“She was wise enough to know that, despite what most people think, the best things in life are often quite ordinary.” I adore this quote and feel the need to embrace it more often. I think we tend to feel that everything has to be out-of-this world in order to mean anything. When, in fact, simple is truly beautiful. This is a book for children…middle-age readers, but as an adult I found it rather entertaining. It is called Remarkable and it is by author Lizzie K. Foley.
Remarkable is a town where everything and everyone is remarkable…except Jane Doe. Jane is surrounded by remarkable people: her mother is a remarkable architect, her father…a remarkable novelist, a brother who is a remarkable artist and a younger sister who has remarkable math skills. Her grandmama is in fact the mayor of Remarkable and may be the most remarkable of all. But not Jane….she takes after her grandfather…John Doe. Both are rather ordinary and overlooked. In fact, Jane is so ordinary that she is the only kid in the whole town to go to the public school while everyone else attends the School for the Remarkably Gifted.
Now insert a sea monster, some pirates and some devilish twins….and a story begins to develop and we discover that being “ordinary” is so much better than being remarkable in just one thing.
I loved the characters and the word play….so much fun to read!
I have just had the pleasure of receiving and reading an early copy of John Barlow’s latest book….Islanders! I feel quite privileged to have read the book before its release date (which is later this month). I am a fan of dystopia….a big fan. So I feel like I know a bit about the subject. I will tell you Islanders did not disappoint. Here is the scenario: the people of this world have made a mess of things on the mainland. Power has gotten to their heads, greed has taken over and all sense of compassion is gone. The mainland is in disarray and survival is the only concern.
The book opens on an island where brave, young & loyal Ben is being chased by two rather large, overbearing twin boys…..the action starts on page one….I love that, and so do students. What better way to grab their attention and get them trapped in a book. Ben was born on the Island. The Twins were brought here. Ben is an Islander, and they are Survivors. Though they quickly discover they are on the same side. The chase leads them to the shore where they find something…someone….with a clue to where the Survivors came from and where Ben’s dad may be located. Ben is driven to find his father and to discover what is out beyond the island. He recruits a small group and they set off….off to find a better place, his father, but ultimately a solution for complete survival for all on the island. You see, they have been on this island for 13 years and supplies and food are becoming scare….they need a solution. Thirteen year-old Ben answers that call.
Their adventure takes them to a place with mutated creatures, genetically melted people, the Complex and answers to many questions. The story moves fast and is filled with amazing backdrops, unforgettable characters and a story you want to continue even after the last page.
I am certain there will be a sequel (I am hoping). This is one well worth reading!
I pulled this book off the shelf at school because I was in the mood for a happy, upbeat book , and I felt the cover for Summer of the Gypsy Moths sounded like just what I needed. The author is Sara Pennypacker (love that name!), and she is the author of the Clementine series which is well-loved by elementary school girls. Very funny, upbeat and cleverly written. Well….what I discovered is that Ms. Pennypacker is quite a diverse writer. This is the story of Stella who is spending the summer with her great-aunt Louise. Stella is sent to live with her aunt while her mother is ordered to take parenting classes (so much for an upbeat story). Stella does not know her father and has had to be responsible for herself while taking care of her mother for 12 years as her mother “finds herself”. Stella is now to spend the summer on Cape Cod helping her aunt with the beach rentals and taking care of the blueberry bushes. Louise decides to take in a foster child, Angel, to keep Stella company (add more drama and sadness). Angel and Stella are complete opposites and do not form an immediate bond, but when tragedy strikes….the two react in a most unusual way and find their way in the midst of their unorthodox childhoods.
I loved this book….loved the characters….especially Stella and her obsession with Heloise (and all her helpful hints). I love her passion for order and cleanliness which balances out Angel’s chaos and disorder…..the book makes you laugh, gasp and cry….so much for a book aimed at middle readers. I was thoroughly taken by this original tale.
After a month of neglect, I am back. It has been a whirlwind of a month adjusting to the new school year both for myself and my four boys. We are starting to get into a rhythm….and I couldn’t be more pleased. I feel like I am running on empty far too often. I have been reading….reading and running are two of my stress relievers….I would be a pile of mush without them. I just have not had the opportunity to sit down and write up anything. The Battle of the Books competition, that I hold along with my friend Sue, is less than two weeks away. We have 46 teams of 5th and 6th graders registered who have been reading from a list of 12 books. They have been busy working with their sponsors to prepare for the competition. I am so excited for them and so proud of their hard work…..but what I really love is how much they love this competition, and how it has helped created real readers….lovers of books. Students tell me that they would never have picked up some of the titles on the list. Girls who didn’t think they would enjoy a story of a boy surviving in the Maine woods on his own, boys who did not want to read any book with a main character who is a girl, students who thought they hated historical fiction or fantasy….a lot of them will become true book lovers by the day of the competition.
I have asked the students to tell me their favorites from the list. This year it was Because of Mr. Terupt….hands down….no debate. (I have posted the review for that one on a previous post.) Let me tell you….when I told the students that the sequel to this book comes out October 9th…..I was greeted with squeals of delight and requests for me to purchase the book for the library straight away. Several told me they have pre-ordered it. Now that is cool.
So that brings me to their second favorite book…..Savvy by Ingrid Law. This is the story of soon-to-be 13 year-old Mississippi Beaumont A.K.A, Mibs. She is the middle child….two older brothers (Rocket & Fish) and two younger siblings (Samson & Gypsy). Their family is unique….unusual….is a most fantastic super natural way. On their 13th birthday, each family member (usually) acquires a SAVVY….a special ability that no one else seems to have. They do not know ahead of time what their savvy will be or when they will attain it….just sometime on their 13th birthday. Rocket has the ability to control electricity and Fish has a power over water and created a hurricane on his 13th birthday….not on purpose, of course. I really love Momma Beaumont’s savvy….everything she does is perfect….even when she messes up….she messes up perfectly. I like to pretend that is my savvy.
So, it is a few days away from Mibs’ 13th birthday….she is filled with excitement and anxiety waiting and wondering what her savvy will be….when tragedy strikes. Mibs’ father is in a terrible accident in another city, and it is not looking good. Momma heads out there to be with Poppa leaving the kids with family. Rightly so, Mibs’ birthday plans are put on hold, but Mibs believes in her heart that her Savvy will help save her father’s life and decides with the help of a few friends and family….to steal a bus and get to the hospital so she can be with Poppa on her 13th birthday and save his life. What follows is a life adventure…coming-of-age for Mibs…..an unforgettable story.
This morning during the older boys’ summer school work time, sweet Benny and I grabbed a few books and took advantage of some early reading. We read (once again) The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg. This is another family favorite….the cover is silently torn from all the gentle love. The story is about a boy named Banjo who sits down to eat his dinner…..his dinner is a sausage named Melvin. Well, Melvin has other plans than to be Banjo’s dinner, so he dashes off the table and as you would expect….everything follows. Since Banjo is a hungry little boy, he chases after his dinner on a crazy adventure through his town. Benny loves the fact that all the peas and carrots have names, and they can walk and have faces. He loves when a duck eats Paul (one of the peas). All four of my boys have loved this book and I have in fact used it as a read aloud when I have been a guest reader in their classrooms, and I have read it to the third graders that I teach. I am pretty sure I could recite the book from memory….and probably my boys could as well.
I have recently read Impeccable Petunia: Claws, Paws, Feathers and Jaws by Kate Christine with pictures by John Edwards. I was delighted by this first book about Petunia the chicken who does not quite fit in with all the other chickens…..who frankly are just like the mean girls we all remember from high….bossy, catty, spiteful, and full of gossip. Petunia has a special talent for gardening and interior design….apparently chickens can see many more shades of colors than humans….it is true. I fact checked it. So they would be obvious canidates for The Next Design Star on HGTV. Petunia becomes friends with the woman who is their new caretaker…Petunia names her Silkie. Life would assume to be sweet with Petunia able to garden and help decorate…she even makes nice with the cat Macy. Yet, those mean high school-like chickens have another plan for Petunia and it is not a pleasant one…..
Lovers of animal stories will really enjoy this original animal tale.