Jade Green


Jade Green: a ghost story (hardcover)

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

AR Level 5.8, 5 points


Jade Green is about a girl named Judith who leaves her home in Ohio to live with her uncle and his cook after her parents die.  She is told to bring anything she wants, except anything green in color.  However, she brings a green picture frame with her mother’s picture in it.  She finds herself in a great living situation, with a kind uncle, motherly cook, exciting love interest, and the opportunity to work in a local hat shop, but, there are frightening unexplainable things that happen that Judith can’t explain, and she can’t confess that she brought something green into the house, for fear her uncle will throw her out.  In addition, she has a much older cousin whose advances are unwarranted and unwanted.  Judith soon learns there was a death in the house, a girl named Jade Green, who took her own life.  Judith has to keep her fears to herself while trying to survive this ghostly mystery.

What I liked about this book was that it was a creepy story.  I don’t usually like ghostly or creepy movies, but I do enjoy a scary book now and then, especially when I know my students have enjoyed it.  This had the drama and romance that good books (for sixth grade girls) normally have, but it had a ghost story to go along with it.  I read this book in less than 24 hours (and a very busy 24 hours), so it is also a quick and easy read, because I didn’t want to put it down until the mystery was solved.

What I didn’t like about this book was that some of the themes were a little too adult for my sixth graders, in my opinion.  Judith’s uncle Charles is a drinker, gambler, and visitor of ladies of the night.  He also touches Judith’s bodice inappropriately, asks for a kiss, and at the very end, we learn he tries to rape her.  The book never actually mentions the word rape, but he unbuckles his pants and pushes himself onto her, so a mature mind can connect the dots.  I think it may be appropriate for a middle schooler, though, and my sixth graders would be considered middle school in another district, so perhaps I am just too narrow minded and protective.

Book 6 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)



Booked (hardcover)

by Kwame Alexander

AR Level 3.9, 3 points


Booked didn’t look interesting to me, but I ordered it from Scholastic for one of my athletic, book-hating, reluctant reading boys along with The Crossover, which won the Newbery in 2015 (but I haven’t read yet).  Then, I opened Booked.  I discovered it is written in verse, not paragraph form!  It isn’t a boring sports-related novel as I expected, but an exciting novel written in verse about a boy and his struggles, who happens to be a big soccer fan.

Nicholas is about 12 years old, and he lives with his mom and dad.  He has a good relationship with his mom, but his dad gets on his nerves when he forces Nick to read the dictionary he personally wrote, full of interesting words, which Nick learns, resentfully.  Nick also has a crush on a girl named April, and he has a best friend named Coby.  Nick and Coby are typical pre-teen, soccer-obsessed boys who like girls and hate school.  However, when Nick learns his parents are separating and he gets bullied at school, his life starts to fall apart and he has to rely on soccer and hope to get him through a tough year.

What I liked about this book was a few things.  It was a surprising read for me, because I never expected to like a book about a boy who likes sports.  Sports aren’t my thing, but soccer in this novel is secondary to Nick’s life events and struggles, which is what I enjoyed reading about.  I also liked that his character is intelligent and likable, and I like to think relatable for many of my students.  I also really appreciated that it was written in verse by a very talented poet author.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted to know what was up with the Dragonfly box!  What was inside of it?!

Book 5 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Save Me A Seat


Save Me A Seat (paperback)

by Sara Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

AR Level 4.8, 5 points


Save Me A Seat follows two characters.  Ravi (Rah-VEE) is a fifth grade boy who has just moved to New Jersey from Bangalore after his father’s company transferred him to America.  He was a star student, star athlete, and popular kid in his school in India, and he expects to impress his new teacher and classmates with his credentials, especially Dillon Samreen, another boy of Indian descent.  However, Dillon is the resident popular kid, and although he does not behave in a way that is impressive to anyone with common sense (especially teachers), Ravi wants to be his friend.

Joe is a boy in Ravi’s class who is bigger, unpopular, and suffers from APD (Auditory Processing Disorder).  He visits the resource teacher to get extra help with his disability, although academically, he is on par with his classmates.  Joe’s mother starts working as a lunch monitor, and this contributes to the bullying that Joe receives from Dillon and Dillon’s friends.  Since Joe’s friends have moved away, he is alone (like Ravi), but he is able to see Dillon for who he is, and has no desire to befriend him.

Ravi is adjusting to living in America, and realizes something important about himself.  Joe is being himself, and everyone else has to learn something important about him.

What I liked about this book was 1) the multiple points of view.  I liked reading the same scene from Joe and Ravi’s perspective.  2) the cultural lesson.  I learned a lot more about what it’s like to grow up in an Indian family!  3) the important message at the end, which is important for our students.

What I didn’t like about this book was that none of the teachers or adults put Dillon Samreen in his place!  I realize that students need to be caught in order to be disciplined, but he was clearly misbehaving, bullying, and being a teacher’s nightmare.  Why didn’t anyone do anything?  That bothered me!

Book 4 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Raymie Nightingale


Raymie Nightingale (paperback)

by Kate DiCamillo

AR Level 4.2, 5 points


Raymie Nightingale is Raymie Clark, and she lives with her mother in Florida in the 1970s.  Her father has just run off with a dental hygienist, and Raymie thinks if she wins a pageant, her father will see her picture in the paper and return to the family.  She is taking baton-twirling lessons to help her chances of winning, but she meets 2 unlikely friends who seem to have a tougher situation than she does.  Together, the three girls spend their summer trying to learn to twirl a baton, save a cat, find a misplaced book, and save each other from desperate situations.

What I liked about this book was the way Raymie was able to come out on top and defeat what she saw as the odds.  Her mom “woke up” and her dad called, even though Raymie no longer wanted to talk to him.  Even though most of it was kind of depressing, there were well-developed characters, and you felt for each one of them.

What I didn’t like about this book was it was kind of depressing.  Raymie and her friends were all in a depressed state over their lives, Raymie’s mom was depressed over her husband leaving, and there was death and near death.  However, it all contributed to the tone of the book, and Raymie came out on top in the end, being a light in her friends’ and mother’s worlds.

Book 3 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)



Ghosts (paperback)

by Raina Telgemeier

AR Level 2.6, 1 point

I was so excited to finally get my hands on this graphic novel!  I follow the author on Twitter, and I’ve been hearing about the hype for months now.  I am truly becoming a big graphic novel fan and it was exciting to get to read in her voice again.  I’ve gotten my students hooked on graphic novels (especially my reluctant readers), and I know there will be a fight over Ghosts.

Ghosts follows a family who moved from Southern California to Northern California for the sake of their youngest daughter’s health.  Maya has cystic fibrosis and receives a breathing treatment and extra nutrition through a GI tube.  They believe the foggy weather will help Maya’s symptoms.  Cat is her older sister, and together they learn the history of their town, including a strong belief in ghosts and Dia de los Muertos, which is quickly approaching.  They make friends with a neighbor named Carlos, and come face to face with some of the spirits they’ve welcomed, despite Cat’s fear of the ghosts and desperate desire to have something of her own (her friends).  Cat has to come to terms with the possibility that Maya will someday become one of the ghosts, as well as her emerging feelings for Carlos.

What I liked about this book is what I like about Telgemeier’s other books.  There is always some underlying theme or lesson to it, whether it is acceptance or respect for others.  In Ghosts, the theme of family and friendship shines through.  I also love the way she taught about Dia de los Muertos, something I didn’t previously know much about, but I can now understand a bit better.  I think my students with families from Mexico will be able to relate to Cat’s traditions.

What I didn’t like about this book was that we didn’t see more of the blossoming relationship between Cat and Carlos, which I think a lot of my sixth grade girls would like to see.  I would also have liked to see more of a connection between what Cat’s mom said about not having a good relationship with abuela due to her desire for Americanization, and the strain on Cat and her mom’s relationship, which I believe was meant to parallel each other.  It is a great book!

Book 2 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)