Meet 5th grader Kayla. She didn't like to read, until she met Marty Mcguire
Here's the routine:
"Have you got the new Marty book?" Kayla asks. The staff...moreMeet 5th grader Kayla. She didn't like to read, until she met Marty Mcguire
Here's the routine:
"Have you got the new Marty book?" Kayla asks. The staff is greeted every morning before school with this question.
"No Kayla, it is on a boat in the ocean," One of us replies. She hollers from the circulation desk into my office, "You'll give it to me when it comes, right?"
"Yes, your name is first on the list," I reassure her and she giggles and prances to class.
Last week my reply changed to: "It's getting closer Kayla. The book is in Taiwan customs."
Four weeks later she comes to the library and starts, "Have you got... Oh!" I put the book in her hands before she can finish her sentence and she does a happy dance at my feet with a grin the size of a watermelon slice. Where's that video camera when you need it?
Marty Mcguire may be in third grade but she appeals to all ages with her spunk and energy. She loves science and struggles with sharing her best friend, Annie, who gets along with Veronica, a frilly girl who is quite the opposite of tomboy Marty. This book has Marty and Annie planning a science project together that involves worms. Things don't go quite as planned when Annie decides to help Veronica, as well as work with Marty; plus, the worms seem kind of boring because they won't eat all the leftovers from the kids. Marty has to learn to deal with her discouragement over the project to save the earth and realize that it is small steps that make a difference in making change.
Another terrific story with great pacing, word choices, and characters. The focus is more on science in this book than relationships. Lovers of nonfiction books will like the facts sprinkled throughout with an engaging story. The beginning information on poison dart frogs is a funny reference to the frog fiasco in the first Marty book and her love of frogs while giving facts about why they are called, poison dart frogs, and what is happening to their habitat. Worms are surprisingly interesting and kids will love the "worm poop" facts and the clever advertising the girls use to get Veronica to use it on her plants.
The adults at Marty's home and her school create a community of support for her from Grandma Barb to the janitor to the teacher. They give guidance and wisdom as Marty learns from her mistakes and grows in understanding. The wonderful imaginations that children have is captured by Messner and I was transported several times back to my own childhood and the escapades my best friend and me had while growing up in Minnesota.
There's plenty of fodder for adults to laugh at in this story. When we have a character education assembly in the auditorium I secretly sit by the little 4 to 6 year-olds because it is so funny when one gets crocodile-snapped in the chair. Messner catches the hilarity of this as Marty mentions it throughout the book. When Marty puts paper in the food processor it reminded me of when my friend and I chiseled a hole in their oak door because we wanted a peephole (we were acting out a book and were on a ship), and the kind janitor who helps Marty reminded me of the time my best friend and I climbed the church's steeple tower only to be caught on the way out by the janitor who was very kind to us (we were acting out Nancy Drew that time).
Dear Ms. Messner,
You are very prolific. Please crank out another Marty book so we can all do our happy dances!
Isabelle Bean is a strange girl and at school she is bullied, teased, and quirky. A buzzing sound in class distracts her from the lesson and she is se...moreIsabelle Bean is a strange girl and at school she is bullied, teased, and quirky. A buzzing sound in class distracts her from the lesson and she is sent to the Principal’s office. Isabelle “falls into” a closet and finds herself in a completely different world. She's still in a school but it has different students she looks different from the other students with odd clothes and red boots. Because she's different they accuse her of being a witch. She convinces them that she isn’t and follows a path out of town where she befriends Hen, a girl who has lost a group of children she was traveling with to camp. The villagers send their children to camp because of a witch that travels from village to village eating children for a crime they commited against her 50 years ago. Hen and Isabelle find the witch and discover that there is more to the story than a wicked witch.
The author inserts her voice in chapters to the reader like Lemony Snicket and Pseudonymous Bosch. Some of it is funny and some is annoying. It interrupts the story more at the beginning than at the end. When it doesn’t work it slows the pacing. Shakespeare used monologues and soliloquies to show a major turning point or character’s state of mind or true nature. He also used asides to bring the audience into the play and have the person empathize or dislike the character. Is this what these authors are trying to do? I think this is a difficult technique for an author to pull off and it doesn’t always work for me.
There isn’t a lot of magic in this book and it is more about the change in Isabelle as a person. This was well done and there were some interesting plot twists. The themes of prejudice, friendship, fear, and courage run throughout the story.
Some might find the witches story of what happened to her child violent and gory. There is some violence and bullying. (less)
Grade 2 students loved this book, especially when Grandma knits Traction man that ugly green costume, and the boy unravels it down to underwear. Altho...moreGrade 2 students loved this book, especially when Grandma knits Traction man that ugly green costume, and the boy unravels it down to underwear. Although I am not sure how much I was influencing the audience. When I'm reading aloud and have to stop from laughing so hard and wipe the tears from my eyes, the kids are laughing at me as much as the book. (less)
Mystery, action, humor. A simple plot for older students that is a fun anda quick read. Calm Dunc is friends with the quirky, hyper Amos. When Amos wi...moreMystery, action, humor. A simple plot for older students that is a fun and a quick read. Calm Dunc is friends with the quirky, hyper Amos. When Amos wins a trip on a cruise ship, he brings Dunc along with his parents. Only problem is that Amos's parents are just as lost as him. When Amos picks up the wrong suitcase and his parents miss the cruise ship, Dunc and Amos have a fun time unchaperoned. Or I should say Dunc has fun. Amos has a series of disasters, the first being the discovery of the wrong suitcase that holds something two thugs want so much that they chase Dunc and Amos while on the ship. See what happens to the two in this exciting book.
The characters are likable with Amos being Dunc's sidekick. He might be too geeky for some but I laughed at some of the situations especially the dance on the ship. The dialogue is well done and the boys sound like 5th graders. Amos is in love with a girl at school who doesn't even know he exists and there are many jokes surrounding his love life or lack of it. Dunc is the brains. Neither one changes internally and the tension comes from them being chased by the bad guys.
The plot is simple and predictable. I did wonder what cruise lines do when someone misses a ship, especially if it involves minors. The mystery is not complex and can be figured out quickly. I wondered why Amos and Dunc didn't notify an adult right away when they figured out what the thugs wanted, but then if they did there would be no story line - just ignore that question and go with the action. An enjoyable read.
This emotional story had me in a free fall from start to end. Tension is inherent when covering black history, but when you throw in jumping out of an...moreThis emotional story had me in a free fall from start to end. Tension is inherent when covering black history, but when you throw in jumping out of an airplane to a reader like myself who is afraid of heights, the result is a confetti of fingernails in my reading chair. The Triple Nickles were the first trained black paratroopers during the 1940's under Sergeant Walter Morris. Originally, Morris was in charge of 20 men who were guarding The Parachute School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He noticed that his men were not proud of their work so he began training them in a calisthenics routine that was the same as the white soldiers. His men responded by feeling valued and started "acting like soldiers." General Gaither noticed and called Morris into his office where Morris learned of Gaither's order to create an all-black unit of paratroopers, the 555th Parachute Infantry Company. Morris was assigned the task, and excelled as a leader in both training and mental toughness against prejudices.
It wasn't easy. Morris was breaking new ground. His men were isolated and denied basic rights such as where to sit in the cafeteria, on the bus, going to the canteen, going to the post's theater, and more. Even prisoners of war were not denied these rights. The black paratroopers did comment that their white instructors, who were from the South, did not express prejudices toward them and showed them respect. The author addresses why these black men decided to fight for a country that would not claim them as their own. The men said that they wanted to prove they could succeed by not reacting to prejudices. Succeed, they did and those that weren't prejudice took note helping to change popular opinions on the black man's plight.
They also succeeded in raising American conscientiousness. America was fighting in a war against the genocidal racist, Hitler, while on their own soil they had a culture of black discrimination. World War II was a turning point in popular views advocating for African-Americans human rights. Unfortunately, even today there is still discrimination, as the author notes, found in popular movies made on history of World War II where blacks are not given credit for their military service. For instance, the movie "Saving Private Ryan," doesn't give credit to the all-black unit that was critical to saving a group of white men surrounded in a German town.
This informational text is pretty straightforward with photos, chapter headings, subheadings and a one-sentence summary pulled out of the text and put in bold. The addition of primary advertisements and cartoons enrich the reading experience immensely. I particularly enjoyed them. I actually wanted more ancillary text like that. The Japanese balloon story was fascinating. How the heck have I not heard about it before! I would have liked a side bar on it. I also liked the additional information the author puts in the end titled, "The Story Within the Story," but I would have liked it inserted where the text was that covered the three paratroopers who dropped out. What I'm not sure is if this is a decision made by the author or if it is a decision made by the publisher. The title bothered me too. (*spoiler - don't read the following) I kept waiting for them to go into combat and when they don't, I felt letdown. I'm not sure how it could have been done differently. (end spoiler) Either way, this is a well-told story that is worth reading.
Living overseas is difficult and wonderful. On the street, Chinese conversations flow around me like incense and the street signs look like mixed-up c...moreLiving overseas is difficult and wonderful. On the street, Chinese conversations flow around me like incense and the street signs look like mixed-up chopsticks. Communication oftentimes means charades, and buying what looks like milk, might be a carton of yogurt milk. At first, this new lifestyle for me was overwhelming, but now I have become used to the strangeness of it all, laughing at my mistakes and learning to find joy in each day. Pacy has similar experiences in Dumpling Days by Grace Lin, where she too, must adjust to her new surroundings in a foreign country for the summer and learn to find happiness in the adventure of each day.
Pacy is an artist. She visits Taiwan with her parents and two sisters to see relatives and take a painting class. She learns in class that Chinese painting is about sending a message, not painting a picture. Like brushstrokes on a canvas, Grace Lin paints many messages in this novel, one of them being do not compare yourself to others. Pacy compares her artwork with another girl in class and it makes her dissatisfied and unhappy. She wants to paint the best picture in class and win a blue ribbon at the exhibit, but realizes on the last day that she has been so focused on winning that she makes herself unhappy and misses out on making a friend with a girl named Eva. She learns in Chinese painting that you cannot go back and erase anything and thinks how that happens in life; how she cannot go back and make friends with Eva - art class is over and she'll never see her again.
Pacy finds that her painting talent is fickle, "The fortune-teller had said my special skill would be used all my life. Why did it keep disappearing? It made me hollow and fragile, like an empty eggshell." How true! A part of Pacy's growth as an artist, or any artist or athlete for that matter, is the ups and downs of acquiring new skills. Pacy also likes her paintings but hopes for "an even better one." She is not always content and it is how she deals with these internal struggles that adds tension and makes this story so enjoyable to read. Pacy learns that while winning is fun, it cannot be the only pursuit because it takes away her joy.
Pacy explores not only the artist within herself, but she is struggling to find her identity. Pacy is Taiwanese-American and some people expect her to speak Chinese because she looks Asian; however, she cannot speak it and is overwhelmed by being in a foreign country and not understanding the language. She's a Twinkie, Chinese on the outside and Americanized on the inside. She gets angry at times, feels ashamed at other times, but she learns to deal with it and change in a positive way. Even her relationship with her two sisters changes, as they too, deal with a different culture in their own way. When Lissy gets some glamorous photos done, Pacy decides that they are fake and that Pacy needs to be herself and real wherever she is in the world. She is examining who she is in the world and what is important to her as a person. Pacy also misses her friend Melody who has moved to California. She thinks about her often, especially when someone does something that reminds her of Melody, and she sends her a postcard from Taiwan. I think the strength of this book is that the action is grounded in every day life. There are no dramatic plot twists but everyday occurrences and the reader will be able to relate to much of what Pacy is going through during her vacation. At times I felt like I was reading my journal when reading this book, making many connections from my experiences living overseas, and it added tremendously to my enjoyment of the story.
But unlike my random journal writing, Grace Lin constructs this story with rich imagery and repetition. The chapters are full of wonderful similes and metaphors found in Asian culture such as chopsticks, umbrellas, and soup: "His fingers reminded me of chopsticks picking the best pieces of meat from a dish," "Seeing him made all my grumpiness from being hungry fall away like rain being shaken from a wet umbrella," "A warm, happy feeling filled me like I had swallowed a bowl of delicious soup." The culture is explained and built upon through the internal struggles of Pacy. The ghost month and superstitions that are associated with it are woven throughout the plot and images and cultural explanations are built upon each other using repetition that creates a snowball effect. For instance, when Pacy is finding her identity as a Taiwanese-American, she thinks about the meaning of her name and her siblings names in Chinese. She learns about the use of name chops in Chinese culture and in paintings meanwhile relating and reflecting on this knowledge through incidents that happen to her and her sisters in Taiwan. When Pacy has insight into who she is as a person or artist she comments that it is a "beautiful thought" which is her sister Lissy's Chinese name. Folk tales and family stories from the past are also used to connect the culture to Pacy's internal changes. As Pacy learns about Taiwan culture so does the reader. The dumplings are used throughout the story. They give Pacy comfort, represent something she likes in Taiwan, and add humor to the plot (they also made me so hungry we ate at Din Tai Fung, a famous dumpling restaurant). The author uses the dumpling as a simile and also explains and illustrates how to make dumplings and the different kinds found in other countries. The author's message is stronger using this technique. Plus, the chapters are like small episodes in and of themselves which makes for a good read aloud.
Dumpling Days reads like a travel memoir dealing with everyday life in a foreign country with it's unique food smells, sounds, and sights and what it is like adjusting to all the changes, as well as, what it means to make new friends, lose friends, be a minority, be flexible, and have an identity. The illustrations are going to help readers visualize different cultural foods and items. Make sure to look at the page numbers! I love how the green man on the street lights walks through the pages.
Pacy's father says it is a good trip when "You take something with you, you leave something behind and you are forever changed." This can be said for living overseas as well. Taiwan has been a good life for me and I have learned to love it. Like Uncle Shin, I have two homes. I miss Taiwan when I'm in the U.S. and I miss the U.S. when I'm in Taiwan. This is not a bad thing. This is a good thing and my life is richer for it.
I want to have a book club with this book next fall. With dumplings! Of course!
This made me think of The Giver and how a person's identity can be constructed by their community. Good read aloud with grade 5 and figuring out the a...moreThis made me think of The Giver and how a person's identity can be constructed by their community. Good read aloud with grade 5 and figuring out the author's theme(less)
Peter Nimble was found floating in a basket as a baby by sailors with a raven that had pecked out his eyes. Not your usual start to a child’s book but...morePeter Nimble was found floating in a basket as a baby by sailors with a raven that had pecked out his eyes. Not your usual start to a child’s book but the Narrator tells the story with humor and pokes fun at orphan stories; hence, the reader knows that Peter Nimble is no ordinary baby. He was nursed by a cat, tossed in a tied bag into a river and meant to drown, and enslaved by Mr. Seamus, a thief who taught Peter all the tricks of the trade so Peter became the best thief that ever lived. “Until this point,” the Narrator says, “you have been witness to Peter’s rather typical infancy – probably not unlike your own.” Peter meets the Haberdasher whom he steels a box from that contains three pairs of eyes. Peter uses the eyes and ends up on a quest, with a cat-horse cursed knight, to save a kingdom and discover a place for himself in the world.
The characters in the book are fun such as Officier Trolley who says his sentences so fast they sound like one word or Peg who is a no-nonsense in-the-face girl working hard to survive in terrible conditions. The pacing is fast and the Narrator’s voice interesting. The Narrator keeps the violence in the story at a distance using humor – which is good – considering the surprising amount of characters that get killed. The plot has some loose ends that aren’t tied up such as Old Scabbs and why the raven’s killed him. The narrator also explains difficult words in funny ways and sometimes goes too far explaining the plot such as on page 144 when the Narrator foreshadows the thieves betrayal; thus, taking out all the tension in the plot at that point. It’s the only time I felt truly ticked at the Narrator. The author obviously loves Peter Pan and there are references to the classic throughout the story. A fun fantasy adventure. (less)
Fish wishes to be different animals and decides in the end that it is okay to be a fish. Interesting woodblock illustrations. One sentence per page. G...moreFish wishes to be different animals and decides in the end that it is okay to be a fish. Interesting woodblock illustrations. One sentence per page. Good for the little kiddos.(less)
Jeremy Bender loves to tinker on his father's antique boat with dreams of driving it himself one day. When he accidentally damages the engine and find...moreJeremy Bender loves to tinker on his father's antique boat with dreams of driving it himself one day. When he accidentally damages the engine and finds out it will cost over $400 to repair he despairs. Argh! His dad will never let him touch the boat again, much less drive it, he thinks. When he spots the poster for the Windjammer Whirl contest with a $500 first place prize, he sees the answer to his problems. So what if the competition is only for Cupcake Cadets, a girl organization like Girl Scouts or Campfire Girls. When the boys masquerade as girls they have no clue how difficult it is going to be.
The humor in this story is in the embarrassing moments and mistakes Jeremy and his friend, Slater, have while trying to earn Cadet badges. They can't cook. They can't camp. They can't play lacrosse. When another cadet learns their secret and blackmails them, they learn that being a girl isn't as easy as it looks and that even their blackmailer has some redeeming qualities. A subplot involving a bully has the boys creatively trying to deal with him as girls. The contrast between how genders treat each other would make for good book club or classroom discussions. The end has them getting along better with girls, bullies, and each other. A funny book that is good for grades 4-6.(less)
A Warlock is someone who breaks their oath. In the book, Warlock, by Michael Scott, the 5th book of the series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas F...moreA Warlock is someone who breaks their oath. In the book, Warlock, by Michael Scott, the 5th book of the series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Sophie and Josh are going their separate ways with Josh following Dee and Dare and Sophie following the Flamels. Nicholas Flamel is dying and Sophie lets Perenelle use her aura to help him live. Sophie questions her loyalty to Perenelles and whines, I mean contemplates, how her life has changed so dramatically in one week and how she’d like to turn back time. That’s one storyline. There are about 5 others going on with each chapter alternating from a different characters viewpoint. There’s Scathach’s mess with Joan, Prometheus, Saint-Germain; the evil foursome of Dee, Josh, Machiavelli, and Billy the Kid with an interesting twist; Auntie Agnes and Sophie, the Flamels trying to save the world, and more. I thought the monster attacking was anti-climatic.
Scott is incredibly knowledgeable about world myths and he weaves that history in his storyline. There are lots of quotes from famous people. What I find that has gotten lost in the last two books are the main characters. They haven’t changed and they say the same things. The minor characters have become more interesting and the humor is less. Of course as they near the deadline of the world ending the author might be trying to make it more grim because the stakes are higher. I wish the main characters were more fleshed out, there was more humor, and the monster part drawn out more like the Scathach’s adventure.
If you liked Necromancer, this book is similar. I checked this eBook out of my public library and will purchase it for the TAS library this summer. Look for it in August 2011. (less)
Princess Raisa has run away from an arranged marriage to a military academy with Amon and two other cadets who are meant to guard her. She’s taking mo...morePrincess Raisa has run away from an arranged marriage to a military academy with Amon and two other cadets who are meant to guard her. She’s taking more than a full class schedule in order to gain knowledge that will help her be a better ruler. This is the start to The Exiled Queen, the sequel of The Demon King, by Cinda Williams Chima. Princess Raisa is too small and slight to be a soldier but she’s tough and uses her brains to get out of difficult situations.
Han is at wizard school with Dancer. All he wants to be is a student but he is being recruited by all sorts of people who want to use his magical powers for selfish reasons. Han doesn’t cross paths with Raisa until later in the story but he still doesn’t know that she’s a princess. Han and Raisa’s school experiences are somewhat similar to Harry Potter with them having to deal with bullies and good and not so good professors. There are plenty of love triangles as people couple up or go their separate ways.
Nice pacing, quick read with plenty of action. Read the first book or it might be confusing in parts. Also, the ending is a setup for a third book. (less)