Posted tagged ‘Family Stories’

WHAT THE MOON SAID by Gayle Rosengren

April 13, 2014



imgresI just read a great historical fiction book that I found touching and moving. WHAT THE MOON SAID is about an extremely likeable young girl and her family relocating from Chicago to a farm in Wisconsin during the Depression (1930’s) after Pa loses his job. Despite the harsh conditions – the farm is rundown, has no electricity or indoor plumbing – Esther loves the animals and responds to the adventure of living “pioneer style”.  Esther desperately wants her mother , a Russian immigrant who is very superstitious, seeing signs in everything from rings around the moon to the number of birds on the fence post, to show her some affection.  She wants her to be more like her best friend’s mother, but Ma is caught up in the grind of farm life. Through the course of the book, we see Esther respond to tough issues involving school, sickness, and a new best friend, yet she never loses hope or the willingness to try again. If you like the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, WHAT THE MOON SAID gives you the same feeling.  The past is brought to life as a charming, believable young girl deals with real life situations in ways that make you cheer for her.

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FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo

February 28, 2014

flora_cvr_usatoday_rev-3_4This year’s Newbery Award, given to the most distinguished book for children by an American author, goes to FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo.  The author of many popular books such as THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX,  BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, and the MERCY WATSON series, this is a smart, heavily illustrated story with a lot of humor and heart.

Flora is a lonely girl.  Her mother spends all her time writing romance novels, and Flora doesn’t see her father very much (her parents are divorced).  Flora reads a lot of old comic books about “the great Incandesto”, a superhero.  One day she looks out the window and sees a squirrel getting sucked into the neighbor’s vacuum cleaner.  Flora saves the squirrel, who now seems….different somehow.   Has he become a superhero?  How will Flora’s lonely life change because of this squirrel named Ulysses?

New Year, New Books!

September 12, 2013

Welcome back to another wonderful school year.  It is my 19th here at CPS, and it feels just as exciting to start a new year as it did 19 years ago.  Of course there are always plenty of new books to read and share, and  I will highlight a few of my favorites here.

water castleTHE WATER CASTLE by Megan Fraser Blakemore

When Ephraim’s dad suffers a stroke, his family moves back to the Water Castle, their ancestral home in MAINE.  There is  a legend that the Fountain of Youth exists on the grounds of the castle.   Follow Ephraim and his friends on their quest to find the amazing healing water.  This book combines history, science, mystery, and family secrets in a very exciting way.   If you are a fan of THE SECRET GARDEN, you may find some similarities in this book.

spy campSPY CAMP by Stuart Gibbs

Hurray!  A sequel to SPY SCHOOL!  These are two great books about 12-year-old Ben Ripley who receives a surprise visit one night from a famous spy, informing him that because of his amazing math skills he is needed at a special school for CIA spies-in-training.  The first book chronicles his first year at this school, full of dangerous and humorous situations.  The second book, SPY CAMP, finds our young hero at the summer camp run by the spy school.  He is the target of SPYDER, the enemy spy group, and he spends the summer trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, who are trying to recruit him to “the dark side”.  He receives help again from  Erica,  the smart and pretty top student at his school.

esacpe from...ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein

Do you like games and puzzles?  Full of library humor and positive vibes about reading and games, this book is a fun twist on CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.  Kyle, an avid games, and 11 other sixth graders win the chance to spend the night at their town’s brand new futuristic library, designed by the world’s most famous game maker, Mr. Lemoncello (who bears a striking resemblance to Willy Wonka).  The library, which takes up half a city block, has holographic projections, hover ladders to help you reach books that are on bookcases three stories in the air, an IMAX theatre, and an Electronic Learning Center.  The night the children spend there is full of amazing fun and games.  In the morning the doors remain locked, and the eccentric Mr. Lemoncello announces a twist no one was expecting:  the children must all use what they find IN the library to find their way OUT of the library. They will have to use their wits to decipher clues and solve riddles leading them to an alternate exit.

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.

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:


MIA’S BOOK SHOUT OUT

January 4, 2012

Introducing Mia, one of Mrs. Conrad’s awesome fifth grade readers, who is going to start sharing her book reviews on this blog.  Her posts will be called “Mia’s Book Shout Out.”  Mia loves to read and share her enthusiasm with others, so here’s her first post!  Thanks, Mia.

 

“The undiscovered series in the “M” section”

I know that this book is already on the library shelves, but this is a truly amazing series that nobody reads very often.  Although the book is very similar to the familiar book CADDIE WOODLAWN, readers tend to overlook this book by Kerry Madden and zoom by it to Wendy Mass, who is a “hot” writer.  So if you need a book, check out the “M” section in the library.

Livy Two is the second oldest out of nine siblings.  She has a banjo- playing Daddy and a hardworking mother.  Livy Two’s sister Gentle’s eyes aren’t so good, but that’s just what Livy Two’s mother says.  It was so amazing for me to read about this family living in 1956 with the newly invented telephone and tv.  Also, reading about how Livy’s family lives with barely enough food to feed the family and a father with no consistent job made me think of how lucky I am.  Maggie Valley, where the book takes place, is very similar to Gilead , Maine – a very rural village with just a few houses, a church, school, and lending library truck that travels all over the Smoky Mountains.

Will Livy find out what’s wrong with Gentle’s eyes, and what will that lead to?  Gentle’s Holler is a thrilling story of money worries and watching three generations in a  family learn to live together and deal with all their problems.  And, if you like this book, check out the other two, LOUISIANA’S SONG and JESSIE’S MOUNTAIN.

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt

November 13, 2011

It’s 1968, and Doug’s family has just moved to a small town in upstate New York because his father lost his job. It’s not your typical happy family: one older brother is in Viet Nam, the other is a bully, and the father keeps the whole family on edge with his outbursts. Doug must learn to navigate both his difficult family and the new town he has landed in. There is so much in this book: colorful town characters, a little romance, hard family situations, the sad reality of war, the importance of art and creativity…check it out if you want a beautifully written story about a real boy’s growth and survival.