Swing It, Sunny (paperback)
by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
This is the second book about Sunny that the Holms (brother/sister duo) have written. In Sunny-Side Up, Sunny went to Florida to stay with her grandpa while her parents figured out what to do with her older brother Dale and his drug problem. In Swing It, Sunny, Dale is at a military school, angry that he has lost his freedom. Sunny is home and navigating middle school. She enjoys a lot of tv with her friend, learns to swing a flag from a new neighbor, and dresses up like a nurse for Halloween (although she wanted to be a swamp thing). The biggest concern for Sunny is her brother. She loves him and misses him, but he is not himself.
What I liked about this book is that it is great for a students who has a relative with a drug or alcohol problem. It shows that there are pressures for the entire family, not just the parents, when there is a family member who is sick. Her dad did a good job of trying to explain that Dale was not himself, but Sunny had to experience the pain for herself.
What I didn’t like about this book is that it didn’t have a strong plot with a problem and solution that would be a good model for my lower readers. It had a lot of internal conflict, which made it a great story, but harder for my struggling readers to understand.
Book 5 of 40
BABYMOUSE: Beach Babe (hardcover)
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
AR Level 2, 0.5 points
Beach Babe is my favorite of the 3 Babymouse books I’ve read so far. Babymouse goes on a trip to the beach with her family once school is out for the summer. She experiences the beach- she surfs, scuba dives, makes a sand castle, visits the boardwalk, etc. In most books, her arch enemy is the cat, but in this one, it is herself. She hurts her little brother’s feelings and she has to make it up to him.
What I liked about this book was that it had a lesson at the end that would be relatable to kids, especially younger kids like the ones this series is geared to. I also like that it is very structured. It wouldn’t be difficult to make a storyboard for it. Finally, I like Babymouse’s interaction with the narrator of the story, which I didn’t notice before.
What I didn’t like about this book was… nothing. 🙂 I enjoyed it for what it is- a great graphic novel for newish readers!
Book 24 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
BABYMOUSE: Our Hero! (hardcover)
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
AR Level 2, 0.5 points
I enjoy anything by Jennifer L. Holm, and Babymouse doesn’t disappoint. It is a lower reading level, and geared towards much younger students. Our Hero! follows Babymouse on her quest to not die at dodgeball.
What I liked about this book was that my first grader is reading it! She has just started reading the series, and I read the books along with her so I can ask questions when she’s done with the book. I want her to love reading, and the Babymouse series is a great way to start.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it can be hard to follow, because Babymouse is a dreamer with a vivid imagination, and she was often daydreaming, which can be tough for a new reader.
Book 22 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
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)
Full of Beans (hardcover)
by Jennifer L. Holm
AR level 3.8, 4 points
Full of Beans is Jennifer L. Holm’s latest novel. I wasn’t sure if it would be a graphic novel since she co-wrote Sunny Side Up, or a novel like The 14th Goldfish. It is more like the latter. I was also happy to see that there’s a novel I haven’t heard of, called Turtle in Paradise, which earned a Newbery Honor. Sometimes books get past me. It seems like a prequel since the main character is a cousin of Beans, the main character of Full of Beans. I’ll have to look into it!
Beans is a boy living in Key West on a small island that has basically gone bankrupt during the Great Depression (historical fiction). He and his brother find ways to earn money, like collecting cans, babysitting, and sometimes doing things that aren’t quite legal, and which Beans regrets. When New Dealers sent by Roosevelt start beautifying the island for tourist season, Beans and his friends aren’t all that happy with the changes, but they soon start pitching in, seeing the benefits of the plan. Beans also makes some new friends and changes his mind about people he already knew.
What I like about this book is that it is historical fiction and readers can learn a bit about history without having to read a text book or heavy historical fiction novel. Beans is a funny kid who gets into sticky situations, but we learn about what it was like during the time of the Great Depression through the eyes of a kid, which are pretty clear and insightful. Beans shows us the struggles of living during that time, as well as what it was like to be a kid.
What I don’t like about this book is that it is really easy reading. It is likely in the fourth grade range, which is great for students looking for a read they can easily comprehend, but it’s tough for me as a more mature reader, because I’m looking for more depth to characters and situations. That can be a plus for many readers, and The 14th Goldfish has been quite popular in my class, so I anticipate this being the same.
I also have to say that Jennifer Holm is such a nice woman. She’s active on Twitter, and after meeting her in person, I feel like I have more of a connection with her books.
Book 8 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Babymouse: Queen of the World!
by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
AR Level 2.2, 0.5 points
Jennifer L. Holm is the author of several other awesome books, including The Fourteenth Goldfish and Sunnyside Up, books I’ve read and blogged about. She is also super nice to her fans and took a picture with my friend and I after signing our books at the Book Fest. I’ve heard of Babymouse, but I never had a desire to pick it up for my class, because it is only at a 2.2 and isn’t particularly challenging or engaging for a sixth grader. HOWEVER, my almost-first grader is obsessed with “big kid books” and I thought there’s no better time to get her started on quality literature! We picked this up for her, and she’s determined to read it, even if it is a bit over her head. She will get there, and she will love it. 🙂
Babymouse: Queen of the World! is about a mouse with a big imagination. She loves her best friend, cupcakes, good books, and horror movies. She wears a dress with a heart on it and creates fictional situations for herself. Babymouse desperately wants to be invited to a slumber party hosted by a popular cat. All of the other animals are going, and she tries to find ways to be popular or cool enough to get an invitation. When she does get invited, there are 2 problems: 1) it is the same night as her best friend’s movie night, and 2) she has to give her book report to the popular cat and she goes home with a note saying she didn’t do her assignment.
What I liked about this book was that it ends with a good message, and Babymouse goes to her friend’s house after realizing the popular cat was full of hot air. It’s also engaging and a great beginning graphic novel for those new to reading.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it could have taught more lessons. For example, Babymouse gave her homework to the popular cat. That’s cheating! She never got caught, either. Also, she could have been nicer to her friend instead of just showing up late. Maybe Holm just wanted to keep it a bit lighter and include only one theme so it didn’t get too overwhelming for younger readers, which totally makes sense.
Book 8 of 10 (summer goal)
Sunny Side Up
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (brother/sister team!)
AR Level 2.4, 0.5 point
I have been hearing about Sunny Side Up on Twitter and I’ve seen it in the bookstore on my recent trips (where I photograph books I want to read). I had to see what the fuss was about, and I can see why it’s been tweeted and raved about now! Jennifer Holm’s novel The Fourteenth Goldfish is a popular one in my class, and is never on my bookshelf for more than a few minutes.
The story flips between “present” time (mid 1970’s) and the previous year. Sunny lives with her parents, younger brother, and older brother. She is sent to stay with her grandfather in his retirement community in Florida instead of going on a family vacation to the beach with her friend, and she doesn’t think it’s fair. We see her struggles with her grandpa, as well as her friendship with a boy who introduces her to comic books. In the end, we see that part of the reason Sunny has been so miserable is she’s been holding onto a deep sense of guilt, and she has to let that go.
What I liked about this story was that it touched on a very relatable topic that I know for a fact several of my current and past students face (or have had to in the past), and that’s feeling guilty for someone else’s actions when it has nothing to do with them. Sunny also has a brother involved in something very dark and dangerous, and she worries about him. I know my students also deal with siblings involved in gangs, drugs, or other bad situations. I like that Sunny was able to get through a bad situation and still come out on top. She needed to change her attitude and outlook for things to improve.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted to see more of what happened with her brother. It has a wonderful theme, but for my students, I think seeing the process of what happens to make things better for her brother would help. I felt like her parents’ explanation or reaction could have helped. As a story, it wasn’t necessary. For the sake of my students and others who CAN relate, I think more information may have been helpful.
I’ve enjoyed Raina Telgemaier’s graphic novels, and this fell into the same range of enjoyment.
Book 21 of 40 (year 2)