Moo (ebook)

by Sharon Creech

AR Level 4.4, 3 points


Moo is about a brother and sister who move from a big city to rural Maine with their parents, who are looking for a change.  Their mother offers them to a woman named Mrs. Falala, who needs help taking care of her cow, a feisty former prize winner.  The siblings are at first afraid of Mrs. Falala and her animals, but quickly fall in love with the farm, and learn that things aren’t always what they appear.

What I liked about this book was the fact that it was partially written in concrete poetry and prose, and partially in standard paragraph, narrative form.  I liked the mixture, and while I’ve read many books written in prose, it was a nice contrast to see both forms in the same novel.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I got a little bored at times.  I do not blame the book, though.  I blame the fact that I’ve only read young adult books lately, and this did not have romance or anything depressing in it, so it didn’t move as quickly for me.  I need to diversify my to read list!

Book 60 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Nine, Ten


Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story (ebook)

by Nora Raleigh Baskin

AR Level 4.8, 5 points


I heard about this book when I was looking for books about September 11th.  I realized my students weren’t alive and know very little.  I was shocked last year when several of them had no idea what the day meant.  While this isn’t a book that teaches about what happened, it does show snapshots of what it was like for different people.  It follows 4 students: one Muslim girl, one boy in Brooklyn, one girl in California whose mom was headed to the Twin Towers, and one boy in Pennsylvania where a plane crashed into the ground.  This book shows what it was like for a seventh grader on this day.

What I liked about this book was that it recounted this day that I experienced as an adult, but from a child’s perspective.  We also learned about their background, the problems they were facing, and how those problems were put on hold.  I also appreciated that a Muslim was a character, because we could see how the millions of Islamic Americans were targeted and mistreated.  I think this would be a good reminder for students.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I felt there could have been more to it.  It is a good snapshot, but it doesn’t really teach about 9/11.  It is more about these 4 kids who happen to all experience 9/11 in this book.  Perhaps what I was wanting from this book is different from the author’s intention or purpose for writing it.

Book 33 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Wild Robot


The Wild Robot (ebook)

by Peter Brown

AR Level 5.1, 5 points


I was really excited to read this book, because it received rave reviews from fellow readers whom I trust.  I wish I could say it lived up to the hype (for me), but it did not.  In The Wild Robot, Roz is one of 5 robots who end up on an island after falling from a cargo ship during a hurricane.  She is the only one who is in once piece, and emerges from her box only to face animals who fear her and call her a monster.  She learns to speak to the animals after observing them and learning their languages.  She soon adopts a gosling and becomes his mother, and together they grow as characters, and the other animals change their minds about her being a monster.  Towards the end, 3 robots come to reclaim her, and Roz discovers the impact she had on the other animals.

What I liked about this book was that the secondary characters (the other animals) who judged Roz based on her outward appearance (calling her a monster) saw that she was actually a loving, compassionate mother.  Their opinion of her changed based on her actions.  This gives me hope- if people can judge others based on their actions rather than their outward appearance, maybe there’s a chance for improvement.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was kind of slow.  I had a hard time getting into it, and I forced myself (well, my newborn prevented me from moving) to read it, and I finished 3/4 in one sitting.  The story itself had so many themes to it… there was so much to take in and process, and I’m not sure a sixth grader would be able to get what the author intended.  It reminded me of a movie that typically nominated for an Oscar… it isn’t your typical feel-good source of entertainment, but there is a deeper meaning to it, and it is kind of artsy and moving.  I’d say Diary of a Wimpy Kid would be your typical comedy, the kind you watch 20 times but wouldn’t likely be up for an award.

Book 19 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Because of Winn-Dixie


Because of Winn-Dixie (paperback)

by Kate DiCamillo

AR Level 3.9, 3 points


Because of Winn-Dixie is another of Kate DiCamillo’s stories where her voice and style is strong.  It was very similar to Raymie Nightingale in that the main character, India Opal, is a lonely child who is down a parent while the remaining parent (her dad, a preacher) is suffering his own sense of loss and shuts Opal out.  She is new to town and doesn’t have any friends yet, which makes her even more lonely, until she meets a dog who leads her to meet new friends.  Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal reconnects with her father and they realize they need to be supportive of one another.

What I like about this book is the language and thoughtfulness of the writing, and the life lessons that DiCamillo works into the storyline.  For example, Opal dislikes several boys because of what they said about someone else, not her.  She also isn’t sure whether to be afraid of a man because he’d been in jail.  A friend of hers tells her, “you can’t always judge people by the things they done.  You got to judge them by what they are doing now.”  That is a good lesson or reminder not only for children (the intended audience), but for adults, as well.

What I did not like, and I shouldn’t say I didn’t like, because sometimes I do enjoy it, is the whimsical way the story flows.  You are on a journey with Opal, and there isn’t a solid plot line until the end when you realize what the story was about.  There isn’t a solid “problem” of the story and the conflict is internal.  This isn’t always bad, but I’m sometimes not in the mood for it.

Book 13 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Turtle in Paradise


Turtle in Paradise (paperback)

by Jennifer Holm

AR Level 3.7, 4 points


I recently finished Full of Beans at the recommendation of many other readers online since it had just come out.  This is the same author as The 14th Goldfish.  I didn’t realize Turtle in Paradise is a story similar to Full of Beans, but from Beans’ cousin’s point of view.  While it was published first, the story takes place after, so I read the in the right order.  You wouldn’t have to read them in order to enjoy them, though.

Turtle is new to town (Key West) and moves in with her Aunt Minnie and cousins.  They lived in New Jersey as the housekeeper and housekeeper’s daughter, but the new household has no tolerance for children, so Turtle’s mother sends her away since she cannot take care of Turtle.  Turtle, who is a tough and snarky female character, immediately dislikes her equally snarky cousins, and they butt heads until Turtle finds a treasure map, uncovers a secret about her father, and makes friends with her grandmother.  Then their relationship takes a turn, and they maybe even enjoy each other’s company.

What I like about this book is the fact that it is a much deeper story than a 3.7 reading level really gives credit for.  It isn’t complicated, there isn’t complex vocabulary or concepts, but the level of self-realization from the main character is more than a third grader might catch on to.  I’d see this as more of an upper-grade read, especially with the mystery and betrayal involved.

What I don’t really like about this book is that Too Slow got away.  I won’t say much more than that, but I’d have liked to see more of him in the end.

Book 12 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

A Long Walk to Water


A Long Walk to Water (paperback)

by Linda Sue Park

AR Level 5.0, 3 points


I read A Long Walk to Water to my class as a read aloud.  I thought it would be a good example of a book that is high quality literature, as well as one that has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for awhile, which would open them up to another way to find new books.  It is also a book I’d never read, and it gave me the opportunity to read and learn with them.

A Long Walk to Water is about the struggle of a boy in war-stricken Sudan.  Salva is from a known family and has what he needs, but his village is attacked by rebels one day when he is at school, and he is separated from his family.  He goes on a long journey with strangers, looking for safety and necessities (food and water).  He finds a friend and an uncle, but they are quickly separated.  His journey takes him through several countries, through several relief camps, through many dangers, and eventually to Rochester, New York, 20 years later.

We also see Nya, a girl who makes a daily journey to collect water for her family.  We don’t know as much about her, because her story is only a page at the beginning of each chapter.  However, in the end, we see their connection.

What I like about this book is that my students were able to see a slice of life from the point of view of a boy or girl their age, but in another country and with drastically different struggles.  I’m not sure if my students were able to relate or put themselves in the characters’ places, but at least they can have some background to the news on tv or the struggles.  I want my students to have exposure to and be aware of what is happening outside of their bubble.

What I don’t like about this book is that it is depressing.  I didn’t think my students would become attached to the characters, but when they started making connections towards the end of the book, they were thrilled.  The story is sad, though, and there are a lot of really realistic parts that are heart-breaking.

Book 9 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

The Crossover


The Crossover (hardcover)

by Kwame Alexander

AR Level 4.3, 2 points

John Newbery Award 2015, Coretta Scott King Award


The Crossover is the second of Kwame Alexander’s novels I have read, and it did not disappoint.  Josh (“Filthy McNasty”) and Jordan (JB) are twins in junior high.  Their father is a retired basketball player and their mother is their assistant principal.  Both boys are star basketball players, but JB finds a girlfriend and starts to lose focus on basketball, and this creates a rift in their relationship.  Josh finds himself in trouble when he injures his brother during a game in a fit of rage, but the brothers have to come together to support their family in a time of tragedy.

What I liked about this book was that it was very relatable for athletic boys who enjoy books about boys their own age.  I have several boys in my class who are athletic and need books they can relate to.  There are lots of themes throughout the book outside of sports, though… family, resentment towards siblings, new love, fear, etc.  Although it is boy-centered, it is so well-written that girls will also enjoy this book.  It is written in verse, and that’s a big appeal for those who enjoy the change-up.  The chapters weren’t by number, either, but by quarter, and then finally, Overtime.  That was pretty creative.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was sad.  I was kind of expecting the end, but my prediction changed part way through.  It also hurt me to see these two brothers, who needed to stick together through tough times, estranged from each other.  I felt like it was a little too realistic.  There was one poem where I hurt for Josh and what he was going through.  I think that’s what made it such a great read- it pulls at your emotions, even if you as the reader can’t relate to the character.

Book 7 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)