Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (paperback)

by J.K. Rowling

 

In Chamber of Secrets, Harry and his friends return to Hogwarts after a lonely summer.  As it turns out, someone was intercepting mail, and Harry thought his friends had deserted him, but that changes when he’s rescued from the Dursley’s by an enchanted car (see cover).  Harry and Ron find themselves in a ton of trouble, and one more rule broken will result in their expulsion from Howarts.  We meet Ginny, Ron’s sister, as well as a dopey new professor of the Dark Arts.  In the end, Voldemort makes his return through a different manifestation, and Harry once again defeats him.  However, we learn a lot about both of them in this story, including Voldemort’s past, Harry’s second language, and how the two enemies’ lives are intertwined.

What I liked about this book was the continued character development.  After spending time with Harry and his friends for two books, we learn more about the history of Voldemort, Hermione’s fall from girl power, and Ron’s hatred of spiders (I’m with Ron).  You also see their loyalty.  Even when Hermione didn’t agree with Harry or Ron, she continued to risk getting into trouble to help solve the problem.  Harry also risked his life to save Ron’s sister, and Ron went into the forest with massive spiders, and stuck by Harry’s side.  The themes of friendship and loyalty are well-developed.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it never stood out in my mind as being my favorite.  I think that often happens with second books- the first was so good, the second pales in comparison.  I thought the end was complicated and confusing, and students will miss important details.  That’s not to say it wasn’t well thought-out and detailed.  I understood everything, but I think it might take someone setting the book down and thinking about the details to get them straight.  The third book was my favorite, so let’s see if that is still true!

Book 3 of 20 (summer goal)

(Book 49 of 2018)

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (paperback)

by J.K. Rowling

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first in a life-changing series.  Life-changing?  Yes.  Once you meet Harry and his friends, you will become a HP fan for life.  In the first few chapters, we learn about Harry’s dismal life pre-Hogwarts, living as an orphan with his abusive aunt, uncle, and cousin.  Strange things happen to him, but he doesn’t learn about being a wizard until Hagrid rescues him from his family and tells him about his loving parents and the world of magic.  Harry attends Hogwarts and makes friends with Ron, and later Hermione, who become loyal companions.  They learn about Voldemort, an evil sorcerer who killed Harry’s parents, and has come back to kill Harry.  With the help of Hagrid, Dumbledore, and his professors, Harry adapts to being a wizard and learns to trust his magical family.

What I liked about this book was my lens.  This summer, I decided to reread the Harry Potter series.  I read the first few books in 1999, and then read them in real time as they were published.  While I have read this book a few times with my class, I haven’t actually read the rest of the series.  Reading this on my own (without reading as a teacher) has brought back my love for Harry and his friends, and I am very excited to reintroduce this to my class with a new vigor.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was hard for me to get into it without thinking of my students’ comments, knowing that some of them hated it, and learning several of them skipped through chapters without appreciating it!  It made me wonder if I should read this with my class, because I don’t want them to think of the movies and then be disappointed by the book.  However, knowing how many I did turn on to the series, it is worth it.

Book 1 of 20 (summer goal)

(Book 47 of 2018)

The Wild Robot Escapes

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The Wild Robot Escapes (hardcover)

by Peter Brown

 

When I first read The Wild Robot, I had high expectations for it.  I’d heard a lot about it, and there was a lot of talk on Twitter and the reading communities I follow.  I was disappointed.  That’s why it took me awhile to buy it for my classroom, and I almost didn’t buy the sequel, except that a few of my students read it and enjoyed it, so I figured I’d buy it and read it, anyway.  I loved the sequel!

In The Wild Robot Escapes, Roz finds herself refurbished on a farm.  She is the new helper to a widower and his children.  They’re mourning the loss of a wife and mother, and Roz is mourning the loss (or separation) of her son, Brightbill, who is now the leader of his flock of geese.  Roz builds a relationship with the animals on the farm and the two children, and they help her escape by removing her tracking device.  Roz is then free to escape and try to return home to their island, but not before facing danger and an important mystery person in her life.

What I liked about this book was that Roz gained a bigger sense of the world in her role as a mother.  She also learned her purpose, which is to help.  She stands firm in not causing harm to others, while still protecting those she loves.  I think this is a great message for our children, that you can make change and stand up and protect others without resorting to violence or hurting others.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it had me hooked!  It’s usually the first book that is awesome and the second one that is harder to enjoy, but this was engaging and filled with emotion from beginning to end.  If you’re like me and you didn’t care for the first book so much, definitely give the second one a try.  I even missed lunch with friends, because I had to read in my classroom alone.

Book 65 of 40

(Book 31 of 2018)

Bob

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Bob (ebook)

by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass

 

Bob is an imaginative story about a girl named Olivia (Livy) who goes to Australia to visit her grandmother, and finds a friendly creature named Bob in the closet.  Bob knows Livy, but remembers her differently, having been friends with her 6 years prior when Livy was 5 years old.  Last they saw each other, Livy told Bob to wait in the closet, but never returned for her.  Now, Livy has to get to k now Bob all over again, and finds herself in the middle of mystery she can’t quite wrap her head around since she forgets Bob when she leaves the farm.

What I liked about this book was that I didn’t predict it.  Often with stories for younger readers or middle graders, I predict how the story will end, and I don’t enjoy it quite as much since it doesn’t challenge me.  This is a shorter story, but entertaining beginning to end.  I was interested in Bob’s origin and circumstances, why Livy couldn’t remember him, and how he related to the drought that was causing everyone to lose their farms.  I did not predict the ending.  It is an enjoyable story with mystery, humor, and imagination.  I found myself giggling at Bob’s antics and the witty inner thoughts of Bob and Livy.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it’s not out yet for me to share with my students.  It’s one that I wanted to take to class and put into the hands of someone else immediately, but I’ll have to wait another few weeks.  I know it might take some selling since my group this year gravitates towards realistic and historical fiction, but it is one they will enjoy once they give it a chance.

Book 64 of 40

(Book 30 of 2018)

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

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Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (paperback)

by Ben Hatke

 

I really enjoyed Mighty Jack, but it left me hanging.  Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is the second installation, and as far as I know, Hatke only has or plans to write these two.  Jack and Lilley have gone into the garden to look for Jack’s sister, who was captured by a giant.  When they get there, they discover a world with Goblins (who turn out to be good), Giants (who are bad), and these weird rat things that chew through the vines and pipes.  Jack and Lilley are separated, but both face danger in search of Jack’s sister.  They make allies and fight the bad guys, and have a final challenge at the end that will appeal to all of my female students.  It doesn’t leave us hanging, but segues into another of Hatke’s series by introducing us to some of his other characters.

What I liked about this book was the girl power.  Lilley took charge and was given an important job where she faced tough choices, but came out on top.  Jack had to rely on Lilley’s quick thinking a few times, which is a nice change up from “the boy saves the girl.”  However, there was the porch scene that was a nice surprise.

What I didn’t like about this book was the way is was crammed in.  I felt like there was potential for other parts to be developed and explained, but overall, Hatke did a great job of writing an engaging graphic novel for my sixth grade readers.  And their teacher.

Book 55 of 40

(Book 21 of 2018)

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!

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)