookworm. Most of the kids in his class make fun of him. For some reason, Woodrow is drawn to Toulouse right away. He knows that if he befriends Toulouse, the teasing will continue for him, but he doesn't feel right not becoming his friend because he finds him so unique and interesting. Instead, Woodrow begins to stand up to the Garret and Hubcap and defend Toulouse. Now something is definitely very odd about Toulouse. Even though he is short, he can get to great heights quickly. At recess he sits in a tree to read. In music class, he can sing like a bird and knows how to play the accordion. Then there is gym class, he can spike a volleyball and he is as tall as a kindergartener. Also, he likes to eat sandwiches that have tiny feet hanging out of them. Plus, he never takes off his hat or gloves. Thinking something is fishy (oh yeah, there are a bunch of weird episodes with fish in this book)? You would be right. Read the book to see if you can figure out what, I mean whooo, Toulouse is. (The title and the table of contents might give you a clue - look for the pattern). So I have become a fan of Patrick Jennings since I read Guinea Dog last year. I have read several of his other books and I am a fan of this new title. It is very well written about how kids who are considered "different" are often bullied by the popular kids who are considered "cool." Even though adults are around and try to stop it, bullying still happens. I guess I could connect to the book because I was bullied in fifth grade when I was the new kid at the school. It's not fun to live through and luckily when I went to junior high that all changed as I think it is changing for Woodrow. The way the book ended, I'm thinking that there may be a sequel in the works by Mr. Jennings. I truly hope so!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slob by Ellen Potter

SlobShame on me. I was not going to read this book because of the word  "slob". I would never call anyone a slob. If I can't find a better word to use, I will not say it. I would have missed out on a lot if I had not read this book. You have to look very closely at the cover to see what words are written on the cookie. Hint: it is not Oreo.

Owen is the smartest and biggest kid in his middle school.  He didn't gain all the extra weight until his mom and dad were murdered.  He was never able to invent a machine that would show the reflection of the murder on the TV screen. He was never able to solve the mystery about who was stealing his Oreos. I couldn't solve it either. I couldn't figure out why his sister was in the GWAB group (Girls Who Are Boys).

The Lexile number for this fiction is only 740.  The best parts of this book are the pacing and the character development.  I will never, ever forget the words of the final three sentences.  This book demonstrates what middle school kids have to go through and the depth of their feelings and intellect.

                                            *   2015 Rebecca Caudill Award Nominee   *

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Unstoppable by Tim Green

UnstoppableOnce you read the first few pages of this book, you begin rooting for the main character Harrison. Harrison has been moving around the foster care system because he is considered a "problem," as he gets into fights for survival and occasionally defends others. He lands in the Constables's home, a family that is known to take in "problem" children. However Mr. and Mrs. Constable use their foster kids to work their farm and beat them with a belt. A freak accident happens and Mr. Constable is killed. Harrison is put back into the foster system but this time he is cannot believe his luck when he is placed with a good family. Harrison has been dreaming about playing football ever since he caught sneak peaks of NFL games and his new foster father is the head coach of the junior high school team. Harrison begins training with the team and is a natural right away. His teammates begin to say he is "unstoppable" and the team goes to the playoffs for the first time in years. A freak accident happens to his knee sending Harrison to the hospital for an MRI. The MRI uncovers a serious illness that Harrison and his new family have to deal with that may end his football dreams. The cover may make you think it's only about football, but this book is about so much more. It is about overcoming odds and being strong enough to deal with what life throws at you. The story made me mad, cheer and want to cry at times. No wonder this book has been nominated for the 2015 Caudill award.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

The Blossoming Universe of Violet DiamondViolet Diamond is eleven years old, has a good family and friends, but something is missing in her life. Violet's dad was killed in an automobile accident when her mom was pregnant with her. Violet's mom is white and her dad was black, so Violet is biracial. Roxanne Diamond is a famous artist and is also the grandmother Violet has never met. When Violet learns that her grandmother is having an art showing in nearby Seattle, she asks her mother to take her there to meet her. Time has healed the wounds of losing her only son and Diamond wants to begin a relationship with Violet. Violet goes to spend some time with her grandmother, who she affectionately calls "Bibi," the Swahili name for grandmother. Diamond meets all of her father's side of the family and begins to feel like has found the missing pieces in her life when something big happens to Bibi. There is this part in the book where Violet is by her Greek friend, Athena's house. Athena's grandmother, Mrs. Matsoukis is visiting because her mom just gave birth to her brother. The girls start talking about Violet being biracial. Mrs. Matsoukis asks what it means. Athena tells her, "It means she's two races...half black race and half white race." Athena's grandmother counters by saying, " Aren't we all human race, Violet?...Of course we are. Human races comes in many colors. This word 'biracial'is silly talk." I loved these words. As a society there is still some tension between races and Violet gets it from both sides. Mrs. Matsoukis' words we should all live by.

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