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

 

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff April 26, 2014

Picture Me GoneMila and her dad were ready to take the trip from London to upstate New York to visit dad’s childhood friend Matthew when they got the news. Matthew is missing, gone without a trace from his home and family. Mila and her dad decide to make the trip anyway. Mila, who has always had the ability to observe and read people and situations, thinks she can solve the mystery of Matthew’s whereabouts. When they arrive, she is shocked to find Matthew has left behind a sad wife, a sweet baby, and a beloved retriever. She and her dad take the dog and follow their instincts to track down Matthew. They find many surprises about Matthew along the way. Just as Mila thinks she has things figured out, she uncovers a betrayal by the person she thought she knew best.

This was a quiet, interesting story. It is a children’s book, but I would recommend it to an emotionally mature middle school or high school student. Mila is an introspective character, both naive about human nature and mature for her age. A thought-provoking read.

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

 

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan December 22, 2012

Lightning ThiefPercy Jackson is often in trouble, but not for normal things like having a messy room or talking back to his parents.  During the last class field trip, a teacher turned into a monster and he fought her with a pen that turned into a sword.  No one will believe him.  In fact, they deny the teacher even existed.  Percy soon finds out he is not crazy and he is not a regular kid.  After a series of events lead him to a camp of kids like him, he and his two friends are sent on a quest to resolve a conflict between the gods.  Percy soon learns that nothing is as it seems when you’re a demigod.

This was a decent story that boys would love.  The main character is a boy with ADHD who is always getting into trouble but later learns he’s actually someone very important and his struggles with school are due to his special powers.  I probably won’t read anymore of the series, but it really hits the mark with its target audience.  The reader for the audiobook does a great job making the story come to life.  I will recommend to boys who liked Harry Potter and other adventure/fantasy stories.  As an added bonus, this series has inspired readers to ask for books about Greek gods.

3 out of 5 stars

 

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

 

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.

 

 
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