Real Friends (paperback)
by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
AR Level (no quiz yet)
Real Friends made my heart hurt. It hit way, way, way too close to home for me. Not the home I live in today, but the one from when I was in elementary school. This is the story of Shannon, a girl with a vivid imagination who enjoyed writing. She wasn’t perfect, and didn’t always do everything right in her friendships nor with her siblings, but she was gravely mistreated by the girls in the popular group and misunderstood/ignored by her mother. Shannon had to find out the hard way that being in the popular group isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially with mean girls who often dress better and compete for attention. Shannon finally realizes who she is and she stands up for herself, but not before suffering a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety, basically ruining her elementary school experience.
What I liked about this book is that students can either relate to Shannon’s experience (like myself), or they can see how damaging being in the popular group can be for someone on the outskirts. It was really hard to read this, because it was such an emotional story. I think it is really important for girls to read this book, because it seems like someone is either out with the in crowd, or the in crowd itself.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it did hurt to read it. I didn’t want Shannon to be abused by her “friends” at school or her sister at home, but it is her experience (the author’s), and important to read.
Book 5 of summer 2017!
by Jason Reynolds
AR Level 4.6, 6 points
I loved this one. Ghost is the nickname Castle Cranshaw gave himself due to his speed. Ghost learned to run when his father chased him and his mother out of their house. Now, Ghost lives with his mom in the poorest part of town with dreams of becoming the next Lebron, but he finds himself on a track team with a tough coach. This coach sees potential in Ghost, despite the trouble Ghost gets himself into. Finally, Ghost learns that he has control of his life and starts making better choices.
What I liked about this book was… everything. This is a great read, and I look forward to the next book in the series, Patina, which should be out this fall. I liked the positive message, the positive role model, and the fact that Ghost faced consequences for his actions and learned a lesson. I think it shows there is hope when you take control of your life instead of just drifting along.
What I didn’t like about this book… there wasn’t anything. It is my first Jason Reynolds book, and I look forward to reading more from him. I think he has a strong voice, and readers of all ages can appreciate his style.
Book 42 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Fenway and Hattie (paperback)
by Victoria J. Coe
AR Level 3.6, 4 points
Fenway and Hattie is about a little girl and her dog. Only, the little girl, Hattie, is growing up, and the dog, Fenway, doesn’t understand, and feels that he’s losing her. Fenway is a Jack Russell Terrier, which is a very intelligent and energetic breed. They move to a home with a huge back yard (“dog park”) and Fenway is faced with his nemeses… the awful squirrels. Hattie meets Angel, a girl next door who plays baseball, and they start playing together. It is clear to everyone but Fenway that Fenway is in desperate need of some training, and everyone’s frustration stems from lack of understanding. Did I mention the entire story is told from the point of view of Fenway? That is what makes this book; it’s (only) saving grace!
What I liked about this book is that it will get the attention of my lower readers. It is only a 3.6, and it is a cute story. I really like that the POV is that of a dog, because we often wonder what our pets (and babies) are really thinking. It doesn’t have a lot of higher level vocabulary, but readers are forced to make inferences and draw conclusions left and right due to the fact that a dog narrator doesn’t understand what is going on, but we as humans do!
What I didn’t like about this book is that I wanted to like it, but couldn’t really get into it. I got frustrated with Fenway, because he was being annoying. I didn’t blame Hattie for putting him in his own room and putting up the gate. I cans ay that as a grown up pet-owner, but I’m sure most people would see this as a cute, heart-warming story of a girl and her dog.
Book 41 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
I decided since nearly every review would be nearly the same, I’d save us all some time and just write about the last 6 books in one post. Instead of writing about each book individually, I’ll just write the 5 things I enjoyed most about this series as a whole.
- They are FUNNY! There were several parts of each book where I was actually laughing out loud at Greg’s antics. I found myself taking pictures of the pages and sending them to my friend to convince her to read the series. I appreciate any book written for children that can entertain me the way this series did.
- The illustrations add to the humor, story, and readability of this book. Some of the illustrations go along with what is happening in the story, while others provide a little extra humor. I also like the way Kinney is consistent with his illustrations of characters.
- Greg, despite being egocentric (typical middle schooler), is likable (or even lovable). You want him to come out on top, even though he is clearly the sand in a teacher’s or parent’s bathing suit. He manipulates people and situations to get his own way, but that makes him believable and relatable as a character. I remember doing the same things when I was his age.
- They are fast reads. I’d say each book took me no more than 2 hours tops, although I never got to sit down and read one beginning to end. Some books took several days due to the holidays and my own children. If my students are looking for a fast read, these are great recommendations, because they are also very engaging.
- The AR level is in the fifth grade range. I’m not HUGE on reading level, because I think students should read for enjoyment, and book level often limits their choices. However, it is a bonus that there are inferences to be made and higher level vocabulary in these books. There are also moral dilemmas that students would have to think about in order to relate to the story.
I think it goes without saying that I enjoyed the series, and I do take back my snobbery. I didn’t think this series had as much to offer, but I am now eating my words! I recommend it to students, but I also think any adult who can relate to children would also enjoy it.
Cabin Fever Book 26 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
The Third Wheel Book 27 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Hard Luck Book 28 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
The Long Haul Book 29 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Old School Book 30 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Double Down Book 31 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (paperback)
by Jeff Kinney
AR Level 5.2, 3 points
Ditto to my other reviews. 🙂
Book 25 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
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)