Posted tagged ‘Friendship’

THE PINBALLS by Betsy Byars

December 6, 2010

I have just finished reading THE PINBALLS by Betsy Byars in all three of my fifth grade classes.  It is a realistic  story about three children, who each  have their own “issues”,  coming together at the same foster family.  We have all enjoyed the emotional ups and downs of watching Carlie, Thomas J., and Harvey bond into a family.

FIFTH GRADERS who have been listening to this story all fall:  write me a comment telling me your thoughts about the book…where do you think the three children will end up in ten years?  Will they be successful adults?  Will they still be “pinballs” or will they be trying to put their lives together?  Who was your favorite character, and why?  (You don’t have to answer all these questions; they are just to get your creative juices flowing!)  I will make one of Carlie’s famous mayonnaise cakes for the class with the most comments!

Touchblue by Cynthia Lord

October 18, 2010

This is a wonderful MAINE story!   You can practically smell the salt air and hear the seagulls  crying when the author, a Maine resident,  describes the main character going out in the lobster boat with her father.

Tess is a strong 11-year-old  girl who loves her family and her island way of life.  Her  small  island has a one-room schoolhouse that is in danger of closing because there aren’t enough students.  Some families on the  island decide to take in foster children to add to the school population.  Tess’s family takes a chance on Aaron, a 13-year-old boy who has been in a few different foster homes because his mother hasn’t been able to take care of him since he was five.  Tess goes out on a limb for Aaron, trying to help him feel at home.  Will he stay?  Will the school close? Read this hopeful book about what it means to belong.

*For those of you who have read Seal Island School by Susan Bartlett, here’s another look at living on a Maine island.

We’re back!

August 25, 2010

I can’t believe I haven’t posted an entry ALL SUMMER! I have had a great time visiting with family, spending time at the beach, boating, hiking, biking, relaxing….AND READING, of course. Here are some of the best books I read this summer (which just happen to be new additions to the CPS Library):

The Naming of Tishkin Silk, by Glenda Millard

This is a beautifully written book about an uncommon, loving family that you would love to call your own. Griffin, a ten-year-0ld boy living in rural Australia with his five older sisters is sad because his mother and his new baby sister have gone away. He blames himself. He was previously homeschooled and now must go to public school for the first time. Griffin makes a wonderful friend at school named Layla who helps him come to terms with his emotions. Like Sarah Plain and Tall, this is a heartwarming family story told in expressive, poetic language.

The year the Swallows Came Early, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Eleven-year-old Groovy is a budding chef living a happy life in a small seaside town in California with her parents, until the day her father is arrested while he and Groovy are walking down the street. It takes a while for Groovy to learn the truth about what her father has done. A cast of interesting characters who have their own family struggles help Groovy forgive her father and follow her dream of going to culinary school.

Big Nate in a class by Himself, by Lincoln Pierce

How many detentions can a sixth grader get in one day? Read this humorous novel with added graphic illustrations and you’ll be laughing out loud at Nate’s interactions with his friends, his family, and his teachers. If you loved “Wimpy Kid” books and can’t wait till November for the last one to be released, Big Nate will fill in quite nicely.

Justin Fisher Declares War, by James Preller

What happens when the class clown isn’t funny anymore? Justin Fisher is in fifth grade, and the behavior that’s been earning him laughs for the last few years is now irritating his friends and his teacher. When the school talent show rolls around, Justin wants to be the emcee so he can win back his friends and prove to everyone that he really is funny. Will he be able to do it?

The Misadventures of Maude March, by Audrey Couloumbis

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and this book about a pair of orphaned sisters who accidentally become outlaws on the frontier is original and exciting. After their guardian is shot by a stray bullet, adventurous Sallie and her more ladylike sister Maude steal two horses, disguise themselves as boys, and set off to search for their long lost uncle. The girls encounter harsh weather, bank robberies and outlaw gangs. You’ll be cheering them on in this wild ride of a book.

Where the Mountain meets the Moon by Grace Lin

March 16, 2010

Words that come to mind when describing this year’s Newbery Award runner-up: enchanted, elegant, exciting, timeless, beautiful…

Minli (whose name means “quick thinking”) and her parents live in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain, in China. They work hard in the rice fields yet they are still very poor, with barely enough rice to eat. Minli’s mother worries and complains about their hard life, but her father brightens their evenings with storytelling. One day Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon, hoping he will tell her the true secret to good fortune. Along the way she makes new friends including a flightless dragon, an orphan, a group of greedy monkeys, and a king. Interwoven with Minli’s quest are tales told by her father and by those she meets on the way, which are drawn from traditional Chinese folklore. The author’s full-color illustrations are stunning. Grace Lin has created a strong, likeable heroine and a fascinating glimpse of another country.

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.