Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wild Things by Clay Carmichael

Wild Things is an interesting read. It is about a girl who grew up with a mother who sounds like she was manic depressive and lived life either up and out with men or in bed in the dark. This girl, Zoe, has had to fend for herself for a long time. Her father was out of the picture from the beginning. The story begins when her mother dies and Zoe has been sent to live with an uncle she doesn't know. He is a recluse and was a famous surgeon at one point, but now just works in his barn on sculptures, for which he is somewhat famous. She is not used to trusting anyone and he is not used to loving anyone, as his wife died a few years ago. The two of them build a tentative relationship as she gets used to the rural area and people and she tries to tame a wild cat that lives in the woods. This story is about that growing relationship and the tests that the community offers, as well as the tests they throw at each other. It's a touching story of learning to love and trust.
Grades 5-8 Caudill 2013 nominee

Monday, August 27, 2012

Black Radishes By Susan Lynn Myer

This book takes place in the 1940's in France. It starts when Germany is threatening, but moves into the time that Germany occupied France. I must say I never realized that Germany took over almost half of France, nor did I realize just how awful it was for the French people. I'm not sure if my history teachers skipped that, glossed over it or I just didn't pick it up, but I always knew we invaded Normandy, but never put it together that many French people were ruled by Germans during this time. Anyway, Gustave is a boy of about 11 who lives in Paris with his family and close friends Jean-Paul and Marcel. Marcel came from Poland, but they are all Jewish. As the Germans continue to threaten, Gustave's mother decides they must leave Paris and they leave for a small town south of Paris. Gustave's cousin and friend stay in Paris. Shortly thereafter, the Germans invade France and the provisional occupation occurs. Gustave is very worried about his friends and relatives, as they learn more and more about the abuses to which the Jewish people are subject in Paris. Even in his remote town that is just south of the occupied part of France, Jewish people are stripped of rights and marginalized. This book was a good book but it seemed to be more history lesson than story. It was bits and pieces of Gustave's life over almost 3 years, I think. It didn't make for a very cohesive story but it painted a vivid picture of occupied France and the pressures of being Jewish in this time period.
Grades 4-7 Caudill nominee 2013

Friday, August 10, 2012

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

This book is about a boy, Jeremy Fink, who receives a present from his father where he has to find keys to open the very intricate box to learn the meaning of life. The twist is that his father has been dead for about 5 years and no one seems to know where the keys are. Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy go off on several interesting and somewhat impractical adventures throughout New York to find these keys before his 13 birthday, which is when he is supposed to open the box. Interesting story with impractical elements but if you can overlook them, it is entertaining.
Grades 5-7

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

I read it but am keeping a lid on the summary, as we will be working with it in class this year. Once we get that done, I'll post a summary/review!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

How many of you read or saw the movie Coraline? It was creepy, creative, different and yet intriguing, right? This book is exactly that but totally not like Coraline at all. This book introduces us to a character, Bod, short for Nobody Owens. He was born into a normal family in a British town but the rest of his family was murdered. He managed to escape (not knowing they were murdered) and found his way to a graveyard. The murderer knew Bod had escaped and followed him to the graveyard where his mother (newly dead) beseeched the ghosts of the graveyard to protect her toddler. Mr. and Mrs. Owens do just that with the help of the other ghosts and a character named Silas, who is neither ghost nor human. The murderer leaves without killing the boy but promises to find him and kill him. The characters in the graveyard decide they will raise and protect this boy and they do. The rest of the tale is how he is raised and eventually faces the man who seeks to kill him. It's a very interesting tale, told with such relish that you can't help feeling as though there is truth to this tale, although there cannot be!
Grades 5-7               Caudill Nominee 2013

Friday, July 27, 2012

Travels of Thelonious-The Fog Mound by Susan Schade and Jon Buller

This is a cartoon/book where half the story is told through cartoons and half is through text. It is child's story and not really appropriate for sixth graders but was a light, entertaining read. It is a story of a chipmunk named Thelonious who is swept away by a river and ends up in a place called the City of Ruins. It is the place of chipmunk legends where the remnants of humans exist and gangs of predators rule the streets. After a few encounters with danger, he meets a friendly porcupine who reads and drives a scooter and together they discover a bear that makes and flies planes. All of them, through a few challenges, decide to fly to the Fog Mound which is where Olive the Bear is originally from, and drop off Thelonious on the way and the adventure continues.
Grades 3-4 Caudill 2013 Nominee

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

I have to tell you that this book was a tearjerker for me. It is an honest voice, a child's voice and a pained voice. The main character is Aubrey who is 11 and the book begins with her living in her house all alone because her mother left. Eventually we learn that Aubrey, her sister, mother and father were in a car accident and the father and sister died in the crash. The mother couldn't handle the guilt and the absences and rarely left bed or connected to anything. Aubrey tried to help her, clean, cook etc but one day the mom just left. Eventually Aubrey's Gram comes and helps Aubrey, eventually bringing her to live in Vermont. The rest of the book is about trying to find balance and peace and strength to move forward and deal with the anger. It's a really emotional book, for obvious reasons, and I highly recommend it for people that can handle that level of emotion. If you are particularly sensitive, you might want to hold off!
Grades 6-8 (because of content--reading level is lower) Caudill 2013 nominee

Monday, July 23, 2012

Schooled by Gordon Korman

C Average Middle School is a place where bullying is RAMPANT and being popular is everything, nothing like our own middle school, but certainly a place that must be someone's reality. In this tale, the story switches viewpoints as the action progresses so that each event is told from a different perspective. This makes for a fluid tale but each portion of the tale is completely biased by the storyteller. Basically, the premise is that in this school a super geek is elected 8th grade President and the rest of the student body tries to break that person down till they disappear from life--horrible really and hopefully not at all like most people's reality. This year, due to unforeseen circumstances, a brand new boy that was plucked from what seems to be a hippie's fantasy land and plopped smack down in the middle of middle school awfullness is who ends up being elected class president. Cap, as the boy is known, however refuses to be broken because he has a heart of gold and grew up without TV, phones, exposure to life outside his isolated farm. Will this middle school break him and turn him into one of them? That is the crux of the tale as it unfolds...Very idealistic/steretypical on both sides of the good and bad of middle school.
Grades 5-8

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Introducing a very cheesy kid who is about 13 and living with his brother, Harold and his uncle Squint. This is in rural Maine in about 1863. Squint ended up taking care of these two boys and would rather be miserable on his own. One day after the boys had the gall to complain about being hungry, Squint gets so angry he goes into town and brings back someone to swear Harold, who is 17, into the army as a replacement soldier. It wasn’t legal but it was done and Homer spends the rest of the book trying to get his brother back. Homer meets a slew of interesting characters and has some great adventures. It is all a bit fantastic, but Homer is known for stretching the truth, so that fits.
Grades 4-7 Caudill Nominee 2013

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

A story of a boy that lives in a harsh future world where life is fought for daily. He spends his time searching old abandoned ships for the copper that is so valuable. He lives a rough existence, working for his food by stripping these old abandoned tankers and selling the finds. One day he finds a beautiful beached ship with a wealthy girl aboard and he has to decide what he should do. Grade 6-8 won many awards

Dark Life by Kat Falls

Dark Life is similar to City of Ember in many ways but at the same time different and original. Dark Life takes place in the future, under the sea which has expanded and covered much of the land due to global warming.  The main character, Ty, has grown up under the sea, as his parents are scientists and pioneers. Ty loves it under the water and one day while exploring he finds a sub with a girl on it. Gemma is on a quest to find her brother and is a “Topsider” (lives on the little land remaining in very cramped housing) and together they search and encounter bad guys that are trying to rob and steal and perhaps even destroy the fragile community his parents have built. It’s interesting and a bit too fantastic at times (like I’m not sure why the outlaws attacked Ty’s neighbor’s house...doesn’t fit with their pattern and only served to cause drama?). Other than a couple pieces not quite fitting, it is a great read. 
Grades 4-8 Caudill Nominee 2012

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

A cute, middle income, white, blond girl goes swimming in the ocean and gets attacked by a shark. She ends up getting her arm amputated. This book opens with that and then, by showing the thoughts in her head, relates her thoughts and emotions as she deals with this tragedy. It is an interesting look at how entitled girls deal with trauma--first bitter, but only on the inside where they play the role they are supposed to for a while but eventually everyone can see they are depressed and bitter and then, magically, she begins to pull out of it and move on from it, realizing the world still holds that all elusive possibility. It was a tear jerker, but in a good way. Really enjoyed the voice.
Grade 5-8 Caudill nominee 2011?

Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper

An interesting story told from the perspective of a girl who, to all others in the world, is extremely disabled and does little more than have fits and drool. This is the tale of how she managed to show the world that she really does have a brain that is, as it turns out, amazing. She just needed the right people and the right tools to show the world. Very heartwarming and a bit idealistic, but interesting voice with power and caring. It makes you think.
Grades 4-8 Caudill 2012 nominee

The Voice on the Radio by Caroline Cooney

This is part of a series that is started by The Face on the Milk Carton, which is a powerful story about a girl that discovers that she was kidnapped as a young child and given to a couple who didn’t know she was kidnapped and the people she has always thought of as her parents are not her blood parents. That book is a poignant tale of being torn between two families and no one being at fault. This one is about the relationship that Janie had developed with Reeve, who has left for college. He is a bit lost at school and, while pursuing his radio career, finds that his audience really connects with his stories of what happened to Janie, who is far away and has no idea he is divulging her secrets. She finds out and they have some soul searching to do. It is not as powerful and at times seems lost in the drama without much emotion behind it.

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

Brady is just a regular kid in modern times who lives with his mom and dad in a very middle class/lower middle class life in Maryland. Dad is a fisher/crab catcher and mom is a nurse maybe? Not your average suburban family, but very real Americana kind of family. Anyway, Brady and his best friends are thrown into turmoil when Brady’s neighbor and son go missing. Who is at fault and what really happened are two questions that haunt Brady as he rips his life up trying to find the truth. A good story about real consequences to stupid actions, as well as speaks to the strength of family and listening to your heart.
Grade 6-9 violence

Trash by Andy Mulligan

This story takes place in a fictional place--makes it sound like it is perhaps in South America, but if you read the note from the author at the end, he based it on his experiences in Manila. There are two main boys that tell the story with a third that pipes up on occasion but this is a tale of people that live in the dump~really live there. One day they discover a key and some money and it changes their lives. Not to give too much away, but this delves into political corruption, police brutality and shows, quite starkly, the lifestyles of those that live at the bottom of our society. Strong story, great voices and makes the point of the disparity and disgustingness of that life without lecturing.
Grade 6-8 violence Caudill 2012 nominee

Friday, July 6, 2012

Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari

Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari
This is a story about a girl, Bird, who has always wanted to fly. Takes place in small town Rhode Island when WWII just starts. Her father takes her as she is--not girly and full of wild tales and imagination--and teaches her how to fly. They are close. He goes off to join the war effort as an expert in making planes. A Japanese kid moves in, her town doesn’t handle it well. She befriends him and together they try to break this spy ring only they notice. Turns out, it really is a spy ring and she and Kenji get into some real trouble while solving it. Voice is kind of young--she’s 11--but strong storyline and interesting ending. 
Grades 4-7 Caudill nominee 2012

Shooting Kabul by NH Senzai

Shooting Kabul by NH Senzai
Meet Fadi--a recent immigrant from Afghanistan--very conscientious and kind 11ish year old boy who is interested in photography. On the trip to the United States, in a realistically chaotic and “scary” moment, he lost his little sister’s hand and she was swallowed into the crowd and chaos. The family continues trip to the US because otherwise they would lose their visas  and Afghanistan is dangerous for the dad particularly. Fadi blames himself for his lost sister, but, as he finds out, each of his family members secretly blame themselves for their part in the tragedy. He adjusts to the US and in the end, in a fluke, he finds his sister in a photograph someone took. Again, a fantasy ending where everything happy is the end...
Grades 4-8 Caudill Nominee 2012

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Have you ever wanted to get inside the head of someone who is autistic? Ever wondered what they are really thinking? This book tries to do that and does a pretty decent job explaining and describing the actions and behaviors of an autistic kid. I must admit that it feels more like what a parent of an autistic kid wishes they were an autistic kids thoughts filtered and pretty--that this child is more “typical” than we know but unable to show it and I am not convinced that is reality. I mean they must be thinking completely differently, which is why their behavior doesn't always make sense. Interesting, though, for sure and certainly makes you think, which might just be the purpose. 
Grades 4-8 Caudill Nominee 2012

As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins is a story about a boy who is going off to an away camp in Montana as his grandfather takes care of his house in Wisconsin and his parents go off to the Caribbean to rekindle their marriage. As he’s on the train through Montana to the camp, he opens mail he received at home but never bothered to open and turns out the camp is cancelled. He gets off the train in the middle of nowhere, accidentally gets left behind and no one knows where he is nor does he know how to get home. He meets a strange kind of character, Del, and they venture back to Wisconsin, where the grandpa has gone missing. They conclude that they must reach his parents, who are sailing and lost their cell phone and are unreachable. They decide to go to find his parents and they go off on this second adventure meeting various characters as they go. Liked the beginning but with the second adventure, it became more fantastic and therefore less realistic and the end was so fantastic, I didn’t like it.
Grades 6-10 some swearing Caudill nominee 2012