Summer Book review: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

image“Not every body can be the rock at the top of the pile.  There have to be some rocks at the bottom to support those at the top.”  That is what Albie’s grandfather tells Albie’s mother one night, and that that is how Absolutely Almost begins. Those few words set the mood for the entire story.  Albie never quite seems to measure up, yet he continues to move forward.  He sees a lot, but he somehow doesn’t see  everything.  He doesn’t see that  when kids at school are being nice to him it’s because they want something.  He doesn’t see how being famous isn’t cool.  But he does begin to see how being cool isn’t everything he thought it would be.  Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff is absolutely the best.  Her writing is heartbreakingly simple, sweet, and full of emotions.  She manages to convey so much with so few words.  The short chapters with simple titles offer insight into what goes on in Albie’s mind, seen through his eyes in soft-spoken eloquent writing.

Summer book Review: Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

cover48012-smallFrank Einstein is a boy genius; his parents are not, though you won’t really meet his parents because they are visiting Antarctica.  Frank is staying with his Grandpa Al, who’s Fix it Shop is in danger of being taken over, like every other building in town by an evil child madman.  So, Frank decides to build a robot, but as he prepares to “flip the switch”, the power goes out.  Grandpa forgot to pay the bill.  When the power comes back on, the robot awakens and rebuilds himself (he had an accidental fall from a pulley).  Not only does the robot rebuild him, he also builds a second robot.  Meet Klink and Klank.  Klink (the smarter one) and Klank (the not so smarter one) help Frank build his best science project ever: the antimatter motor.  But, that evil child madman who is taking over the town has plans to steal the robots and Franks latest invention.  Full of truly classic Scieszka humor best appreciated by the young (and young at heart) and plenty of good science, this will be one series that children and teachers will enjoy together.  The illustrations are full of detail and quite scientific looking with diagrams, flow charts, and lots of arrows.  This book would also be very enjoyable as a read aloud.   Thank you to AbramKids Books and Netgalley for the advance reading copy.

Summer Book Review: How To Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied

crocodileAna Wright is a shy, awkward seventh grader whose best friend, Liv, has just moved to New Zealand.  Her parents are zoologists, and Ana gets her love of animals from them.  But Ana has to face the “Sneerers” everyday- three very popular girls who like to make life miserable for Ana.  Ana could always count on Liv for support before Liv moved away.  Now, Ana is navigating the last few weeks of school without her.  To make matters worse, her grandfather, famous for his own animal TV shows, visits, and the family will be moving into the zoo as part of a reality TV show with her grandfather.  Ana wishes she could be brave like her parents and grandfather so she could teach zoo visitors about the animals.  But, with Liv gone, and the “Sneerers”  bullying her everyday, it can be hard.  I enjoyed the animal wisdom that appears at the beginning of each chapter; they provide a glimpse of what Ana is feeling.  This is a great story for tween girls who enjoy school, family, and friendship stories with a sprinkle of animals, too.

Third Graders Write Books

Mrs. Arendt's 3rd Grade Friday Library Class Book

Mrs. Arendt’s 3rd Grade Friday Library Class Book

The third graders have finished creating a book about the rainforest.  They began researching in April (see Rainforest Animal Research post), but because we only have one class per week, it does take some time to finish!  The students used an online tool called Bookemon.  Working with their partner each pair created a two-page spread on the animal they researched.  They also included some pictures of their animal  To finish the book, we worked as a class to choose a title and cover art.  I have two third grade classes, so we created one book for each class.  The books can be seen here and here.

Cover of book for Tuesday's class

Cover of book for Tuesday’s class

My First Book Review: Rain Reign

Rain Reign by Ann MartinSummer vacation will be here in a few more weeks!  One of my favorite things to do in the summer is read (actually, it’s one of my favorite things to do all year long, I just have more time in the summer!), so I thought I would post some book reviews during the summer months. This is my first book review post, and while the book will not be published until October, I was too excited to wait to share my review. Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing for the advance reading copy.

Sometimes a book grabs you by its intriguing opening line, other times the book grabs you by its simplicity.  Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin is one such book.  I have enjoyed many of Ann Martin’s books and this story is no exception.  Rose Howard is autistic- Asperger’s syndrome to be more exact.  She loves homophones (also known as homonyms), rules, and numbers-preferably prime numbers.  She is in fifth grade.   She lives with her dad and her dog, Rain.  But Rose, as an autistic person, has difficulty relating to others.  She gets very upset with other people don’t follow the rules, such as raising your hand in class or coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.  Her father also has a hard time relating to her.  Her father has to attend monthly meetings about Rose’s behavior at school, and he does not like it.  Fortunately for Rose, she also has her Uncle Weldon.  It is clear that they have a strong bond between them.  Uncle Weldon is her safe haven, always supportive and understanding.

When a hurricane hits their small town, Rose’s dad lets Rain out during the storm.  Rain disappears and Rose cannot understand why her dad let the dog out.  Rose searches for Rain for several weeks, doing so in a very organized manner.  What unfolds is a bittersweet story; Rose’s need to follow the rules forces her to make a decision that hurts her dad’s feelings and strains their already strained relationship.

What I found so compelling in the story is the forthright, first-person narration.  Rose is direct, honest, with just a trace of emotion.  Her nature is for the rules first, though she tries to improve her social interaction skills.  This is an excellent story for fans of Wonder by RJ Palacio and Rules by Cynthia Lord.