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!
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.)
Genie and Ernie are spending the summer with their grandparents on a farm in Virginia, a far cry from their normal stomping ground of Brooklyn, New York. Things are very different in the country, and the two boys must learn to be brave, especially Genie who worries about everything. With limited Internet access, a grandfather who is blind, and a grandmother who believes all children should have chores, this should be an interesting summer as they boys must show how brave they are.
In As Brave As You (Lexile: 750; Interest Level: Grades 5-8), Jason Reynolds paints a wonderful picture of two boys learning more about who they are as individuals and what it means to be family. Slow at times, this is a beautiful story about growing up over one summer. (432 p.)
Award winning author Avi shares a fantastic story of Nashoba, an old wolf trying to keep leadership of his pack by finding food and Casey, a young boy desperately wanting to be old enough to hunt. In Old Wolf (Lexile: 630; Interest Level: Grades 4-7), these two stories are told in alternating chapters.
Nashoba must find food for his pack. As he searches, he is given help by a raven. Casey plays a video game called Bowhunter, but he really wants to learn to hunt with a real bow. When Casey gets a bow for his birthday, he thinks he is ready for all that entails. However, when Casey's story intersects with Nashoba, both characters learn a valuable lesson. This is a 2017-2018 Indian Paintbrush Nominee. (160 p.)
Jack and his best friend Charlie are world-famous hackers. They and their friends, Slink, Obie and Wren, live together in a bunker they found in the subway tunnels under London, and from there, they scout out and target "bad guys" who launder money, sell drugs or guns. They hack into their accounts and take money which they redistribute through R.A.K. (Random Acts of Kindness).
The teenagers are all runaways from a London children's home, and they work hard to keep from getting caught because they don't want to go back to the home where they feel unloved and unsupported. Then the children hear about a project called Proteus that is supposed to be the most secure and amazing computer in the world. So, of course, they decide to hack it. This decision, however, sends them on the adventure of their lives.
Honestly, I had a little trouble believing that these children who had been homeless their whole lives would have access to the high-tech gear (and know-how) required to outsmart state-of-the-art security systems, but readers looking for some technology know-how added to their adventure may want to follow the Urban Outlaws (Lexile: 650; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) by Peter Jay Black on their modern-day Robin Hood adventures. This is the first book in a series. (304 p.)
The first book in the Trials of Apollo series, The Hidden Oracle (Lexile: 680; Interest Level: Grades 5-9) by Rick Riordan continues the adventure with Greek mythology that we began in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. The Trials of Apollo is Rick Riordan's third Greek mythology series.
Apollo wakes up in a dumpster in New York City. It appears that Zeus is punishing him by making him mortal. Again. Told in first person, Apollo tells us his thoughts on this punishment and what happens to him during his "trials," which begin with being attacked by two thugs and rescued by a girl. Think about that. The Greek god Apollo having to be rescued at all, and it is a little girl (around 12 years old) who rescues him. After she claims his service, Apollo convinces Meg to help him find Percy Jackson who will help them get to Camp Half-Blood, but this is only where the adventure begins!
When they reach Camp Half-Blood, Apollo and Meg discover that the Oracle of Delphi is missing (she hadn't been able to tell the future for awhile), and the demigods are disappearing. The camp itself seems to be under attack. Could this have something to do with Apollo's fall from grace?
As Percy and his friends have grown older over the course of several books, it is to be expected that some of the situations in this story match their ages. Couple that with stories from the Greek myths, and readers should expect some content that makes this book (and subsequent series) a little more appropriate for older readers. Fans of Rick Riordan, and especially Percy Jackson, will find this new series as engaging as the previous ones. If you are a newcomer to the world of Camp Half-Blood, however, you may want to begin at the beginning. There are definitely parts of this story that rely on an understanding of previous events. (384 p.)
Jamie loves to make people laugh. So, he tells jokes. Lots of jokes. He also studies great comedians and learns how to deliver funny lines in just the right way. He tries out these bits of humor on the people he meets around town, especially those that come into his uncle's restaurant, where he helps out on weekends.
But, Jamie's life is not all laughs in I Funny (Lexile: 610; Interest Level: Grades 3-7) by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. He also must face the school bully, who is always around, the hardships of living with relatives who are very different from him, and the difficulties of using of wheelchair for mobility. None of this really gets Jamie down, though, and he takes his humor on the road to try to become the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic.
Follow Jamie on his adventures and laugh with him along the way. This book is an easy read and one that readers will find inspiring as well as funny! (320 p.)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (Based on the original story by J. K. Rowling)
Some call this the 8th installment of the Harry Potter Series, and in many ways it is. If you haven't read the original series of 7 Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, stop reading here (and start reading them, if you are interested!). Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Lexile: 500; Interest Level: Grades 4-9) is written as a screenplay by Jack Thorne with John Tiffany and J. K. Rowling, and it relies on an understanding of the original stories.
The curtain lifts as Harry and Ginny are taking James and Albus Severus to Platform 9 3/4 for Albus's first trip to Hogwarts. They meet up with Ron and Hermione who are dropping off their daughter Rose. And so, a new generation heads off to Hogwarts. The scenes change between what happens with Albus and his experiences at Hogwarts (making friends on the train, being sorted, trying to find his place) and the situations with our favorite characters, all grown up and in charge of the Ministry of Magic (Hermoine), Magical Law Enforcement (Harry) and a joke shop (Ron).
As we may expect, the children at Hogwarts get into mischief, and there is trouble brewing for the Ministry. True to the experiences of the original series, we are swept into a world of magic, fame, mystery and danger. Because it is not J. K. Rowling's riveting prose, this installment is a very different read, but fans of the series will enjoy it just the same. (327 p.)
In this sequel to Game Changers, readers follow Ben McBain and his friends from the amazing season of football into the winter basketball season. Not quite wanting to let football season go, Ben starts to get geared up for basketball, meeting a new rival in a boy from a neighboring town.
In Play Makers (Lexile: 920; Interest Level: Grades 3-7), Ben discovers that he may not be the best player in the league this year. He strives hard to get better and better, but he encounters some consequences that will affect his whole team. And his rivalry with Chase, the new boy in the league is about more than just ball. Will Ben be able to overcome his jealousy of this new boy, both for his basketball skills and his interest in Ben's friend Lily?
I recommend this book for fans of Mike Lupica, basketball, and good middle grade stories. However, you may want to read Game Changers first, as there are several allusions to the football season in this story. (224 p.)
What if a hurricane destroyed a boat carrying boxes of robots? What if one of those boxes washed ashore a deserted island without destroying its contents? What if some playful otters got the box opened and turned on the robot inside? These are some of the questions that Peter Brown explores in The Wild Robot (Lexile: 740; Interest Level: Grades 3-6).
When Roz is "woken up" by the otters, she discovers herself to be on an island inhabited by only animals. Trying to find her place in this world leads to an exploration of habitat, survival techniques, belonging, and uniqueness. This story is an adorable read that will engage readers with gentle humor and insight as we discover with Roz a new way of seeing the world. (288 p.)
Ephraim Tuttle is dying. He decides to write a letter to call in a miracle that was promised to him as a little boy. His grandson Micah is convinced that this miracle must be a cure for his grandfather because he can't imagine life without his grandfather, and he can't imagine living with his Great Aunt Gertrudis who refuses to believe in magic.
Micah knows all of the stories about his grandfather's visit to Circus Mirandus as a child. He knows about how his grandfather impressed the Lightbender with a magic knot trick and how the Lightbender offered him a miracle. Micah believes in the magic because his grandfather believes. Micah makes a new friend in Jenny Mendoza, but Jenny doesn't believe in magic. Can he help her bend her rigid ways to see the beauty of the magic?
Will the Lightbender give Ephraim his miracle? Will the answer come in time? Readers who believe in magic, and maybe even those who don't, will get caught up in this beautiful story of faith, belief, trust, family, and, of course, magic. Read Circus Mirandus (Lexile: 710; Interest Level: Grades 4-7) by Cassie Beasley to see what happens. (292 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.
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