Archive for April, 2008

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent YearI hate romantic comedies.  I find them boring and I can’t keep from rolling my eyes constantly.  In fact, I think the reason that I avoid most realistic fiction is because I’m afraid that the book will turn into a romantic comedy-in-writing.  BUT.  I really loved My Most Excellent Year.  Which is definitely a romantic comedy.  Which might mean I’m slipping.

T.C. Keller, Augie Hwong and Alejandra Perez are all 9th graders at a Boston high school, and each of them–without realizing it–is trying to figure out where they belong in life.  T.C. is trying to stay a B+ student, in spite of his natural intelligence and love of politics; Augie is trying to reconcile himself to being both a sports star and a theater director of genius proportions; and Ale is trying to  live up to her diplomat parents’ expectations, while also following her dream of performing in musical theater. 

Do they figure it out?  (And find love along the way?)  Jeez, guys, come on–this is a romantic comedy!  Of COURSE they do!  But the process of finding their way is a wonderful read.  Most reviews will probably point out that it’s heartwarming and poignant, descriptive terms that usually make me run screaming in opposite direction.  BUT.  It’s true: the book is heartwarming and poignant.  More importantly, though, the book is also hilarious.  (Also, I love musicals).  My Most Excellent Year probably won’t make me reconsider my antipathy to romantic comedies, but I’ll definitely recommend it to any 9th and 10th graders who love realistic fiction.

Posted by: Sarah

Comments (8) »

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder

The Egypt GameDo you like playing imaginary games? Do you like suspense? Do you like thinking about Egyptian mythology and mummies and hieroglyphics and other intriguing stuff? If so, you can join April and Melanie and their group of assorted friends as they play their Egypt game. Then you can use your imagination to play your own Egypt game or Africa game or Indian game – the possibilities are endless.

Posted by: Iris

Leave a comment »

Kitty Princess and the Newspaper Dress by Emma Carlow

Kitty Princess and the Newspaper DressKitty Princess and the Newspaper Dress is a story about an ill-mannered kitty who learns that kind words go further than barked orders.  When Kitty’s Fairy Godmouse can’t conjure up the right dress for Prince Quince’s ball, Kitty takes matters into her own hands and goes shopping. 

Kitty’s too busy shouting orders to realize that she is shopping at all the wrong places.  It’s hard to find a pair of shoes at a vegetable store or a dress at a newspaper stand.  The store owners meet Kitty’s demands with silly results.  Things are set right only after Kitty apologizes.  And there’s one more silly surprise in store. 

Read this book and that’s an order!

Posted by: Liz

Leave a comment »

Night Shift by Jessie Hartland

Night ShiftThis picture book is a very fun and informative look at the people who are working while most people are sleeping.  The illustrations are very appealing and done in a very child-like, maybe 4th or 5th grade boy style.  The stories of each of the people working the night shift are all woven together by questions such as  “Who does the road worker visit for a snack at 3:30 a.m.?”.  We learn about donut bakers and tugboat captains and bridge painters and window dressers.  There is a lot of good information that would appeal to teachers teaching about careers and occupations, but mostly it is was interesting to think of a whole world of activity happening that we might not often think about.  I think boys would especially love this book, but I really liked it too!

Posted by: Mary

Leave a comment »

Wingwalker by Rosemary Wells

WingwalkerAccomplished author Rosemary Wells writes her first short historical fiction chapter book for third graders and older in the book Wingwalker.  Her story line is appealing because it is a slice of American life, probably not known about by our young contemporary readers, and has familiar family elements (like a peaceful, secure loving environment, but also parents losing jobs), and unfamiliar elements (the unusual way these parents work to survive their particular hard times).

Second-grader Reuben witnesses the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of 1933 first hand watching farms and crops dry up, turn to dust, and smother peoples lives.  Reuben’s dad, who had been a ballroom dance instructor, loses that job when times get tough, but finds a job in another state as an airplane wingwalker.  Reuben’s mom also loses her job as a cafe cook.  The family sells all their furniture to buy a car and moves to Minnesota where the wingwalking job happens to be with the county fair circuit.  Reuben’s mom finds work cooking for the fair performers and life settles in with Reuben and his folks living and working among a tattooed lady, a fire eater, a huge black fat man, clog dancers, the human snake man with the flexible body, and more.  These all become Reuben’s family and new circle of friends. 

The story has the inevitable tension of the mom not wanting the dad to walk wings, Reuben himself being very afraid of heights and afraid of perhaps losing his dad, and the dad loving the idea of being a wingwalker and even wanting to bring Reuben up with him.  This title might be a good suggestion for a second or third grade parent-run book discussion group as we sometimes get asked for a recommendation.  This short book speaks to fear and courage, people who are ‘different’, superstitions and whether or not bargaining with God works.  This is a short, well-written adventure for the younger reader. 

Posted by: Fran D.

Leave a comment »

The Brothers’ War by J. Patrick Lewis

Civil War Voices in Verse
“In the bloody battle of Seven Pines,
a young soldier, Absalom Flowers,
whose mother baked the most delicious cobbler
in Roanoke, whose father was nothing really,
stopped a Union bullet with his face.  Rolling slowly
downhill, he concluded on the home of a vole.
A sprawling monument to insanity.”

So begins the poem “Boys in a Brother’s War.” Once more we are reminded of the inconceivable horror that is war, how it steals young men from the arms of their families and the sight of their loved ones. 

In the Brother’s War, J. Patrick Lewis writes short poems that are so eloquent, I was lulled into a sense of beauty just before the bucket of blood and viscera hit me square in the face.

Each double page spread chronicles a person, event or battle of the US Civil War from “picking cotton near Savannah, Georgia, early 1800’s” to “Passing in Review” a tribute to the soldiers who finally made “home.”  Each is accompanied by a period photograph and short but concise remarks concerning the subject of the poem.  Just one look will convince any reader that this is a beautiful book—the verses are printed on glowing golden pages, the photographs are prominently and artfully displayed–but it is not for the faint of heart.  The sights and sounds of war fill every page.

The book is outstanding in its entirety. It is “all of a piece.”  The poetry is thoughtful and haunting. It is appended with author’s notes, a timeline, a map and then there are those arresting photographs.   It’s more of a tapestry than a patchwork.  Every aspect is woven into the fabric of the whole so that the final product reveals a complete story.

Lewis and the publishers, the National Geographic Society, have offered readers a unforgettable tribute to the hundreds of thousands, soldiers and civilians, whose history has been forever changed by Civil War, by all wars.

Posted by: Eileen

Comments (1) »

Wart by Anna Myers

WartHow would you like the name of Wart for a nickname?  Well, that is just one of Stewart Wright’s problems as he begins eighth grade.  His bigger problem is his attempt to change his popularity status.  His even bigger problem is Wanda Gibbs, the new art teacher, who also just happens to be a witch.  At least, that is what her own son has told Wart.  His biggest problem is that Ms. Gibbs has started dating his father.

Stewart enlists the help of his friends, Ham and Rachel, to help find ways to prove that Ms. Gibbs is really a witch.  How can they possibly prove this?  Garlic and onions don’t help.  Sneaking into her bedroom while she is asleep doesn’t help.  Trying to convince Stewart’s dad doesn’t help.  What’s a boy to do?

Just when everything seems to be going wrong for Stewart, he finds himself gaining popularity and he begins to hang out with the “cool” kids.  He also suddenly becomes a star player on the school’s basketball team.  Has Ms. Gibbs put a spell on Wart, has he simply discovered newfound confidence, or is there something “special” with the spray cologne that Ms. Gibbs has given him and encouraged him to wear?

Posted by: Wendy

Leave a comment »