Kwame Alexander hits the sweet spot again, this time scoring a goal with his mix of soccer, family, first crushes, friendship and poetry. As Nick struKwame Alexander hits the sweet spot again, this time scoring a goal with his mix of soccer, family, first crushes, friendship and poetry. As Nick struggles with his parents' impending divorce, bullying at school and figuring out how to talk to the girl of his dreams, he discovers that words and poetry can actually be cool. A great follow up to The Crossover!...more
Our 4th graders were especially excited to recommend The Zoo at the Edge of the World to one another. "If you like animals, you'll love this book," saOur 4th graders were especially excited to recommend The Zoo at the Edge of the World to one another. "If you like animals, you'll love this book," said Claire in her nomination. I was happy to include an action-packed adventure in our selection. However, students did not end up citing it during our final discussions.
Students like the development of Marlin's character, as he discovered his ability to speak directly with the animals even though he stuttered so badly that he couldn't speak to other people. I was concerned by the characterizations of the zoo employees who were native to British Guiana. They were never fully developed, but rather used as a contrast to Marlin and his father. I think students really responded to Gale's exploration of treatment of animals in captivity....more
Ellie and Jack might look like they each have everything going for them, but they're each struggling on the inside. When they bump into each other onEllie and Jack might look like they each have everything going for them, but they're each struggling on the inside. When they bump into each other on the first day of school and magically switch bodies, they're forced to see life from a different perspective. While the premise might seem familiar to adults, my students found it compelling and well-written.
"Megan Shull described the setting really well because I felt like I was in the story. I could totally imagine where they would be. Once, when the two characters were switched and the boy was at soccer practice with the girls' team, I could imagine being on the field practicing." "Oh, and I remember how they were at the swimming pool in the very beginning and Ellie's friend was so mean to her."
Shull creates characters and social situations that my students understood because they were so familiar. From sleepover party dramas to friendship issues, our readers saw elements from their own lives. Emily said,
"The Swap was awesome! The characters were super strong. I could feel that they were actually real people.... The girl was being bullied but when she switches bodies with a boy, he helps her with it."
I saw the ending as a bit too predictable, but my students focused on the emotional journey and resolution for the two main characters....more
WOW oh WOW. When a book hits a sweet spot, it zooms from one student to another. As soon as I read the opening lines of The Crossover, with its basketWOW oh WOW. When a book hits a sweet spot, it zooms from one student to another. As soon as I read the opening lines of The Crossover, with its basketball cover and bouncing rap beat, I just knew I had to read it aloud to my 5th graders. But nothing prepared me for how it hooked them. To say they are loving it is an understatement. Fifth grade boys are just about wrestling each other to see who's going to get it next--jostling each other over a novel in verse!
For Josh Bell, basketball and his family are everything to him. He pushes himself to excel, but he loves every minute he spends with the game--especially the way he plays it with his twin brother Jordan and his dad. Kwame Alexander captures Josh's voice and the power of basketball in a way that comes alive for my students. They love the rhythm and pulsing movement, the attitude and sass in Josh's words.
The power of this novel comes not only from Alexander's language but also from the characters and their emotions. As Josh and Jordan (JB) near the championship playoffs for their school's division, friction develops between the brothers and trouble is brewing with their father. Josh starts to resent the fact that JB is spending too much time with his new girlfriend. I love the relationship Josh has with his dad. They tease each other, push each other, question each other in a way that feels so real.
Alexander engages kids on so many different levels. I especially like the Basketball Rules that Josh's dad shares with his sons. How is basketball like life? That's something all sorts of kids can think about, in a way that takes layered meanings to a different level....more
Each morning, a little boy delights in his routine: he pretends to be sleeping until his dad knocks and comes in. "Then I...jump into his arms." One dEach morning, a little boy delights in his routine: he pretends to be sleeping until his dad knocks and comes in. "Then I...jump into his arms." One day, though, his father doesn’t knock. Nor the next. Based on Beaty’s spoken word performance about growing up in the shadow of incarceration, this picture book presents a stunning, heartbreaking, hopeful story. ...more
In this father-and-son construction story, a young boy describes his father’s work building a new school. Thomson’s dynamic paintings instantly draw cIn this father-and-son construction story, a young boy describes his father’s work building a new school. Thomson’s dynamic paintings instantly draw children in with their dramatic perspectives, making young readers feel as if they are right there watching the giant machines get to work....more
currently listening to the audio - great fun, but make sure to avoid during lunch hour: too much gushing blood, dead rodents, and general gruesome hilcurrently listening to the audio - great fun, but make sure to avoid during lunch hour: too much gushing blood, dead rodents, and general gruesome hilarity...more
utterly satisfying - nothing like finishing a summer book on a warm summer day, feeling the satisfaction of a book wrapped up so well, with everyone rutterly satisfying - nothing like finishing a summer book on a warm summer day, feeling the satisfaction of a book wrapped up so well, with everyone returning home having grown and discovered more about themselves. Predictable? Yes, a bit, certainly. But utterly enjoyable. Highly recommended....more
When I was a kid, I loved reading about girls who went against the grain and weren't "good little girls," wearing dresses and doing what everyone expeWhen I was a kid, I loved reading about girls who went against the grain and weren't "good little girls," wearing dresses and doing what everyone expected of them. I think that's one of the lasting appeals of Laura Ingalls Wilder. She had spunk and a sparkle in her eye. Jennifer Holm has created a wonderful character May Amelia with this same appeal. Living with a pack of brothers, May Amelia wants to do all the exciting, brave things her brothers do - swimming in the Nasel River, working with the animals, helping run the family farm. But living in the Washington state frontier wilderness in 1900 isn't easy - especially when her father declares that Girls Are Useless. This wonderful historical fiction will appeal to 4th and 5th graders who love characters with heart, courage and spunk.
The Jackson family lives in logging country in rural Washington State in 1900, in a community settled by many Finnish immigrants. It's a hard life, with rain, mud and work; but it's also a life full of family and community, traditions and adventure. This is a sequel to Holm's Newbery honor book Our Only May Amelia, but The Trouble with May Amelia can be read on its own since Holm introduces each character nicely.
May Amelia certainly has courage and guts, or Sisu as the Finns call it. As the only girl in a family with seven brothers, she must carry the weight of cooking and cleaning when her mother goes to help catch babies as the local midwife. While her father continually criticizes her as a useless girl, she thinks she may have won his respect when she helps her Finnish-speaking father by translating for a gentleman who asks them to invest in a new company establishing a local harbor for the logging business. But when the man turns out to be a fraud and the family loses everything, everyone blames May Amelia.
May Amelia's spirit and voice shines through on every page. I loved the first person narrative that Holm created - this reads aloud in my head just as if May Amelia is talking right to me. Holm takes you into really hard times for the family and despair for May Amelia, but the family's love and humor pulls through. This powerful, compelling novel will reach your heart and make you laugh....more
This was an incredible book, one that I could only read in small chunks, letting each bit resonate with me, seep in. I loved the way that Schmidt tookThis was an incredible book, one that I could only read in small chunks, letting each bit resonate with me, seep in. I loved the way that Schmidt took Doug, the main character, to the depths of despair and then showed a glimmer of possibilities of what might be, how things might get better. At first, the book struck me as too dark. I'm afraid that many 5th and 6th graders might get turned off by the beginning. But, oh how good it was....more
Who am I? Where do I belong? Who can I trust? These are questions that all children ask as they grow older, but for twelve-year-old Tracy these questiWho am I? Where do I belong? Who can I trust? These are questions that all children ask as they grow older, but for twelve-year-old Tracy these questions haunt her. In the moving story Dogtag Summer, Tracy knows that her mother was Vietnamese and she was adopted when she was six, just after the Vietnam War ended. But her parents won't share any other real information with her. So she is left with a hole in her heart, an empty place inside her.
Tracy's summer between 5th and 6th grade was supposed to be filled with lazy days swimming in the river and building a project with her best friend Stargazer. But when the two of them find an old ammo box and a dogtag inside it, Tracy's world starts cracking around her. She knows the story of how she was adopted, but there are so many unanswered questions - so many missing pieces that it "left an empty, scooped-out place" inside.
Her father - a Vietnam War vet - buries himself in work, his cocktails and the nightly news, refusing to answer any questions. "It wasn't long until my dad came back in the front door. In the stillness, the quiet rooms of our house echoed with secrets." Her mother tries to answer her questions, but she can barely communicate with her husband, much less really understand Tracy's longings or help her fill in the missing pieces.
As Tracy searches for her identity, a sense of home and where she belongs, she remembers bit by bit more of her childhood. Each chapter begins with a brief snippet of a memory, almost like a fragment of a dream, of Tracy's childhood in Vietnam. She remembers living with her grandmother, having her mother visit her, and running away from the bright lights of an American jeep. She remembers the villagers calling her con-lai, or 'half-breed', because her father was an American GI. But she can't remember enough to put all the pieces together, to fill the longing in her heart.
Partridge conveys Tracy's emotional struggle realistically, showing how this young girl is torn by the secrets stifling her home, and yet how she is unable to really articulate what it is she needs to understand. Her writing is both accessible and full of wonderful images. I can't wait share this with students....more