This book is a middle school teacher's dream. It can easily be integrated with mathematics, science, Social Studies and, of course, Engl...moreThe Danger Box
This book is a middle school teacher's dream. It can easily be integrated with mathematics, science, Social Studies and, of course, English Language Arts. There is the requisite disability or two, one which is never named and one which is, so we can have a general discussion about disabilities in class. And we’ll talk about bullying, also. The book even has built in discussion questions and projects! The topic that drives the plot (which I won’t mention here so that your reading is not spoiled) is also in the political news frequently, so we can have more lively, and careful, class discussions about that theme.
OK, cynicism aside now — there were great things about this book. The plot was clever and I enjoyed the book because it was predictable. I may have known how it would end, but I didn’t know how the story would get to the end, and that held my attention.
The characters of Zoomy and his grandparents are the best part of this book. I could have read about their home life forever. They struggle daily with what we all struggle with in life. They are devoted to each other and tolerant of each other’s eccentricities. They are open and honest, yet allow each other to have times of solitude without having to share their troubles. They keep to themselves and don’t go out often, yet the town turns out for them full force when the family needs help.
I had the biggest problem with the opening of the book. Three strands of the plot were going on at the same time and I had moments of confusion. There was the narrative about Zoomy, a newsletter about a mysterious person, and a small section about a Mr. Zip. I had to consciously allow Balliet freedom to play with these and have faith that the confusion would be resolved sooner instead of later. It was. The confusion could very well have been with me only. Middle school children will probably have an easier time with this issue than I did.
Balliet didn’t draw the bad guys in this book as well as she did the good guys. An alcoholic father and a thief are thinly characterized. They are one-dimensional men. You know they will do bad stuff and they do. But they simply disappear in the end of the story. For me, that was not adequate resolution. I’ll live with it though, and go to the library to find more Balliet books.
I hope this becomes a popular book. I loved it. The sentiments expressed by the narrator, 11 year old Tess Brooks, are important and are ex...moreTouch Blue
I hope this becomes a popular book. I loved it. The sentiments expressed by the narrator, 11 year old Tess Brooks, are important and are expressed well. She wants Aaron, her foster brother, to feel at home with her family in Maine. Tess devises an unusual method of helping Aaron overcome anger and grief. But Tess also grows and learns that there are worse things to lose than your school and home. This is a Vermont DCF Book Award nominee for 2011-2012.(less)
This is another Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award nominee. The DCF books are for middle school age children and this book is a winner. Caitlin,...moreMockingbird
This is another Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award nominee. The DCF books are for middle school age children and this book is a winner. Caitlin, a fifth grader with Asperger's Syndrome, is searching throughout the book for closure, friends, finesse and empathy. Her journey made me laugh (out-loud) and cry (real tears). The story could have been unbearably sad, but Erskine lifts us, with an accurate and uncanny look into the world of a child with Asperger's, beyond a community's and family's horrific tragedy and back into life. You may, like I did, begin to look at everything around you and try to imagine how you would experience the world if you had this disability. But I have to tell you: by the end of the book I was wondering if Asperger's is a disability or a gift of insight and honesty that most of us may never experience. Caitlin is an endearing character and she shows tremendous growth throughout the book. Erskine's dialogue is masterful. Her characters are unforgettable — they are not one-sided caricatures of middle school "types," but full of the contradictions of real people. The book includes an afterword by the author, an interview with the author, and open-ended discussion questions for class. Read this book. Now. It could change how you see your world.(less)
Hero This was a great read: it is an engaging and mysterious story about a boy with superpowers who tries to solve the mystery of his father's death. L...moreHero This was a great read: it is an engaging and mysterious story about a boy with superpowers who tries to solve the mystery of his father's death. Lupica constructs a story that even I found believable — until the end. Lupica's plot seemed to run out of gas about twnety pages before the end of the book. He added a political conspiracy theory to the story that reminded me of Kennedy assassination theories, among other conspiracies. Instead of a unique and creative ending that this book deserved, we got a replay of Oliver Stone movies with shadowy, unidentified bad guys trying to disrupt the American political scene. Four out of five stars.(less)
Stuck on Earth Of the DCF books I have read, this is my favorite. I was very doubtful that I would like this in the beginning but Klass quickly got my...moreStuck on Earth Of the DCF books I have read, this is my favorite. I was very doubtful that I would like this in the beginning but Klass quickly got my attention, made me smile, horrified me with some scenes and generally got me totally involved in the life of Tom Filber, the main character. The book moves quickly and is rich with detail. A wrench is thrown into the plot just after the midpoint of the novel and continues until the end. This wrench will create marvelous classroom discussions that every student will probably contribute to. A great read!(less)
The Prince of Mist This DCF book is now my favorite. This is well written and constructed. It is mysterious, spooky, scary — and it should be made into...moreThe Prince of Mist This DCF book is now my favorite. This is well written and constructed. It is mysterious, spooky, scary — and it should be made into a movie. It has more depth and is more complex than the other DCF books I have read. The premise is a bit far-fetched and is not explained well, but it doesn't matter. The characters are warm and fully drawn and there are no teenage stereotypes, which is a relief. This short read would be enjoyed by just about any age.(less)
What a beautiful book. This is a non-fiction account of the efforts to save the Kakapo parrot in New Zealand from extinction. The photography is stunning, the story is sad, the efforts to save the parrot are so valiant and the writing is engaging. I learned that the natural history of New Zealand is utterly fantastic — and has almost disappeared. When this book was written, there were only 87 Kakapo parrots in the entire world. Tonight, according to the web site, there are 120.
Driven Goodreads says that Lee Iococca wrote this book with Don Mitchell. Iococca wrote the foreward to the book only. I hope that this is corrected im...moreDriven Goodreads says that Lee Iococca wrote this book with Don Mitchell. Iococca wrote the foreward to the book only. I hope that this is corrected immediately.
This biography, published by National Geographic, is an excellent book with wonderful photographs. Mitchell's writing is clear and he ably shows the conflicting sides of Henry Ford. I do wonder if he explored Ford's antisemitism and antilabor activities. Why would Ford be so inclusive to African-Americans, the disabled, women, immigrants, and workers on the one hand and then be so vehemently opposed to the Jews and "wink" at the violent union busting activities of his pal Harry Bennett?
This is a valuable biography that every school should probably own and should be included in history and reading curricula. But I am lost as to why it is so exceptional that it was nominated for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award in Vermont. It is a good book, but not a great book. It offers nothing new to the Ford history or discussion.
Ordinarily, I would have given this book four or five stars, but because it is a DCF nominee, I have to award it only three.(less)
You can now call me one of those "old people" that dislike new standards in our society. I don't think it appropriate for the fourteen ye...moreMurder Afloat
You can now call me one of those "old people" that dislike new standards in our society. I don't think it appropriate for the fourteen year old main character in this novel to be involved in the murder of anyone, whether they be evil or not. Yet this happens in Murder Afloat. I have debated myself about this and continue to worry that young people may feel that murder may be justified in some circumstances. I can't condone that. Yet this book is an excellent book: it is well written, has a fascinating plot with well-drawn characters and an unconventional ending for books written for this age group. I have given the book four stars because of this deadly incident; I still don't know whether I should have given five.
Having read The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, I was keenly interested in this chronicle of Ben, a young Baltimore resident who was shanghaied to work in inhumane conditions for one season on an oyster boat. Jane Leslie Conly obviously researched the history of the era and the oyster industry. She fleshes out the issues of this important, but little known, era in our history. I recommend that you read both books.
Murder Afloat will be an important classroom novel for both its historical context and ecological relevance. The oystering methods used in the 1800s were responsible for the collapse of the oyster beds and the pollution of the bays that were their home. Middle school curricula will be enriched by this book, and many issues are presented that can be discussed in a classroom. Perhaps that is how a teacher should deal with the murder committed by the main character. Is murder ever justifiable? Whom should we designate as judge? I don't have the answers. They are ageless questions.
Jake is for middle school age children; it is charming, sweet, and endearing; it has a positive outlook and wonderful role-model characters. I highly...moreJake is for middle school age children; it is charming, sweet, and endearing; it has a positive outlook and wonderful role-model characters. I highly recommend this for your child and family. It is an unforgettable Vermont DCF nominee.(less)
This is a sad and haunting DCF nominated book. Heather Henson writes, often graphically, about abuse of animals and children. It broke my heart. Thankfully, I realized that a book about abuse written for middle school children had to have a happy ending, so I was willing to continue reading until the end. But it was painful reading Dream of Night. I admit to having tears a few times. I am glad that the abused girl and horse are well and healing in the end, but their story weighs heavily on my heart. I am glad that I read this book — however I would not have read it voluntarily. I knew it was going to hurt. I recommend that you read it.(less)
Grounded This entirely predictable book is a treasure. I finished it in two hours of non-stop reading. The death theme is very unusual for middle schoo...moreGrounded This entirely predictable book is a treasure. I finished it in two hours of non-stop reading. The death theme is very unusual for middle school literature but Klise does a lovely job exploring the different reactions of the different characters to death. It is a jewel of a book and I highly recommend it to everyone.(less)
This is a beautifully crafted book with engrossing characters. I may have a problem with the book's apparant conclusions about people...moreOne Crazy Summer
This is a beautifully crafted book with engrossing characters. I may have a problem with the book's apparant conclusions about people in the Black Panthers, but I have to research further before I decide. The Panthers would be a most excellent class research project. What would the class decide about the historical characters that they have read about? If one ignores the politics, the family relationships are complicated and realistic. The book is excellent and I highly recommend it.(less)
Belly Up Whenever I have read a mystery book (which is not often), I turn to the back of the book to learn whodunit. I then enjoy reading to see how th...moreBelly Up Whenever I have read a mystery book (which is not often), I turn to the back of the book to learn whodunit. I then enjoy reading to see how the author crafted the mystery. But when I read Belly Up, I refused myself that pleasure. I wanted to see how the mystery unfolded and remain part of the audience, and not an observer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learned a lot about zoo management. Middle school children should find this very interesting. There is violence, humor, sadness, greed, love, family relationships, chase scenes, good guys, bad guys, and guys you can't determine what they are. The plot isn't simple like many middle school mysteries, and the ending is very satisfying. Read it!
The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt I thought I would toss this book at the first chapter, but I continued on in my quest of reading all of the 2012 DCF...moreThe Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt I thought I would toss this book at the first chapter, but I continued on in my quest of reading all of the 2012 DCF nominated books — and I'm glad I did. I think this may end up being my favorite. I love the young Moxie, a girl who thinks she is so plain that she needs a new persona and goes about inventing several. She is also a pianist, of a quality that I always wanted to be. She learns a lot at her first month of boaring school about personalities, lying, and variation. The lessons she learns could benefit all of us who make assumptions about "types" of people. We all may be guilty of this to some degree.
My only "complaint" may be whether thirteen year olds have as much maturity as Moxie and her friends have. They make complicated choices for their lives that are noble and altruistic. They navigate female friendships better than I have in my life at times. But all in all, I admire these girls and enjoy reading about their lives in boarding school.
I love this girl so much that I hope Elizabeth Cody Kimmel has many sequels for Moxie. I'll read them all. This book is for middle school readers and unfortunately boys may not like it or understand parts of it.(less)
Jewell Parker Rhodes has crafted a magical and inspiring story about Lanesha, a 12 year old girl living in New Orleans' Ninth Ward during Hurricane Ka...moreJewell Parker Rhodes has crafted a magical and inspiring story about Lanesha, a 12 year old girl living in New Orleans' Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina. This is not a sorrowful book but an uplifting one about people who love deeply and care about their families. Lanesha is older than her years but I found myself wondering if even she could overcome the problems she had to face in those scary days. I recommend this book for middle school children, boys and girls, and for their families. Don't miss reading this one.(less)