Archive for the ‘For Older Children’ category

The Christmas Truce of World War I

December 16, 2013

Last year I discovered these three books about the famous Christmas truce that happened during World War I.  In varying degrees of illustration and text, all three books tell the amazing true story of the Christmas Eve in 1914 when the British and the Germans stopped fighting, sang Christmas carols together (in different languages),  exchanged small gifts and conversation, and even played a rousing game of football.  My fifth grade classes have truly had their eyes opened by this gem of a story, which gives us a glimpse of peace and humanity in the midst of the harsh, violent realities of war.

THE TEACHER’S FUNERAL by Richard Peck

May 30, 2013

FuneralI’m reading this book with two Literacy Groups now, and it is such a funny,  beautifully  written book.  It takes place in the early part of the 1900’s in the rural midwest.    Russell and his brother Lloyd find out on the last night of summer that the teacher of their one room schoolhouse  has died. For today’s children, that would be a very sad event,  but for these boys and the five other students in the tiny country school, they feel  like they’ve won the lottery.  Maybe school will be cancelled for good! But when they find out who the new teacher is, they almost wish that mean old  Miss Myrt Arbuckle wasn’t dead after all.   Once you get used to the author’s “down home” style and you figure out what all the old fashioned terms mean (privy, buggy whip, drawers, crick, etc.) you are in for a real treat as you go through the school year with Russell and his classmates.    The characters are so colorful,  you will find yourself laughing out loud. And you might even wish you went to their school!

SON by Lois Lowry

March 14, 2013



SonI just finished SON by Lois Lowry, the fourth book in THE GIVER quartet (THE GIVER, GATHERING BLUE, MESSENGER, and SON ).    For those of you who have read THE GIVER, a haunting dystopian Newbery Award winner published 20 years ago, this is a must-read!  Even if you didn’t read THE GIVER, this book can stand alone.  This is also a series for all of you HUNGER GAMES fans out there.  (Note:  a fifth grade student, Lily Drew, is a passionate Lois Lowry fan who read this first and urged me to move SON to the top of my very large “to-read” pile.  I’m glad I did.  Thank you, Lily!)

The setting of THE GIVER and SON is a world very different from our own.  It is a futuristic, controlled world with no violence, war, poverty, or crime.  But there is also no  love, no color, no choice!  Every person is assigned a role in the Community at age  12, such as  Birthmother, Nurturer, Engineer, or Caretaker of the Old.  In this last book, SON, we follow Claire who is a Birthmother. All Birthmothers are separated from their “product” , but Claire alone  formed an attachment to hers that she cannot forget.  Her quest to find him will bring her face to face with evil itself.  The twists and turns her life takes will leave you breathless.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate

January 24, 2013

ivanI’m going to go out on a limb and predict that THIS BOOK is going to win Newbery recognition when the awards are announced next week…it’s that good and that original.

Ivan is a gorilla who lives at a shabby, circus-themed mall.  He has spent years in his glass “domain”, watching tv, painting, and interacting with his friends Stella the elephant and Bob, a stray dog.   Their owner, Mack, is desperate to make money and not as focused on the happiness of his animals as he should be.  When changes come, mainly due to a new baby elephant named Ruby who will (hopefully) bring more business to the failing mall, Ivan is spurred to action.   This story has echoes of CHARLOTTE’S WEB: there is even a “Fern” character named Julia, who spends time with the animals and understands them in a way that Mack doesn’t.  If you love animals and want a story with a lot of heart, this is a book you must read.

LITTLE BLOG ON THE PRAIRIE

December 6, 2012

little blogThe “little house” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were my favorites when I was in grade school.  My best friend and I used to play in the woods behind our houses, pretending we were Laura and Mary.  When I saw this book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!  I read it last weekend and loved it.

Genevieve (Gen for short) and her family are spending the summer at Camp Frontier, with 4 other families.  They must give up their cell phones, ipods, and modern clothes and conveniences so that they can live an authentic 1890’s life.  That means eating only what they can grow (lots of beans!), using an outhouse, wearing heavy clothes and a bonnet in the sweltering heat, learning to milk a cow, and spending an entire day each Monday washing the family’s clothes in a tin washtub.    The entire family is a little overwhelmed with the changes.  Things start looking up for Gen when she becomes interested in the boy at the farm next door AND when she starts texting her friends back home on the cell phone she sneaked in to the Camp.  For older students who might wonder what it would be like to live in the “old days”, this is a fascinating, fun, and suspenseful  read.

Mia’s Book Shout #5

May 21, 2012

Fifth grade book lover Mia shares her favorite books

Skellig by David Almond

So what would you do if you had just moved into a new, really old, house and there was a really old, about-to-fall-in garage?  Would you or would you not go in it?

Well, Michael does; I mean what eleven-year-old boy could resist?  As Michael shines his light all around, he sees thousands of dust bunnies, blue bottles, and spiders.  As he shines his flashlight into the corners of the garage, his light falls on something pale, something dead looking;  could it be the previous house owner?  It moves its dusty, pale face, blinks in the light.  “What do you want?”  the voice asks.  Michael steps away in shock.  How could this… this thing be alive?   Michael’s wonderment and disgust are broken by his mother’s stern voice telling him to stay out of that garage.  Then she returns to the baby, the ‘stupid” baby.

In this mysterious and stunning book, Skellig, eleven-year-old Michael finds love and beauty in a man with no life, only a memory of one.  Two kids, Michael and Mina, change his life completely.

I found this book sad.  It was as if Michael was searching for happiness when there was none to be found except in his friend Mina, and sometimes in the baby’s face when she smiled.  I would recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure and magic beyond your wildest dreams.

Mia’s Book Shoutout #4

April 1, 2012

Fifth grade book lover Mia shares her favorite books

“A Book to Get You Buzzing About Spring
Have you ever thought about a bee’s life? What it does, all the different kinds of bees: which ones are useful; which ones are not; how long a bee lives; or how you get honey, I mean real honey?
Well, A Hive for the Honey Bee is told from all sorts of bee perspectives and Thora is the main character. Thora, is a worker bee and we follow her through her life. To really appreciate this book, you really need to know a few things about bees. First, the queen controls everything. Second, the drones do absolutely nothing– well, it’s awkward, but the drones are needed for the queen bee to make babies. Third, all the bees that work are females.
Back to the story which starts when the queen bee leaves Thora’s hive to start a new hive somewhere else. Of course you probably know that it is bad for a honey bee hive for the queen to leave, because the queen controls all the work orders. And, just all the bees knowing the queen is there helps everyone. So a hive must learn how to survive with only about 100 bees and no queen, so if you want to learn how the hive survives in this beautifully illustrated and written book, I recommend you read it now.  But if you are not too interested in bees, there is another part of this story!  It is about Moe, a drone, and his search to find idleness for all worker bees whether they want it or not.  He can see how unfair the hive is, even though most drones are too blind to see it themselves.
A Hive for the Honey Bee is so sad and good. When you finish it you will probably start to cry because Soinbhe Lally is a truly amazing author. Her writing in this book is SO beautiful. This book might be hard to get into at first, but if you just keep pushing through, you will eventually come out on top with the beauty of it. So if this sounds appealing to you, go to the “L” section of the Crescent Park School Library and read it. So, on your mark, get set, BUZZ!

AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS party

February 7, 2012

We just finished reading AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko in the fourth grade literacy group.  Twelve-year old Moose Flanagan tells the story of his family moving to Alcatraz Island in the 1930’s where his father works at the prison full of notorious criminals (one of whom is Al Capone).    There are 23 other children on the 12-acre island, including the spoiled and manipulative Piper.   Moose’s older sister Natalie is autistic, and Moose’s parents rely heavily on him to help Natalie adjust to the world.

When we finished reading the book, the students wanted to learn more about the convicts who were imprisoned on Alcatraz Island.  Each student either picked a convict or made one up.  I was very impressed with the students’ research abilities!  Here is a picture of the whole group hamming it up as Alcatraz criminals:

And here are Ella and Emily dressed as the gangster Al Capone:


Wildwood by Colin Meloy

December 2, 2011

Before winter and the Christmas season really set in, I want to tell you about the greatest book I read last month, Wildwood.  Set in the real city of Seattle and the fictional “wildwood” that is located across the river from Seattle, it is full of adventure, danger, colorful characters, and nail-biting suspense.  There are echoes of the “Narnia” books, but the author has put his own personal stamp on it and made it original.  There are beautiful pictures throughout the book, drawn by the author’s very talented wife.

The main character is Pru, a young girl who loses her nearly one-year-old brother one day when she’s babysitting.  One minute he’s sleeping in the little red wagon, and the next he gets carried away by crows! Very disturbing, but of course she sets out to find him, and of course the crows have taken him to Wildwood, which is the mysterious forbidden area across the river from Pru’s city. Children have been taught that it is a dangerous, uncivilized land, but Pru is a daring and loyal sister who will stop at nothing to get her brother back. What will she find when she gets there? Will she succeed in finding her brother, and why would crows carry him away in the first place? Read this beautifully descriptive fantasy if you are looking for a challenging and rewarding reading experience.

Milo: sticky notes and brain freeze by Alan Silberberg

October 4, 2011

Here’s a book review by a fifth grade student in Mrs. Conrad’s class, Emily:

This is the fifth time Milo has moved!  Milo doesn’t think it will be the last time, though.  After all, it seems to Milo that moving is part of his life.

Milo’s family is a little, well, strange.  Sure, he has a Dad.  And a sister, of course.  But….they’re probably not like yours.  But what about the mom? Well, she had cancer and she died.  The main part of this book is about Milo figuring out how to deal with the fact that his Mom is gone.  Milo feels lost without a full family.

There are three people who make him feel better:  his best bud, Marshall, makes him laugh.  Hillary, his next door neighbor, knows how he feels and makes him feel safe.  A neighbor lady who has lost her husband teaches him that even if somebody close to you is gone, there are ways to keep them “alive”.

It sounds like this is a really sad book, but it is also very funny.  For instance, Milo is “in love” with Summer Goodman, and one of the first times he sees her he is buying SUPER SOFT TOILET PAPER!  How embarassing!  He and Marshall have a nice, funny friendship that reminds me of the way boys really do fool around.

This isn’t a graphic novel, but it does have a lot of sketches that are fun to look at.   I recommend this book to anyone who likes realistic stories about love, life, and family.