Dave was a potter and a slave in South Carolina before the Civil War. He was sold among members of the Drake family as they built their Pottersville Stoneware Manufacturing company. Dave teaches himself to read and write and writes poems and sayings on the pots he creates even though he could be whipped for it. Little is known about Dave and few of his pots survive. Andrea Cheng has tried to piece his story together through poems in the voices of Dave, his wives and his owners. It is an interesting look at the life of a little known figure from history.
Tara Feinstein is negotiating the waters of 7th grade and preparing for her bat mitzvah. She questions whether she should even have a bat mitzvah; can she reconcile her Indian side with her Jewish side? She is also dealing with her best friend Rebecca who might have become friends with Sheila Rosenberg and her other best friend Ben-O who might actually LIKE her!
Most books for middle grades are all about white characters with a middle-class, christian background. This was a nice, fresh, multi-cultural book. I liked that being Indian or being Jewish was not really treated as different, just as something you are. Tara’s only conflict was how to meld the two cultures. I really liked all the middle school angst of new friends and boys and everything that goes along with it. I would definitely recommend this one.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publishers on Netgalley.com.
Arlo is an orphan who lives with his grandpa, Poppo. Poppo’s memory is not so good anymore. He wonders about and forgets things a lot. Poppo has a stroke and ends up in the hospital; Arlo ends up in a group home. He decides to run away and find his grandma, Ida Jones. Ida lives in Edgewater, Virginia, so Arlo hops a bus for the 350 mile trip. He hasn’t seen Ida since he was 2 years old when his parents died. There were hard feelings between Ida and her husband and Poppo. But Ida is happy to see Arlo and takes him in. He settles into Edgewater, makes new friends and starts learning more about his father. He still thinks about Poppo, who he talks to on the phone, and worries about living so far from him. Ida had planned on selling her house and moving to a retirement community, but all that changed when Arlo arrived. The prospective buyer, Mr. Grainger, is pretty insistent however and starts causing trouble for Ida.
There aren’t a lot of books like this with a kid dealing with a grandparent’s Alzheimer’s. I enjoyed the fact that even without parents Arlo had a loving family who really wanted what was best for him. The mystery surrounding Mr. Grainger was interesting and surprising. I also really enjoyed Arlo’s new friend Maywood. I liked her family and her obsession with ghosts. I also like that the supernatural occurrences were not explained. We don’t know what really happened, if anything happened or if it was all in Arlo’s imagination. Good story and mystery.
I received this book from Netgalley.com.
Emmy Blue is heading West. Her father has decided he is going to build a business block in Golden, Colorado. So the entire family has to pack up and leave Quincy, Illinois and set out with a wagon train to the wild west. Emmy is a little excited and scared to be going west, but she is also sad to leave home, family and friends. As they are walking across the prairie, Emmy starts piecing a quilt her grandma gave her; her mother and aunt piece as well. Along the way, they become friends with others in the wagon train. There are dangers along the trail like rattlesnakes and accidents, but the family finally makes it to Colorado and sets up house.
I enjoyed this historical fiction account of a family heading west. I thought the wagon train life seemed pretty accurate. I like that dangers, both from within and without, were included. The domestic abuse parts were handled very well for this age group and could spark great discussions. I am not sure how you sew and walk, but maybe I am just not that coordinated!
Brendan is starting junior high. He likes science and keeps a science notebook to record his findings and thoughts. He meets Morgan, a girl who has been homeschooled but is now going to junior high. Morgan latches on to Brendan despite his best efforts to shake her off. They get paired together for a science experiment involving manure. Brendan is also having problems with his dad and his best friend. He has to navigate the waters of junior high, friends and girls and manage to keep his head above water.
This is an interesting exploration of the life of a junior high science geek. I liked how complicated Brendan’s life is. He had to deal with a lot of different issues including his confusing feelings towards Morgan. This is a time in a boy’s life when things aren’t so simple anymore. Girls become interesting, friends can change, parents start to act differently. Poor Brendan! The science aspect of the book was interesting and I liked all the information given at the end about different ways to find information about the science in the book. I am not sure this book will resonate with all readers, but I think it definitely has its place and will be a gem to some.
A classic story about a boy and his dogs. In some ways, Where the Red Fern Grows seems like a timeless story about a boy’s determination to get what he most desires. He works hard, saves his money, and is finally able to buy his coon dogs. He trains them, he comes to love those dogs, and they love him back. The three of them are a unit that can’t be broken. However, I can’t see a child of today acting with so much patience and determination. Billy is a special character; he almost seems superhuman in a way. He thinks of others, he works hard, he sets a goal and works to achieve it. Old Dan and Little Anne also seem superhuman. They are like one dog in two bodies; they are bonded in a way you really don’t see often; and they can’t live without each other. This book had a little more coon hunting description than I was really prepared to read, but I appreciated the story. It is a simple story with a strong message, but there is a lot of depth in the storytelling that you don’t always find in current books. This is a classic for a reason.
This sequel is good, but not as engaging as the first one (Because of Mr. Terupt). Mr. Terupt is a teacher who gets to move up with his fifth graders into the sixth grade and his projects are just as challenging as last year. The same seven students are followed with many storylines including getting in with the wrong crowd, abandonment, ladies growing up, finding out truths from the past, and land wars. Each of the children mature even more this year and have a special project planned for the end of the year that will leave everyone smiling. I recommend it, but…I listened to it with my 4th grade son and 6th grade daughter. A few parts made me uncomfortable to hear with my son, but he took it in stride. Guess mom needs to grow up!
Stanley Potts is an orphan living with his Aunt Annie and Uncle Eddie. Uncle Eddie goes off the deep end with a fish canning business in their house after he loses his job. Stan runs off with the fair to become a hook and duck man. He is adopted by Dostoevsky and Nitasha and becomes part of the fair. Then Pancho Pirelli offers to teach him how to swim with piranhas. This is a charming book that reminded me of Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl in a way. The omniscient narrator gives us just enough details, but leaves things up to the reader to decide the ending. We have a villainous Clarence P. Clapp who is trying to get rid of all fishy things including our main characters. My one complaint would be the sections with Clapp and all the misspellings of words; it highlights how uneducated Clapp is, but makes it a bit hard to read. The book as a whole is all a bit silly, but fun.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
Jameson Cooper is the son of the best printer in Charles Towne, South Carolina. He expects to one day take over his father’s business, but that was before tragedy strikes. A plague takes the lives of his mom and dad, an unscrupulous man takes the business and Jameson finds himself on the streets. He is accused of theft and sold as an indentured servant. On an errand for his master he is shanghaied by a crewmember of the Destiny, a privateer ship for Queen Anne. Jameson is not ready for life on board a ship, especially one captained by Attack Jack, but he soon learns the ropes. He makes enemies of a couple of the crew, but is championed by the ship’s cook and first mate. Jameson learns the ropes of life on a ship and becomes trusted by the Captain, who puts his printing skills to work as ship’s artist. There are attacks by a Spanish ship, storms at sea, and so much more in this high-seas adventure.
Who doesn’t like sea battles, descriptions of weird food and life on board ship? Jameson is an interesting character who goes through a lot in this book. I’m not sure it is very realistic that the captain would trust him so much after such a short amount of time, but it made for an interesting story.
Oona and Fred have a cat named Zook. Zook is a sick kitty who has to get fluids to help his kidney’s function. Oona is teaching Fred to read using rebuses and stories about the past lives of Zook. She is upset that her mom is dating Dylan (the villain) who she thinks is the past owner of Zook. There are misunderstandings, life lessons and big and little whoppers.
I am not sure if I would have felt the same way about this book if I had read it instead of listening to it. But since I listened to it, my opinion is not the best. The narrator uses voices for each of the characters and I have to admit they got on my nerves after a while. Listening to the book also highlighted some weaknesses in the writing that might not have been as noticeable reading it. For instance, Oona uses way too many phrases like for instance, for example, and also, and others. It isn’t a normal way a child would speak (or anyone really) and it is pretty annoying. The story isn’t bad though and I am sure kids will enjoy this tale about Oona, Fred and Zook. It also offers a good starting point for discussions on telling the truth, letting new people into your life and death and grief.
It is the summer of 1964 in Hanging Moss, Mississippi and Glory is excited about having her 12th birthday party at the community pool. Then the community pool is closed for repairs, but there are no repairs needed. The adults in Glory’s life don’t want to explain what is going on, but she figures out that some people don’t want Blacks and Whites mixing in the pool and other places. It is Freedom Summer and there are Yankees in town putting people on edge. It is the summer that Glory learns more about the world and what it means to stand up for what is right.
I like the fact that Glory is clueless about the world. So often kids in books seem smarter and more aware than they really would be. She just seems like a regular girl who is worried about her birthday party and why her big sister doesn’t want to play with her anymore. She gradually becomes aware of what is going on, but it takes perseverance and a bit of sneakiness. I also liked that the book was pretty realistic in that there wasn’t a big change in attitudes in the community. People didn’t miraculous become more tolerant; they are just as prejudiced as before. But Glory is more aware and has firmly chosen a side in the Civil Rights Movement.
Abby can’t wait until her birthday and her Judging. On that day she will be considered an adult and be able to do magic like everyone else in her family and the world. Up until now her family has had to do everything for her as their house is made up of spells upon spells that do everything from turning on the water to expanding rooms to cooking dinner. But Abby’s Judging does go like expected. She is judged to have no magical ability; she is an “ord”, ordinary with no magic in a magical world. Ords are shunned and usually kicked out of their homes and schools or sold immediately. Normal, magical people looked upon ords as if they were contagious (they weren’t) or dangerous (they kind of are). In a world of magic, ords can see through spells and are immune to magic. They can walk through wards and right into your house if they wanted to. Many ords were sold to Adventurers, who used them to get through dangerous curses in their hunt for treasure.
Thankfully, Abby doesn’t come from a normal family. Her family loves her and refuses to sell her even when pressed by a couple of insistent adventurers. Her oldest sister, Alexa, comes to her rescue with a solution. Alexa works for King Steve in education. She helps enroll Abby in a school for ords, a school where she will be taught how to survive in a magical world and where she will be safe (or safer). At the school Abby becomes friends with other ords and learns practical things like defense and how to wash dishes. But the Adventurers are desperate and the school offers a wealth of ords ripe for the picking and other dangers exist for kids with no magical abilities.
I loved this book. I thought it was charming and magical and entirely readable. I really enjoyed Abby and her family. They are a tight knit family unit who love each other, fight with each other, tease each other and protect each other…just like a family is supposed to. I also enjoyed the group of friends Abby makes at school. They are not stereotypical or one-dimensional, but well-thought out and multifaceted. The entire time I was reading this book I couldn’t help making Harry Potter comparisons. They are similar, if completely opposite, and equally enjoyable. I think this is a great discussion book with its treatment of ords and normals (racism), child abuse, families and governmental responsibilities. These themes are all woven so skillfully throughout the story that you don’t realize you are getting a lesson until you really think about it. I like that the “message” isn’t shoved in your face. I also enjoy that the ending is open-ended leaving plenty of story for another book.
Feather and her grandfather set out on a quest to heal her young brother Peter. Spotted Eagle is a Lakota medicine man and he wants to teach Feather the traditions of their people. Their quest leads them throughout New York City during a raging snowstorm as they meet a Chinese herbalist, a homeless woman, a bear at the zoo and a grandfather at the Empire State Building. Their journey is full of magical coincidences that help making the vision quest more special. Feather’s mom, Ann, is resistant to the old ways and doesn’t want anything to do with a traditional healing ceremony, but Feather and Spotted Eagle are determined to help Peter.
I really enjoyed the fact that this book highlights a culture not seen in children’s realistic fiction very often, the Native American culture. I also liked that it was not only set in modern times, but also in a modern city. It highlighted how Native Americans can adapt their cultural traditions to fit a modern world, but still honor those ancient customs. I thought Feather and her grandfather were both fun, dedicated, interesting characters throughout the book. I did think Feather’s parents were a little one-dimensional, but they didn’t play a very big role in the book. I liked how the reader was left wondering if there was really magic playing a part or if it was just coincidences. A very special book that I am sure would be great for discussions.
He’s a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw. He’s a boy who steals food for himself and the other orphans. He’s a boy who believes in bread, and mothers, and angels. He’s a boy who wants to be a Nazi some day, with tall shiny jackboots and a gleaming Eagle hat of his own. Until the day that suddenly makes him change his mind. And when the trains come to empty the Jews from the ghetto of the damned, he’s a boy who realizes it’s safest of all to be nobody.
Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli takes us to one of the most devastating settings imaginable-Nazi-occupied Warsaw of World War II-and tells a tale of heartbreak, hope, and survival through the bright eyes of a young orphan.
Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths
Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret–behind the mirage of the “death farm” there is instead a place called Artime.
In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.
But it’s a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
The Penderwick sisters are home on Gardam Street and ready for an adventure But the adventure they get isnt quite what they had in mind. Mr. Penderwicks sister has decided its time for him to start dating–and the girls know that can only mean one thing: disaster. Enter the Save-Daddy Plan–a plot so brilliant, so bold, so funny, that only the Penderwick girls could have come up with it. Its high jinks, big laughs, and loads of family warmth as the Penderwicks triumphantly return.
When summer comes around, its off to the beach for Rosalind . . . and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend, Jeffrey.
That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick)–a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor. But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalinds directions about not letting Batty explode? Will Janes Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty–contrary to all accepted wisdom–the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune? And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls . . . these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?
Its a rollicking ride as the Penderwicks continue their unforgettable adventures in a story filled with laughs and joyful tears.
For fifty years, ten-year-old Susie has waited for her parents and sister to come back. Each new family who moves into her home seems not to notice her, except for the young children. Susie likes children. She even likes baby-sitting, but can she baby-sit forever? Why can’t she get anyone else’s attention?
Charlotte is looking forward to a great summer in her new home, despite her many baby-sitting duties. But someone else seems to be helping her watch her little brother. Someone only he can see. Gradually Charlotte realizes her all-too-normal house is haunted-by the ghost of a girl who doesn’t or won’t realize that she’s dead.
Set around the Fourth of July, this story offers two perspectives-one of the living and one of the dead-in a wholly entertaining and thought-provoking way.
Take Timmy Failure — the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile — Timmy’s moms Segway — and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother wont have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn’t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd” that he cant carry out a no-brainer spy mission. From the offbeat creator of” Pearls Before Swine” comes an endearingly bumbling hero in a caper whose peerless hilarity is accompanied by a whodunit twist. With perfectly paced visual humor, Stephan Pastis gets you snorting with laughter, then slyly carries the joke a beat further — or sweetens it with an unexpected poignant moment — making this a comics-inspired story (the first in a new series) that truly stands apart from the pack.
Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady’s past and how she became an orphan. If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.