Middle school students have reading interests that run the gamut from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Twilight. Sometimes as a parent it is hard to know what is age appropriate for your child. Through this blog, I will try to help parents make informed decisions about what is available in our library. I am hoping that this blog will be a resource for our parents, and that we can all work together to make our students life-long readers!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Absolutely Almost

Absolutely Almost
by Lisa Graff
From the publisher:
"From the author of the National Book Award nominee A Tangle of Knots comes an inspiring novel about figuring out who you are and doing what you love.

Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.

A perfect companion to Lisa Graff's National Book Award-nominated A Tangle of Knots, this novel explores a similar theme in a realistic contemporary world where kids will easily be able to relate their own struggles to Albie's. Great for fans of Rebecca Stead's Liar and Spy, RJ Palacio's Wonder and Cynthia Lord's Rules."

I mildly enjoyed this book. I didn't find it spectacular, but I didn't hate it. Which means it will probably win the Newbery Award this year. Some reviewers were comparing it to Wonder , but I vehemently disagree with them. It didn't come anywhere near having the emotional impact on me that that book did. I agree more with the reviewer who said, "This is an absolutely almost good book". But hopefully it will speak to middle grade students who have struggled. 

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 8-12
School Library Journal - Grades 4-6 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Keeper of the Lost Cities

Keeper of the Lost Cities
by Shannon Messenger
From the publisher:
"Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”
There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first."

My feelings about this book are kind of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Usually when books are billed as being "the next Harry Potter" I end up hating them because they are nothing like Harry Potter and I get mad that someone made me think it was. But this book is very much like Harry Potter, and for some reason that kind of annoyed me at times. Yet that was just a fleeting feeling every now and then, because otherwise I loved this book! There is action, adventure, impressive world building, suspense, and there are some pretty amazing characters. Quite frankly, I loved having a main character who was considered fascinating because she had brown eyes. That has definitely never happened to me. But who to trust?! I kind of wished that there was one authority figure that I completely trusted (like Dumbledore, of course), but I didn't have complete trust in any of them. There are many, many secrets being held onto by all the adults in this book, but in a way that added to the intrigue. I know there are at least 4 books planned in this series, but if the author does one book for every year of the character's school life, then there should be even more coming. I can't wait to get my hands on the next one. I did love how it actually had an ending, although you know there is much more to come, we had a nice resolution for now (again like Harry Potter).  This isn't checked out very much in my library so I need to start talking it up because the kids will love it! If you or your student loved Harry Potter, I think you will both love Sophie, Fitz, Dex and Keene. I know I did.

Areas of concern:
There is suspense and sadness, but not really much violence.

Suggested Ages:
School Library Journal - Grades 5-8

Friday, October 3, 2014

Three Times Lucky

Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage
From the publisher:
"Newbery honor winner, New York Times bestseller, Edgar Award Finalist, and E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor book.

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee."

It is no secret that the 2013 Newbery Selection Committee and I didn't see eye to eye. The One and Only Ivan wins and Wonder doesn't even get an Honor? Seriously?! However, they did get it right (well, sort of... this definitely should have won over The One and Only Ivan !) with Three Times Lucky . Oh, how I loved this book! The beginning made me want to go out and rent the movie Fried Green Tomatoes . It just has that pure southern feeling to it, and the main character's foster-parents own a café. And then there's a murder. I fully expected some special barbeque to start cooking out back :) .

Miss Moses Lobeau - rising sixth grader - and her best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson III (no, his daddy and granddaddy aren't named that too, the III stands for Dale Earnhardt's car number) set out to solve the murder of a crotchety neighbor by forming the "Desparado Detective Agency". Their attempts are hilarious, yet actually quite helpful. One of my favorite quotes from the book is Mo talking to the fancy detective from the city:

“They found Mr. Jesse in a boat?" I asked. "I'm wondering if maybe he just up and died. Maybe there ain't no murder. Like the fish weren't biting and he died of boredom. It happens. Boredom kills. I've had close brushes myself, during math.”

I love Mo's voice and laughed out loud over and over again while reading some of her comments. But let's not leave out Dale. What a great supporting character! We learn more about him from Mo's observances than anything. Two of my favorites:

1. Dale can choose not to worry like he chooses not to wear socks.

2. He peeked around the door. "You through barfing?"
Dale can't tolerate other people throwing up. He gets what's known as the Synchronized Heaves. Lavender says if they ever make it an Olympic sport, Dale's an automatic for the gold.

And yes, Lavender is the name of Dale's older brother, who Mo plans on dating in 7 years when she is 18. Her observances on the different girls Lavender dates are also well worth reading.

This is a book I could read over and over again. It is full of quirky characters, down-home southern wisdom, exciting events, and laugh out loud humor. A great children's book should be able to be enjoyed by children and adults, and Three Times Lucky is great!

Areas of concern:
*The murder of a character well known to the reader and the characters.
*It is mentioned that Dale started swearing last year. I haven't started yet, but the way things are going, I could at any moment.
*The relationship between the foster-parents is a little unusual, but is explained (not fully) towards the end of the book.
*There is a scary scene where a husband threatens and hits his wife with 2 children watching and in danger as well.  

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 10+
School Library Journal - Grades 4-7