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!
Dan Smith takes us on a journey back in time to World War II in My Friend the Enemy (Lexile: 740; Interest Level: Grades 3-6). Peter lives in a small town in England, and his father (like many kids' dads) has left home to fight the Nazis. Occasionally, bombers found there way over Peter's village and everyone had to hide out in their Anderson shelters. One day, Peter was out in the woods checking his rabbit snares when he heard the sirens warning of an air strike. He was trying to run toward home when the bomber fell right over his head and crashed into a field.
While watching the excitement about the crash, Peter makes friends with Kim, who has just moved to his town to stay with her aunt. The two of them decide to investigate the crash site on their own, and they discover that one of the German soldiers on the plane survived. When they find him, he seems like a normal person, like their dad or brother, and they are faced with a choice of whether to help him or not.
This is a wonderful story about the moral problems with war and what happens when the "enemy" turns out to be someone you might like. Readers who enjoy the World War II time period, historical fiction, or adventure would enjoy this story. I am glad this book is a 2015-2016 Indian Paintbrush Nominee. (288 p.)
What if the world started falling apart and your family was given the choice to live in the new "Bubble Cities" or stay outside of them forever? In The Scavengers by Michael Perry (No Lexile Found; Interest Level: Grades 4-7), the government responded to the threat of climate change by partnering with a corporation that makes genetically modified corn (which can cure diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other problems) and takes over all of the farmland. They give all people the choice of the Bubble Cities or the Outside. Maggie's family made the choice to stay outside . After years of scavenging for food and items that could be sold to pay for other provisions, Maggie decides to change her name to Ford Falcon (after an old station wagon she finds and adopts as her special place).
Things are getting stranger and stranger in Ford Falcon's world: her dad seems to be gone more and more; her younger brother doesn't talk; her mom seems sad. And the GreyDevils seem to be getting closer and closer. Ford doesn't quite understand everything in her world, but she must learn fast when the safety of her family is threatened. What Ford Falcon does to help her family greatly surpasses what most think children can do. She is a strong, spunky character.
At times I found this book to be quite funny, but at other times I wondered how such a young girl could be expected to do what Ford Falcon does. There is a strong political message in this book, and it sometimes takes over the plot. This would be a good read for those who enjoyed City of Ember and The Giver, but are not quite ready for the violence in Hunger Games.
Another 2015-2016 Indian Paintbrush Nominee, Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton (Lexile: 740; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) is a story about Indie Lee Chickory, a girl who just doesn't seem to fit in anymore. Indie and her sister Bebe used to be very close, but now Bebe wants to fit in with the popular crowd and always seems to be embarrassed by Indie. As much as Indie tries, she just doesn't care much about clothes or drama, and she causes a scene when she accidentally takes her pet lobster to school on the last day.
Indie gets a job working on the set of the summer play, hoping that will make Bebe proud of her, but Bebe is afraid she will make things even worse and insists on giving her a makeover and controlling who she is friends with. Indie makes some interesting friends in the scene shop who are teaching her to be herself, which is often at odd with what Bebe says.
This is a good story about trying to stay close to your family while trying to grow up on your own. Being true to yourself is not always easy, and there are often different paths to understanding. (256 p.)
Leo Fillmore lives at the Whippet Hotel. He is the son of the maintenance man, so he should know everything about the hotel, whose guests are all not only wealthy, but also crazy or mysterious. There are also lots of ducks.
The action in Floors by Patrick Carmen (Lexile: 890; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) really gets going when Leo discovers four mysterious boxes are left for him. The boxes lead him to discover hidden floors, engage with strange puzzles, and even make a friend or two.
Reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this fun story provides twists and turns as you follow Leo through the secret passages and crazy experiences found within the Whippet Hotel. So, pack your bags and take a short vacation to one of the craziest hotels invented! (272 p.)
A Newbery Honor recipient, and a Schneider Family Book Award Winner, Rules by Cynthia Lord (Lexile: 780; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) tells the story of 12-year-old Catherine who is trying to have a normal life for herself despite her brother David's autism. Then one summer a new girl moves in next door and Catherine meets a boy named Jason at the place where David attends occupational therapy. As much as Catherine wants to be friends with pretty and sure-to-be-popular Kristi, she is really enjoying helping Jason by creating some new picture cards for his conversation books, and she is finding out that Jason has interesting ideas that he wants to share. What should Catherine do when each friend invites her to a special event at the same time? Can her two worlds be combined?
Fans of books like Wonder and Out of My Mind will enjoy Rules (and vice versa)! It is a wonderful realistic fiction story about discovering what "normal" could mean. (224 p.)
Having really enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, I couldn't wait to read Chris Grabenstein's new book, The Island of Dr. Libris (Lexile: 640; Interest Level: Grades 3-6)! In another story about the excitement of reading, the reader meets Billy, who would really rather be playing on his iPhone than reading. Billy and his mom move to a cabin on a lake for the summer, and Billy isn't there long before his phone breaks when helping a young neighbor girl, he sort of makes friends with a and he starts to be targeted by a bully who lives on the other side of him.
Feeling the need to be inside, Billy retreats to the only entertainment left: books. But when he reads books in this strange, rented cabin, some strange things happen which lead him to do some investigating of the island in the middle of the lake. The island appears uninhabited at first, but then what are the shadowy shapes? And the strange sounds that seem to follow the dialog in the book?
Readers who enjoy some adventures, especially those who wish they could really experience the adventures the read will enjoy this story! This book also mentions several other stories that readers may enjoy! (256 p.)
I decided that Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes (Lexile: 680; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) might be a good book to read while I sat on the beach in Jamaica, so this is the first one I pulled out there. We mostly know Kevin Henkes for his picture books like Chrysanthemum and Caldecott winner Kitten's First Full Moon, but this Newbery Honor book shows that he is a very versatile author!
Olive Barstow thought Martha Boyle was probably the nicest girl in her whole entire class. However, Martha never really knew Olive thought that. In fact, Martha didn't really know Olive at all. No one really seemed to know her. She was one of those girls who just sort of faded into the background. But when Olive's mother brought Martha a page from Olive's journal, Martha began to think about a whole lot of things differently--especially about what happened to Olive.
When Martha's family travels to visit her grandmother at the ocean for vacation, she is caught up in a lot of thoughts about what is going on with her family and what she thinks about the boys who live down the road from her grandmother, but she also spends a lot of time thinking about Olive. This is a wonderful story about growing up and learning what it means to make and keep friends, and how to decide what to do about those friends, even if you don't see them often and they happen to be boys. I think many 4th and 5th graders, in particular, may feel like Martha sometimes, and that makes this book a good one to check out. (224 p.)
The first book in the Ghosts of War Series by Steve Watkins, The Secret of Midway (Lexile: 840; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) really surprised me. I am not usually a fan of ghost stories because I don't much like "spooky" things. However, I found this 2015-2016 Indian Paintbrush Nominee to be interesting, informative, and even quite funny!
Anderson wants to start a band with his best friend Greg, who invites Julie to join them. He needs a place for the group to rehearse, so his uncle gives them a room in the basement of his shop, as long as they clean it out. While cleaning, they find an old Navy peacoat (a type of coat worn by sailors), and Anderson takes it home with him.
It turns out, that the coat wasn't the only thing that Anderson took home. That night, a ghost visits Anderson's room, shows him a letter and asks for Anderson's help remembering who he is and what happened to him. This sends the new band-mates on a research adventure to discover what they can about the fate of this World War II sailor so that he can finally rest in peace.
Readers interested in World War II will really enjoy this book. Those who aren't, just might find themselves a lot more interested--I know I certainly did! (208 p.)
I just can't imagine hating sugar! It's so yummy--well, at least stuff made with it is! However, the main character in Jewell Parker Rhodes's book Sugar (Lexile: 430; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) absolutely hates sugar, even if it is her name! Why does Sugar hate sugar? Well, I suppose we may hate it too if we grew up on a sugar plantation just after the slaves were freed and we spent each day working in the sugar cane. According to Sugar, the cane stalks have little needles that are constantly biting you back, which is a good reason to not like it much.
Just because the slaves had been freed does not mean that Sugar, who was born a slave, can be free from sugar. Black children are still not allowed to go to school, and they are pretty much expected to help their families earn money by working hard in the fields. They have to get paid for their work now, but they aren't getting paid much.
Then, Mr. Wills, the owner of the plantation, has some Chinese men come in to help work the sugar. There is a lot of distrust between the black slaves and the new Chinese workers, but Sugar finds the newcomers fascinating. Can she make friends and help bridge the gap between their cultures? Can they learn to work together so they can all keep their jobs? And what is she going to do about the plantation owner's son, who seems to really want to be friends with Sugar, even though it isn't allowed? This 2015-2016 Indian Paintbrush Nominee has a little for everyone: history, adventure, cultural diversity, and even some major trouble. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in the post Civil War era, farming, and of course, sugar. (288 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.
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