Archive for February 2010

The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera

February 28, 2010

With all these snow days, I’ve had time to catch up on some reading. I hope you have, too! Maddox, a fourth grader in Mrs. Jerome’s room, shared this book with the class a few weeks ago and it sounded interesting enough for me to buy it for the library. I read it yesterday and today, and it was incredibly exciting and wacky. If you are a fan of The Wizard of Oz, you have to read this book! Four girls who live in a town named Sherbet become friends and have an amazing adventure involving some wicked witches, ruby and silver slippers, talking potatoes, and a cute pair of smart dogs. The author has a very conversational tone which brings you right into the story, and the black and white drawings every few pages add to the fun.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

February 25, 2010

This year’s Newbery Honor book presents a very charming main character, Calpurnia (“Callie Vee”) Tate , who is growing up surrounded by six brothers on a cotton and pecan plantation in Texas. It is 1899 and girls are expected to learn to sew, cook, play the piano, and dream of getting married someday. What do you think Callie Vee would rather do? Study nature! She loves observing plants, bugs, and animals, and her mysterious old Grandaddy, an amateur naturalist, begins to teach her what he knows about science and the great outdoors. Her favorite brother gives her a notebook to write down her observations, and Callie’s new scientific life is officially “launched”. There are humorous sections where Callie struggles to please her mother and lots of vivid details of family life with her older and younger brothers. (If you liked Our Only May Amelia, you will understand that Callie and May Amelia would be wonderful friends!) Throughout the book there is mounting anticipation: will Callie be able to pursue her dream of being a scientist? Read this wonderfully engaging story even if science and nature aren’t your favorite subjects: it’s a wonderful eye opener about growing up 100 years ago.

Newbery Award Winner!

February 8, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is this year’s Newbery Award Winner.  That’s a big deal in the children’s book world:  it’s like winning the Academy Award for the Best Movie of the Year.  I quickly drove to the nearest book store when I heard the news, purchased a copy, and sat down to read the book in one sitting.  The book is a quick read, exciting and mysterious but also rather confusing because it’s about TIME TRAVEL, a concept that can be difficult to understand, even for adults!

The book’s setting is New York City in 1978.  Miranda, a sixth grader, is learning to navigate school, friendship issues, and life in her city neighborhood.   Her favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time, a classic children’s book from the 60’s about time travel.  One day when walking home from school, her best friend Sal gets punched in the stomach by an older boy who hangs out down the street from their apartment building. Sal pulls away from Miranda after that and stops hanging out with her. Miranda feels completely lost without him.  Walking home alone is no fun, especially as she must pass the crazy old man by the mailbox.  Then, the notes start arriving, notes that tell her things about the future.  Here’s the first one:

I am coming  to save your friend’s life, and my own…

First, you must write me a letter….

You will keep reading to find out WHO is writing the notes, and HOW the puzzle is going to be solved.   Though I’m not sure I would have voted for this book to win the Newbery Award, it is well-written and thought-provoking. I particularly liked the positive relationship Miranda has with her mom, the lessons Miranda learned about friendship and caring about others, and the connection to A Wrinkle in Time.