Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Picture Books

The new fall crop of picture books are coming in and I can't even keep up with them all! I must say there are some spectacular new books from great writing to beautiful art.

First I want to mention two new books from a favorite author and a beloved character: Ian Falconer's Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, and a new book from Mo Willems (always a delight) - Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Olivia brings on the PINK! She is not one to wear pink, or even like it. How will she handle that? And Mo Willems turns the story of the three bears on it's ear with the substitution of dinosaurs. Be prepared to look at every detail on every page. (Don't forget to look for pigeon, either!)

I've got some other great finds on the new cart with Bea at the Ballet by Rachel Isadora. This is perfect for the youngest dancers to learn the vocabulary of dancing and to see themselves in a class. It is perfect for little children, both boys and girls. Candice Fleming and Eric Rohman have pooled their talents on Oh, No! It is set in the jungle. As little animals fall into a deep hole, they are all aware that they will be eaten by a great big tiger. However, a giant elephant is there to rescue them all. This is a perfect book for early literacy skills. A child will enjoy the phonological sounds of the animals, and will also want to retell the story because the narrative structure is easy to follow. Looking at the animals and their dilemma is such fun with wonderful illustrations.

The last book I want to mention is one that I'm afraid most people won't take out. Please give it a second look. It is Jimmy the Greatest! by an author and illustrator from Colombia, South America. The book has been translated. It is about a young man who wants to box. He doesn't know much about it, but his little town has a little gym, with a punching bag and a ring. Jimmy starts training and loves it. Then he is given a box with clippings and books about Muhammad Ali. Now Jimmy wants to read and even wear the glasses he never wore before. His reading gets better, as does his boxing. Pretty soon he is making improvements in his little town and happy to be where he is. This book is not filled with a lot of text. It is just right. The pictures mostly tell the story of Jimmy's confidence growing and his community understanding what Jimmy brings to them all.

Picture books are a time for parents to sit with their children, even through all of elementary school. Kids are never too old to be read to, especially if you phrase it as "Oh, I just saw this book at the library and I couldn't resist bringing it home to read with you." Your kids will secretly thank you for it!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Popular Titles

It isn't easy to know in advance what will be popular or what will sit on the bookshelf. My friends at the Voorheesville Middle School have certainly fooled me with their thoughts on the books they chose to read with a coming-of-age theme. I would never have thought that The Outsiders would still be so popular, and enjoyed by so many! Here are more reviews of books that surprised me:

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publishing, 1989. Print.
Ponyboy just witnessed the murder of a man and he doesn’t think he’ll ever forget it. And, you’ll never forget this memorable book by S.E Hinton. Action-packed, yet so believable, The Outsiders will continue to amaze you over and over again. Ponyboy is a Greaser and he lives on the rough side of a 60s city. (Even though this story takes place “back then”, this is the kind of story that won’t ever age.) Besides Ponyboy, the other Greasers are: Twobit, Steve, Darry, Johnny, Sodapop, and Dallas. Ponyboy is faced with trying to escape trouble and cope with death, all while trying to accept what is happening around him.
After a great night at the movies (and a not-so-great fight with his brother) to top it all off, the rival gang, the Socs, show up. Ponyboy and his friend Johnny are frightened. When a Soc begins to drown Ponyboy in the park fountain, Johnny, who is desperate to help, does the only thing he can: stab the Soc next to him. Ponyboy is happy to be alive…but police sirens are wailing already. Johnny saved his life and took another. But what does this mean Ponyboy needs to sacrifice in return? Do you think that you’re ready to join the Greaser gang? If you’re age 12 or older (adults, you too) will enjoy this book. I did not dislike anything about this phenomenal book and strongly suggest you read it. So head on over to the wrong side of the tracks, bring some cokes and your leather jacket and join Ponyboy and the gang. You’ll rumble with the Socs and learn the story of The Outsiders for yourself. ~Madison

Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday Wars. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. Print.
The Wednesday Wars by Newbery award winning author, Gary D. Schmidt is an interesting coming of age story about a normal Presbyterian boy, named Holling Hoodhood in the 60’s. It is a tale that will tickle your funny bone and capture your heart. As the Vietnam War rages on, Holling and his classmates are living peacefully in Farmingdale, NY, a small town on Long Island. In this book, some of the smaller characters have important roles, like Holling’s sister, Heather or Doug Swieteck’s brother. The main characters such as Holling or Mrs. Baker have very interesting characteristics and personalities.
Holling comes of age towards the end of the book when he realizes that Mrs. Baker does not “hate his guts”. He goes through experiences that make him mature and grow up. I think this book could appeal to anyone above age 11. The characters are easy to relate to and readers will see themselves in the characters. Overall, I would give this book four out of five stars. It got a little slow in the middle but redeemed itself with a great ending. ~Carl

Connor, Leslie. Waiting for Normal. New York: Harper Collins, 2008 Print.
Leslie Connor writes another inspiring novel about a 12-year-old girl named Addie. Addie and her mom live in a trailer house in Schenectady NY. Addie ends up staying home alone for many nights in a row. She is not telling her stepfather this because she is afraid of losing something important to her. Her mother has a tough time taking care of Addie. Despite her young age, she is able to take care of herself. Throughout the book she becomes a woman.
Addie solves spending time with her sisters and her stepfather who live in a separate house. One day she makes a terrible mistake while her mother isn’t home. Social services get involved and her life takes an interesting turn. Finally her stepfather adopts her. I think that middle school kids will love this book because it shares an inspiring story of how a young girl faces some big life changes. ~Veda

Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. New York: Harper Collins, 2005. Print.
So B. It, written by Sarah Weeks is about thirteen-year-old Heidi taking an adventure to uncover her mother’s true identity. Heidi, her mother, and Bernadette, her loving neighbor, all live in Reno, Nevada. Heidi’s mentally disabled mother can only speak a few words including, “soof” which neither Bernadette nor Heidi can understand the meaning of.
Brave and lucky Heidi goes on a quest to find out more about her mother and the mysterious word “soof”. Heidi travels alone to the Hilltop Home where supposedly her mother lived and was pregnant with Heidi. Here she finds the meaning of “soof” and finally comes of age and realizes that you can’t know everything in life. If you are a young reader and like short books you may be interested in reading this intense, inspiring, and adventurous book. ~Robin

Friday, March 02, 2012

March into Great Reads

I'm still sorting through my friends reviews and have more for you today.

Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. Print.
What is the word “soof?” It’s a word that Heidi It’s mentally ill mother always says, but what could it mean? Find out in the spectacular novel, So B. It, by Sarah Weeks. Join protagonist, twelve-year-old Heidi, as she travels alone on an exciting adventure from Reno, Nevada to Liberty, New York on a search to learn about her past. Her challenges include a mentally ill mother and an agoraphobic neighbor who hold her back. Another challenge is her naïveté combined with her overactive curiosity.
There are two events that occur in this book that cause Heidi to “come of age.” First is her cross-country trip to Liberty, New York where she meets new people, experiences new things, makes decisions, and learns a lot. Secondly, when a tragic event occurs, Heidi learns about the meaning of life. She learns how to deal with her problems, and, by the end of the journey, is much more mature and experienced.
Any young person who likes a touching, exciting well-written novel will enjoy So B. It. This book has just the right amount of everything: suspense, mystery, happiness, love, and more! ~Abby

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publishing, 1989. Print.
In The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, the characters are a group of boys who are like family. Even though the book was written 40 years ago, you can still relate to the characters. The Outsiders has a universal setting. There is no specific time or place. Ponyboy, Two-bit, Dally, Darry and Sodapop are all great friends. None of the boys ever think anything serious will happen, especially not murder.
The coming of age moment is when Ponyboy and Johnny save little kids from the church that was burning to the ground. Pony and Johnny sacrificed themselves for those little kids. This is important because they realize it is not about escaping, but helping others and not being selfish. People who would like this book would be kids from seventh to twelfth grade. S.E. Hinton writes a great novel about the life of kids who are unfortunate and the tests of friendship. This book is possibly the best book I have ever read. ~Braden

Bauer, Joan. Stand Tall. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002. Print.
In Stand Tall by Joan Bauer, Tree is inspired by his grandfather Leo as his grandfather struggles to walk again and as he shows his perspective of life. It’s winter time where Tree lives and he walks back and forth through snowy, rainy weather from his dad and grandfather’s home to his mother’s. The two most important characters in Stand Tall are Tree and Tree’s grandfather Leo. Tree learns how to accept being tall and not be so insecure about his height. He also learns how to deal with the simple things in life like divorce and health. Leo learns how to do things that he knew how to do when he was a baby, walk!
The “coming of age” moment for Tree is acc. epting his height and himself and accepting the divorce of his parents. Another “coming of age” moment for Tree is going through the pain of his grandfather while helping Leo get back on his feet. A mix of people would enjoy reading this book, like teens who like reading books about people their age. People who simply like reading books about the stories and trouble everyday life would like this book too. ~Amanda

Preller, James. Six Inninngs. New York: Macmillan, 2008. Print.
How would you feel watching the six innings of a baseball game that you can’t play in? In the book, Six Innings by James Preller, that’s how Sam felt during the championship game between Earl Grubb’s Pool Supplies and Northeast Gas & Electric. Sam is jealous of his friend Mike because Mike is playing and Sam is announcing. Also, Sam has cancer and Mike thinks that Sam needs him because he is sick. But Mike really needs Sam as well because he is going through his friend being sick and they are best friends.
If you are the type of person that likes baseball you will like this book. Sam is growing up not thinking about himself all the time and now is thinking about his friend Mike. ~Ryan

Holt, Kimberly Willis. My Louisiana Sky. New York; Dell Yearling, 1998. Print.
In the book, My Louisiana Sky, by Kimberly Willis Holt, Tiger has to face problems that will change her life. Her parents are mentally slow, and she doesn’t fit in with the popular girls. Imagine having a life like that. Living in a small town in Louisiana she isn’t that popular and she likes baseball, and the other girls don’t. She also gets teased a lot. Tiger is the main character in the book. The important characters are, Granny, Tiger, her mom and dad, Aunt Dorie Kay, her aunt’s maid, Jesse Wade, and Abby Lynn. When her Granny died, her Aunt Dorie Kay asked Tiger if she would like to move with her to Baton Rouge. At first, Tiger agrees, but she realizes she needs to care for her family, and that they need each other. I think peoples ages 12-13 will like this book, because the girl in the book is around that age. I liked the book more towards the ending because it gave more action, and things you didn’t expect to happen, happened. I didn’t really like the book that much in the beginning because I didn’t get the point of it, but it became clearer towards that end. ~Caitlin

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ethical and Moral Dilemmas

Yesterday was Abraham Lincoln's birthday. We celebrated at the library with a cake, punch and some crafts for those in the mood. Our library has been busy for months with many programs that deal with the Civil War. The Head of Adult Services, Suzanne Fisher, has come up with a unique method in which to view and study the Civil War. She has arranged a tour of Albany Rural Cemetary to view all the Civil War soldiers and other people buried there with Civil War connections. She is hosting book discussions, a film series, textile lectures and workshops, and musical programs. What does this have to do with children's books? Well, when I think of the Civil War, I think about Lincoln and I always have that tall, almost sad, but steady gaze on me. What a remarkable man, an ethical man, with a moral compass that was able to write important words for a grieving nation. Those giant dilemmas are not ones any person should have to face, but sometimes the small stories of ethical dilemmas can point the way to a moral compass later in life.

My 7th grade friends have been reading books with moral dilemmas, although we call these stories coming-of-age. Enjoy their reviews!

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: G.P. Putnam’s sons, 2003 Print.
Imagine you lost your parents in a fire. It’s just you and your little sister. You’ve been split up with different foster parents. Find out what happens in the exciting novel Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. The story takes place in Lonnie’s neighborhood in present day. Lonnie uses poetry to deal with his feelings.
Lonnie comes of age when he and his sister get split up and have different foster parents. When his parents passed away he became more mature and moved on with his life. This book would appeal to ages 10-13 years old. I loved this book and I encourage you to read it. If you like poetry then you will love this book too!~Summer

Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2005. Print.
Have you always wondered what your past is like, but you just can’t figure it out? This is how, Heidi It feels. Read about her life in Sarah Weeks wonderful book So B. It. This action-packed and drama-filled book takes place in Reno, Nevada where mysteries are everywhere, in Heidi’s mind. Heidi is one of the funny, crazy and weird characters. All the characters in this book have their own problems: Heidi who knows nothing about the past, So B. It who is mentally challenged, Ruby who is filled with sorrow, Bernie who has AP and Thurman Hill who is scared and worried about the past.
Throughout this book Heidi begins to grow up. But, when she has a talk with Thurman Hill her life changes forever. I would recommend this book to anybody who likes drama, action, adventure and funny people. I think those people would like this book because it’s all that and more. I personally think that this was a great book, but the choice is yours. ~Patrick

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publisher, 1995. Print.
Have you ever thought what it would be like as an outcast? Now meet Ponyboy in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Ponyboy is on the wrong side of the tracks and just witnessed a murder. Ponyboy must either face the consequences with the gang and police or runaway. In this book there are socs and greasers. Ponyboy is a greaser along with his two brothers and gang. Greasers stick together like family and don’t get much while socs get the “cool” stuff. Socs and greasers don’t like each other and have fights.
Since he witnessed a murder he has to make a choice to stay or runaway but his choice may have consequences. Ponyboy grows up by facing reality and to stick together with his brothers and his gang. If you like a simple read, but a realistic story, true friendships, and some action, then you should read this book. It is also a book that loops around so that you could read it over and over again. ~Kailee

Preller, James. Bystander. Harrisburg: RR. Donnelley & Sons, 2009. Print.
What would you do if you were the new kid in town and you were surrounded by kids who were bigger than you? I don’t know what you would do, but Eric Hayes handles this situation on his own in the book Bystander by James Preller. This book takes place in a modern day school in Long Island, NY. Here Eric Hayes starts his journey to adulthood. Eric is a middle school student who runs into another kid named Griffen. Griffen and Eric have a very interesting and conflicting relationship. Throughout this book Eric becomes more aware of his surroundings and he gains a lot if self-confidence throughout the process. Personally, I didn’t like this book. I don’t think the author did a good job explaining what he wrote; for example he will give an idea and then not support it with any details. I think this book may be appealing to a school councilor, a teacher, or someone who has a problem with a bully. ~Miles

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Reviews Galore!

The reviews continue to come in from the Voorheesville Middle School. Here are more that will make you want to read these books.

Park, Barbara. The Graduation of Jake Moon. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000. Print.
In The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park, Jake’s grandfather, Skelly, has Alzheimer’s and complicates Jakes life in strange ways in a small town. Ever since Skelly was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Jake has had a hard time with school and friends or life in general.
Jake’s 8th grade graduation is another example of how Skelly is always in trouble. During his graduation Skelly goes on the stage and knocks everything over by accident. Then Jake goes and calms down Skelly and takes him off the stage. The age range of kids who would enjoy this book is 8-12 years old. You would also like this book if you wanted a quick read or you like funny books. ~Boden

Spinelli, Jerry. Crash. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.
Have you ever known somebody who is really weird and just makes you mad? Well if you do, you can relate to Crash Coogan. Crash is a typical seventh grade football player, big, strong and obnoxious. He and his best friend Mike always bully his neighbor Penn Webb. Penn is a strange skinny Quaker from North Dakota.
Newbery-award-winner Jerry Spinelli nails life as a seventh grader on the head, with excellent descriptions and dialogue. Crash is forced to rethink his actions when a family crisis occurs. Will he tolerate Penn or stick to his old way? How will he react when he is neck and neck with Penn in the biggest race of the year? ~Bryson

Preller, James. Bystander. New York City: Fiewel and Friends, 2009. Print.
Will he stay the bystander or stand up against bullying. Find out when you read Bystander by James Preller. This story takes place on Long Island, New York, where, two boys Griffin and Eric are at a standoff. Eric has to decide: stay loyal or stand up to Griffin.
Bystander’s theme is coming of age. Eric has to come of age by standing up to Griffin. Eric needs to man up and teach Griffin how to treat others. I really liked this book. It made me think of how people treat each other. I think you should read this book if you are a bully, a bystander, or victim because it will inspire you to do the right thing. So, will you stay quiet or be loud and stand up for someone? ~Spencer

Giff, Patricia Rielly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. New York: Dell Yearling, 2002. Print.
Poor Hollis Woods thought she wasn’t going to stay in any foster home very long. That is going to change. When the agency brought Hollis to Miss Josie Cahill, she realized that Josie needed her help. Through flashbacks, Hollis shares what happened on the mountain on a hot summer day.
I recommend this book to ages 12-15 year olds. You will learn how Hollis made it through the life as an orphan in the book Pictures of Hollis Woods. Learn whic family she ends up staying with! ~Cameron

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Growing UP

It is hard to face reality and come to understand consequesnces, especially when one is young. The books that my friends from Voorheesville Middle School have been writing reviews for all have difficult choices facing the protagonists. It has been eye-opening to read their reactions to these wonderful books.
Here are some more reviews:

Park, Barbara. The Graduation of Jake Moon. New York: Antheneum books, 2000.
Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s? If not, then you don’t know how hard it is for Jake Moon to deal with his grandfather’s Alzheimer’s. Read about it in The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park. Jake is a normal eighth grade boy, except he is the only one that deals with a grandfather with Alzheimer’s disease.
It isn’t that bad for Jake because the challenges he faces help him mature. Although his grandfather has embarrassed him time after time he continues to help him. This book could be enjoyed by anyone, especially people who are ready to laugh and cry at this humorous yet tear-jerking novel. ~Ryan

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.
In Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson Lonnie finds himself alone when his parents die in a fire. He is split up from his sister, Lili, and both are put in foster homes. The story takes place by Lonnie’s house in his neighborhood.
Lonnie is the main character and his biggest obstacle to overcome is the fact his parents died and him splitting up with his sister. He finally comes of age when he starts to overcome that by writing all kinds of different poems. But I didn’t like how the book was a poem because it kind of took some information away because the author was trying to make it a poem. But this is a short and easy read recommended for ages 10-16. ~Willie

Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. New York: HarperTrophy, 2004. Print.
Imagine living in an apartment with your mentally ill mother and your neighbor, yet you and everybody else has no idea how you got there. This is true for Heidi in the exciting novel So B. It by Sarah Weeks. In this thriller you will travel with 12-year-old Heidi from Reno, Nevada to New York City to find out who she is, who her mom is, and what is “soof”.
You will meet all sorts of characters: Mama, Bernadette, and Heidi. Mama has a twenty-three word vocabulary and is mentally ill. Bernadette can’t take a step outside without the feeling that she is drowning. And Heidi is a curious girl, but will her curiosity overwhelm her? In this book, Heidi will learn to grow up when she travels independently for the first time and faces a terrible tragedy. This book is a good read for anyone ages 10-15. Pick up this thriller by Sarah Weeks. ~Mia

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publishing, 1995. Print.
In this area you never walk alone without a blade or a friend. Pony boy Curtis is 14 years old and he lives in this area. His parents died in a car crash, but he has two very hard working brothers that he lives with. They look out for him and love him. They are also in a gang, “The Greasers”, along with Dally, Steve, Jonny, and two bit. They are all very close friends. That’s what makes this book so good, I think, because they all have to look out for each other and help each other out of bad bad situations. Plenty of bad things happen in this gang. Most of it has to do with the social’s, also called the soc’s. They are the rich kids with mustangs and and all the girls. These two groups hate each other. And to make things worse, Jonny and Ponyboy started to hang out with one of the soc’s girlfriends at the drive-in. A few hours later, well, here comes the soc’s in their blue Mustang. After what happens in this event leads to a bad chain of events. Get the book to see what happens. ~Jack

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

"Coming of Age"

The reviews you have been reading this past month are all part of an assignment looking at books with a coming-of-age theme. I love this theme and see it in almost all YA (teen) books. It is a point in a young person's life when they look beyond their every day life, and make decisions that will have an impact on their whole life. It can be a decision to stand up for someone who is being bullied, or refusing to listen to jokes that make fun of a group of people; could be ethnic jokes, blond jokes, or any group. Coming-of-age can also be a time when you come to understand someone's (usually a beloved relative) behavior and accept the person for who they are, not for who you want them to be. It can also be a story where the protagonist must make adult decisions. In other words, no matter what age, the character comes of age to accept and truly make decisions that make a difference in their own life or their family's life.

I enjoy reading these stories because I put myself into the specific character and wonder if I could take that adult step. Of course, as an adult I already have had to do that, but adults need to be reminded of those important roles we play, how we must mentor to students and always try to do our best. Fiction helps us see not an individual situation, but a universal situation that we project into our own life. It's an amazing process.

Here are some more guest reviews from Voorheesville Middle School;

Schmidt, Gary. The Wednesday Wars. New York. 2007. Print.
“Mrs. Baker hates me.” The Wednesday Wars is a great fun, and an exciting book. Mostly takes place at a school in the 1960s. The main character in the book is a kid named Holling Hoodhood. He thinks that the English teacher hates him.
But in the end he finds out her life story. And how it is not right to judge until you know what the problem is. Mrs. Baker’s husband has been lost in a special mission in Viet Nam and it almost ruins her. You’ll need to read the book to find out what happens. I like the book because it is interesting and there is always something going on. ~Adam

Connor, Leslie. Waiting for Normal. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008. Print.
Award-winning writer Leslie Connor is the author of the terrific and life changing story, Waiting for Normal. Imagine having to lie to your step-father every time he would call to check in. Eleven years old, Addie, is in this situation. This sweet story takes place in Schenectady, New York, in a trailer across the street from the minimart. It’s an amazing journey that at some parts may make you cry, laugh, or even giggle.
Addie is stuck between choosing which life she wants to live, either with her step-father, Dwight or her “all-or-nothing” mother, Mommers. Over the course of the story Addie grows and matures and begins to realize which life she wants to live. Along the way she makes some friends, Soula and Elliot, who work at the minimart. Later, Addie comes to a conclusion that Soula has cancer. Things then get rough. Read the book, Waiting for Normal, to find out which life she chooses and find out if Soula is going to be okay. The Recommended ages for this book are 10-14.~Jaynie

Hinton S.E. The Outsiders. N.Y.: Del Publishing Co. 1982. Print.
What would you do if you were running away from a murder? And what if the murderer was your best friend? Unfortunately for Ponyboy and his friend Johnny it isn’t an image in his head it is really happening to them. Ponyboy and his friend live in the rural part of Oklahoma in the 1960’s. In the city there are two main gang groups, the Greasers and the Socs. Johnny and Ponyboy are part of the Greasers along with Dallas, Two-Bit, and SodaPop.
The way Ponyboy came of age is when he turned himself in because he helped a murderer escape the hands of the police. Another way he came of age is when he saved a bunch of kids in a church. A lot of people would like this book; maybe people who like suspense, action, and thrills. The book had a good beginning and middle but the end was not so good.~Cameron

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What to read? Pay attention to readers!

I've got more reviews from the 7th graders at Voorheesville Middle School.

Preller, James. Six Innings. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2008. Print.
Do you enjoy baseball? Well if you do read Six Innings by James Preller. This book takes place in a little league baseball field. Sam Reiser is the main character. Sam has cancer and he can’t play in the championship game so he announces the game.
The coming of age moment for the main character Sam is he is going through a tough time. Sam realizes that he is growing now. The reason that I like this book is because it is not just about baseball. It has stories about a handful of the characters. It has a strong baseball setting throughout the book. ~David

Weeks, Sarah . So B. It. New York: Harper Collins Children Books, 2004. Print.
Imagine a 14-year-old girl traveling across the country by herself. A girl named Heidi is a strong-willed girl determined to find “soof”. Heidi lives in a small apartment with Bernadette and her mama who has a “bummed” brain.
Heidi comes of age when she gets over the fear of not being able know everything; when she leaves the house and travels alone to New York. I think this book is for people who enjoy a little bit of a mystery, a little sadness, and a thrilling adventure.~ Victoria

Connor, Leslie. Waiting for Normal. New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 2008. Print.
Waiting for Normal jumps out and grabs you. In this book by Schneider Family Book Award Winner Leslie Connor, Addie is growing up in her own little world. Addie has found herself in Schenectady, NY living in a bright yellow trailer. Addie is the main character of this story, very musical and plays the flute. She has to miss her concert because she is very scared that someone is going to see something that is hers.
This book is a very good book. She has to make some big decisions about who she wants to live with. It portrays the coming-of-age theme. Addie matures to become a young lady and takes matters into her own hand. People would like this book if they like surprises; because this book has many surprises that jump up and grab your attention.~Julia

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Award Announcements

Throw the confetti; blow your horns; the announcements were made on Monday, in Dallas, of the most distinguished books for young people. I was thrilled by the announcements, although I did not read a lot of these books, so I can't really comment on them until I do. What I can write is that I am positive the committees gave thoughtful deliberation to all the titles that were excellent. It is hard to make a final choice, as I had quite a few titles that I was hoping to see win.

Here are the winners for the big awards:
Newbery Award: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Caldecott Award: A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka
Printz Award: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Sibert Award: Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

What I can tell you is that I saw original art for Balloons Over Broadway and A Ball for Daisy in New York City. The Society of Illustrator's always has a show in November of the very best children's illustrations. Both of the books were represented and Sweet's collages were incredible. Her collages are hung in a box because they are 3-dimensional with her different materials. I was very impressed with the colors and the size of the different elements. This is a story of the man who made the giant Macy's Thanksgiving parade balloons. Raschka's illustrations are filled with lines and curves, action and joy. How is he able to do this in a wordless book? His art propels the story with emotion and personality.

We'll have more quest reviews tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Award Winning Books

ALA (The American Library Association) is about to announce (Monday, January 23rd) the very best literature for young people. I am always excited by these announcements and have favorites that I want to see honored. I'll be writing about them next week. In the meantime, here are some more guest reviews of the coming-of-age project from Voorheesville Middle School. Many of the titles are award-winning, too.

Schmidt, Gary. The Wednesday Wars. New York :Clarion Books,2007. Print.

Seventh grade is tough but especially for Holling Hoodhood (that is his real name). The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt is about Holling Hoodhood dealing with his teacher, his religion, and father. The book is set in the late 1960’s (1967-1968) during the Vietnam War. The setting is mostly at his school Camillo High School in Long Island New York. The book tells about Hollings relationship with his teacher Mrs. Baker and how they don’t see eye to eye. They do become good friends. This coming of age book is perfect for kid’s grade 4-8. This is a fast read. I was not a fan of the book, but other people might enjoy it. Gary Schmidt is a creative author and puts creative things in the book. ~Connor

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publishing, 1967. Print.

Greasers and Socs, poor and wealthy, theses are the characters you will find in S.E. Hinton’s book The Outsiders. If you want an action packed and all around good story than this is your book. Growing up in a rural small town is hard when you are a person like Ponyboy. Ponyboy, Sodapop, Darry, and Johnny are the main characters of the book, who are struggling to fit in. They are faced with many difficult obstacles. Their rivals the Socs, who they despise, and the loss of a gang member add to their conflict.
Ponyboy is the youngest greaser in his gang. With his parents dead, and his two brothers looking after him, he realizes that his rivals, the Socs, are real people too. This book is for anyone interested in an action packed, coming of age book. I thought the book was a great book. S.E. Hinton’s book The Outsiders is the book is the book to read if you have to do a book report or any other school assignment. ~Trevor

Giff, Patricia, Reilly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. New York; Random House of Children’s Books, 2002. Print.

Pictures of Hollis Woods was a heart-breaking, tear jerking book this novel is written by Patricia Reilly Giff. This book had the best description about growing up!

The book takes place in the woods and in people’s houses that Hollis might have to spend her whole life with, but she runs away from them. The time that the book takes place in is not in the past of the future, it is most recent. The whole book is mostly about Hollis. You will go for a ride and see how different her life is from yours. Throughout the book Hollis has to realize she probably won’t be normal. She also has to meet new people. When she runs away from the family she might live with, she realizes her life will not ever be normal. She realizes she won’t have a family that is really related too. She starts to know that she needs to take care of herself, but until she sees clearly her heart will be a blur. So are you up for a lesson on how hard someone’s life is without a stable family. Are you ready to cry for Hollis? Then this book is for you. I personally think the book needs to have more action, but it was definitely great to read for a coming of age novel! ~Jessica

Monday, January 16, 2012

More Reviews - Great Reads!

Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday Wars. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. Print.

Imagine you are hated by your teacher for no reason. In Gary D. Schmidt’s book, The Wednesday Wars, that is the case for seventh grader Holling Hoodhood. Set in 1967 at a typical middle school, some very peculiar things are going on. Holling Hoodhood is a normal seventh grade Presbyterian boy. However, on the first day of school he seems to be hated by his teacher. Why? Because on Wednesday afternoons his classmates leave for religion and he is left alone with his English teacher. Now I read this book expecting a coming-of-age moment for Holling; however there really wasn’t. He ends his rivalry with his siblings and he has a fight with his dad but other than that nothing. This book would be good for kids ages 10- 12. ~Eli

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publishing, 1967. Print.

The Outsiders was a memorable book with various people dying and a battle between gangs. The setting is a rural small town. One of the most important characters in the book is Ponyboy. Ponyboy has a conflict much like the rest of the gang. The Greasers don’t like the Socs but he realizes the Socs are people too.

Ponyboy “comes of age” in this book in a very meaningful way. He “comes of age” by realizing even people you might not like are still real people. I liked the book because of all of the conflicts that happen during the book. ~Travis

Spinelli, Jerry. Crash. Toronto: Random House, 1996. Print.

My thoughts about this book are that it is a great book. I liked the characters, the setting, and the plot. Overall I would give it 5 stars out of 5 stars. It was a fast read but within its small number of pages it was great.

The setting, characters, and plot was awesome. The setting was in a small town in Pennsylvania, it was around the 90’s. The characters included the main character Crash, an athletic kid who was very strong and tough. There is Mike, his friend who has similar character traits. Penn Webb, Crash’s neighbor who is nerdy and dorky. Another character is Crash’s grandpa, Scooter. The plot was very good also; it started out with Crash meeting Penn when they were about 6, ever since then he has always picked on him and messed with him. But something happens that changes everything; I’m going to leave it at that because I don’t want to spoil it.

Overall I recommend this book. It has a great plot to it. It’s hard to put down. Jerry Spinelli is a great author, he is very creative. I have read 2 of his books and they were both great. READ THIS BOOK! That is all. ~Andrew

Friday, January 13, 2012

More Reviews - More Books!

I hope you are enjoying and reading our guest reviews. It is exciting to see the enthusiasm for titles that some of these students would never have read.

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. New York: Dell Yearling, 2002. Print.

Imagine being a twelve-year-old foster child who was left in the woods at two days old with no evidence of your identity, except for a tag pinned to your blanket that read, “Please name her Hollis Woods”. Patricia Reilly Giff, a Newberry Award winner, takes you into the unforgettable story of a young girl in Pictures of Hollis Woods. Pictures of Hollis Woods takes place in a modern-day time period at multiple different places including: a car, present foster homes, past foster homes, and more. The main character is a twelve-year-old girl, Hollis Woods, who has a great imagination, memory, and artistic skill. She has been placed in multiple foster homes and eventually runs away from these families as she gets tired of them.

In this story, Hollis has to help out her current foster parent, Josie, as Josie gradually gets older. Hollis never experienced something like this before, and she realizes that she can’t keep running away from her problems. This experience causes her to mature and become more responsible. If you think you’d like a realistic fiction story about a young girl and her relationships with past and present foster families, then you should read this book. Overall, it’s a good story about life and feelings; however, the book’s ending was to be expected and lacked interest. ~Karly

Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. New York: Scholastic, 2004. Print.

Some things in life a person just can’t know. Sarah Weeks creates a wonderful story, called So B. It, around this very sentence. This story takes place in a small apartment in the city of Reno. The most important characters in the book are Heidi and her Mama. Mama is mentally disabled and Heidi is trying to understand her even though she says the strangest things, like “soof”.

Heidi is at Hilltop Home when she realizes the true meaning of knowledge. She hears the word “soof” wherever she goes. It is the one word in Mama’s vocabulary that Heidi can’t figure out. In the end, Heidi realizes that some things in life a person just can’t know. Anyone between ages eleven and fourteen will love this book about a nice girl with the quest to know everything. I love this book because it combines a world a world falling apart around a little girl and a mystery almost impossible to solve. Happy reading. ~Spencer

Leslie Connor. Waiting for Normal. New York, NY: Harper Collins: 2008. Print

In this Schneider Family Award winning book, Leslie Connor creates a twelve-year-old girl that has to deal with family problems. Waiting for Normal is about a girl that lives with a crazy irresponsible mother that keeps leaving Addie home alone. Addie is a smart, responsible, and mature girl and not at all like her mother. This story takes place in present day Schenectady, New York.

Addie comes of ages by maturing and becoming a young woman. Addie learns how to take care of herself when her mom leaves her alone at home. However when Addie needs help she can always go to Dwight, her stepfather, or Soula and Elliot, her neighbors and close friends.
This book has many happy and sad moments. If you like reading books that have unexpected endings, fiction, or overcoming family problems, then I highly suggest this book for you. ~Annie

Monday, January 09, 2012

More Guest Reviews from Voorheesville Middle School

Park, Barbara. The Graduation of Jake Moon. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000. Print.

If you know anything about Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s is a bad thing. The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park is set in New York with a young boy named Jake Moon. His grandfather, Skelly, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Jake must cope with the fact that his grandfather has a terrible disease. All-the-while, Jake must maintain a normal life. But, as he tries to make friends and maintain his, “normal” life, Skelly can destroy it in seconds.

Jake feels angry with Skelly for how he acts even though he knows he has Alzheimer’s. Jake
will soon realize how much he does truly love Skelly when he wanders off and gets lost in a city. If you like depressing, funny, or heart-warming books, this is the perfect book for you. This book truly shows the problems of theaverage boy; plus, an Alzheimer’s diseased grandfather. ~Alex

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: G.P, 2003. Print.

The day Lonnie Motions parents died his whole life changed. He was separated from his sister and moved into a foster home in New York. He has a new teacher, Miss M, and a foster mom, Miss Edna. Lonnie lives in a foster home near his old home where all the memories come flooding back.
Lonnie’s challenge in the book is to mature and move on with his life after his parents’ death. His sister moves away to a friendly home but doesn’t take Lonnie with her. His relationship with his sister starts to get distant; soon the parents decide they don’t want him to come around her anymore. He finally realizes that his life is never going to be the same and accepts it. He uses poetry to get out of his head and find happiness. I think this book would
be good for kids around 10-13 years old because you can understand the pain of Lonnie and relate to it. ~Brianna

Prellar, James. Six Innings. New York: Feiwal and Friends, 2008. Print.

The title of the book is Six Innings by James Preller. Imagine that you are playing in a
championship game of baseball tied at 3 going into the bottom of the 5th inning. The main characters are Sam Reister, Nick Clemente, and Tyler Weinberg. Tyler and Nick are players. Nick plays for Northeast Gas & Electric. Tyler plays for Earl Grubb’s Pool Supplies. Sam is the announcer of the game. The coming of age moment is that Tyler’s parents are never there. It makes him feel upset and abandoned.

If you like a book about hard work in sports and not giving up, this is the book for you. The game was tied 3 to 3 going into the bottom of the 5th inning and well I guess you will just have to read the book to see who wins the game. ~John

Friday, January 06, 2012

New Year - Guest Reviewers

I've been doing a lot of reading in anticipation of the Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, and Printz awards from the American Library Association. I have favorites and many that I want to share with you. However, I'd like to start with some older titles that were recently read and reviewed at the Voorheesville Middle School with Ms. Kathleen Gaspary's 7th grade English class.

Gantos, Jack. Joey Pigza Loses Control. New York City: HarperCollins, 2000. Print.

What could possibly happen to a hyperactive 11-year-old boy when his medicine patches get flushed down a toilet? Joey Pigza Loses Control, by Jack Gantos, tells a funny but serious story of a preteen and his dad who both try to overcome their ADHD. The story takes place in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. The main characters are Joey and his father,Carter Pigza. The main conflict in the story is between Joey and himself. Joey wants to please his dad by not wearing his patches, but he knows that if he does not wear his patches, the old wired Joey will catch up to him. The “coming of age” moment for Joey happens one morning when he is preparing for a semifinal baseball game. He notices some of his old behaviors, like pulling out his hair. He knows he needs his meds, or else bad things will happen.
The protagonist of this book puts himself in many hilarious situations, such as when he covers himself in shaving cream, making him look like the abominable snowman. Those who enjoy comedy would LOVE this book, but it also has a serious side to it. The story provides an understanding of the challenges faced by an adolescent with ADHD. ~Ryan

Preller, James. Bystander. New York: Macmillan Company, 2009. Print.

Thirteen-year-old Eric Hayes moves to Bellport, Long Island ready to face the new school year andgets off to an interesting start. Griffin, the popular kid in his grade seems nice. But is he trustworthy? Eric becomes friends with Griffin and comes totrust him. (More than he should.), When Griffin takes one of Eric’s most cherished possessions, it is Eric’s “coming of age” moment and Eric takes matters into his own hands. Eric fights back, physically and verbally. He also becomes aware of who to trust. And then he finds out just the kind of person Griffin Connelly really is and that he won’t give up this fight. He also encourages others to stand up for
themselves. I think anyone between the age of 10-14 who has dealt with bullies, had trouble standing up for themselves or moved to a new place would like this book. ~Maya

Bauer Joan. Stand Tall. New York: G.P Putnum & Sons, 2002. Print.

Who could believe a flood and a new girl and a divorcecould change a kid’s life? This book takes
place during spring in a city in 2002. Tree is the most important character in the book. He is trying to get people to stop thinking he is good at basketball just because he is tall. Tree grows up by learning how to take care of himself and others. The other way he grows up is he learns to be morerespectful and responsible.
People who are younger than the age recommendation wouldn’t like this book because they
wouldn’t understand it. I didn’t like how the book started. ~Ian