Monday, June 30, 2014

The Sweetest Fig By Chris Van Allsburg

Bibot is a fussy, organized man who likes everything to be on time and tidy. He is also a dentist. One day while closing shop, an old lady asks Bibot to pull her tooth. Bibot finally says yes, just this once. Instead of paying with money, she pays with two figs that she says will make Bibot's dreams come true. Of course Bibot doesn't believe her...I mean would you? Bibot goes home mad--very mad. Right before he goes to bed, he eats the first fig. Read The Sweetest Fig to find out if the lady was telling the truth.

I recommend this book for upper elementary kids.

By Camille N.

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Have you ever been home alone and gotten bored? This is what happens to Judy and Peter. After playing indoors, they go to the park. In the park they find a board game made for restless and bored kids. They bring it home to try it out. They read the instructions and begin playing. After the first roll, magical things start to happen. Confused and scared, they think of the instructions and remember the last one: "ONCE A GAME OF JUMANJI IS STARTED IT WILL NOT BE OVER UNTIL ONE PLAYER REACHES THE GOLDEN CITY."

Go with Judy and Peter through their magical board game and see what magical things will happen! I recommend Jumanji for the upper elementary grades.

By Camille N.

Lady Lollipop by Jill Barton

Princess Penelope is spoiled. For her eighth birthday she wanted a pig. Her parents, Queen Ethelwynne and King Theophilus, were NOT pig people. "They are dirty and smelly," the Queen said. But because her parents spoil her rotten, she gets a pig. Lollipop is an extraordinary pig; she does tricks. She is very well trained, but can she train Penelope to be less selfish and spoiled? And can she get the King and Queen to love her or at least like her?

I recommend Lady Lollipop for girls in grades 2nd through 4th.

By Camille N.

Friday, June 27, 2014

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

11 Birthdays was recommended to me both by a former student and by my own 12-year-old daughter. It is the story of Amanda and Leo, a girl and a boy who have been best friends practically since birth and who have celebrated their mutual birthday together every year...until now. This is because of something that Leo said on their tenth birthday that Amanda cannot forgive. Neither one is looking forward to their eleventh birthday party, their first party without each other. And then something really mysterious happens: time gets stuck and everyday is their birthday all over again.

Both boys and girls will enjoy reading this unusual story about forgiveness and friendship. Perfect for those who like a bit of fantasy mixed into their realistic fiction!

Mrs. Norton


Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

A couple of years ago, a student requested Ella Enchanted for our school library. I ordered it, knowing only that it was a fairy tale type story and that a movie had been made based on the book. After reading it, I now know what an entertaining story it is, and I can't wait to watch the movie! My thanks to whomever put it on our wish list.

Ella's tale begins when the fairy Lucinda bestows a gift (or curse depending on how you look at it) upon her at birth: "Ella will always be obedient." I must admit, I had never thought of obedience as a curse until I read this book! I quickly learned that complete obedience can actually be quite dangerous. The plot is Ella's quest to break the curse and be herself.

This book is full of characters you expect from a fairy tale: royalty, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and so on. It is, perhaps unexpectedly, also full of humor. Levine does a great job with characterization. You will find yourself hating the evil characters and loving the good ones. Girls will especially enjoy the relationship between Ella and Prince Charmont (better known as Char and quite charming). At the end of this fascinating spin on the Cinderella story, you will find yourself rooting for Ella and Prince Char.

Note: This book won the Newbery Honor.

By Mrs. Norton

Savvy by Ingrid Law

The dictionary defines savvy as shrewdness and practical knowledge. That is not the savvy that Ingrid Law writes about in her book. In the Beaumont family, savvy is a special supernatural ability that appears suddenly on your 13th birthday. Law's story begins three days before Mibs Beaumont's 13th birthday. She is dying of excitement and curiosity, dreaming of just what her savvy might be. Will it be strong and powerful like her brothers? (Rocket can create electricity and Fish can cause hurricanes.) Or will it be quiet and polite like her mother's gift of perfection? Before Mibs can find out, her father is in a terrible accident and suddenly the only savvy she cares about is the ability to save her Poppa's life.

My favorite part of this book is Law's use of language. She is incredibly creative and makes up fun words throughout the story. For instance, all Beaumont children are homeschooled and part of what they learn is how to scumble their savvies. Scumble, I discovered, means control. It is also the title of the companion book to Savvy.

Thumbs up for upper elementary kids, particularly those who appreciate language and wish they had superhuman powers!

Note: This book won the Newbery Honor.

By Mrs. Norton

The Julian Chapter by R. J. Palacio

The Julian Chapter is Palacio's one chapter addition to Wonder. Wonder is one of my all time favorite books that I told everyone about last year! I love the way Palacio writes the story of August Pullman's 5th grade year from the perspectives of several different characters. One character readers never heard from, though, was Julian, the kid who bullied Auggie relentlessly. In The Julian Chapter we get to see Auggie through Julian's eyes. It is a fascinating and thought-provoking read!  I highly recommend it for all Wonder fans!

Note: Perhaps because it is only one long chapter (about 80 pages), The Julian Chapter is only available as a $1.99 e-book. Hopefully, it will be on OverDrive, our district digital library, soon!

By Mrs. Norton

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

My daughter Camille received a signed copy of Summer of the Gypsy Moths for her 11th birthday last summer. She was excited about reading it because the author wrote the Clementine books, which she liked when she was younger. Early in the story Stella, the 11-year-old main character, experiences the death of her great aunt (and foster parent) Lucille. To clarify, Lucille dies a natural death while watching TV in her recliner, so nothing gruesome there. Lucille was also the foster parent to Angel, a preteen girl with lots of attitude who had been in and out of several foster homes.  The problem is that Stella and Angel find themselves in a rather big predicament. If they call 911 and get the police involved, the girls will be placed in another foster home. If they don't call 911 and get the police involved, what are they going to do about Lucille and who is going to take care of them?

In Summer of the Gypsy Moths, Sara Pennypacker tells a heartwarming story of two parentless girls who grow up a great deal during one life-changing summer. I love the character of Stella! She is so strong and smart and resourceful. I recommend this book to upper elementary aged kids who do not mind death being a part of the story.

By Mrs. Norton