Time to review the books I read this week!
Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan
abandoned, audio-book, character-development, characters-with-disabilities, grandparents, intermediate-kids-book, multicultural, setting
This story is about Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw who is not always proud of her name. She lives with her Gram and has difficulty speaking up and not always fitting in. Naomi and her little brother were abandoned by their mother when they were much younger, and hardly remember their father. Owen has a few issues he's had since birth, but he doesn't let them get him down. Naomi has a special talent for carving soap, and even though both kids have some things to overcome, life with Gram in their little trailer at Avocado Acres in Lemon Tree, California is mostly okay...that is, until their mother shows up. I thought the mother and her bad boyfriend were more caricatures than realistic characters, but things get pretty interesting when they threaten to take Naomi back with them to be "friends" with Carl's daughter. They decide they don't want Owen since she never really connected with him due to his problems. Gram fights back and flees, trailer and all, to Mexico to try to find the kids' father. There, Naomi discovers her heritage and her voice. I think middle graders will like this story and will think the flight into Mexico is exciting. The sense of place is strong, and the story plays in your mind like a movie.
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
audio-book, character-motivation, character-who-writes, death, intermediate-kids-book, setting, theme
This story reminded me a bit of Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why in that it explores the way people treated a character who's now dead. Olive dies from a bike accident and Martha Boyle is somewhat haunted by her. Olive was a lonely and slightly odd girl whom nobody befriended. Martha wishes she had and now wants to offer Olive something for closure. We learn that everyone has value and everyone deserves a friend. Martha learns that the world doesn't revolve around just her.
BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman
friendship, mock-caldecott-2013, picture-book
This endearing story of friendship between a boy and robot will steal your heart.
The Dot by Peter Reynolds
art, character-development, character-motivation, creativity, leaving-a-legacy, picture-book, theme
I've read a lot ABOUT this book, so I finally read it. I love this story! Kudos to Vashti's teacher! Vashti is convinced she can't draw. When Vashti's art teacher asks Vashti to sign her rebellious and angry dot, then frames it with a swirly gold frame, it motivates Vashti to draw more dots, creating an entire collection of dots. She passes on what she has learned about art to another relunctant and discouraged child, only to inspire his own inner artist. I've seen great ways teachers have used this book to inspire creativity in their students. Can't wait to read it to my students.
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
adopted-foster-child, death, friendship, intermediate-kids-book, mock-newbery-2013, setting, symbolism
Beautiful book jacket and great title! Lots to think about with this one! I can't say I even completely understood all of it (was Finn real?), but I still liked it a lot. It would be a great one to process with a book club. There are some eccentric characters in the little town of Blackbird Tree and across the ocean in Ireland - the women in Ireland reminded me of the old men in the movie Secondhand Lions. Naomi and Lizzie are little orphan girls trying to make sense of their circumstances and the mysterious appearance of a boy, Finn, who drops out of a tree one hot day. As the story unfolds, we discover suprising connections between the characters like "a delicate cobweb," linking them all. Love the language in this quirky story. I'd be curious to see what kids think of it. I think I'll put it in a student's hand tomorrow to find out!