Bethany's Readers' Advisory

The place to go for readers' advisory on books for children, teens, and adults

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt August 18, 2016

book cover2Ally knows she is different from the other kids. Reading is hard for her, almost impossible. She’s gotten good at hiding it from teachers, her mother, everyone. She’s become the master at creating a diversion, saying something funny, even getting sent to principal’s office if she has to, just to keep her secret. But her secret is draining to keep. It feels like she’s carrying a heavy weight that makes it hard to keep afloat. When she starts sixth grade, her teacher Mr. Daniels sees what’s really going on. It is a relief for Ally, like the weight has been taken from her shoulders. But can Mr. Daniels really help her? As far as she knows, there’s no cure for dumb.

This is a heartwarming story about a girl with dyslexia. It is both believable and unbelievable that her parents and previous teachers did not catch on to her struggles. I want to believe that someone would have noticed, but I’ve heard many stories about kids slipping through the cracks. I would recommend this story to upper elementary or younger middle schoolers who will be able to relate to Ally’s desperation to have her problems disappear and wanting to blend in with her classmates.

3 out of 5 stars


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley March 11, 2016

War That Saved My LifeThe story begins as Ada is punished for looking out the window of the dingy one-bedroom London apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother Jamie. Ada is nine years old and has never been allowed to leave the apartment. Her mother tells Ada that people would be disgusted by her twisted foot. She accepts her lot in life. At least she has Jamie to keep her company. But when Jamie starts school and spends more and more time away, playing outside with his new friends, Ada realizes the little she has in life is slipping away.

Ada begins to prepare. For what, she doesn’t know. She teaches herself to walk on her crippled foot. It is painful, but she is used to pain. When Jamie comes home from school one day, he says a war is coming and they are sending the children away from the city into the safety of the country. Ada realizes this is her chance to escape her cruel mother, the nights spent locked in the cupboard as punishment for the slightest infraction, the life spent trapped. She and Jamie run away and find themselves thrust into the home of Susan Smith, a strange but kind woman. Ada finally has a life of freedom, but can she really trust that things are as good as they seem? Or do all good things come to an end?

This was an outstanding historical fiction novel about vulnerability, trust, and redemption. Ms. Bradley’s books pack an emotional punch and present history in an interesting and relatable way. I would recommend this to older children and teens. I also think this would be a great read aloud for a classroom.

5 out of 5 stars


West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Filed under: ages 10-14,drama,fantasy,Uncategorized — Bethany @ 5:24 pm
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West of the MoonAstri’s father left Norway for America, promising to send for her and her sister as soon as he could. Unfortunately, her aunt and uncle sell her to a nasty goat farmer before she receives even one letter. After months of punishing physical labor and mistreatment, Astri escapes her captor, pausing only long enough to retrieve the mysterious girl also being held captive by the goatman and her younger sister. The strange trio must stay ahead of the goatman and make their way toward America, armed only with a stolen troll treasure, a magical hairbrush, and the hopes of fairy tales and their own imaginations.

This was an interesting story and a refreshing departure from the typical young adult novel. The descriptions of the Norwegian countryside and the ambiguity of the time period added to its fairy tale-like quality. An added bonus came in the author’s note at the end, explaining the story was inspired by a line from her great great grandmother’s diary. Norwegian words and folklore make for an intriguing tale. I would recommend this to teens and adults who like fairy tales and stories with a bit of magic.

4 out of 5 stars


Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli January 17, 2013

Maniac MageeNo one is sure who was the first to call him Maniac.  He just appeared in town one day.  After Jeffrey Magee’s parents died in a trolly crash, he started running and didn’t stop until he arrived in Two Mills.  Along his path to finding a real home, Jeffrey meets Amanda, a book-loving girl his age, an elderly former baseball star named Grayson, the wild McNab family, and a boy nicknamed Mars Bar.  In a time when blacks and whites were separate, Maniac Magee is able see past the gap between the two sides of town and bring happiness to people he meets along the way.

This is a heartwarming story about a boy desperate to find his place in the world.  It takes place during a time when segregation was still in existence, yet Jeffrey remains colorblind and innocent to the racial tension around him.  I would recommend this to upper elementary students, especially boys, for Jeffrey’s adventurous spirit and athletic abilities.

1991 Newbery Medal Winner

5 out of 5 stars


East by Edith Pattou October 9, 2011

Rose grows up believing she is an east born child, just like her mother had planned.  Unlike an east, Rose is always outside exploring.  It is during one of her adventures that she first sees the white bear.  Years later, the family is hungry and poor.  They are days from being evicted from their home and Rose’s sister is gravely ill.  The white bear comes to their door with a proposition that Rose cannot refuse.  The family’s livelihood and Rose’s future are dependent on a strange, talking bear.

Rose’s new life is mysterious.  She is made very comfortable, yet she yearns to know more about the white bear and its past.  But what if Rose’s ignorance is the only thing keeping the white bear- and herself- safe?

I’ll admit I was hesitant about this book.  Fantasy and outdoor survival are generally not my favorite genres.  However, I persevered with East and was rewarded.  After a slow start, it was an exciting and intriguing story with a strong female lead.  Recommended for middle school and high school girls who like fantasy and adventure stories.


Stolen Children by Peg Kehret May 13, 2011

Filed under: ages 10-14,drama,suspense — Bethany @ 9:22 pm
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When 14-year-old Amy takes a last-minute babysitting job, she thinks it will be an easy afternoon.  She drifts off by the pool only to wake up and realize little Kendra is missing.  When the kidnappers come back, they take Amy with them.  Amy and Kendra are taken to a hidden cabin in the woods and Amy must keep them safe and, most importantly, alive .

The kidnappers make a DVD of the girls each day to send to the families.  The kidnappers use the DVDs to ensure a ransom, but Amy realizes this is her chance to send clues to her mother, her friend Jorja, and the police.  Will Amy be able outsmart the kidnappers and lead the police to them in time?

Many of the ideas in this book were far-fetched, but I liked Amy’s quick thinking and cool head under pressure.  She had very clever ideas to plant clues in the DVDs.  If I ever had a child and she was kidnapped, I would want Amy to be there.

2010-2011 Golden Sower Award winner


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