What I'm Reading...
This blog is designed to share what I am reading. As I finish reading chapter books that are appropriate for elementary students, I will write about them here. Maybe something I read will spark your interest!
Ten year old Kenny lives with his family in Flint, Michigan. He has an older brother, Byron, and a younger sister, Joetta. Byron is getting into trouble a lot--skipping school and doing other things he shouldn't do--so his parents decide to send him down to Birmingham, Alabama to live with his no-nonsense grandmother for awhile. The story in Flint about what is going on with Kenny and Byron leads up to the big family trip down South. In The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 (Lexile: 920; Interest Level: Grades 4-7), Christopher Paul Curtis describes one family's life during the 1960s, including specific events of the Civil Rights Movement. Not everything in everyone's life revolved around this movement, but lives of everyone were touched by the events of the 1960s, no matter where you lived.
Kenny uses humor to shed light on things that happened in his life, from being bullied at school to talking to his dad about shaving (yes, he's 10) to what happened when he and his siblings were punished by their parents. Students who are interested in history (or have been assigned to learn about it), may want to include this book in their reading lists. It is certainly deserving of a 1996 Newbery Honor! (224 p.)
Blue Fire by Janice Hardy (Lexile: HL 570; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) is the second book in The Healing Wars series. If you haven't read The Shifter, you should stop reading this review now, as it will mention things you should learn in the first book!
Nya and her sister Tali are living in the townhouse of the man who tried to get Nya to shift pain for profit. Now, however, the Duke is after her, and has put a bounty on her head. Even though she has tried to disguise herself, people are bound to figure out that the reward of 5,000 oppas the Duke has offered are for her. When the landlady demands rent just a week after they paid, they know they must leave quickly, but they just aren't quick enough!
Now separated from her sister and her friends, Nya must use her wits to figure out how to find them, save them, and escape whatever plan the Duke has in store. She will need to make some tough decisions about who to save when and what they should do next. Are there really right and wrong answers? What if she chooses wrong? Follow Nya on her journey as she faces some of the hardest truths about being human--especially when put in a "you or me" situation. (384 p.)
Carley Connors has had more things happen to her than most 12 year-olds, and certainly more than she should ever have to face. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Lexile: 520; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) begins with Carley on her way to a foster home after just getting out of the hospital. As a seventh grader, Carley knows what people think about foster kids, and she doesn't look forward to starting a new school as one. Not feeling like she can share intimate details about her family life leaves Carley feeling out-of-place and awkward.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt does a wonderful job sharing Carley's point of view about her life, in all of its imperfections. To find out what really happened to Carley's family and to discover how Carley grows into her new life with the Murphys, you will need to read this wonderful book. Readers with experience with the foster system or who have had serious family troubles, and those who are friends with them should definitely read this book! (256 p.)
Brinley knows the story of how the bell in the church in her town rang and brought her father to find her left there as a baby. Now the church bell is ringing again, calling Brinley toward it. The confusing thing, however, is that the church has no bell. So, what is calling Brinley toward the church? Should she follow?
In the first book of the Magemother series, The Mage and the Magpie by Austin J. Bailey (Lexile: Unknown; Interest Level: Grades 4-7), two worlds are joined in the craziest of ways. One world is full of magic, but the magic is slowly being corrupted as the mages and the Magemother disappear. The other world is the familiar one of Colorado, where Brinley has lived as long as she can remember. When Brinley is called toward the church and whatever lies beyond it, she is unsure if she is ready for the challenge ahead of her, but the call of adventure is fierce.
Readers of fantasy who have always wondered where their imaginations may be able to take them will enjoy Brinley's journey past the known world. Those of us who enjoy adventures safe in our homes find ourselves wondering if we would make the same choices as Brinley. (366 p.)
The Ratsos brothers are tough and strong just like their Dad. They want everyone in the neighborhood to know it, too, so they look for opportunities to show just how tough they are. Somehow, though, their plans always seem to veer in a different direction! Join the Infamous Ratsos (Lexile: 580; Interest Level: Grades 1-3) by Kara LaReau as they try to prove just how tough they are by blocking a neighbor's windows, bullying the new girl at school, snow piling, and other adventures. I am sure you can't wait to find out how proud their dad will be!
Readers of all ages, but particularly those just beginning with chapter books, will enjoy the crazy adventures of these two boys. I certainly look forward to reading it, and the new sequel, to my little boy! (64 p.)
At the tender age of 5, Kara Westfall was dragged from her sleep and her bed by men and taken to see the village leader. She didn't know why or where her parents were, but she knew something was wrong when they took the sack off of her head and she found herself standing in front of the whole village. And then the village leader asked her if she was just like her mother--he asked if she was also a witch.
Years later, Kara and her brother Taff were still outsiders in their village, with people still wondering if Kara was a witch like her mother, even though the village leader determined she wasn't. Magic is against all of the beliefs of her community, and yet, some children are born with a gift for it, a gift that came with a strong call. Can Kara convince the town that magic is simply a power than can be controlled for good or evil? Can she manage it before the town darling (also the town bully) learns to unleash the horrible evil in her heart? And if not, can she at least save the innocent people in the village?
Readers will be captivated by this story that is a clash between the powerful draw of magic and the powerful fear of those without it, as well as the difficulties of living as an outsider in one's own home. The Thickety: A Path Begins by J. A. White (Lexile: 730; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) is the first in the Thickety series, which will be appealing to fans of Neil Gaiman. (496 p.)
George loves the character of Charlotte in Charlotte's Web. George loves the big words she uses and how she is so smart. So, when the teacher announces that the fourth grade class will be doing a play about Charlotte's Web for the whole school, George decides to try out for the part of Charlotte. When the day of tryouts comes, the teacher says that the boys will be reading the part of Wilbur and the girls will be reading the part of Charlotte. When George reads (actually recites from memory) Charlotte's part, the teacher says that she can't try out for Charlotte because he is a boy.
When George's best friend, Kelly, gets the part of Charlotte, the two work out a plan.to allow George to play Charlotte for one of the performances. And, when she finally explains to Kelly how she is really a girl, trapped in a boy's body, Kelly helps George come up with a way to share who she really is with those people who love her most.
This extremely well-written, brilliantly told story of a transgender student trying to come to terms with her identity will be of great help to any reader who may be struggling in the same way as George, and any reader who just wants to understand and know how to help any George they know. I am very glad that I read George by Alex Gino (Lexile; 790; Interest Level: Grades 4-7). (195 p.)
Princess Magnolia is a proper frilly pink-dress wearing princess who does nice princess-y things like reading and flower arranging. But, she has a secret. Duchess Wigtower loves secrets, and she is determined to know them all! She is sure that Princess Magnolia is hiding something, so when she comes to tea, she is sure she will discover something, even if Princess Magnolia is careful!
So, when the monster alarm rings during tea, Princess Magnolia must be careful that Duchess Wigtower doesn't find out why she disappears to allow the Princess in Black to fight the Blue Monster who is threatening the goats! Will she be able to keep her secret?
Readers will enjoy the first lively adventure of the princess-turned-superhero in The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (Lexile: 500; Interest Level: Grades K-3). My four-year-old enjoyed this story straight through twice! (96 p.)
Ella and Owen are twin dragons, but they couldn't be more different. Ella likes to go out on adventures, but Owen would prefer to stay in and read about them. However, when Owen gets a really bad cold (which causes him to sneeze fire!), Ella convinces him to come with her on a search for a cure.
As they search for the wizard who might have a cure for Owen's fiery cold, the twins encounter several of Owen's greatest fears: vegetables, wizards, ogres, wizards made of vegetables... Readers will delight in the silly yet scary episodes in The Cave of Aaaaah! Doom! by Jaden Kent (Lexile: 640; Interest Level: Grades 1-3), which is the first in the Ella and Owen series. (112 p.)
It is possible that few things are more exciting to kids than a snow day! Getting to stay home from school and play in the snow is a dream for many kids, including Captain Awesome. When he wakes up without his mom calling him and sees no school clothes laid out for him, he knows something is up! Sure enough, when he looks out the window, he can see nothing but snow!
His two best friends come over before he has finished eating breakfast, all ready for a fun day of play! However, all of their other friends seem content to stay in out of the cold and wet. What is wrong with everyone? How can the trio make this the Best Snow Day Ever?
Join Captain Awesome and the other members of the Sunnyview Superhero Squad as they try to energize the neighborhood to enjoy the blessing that is a snow day in Captain Awesome Has the Best Snow Day Ever? by Stan Kirby (Lexile: 660; Interest Level: Grades 1-3). This is the 18th book in the Sunnyview Superhero Squad series, but they can certainly be read out of order, as this is the first one I read. (128 p.)
Charlie Reese is eleven years old, and she has just been moved from her home in Raleigh, NC to the home of an aunt and uncle she doesn't know in a small town in Western North Carolina. She really didn't want to be moved away from her family, and she resents the people she must stay with, showing some of the anger that she says she got from her father, Scrappy, who is in jail.
Every day, Charlie makes the same wish she has been wishing since the fourth grade. She never really tells the reader what she wishes for, allowing the reader to make educated guesses as she shows different ways to wish (on a star, on a dandelion, etc.) And then there is Howard, a strange boy from school, seems awfully eager to befriend her, and slowly she begins to allow him to be her friend, especially when he offers to help her catch a stray dog that she sees hanging around her aunt and uncle's house.
The author of How to Steal a Dog brings us another heart-string tugging story about how a dog becomes the focal point in a story of a young girl trying to make sense of tough times. Readers will feel for Charlie as she tries to figure out her own life and how to grow into her own skin with strong relationships that stand the test of her anger. I even found myself wishing along with her once I figured out what I thought she was wishing for. Wish by Barbara O'Connor (Lexile: 850; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) is another wonderful story chosen to be a 2017-2018 Indian Paintbrush Nominee. (240 p.)
Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson (Lexile: 700; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) begins with Annie watching the country pass by from her seat in the car while she contemplates a summer with no rules, no schedules, and only her own choices to guide her. Then she passes California standing at the edge of the road--tall, barefoot, and looking carefree--and she knows she wants to be friends with her.
Annie doesn't know what might be coming her way when she sneaks off to meet California and immerse herself in the wild and free antics of the new neighbor. California takes Annie with her on a real-life adventure to find the ponies that her mother used to ride, with so much faith and optimism that Annie couldn't help but start believing with her. The friendship between these two girls is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both girls as they each search for something they secretly need in the life of the other.
When the time comes to share secrets, will Annie be able to handle California's?
Readers will enjoy Annie's relationship with California. Fans of books such as Tuck Everlasting and Bridge to Terabithia will want to give this one a try. And, the author, Nanci Turner Steveson is from Wyoming! It certainly deserves to be a 2017-2018 Indian Paintbrush Nominee. (288 p.)
Raymie's dad has left home with a dental hygienist. Raymie doesn't know what this means for her, and she doesn't quite understand the grown-up things involved, but she wants her dad to come home. She thinks that maybe, if she becomes famous by winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition that her father will have no choice but to come home. She asked her father's secretary who told her that if she wants to win, she will need to learn to twirl a baton. At her baton lessons, Raymie meets some interesting girls: Louisiana Elephante, who claims to be a member of a family of flying trapeze artists, and Beverly Tapinski, whose father is a cop. The girls' relationship is off to a rocky start, but things are definitely going to get crazier before they sort themselves out.
Join Raymie and her unlikely allies on their adventures in this realistic fiction story that shows what friendship and family can really mean when you let others see who you really are and understand that no one, and no one's family, is really perfect. Raymie Nightingale (Lexile: 550; Interest Level: Grades 5-7) by Kate DiCamillo will appeal to readers who enjoy reading "day-to-day" stories and like to root for the underdog. It is an interesting addition to the 2017-2018 Indian Paintbrush Nominee list. (272 p.)
Lou and her best friend Benzer were hoping for a little excitement for the upcoming summer vacation, so when Lou overhears news that the city was trying to take her family's home away, she begins hatching a plan to get it declared an historical landmark. While digging around, Lou discovers a diary that belonged to a great-great grandparent that leads to clues about some missing Civil War era gold. If Lou and Benzer can find the gold, they may be able to save the house!
Last in a Long Line of Rebels (Lexile: 660; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) by Lisa Lewis Tyre brings history, especially family history, to life in this realistic fiction story that pulls strongly on ideas of knowing where our families have come from. It certainly belongs on the list as a 2017-2018 Indian Paintbrush Nominee. (288 p.)
What would Rapunzel do if she was able to leave her tower? What if she didn't really want to go? What would it really be like to have all that hair? In this reimagined story of the famous fairy tale, Rapunzel doesn't really want to leave her tower. She is convinced that her "mother" (whom she calls Witch) really cares for her and is trying to protect her. Then she meets Jack.
Jack climbs into her tower with a rather amazing story of needing to take the dew from one of her roses as an antidote to a poison that a fairy friend of his has encountered. When Rapunzel refuses, Jack starts to complain about his last visit. Except that Rapunzel has never met Jack before. Unless Jack's story is true and Witch has been taking her memory. She decides that she will have to go with Jack to find out the truth, but the two of them don't really get along well and Rapunzel knows nothing about the world outside of her tower.
Fans of "fractured" fairy tales and adventure stories with strong female characters will enjoy Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel (Lexile: 680; Interest Level: Grades 3-7) by Megan Morrison, the first book in the Tyme series. (384 p.)
Watch out, Bornholm! Inge Maria has arrived! Inge Maria is a rambunctious girl full of energy, imagination and spunk. When she arrives on the small island in Denmark where her grandmother lives, she is not sure what to do with all of the stern grownups. What's more, she's not sure what the grown-ups are going to think of her. Like most children, so does things sometimes without thinking of the consequences, but sometimes she does things because she needs to do them.
Join Inge Maria on her adventures as she falls asleep in the wagon on the way to her grandmother's house, just to get half of her hair eaten by a goat. It doesn't really get better from there--at least for awhile. Everywhere she goes she seems to get into trouble, but maybe, just maybe, this stern little island needs her brand of trouble! All children will find something to enjoy in Katrina Nannestad's When Mischief Came to Town (Lexile: 930; Interest Level: Grades 3-6). (192p.)
Poppy discovers a letter from a distant relative in her file at the children's home, an invitation to come live at the beautiful family estate called Larkspur House. Marcus accepts a scholarship to study music at the magnificent Larkspur Academy. Dash and Dylan are invited to star in a horror movie at Larkspur Studios, and Azumi discovers Larkspur when searching for a boarding school.
However, when the children arrive, Larkspur is nothing like any of them could have imagined. There is something sinister about this place, not the least of which is the absence of adults, or even any other people when they arrive. Are the children ready to face the mysteries and secrets of The Shadow House?
The Gathering (Lexile: 750; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) by Dan Poblocki, the first book in The Shadow House series, is a truly haunting tale for lovers of very scary books. Fans of Mary Downing Hahn's ghost stories and horror films that children shouldn't watch will probably love this creepy book. Read it if you dare. (224 p.)
Promi lives in the streets with his smarts, his knife, and his magical boots that grow with him and help him climb walls and run quickly. He steals sweets to live on. When we meet Promi, however, he is focusing on a procession of the high-priest, a man to whom power is all-consuming.
As a special festival comes up, Promi decides to steal the most amazing sweet ever (or so he has heard)--a special berry pie. And this launches him into an adventure that he never saw coming. How does a boy who has only ever cared for himself come to care for someone else? Or even Every Someone Else? You will need to follow Promi's story as he meets up with Atlanta and gets swept away in a story of such amazement you will want to be sitting somewhere sturdy for the ride.
Atlantis Rising (Lexile: 770; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) engages the reader in one of the most epic folk tales in common imagination, and does so with an engaging fantasy that will stretch the mind and sharpen the taste buds. (384 p.)
Tomi Itano lives in California in 1942. When we meet her in this story, she and her brother are stopping for penny candy at a local store, where they have stopped many times before. However, this time, there is a sign on the door saying they are not welcome any longer. Tomi and her brother are second-generation Japanese-Americans, both born in the United States. However, Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor and Americans are frightened of all things Japanese.
Tomi and her family live on a strawberry farm, but they, like all other Japanese Americans at this time, are forced to leave their homes to stay in "Relocation Camps." Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky (Lexile: 640; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) tells the story of Tomi's family as her father is sent to prison for no reason (other than buying fertilizer and gasoline for the farm) and her mother learns to be the head of the family. Tomi tries to make the best of her circumstances, but it is not always easy to be American and Japanese.
Although dealing with a tough time in American history (especially for the Japanese Americans), this story is told in a gentle enough way that younger children (3rd and 4th grade) may be able to grasp what happened without overwhelming them. (216 p.)
Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living pretending to be able to speak to the dead. People pay them to talk to loved ones who have passed on. Jessamine knows that shamming people is wrong, but she and her mom need the money. Then, a weird thing happens in one of their sessions. A message shows up on a slate, but it isn't the message that Jessamine wrote. Next thing she knows, Jessamine's mother is taking her to meet an old friend in London, which launches Jessamine into an adventure for which she never could have prepared herself!
The Mesmerist (Lexile: 660; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) by Ronald Smith launches the reader into a world of mystery in which the supernatural may be real and the distant past is haunting the "present" (although the story takes place in the 1800s). Can Jessamine and her new friends figure out the riddle in the rhyme they keep hearing? Will it be in time?
For readers who enjoy a bit of the supernatural and extraordinary, especially those who may believe in ghosts and monsters, this will be an engaging read. (272 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.
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Created August 2012.