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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.

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!

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