Monday, July 16, 2018

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I know I have said this before but I LOVED this book. However, having said that, it is violent and has a raw edge to it that is not appropriate for middle school. It’s about a woman in the Second World War and how she becomes a spy. It’s a thrilling ride but much more of an adult book because of the content than a kid book. Because of that, I am not going to get into the plot or describe it very much. Suffice it to say it is fabulous, features women as heroes in a time when they weren't valued and is historically fascinating but has some super raw violence that puts it out of range.

Moo by Sharon Creech

Books by Sharon Creech always make me wonder. They always involve universal themes, but have characters on the edge or out of bounds of what I know of life. This is a book primarily about a girl Reena whose family moves from the urban life in a city to the boonies of Maine. She has a wide-eyed wonder about her, an innocence if you will. As she learns and adapts to the very different life in Maine, she jumps right in, not afraid of the various aspects of rural life. Her parents meet a crotchety old lady and have Reena and her brother Luke help her around the house. As you can imagine, struggles ensue, as the woman is particularly incompetent about giving directions. In these tasks Reena completes, she has to befriend a cow and ends up taking the cow to show at the state fair. The challenges Reena meets are entertaining and I found myself rooting for her and her brother. 

This is a cute story of innocence and the benefits of working hard. The prose itself is written almost in poetry format, as periodically there is a concrete poetry quality about it which doesn’t distract as much as I would have thought.  It actually enhances the voice. It was an easy read.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

The protagonist of this realistic fiction story is Arthur and one day he made a mistake. A big mistake. He picked up a brick and hauled off and hit someone with it, a man who wandered the neighborhood collecting garbage. Of course after he did it, everyone wanted to know why but Arthur doesn’t even know. On his court date, the man he hit, Mr. Hampton, ends up making a deal with the judge for Arthur to do community service. As the story unfolds, the reasons for Arthur’s anger are revealed. This is an interesting tale of how a boy connects with a strange man and how that helps him move past his anger and grow. Grades 5-8

Monday, August 7, 2017

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

This was an interesting book that really got me thinking about all kinds of things; stereotypes, racism both blatant and subtle, and fighting the assumptions culture makes. It's a gentle tale of a girl, Mimi, who faces and deals with all these things with grace and kindness. I think it's a bit clean and unrealistic in some ways because I suspect the hatred and racism/sexism was deeper and more dangerous back then but I could be wrong. Vermont is a strange, strange land. Anyway, Mimi moves to Vermont and she is half Japanese and half black. In Oakland, the diversity made her heritage accepted, but in Vermont, she stood out. This Vermont town was also fairly entrenched in traditional roles for girls and boys. Mimi, while also figuring out different aspects of growing up, learns to push back against the barriers holding her in. The characters are well developed and interesting which made the book powerful. Again, I think that these barriers she is breaking down are much harder to actually make any headway, but hope can't be a bad thing, can it? Grades 4-8

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

This is a novel with 3 stories intertwined, sort of. There is the main one about a girl named Bridget, Bridge for short, who is trying her best to navigate 7th grade and all it's ups and downs. She has some really good friends, which helps, but they each have their weaknesses and working through all the mean, crazy and dumb things kids (including cyberbullying) do in middle school is a challenge. The other is an anonymous voice until the end and takes place all on one day but those chapters are interspersed into the others. The third are just letters from one character to his grandfather. Each character is interesting and a bit more nuanced than your typical "dumb girl book" as I call them. This is about teen angst and drama and being mean and picking yourself up, but tends to deal with it in a more honest way, although there is less overreacting than I think happens in real life. I enjoyed it as a fluffy piece that might help those middle school teenagers feel a bit better about themselves and what they are going through. Grades 5-8

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

House Arrest by K. A. Holt

This story is written in free verse written by the protagonist instead of standard prose. I thought the poetry style did a good job of giving it a rhythm, adding to the character development and it wasn't distracting, as sometimes free verse can be. It's basically the story of a boy who gets caught stealing and is sentenced to remain at home (hence House Arrest) when he isn't in school. What we come to learn is that he's basically a good kid in a bad situation, which is no one person's fault. What I liked about this story is the authenticity of the voice-he genuinely struggles with what is right and wrong and what all the grey in life is all about. There are times the actions and words ring a bit hollow but that's part of the charm as well. It's an interesting story and could help people realize that crimes are always more complicated than wrong and right. Grades 5-8

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

This story is told through two perspectives, Tamaya and Marshall. Tamaya always walks to school with her neighbor Marshall, who is a year older. The school is an exclusive school and Tamaya works hard, as did Marshall until this year. This year the bullying has gotten so bad, he's giving up on school and on life. Tamaya doesn't know all that is going on and Marshall doesn't want to talk about it. One day, to avoid his tormentor, Chad, Marshall opts for a different route home that takes them through a wilderness area that is forbidden. Tamaya follows along because she has to. As they go through, the tormentor finds Marshall anyway and together Tamaya and Marshall fight him off, by throwing this fuzzy mud at him. This mud is particularly weird and leaves Tamaya's hand feeling odd...I won't give it all away, but it's an interesting tale of bullying and standing up for what's right and all from Louis Sachar's twisted side of reality. Grades 4-7