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!
"Pram died just before she was born." Thus begins A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano (Lexile: 690; Interest Level: Grades 3-6). I just love this first sentence. I actually went back and restarted the book to make sure I read it correctly! It definitely had my attention!
Yes, Pram (which is short for Pragmatic) died just before she was born. But the doctors didn't accept that, and they still managed to save her life. But, this presented Pram with a curious gift. One she didn't really know she had until she began chasing insects that only she could see and made her first friend, a boy named Felix who stayed in the tree outside of her house, but whom her aunts couldn't see either. Pram, it seemed, was able to see and communicate with ghosts.
When Pram is finally sent to school, she makes friends with a real (living) boy, and her life begins to change. She has no idea how Clarence will think when she tells him about her gift, but it is because of their friendship that Pram comes to a better understanding of both the living and the dead--and the power of being able to communicate with both!
This is at times a light-hearted ghost story, but there are also some pretty intense situations for both Pram and Clarence. I certainly enjoyed the story--even with the ghosts--and I believe that readers who want some action and some spookiness will really enjoy this one as well. (240 p.)
Whoever recommended this book definitely got me out of my comfort zone! This is not a book I would have normally picked up, and I am glad I have another hour or two before bedtime!
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel (Lexile: 640; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) is a very well-written, well-designed book. From the cover (can you tell what kind of nest?) to the chapter "numbers" (done as pictures of the residents of the nest), the focus of the story is absolutely clear.
Steve has a new baby brother, one who takes up all of his parents' energy and time, and not just because he is a baby brother. The baby has some very serious health issues, and Steve really just wants him to be OK. But after Steve uncovers a health issue of his own that his parents don't seem to help with, he begins having dreams of "angels" who offer to fix his brother. The dreams are so lifelike and he wants his brother to be well, but should he trust the creatures that come to him in dreams?
This book is a true scary story, and one I could NOT put down because I just had to see what happened next. The author did a fantastic job of sticking to the topic and never letting it go. I highly recommend this book for any readers who enjoy a good scare--but I will always recommend to not read it too close to bedtime. (256 p.)
Alice is a girl who lives in the real world. She works hard at her studies, is very smart, and knows a lot of facts. But when one night, she sees a fairy in her kitchen talking to (or threatening?) her father, her world gets turned around. Then, when four days later, the boat her father is on sinks and she is sent to live with an Uncle Jerry she has never heard of, her world becomes upside down in a way she never imagined!
The Forbidden Library by Django Weller (Lexile: 920; Interest Level: Grades 4-6) follows the adventures of Alice as she discovers she is a Reader, a wizard of sorts with the power to enter into certain books and bind creatures to her to do her bidding. She is both excited and concerned about the power that she discovers, and she is not sure who to trust to help her learn. A wary friendship with a talking cat named Ashes and a love/ hate relationship with a boy named Isaac push her into strange situations where she needs all of her wits to protect herself.
I had some high hopes for this book, but I found it difficult to keep reading at times. I love the idea of Readers being magic, probably because I wish I was magical. Other readers may find the fantasy fun of this book right up their alleys, but I don't think I will pick up the sequel. (373 p.)
The 34th Magic Tree House Fact Tracker, Dogsledding and Extreme Sports by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce (Lexile: 820; Interest Level: Grades 3-5) is the nonfiction companion book to Balto of the Blue Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne. You do not have to read the fiction story to understand the nonfiction in this book.
Most of the information in this book tells about dogsledding and the Iditarod race, including both some history and some modern stories, including some from 2015! Some more information is provided about other extreme sports (snowboarding, skateboarding, free climbing) and the people who participate in these sports.
I found that this book was quite interesting, and the information was well-presented. I was especially impressed with the "how to do more research" section at the end of the book. This is a strong nonfiction book, especially if you are looking for information about people who participate in extreme sports. (128 p.)
Most of you who read this blog know me well enough to know that I don't really like sports books, although you have also recommended some fantastic ones to me in the past few years. Soar by Joan Bauer (Lexile: 510; Interest Level: Grades 3-7) is probably the best one I have read so far!
Jeremiah is about 12 years old, maybe a little older. He isn't sure because he doesn't know anything about himself prior to being found by Walt when he was about 9 months old. He loves baseball and robots, and seems mostly like a normal 12 year old boy, except for the heart transplant he got when he was 10.
When his dad, Walt, takes a brief job in Hillcrest, Ohio, Jeremiah begs to go with him because Hillcrest is a baseball town, and he wants to be part of that atmosphere. He is surprised when he arrives to find that more of the town are pro-winning than pro-baseball. When scandal hits the high school, it may be up to Jeremiah to save baseball for the whole town.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves baseball; has moved to a new school; has ever experienced serious health problems; or who just likes a good, positive, feel-good comeback story. Reading this book will definitely help you root for the underdog! (304 p.)
"There were a few things I noticed about the surfboarding cat." Definitely one of the best opening lines for a book! Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (Lexile: 540; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) starts in just this way. Jackson is a boy who is all about facts. Surfboarding cats definitely don't fit with facts. So, who is Crenshaw? And why is it that Jackson seems to be the only one who can see him?
Jackson's family is having money troubles, and Jackson feels as though he can't help out because his parents aren't giving him all of the facts. He wants to trust that they can take care of everything for him, but past experiences make him unsure, and he's still a kid, so he isn't sure how to ask them to treat him more grown-up. This is a beautiful story about growing up, understanding, family, friendship, and hardships. All of could use a little Crenshaw in our lives. (256 p.)
This book was a very quick read for me. I read it while my son was putting puzzles together at the public library. In general, I like the Bad Kitty books. I think they are fun beginner chapter books. This one did surprise me a little. Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble by Nick Bruel (Lexile: 560; Interest Level: Grades 1-4) is more of a story about how to write a story than it is a story about Bad Kitty. The author uses some great vocabulary (like "protagonist"), and he does a great job of modeling how to create a story, including coming up with different names for the story as he goes along. Definitely a good read for students who enjoy Bad Kitty, want to write their own stories, or just want a quick read. (128 p.)
Although animal books are not usually favorites of mine, I thoroughly enjoyed Pax by Sara Pennypacker (Lexile: 760; Interest Level: Grades 3-6). When Peter's dad makes him release his pet fox into the wild before moving in with his grandfather, Peter is furious. Pax, the fox, is confused, but trusts that his boy will return for him. What follows is the story of Pax searching for his boy and Peter searching for Pax, told in alternating chapters.
Peter starts his adventures by running away from his grandfather's house, getting waylaid by running into people and then a accident which caused him to meet a new friend who helps him find a little of his true self. Pax begins his by waiting patiently where he last saw his boy, but then needing to make some animal friends of his own when hunger and thirst set in. This is a marvelous story of love, loyalty, friendship and adventure. I highly recommend it for everyone--whether a lover of animal stories or not. (288 p.)
It is hard to know where to begin to tell about this book. I loved it--that much is easy! The Marvels by Brian Selznick (Lexile: 770; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) is a masterful combination of imagery and prose, such as we have come to expect from Brian Selznick. The first half of the book is a story told in images, page by page sharing a story of generations of actors. Then, the story is picked up in prose with Joseph, as he runs away from school to find his Uncle Albert. Only when he finds Albert, it isn't the heartwarming family reunion Joseph was hoping for.
Joseph begins to unravel a mystery surrounding his strange uncle who lives in a house of peculiar sounds, candlelight, and a perpetually interrupted dinner party. He searches for meaning in the drawings and portraits framed on the walls and the old clothes and antique furniture that fill the rooms. Yet, just as he thinks he has figured it out, he discovers another twist to the tale.
This story is one of searching for family and home and belonging, as well as keeping alive the beauty and mysterious stories of the past. Stories and facts may not be the same, but that doesn't mean they aren't both true in some way.
Fans of Brian Selznick's other books (The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck) will also enjoy The Marvels, as will anyone who has ever searched for belonging. (672 p.)
In 1950s America, people are still trying to deal with the aftermath of World War II, especially the families who lost someone in the war. When Ella Mae's aunt finds a scientist who claims he can bring her cousin back to life from the blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae has no idea how this will change her life.
In The Sound of Life and Everything by Krista Van Dozer (Lexile: 750; Interest Level: Grades 5-9), Ella Mae embarks on a path of discovery about the very nature of life and humanity when the person brought back to life from her cousin's dog tags is NOT her cousin. What she and her mother decide to do with this knowledge (and the person that comes with it) shakes up not just Ella Mae's life and family, but that of the whole town of St. Jude. And, that's just for starters.
I have to say that I was surprised with how much Ella Mae's voice was heard in certain situations in this story--she was only twelve, but the adults seemed to be very tolerant of her outbursts and let her make a lot of decisions, which is not very true to the time period. Fans of science fiction and historical fiction will find an engaging mix of the two in this novel. (272 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.
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