Raymie Nightingale

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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)

The War that Saved My Life

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The War that Saved My Life (hardcover)

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

AR Level 4.1, 9 points

Newbery Honor 2016

I love historical fiction, especially when it’s broken down so I can understand it from a relatable point of view, and it tells an aspect of the event that I am unfamiliar with… those are my favorite.  When it comes to World War II, I’ve read lots of historical fiction about the holocaust, and not a whole lot more.

This book is from the perspective of a London native who was evacuated with her little brother to the countryside of Kent.  I didn’t know that children were evacuated and put with families in the country, though it certainly makes sense.  Ada isn’t like all of the other evacuees, though.  She has clubfoot, and has spent her entire life locked away by her abusive mother and told she’s ugly, simple, and unloved.  Ada’s little brother Jamie is her entire life, and she has to protect him from their mother and the world, but she is the one who really needs protecting.

Ada and Jamie escape to Kent and are placed with a woman named Susan.  We learn she has recently lost her “best friend” (but astute readers can infer it was her life partner since she was also disowned by her father for their relationship, and she feels such a deep loss).  Susan shows Ada and Jamie love, attention, affection, and care of their basic needs, which the children had never felt, and Ada has a hard time accepting.  This is not only a story about World War II evacuees, but of an abused girl who learns to care, and realize she herself is lovable.

What I liked about this book was that it was sent in a time that I have little experience with.  I think any reader will be able to learn more about the war from a child’s perspective, and to me, that is fascinating.  I liked that Ada went through such a great change, and that things worked out for the best for her (I love happy endings), and that it left me guessing.  I wanted a flash forward to see her progress in a year.

What I didn’t like was there were some parts that were hard to believe.  I found it hard to take in that a mother could be so harsh and show little remorse, even in the end.  I also didn’t like that there was unfinished plot lines.  I thought there was more that could have been explained.  People disappeared and building relationships weren’t seen through.

I would recommend this book, especially to readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Book 29 of 40 (year 2)

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)

A Snicker of Magic

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A Snicker of Magic (paperback)

by Natalie Lloyd

AR Level 4.7, 10 points

Who has grown up suffering (or benefiting from) the consequences of your parents or ancestors?  Whether they are positive or negative consequences, it is often hard to make sense of the cards you’re given.  Flea (Felicity) lives with her mother, whom she loves very dearly, and her little sister.  Felicity’s mom is a wanderer.  She just can’t stay in once place, and Felicity and her sister are driven from town to town in their car, the Jalapeno Pickle.  Now in sixth grade, Felicity wants to settle in one town.  She has a best friend and she’s entered herself in a duel in a last effort to keep her mom in one town.  However, she has also discovered that the magic in the town is real, and she is a lot more connected to it than she thinks.

What I liked about this book was the play on language.  So many words!  Felicity is a word collector, and she will snatch them from the air and build poems on the spot.  I love that.  At first I thought they were metaphorical words, but after reading A Mango-Shaped Space, I’m not so sure.  The author worked word-collecting into the story, and I actually felt smarter after reading this story.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a little slow at times.  I’d put it down for a few days here and there, and I normally don’t do that.  I finally decided I wanted to just get through it, and I finished it late last night.  I think it got slow because there was so much going on, from Felicity’s feelings to her Uncle Boone’s failed career to Aunt Cleo’s love life to her cute friend, the Beedle, in the wheelchair.  There was also a storyline from the past.  Lots and lots of characters with their own personalities and problems- do not read this when you’re sleepy!

Book 47 of 52

Why We Broke Up

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Why We Broke Up (Kindle)

by Daniel Handler

AR Level 5.0, 8 points

This is the story of Min’s breakup. She writes a letter to Ed Slatterton, the popular co captain of their high school basketball team, and in the letter, the story of their relationship is told, from beginning to end. Min is a “different” (but not really) teenager who hangs with the arty crowd, but isn’t particularly arty herself, aside from her obsession with old movies and all things vintage.  Ed is the stereotypical jock who parties on the weekends with fellow jocks and has a long list of beautiful ex girlfriends.  Ed and Min are so different, it shocks their friends when they end up together. However, we know their affair does not last, thus the premise and title of the novel.

What I liked about this book was the voice and wit of my favorite author. If you’ve read this blog (or know me), you’ll know that Lemony Snicket is my very favorite author of children’s books. Daniel Handler is his name when writing adult or young adult novels.  I have to admit that I enjoy his children’s literature more, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this one.  I feel like he carefully chooses each word and finds a way to make you smirk even in a tragic novel.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I couldn’t relate to Min. Maybe I am too old, or too far removed from break ups where you feel like your life is over, you’ll never be happy again, and you must keep every memento. I personally wanted to smack Min a few times. In the end, I did feel sorry for her, but I set this book down about two years ago, because I just couldn’t connect. While I love love love this author, this was not one of my favorites.

Book 34 of 52

because of mr. terupt

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because of mr. terupt (paperback)

by Rob Buyea

AR Level 3.7, 5 points

As a teacher, I enjoy reading books from a student’s point of view.  I like to read about what my students may or may not be thinking and how they react to different situations.  This book is written from the perspective of 7 different students in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class.  I’m not sure how accurate the writing is to an actual fifth grader’s though process, but if it is even remotely similar, it makes my job more important and crucial to the development of young minds than I currently think, and that is a responsibility that I need to take more seriously.

Mr. Terupt is a new teacher, and we know little about him.  He wrestled, he has not family or pictures on his desk or wedding ring, and he gives his students more respect and responsibility for their actions than he should.  Mr. Terupt teaches his class about life and relationships, and self-esteem and self-control, while math and reading come second.  In turn, he gains the respect and love of his class.  We also learn about what is going on in his 7 students’ lives that affect the way they react to Mr. Terupt’s life lessons.  When an accident happens on the playground, Mr. Terupt’s influence on the students shines through loud and clear, and they are forced to make choices I can only hope my students don’t have to make.

What I liked about this book was that it showed the influence a teacher can have in his or her students’ lives.  We don’t always know what is going on at home, and there is clearly much more than meets the eye.  Whether Mr. Terupt knew about their home lives or not, he taught them life skills that I hope to also teach my own students.  Being a teacher is an important and influential job that I need to take seriously.  I hope that someday my students can look back and see that I cared about them the way Mr. Terupt cared for his class.

What I didn’t like about this book was that we never learned about Mr. Terupt’s background.  I think a teacher’s upbringing and education plays an important part in how he or she sees the job of teaching.  Plus, the students hinted that he had no family, not pictures on his desk, and no wedding ring.  What was Mr. Terupt’s story???  I guess I will just have to buy Mr. Terupt Falls Again, which is like part 2 (electric bugaloo) of the Terupt saga.

Book 25 of 52

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (paperback)

by Kate DiCamillo

AR Level 4.4, 2 points

A friend recommended that I read this book.  She said she’d read it to her class in the past, and her students were able to predict the ending, but she thought something different would have happened.  That caught my attention- there must be something about the way kids related to the story compared to how we as adults do.  It follows the journey of a vain “toy” bunny (don’t let him catch me calling him a toy) as he grows and changes emotionally when his world is turned upside down.  He starts off in the home of Abilene, a little girl who loves and treasures him.  He was given to her by her mysterious grandmother, Pellegrina.  When they are separated, he goes from hand to hand and learns the value of LOVE.  He has several heartbreaking losses (some more heartbreaking than others), and you feel his pain each time because of DiCamillo’s awesome ability to personify this bunny.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say that the happiness or sadness of it is all about your perspective and emotional ties to the characters.  However, the theme is powerful, and summed up by the quote, “If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless.”

What I liked about this book:  I haven’t read a Kate DiCamillo book before, but I enjoy her style of writing.  She is incredibly descriptive, and you have as much disgust for Edward as distrust for Pellegrina as the author meant for you to have.  You can see the flecks of gold in the little girl’s eyes and smell the dump or taste the salty ocean water.  I also enjoyed the way DiCamillo used short, precise sentences and phrases to make her point.  Something about the writing made me want to keep reading, even over the character description and desire to see what became of Edward.

What I didn’t like about this book:  There was something that happened in this book that didn’t sit right with me.  Everyone has their thing that makes them uncomfortable or upset or distressed and prevents them from enjoying the book or movie, whether it’s cruelty to animals, foul language, etc.  Suicide is one for me (although not the case in this book).  The particular event in this story made me cry big fat tears, and while I finished the book, it really took away from the meaning behind it, because I was so distressed about what happened.  For most, it would probably be no big deal, though.  I’d say that overall, the message of the book is powerful, and worth the read.

Thank you for recommending and lending me this book, Megan!

Book 4 of 52