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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.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman

Night of the TwistersTwelve year old Danny Hatch is just a regular, great child.  He likes adventure and makes the most of everything. His good friend, Arthur, gets to come over to his house.  All the busy adults don't notice the severe storm coming.  The children have no idea the severity of it.  This book is based on a night of real tornadoes in Nebraska in 1980. The story takes place on just one day. You know how each chapters are usually named in a book. Well, in this book, the chapters are labeled with the hours before, during and after the tornadoes. One thing that I couldn't believe in this book is that the mother leaves her children to go check on someone else. Dan really listens to his mother and father. He remembers their advice and instructions to assist him and others in surviving.

I did not freak out, but I read this book on the same exact day of the of the anniversary of the tornadoes. I started reading and there was the date.  It was even on the same day of the week. I am not kidding; our towns sirens went off for the monthly practice test.  It is amazing how many connections that you might have to books!

                                                     * 2015 Bluestem Award Nominee *

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of MagicThis is one spindiddly book, and yes, you will have to read that book to find out what that means!  Once, long ago, the small town of Midnight Gulch was a place of magic.  But a duel between magicians, and more importantly between brothers, broke hearts and spirits, and since then, magic has been hard to come by in the quiet little town.

Twelve year old, Felicity Pickle, her mama, her little sister, and their dog roam and wander the world looking for an adventure.  But now, after years of drifting from place to place, Felicity is ready to settle down, and hope that Midnight Gulch is the home she always imagined.  But can the charm of Midnight Gulch break the wandering curse that has whispered in mama's ear to keep moving, or will Felicity have to come up with her own magic?  With a full cast of quirky characters and great storytellers, Felicity may have to find a small snicker of magic left in not only the town, but herself as well, to have the courage to break free.

Oh, and did I mention that Felicity can see words floating, dancing, streaming through the air and she collects them?  And that there is ice cream in Midnight Gulch that can make you remember events more clearly?  And that murals can move and spring to life?  Nope, no question about it - Midnight Gulch is not your typical small town.  This is a story of loneliness and friendship, magic and music, family and love, and it is worth checking out!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

The Secret Hum of DaisyGrace has been through a lot for a 12-year-old. Her mother and her wander around the state of California all her life, never staying in a town very long. Grace wants to change that when she finally feels at home with Mrs. Greene and her daughter, Lacey. Her mom and her argue about moving again and unfortunately her mom has an accident that takes her life and Grace is the one who finds her. Grace is sent to live with her grandmother, a woman she has never met because she sent Grace's mom away when she was pregnant at age 17. At first, Grace tries to sabotage her placement with her grandmother so that she can return to live with Lacey and Mrs. Greene. She moves into the shed instead of living in her grandmother's house, doesn't eat, and pulls mean pranks on her grandmother. Grace even tries to run away once. On her first day of school, she finds a paper crane in the bushes. Grace's mother loved cranes and made a living of creating birds as art. She begins to find more paper cranes throughout the town and she thinks her mom is trying to giver her a treasure hunt, something she did when she was alive. Grace begins to learn more about her grandparents, mother and father from various members of the community as she searches for more clues. Slowly she begins to settle into the community and finds out who is really leaving the paper cranes. Grace also finds peace with her grandmother and accepts the love she has to offer. This book takes it's time telling Grace's story, but it is worth the time. The reader can feel Grace's anger towards losing her mother and having to live with a grandmother she doesn't know. The characters in the book are very well-developed. Immediately I fell in love with Max, which was justified after I learned more about him. Even grandma makes you curious about who she really is as a person. The town is filled with quirky people but it's the kind of small town you would want to settle down in to live.

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