A great modern trickster tale, playing on the poem The Highwayman, this book tells of a rat who steals everything from everyone--until a duck has a go...moreA great modern trickster tale, playing on the poem The Highwayman, this book tells of a rat who steals everything from everyone--until a duck has a good idea. Fun!(less)
This book was really touching and more gripping than I expected. Elise and Franklin have always been friends, but on the first day of middle school, E...moreThis book was really touching and more gripping than I expected. Elise and Franklin have always been friends, but on the first day of middle school, Elise's legs are all scabbed up from playing Knights with Franklin, and when her locker partner Amanda teases her about "playing", Elise begins to wonder if Franklin is not quite cool enough for middle school. The tension between Amanda and Elise, and Franklin and Elise, builds throughout the book as Amanda ratchets up the bullying (and Elise's teacher refuses to respond to the issue) and Elise gets increasingly frustrated with Franklin's qualities. Caroline, one of Amanda's friends, reaches out to Elise, both improving and complicating the situation.
The other major plot line concerns Elise's parents, both of whom died long ago. (She lives with her aunt and uncle, who are wonderful, and another aunt and her baby move in partway through the book.) Her father left her a letter for each year of her life, and, it turns out, 8 keys to 8 rooms. Lots of discovery ensues!
Highly recommended for tweens or 4th/5th graders who enjoy realistic books. Bullying and friendship are major themes.
**spoilers start here
Elise gets progressively meaner to Franklin as Amanda gets meaner (she always smashes Elise's lunch). Franklin and Elise decide to fight back by putting shaving cream in A's lunch. He does it. When A finds it, it flies all over both girls, who then have a fistfight. Both get detention. F. confesses and said he did it on his own; he gets suspended.
E. eventually apologizes to F. She also sees A. with her mean brothers on the day she decides to learn all about A, which helps her a little. C. decides to cut off A. in favor of E.
The rooms help E. to understand her family and herself better.
It's interesting to see how having just 4 people (C, E, F, and Diane) "on your side" helps so much to work against the bully. That part reminded me of Liar and Spy.
The book's relationships are super touching and made me cry at the end. Very nicely done!
Rebecca's life, which has been pretty normal up to this point in Baltimore, takes an unexpected turn one autumn. Her dad, a taxi driver, has been out...moreRebecca's life, which has been pretty normal up to this point in Baltimore, takes an unexpected turn one autumn. Her dad, a taxi driver, has been out of work since his cab was totaled; this has put a strain on her parents' relationship. She didn't know how bad it was until one morning her mom packed their stuff and put her and her brother in the car and drove away from her dad, their house, their school, their life.
Over the next couple days at her grandma's house, Rebecca realizes her mom has been planning this move for a long time and intends for it to be long-term if not permanent: the local school is expecting Rebecca and she has to start there almost immediately (and things do not go well with the kids at school). This makes her even more upset with her mom, and she spends a good portion of the book not speaking to her mom.
The attic is a good place to run away, and that's where Rebecca discovers a collection of bread boxes. One of them is especially shiny and beautiful with red roses, and she brings this one down to her bedroom (her mom's old room) with her grandma's permission. Soon, she discovers that this is a bread box with a secret--and this secret is so good, it's a pretty decent silver lining to the whole situation.
The book does an excellent job of working through a separation or divorce in a family, including grief, anger, denial, selfishness, escaping, the whole gamut. There is also a strong storyline of what it takes to impress friends, and who is a true friend, that is nicely done. I would recommend it to readers in grades 4-8 who enjoy realistic fiction, especially books with a twist or about kids in a rough situation. I think it would work reasonably well as a family read-aloud; thematically the book should work for younger kids as well.
***Spoiler alert--starting here--
The bread box's power is that it makes any item appear inside of it when the item is wished for. Rebecca wishes for food (candy, gravy fries!), for an iPod, and for clothing that will make her cooler. She eventually starts wishing for items for other people--crayons and paper for her brother, her mom's lost keys, lip gloss to give away at school, a really great birthday present from her mom (which turns out to be a spoon). The spoon is very cold when she gets it, and it makes her start to wonder where the items are coming from. One day she decides to wish for the jacket of the coolest girl at school, Hannah. When she shows up at school and hears her classmates' exclamations--Where'd you get that? There's only one of those in the world!--and then comes face to face with Hannah, who calls her a thief and points out how her name is stitched into the collar, Rebecca can't ignore reality anymore. The bread box is stealing all of these items from someone, somewhere.
She then begins to try to untangle the source of some of the items. Many she bags up and throws in a Goodwill bin, but she's determined to return the spoon. This starts the craziest journey that starts with a taxicab, has a very old lady's house in the middle, and ends in a police station. Turns out the lady buried the spoon with her husband! Naturally she calls Rebecca a grave digger and throws her in the basement and calls the police. Once they come, they end up keeping Adda under observation and nearly give Rebecca to DHS--but then her dad shows up in the nick of time.
Several long conversations later, Rebecca tells her parents how she really wants to go back to Baltimore, so they all pack up and go--but with no promises. So, the ending is somewhat realistic. The hardest thing to believe is that she was able to keep the bread box a secret even with all the craziness that happened. I guess people are willing to overlook a lot of nuttiness if they don't believe in magic!! (It can't be true, so it must not be...)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about Al, who makes a bet with himself that he can arrange all the letters in the most pleasing order. Older kids espec...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book about Al, who makes a bet with himself that he can arrange all the letters in the most pleasing order. Older kids especially will appreciate the puns and story of how he makes his choices. Clever storyline starts out something like, "Way back when things were just getting invented, like fire and the wheel" ... (less)
This book is pretty much as dark and gory as the narrator promises to be ("put the kids to bed" he says, "it gets scarier from here!"), although the g...moreThis book is pretty much as dark and gory as the narrator promises to be ("put the kids to bed" he says, "it gets scarier from here!"), although the grossest parts (chairs made of human skin, etc.) are reserved for Hansel's trip into Hell, about halfway through the book.
It weaves a variety of fairy tales and folklore together; Hansel and Gretel are the connecting threads joining the chapters together.
I'd be curious to know how many of the tales are based on Grimm tales.
I'd recommend it for readers who enjoy Skeleton Creek and Goosebumps, who are being asked to read "a real novel." Each chapter stands somewhat on its own, making it more accessible for reluctant readers.(less)
2nd time through to write Battle questions, this one seemed a little slow. It's good to have some longer books on the list thought, some kids will enj...more2nd time through to write Battle questions, this one seemed a little slow. It's good to have some longer books on the list thought, some kids will enjoy "digging" into this one.(less)
**spoiler alert** Beaver has lost his hat. He asks multiple animals for it, then realizes he has seen it--on the rabbit. Rather sinisterly, it ends, "...more**spoiler alert** Beaver has lost his hat. He asks multiple animals for it, then realizes he has seen it--on the rabbit. Rather sinisterly, it ends, "I haven't seen any rabbits anywhere"...
Perfect for beginning readers who are little more mature.(less)
This was hilarious and strangely compelling. Yes, it is about an amoeba who is friends with a paramecium (so many pseudopods/hands to wash! not enough...moreThis was hilarious and strangely compelling. Yes, it is about an amoeba who is friends with a paramecium (so many pseudopods/hands to wash! not enough time!) and is very concerned that unsuspecting friends will be eaten (absorbed) by a bully ameoba. The net effect is that of a simple school story (bullies, friends, etc.) with a few science lessons thrown in along the way.
Highly recommended for beginning readers who enjoy graphic novels and middle grade readers who like funny books and science. (This is actually a fairly large portion of our clientele at APL!)(less)
This one annoyed me because the narrator is so self-centered. However, for those fans of Judy Moody and Dork Diaries who enjoy a graphic element to th...moreThis one annoyed me because the narrator is so self-centered. However, for those fans of Judy Moody and Dork Diaries who enjoy a graphic element to their novels, and even fans of basic girl school stories, this one will be a hit.
The narrator has a school-endorsed blog where she posts rumors and news, many of which are based on her eavesdropping outside of the boys' room (thus the title). (less)
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend to high school aged girls, especially those who like the supernatural/scary flavor in books. It also do...moreI really enjoyed this book and would recommend to high school aged girls, especially those who like the supernatural/scary flavor in books. It also does a great job of portraying high school life in general, as well as the experience of being an immigrant family. (It does have some drinking, etc.)(less)