Browsing Tag

7th grade

Books We Love: A Rambler Steals Home

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

Huge thanks to Carter Higgins for sharing a copy of A Rambler Steals Home with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!


A Rambler Steals Home is a book about a lot of things: family, love, loss, friendship, and unanswered questions, to name a few. It’s a story with charm, character, and compassion. It’s a story with wit and wisdom, too.

Derby Christmas Clark spends her days traveling across the country in an RV with her father, Garland and her brother, Triple.. Each summer, she settles in Ridge Creek, Virginia: a small town most well known for its minor-league baseball stadium. Derby’s summer family includes a cast of characters: a small-town boy named Marcus whose friendship means loads to Derby, a grown woman named June who almost fills in as a mama for Derby, and others.

Derby’s voice in this book is so incredibly strong. Author Carter Higgins does an incredible job of capturing the spirit, hope, and worries of a pre-teen girl, while at the same time giving Derby an edge of being wise beyond her years.

While Derby herself is a huge draw for this book, so is the town of Ridge Creek. Fans of baseball will fall in love with a town where the joys and disappointments of the game are the joys and disappointments of the community. Derby lives her summer life by innings and strikes, which gives her journey a fantastic pace.

I would highly recommend this title for middle grade readers and middle grade classrooms. I just know that readers will connect deeply with Derby, and also learn lots from her journey.

Books We Love: Draw the Line

Books We Love

Have you ever thought about the power we give to lines? We use them to connect, and we use them to divide. They make up paths from place to place, as well as borders that separate. In Draw the Line, two boys are each drawing their own lines when they discover that some magical things can happen if they team up. In order to create something amazing, they’re going to have to let go of the things that stand between them.

The fact that this book is wordless creates so many possibilities for its use in the classroom. It will inspire countless conversations on friendship, community, and communication. Younger readers can use the book to discuss how they connect with others, while readers through high school age can connect this story to current events. Readers of all ages can imagine the thoughts and conversations of the two artists. How might words help them achieve their goal? How might words stand in their way?

I can only imagine the impact this book would have if it were put in the hands of every child and adult. This is a book that is desperately needed in today’s world. Draw the Line will inspire us all to live our lives drawing lines of connection.


Draw the Line will be released in October 2017 by Roaring Brook Press.

Thanks to Roaring Brook Press for making an Advanced Review Copy of this book available at the International Literacy Association conference.

Review: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium and Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum

Books We Love, Uncategorized

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Alistair Grim’s Odditorium and Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum
by Gregory Funaro

My Rating:
★★★★½

Note: Alistair Grimm’s Odd Aquaticum will be released in the U.S. on January 5th, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion. A link to preorder is included at the bottom of this review.

As a teacher, I’m often searching for books that are complex, well-written, and engaging all at the same time. With Gregory Funaro’s Odditorium series, readers have hit the jackpot. Both books create a steampunk-inspired magical universe in which anything can, and does, happen. Readers will be instantly hooked by the well-developed characters, the fast-paced plot, and the intelligent cliffhangers.

Allistair Grimm’s Odditorium tells the story of a chimney sweep apprentice named Grubb who gets swept up (haha) in an unexpected adventure. As he learns more about Allistair Grimm, the man who takes him in and brings him along on his magical journeys, he begins to see how he may fit in as a part of the team. As Allistair Grimm, Grubb and friends seek to rid London of the evil Prince Nightshade, readers are quickly entranced by the adventure.

Allistair Grimm’s Odd Aquaticum follows the same crew as the mystery deepens and the action picks up. With magic and mystical folklore galore, this sequel will be a great fit for middle grade readers and adults that love connections to the classics. In this book, the story is laid out even more strongly and the characters are well developed.

It’s very hard to write summaries for the Odditorium books, because there are so many exciting moments that I don’t want to give away! Suffice to say, these books are action-packed with engaging plot twists and major page-turner moments. The series fits in perfectly with a middle grade fandom that loves the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter book universes.

Another huge strength of the series is the brilliant illustrations by Vivienne To. With just enough illustrations to create wonderful visualizations in the reader’s mind, To manages to establish a universe that blends so seamlessly with Funaro’s amazing writing.

Pick up a copy of this book at your local bookstore, on Amazon, or on Kindle. If you like middle grade fantasy, steampunk, or just a good old-fashioned story, you’ll love this one.

Classroom Connections

The Odditorium series could be a great fit for an independent reading project or a small group read. With such a deep and complex plot, there are many opportunities for meaningful learning.

  • There are a lot of points in which the character’s backstories can be pieced together through multiple, seemingly random details. Students can practice inference making and supporting their inferences with evidence from the text.
  • Funaro is a master at cliffhanger endings! My third grade students love cliffhanger endings, and Funaro does a great job hinting at one in the conclusion of nearly every chapter. Students can make a list of the cliffhanger endings they spot, then look to see what language and specific words Funaro used to imply cliffhangers.


Book Information

Title: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium & Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum
Author: Gregory Funaro
Illustrator:  Vivienne To
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: January 6th, 2016
Price: US $16.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
GregoryFunaro.com
Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius

Books We Love, Uncategorized

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A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius
by Stacey Matson

My Rating:
★★★★

Note: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius will be released in the U.S. on Sunday, November 1st by Sourcebooks.

I’m always looking for engaging and interesting books that are told from a boy’s perspective, because I find that the boys in my classroom love connecting to the main character in that way. A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius was previously released in Canada, and reviews from readers on Goodreads convinced me it might be a good fit for middle grade readers here in the U.S.

Told through letters, journal entries, emails, progress reports, notes from teachers, newspaper articles, and other written mementos of 7th grade, A Year in the Life tells the story of Arthur Bean: a witty, quirky, hilarious and sensitive 7th grade boy. The story begins in October, when Arthur returns to school after a tragic family loss. Arthur immediately sets his sights on a writing prize that will be awarded to someone at his school at the end of the year, and decides to become famous through his writing. The one problem is that he doesn’t have any ideas for what to write about. While he waits for inspiration to strike, we learn about Arthur’s distain for Robby Zack (a classmate) and his crush on Kennedy (the cool girl in school). When Arthur is matched with Kennedy as a writing partner and is forced to tutor Robby, he has to confront his fears and learn how to navigate working with others. Meanwhile, he is also learning how to grieve as he and his father work through their first year without Arthur’s mother.

One thing I loved about this book was the style in which the story was told. Reflecting what may be a trend in YA and middle grade literature, the use of “artifacts” like letters, emails and notes to tell the story was engaging and effective. It gave each character a really unique voice, and it allowed us to see how Arthur’s personality is reflected in his school assignments as compared to his personal journal or his email interactions with others. Humor was very effectively used in this book, and it had me laughing out loud more than once! One particularly funny aspect was Arthur’s tendency to talk about other books and plot lines in an attempt to pass them off as his own – many of the books that are used will be known by middle grade readers, so they will be able to pick up on this humor.

One aspect of the book that I didn’t love quite as much was the voice given to Kennedy, Arthur’s crush and the “cool girl” of the 7th grade. Her part of the story was told through her emails to Arthur about their creative writing project. Her emails were written with an exclamation point at the end of every sentence, capital words written throughout, and LOLOLOL written throughout. While Kennedy’s character is known to be smart and clever, her written voice was very stereotypical for a middle school girl, and it would be nice to see her bubbly personality reflected in a different way. However, Arthur himself fights gender roles through his love of knitting and other interests, which may help some readers feel more included.

Overall, this was a very strong book for middle grade readers that asks big questions about life and loss. I can definitely see this book becoming a favorite of some 6th-8th graders. Fortunately, Arthur’s adventures aren’t over quite yet, as a sequel is coming soon from author Stacey Matson!

Classroom Connections

  • Much of the story is told through Arthur’s responses to classroom assignments given to him by his teacher. Many of these align strongly with what students will be doing in school. In particular, assignments like the interviewing of other people will help students in their own writing. Assignments from the book can be given to the class to strengthen their own creative writing. Students will also be able to compare their experiences with the assignment to the experiences of Arthur, Robby, and Kennedy.

Book Information
Title: A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius
Author: Stacey Matson
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: November 1st, 2015
Price: US $15.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
StaceyMatson.com

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own!