by Torrey Maldonado
Tight is about a boy named Bryan who lives in the projects in Brooklyn, New York. His dad is in and out of jail for fighting and teaches Bryan it is better to be feared than liked. His mom and dad introduce him to a boy named Mike who seems great at first, but soon pressures Bryan into doing things he doesn’t want to do, but Bryan doesn’t want to be “soft” in front of Mike, so he does them. Bryan just wants to live drama-free where he can draw and read comics, but Mike wants to go subway surfing and skip school. Bryan finds himself in a tough position and has to make some tough choices for himself.
What I liked about this book is that I was picturing who I was going to hand it to in my class first. It has everything that many of my sixth grade boys need- drama, not wanting to look soft or like a snitch, bulling, peer pressure, etc. What I really appreciated was that there was no talk of drugs, alcohol, sex, or violence with weapons, elements that could push this into more of a YA or mature book. This was just about a sixth grade boy and common pressures on him, things my own students are dealing with. Plus, it’s easy reading, and short. I already have a student to hand this to.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I really wanted Mike to get busted. I know this had more of a lesson at the end, which was really, really awesome, but the teacher in me wanted Mike to get caught and disciplined.
Book 6 of 2019
Love That Dog (paperback)
by Sharon Creech
Love That Dog is a quick but meaningful read. I bought it, because it is by a reputable author and I wanted another (free form) poetry book for my library. I didn’t realize the value I’d find in it! This is written from the perspective of a young poet who doesn’t realize he’s a poet, but learns about poetry from a teacher who sees value in his writing. He is resistant to writing poetry, but learns that a poem doesn’t have to follow a format and can be fun and meaningful. His teacher shares his poetry, and he gets the opportunity to meet with his favorite poet, Walter Dean Myers, who visits his school.
What I liked about this book is it reminded me that what I am excited about (as a teacher) can positively influence my students. If I am excited about poetry and I encourage them to read and write and discuss poetry, they will eventually become less resistant. I do that daily with reading with my reluctant readers.
What I didn’t like about this book is that is was very short. I really enjoyed it, and I didn’t want it to end. However, it is also good for my kids who don’t want to read.
Book 25 of 40
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life (hardcover)
by Rachel Renee Russell
The Dork Diary author, Nikki Maxwell, is a middle school girl living a not-so-fabulous life, including bullies, an annoying little sister, and embarrassing parents. She keeps a diary to document everything in her life. In this first book (of a 12 book series, I think?), Nikki is being bullied by the most popular girl at school, who is rich and beautiful and blatantly mean. Nikki thinks a lot of things in her head, but doesn’t say any of them out loud, much like I think a lot of us with self-control do. I could relate to her wanting to tell people off or say what she was thinking, but instead, keeping her mouth shut. Nikki ends up making friends with two girls who support her and come through for her at the end when the bullying takes a turn for the worst and Nikki doesn’t want to come to school.
What I liked about this book is that is has my kids reading. That is always a plus! They are fun and engaging, entertaining and positive. I bought them at the request of my students, and I got a good deal on them used from Thriftbooks, my go-to for used books. I’m not sure how good a deal they were, but $3.75 for a used $12 book is good enough for me! They won’t stay on my shelf now. My biggest readers? My boys. Maybe they will take the information and it will come in handy when they have crushes on girls next year in seventh grade.
What I didn’t like about this book is I expected it to be more similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but the Wimpy Kid books are awesome and clever and I loved them, and the Dork Diaries were just okay. That kind of bummed me out, but I also had unrealistic expectations. This series is clever and entertaining, but not for me, which is totally fine, because kids are reading!
Book 23 of 40
Love & Gelato (audiobook)
by Jenna Evans Welch
Love & Gelato starts with Carolina (Lina) and her mother, Hadley Emerson, who is dying of cancer. Once she passes, Lina goes to Italy to spend the summer with the dad she never knew she had at her mother’s request. Lina starts off resentful, but when she’s given her mother’s journal from when her mother went to school in Italy, Lina learns more about her mother’s past, her parents, and who she is. While she’s making these discoveries, she becomes close friends with a boy named Ren who takes her to the places her mom wrote about in the journal, and they solve a mystery together while falling in love.
What I liked about this book was that it mixed up romance and mystery. I don’t normally binge-listen to an audiobook, but I finished this in basically 2, maybe 3 days. It was light, fun, and perfect summer reading. I also appreciated that there was nothing inappropriate about it! There was some kissing and a boy who wanted more than kissing, but there was no sex or talk of sex or violence. That means I won’t freak out if one of my students reads it.
What I didn’t like about this book was maybe an audiobook thing. It was a little hard for me to tell when Lina was speaking and when she was reading her mom’s journal. I’m not sure what the book looked like (it may have been a different font), but as an audiobook, it was a little confusing if I wasn’t paying close attention.
Book 14 of summer 2017!
Invisible Emmie (paperback)
by Terri Libenson
AR Level 3.8, 2 points
Invisible Emmie is for the quiet, shy girls who are unsure of themselves and need to know there is hope for them. Emmie is basically an only child since her older siblings are adults, and she lives with very busy parents. She loves drawing, has a best friend, and a huge crush on a boy named Tyler Ross. She and her best friend write fake songs about their crushes, and her letter gets out, causing extreme embarrassment. Meanwhile, there is a perfect girl named Katie who is pretty, smart, confident, and also likes Tyler Ross. Emmie’s embarrassing situation causes her a lot of stress, but also causes her to grow as a person.
What I liked about this book was the humor that Libenson uses in both her drawings and her uncomfortable situations. Some of the humor is subtle, so an intelligent reader will have to think about the drawings and captions to understand, but it will give the reader a chuckle.
What I didn’t like about this book was the ending. It bugged me. I understand the meaning, but I think that 1) it will confuse younger readers, and 2) it didn’t make a lot of sense. Whose imaginary friend gets jealous???
Book 13 of summer 2017!
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!