Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Written in free verse Under the Mesquite is the story of Lupe and her family not only dealing with her mother's illness and death but it is also a view into the life of Mexican-Americans.  Wanting their children to have a good education and a better life than possible in Mexico, the family moves to a border town in Texas although they visit their relatives often.  We learn about the move, the birth of more siblings, the dad working far away, the siblings relationships, the mom's illness and the aftermath of her death.  The writing is beautiful and sprinkled with spanish words and phrases.

Since I now work in a school with many native Spanish speaking students I have already introduced this book to some students.  Many have never read a book written in this style and between that and the Spanish they are lining up to check it out.  Recommended for 5th grade and up.

Read it as an arc courtesy of Lee & Low Books via Netgalley.

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami

Dini is an 11 year-old Indian American girl living in the U.S.  She and her best friend Maddie love Bollywood movies and Dolly Singh, the biggest Bollywood star.  When her doctor mom receives a grant to work in India, Dini is sad to leave Maddie but excited to spend two years in India.  Her goal?  To meet Dolly in person.

 Uma Krishnaswami has written a story that will appeal to young girls who love movies, adventure, traveling, puzzles and stories of friendship.  She plants clues to things going on around different Indian cities/villages which seem plausible to help tie the story together.  Dini creates a screenplay hoping to fix her problems and those of others.  A fun read for middle grade girls.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

Told in short poems Planet Middle School explores so many themes it's hard to believe the book is only 154 pages and a delightfully quick read.  Joylin is a tomboy and an awesome basketball player.  She tries to teach her artist younger brother to play in the hope that their dad will notice him more.  She's dealing with her body changing against her will and her best friends (one a boy, one a girl) are trying to make her understand she's still the same person.  She's experiencing her first crush.

This book is recommended for girls in grades 6 and up.  Reluctant readers will be drawn to it's quick pace and easy to read style while appreciating Nikki Grimes' understanding of what tweens/young teens are going through.  I laughed and cried and loved it from the opening poem to the closing one.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris

  After saving a damsel in distress from a dragon, Sir Gawain the Undefeated does not accept the thanks the damsel offers him. King Arthur informs him that was quite rude behavior.  As the story proceeds Sir Gawain's life is put in danger by a Green Knight while at the same time he is learning about codes of honor, friendship and courtesy.

Stories about King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table have always enthralled me.  As a matter of fact one of my top 25 favorite books is Meg Cabot's AVALON HIGH.  In THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GAWAIN THE TRUE, the third book in Gerald Morris's The Knights' Tales series, while for a much younger audience then AVALON HIGH does not disappoint.  As a matter of fact it made me smile with it's subtle humor and clever storyline.  The illustrations by Aaron Renier are charming. A great introduction for young readers to King Arthur's court.  Recommended for readers in grades 3 and up (or 2nd grade strong readers) who enjoy the knights or are  looking for something new.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hidden by Helen Frost

When she was 8, Wren was in a car at a gas station (her mom ran in to pay for gas and a drink) that was stolen during a robbery. Hiding in the back the driver never knew she was there and she stayed hidden for two days in his garage. The man's daughter, Darra, also 8, discovered Wren and left her food and planned to help her. Wren overhears the abuse Darra and her mom receive from the dad. Wren manages to escape and Darra always wonders how and blames Wren for her dad going to jail. Six years later the two girls meet face to face for the first time in a sleep-a-way summer camp. At camp, Wren and Darra take turns telling their story.

Helen Frost has crafted an amazing work of fiction. Told in two voices the first being Wren's in free verse. Darra's is written in a form that Frost devised herself. You read about this in a "notes on form" section at the end. Then, you need to reread part of the book to see what she has "hidden" for us to help understand even more of the story. That is what takes this from a very good book to an amazing piece of work.

Recommended for readers who enjoy novels written in free verse or are looking for something new. Recommended for reluctant readers as the story moves along at a nice pace and is only 145 pages. While it is contemporary it could also pass for adventure if your readers are looking for something in that genre. It is truly a remarkable book.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder

 At first it seems this is going to be a just a story about a 12 year-old girl dealing with her parents' separation.  Rebecca's mom packs up her up and her little brother Lew and leaves their dad and Baltimore to move in with Gran in Atlanta.  Needless to say Rebecca is sad about a new school, missing her friends and Dad and is angry with her mom.  However, a magical bread box found in Gran's attic grants Rebecca's wishes for money, jewelry, and gifts but it takes a while for Rebecca to realize the truth about the magic.

Laurel Snyder digs dip into the feelings and emotions of a 12 year-old.  The magic adds a fantasy element to the story but at it's core Bigger than a Bread Box is contemporary fiction about a girl dealing with more than 12 year-olds should have to deal with.  The love Rebecca feels for Lew is admirable and we can only hope Rebecca's  true wishes are granted as we close the last page of this wonderful book.  Recommended for readers in grades 4-8, fans of fantasy such as Half Magic by Edward Eager and contemporary fiction or dealing with parental separation/divorce.