Friday, August 6, 2010

The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

     The two princesses of Bamarre were very different: Meryl was brave and eager for adventure, while timid Addie shrieked at spiders and longed for things to stay the same always. She made Meryl promise to wait for her adventures and stay with her at the castle until she was married. However, she regrets this decision when Meryl comes down with the Gray Death, a fatal disease. With only weeks to live, Meryl will never get to slay dragons or rescue Bamarre from the curse of the Gray Death. It is up to fearful Princess Addie to save her sister by going on a quest to find the cure- a quest where she will have to face ogres, specters, and  dragons!
     I love fairy tales, and this original tale by Gail Carson Levine, the author of Ella Enchanted and Princess Academy, is sure to please other fairy tale and fantasy lovers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

Each year on the third week of April, the whole fifth grade of Hardy Elementary School piles into three buses and heads off for a week in the woods with Mr. Maxwell and the other fifth grade teachers. This year, a new student joins the fifth grade and is expected to come along on the trip: Mark Robert Chelmsley, son of millionaire parents who have just bought an estate in New Hampshire. Mark's parents are often gone away on business and he is left with caretakers Leon and Anya. Mark hates leaving his New York home and friends and at first has a bad attitude toward his new home and school, but gradually things begin to change. He loves the woods surrounding his new home, and Leon teaches him to snowshoe and camp in the woods. He begins to look forward to his school's camping trip, but things don't turn out quite like he expects.
I liked this book; Andrew Clements, author of Frindle, understands fifth graders and school life, and he writes with a sense of humor that kids really enjoy. I loved the emphasis on nature, and how Mark changes from a spoiled rich kid to a boy who can't wait to spend the afternoon exploring the woods surrounding his house.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gentle's Holler by Kerry Madden

      Livy Two lives in Maggie Valley, NC, in 1961 with eight brothers and sisters. Her family doesn't always have as much food as they want while they wait on their dad to strike it rich with a banjo hit. Besides worrying about money, Livy has other concerns, especially her baby sister Gentle who can't seem to see. Although times are rough, there are still some things to be excited about - their new dog Uncle Hazzard, for example.
      I enjoyed this book because Livy's family is very real; sometimes they don't get along, but they still have lots of love for each other. I liked Livy's hillbilly accent and her longing to travel and go places, and  I especially like her love for reading and the library truck that visits Maggie Valley.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

First Light by Rebecca Stead

     First Light is the story of two young adults: twelve-year-old Peter and fourteen-year-old Thea. Peter's father is a scientist who studies glaciers, and he brings Peter and his mother on an expedition to study global warming in Greenland. While he is in Greenland, Peter encounters various mysteries. What is the red ring he finds in the ice wall? What causes the fluttering in his vision? What is his mother writing in her red notebook and why does she have days when she withdraws from the world?
     Thea lives in a world under the ice and longs to see the sun and stars. She tries to convince the community of Gracehope to find the tunnel that can lead them to the wider world, but she encounters resistance, especially from her grandmother. Thea's job in Gracehope is to work with their companion dogs, the Chikchu, and my favorite part of the book is the relationship these dogs have with their humans.
     If you like fantasy and books about other worlds, I believe you will like First Light.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole

A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Hope is a beautifully illustrated book about a mouse living in a Louisiana plantation during the 1820's.Celeste loves to weave grass baskets to carry food found in her expeditions to the dining room, a dangerous place because of the ferocious cat. After the cat discovers the hole in the floorboards, it's time to find a new nest. Celeste finds her new home in an unexpected place; there are two visitors to the plantation, Mr. Audubon and his teenage assistant, Joseph, who adopts Celeste and likes to carry her in his pocket.
Almost every page in this book is filled with wonderful illustrations! This would be a nice family read-aloud, and I believe it will appeal to younger readers. However, I think my fifth graders would enjoy it for the beautiful pictures, the very cute mouse, and her exciting adventures.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac

When the Marine recruiting officer visits the Navajo reservation during World War II, fifteen year old Ned Begay wants to enlist to serve his country, but the Marine Corps rules state that you had to be seventeen. He enlists the next year, saying that he is "old enough to join." He has no idea why the Marines are recruiting Navajo Indians, but he soon learns that he will be a "code talker." Because the Japanese could crack all the codes the English speaking Marines could devise, it was decided to use the Navajo language as the secret code to convey information between the battalions and the headquarters. Young Ned participates in the amphibious Marine landings at several major islands in the Pacific: Bougainville, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
Although Ned's story is fictional, it is based upon real stories told by Navajo Marines. I enjoyed learning about the bravery of both Navajo and white Marines as they stormed the beaches and endured Japanese assaults, and I am sure that many of my students will also enjoy this book.