Our local librarian recently recommended The One and Only Ivan to my 9 year old son telling him that it was a great book even if it was a little sad. Upon hearing that I waited to see if he would return the book, but he trusted her opinion and checked it out of the library. After several chapters and many utterances of “this book really is good”, I asked if I could listen in. So before bed, we took turns reading the very short (sometimes 1 page chapters) to each other. After 3 days, I became the sole reader as my listener curled under the covers peeking at the artwork when necessary.
Katherine Applegate through her choice of short chapters and simple titles captured my son’s love of bite sized reading. Furthermore, allowing Ivan to tell his own story of friendship and survival meshed perfectly with children’s wonder in the world. I loved this story and was so happy to hear that it was based on a true story in the author’s note. I would recommend The One and Only Ivan to upper elementary to middle school readers.
A dear student of mine read this book after I had purchased it and gave it his thumbs up. I had not read the book, but was drawn to its good use of vocabulary with the word incorrigible. So this summer, I decided to test out book one of the series. Having just read The Emerald Atlas, which also deals with the subject of orphans, I was wondering if this would be a distraction. I am happy to say that this take on orphans was unique. In this series the reader is introduced to 3 children who were apparently raised by wolves. Their education has been put in the hands of Miss Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. With it’s cliffhangar ending and mysterious plot, I am looking forward to book 2.
Kindness is explored in this truly moving debut book by author RJ Palacio. We are introduced to Auggie, a 5th grade student who feels and acts like a normal 10-year old who is entering middle school after years of homeschooling. The complication is that Auggie was born with facial abnormalities and has to live in a world where pauses and nervousness, agitation and fear surround him. How Auggie and his family navigate life and affect those around them inspires me to treasure and teach kindness.
This book has been recommended for children 8 and up, but I would strongly recommend that it is read by adults as well. The storyline is beautiful and knows no age limit.
The following book trailer provides a wonderful visual for Wonder.
Harry Potter fans unite! John Stephens first of three books is a nail biting adventure for siblings Kate, Michael, and Emma. It seems that there are plenty of orphaned children stories, but this one cleverly uses time travel. A huge fan of fantasy, I am always eager to find the magic that I had discovered with Harry Potter. While it is too early to tell, I will most definitely be reading the next books.
If you liked the good v. evil of Harry Potter’s world, then you will find more of that here. The Queen and her “animals” certainly are not kitty cats and there is no shortage of bad creatures. The children are not unstoppable and each face challenges that they don’t always win. I have posted the book trailer below, but must say that it is not my favorite. My hope is that some of my students will be motivated to create one themselves!
Visit the Emerald Atlas book website or watch the book trailer below for more information.
“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” Reynie Muldoon our eleven year old main character discovers and answers an advertisement in the local newspaper. He and three other children (Kate, Constance and Sticky) are faced with challenges and an opportunity to save the world. Each child brings a unique perspective to each challenge and the book contains a blend of adventure, plot twists and of course humor.
If you like this book as I did, there are 3 more books in the series. including the newest book, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict. Visit The Mysterious Benedict Society website for more information.
Let yourself take a summer vacation with the Penderwick sisters, their father, Hound the dog and everyone they meet along the way. This delightful story is recommended for students 9 and up and I would agree. I look forward to the 2 follow up novels that continue their adventures.
From the cover:
This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.
A friend recently recommended An Abundance of Katherines by John Green with a disclaimer that it celebrates nerdiness and has footnotes! Well, how could I not embrace my inner smartypants? This book is funny and endearing and I absolutely recommend it. My only caveat is that reading it on an e-reader does not do it justice. The book contains many footnotes (yes, footnotes in a fiction) and they don’t translate well in electronic form.
So… after my great experience with the quirky characters in Abundance…, I again took my friend’s advice and read Looking for Alaska, the 2006 recipient of the Printz Award. This is not a quirky happy book about teens, but instead a deeper and moving look into the life of Miles “Pudge” Halter and his friends. Set in Culver Creek, Alabama, I felt my temperature rise as the characters navigated the southern heat and life in a boarding school. I also recommend this book as it navigates the very real fears and concerns of teenagers as well as us all.
Escape to a world of sorrow and magic in Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver. Young Liesl shares the fate of Cinderella as she is banished to the attic of her step mothers Victorian home. In her time of darkness, she befriends an unlikely friend, Po, and his companion. Previously, I have been a fan of Lauren Oliver’s Young Adult novels, Delirium and Before I Fall and was curious if I would enjoy her first novel for ages 8 and older. After 2 days of reading feverishly any chance I found, I can say that this book did not let me down. There is a nice blend of darkness and drama balanced by the hopefulness that children can provide.
A good review can influence my decision to read a book even when life has filled my plate. Last month I read the reviews of Between Shades of Gray by new author Ruta Sepetys. The story is one of fifteen year old Lina, a Lithuanian girl caught up in Stalin’s desire to eradicate Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. From its beautiful cover art to telling story about a part of history I could not remember, this book is a must read for students and adults today.
Based on actual events in history, I am a better person for having reminded myself of past wars and the power of survival.
On Friday January 13th, the Clinton Elementary School 3rd grade hosted Maplewood’s own Alidis Vicente. Mrs. Vicente is a 2001 Columbia High School graduate and author who resides in Maplewood. Her 2010 picture book, The Coqui and the Iguana tells the tale of a young girl’s trip to Puerto Rico and her discovery of the bioluminescent bays. The audience was introduced to the native coqui, or tiny tree frog, and the iguana, an animal that was brought to Puerto Rico many years ago.
3rd grade students were not only treated to a reading, but also invited to share in lessons of multiculturalism and environmentalism. They learned that many of the bioluminescent bays in the world are at risk due to the pollution from boats. Students were asked to consider how we could still enjoy the rare “glowing” waters in Puerto Rico without further damaging them.
Mrs. Vicente’s own story of growing up in a Spanish-speaking household and spending time with family in Puerto Rico connected with many in the room as students acknowledged their own international families and friendships at Clinton. Encouraging all students to write about what they know and what they are passionate about, she reminded them that age should not be a factor in writing as she herself is much younger than many authors today. Students are looking forward to her next book.