Tag Archives: family

Summer Reading: Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

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Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg.  Illustrated by Matthew Cordell (@cordellmatthew). Realistic Fiction.

Eleanor’s awful August begins with the devastating news that Bibi, her babysitter, is moving far away.  After Bibi leaves, everything reminds her of Bibi and makes her sad.  Eleanor wonders how her life will ever be the same.

Themes/Content: Babysitters, friendship, change, family, coping, loss, novels in prose, first person

Recommended for: Primary grades, students with friends/relatives moving away, introducing prose novels

My Two Cents:  This is a short, sweet book that makes the reader realize that the magnitude of a problem is in the eye of the beholder.  To an adult, a friend moving away may seem like a minor loss compared to other situations, but to a third grader this is a great tragedy.  Eleanor’s new babysitter handles the situation with compassion, not trying to step into Bibi’s shoes, but finding her own path into Eleanor’s heart.

Although the novel is written in free verse, there is not a lot of figurative language.  This might be a good way to introduce free verse because the text is so direct.   Cordell’s illustrations are on nearly every page and work well to draw attention to specific lines of the text.  As much as I don’t like to stereotype a book, I think that this book will probably appeal more to girls than boys, and therefore might not be the best choice for a read aloud.

Similar/Paired Books in EHUE Library:

  • Bowe, Julie. My last best friend. New York: Scholastic, 2007. Print.
  • Bryant, Annie. Bad news/good news. New York: Aladdin Mix, 2008. Print.
  • Cabot, Meg. Moving day /#1. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
  • Carbone, Elisa L. Starting school with an enemy. New York: Knopf, 1998. Print.
  • Danziger, Paula. Amber Brown is not a crayon. New York: Putnam’s, 1994. Print.
  • Krishnaswami, Uma. The grand plan to fix everything. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. Print.
  • Mattox, Wendy A. Babysitting skills : traits and training for success. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Press, 2007. Print.
  • Sternberg, Julie. Like bug juice on a burger. 2013. Print.

Favorite Quote:

“Natalie saw a plastic grocery bag,

hanging from the branch of  a tree, swaying.

‘like a magnolia,’ she said.

‘A plastic grocery bag magnolia.'”

Final Word: Cute for the right audience.  😐

Summer Reading: Hold Fast

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Hold Fast by Blue Balliett.  (@BlueBalliett) Realistic Fiction/Mystery

Early Pearl and her family dream of one day owning a home of their own.  Their plans are crimped however, when her father mysteriously disappears, and her apartment is ransacked and robbed.  She, her mother, Sum, and brother, Jubie, have no choice but to seek refuge at a homeless shelter.

Themes/Content: Family, home, homelessness, Langston Hughes, poetry, onomatopoeia, figurative language, etymology, vocabulary, quotes, libraries, theft, shelters, rhythm, writing, writer’s craft, text features

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up.  Learning about the plight of the homeless, learning about figurative language, teaching poetry, students who love a good mystery, discussing words and word origins, students who like books with some drama, read aloud

My Two Cents:  Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) writes, “How would children see reading differently if we taught language arts as an art appreciation class?”  Blue Balliett has created a masterful work of art filled with the commitment and courage, repetition and rhythm.  From the very first pages I wanted the Pearl family to find their dream.  They are such strong and loving family, with intelligent and compassionate parents who are providing the best for their children even though they can afford very few “material things.” They have a plan, and they hold each other up as they work toward putting that plan into action.  When Dash disappears and their home is robbed the family is shocked and devastated.  This family holds fast to each other as they persevere and face the toughest challenges they could imagine.

Balliett deftly crafts this story.  She draws on the poetry and rhythms of Langston Hughes in several ways.  Hughes writing provides the Pearls their smooth soulful voices.  Every conversation is poetry.  Hughes’ poetry and writing also play a significant role in the mystery of Dash’s disappearance. Balliett does a brilliant job of weaving the story with word play and figurative language.  Words are tossed and twisted and taken apart.  You’ll have blast finding those gems.

This book would make a great dramatic read aloud.

Similar/Paired books from EHUE Library:

  • Bauer, Joan. Almost home. New York: Viking, 2012. Print.
  • Bunting, Eve. Fly away home. New York: Clarion Books, 1991. Print.
  • Burleigh, Robert. Langston’s train ride. New York: Orchard Books, 2004. Print.
  • Carlson, Natalie S. The family under the bridge. New York: Harper/Trophy, 1958. Print.
  • Clements, Andrew. Room one : a mystery or two. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2006. Print.
  • Cooper, Floyd. Coming home : from the life of Langston Hughes. New York: Putnam & Grosset, 1998. Print.
  • DiCamillo, Kate. Great joy. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2007. Print.
  • Hughes, Langston. The dream keeper and other poems : including seven additional poems. New York: Knopf, 1994. Print.
  • Langston Hughes. New York: Sterling Pub., 2006. Print.
  • Lewis, Barbara A. The kid’s guide to service projects : over 500 service ideas for young people who want to make a difference. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Pub., 2009. Print.
  • O’Connor, Barbara. How to steal a dog : a novel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
  • Perdomo, Willie. Visiting Langston. New York: H. Holt, 2002. Print.
  • Perkovich, Olugbemisola R. 8th grade superzero. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010. Print.

Favorite Quote: “Reading is a tool no one can take away.  A million bad things may happen in life and it’ll still be with you, like a flashlight that never needs a battery.  Reading can offer a crack of light on the blackest of nights.”  (Balliett, Blue. Hold fast. New York: Scholastic Press, 2013. 166. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Wow-ow! Read it! 😀

Summer Reading: Liesl and Po

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Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver.  Illustrated by Kei Acedera. Fantasy.

Lonely, grieving and locked in an attic, Liesl is befriended by a ghost, Po and its pet, Bundle.  An accidental mix-up by an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, soon has all of them entwined in a dangerous adventure as Liesl endeavors to return her father’s mortal remains to his final resting place.

Themes/Content: Friendship, family, death, grief, alchemy, ghosts, magic, drawing, apprentices, orphans, stepmothers, figurative language, imagery.

Recommended for: Grade 5 and up; fantasy lovers, read aloud,

My Two Cents:  I enjoyed this book so much, that I am having a hard time writing about it.  I just won’t be able to do justice to Oliver’s clever and magical writing.  I’d get that little “butterfly in the stomach”  feeling as a read certain passages and marveled at how she chose her words.  As I was reading I started taking pictures of the text with my phone so that I could remember some of my favorite passages.

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Oliver, Lauren. Liesl & Po. New York: Harper, 2011. 142. Print.

You’ll have such empathy for the protagonists Liesl, Po, Bundle and Will, but my heart was stolen by Mo, the Lady Premiere’s guard.

Also worth mentioning… read the author’s note at the end of the book.  I always do, but this one was truly touching and gave me even more appreciation for the story.

Similar Book from EHUE Library:

  • Auxier, Jonathan. Peter Nimble and his fantastic eyes : a story. New York: Amulet Books, 2011. Print.
  • Barrie, J M. Peter Pan. New York: Scholastic, 2002. Print.
  • Gaiman, Neil. The graveyard book. New York: HarperCollins, 2008. Print.
  • Nimmo, Jenny. Midnight for Charlie Bone. New York: Orchard Books, 2003. Print.

Favorite Quote: “This was the other problem with the living ones: They were separate, always separate.  They couldn’t truly merge.  They did not know how to be anyone other than themselves, and even that they did not know how to be sometimes.” (Oliver, Lauren. Liesl & Po. New York: Harper, 2011. 92. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Read it immediately! 😀

Summer Reading: Sophia’s War

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Sophia’s War by Avi.  Historical Fiction.

Sophia Calderwood, vowing to avenge her brother’s treatment in a British prison, takes drastic and dangerous steps to aide the Patriots as they struggle to win the American Revolution.

Themes/Content: The American Revolution, family, Benedict Arnold, John Andre’, Nathan Hale, New York (during the American Revolution), spies, trust, war prisons/prisoners, first person narrative, women in the American Revolution

My Two Cents:  Recommended for grades 5 and up.  Avi again does not disappoint with this well researched historical piece.  He does an amazing job of capturing Sophia’s voice and the apprehensive climate of the time.  Sophia’s War weaves three stories, two of which are historically accurate (Benedict Arnold and the war prisons) and one (Sophia’s tale) which is completely fictional.  Sophia’s personal war is a two-fold.  She’s at war with the British, but she also struggles internally and questions her motives as she helps the patriots.  Is she truly taking these actions to ensure the victory of her country or is she just trying to get revenge for being disregarded at a young age by the man she admired.

Includes a glossary of 18th Century terms, author’s note and a bibliography.  Although there are some descriptions of the horrors of war, none are overly graphic.  This would be an outstanding read aloud for our 5th grade when studying the American Revolution.  As much as I love historical fiction, I have to say that I’ve never been excited about history.  Avi has show me a different perspective by creating such an engaging story which makes these historical events come alive.  No longer are Arnold, Andre’, and Hale simply historical figures, they are developed characters with strengths and flaws.

Pair this with books from EHUE Library:

  • Allen, Thomas B. George Washington, spymaster : how the Americans outspied the British and won the Revolutionary War. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2004. Print.
  • Anderson, Laurie H. Chains : seeds of America. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008. Print.
  • Griffin, Judith B. Phoebe the spy. New York: Scholastic, 1977. Print.
  • Hale, Nathan. One dead spy : the life, times, and last words of Nathan Hale, America’s most famous spy. New York: Amulet Books, 2012. Print.
  • Murphy, Jim. The real Benedict Arnold. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. Print.
  • O’Dell, Scott. Sarah Bishop. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
  • Purcell, Martha S. Spies of the American Revolution. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2003. Print.
  • Thompson, Paul B. Liberty’s son : a spy story of the American Revolution. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2010. Print.

Favorite Quote: “Dear Reader: It is a terrible thing to see a man hang.  But that is why I did what I did.  Was I right to act in such a way?  You must decide.”  (Avi. Sophia’s war : a tale of the Revolution. New York: Beach Lane Books, 2012. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Awesome! Two thumbs up! Read it! 😀

Summer Read: Same Sun Here

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Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani, Illustrated by Hilary Schenker. Realistic Fiction.

Pen pals, Meena and River, become fast friends as they discover that they have much more in common than they ever thought possible.  Told via alternating bits of correspondence, the story spans an entire school year, with happy, sad, and uncomfortable conversations along the way.

Themes/Content: Friendship, writing, culture, India, Kentucky, social activism, environment, immigration, citizenship, coal mining, mountain top removal, stereotypes, prejudice, Appalachia, family, poetry, voice, presidential elections, Barak Obama

My two cents:  Recommended for grades 5 and up.  I really wanted to love this book, but I had a hard time believing it.  Meena begins the conversation by asking River to be completely open and honest in his writing…. and surprisingly he actually is!  I know it’s possible for two kids to be so forthcoming so quickly, but it’s just not believable.  Their correspondence is also full of political overtones.  Again, not to say that two sixth graders would not ever discuss presidential elections and environmental activism, they just seem mature beyond their years. (Be aware that a few of their conversations may not be suitable for everyone.)

(Spoilers ahead…) Finally, there is also just a little too much coincidence for this to be believable.  They both have fathers whose work keeps them away from home for long periods of time; they both have extremely wise, caring  and strong grandmothers; their homesteads are impacted by greedy companies destroying the environment;  River’s school gym is crushed by a boulder dislodged as a result of mountain top mining; River ends up on the cover of Time magazine … Sorry, but there are just way too many cards falling into place…

Favorite Quote: “I like that library books have secret lives. All those hands that have held them. All those eyes that have read them.” (House, Silas; Vaswani, Neela (2012-02-14). Same Sun Here (Kindle Locations 741-742). Candlewick Press. Kindle Edition.)

The Final Word: So-so. 😐