Bethany's Readers' Advisory

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

Still Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper March 21, 2013

Still Just GraceGrace and her best friend Mimi watch as a new boy moves in next door to Mimi. When Grace and her family leave for a trip to Chicago, Grace worries that Mimi will become friends with the new boy and disgusting Sammy while she is gone. When Grace returns, it seems as if her fears have come true. Also, her plan to convince her new student teacher not to call her Just Grace (she is one of four girls named Grace in her class) not only doesn’t work, but she must work with the other Graces, including Big Meanie, to do a big school project. Will things work out for Just Grace?

Our copy of the first book in the series, Just Grace, was checked out, but I hoped I would be able to catch up. Grace is a down-to-earth character with problems at school and navigating friendships that girls this age could relate to. She also solves problems in realistic and positive ways. I will recommend this to upper elementary girls.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio December 17, 2012

WonderDeformed.  That’s the word that most people use to describe August Pullman’s face.  He has a rare genetic disorder and even after all the surgeries, his face is noticeably different.  He has gotten used to the stares, the double-takes, the comments. Up until now, Auggie’s mother has homeschooled him.  As he’s going into fifth grade, his parents bring up regular school.  Auggie is accepted to Beecher Prep and the principal even introduces him to a couple kids before school starts.  But will his classmates ever be able to look past his face to see him for who he really is- a regular kid just like them?

Ever feel like all you can see are your flaws?  This is the kind of book that will make you how easy things are when your eyes are in the right place, your ears look like ears, and people don’t gasp in horror at the sight of you.  Those who get to know August realize he’s funny, smart, and… a regular kid.  But middle school is a hard place for those who don’t fit in and your heart goes out to the big struggles of such a young person.

5 out of 5 stars

 

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper July 19, 2012

Melody has cerebral palsy.  She is unable to talk or walk.  Many people think she is unable to learn.  They don’t know that she has a photographic memory and has more knowledge in her head than most kids her age.  Because of her physical limitations, she is stuck in a special classroom with a teacher repeating the same alphabet lesson day after day.

Things change when a special device hooked up to her wheelchair gives Melody a voice at last.  Everyone is surprised to hear what she has to say.  But Melody learns that having a voice does not mean people will listen or even give her a chance.

Similar to Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman, Melody is a smart girl who is unable to communicate her thoughts and knowledge to anyone.  However, unlike Trueman’s character Shawn,  Melody has a strong support system and her world opens up when she finally has a voice.  Just when I was starting to wonder if the book was going to have any conflict other than Melody’s disability, the author threw in not one, but two plot twists.  The audiobook had strong narration by Sisi Aisha Johnson and is recommended.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary March 31, 2012

Filed under: children's realistic fiction,youth fiction — Bethany @ 10:59 am
Tags: , ,

Ramona Quimby is starting kindergarten.  She loves her teacher, Miss Binney, and she loves school.  She never tries to be a pest.  But things don’t always go the way she plans.  During rest time, Ramona tries to show that she is the best rester in the class by letting out a delicate snore.  Her snore gives the class the giggles and she is not chosen as the Wake Up Fairy.  When Ramona just wants to touch her classmate’s think, springy curls, she has to sit on the bench during recess.  One day Ramona goes too far and she has to decide whether she can be good or become a kindergarten drop-out.

I have fond memories of Ramona from my childhood, so I decided to revisit it.  She is just as smart, funny, and quirky as I remembered.  The Ramona series should be a must-read for all children.

 

Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls- Or Does It? May 11, 2011

Hank Zipzer is supposed to write five paragraphs about his summer.  Five!  Impossible!  Instead, Hank comes up with a great idea.  Instead of doing a boring essay, he’ll build a working model of his summer vacation to Niagara Falls.  With the help of his friends Frankie and Ashley, he just might pull it off.  Or he might have a disaster on his hands.

This was a quick read that is funny but touches on the “learning differences” some students have that make a five paragraph essay seem impossible.  The main character had a great voice and the plot was authentic.  (Hank is the class clown to cover up his difficulties with school and his parents assume he doesn’t do well because he is lazy.)  This is a great book, especially for reluctant readers and boys.

 

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park April 19, 2011

Filed under: children's realistic fiction — Bethany @ 11:14 pm
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Junie B. is ready for her first day of school.  She meets her teacher, she sees her classroom, and then her mother breaks the news:  Junie B. has to ride the school bus to get to school.  She’s scared but her mother makes her board the bus for afternoon kindergarten.  The kids on the bus aren’t very nice and Junie B. is glad to to arrive at school.  On the first day, her class takes a tour of the school and sees the cafeteria, the nurse’s office, and the bathrooms.  School seems okay, but when it’s time to go home on the bus, Junie B. is scared.  Instead of going outside with the rest of the class, she decides to stay at school.

This is a popular series for those beginning to read chapter books.  The story is written in a first-person point of view with language that a kindergartner might use.  Instead of being authentic or cute, I found it to be annoying and distracting.  The plot line was unrealistic (Junie spends a long period of time alone in the school, wandering around and going through the nurse’s office) and there were no consequences for Junie’s rude words or actions.  There are much better books for kids to spark a discussion about being nervous for the first day or school or riding the bus.

 

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine is having a rough week.  It all starts when she helps her friend Margaret with her hair.  Even though she is helping, she ends up in trouble with Margaret’s mother, the principal, and eventually Margaret herself.  Everyone is always sending Clementine to the principal’s office and telling her to “pay attention,” when she notices things that no one else does.  Maybe if she can find a solution to The Great Pigeon War and clean her room and do everything an easy child would do, she wouldn’t be in so much trouble all the time.

Clementine is the modern day Ramona.  She has a good heart but always ends up in trouble.  She is funny, quirky, and endearing.  Highly recommended for anyone in second through fourth grades.

 

 
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