Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

This book was a challenge to read!  DiCamillo wrote in a very different style from her other novels, and it was confusing.  There were so many clauses and modifiers that sometimes I had to reread sentences without these parts to understand the literal meaning.  Only then could I add the details back in to try to figure out what they were adding to the story.  In many cases, I didn't figure out why the sentences were so convoluted.

The story, however, was an interesting and original tale about a boy searching for his long lost sister--so long lost he doesn't actually know if she's alive for the first half of the book!  Without giving much away, I feel that the story has much to offer, but I was not a fan of how it was offered.

I did pick this book because it had the word elephant in the title.  I am currently infatuated with elephants.  I am not sure I would recommend it as a read to friends or students because it was so trying to follow the storyline, and much of what challenged me did not feel necessary or beneficial.  However, I enjoyed the plot and character development.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

This book was a very quick read, but it was a wonderful story.  I liked it both as a reader and a teacher.  I liked it more as a librarian because it was recommended to me by one of my avid readers.

I had to look up the reading level, because it leaves a lot to be assumed/understood by the reader, with wonderful hints to point him in the right direction.

For example, the characters are all named with character traits.  One character is named Fastidious.  I had to reach back into my junior year of high school (thank you Mary Nyhan) when I had this word as a vocabulary word, in order to relate that character's personality, behaviors, and feelings to the name attributed.  It added levels to the book that help bridge the gap between "reading by your self" books and adult books.  

Scholastic Books rates this as a T in the guided reading level guide, and suggests that it is mostly for those around 6th grade.  I'd agree, but I think it could be enjoyed by even 3rd grade readers, just at a different level.  

This book I would definitely recommend to third through sixth graders looking to build their reading skills.


Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

I was told this book was for children.  It is not a children's book.

It is a book about a couple who desperately want a child, but never had one to raise.

It is a book based in reality but rooted in fantasy and folklore.  I enjoyed the blend of fiction and reality, but the story is not suitable for children.  I think the themes are adult, though and through.  The characters' actions may not be completely understood by young readers; to be honest, many of the characters' actions and feelings I had to assume were justified or realistic because I have never been in similar situations.

The book was well crafted and carefully plotted. The characters were built with care and precision.  There is an element of wildness to which every reader can relate and a central theme around that character allows for the poignant lesson that we all relate to the wild-child (indeed, we all bear her within).

However, I do not recommend this book to my readers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, is a brilliantly emotional tale of living with cancer.  The sixteen year old narrator shamelessly tells her story with humor and realistically witty dialogue for people who deal with cancer daily.  It is not a pitiful disorder, nor is it immune to jokes, but it is sad.

I absolutely loved this book and recommend it whole-heartedly.  However, it does include mature content and adult themes are dealt with maturely.  It is not a children's book, but a teenage book.  

I will not be able to carry this title in my library, but if I ran a middle school library or a high school library I would purchase this in a second.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

small as an elephant

small as an elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Jack must survive after his mother abandoned him at a camp ground.  Apparently, she leaves him often enough that Jack is not worried--at first.  As days go by and the school year begins he becomes more and more concerned.  His hunger and efforts to survive cold nights and being a child on the run lead to an intreguing story.

It reminded me of Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, but less terrifying.  The trials of Jack are certainly gripping, but not so haunting as King's novel.

This novel would be good for 5th and 6th graders.  I had a difficult time putting it down all weekend.


UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale #1) by Chanda Hahn

I recently read this book on my Kindle.  It was an interesting story that kept me rooting for the main character and intrigued as to what would happen next.  

I did find that the story would be better suited for middle schoolers because it dealt with some mature themes.  However, the book was not difficult to read (when you learned to get past the type-os).  

In this story, a 16-year-old unlucky girl finds out a mysterious secret about her family and the reason for her unluckiness.  By embracing her family history she would face many hardships, all that could kill her, but if she survives she could save her brother.  Her choice is a difficult one and keeps readers on the edge of their seats.  

A fast page-turner.  And the beginning of a promising series.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

This young adult novel follows a teenage girl throughout the terrors of a war in the Congo all while trying to raise a young ape who is completely attached to her.  Her understanding of the world, herself, and others is impeccable for a young teen, but her story is also impeccably told.  

I enjoyed the story line, character development, thematic threads, and lasting memory this book gave me.  I would recommend it to fifth, sixth, and seventh graders.  I believe both boys and girls would enjoy this read: it has no limiting factors that make it sway more toward girls or boys.  This may be one reason I liked it--although the main character was a girl, she was not completely girly.  

The novel does touch upon heavy themes that may not be appropriate for an immature fifth grader.  However, I do think the story would carry on and still be enjoyable without a complete understanding of or respect for those circumstances.  While I think older readers would still find the story enjoyable, they may feel it is a bit young for them because the age of the main character is 14--most children enjoy reading about people older than them.  The difficulty level is appropriate for the average 10-year-old to approximately a 13-year-old.  But parents will enjoy this book, too!