Hour of the Bees

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Hour of the Bees (hardcover)

by Lindsay Eager

AR Level 4.5, 9 points

 

Hour of the Bees was talked about last year, and it was one I never got to before the ALA awards (it didn’t win).  It was really good!  I don’t know what took me so long!  Carol isn’t looking forward to her summer on her grandpa’s sheep ranch.  He has Alzheimer’s, and her father’s plan is to sell the ranch and get him moved into a retirement home.  Carol’s job is to help them get the house packed up, while watching her little brother, avoiding her older sister, and missing out on her friends’ exciting summer before starting middle school.  She is annoyed by the bees that keep appearing around her head, despite the intense heat and drought.  Carol is also in charge of watching her grandpa Serge, but she finds herself immersed in his stories about Sergio and Rosa and a magical tree.  What starts out as a story about an annoyed tween becomes a fantastic story that will have you glued to your book.  I read most of it in one day.

What I liked about this book was the way it sucked me into the story of Sergio and Rosa and the magical tree.  I knew where the story was likely going, but I was really hoping it wasn’t a strange alternate reality (think of Don Juan DeMarco with Johnny Depp).  This book did not disappoint.  I was happy with where it was going and how it ended, and I may have even shed a tear at the end.

What I didn’t like about this book was the character of Alta.  She bugged me, and I didn’t like the way she was a super B and then became nice in the end.

Book 7 of summer 2017!

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Maybe A Fox

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Maybe A Fox (paperback)

by Kathi Appelt

AR Level 4.9, 5 points

 

Maybe A Fox is one I’d read about on Twitter, but hadn’t put much thought  into buying it, because I didn’t really know what it was about, so it sat on my Amazon shopping list.  Then I saw it was in Scholastic, bought it, and waited until a student read it.  FYI: When a sixth grade boy brings it to you with tears in his eyes and tells you you should read it, you stop what you’re doing and pick it up.  That’s what I did, and I’m glad!  Also a warning, though- it is not a “feel good” book.  It is sad.  You will likely cry, or at least get teary or a little depressed after.

I’m partially torn, because it was too real for me.  Two sisters, very close in age (like my two daughters) lost their mother and are connected at the hip.  They fight with each other, share friends, and love each other more than anyone.  Like my two daughters.  Then one of the sisters goes missing at the exact moment a litter of foxes is born, and that’s where the fantasy comes in… that’s not like my two daughters, but the thought of one of them dying while the other one has to go on… too much!  I was ready to stop right there!  So the little fox feels drawn to the remaining sister, and helps her to find closure, since  no body was ever found.  At the same time, a young man is dealing with the death of his best friend in Afghanistan, and a wild cat is spotted.  It sounds like a lot to take in, and it is, but this story was written beautifully and all of the coincidences make sense in the end.  When you’re done, you will close the book, and sit in contemplation, soaking it all in.

What I liked about the book was the beauty of the relationships.  Maybe it was the sister-sister connection, the best friends, the fox kits, the mother to her daughter or the father to his daughters- they were all lovely and well-developed, I felt.  I felt the pain of the loss, and I didn’t lose any of them myself.

What I didn’t like about this book was the end.  I won’t spoil it, but there was one last jab in my heart that some felt was unnecessary.  I didn’t see it as unnecessary, but it hurt just the same.  I won’t give spoilers, but when you think it’s over, just wait for one more thing to happen.  This isn’t a funny book, and it isn’t heartwarming, but it will leave you feeling like it came full circle.

Book 46 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire!

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Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire!

by Polly Horvath

AR Level 4.8, 6 points

This is the story of a girl named Madeline and the kidnapping of her hippie parents, Flo and Mildred.  Madeline is a responsible, intelligent young girl who wants to be normal, but her hippie parents live in a commune and do not respect modern day society and their focus on education and Prince Charles.  Madeline comes home to find her parents had been kidnapped by some wicked foxes, who wanted the address to her Uncle Runyon’s house, hoping he could translate a rabbit recipe for their new factory that will make rabbit by-products.  Madeline enlists the help of some rabbit friends, and they go one an adventure to rescue her parents and get her to the school in time to meet Prince Charles at her graduation ceremony.

What I liked about this book was that it had a lot of smart-alecky jokes.  As you know, I love smart dialogue.  Mr. and Mrs. Bunny are constantly bickering, which is humorous, and they have quick and snarky comebacks for each other, without being inappropriate.  Their marriage is actually quite realistic!  Though they argue, they have a deep love for each other, and a love for Madeline as their “pet” or adopted daughter.  It is a funny, light-hearted, whimsical story, and it is no wonder it is a Parents’ Choice Award-winning book.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it hold my attention.  It just couldn’t get through it.  Maybe if I’d been reading it to my children, I could have stayed engaged, but for some reason, it lost my attention half way through.  I had to just buckle down and finish the second half this afternoon.  I can see it as an animated film someday, and that would be lovely.

Book 3 of 40 (year 2)

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (paperback)

by Ransom Riggs

AR Level 5.7, 13 points

I’d heard about this book here and there.  One of my students ordered it in a book order and the title sounded interesting, but it was long before I even considered my reading challenge.  (I was all “read, read, read!” but I never actually picked up a book myself- what a hypocrite.)  When I heard that my love, Lemony Snicket, was interviewed by Ransom Riggs at the Festival of Books last weekend, I googled Riggs to find out who he was and saw he authored this book.  If he’s good enough to share a stage or a platform or whatever with Snicket, he must be worth reading.  Not to mention being on the New York Times Best Sellers List, but you know, that’s secondary. 

What I didn’t know about this book was the fact that it is dark- Harry Potter dark.  There are parts that might not be appropriate for younger readers, and I have to admit that my heart raced a few times after some of the creepier parts.  I came to school and scolded my student who let me borrow the book for not warning me that I’d get creeped out!  She, of course, just laughed at me and told me it didn’t bother her.  Once you get past the initial shock, though, it’s not so bad.

The story starts out with a boy named Jacob and a family tragedy.  Have you ever lost someone in your family, and then realized there were so many questions you wanted to ask that person, but never got a chance?  My grandma died when I was in college, and while I have been told I had a lot in common with her, there are so many things I wish I’d had the chance to talk to her about.  So anyway, Jacob loses his grandfather and then discovers this past life he had, these secrets he’d kept (but not really), and explanations for why his grandfather was so cuckoo.  He travels to a Welsh island with a long history that helps Jacob understand the stories his grandfather told, and meets some new friends (and enemies) while he’s there.  I can’t tell too much about what happens without giving the story away, because anything I’d say would be too much information!  There are plot twists and chapter cliffhangers that I don’t want to spoil for you.

I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the pictures.  Riggs collects old photographs and built back stories and plot twists around the photographs.  They really add to the story and the characters.  However, I sometimes had to look ahead to see if there was a bizarre picture, especially if I was reading at night.  I didn’t want to dream about the images or wonder if a white-eyed wight was waiting for me in the hallway.

What I liked about this book was…nearly everything!  I’ve said before that I love books with well-developed characters, and this book has many well-developed characters that you grow to love throughout the book.  The main character is the typical underdog you can relate to- a teenager, misunderstood by his peers, highly intelligent, with a kind heart, and a do-gooder attitude.  You just like the protaganists of the story, and hate the antagonists.  That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

What I didn’t like was that it was a little Harry Potter-ish.  Don’t get me wrong- I enjoyed Harry Potter.  I read all of the books and saw all of the movies the weekend they came out in the theater.  I started to sense a pattern, and it became a little predictable.  And I didn’t expect the story NOT to end when I finished the book.  So, I guess that means I’ll be starting Hollow City tomorrow!

Thank you to Daniela for lending me both books.  I love when a student can recommend a book for her teacher!

Book 3 of 52