Posted tagged ‘Friendship’

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.

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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.

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.

WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick

November 5, 2011

I just finished reading WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick. Like his last book, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET (which won the Caldecott Award), it is a huge book  (600+ pages) that is half gorgeous pencil drawings (not a graphic novel: rather, an illustrated novel). The book tells two different intertwined stories – one in words and the other in pictures –  that the reader just knows are going to come together somehow. Ben’s story is in 1977 and Rose’s is in 1927. Both Ben and Rose are unhappy children who make a daring decision to change their lives, and the way their two stories come together is something I wouldn’t want to spoil for you. Let me just say that it is a beautiful book, both the story and the illustrations, and the ending, which celebrates friendship and family,  will leave you WONDERSTRUCK.

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.

ELVIS AND OLIVE by Stephanie Watson

June 22, 2011

I sat in the backyard yesterday and read this fun tale of an unusual friendship. Natalie is “perfect” and has  a nice, loving family, while Annie is the new “tough” girl who just moved in with her rather uncaring uncle. The girls meet in the first days of summer vacation and give each other secret names, Elvis and Olive, and begin to spy on the neighborhood. At first Annie (Elvis) reminded me a bit of Pippi Longstocking, with her outlandish stories (lies) and absent parents, but she lacks Pippi’s sweet and funny essence. In fact, there were a few times at the beginning of this book where I almost stopped reading, because I wasn’t sure I liked Elvis and what she was getting Olive to do. I’m glad I kept reading, though,  because their neighborhood spy mission ended in a very satisfying way, and I thought the author did a very good job of describing a street full of people that I would love to know. For older elementary school girls, this book will make you think about family, friendship, and how to treat people. There’s even a tiny bit of romance!

TUNNELS!

May 31, 2011

As I was finishing up PENNY DREADFUL by Laurel Snyder last night, I realized it was the fourth book I’ve read this spring that features a tunnel  as an important part of the story.   That got me thinking about a blog post, so here we go:

PENNY DREADFUL by Laurel Snyder is about a ten-year-old girl whose life changes in very big ways when her father quits his job and the family  leaves their mansion and their wealthy lifestyle in the city for the little town of Thrush Junction, Tennessee.  She has never had a friend before, or an adventure;  and suddenly she is surrounded by unusual characters and situations.  At the end of the book she finds herself in a TUNNEL, searching for the legendary hidden treasure….will she find it?  Will she stay in Tennessee or return to New York?  This is a great summer read with a slightly “old fashioned” feel.

THE TUNNEL OF HUGSY GOODE by Eleanor Estes

This book is set in New York in the 1970’s and features a neighborhood full of kids of all ages who have fun without video games (not invented yet!) or television.  If you are wondering how that is possible, check it out and read all about the boys who discover a TUNNEL running under their street.  What do they do there? And what on earth does the RACCOON have to do with it all?!

F IS FOR FREEDOM BY Roni Schotter

This one is more serious and historical.  Set in Vermont in the late 1800’s, it deals with a family who helps aother family of runaway slaves reach freedom in Canada.   The ending is very suspenseful, as  Amanda, the imaginative young daughter, has the opportunity to save the day because she knows of a TUNNEL that may keep the runaways safe from the slave catchers.  Find out if she is successful by reading this enjoyable, exciting historical fiction book.

THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLINS by George MacDonald

A fantasy classic that has been loved for 150 years,  this book tells the story of Irene, a princess, and her friend Curdie who works in the mines.  There is a lot of exploration of the TUNNELS in the nearby mountain, tunnels where Curdie and his fellow miners make their living and which just happen to be populated by some pretty gruesome goblins with a plan that involves Irene.  This book has one of the most interesting grandmothers that I have ever had the pleasure to read about in a children’s book.  Check it out and see what an important role  Irene’s lovely, magical grandmother plays in this exciting adventure.