Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Review

Here are the books I read this week:

Liar & Spy Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

anti-bullying, art, audio-book, character-development, character-motivation, character-traits, friendship, mock-newbery-2013, theme

As much as I enjoyed the narrator of this book, I think I made a mistake in listening to it instead of reading it. As in When You Reach Me, there are a lot of subtleties, and I think I missed some by listening to the audio version. It didn't help that I was listening to it while also starting the school year, so while in the car, I tended to drift off, "writing" lesson plans in my head. I plan to reread it. In the meantime, I'm going to hold off writing a detailed review. I loved a lot of it - the strongly written quirky characters, the philosophies of life told through art (reminded me of Okay for Now), realistic and benignly dysfunctional (one of my new favorite terms I read in a review of See You at Harry's) families, and friendship.

The Insomniacs The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf
mood-tone, picture-book, problem-solving
This is a quirky story about a family who moves 12 time zones away for Mr. Insomniac's job, so they all have trouble adjusting. They can't sleep at night, even after drinking warm milk, counting, and taking hot baths. They decide to learn from nocturnal animals and plants and embrace their insomnia. The illustrations are Tim Burton-ish, perfect for the story.
Same Sun Here
by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
audio-book, character-traits, connections, empathy, friendship, grandparents, intermediate-kids-book, letters, mock-newbery-2013, multicultural, nature, point-of-view, setting, theme

I listened to the audio version of this endearing story, and I highly recommend it! Silas House and Neela Vaswani, the authors, narrate it. Because the characters, Meena and River, are pen pals and writing each other from very different backgrounds and settings - she from India, living in New York City, he from the hills of Kentucky - the voices and accents added a lot. Silas's voice reminds me of Lester Laminack's, and I could listen to him all day. Meena is a spunky and outspoken immigrant living in Chinatown, sometimes offending poor River by the girl stuff she shares with him, and River is a caring, poetic son of a coal miner who was so sweet, he broke my heart. As they share their lives through their letters, they reveal their hearts and minds so candidly, I didn't want it to end. Mountain top removal in Kentucky becomes a central problem to the story, and at one point, I was SO scared about what might happen to River, I could hardly stand it. My heart almost stopped! Unfortunately, I'm not sure this book would appeal to my 4th graders - it might be slightly too old for them, I'm not sure, but I loved it.

Creepy Carrots!  Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, Peter Brown (illustrator)

ghost-story, great-read-aloud, humor, mood-tone, picture-book

This is a really funny story about a bunny who loves eating carrots, but then feels like they are out to get him. Ordinary things turn into looming figures of evil carrots, following him everywhere. He finally decides to protect himself by building a fortress around the garden. Cute twist at the end!  Good for modeling a surprise ending.


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