Tag Archives: orphans

Summer Reading: The Great Unexpected

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The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. Realistic Fiction/Mystery/Folklore.

Naomi and Lizzie find their friendship tested when a body falling out of a tree turns out to be Finn, a boy who captures hearts.  Meanwhile, across the ocean, Mrs. Kavanaugh and Miss Pilpenny discuss murder and plot revenge.

Themes/Content: Friendship, family, orphans, tragedy, death, revenge, relationships, forgiveness, Ireland, Irish folklore, Finn McCoul, symbolism, setting, reality, fear, coping, connectedness, crows (rooks)

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up, discussing symbolism, discussing author’s craft and word choice, readers who like a bit of sadness, but not sobbing tear-jerkers, readers who like a mystery, readers who are able to trust a story, discussing characterization, discussing parallelism

My Two Cents:  It was very hard to assign a genre to this book.  In some respects it felt like a mystery… Who (or what) is Finn?  What kind of devious revenge are the spinsters planning? In some respects this felt like folklore/fantasy… Is Finn a ghost?  What’s with all of the crows (rooks)?  Is there really fairy gold?  I think though that this is mostly a story about relationships, which I think makes it fall best under realistic fiction.  Reading the themes and content above you may get the impression that this is a dark depressing book, but in fact it is not.

For the many Sharon Creech fans out there, the writing won’t disappoint.  She just has such a unique style that on every page I was delighted with her little gems of word choice.  This was also a book I had a hard time putting down, for several reasons.  Of course her word choice is incentive enough to keep reading, but I really loved Naomi, Lizzie, and all of the characters in the book.  Naomi is down to earth and a little sarcastic (which I can always appreciate.) Lizzie is a little more needy and formal, and a chatterbox!  They make an unusual pair, but when their friendship is tested you find yourself hoping that they will overcome the challenge.  Finn is a charmer, and a mystery and the source of friction between the girls.  The odd thing is that even after finishing the book he is still a mystery to me.  The secondary characters in both Blackbird tree and “Across the Ocean” are just as interesting, each one with a unique quirk or personality.

This book could be challenging for some readers.  It is the kind of book in which you have to have a little blind faith that the confusion at the beginning of the story will work itself out by the time you reach the end.  That confusion was part of what kept me glued to this book.  I kept reading because wanted to make sense of the story.  Creech is masterful in the way that she reveals essential plot points little by little along the way.  This could work as a read aloud, but might be difficult because of the way the dialog is written (at times,) and the Irish brogue.

Here is a short video in which Sharon Creech discusses The Great Unexpected:

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Blashfield, Jean F. Ireland. New York: Children’s Press, 2002. Print.
  • Burns, Batt. The King with Horse’s Ears and Other Irish Folktales. New York: Sterling, 2009. Print.
  • De Valera, Sinéad. The Magic Gifts. Dublin, Ireland: Wolfhound Press, 2000. Print.
  • Doyle, Roddy. A Greyhound of a Girl. New York: Amulet Books, 2012. Print.
  • Krull, Kathleen. A Pot o’ Gold : a Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of course) Blarney. New York: Hyperion Books, 2009. Print.
  • Spilsbury, Richard, and Louise Spilsbury. A Murder of Crows. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.
  • White, Ruth. Way Down Deep. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.

Favorite Quote: (There were so many it was hard to choose!)

“Her companion, Miss Pilpenny, recapped the pen. ‘Yes, Sybil, a fine and clever revenge.’

‘Shall we have a murder tonight?’

‘Indeed Sybil, splendid notion.’

‘And then perhaps a little jam and bread.'”

(Creech, Sharon. The Great Unexpected. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2012. 10. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Beautiful writing! Stick with it! 😀

Summer Reading: Three Times Lucky

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Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Mystery.

Life in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC is pretty typical until trouble rolls into town in the form of Detective Joe Starr.  Before long the town is buzzing with news of a murder and it’s up to Mo LoBeau and her friend Dale (a.k.a the Desperado Detectives) to crack the case.

Themes/Content: Detectives, murder, family, friendship, orphans, hurricanes, restaurants, first person narratives, kidnapping, voice, small town life, read aloud, NASCAR, humor, abuse, dialogue, word choice

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up, readers who like mystery, readers who like action and adventure, readers who like a funny story, read aloud, discussing word choice, reader’s theater

My Two Cents: Yet another terrific novel to add to my summer reading list!  Turnage has concocted a cast with just the amount of quirkiness that you’d expect from a small town.  Their names alone will catch your attention (Moses  LoBeau, The Colonel, Miss Lana, Lavender Macon, Thessolonians…) All of the town seems to meet and eat in the “café” and you’ll get caught up in their sometimes-casual, sometimes-chaotic  lives.

There are also serious aspects to the story, however.  Mo has started a “message-in-a-bottle” campaign to find her “upstream mother” who lost Mo during a hurricane.  There is also an actual murder, and kidnapping, and there are dangerous criminals in their midst.  At times the story seem humorous and light only to turn introspective or dangerous. Turnage is able to successfully work these conflicting emotions into a believable and balanced tale.

Not only would this book make a wonderful read aloud, I think it would be an excellent choice when talking about word choice and author’s craft in writing.

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Barnett, Mac. It happened on a train. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011. Print.
  • Boraas, Tracey. Police detective. Mankato, Minn.: Capstone Books, 2000. Print.
  • Fleischman, Paul. The Dunderheads behind bars. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2012. Print.
  • Giff, Patricia R. Hunter Moran saves the universe. New York: Holiday House, 2012. Print.
  • Horowitz, Anthony. South by southeast : a Diamond brothers mystery. New York: Puffin Books, 2005. Print.
  • Lane, Brian. Crime & detection. London: DK, 2005. Print.
  • Montgomery, Monte. Kid confidential : an insider’s guide to grown-ups. New York: Walker, 2012. Print.
  • Pullman, Philip. Two crafty criminals! : and how they were captured by the daring detectives of the New Cut Gang. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Print.
  • White, Ruth. Way Down Deep. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.

Favorite Quote: “Dale can choose not to worry like he chooses not to wear socks.  Miss Lana says I have more of a Jack Russell brain.  I think things apart for sport.” (Turnage, Sheila. Three times lucky. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. 237. Print.)

Final Word(s): Three thumbs up! Great mystery, fun read! 😀

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! 😀