Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Yay!  I'm finally back on track with my book reviews and I'm ready to give you some reviews of my latest reads.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai 

Such a good book!  I wasn't sure I would enjoy it because of how it is written in free verse, but after a few pages I really got into it.  And the fact that the story is based in the author's life makes the story that much more touching.  Would be a good book to read in an upper elementary or middle school Social Studies/ History class.

Kickers: Ball Hogs by Rich Wallace

This is the first book in the Kickers series about a fourth grade boy, Ben, and his teammates who play on a soccer team.  I like that this book teaches good sportsmanship within a sporty story about two competitive fourth grade boys.  If I was more into sports, I would have enjoyed this book much more, but I thought the story was okay.

Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary

I was never a huge Cleary fan growing up, so I hadn't really read any of her books. I was happy to come across this one and found it to be a well written, cute book.  Muggie Maggie is about a young girl who refuses to write and read cursive and her teacher's struggle to get her to change her mind.  I love how the adults let Maggie learn to want to write cursive in her own time (with a little bit of covert encouragement).

Owen Foote, Mighty Scientist by Stephanie Greene

Cute book about an elementary-aged boy who loves Science and wants to get into the "sciency" class next year by creating a fabulous Science Fair project with his best friend.  While I don't condone experimenting with animals, I did like the twist that the two boys presented their project with.  I won't give away what happened.

The Just Desserts Club by Johanna Hurwitz

Cute,but I didn't enjoy it as much as some of Hurwitz's other books.  I was also a little taken aback that the book mentions beer twice.  Not sure why a children's book needs to mention beer at all.  The story follows Cricket, a sixth grade girl who's well behaved and full of knowledge. She finds herself baking for special occasions that pop up throughout the school year and the recipes she uses are included in the book.  Might be a good book for a read aloud for younger elementary students, but the storyline probably isn't exciting enough for upper elementary.

Class President by Johanna Hurwitz

This is a short chapter book so it's a quick read, but it's a good one about self-confidence and friendship.  I like that Hurwitz has different characters be the lead characters in her books.  This time it was Julio, Lucas' best friend who usually doesn't get much page time.  Julio wants to be class president, but he doesn't want to be the one to let everyone know it.  Luckily, he some good friends that recognize his potential and nominate him for the position.  Will we win or will Cricket, the girl who proclaimed in third grade that she would one day be the first female president of the United States win the election? 

Class Clown by Johanna Hurwitz

Lucas Cott is one of those students you hope you don't get in your class, but then by the end of the year, you hate to see him go.  I could see several of my students in this character.  He is full of potential and you could see him grow throughout this book, short as it was.  As an adult, I enjoyed this book, but I think younger readers would enjoy this book, too.  It's funny and it has a good message about becoming the best you that you can be... and the endless possibilities of what you can become.

Starting School by Johanna Hurwitz

Another cute book in the adventures of Lucas Cott, this time focusing in on his twin brothers Marius and Marcus who are just starting school.  And like their brother, Marius and Marcus are full of mischief, but still lovable characters.  This would be a fun read aloud for first or second graders, but third or fourth graders might also enjoy reading it on their own.

This was the first of Ms. Hurwitz's books that I read and I enjoyed it so much that I starting reading her other books with Lucas Cott as the main character.  I enjoy her books because although the characters are always getting into some kind of trouble, they do end up learning a lesson in the end.

Aldo Applesauce by Johanna Hurwitz

Aldo is the new boy at school and on his very first day he gets the nickname Applesuace, all because he brought applesauce for lunch. Why did his mom have to pack applesauce?  Luckily Aldo does make a friend his first day, Dede.  Unfortunately, Dede is the reason he got the nickname Applesauce because she spilled his applesauce at lunch.  But Aldo like Dede and is determined to get to know her better and to find out why she sometimes wears a fake mustache.

This book is about perseverance and friendship.  It's a quick read, but it has some great lessons.  Might be good for a book study or book club for third or fourth grade.

7 X 9 = Trouble by Claudia Mills

Wilson is a third grade boy who is having trouble learning his multiplication tables, but he sure does love his class pet, Squiggles.  His teacher has promised everyone in the class an ice cream cone when they pass their 12s and Wilson is afraid that he might be the only one in his class not to get a cone. Not only that, but if he doesn't learn all his multiplication tables, how will he ever convince his parents that he deserves his very own pet to take care of.  With the help of his parents, his friends, and even his little brother who is only in Kindergarten, Wilson soon gets up to his 12s.  Will he pass or will his chances for an ice cream cone and a new pet be doomed?  Quick, easy read, but enjoyable.  Even fourth graders might enjoy this one.

The Next-Door Dogs by Colby Rodowsky

This is a story about a girl named Sara who is afraid of dogs because she was "attacked" by dogs when she was younger.  The "attack" was by her aunt's dogs and it was more of a "licking," but she was knocked down and big animals can be scary to little children.  So it is understandable that she has a fear of dogs. And she has been able to avoid dogs most of her life, until a new neighbor moves in next door with her two BIG dogs. Sara really likes her new neighbor, Ms. Harrison, but she doesn't really care to get to know her dogs, until one day when there is an accident and Sara has to go over to Ms. Harrison's house. Will Sara be brave enough to get help for Ms. Harrison and will she finally overcome her fear of dogs?

Cute story for K-3.  Would make a good read aloud for younger grades.

Jake Drake: Bully Buster by Andrew Clements

Jake is a fourth grader who loves his teacher and loves being in school. But that isn't the case every year. Like the year he was in second grade and a new student named Link came to town. Link was a big kid, even in second grade.  Link put a target on Jake the very first day and became his own personal bully, nicknaming Jake Flake and Fake.  What was worse, Link rode the bus home with Jake everyday and lived just down the street. There was no escaping Link.  Jake tried to make the best of his life being bullied, but one day Link went too far.  Link purposely splashed water on Jake's pants while they were in the bathroom and then told everyone that Jake had wet himself.  Jake was so mad, that he punched Link in the arm. This got Jake sent to the principal's office.  Jake could have told the principal the real reason why he punched Link, but he was afraid if he "tattled" it would just make Link bully him more.  So Jake said that he thought Link spilled water on him and he was mad about it. Jake got off without a punishment, but Link was still a bully.  As if that wasn't bad enough, their teacher paired them up for a report about Native Americans and Link bullies Jake into doing their report on his own.  But Jake decides not to back down and tells Link that he will have to do the craft part of the project or they will just get an "F."  Will Jake's boldness pay off and will Link ever back down?

I liked this story and found that it had some great lessons in it.  It would be a great book to read and talk about bullying.  Even second graders could understand the plot in this one.

Jake Drake: Teacher's Pet by Andrew Clements

Poor Jake. Although he is doing everything he should, his friends don't like him very much. They think he's a teacher's pet. And it's all because he tries to do the right thing, but gets called out on it by his teachers and praised for his behavior, in front of everyone.  Can he convince everyone that he's really not a teacher's pet or will he be branded for life and lose all his friends.

Would be a good read aloud or an independent read for high readers in second and third grade.

Jake Drake: Know It All by Andrew Clements

Another great Jake Drake book! This one is about Jake's experience with the science fair in third grade.  Jake is super excited to participate in his school's first science fair because the winner gets a brand new, state of the art computer system! If it's one thing Jake loves, it's computers. So Jake begins working on his science project right away. He knows it has to be good if he wants to beat the know-it alls in his class, Marsha and Kevin.  So he keeps his project a secret.  He works really hard until a few weeks before the science fair when his best friend Willie tells him that he is dropping out of the science fair.  Jake begins to wonder if he should drop out, too, but then decides he's worked too hard to quit. So he comes up with a plan to get Willie back in the science fair and together they work on Jake's project so that they can both get credit for it. Will Marsha or Kevin, the know-it alls, win the science fair or will Jake and Willie take first prize?

Great book about perseverance and determination.  Jake is such a great role model and he's funny, too.  Second graders through fourth or fifth graders would like this book.

The Jacket by Andrew Clements

Phil spots his brother's jacket on a boy in his school and accuses him of stealing the jacket.  But it turns out that Phil's mother had given the jacket to the boy's grandmother, who in turn gave it to the boy.  Phil later learns that the boy's name is Daniel and his grandmother is actually Phil's family's cleaning lady. This whole incident causes Phil to do some self reflecting and he begins to wonder if he would have reacted the same way if he had seen a white boy wearing the jacket.  After this incident he is suddenly more aware of the color of people around him and the color of his neighbors and the color of the kids on his school bus, which then begins to make him wonder if he is prejudice.  Phil does talk to his mom about how he is feeling, but she basically tells him he is being silly. That he is a good boy.  I wish that part of the story had been developed more, but it is probably an accurate reflection of a typical discussion that would take place between a mother and a son in this situation.  Good story about how prejudice still exists. Would be a good book to use for an elementary book club.

Herbie Jones by Suzy Kline

Herbie Jones is a third grader miserably stuck in the "Apple" reading group, the lowest reading group in his class. But he and his best friend, Raymond, are determined to make it out of the "Apple" group before the end of the year. And it looks like Herbie might just make it when he scores his first 100 on his spelling test, but he still can't seem to do well on his reading worksheets.  Soon, his teacher has him take some assessment tests with a Reading Coach who discovers that he is a really good reader. This seems to boost Herbie's self-esteem and he continues to do well on his spelling tests.  His buddy, Raymond, isn't as motivated. So Herbie helps Raymond come up with a plan to sort of get out of the "Apple" group and into the "Spider" group.

I remember the days when kids were put into different reading groups and although they were given cutsie animal or fruit or even colored names, everyone always knew which group was the high group and which group was the low group.  I don't know that so much of this goes on today, at least not in the system I work in.  Students are now seperated into classes rather than broken up into groups within the same class, but kids still know which class is high and which class is low.  So although I don't necessarily like the thought of the reading groups in the story, I am sure many students could relate to it.

One other thing that gave me pause was that Herbie's dad spanked him at one point.  Some readers might find that part a little unappealing, but spanking does still happen today.

This would be a good book for a second or third grader.  I think students older than that would find the story too juvenile.

What's the Matter with Herbie Jones by Johanna Hurwitz

Short chapter book about a third grade boy who suddenly finds himself crushing on the smartest girl in his class,  but his best friend is determined to snap him out of it.  It's a true puppy love story that lasts about a day and a half.  Second and third graders might enjoy it, but I would recommend picking up a copy with an updated cover because kids do judge a book by its cover.

This was actually my 100th book I've read this year, which still is amazes me since I only read 103 books in total last year. Well, it might have been more, but I only started keeping track through Goodreads last February.  I am shooting for 240 books this year since I've already read so many.

So what have you been reading lately? Anything I should add to my "To Read" pile?

*I'm an affiliate for things I've bought or used personally.  If you click through any referral links (if included), at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.  Thank you for your support in this way.


  1. My goodness you read so many must be a speed reader!!!

    I just recently finished up the second book in the Divergent series.....great books!

    Mind Sparks

    1. LOL...I just don't have much of a life. =)

      I love the Divergent series. Can't wait for the next one to come out!