Milkweed_cover (1)

Milkweed (paperback)

by Jerry Spinelli

AR Level 3.6, 7 points


Ah.  This book.  I knew it would be a good one, but I kept putting it off, because it’s been in my library forever.  I don’t think anyone has ever checked it out, and if they did, I have never heard them tell me about it.  It is a good read, and it gives a whole new perspective of the ghettos in Europe during World War II, something I enjoy reading about (despite the grisly and depressing topic).  Plus, Jerry Spinelli has a strong voice and distinct writing style, so I could hear his voice coming through as I read.

There is a little boy in Milkweed who goes by several different names, Stopthief and Misha being two of them.  He has no parents, no siblings, no family at all, except for a group of other abandoned/orphaned street kids who help keep him alive.  It is believed he is a gypsy and not a Jew, but once he is in the ghetto, he is adopted by a Jewish family, and he is treated as one of them.  We follow Misha as he struggles to survive until the very end.  I won’t tell you when the end for him is, but it is definitely worth the read.  It is also written at a third grade level, so it isn’t a tough read, and should go very quickly once you get into it.

What I liked about this book was learning what it was like to live in the ghetto as a homeless, orphaned, ignorant little kid.  I say ignorant, because he just doesn’t understand a lot of what goes on.  He is blissfully ignorant, but unfortunately, learns about life through experiences, both good and bad.

What I didn’t like about this book was the ending.  I felt like 95% of the book was about his life in a matter of years, and then it speeds through the rest of his life and skips to the end.  There were too many unanswered questions for me, and I just didn’t like the way it ended.  I’d have been okay with it ending more predictably.

Book 1 of… who cares!  I just want to read for fun.  No more annual challenges for me!

Me & Miranda Mullaly


Me & Miranda Mullaly (hardcover)

by Jake Gernardt

AR Level (NO QUIZ YET, but probably in the 3-4 grade range)


Me & Miranda Mullaly follows 3 boys: Sam (the clown), Chollie (the athlete), and Duke (the brainiac).  They are all vying for the affection of Miranda, the cheerleader, brainiac, actress, and student council president.  They are drawn to her for different reasons and fight with each other along the way, but little do they know, she has a boyfriend.  There are physical fights, broken windows, toilet papering, hairy fathers in their underwear, and annoying little sisters, just to draw in reluctant readers, which I see as a major credit for this book.

What I liked about this book is it is told from 4 different perspectives, which is a neat way of telling a story, and one I’ve enjoyed.  The Mr. Terupt books are told that way, and I think it is makes the story more engaging.  After I learned about something that happened from one character, I enjoyed reading about the other characters’ points of view and how they reacted, or why they reacted that way.  My favorite was when Chollie, Sam, and Duke shared their perspectives, and then I got to read Miranda’s.

What I didn’t like about this book is that there’s no AR quiz. I’m hoping it’s just too new, and one will be written soon.  My reluctant readers won’t pick up a book if they aren’t going to get credit.  That’s not a bad thing about the book- just a little disappointing for now, but sometimes it takes a few months.

I saw this book at the Festival of Books at USC last weekend, and met the author, who was signing copies of his book.  I always get excited to meet the author and talk to him (or her).  It is definitely a cute, quick read, and I think reluctant readers (especially boys) will get a kick out of it.

Book 40 of 40 (year 2)

I made my 40 books for the year!  I was just 2 days late, but that’s okay.  It was a hectic week and I should have been finished a long time ago.



Locomotion (paperback)

by Jacqueline Woodson

AR Level 4.7, 2 points


Locomotion is another book written in various forms of poetry, but it tells the story of Lonnie, an eleven year old boy who lost his parents in a fire and was separated from his little sister.  He lives with Ms. Edna and has a teacher who encourages him to write poetry, insisting he has a gift.  Lonnie writes his way through memories of his family, sadness about being separated from his sister, and his discovery of God.

What I liked about this book was that it motivated me to encourage poetry with my own students.  Lonnie lived through the heartbreak of losing his family and found solace in poetry.  He wrote about what he saw and experienced, or what he was feeling.  There’s no reason my students couldn’t do the same.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was sad.  It’s sad to think of a boy and girl living without their parents, who were clearly good parents, especially now that I have children of my own.  I don’t want my kids to have to go through life without me, especially if they were to be separated from each other.

Woodson has written quite a few books about the perspective of young, African-American children, and I think being able to read books from a different perspective will help my own students make connections.  Anything that helps us to see diversity from someone else’s point of view will generate tolerance and acceptance, which is what we need right now.

Book 39 of 40 (year 2)