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Sunday, March 27, 2011


Do you love books written in journal format as much as I do? Would you like to get inside the head of a bully to find out why he does the things he does? If so, you need to read Mark Shulman’s newest book, Scrawl. Eighth grader Tod Munn finds himself serving time for a bad thing he and his droogs did. While his two buddies rake up the trash in the school yard, he has to spend time writing in a journal under the supervision of his guidance counselor. The journal slowly reveals the “real” Tod Munn…someone everyone thinks they know, but they are not even close. He is the bad kid that goes to your school. The one the teachers never call on for fear of what he might say. He is the kid that shoves you into a wall and asks you to hand over your lunch money. How has he gotten to the eighth grade without anyone noticing that he loves to read and can spell better than anyone in his entire school? Read Scrawl to find out why Tod is the bully in his school.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Tia Lola Learned to Teach

Julia Alvarez is one of my favorite Hispanic authors because she writes about what she knows. She continues her story about her loving character, Tia Lola, with How Tia Lola Learned to Teach. In her first book, How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay, Tia Lola comes to take care of Miguel and his little sister, Juanita, when their single mother moves them to Vermont. In her most recent book, Tia Lola is taking on an even larger role within the community. She is helping out at Miguel and Juanita’s elementary school by helping students learn Spanish. Each chapter begins with a famous Tia Lola saying in Spanish and English. Miguel is having a hard time adjusting to his parents having separate lives. His father has a serious girlfriend in New York and his mother is happy with their life in Vermont. Things are put in perspective when everyone fears that Tia Lola will have to go back to the Dominican Republic, because her visitor’s visa has expired. The entire community comes together to try to keep that from happening. Tia Lola will steal your heart once again! This is definitely going on my 6th grade reading list next year. These two books are geared to an upper elementary audience. Some great middle school novels by Julia Alvarez include Finding Miracles, Before We Were Free, and Return to Sender.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bamboo People

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins is a novel about humanity, survival, and war set in Burma. Two young boys, Chiko and Tai, form a close bond after being captured and forced to join the Burmese military despite having opposite strengths and weaknesses. Chiko changes his destiny by trading places with Tai to protect him. Tai is sent to work an office position while Chiko is headed to the mine-filled jungle. Chiko narrates Part One of the book. Part Two of the book is told by Tu Reh, a boy who despises the Burmese military for the horrible things they have done to his people. Will Tu Reh help a seriously injured Chiko while his conscience tells him that doing so will put his village at risk? Will Chiko survive to see his family and Tai again? Perkins sweeps her readers away to the frontlines of civil unrest. I especially appreciate the voices of humanity expressed by multiple realistic characters. Click on the video below to hear Mitali Perkins discuss Bamboo People.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fever Crumb

Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb is his prequel to the Mortal Engines Quartet – known in the US as the Hungry City Chronicles. In this futuristic world, Fever Crumb is the name of a teenage girl found as a baby and raised by Dr. Crumb and the Guild of Engineers in London. They teach her their disciplined and emotionless ways which is most unusual for a female at that time. Readers learn that London had undergone a civil war when Fever Crumb was born. The commoners called Skinners overtook the higher class called Scrivens. Hate and prejudice against the Scrivens still exist. Early in the story, an archaeologist named Kit Solent needs the help of an Engineer and requests Fever. Once she is sent to London to work with Kit, beyond her protected environment, she begins to be troubled by memories that she could not have known being raised with the Engineers. When a crowd identifies her as being a Scriven, they begin to pursue her. How will Fever Crumb escape? Will she find out where she came from? This steam punk novel had me on the edge of my seat – the technology, weaponry, and means of transportation will take you to another world. It made me want to go back and re-read Mortal Engines, the first novel in the Mortal Engines series.