Posted tagged ‘School stories’


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!

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.

New chapter books added recently

March 15, 2011

Here are some new chapter books recently added to the CPS library collection that I have read and highly recommend:

Nature Girl by Jane Kelley

A 12-year-old New York City  girl is reluctantly spending the summer in Vermont with her nature-loving family.   After an argument with her friend, she decides to hike 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail with her dog.  Her journey is both physical and emotional, as she has plenty of time to think about her life along the way.

Out of my mind by Sharon Draper

Born with cerebral palsy, 10-year-old Melody has never said a word.  She is a brilliant fifth grader trapped in an uncontrollable body.  What happens when she starts to be included in “normal” classes – will the other fifth graders accept her?  Will they understand she is actually the smartest student in the school?  Read this moving novel to find out how Melody finds her “voice”. 

The year money grew on trees by Aaron R. Hawkins

A young teenage boy and his siblings spend the summer running an apple orchard with no adult assistance, because an elderly neighbor has promised to GIVE it to them if they can make a success of it.  An interesting look at family, hard work, determination, and the pride that kids feel when they are working toward a goal.  Suspenseful and inspiring!

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Seven fifth graders in Vermont learn a variety of life lessons, not necessarily from their textbooks, with an inspiring new teacher who really understands them and is always on their side.  Short chapters told in the different students’ distinct voices give the reader many perspectives on the events of the school year, including the accident that teaches them the most important lesson of all.

Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

Set in England in the winter of 1347, this suspenseful and spooky story  is about fourteen-year-old William, whose family perished in a fire 18 months earlier, and who now works as a servant at the local monastery in exchange for his room and board.  While gathering firewood  in the forest,  he discovers a creature – a hobgoblin – caught in a trap and saves its life.  As the hob recovers from his wounds, Will encounters a mystery that shakes him to his core.  This book’s fascinating attention to detail draws the reader deeply into the story, and you get a real sense of life in medieval times.

Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce

October 26, 2010

I just read  the second installment in the Big Nate graphic novel series, and it is just as funny as the first one.  Nate Wright is a typical sixth-grade boy who has some good friends, a girl he likes, and a girl he DOESN’T like:  Gina.  She is the “teacher’s pet” who brags about her A+ average.  Nate just can’t seem to get away from Gina:  she sits behind him in class, he winds up with her on his fleeceball team,   (she has NO talent in the athletic department),   then he winds up with her as his science project partner!  In a humorous turn of events,  they both unexpectedly save the day for each other.  Check it out to see how it happens.

Lincoln Peirce is the creator of the comic strip Big Nate, which runs in 200 newspapers and has been around for 20 years.  He also lives in Portland, Maine!  How about that??

Calling all hamster lovers

September 2, 2010

I just finished reading The World According to Humphrey, and I found it very entertaining. The story is narrated by Humphrey, a sensitive, caring, and creative hamster who lives in an elementary school classroom and believes that “you can learn a lot about yourself by getting to know another species.” Humphrey learns about humans and the humans he interacts with learn valuable lessons about themselves. He goes home each weekend with a different student, and he makes big changes in every family he visits. His adventures are funny and touching, and they include escaping a nosy dog, helping a grumpy man recover from an illness, and showing a tv-obsessed family that they can learn to enjoy other pastimes. This is a wonderful animal fantasy and I strongly recommend it as a beginning chapter book as well as a great family read-aloud.

Note:  The CPS Library also has the following Humphrey adventures:  Friendship According to Humphrey,  Trouble According to Humphrey, and  Surprises According to Humphrey.  Check them out and make friends with this lovable furball.

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.

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phillis Reynolds Naylor

October 14, 2009

urlIf you’ve read the Newbery Award-winning Shiloh or any of the 100+ books written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, you know what a great writer she is. Her latest book (love the cover!) is about two 7th grade girls who participate in an exchange program in the state of Kentucky. Ivy June lives in the mountains with her sprawling family, including a 100-year-old great grandmother. Catherine lives in a fancy house in the city and goes to a private school. How will Ivy June adjust to two weeks at Catherine’s when she doesn’t even have indoor plumbing at her house? Will Catherine be shocked when she comes to Ivy June’s house in the “holler”? I really liked the way the author conveys each girl’s emotions about the swap: their excitement, nervousness, and frustration. And the girls’ families are brought to life with vivid detail. Ivy June’s grandfather is a coal miner, and the author gives us a lot of details about the difficulties and dangers that these men and their families face. Read Faith, Hope and Ivy June if you are interested in stories about the importance of friendship and family.

Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet by Graham Salisbury

September 4, 2009

51q0ZxavI6L._SS500_Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live in Hawaii?  Nine-year-old Calvin lives near the beach in Kailua with his busy Mom and little sister (his father left home four years ago to pursue a singing career). He has many of the same challenges to deal with that you probably do: chores, figuring out friendship problems, and staying out of trouble.  In this funny chapter book for middle grade readers, Calvin must learn to deal with the local bully, a moody teenage girl from Texas who is coming to live with them, and a new school year with a tough but “cool” teacher.   This first entry in a new series gives a nice flavor of Hawaii’s culture and introduces a very likeable character.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

September 3, 2009

url-1You may have seen your parents reading this book. It is the exciting and inspiring true story of a man who has dedicated his life to promoting peace through education.  Now there are two children’s versions of the worldwide bestseller: the CPS library has the picture book (Listen to the Wind) and this Young Reader’s Edition.  Read it and find out what the rest of the world is talking about!

When mountaineer Greg Mortenson got lost in the Pakistani mountains after a failed attempt at climbing K2, he was rescued by the villagers in the poor village of Korphe. As he was nursed back to health, Mortenson was shocked to learn that Korphe’s children had no school, with lessons taught outdoors just three days a week. Kids learned to write using sticks in the dirt. To repay the village’s kindness, Mortenson promised to return, and help build a school. He did return, and he eventually built more than FIFTY schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan!  Reading a book like this is inspiring, educational, and can help a child feel connected to the larger world.

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

September 3, 2009

urlAmanda and Leo are best friends with the same birthday, and they’ve been celebrating together every year until a fight at their 10th birthday party causes them to stop speaking to each other. Peculiar things begin to happen when they celebrate their 11th birthdays, separately – they get caught in a time loop. The day after the disastrous parties, it is their birthday, AGAIN. Amanda must solve a mystery in order to break the endless cycle of reliving her 11th birthday. Her quest takes her deep into her local and family history and back to a vital friendship connection she thought she had lost forever. Her repeated reliving of her birthday reminds her who she is, what she wants and who her real friends are. This is a great novel about friendship!