Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Have you ever wondered what creatures might live under the earth? Could there be another world full of huge cockroaches, friendly bats, evil rats, and human beings who have adapted to the Underworld? If you want to be transported to another world, read Gregor the Overlander, one of this year's Maud Hart Lovelace nominees. Gregor is a normal kid who follows his 2-year-old sister down a vent in his New York City laundry room. They fall and fall until they end up in the Underworld and are escorted to the royal city by crawlers (giant cockroaches). It turns out that Gregor has a mighty prophecy to fulfill, and he will have to lead a team of Underlanders to rescue his father. Full of action and all the enchantment of an imaginative fantasy world, fantasy readers will LOVE this book and want to read all the sequels. Even if you don't usually like fantasy, give this one a try. It's not always my favorite thing, but this is one of those that will grab you and pull you into its world. It's a little bit like City of Ember, only much much stranger!
Stanford Wong is awesome at basketball (he just made the 7th grade A team), but he also got an F in English class. His parents care more about grades than sports, and he is forced into summer school instead of basketball camp. Worst of all, they give him a tutor, a genius girl his own age named Millicent Min. And on top of everything else going wrong, his parents are fighting and his grandma is forced to move to a nursing home. Luckily for Stanford, he has his tight group of basketball-playing friends, and Millicent has a very cute friend named Emily who seems to like him. All he needs to do is keep his friends from finding out he's in summer school and keep Emily from finding out that he's not a genius (oh, and he has to pass English class or he will have to repeat 6th grade and be kicked off the A team!).
This book is filled with humor and will keep you laughing at everything poor Stanford goes through to survive this crazy summer. Especially recommended for 6th grade guys who like sports and funny books (but girls will like it too).
The full title of this book is Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet's Life. This book could change the life of a middle schooler who wants to be a poet. If that person is you, I would recommend buying this book for yourself because you will want to refer to it over and over again. Allan Wolf talks about what poetry is and how to find it it all the things around you. However, this book is not stuffy and dull. It is colorful and funny and easy to read, and is packed with examples of all kinds of poetry. He describes the Nine Habits of Highly Successful Poets, tells about structure and tense and point of view, and gives all kinds of ideas for kinds of poems to write. He even finishes up the book by talking about poetry readings and poetry slams and how to share your work with others. This book won't be for everyone, but I can't underestimate how wonderful this book is for someone who writes poetry. Highly highly highly recommended for all your writers out there!
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
This is book #8 in the Winning Season series. They all are on order at the OMS media center and should arrive in time for September. Donald is a 7th grader who, jealous of his friends who do well in sports, decides to go our for wrestling. He's never wrestled before, but he wants to be good at it right from the start. Of course, he has to take some time to learn the sport and he needs to work hard before he can win a match. This book is all action (no real character development and not much plot). If you like sports and you want a book that's not too hard to read, this series might be for you. Each book is about a different sport. Recommended for 6th and 7th grade guys especially.
Monday, July 10, 2006
I love this book. Being that it is the story of a china rabbit who learns how to love, one might think that a) it's for litle kids and b) that it's really sappy. It is neither! In the hands of the amazing Kate DiCamillo it is a lovely book that people of all ages should read and savor. Edward comes full circle and as he is passed from person to person (from his first mistress to a fisherman's wife to a hobo to a dying girl to a shelf in a doll store) he is tattered and torn and broken, but he emerges with a heart that not only can love, but that is eager to be loved in return. The doll in the store says it best when she tells him he must be awash with hope--he must wonder who will come along to love him next. DiCamillo's vocabulary is impressive and her writing style somehow imitates classic children's books without ever being stilted or overdone. Read this one with your whole family! (OMS owns it on CD, so take it on a road trip and make everyone listen!)
Two OMS students told me if I only read one book this summer it should be this one. So I read it, and I agree with them--this is an important book. Nick is a boy who loves his dog, his cat, his fish, and his two moms. This is much more than a book about a kid with gay parents. It's about a kid facing the kinds of problems kids face in all kinds of families. Nick's moms both love him very much, but when they separate things get ugly and Nick is not given any say over his fate. Readers will laugh with Nick and his playful mom, Jo, and also relate to his deep depression when he is separated from her. Peters doesn't shy away from issues that affect children from gay families--in fact, she weaves in the harassment and embarassment and insecurity into the story in a realistic way that leaves the reader with a deeper understanding and empathy for Nick and other kids like him who face both ordinary and extraordinary pressures. There is a lot of humor here, and Jo especially comes alive with her colorful language, her flaws (alcoholism, impulsiveness, and obstinancy to name a few). Recommended for 7th and 8th graders, both boys and girls.
Copper Sun is the story of Amari, an African girl kidnapped and sold into slavery in the colonies that later became the United States of America. It's a painful book to read, full of the true horrors of an unfathomly cruel system of human bondage. Draper does not shy away from the reality of life for Amari and other slaves--including rapes, beatings, humiliations, murders and more. Fortunately, Draper tempers the horrific details with a strong-spirited character who overcomes her situation and dreams of freedom. The positive ending is probably unrealistic, but it gives the reader hope in the midst of a bleak world. Highly recommended for mature readers (8th grade and up) who want to know more about slavery and read a compelling story about a strong female character. If you choose to read this book, you will learn a lot and be moved by Amari's story.
I know I am late in reading this book, but it was a great book to read over the summer. If you like fantasy and you like books, this story will drag you in and hold your attention until the last page. A young girl named Meggie finds out that her father can read characters out of books and into the modern world. Unfortunately, he can also read people into books, and her mother disappeared many years ago. In her place are some evil characters from a book called Inkspell. Meggie, her father, her elderly aunt, a man named Dustfinger, and the author of Inkspell must go up against the nefarious Capricorn to save their lives and try to end his evil plans. Along the way Meggie realizes that she also has the gift of reading characters in and out of books. Funke has great fun with fairies and other fantasy creatures coming out of the books, and with all the intricacies of characters coming and going from books. I've heard the sequel Inkheart is even better!
Laugh-out-loud humor will draw readers into this second novel by eighth grade English teacher Jordan Sonnenblick. The story is simple--16-year-old Alex, angry at his divorced parents, gets drunk and crashes into a neighbor's yard, decapitating a lawn gnome. The judge sentences him to 100 hours of community service, which he serves as a companion to an elderly man in a nursing home. As Alex develops a relationship with Sol, the threads of the plot come together and it is clear why the teen and the older man were placed together. The brilliance of this book is in the characters. Alex, a self-centered but likeable teenager who needs to take responsibility for his actions, and Sol, the cantankerous and sly old man with the wisdom of Solomon and a life story that needs to be told. Throw these characters together with jazz music, a strong friendship, a budding high school romance, and divorced parents who are dating each other, and you have an engaging story with a poignant resolution. Highly recommended for middle school readers.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
This biography of poet E. E. Cummings thoroughly covers his life at a level that middle school students can easily understand. Interspersed are many examples of his poems and some explanation of what they mean. His life as an artist, his family dynamics, his friendships with other artists, and his loves and marriages are all described and brought to life through numerous quotations. The author's research appears to have been done mainly in other biographies of Cummings, not through primary sources. Cummings life story is adequately told, but lacks the sparkle of some other biographies of twentieth century figures such as Our Eleanor by Candace Fleming or The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler by James Cross Giblin. Also, the first chapter begins with Cumming's childhood without ever giving the reader context for why Cummings is important in literary and artistic history, something that middle school students likely do not know. All in all, this is a solid biography of a brilliant poet, and it will likely be appreciated by a reader with an existing interest in E. E. Cummings.