Posts Tagged ‘junior fiction’

Star in the Forest by Laura Resau

April 18, 2014

 

Star in the Forest

Star in the Forest by Laura Resau

Zitlally’s father has been deported, and she feels alone.  She hides in the junkyard of rusted car parts near her trailer park, where she finds a dog which has been chained and abandoned.  Eventually she begins to trust the dog, and with the help of her next-door neighbor and new friend, Crystal, she finds the courage to rescue Star.

As Zitlally withdraws from her friends at school, she develops empathy for Crystal, a girl who is considered a liar and an outsider. Star in the Forest is an important story for children, because it opens the door to several good discussion points, like the meaning of friendship, and immigration. Immigration, a topic not normally discussed with children, does affect them.  Why not begin the discussion around a book?  Laura Resau’s website, www.lauraresau.com, has two discussion guides that might be useful, plus you’ll learn how to pronounce the author’s name.  There are also pronunciation guides in the back of the book for Spanish and Nahuatl words.

Best for grades 3 to 6, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Zitlally, Crystal and Star.

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Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat

April 17, 2014

Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat

Anna Branford

I love the heroine in the Violet Mackerel series.  She is sweet and caring with just enough spunk to make her seem like a seven-year-old.  Violet Mackerel’s NaturalHabitat is the best entry in the series so far.   Young Violet spies a tiny ladybug in her backyard and the little bug reminds what it’s like to be the smallest and youngest in her family.  She picks up the bug, names her Gloria and places her in a jar and feeds her cheese bread.  Violet soon learns that the jar is not the best habitat for a ladybug.  Meanwhile, Violet’s sister, Nicola, is trying to come up with an idea for her natural-science project.  Violet suggests a ladybug project and she helps her sister come up with an excellent plan.  The project brings the two sisters closer together and results in a satisfying conclusion to the story.

 

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Seven Stories Up

April 2, 2014

Seven Stories Up CoverSeven Stories Up

By Laurel Snyder

12-year-old Annie Jaffin has always wanted to meet her grandmother but never has.  Unfortunately Annie’s mother has always wanted to keep them apart and Annie has never been able to understand why.  That is, until the day her mother is summoned to Baltimore to say her final “good-bye” to Annie’s grandmother who is very ill and possibly dying.  As it turns out, Annie’s mother has been protecting her from her grandmother who is a mean, spiteful and angry person even on her death bed. After a particularly awkward first meeting, Annie is hurried off to bed and is magically transported in her sleep to a hotel room in 1937.  There she meets another young girl her own age named Molly, whom she soon discovers is her grandmother as a young girl.  Without revealing their relationship, Annie becomes close friends with Molly and slowly uncovers her grandmother’s past and reasons for her behavior as they experience adventures together throughout Baltimore in the 1930’s.

Seven Stories Up is a skillfully written story of family relationships, friendship, historical fiction and time travel. Sprinkle it with magical realism and you have a finished product that grabs at the heart strings, pulls you in and doesn’t let go. I love the thought of going back in time and meeting my grandmother (or mother) as a young girl. Snyder handled it beautifully from beginning to end. I loved it!

Highly recommended for grades 4 through 6.

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

 

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Elvis and the Underdogs

March 13, 2014

Elvis and the Underdogs Cover Elvis and the Underdogs

By Jenny Lee

10-year-old Benji doesn’t have a lot of friends.  He hasn’t had time to make any since he’s spent a large portion of his childhood in the hospital with a wide variety of illnesses and allergies. He even faints when under stress!  When Benji suffers a particularly bad head injury at school and ends up once more in the hospital, the doctor offers him two options: wear a protective padded helmet or get a therapy dog.  Not a difficult choice for Benji, as he knows a helmet will be a bully magnet for him at school and a dog…well, there’s just nothing  that could be wrong with that choice (unless you ask his mother!).  After much cajoling and discussion, Benji’s over-protective mother finally gives in.  His therapy dog arrives in a massive crate and out walks a 200 pound Newfoundland that announces that his name is Parker Elvis Pembroke IV.  Yes, announces!  You see one of his talents is that he can talk!  (At least he can talk to Benji; everyone else hears growls or barks.)  Not only is Elvis well-spoken but he is also confident.  In fact, his confidence proves to be contagious as Benji learns to assert himself and find new friends or as Elvis would say find his “pack”.

Elvis and the Underdogs is a warm and humorous boy-and-dog adventure.  This is truly a feel good book packed with fun for the middle grades (grades 4 – 6)!

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

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Secrets at the Chocolate Mansion

March 5, 2014

Secrets of the Chocolate Mansion

Leslie Margolis

            I am a big fan of the Maggie Brooklyn mystery series by Leslie Margolis.  So when the latest book in the series was released, I wanted to read it and it did not disappoint me.  In Secrets of the Chocolate Mansion, Maggie Brooklyn adds babysitter to her list of skills that include dog walker and super sleuth.  This story involves two mysteries for Maggie to solve.  First, there is the problem of a vandal trying to sabotage her friend’s mother’s soda shop.  Someone threw a rock through the beautiful window of the new shop and Maggie finds a note that says, “Take your cookies elsewhere.”  While Maggie is still puzzling over the soda shop mystery, she encounters a second mystery while babysitting for one of her neighbors.  Beckett, the boy she babysits for, claims to have a mystery friend named Margaret.  Is his friend Margaret the ghost that she has heard rumors about?  With some super sleuthing skills, Maggie is able to piece together all of the clues to solve both mysteries.

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Binny for Short

February 18, 2014

Binny for Short by Hilary McKay

Belinda, better know as Binny, is a feisty 11-year old who is upset at her dad’s death, but more so at the loss of her dog.  Since Binny considers the loss of the dog to be all the fault of “horrible Aunty Violet,” Binny bursts out that she wishes Aunty Violet would die.  When the aunt does unexpectedly die, it ushers in more change in Binny’s life, and Binny doesn’t like it one bit! Her struggling family inherits Aunty Violet’s run-down house by the sea, where Binny makes a frenemy out of Gareth next door.  Her younger brother, a 6-year-old scientist in the making, loves their new home and provides much of the humor in the book, while the calming presence of her sister and mother even out Binny’s emotive self.

What is so lovely about McKay’s writing is her depiction of family life as messy, joyful, funny and so much more.  There is a sense of completeness in the story as well, when the loss of the dog becomes a surprising connection between Binny and Gareth, and the reader is aware of the true nature of the maligned Aunty Violet, long before Binny realizes it.

Binny is telling her story, just as her father used to tell her stories, bringing his influence on Binny full circle and helping to heal the wound of loss in her life.  This charming chapter book, with its spitfire main character, will appeal to readers in grades 3 and up.

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The Abominables

February 13, 2014

The Abominables CoverThe Abominables

By Eva Ibbotson

Illustrated by Fiona Robinson

Years ago in the Himalayan Mountains, a young aristocratic girl by the name of Lady Agatha Farlingham was kidnapped by a yeti father who needed someone to raise his motherless children.  Luckily Agatha discovered that the yetis (also known as Abominables) were not in the least monstrous. In fact they were vegetarians and were so gentle that they apologized to grass and fruit before they ate it.  Lady Agatha loved her yetis and spent a long and happy life with them, teaching them human speech as well as English values and manners.

Fast forward 100 years….Lady Agatha is now an old lady who has led a very happy life with her yeti family.  Knowing that she cannot live much longer, she realizes that her family of yetis are in danger of being discovered by the outside world.  With sensation-seeking tourists hot on the yeti’s trail, Lady Agatha recruits two English children to come to their rescue and lead the yetis on a long journey to her ancestral home in England.

Along the way, the children and the yetis have unforgettable adventures, many of which are quite puzzling to the yetis whose only knowledge of the outside world comes from Lady Agatha’s experiences 100 years before.  These gentle creatures with backward-facing feet (which make them hard to track) are a mixture of gentle kindness and naiveté resulting in a touching yet humorous story which extends to the line drawings that suitably enhance the storyline.

Published posthumously by Eva Ibbotson’s son Toby and her editor Marion Lloyd, this is a memorable and fitting finale for a talented and treasured author.

Recommended for children in grades 4 through 6 who enjoy a bit of humor with their fantasy.  It would also be terrific as a read aloud.

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

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A Hundred Horses

February 5, 2014

A Hundred Horses

By:  Sarah Lean

Eleven-year-old Nell Green has to spend her long holiday on a farm with her Aunt Liv and her two younger cousins because her mother is too busy to take time off.  Nell soon settles into life on the farm and meets their kind neighbor, Rita, who recently lost her husband.  Rita feels that she must sell her farm animals, including a herd of 99 horses.  Nell also meets a wild girl named Angel who steals Nell’s case filled with parts from a magical merry-go-round that used to belong to her father before he left the family.  Nell had snuck the merry-go-round into her case when her mother wasn’t looking.  When Nell tries to retrieve her bag from Angel, she finds out that Angel has a reputation for lying and stealing.  Nell’s search for Angel thrusts her into an adventure which includes missing animals, a midnight horse ride, and a legend about the hundredth horse.  Only Rita knows Angel’s true nature and why she keeps showing up at the farm.  The author keeps readers guessing about Angel’s identity and the meaning of the hundredth horse until the end of the story.

 

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A Medal for Leroy

January 24, 2014

 

A Medal for Leroy

Posed as a story within a story Morpurgo tells a tale of prejudices, secrets, families and love. Michael grew up in London in the 1940s. He didn’t have a father, just Maman. He looked different from most of the other boys. They called him “Poodle” for his frizzy black hair and because his mother was French.

 

There were two others in the family, Auntie Pish and Auntie Snowdrop they called them, who lived by the sea. Maman and Michael made regular visits to the aunties. Michael didn’t enjoy these trips but he did like to play with their dog Jasper and Auntie Snowdrop was always especially kind to him.

 

Michael knew so little about his father. The aunties had raised the orphan Roy together. They revered a framed photograph of him and reminded Michael how much he looked like his father. Roy, an RAF pilot, had several medals for bravery but was shot down and killed in 1940.

 

Several years after Auntie Snowdrop died Michael discovered a legacy from her. Behind the photo of his father she had tucked a story letter entitled ”Who I am, what I’ve done, and who you are.” It explained everything.   

 

Michael knew he had to make things right.

 

This sensitive, bitterweet story is recommended for ages 9+.

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The Adventures of BeanBoy

January 3, 2014

The Adventures of BeanBoy

Lisa Harkrader

Comic-book lover Tucker MacBean waits anxiously each month for the latest issue of his favorite superhero comic, H2O.  He is very excited when the publisher announces a contest to develop a sidekick for the superhero.  The prize for the winner is a full college scholarship which he hopes to win for his overextended single mother. When Tucker stays after school to work with the art teacher on his comic book, the class bully, Sam (Samantha) Zawicki is hired to babysit his special needs brother, Beecher.  The difficult relationship between Tucker and Sam sets the tone for the rest of the novel.  Tucker is able to use experiences from his real life to bring his comic book to life.  His other friends from middle school comprise many of the minor characters he adds to his comic book entry.  Tucker completes his comic book adventure, which includes a farting superhero, BeanBoy.

This is a great transitional book between graphic novels and traditional novels.  Kids who have outgrown Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate will find much to love in The Adventures of Beanboy. 

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