Monday, November 30, 2015


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Pansy's best friend, Anna got meningitis at a summer camp and now is brain damaged and having seizures.  Pansy is having a hard time adjusting to this - especially since she and Anna had a big fight before Anna left.  Now Pansy feels like she needs to be extraordinary at everything to prove to Anna that she is a good friend.  That means cutting off her hair since she chickened out earlier, learning to ice skate, joining Girl Scouts, and being the best reader.  But what if it's not enough?  What if Anna never gets better?

So there has been a lot of discussion in the 2 committees I am on about dead or sick mothers or dads or even friends.  Yep...happens alot in middle grade fiction along with best friends drifitng apart, best friend who is the opposite gender becomes more than a friends, and so on.  I don't mind it as much as some because to have a good plot there needs to be conflict and for middle grade realistic fiction it is usually friends or family.

I am bothered by the use of "retard" is this book and another one I read recently.  My sister works with mentally handicapped adults and I find the term quite offensive. Is it really necessary?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

We are All Made of Molecules

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Stewart and his dad have just moved in with Ashley and her mom and things are not going as planned.  Ashley is angry - at her dad for being gay, at her mom for allowing Stewart and his dad to move in, and at her so called friends.  Ashley is worried about her image and is thrilled when the new boy Jared is interested in her.  Stewart is trying his best to get sed to the new family but Jared is being a bully, he is having trouble getting used to his new school, and he still misses his mom.

A lot of issues tackled here - blended families, prejudice, bullying, sexual pressures.  I thought the book was well done.  It will not be going into my school library because the content is above the maturity level of my students but I can see it being in a jr. high and high school setting.

Gone Crazy in Alabama

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The Gaither sisters are back.  This time they are traveling to Alabama for the summer.  While there they witness first hand an old rivaly between Ma Charles and her half sister Miss Trotter and learn more about their family's history.  The girls have some grand adventures and their usual rivalries but when a disaster threatens one of the girls they learn what family truly is.

A great addition to the series. I wish more of my students read these books.

Footer Davis Probably is Crazy

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Footer Davis' mom is bi-polar and just after a terrible accident at a neighbor's house - a murder, a fire, and 2 children missing - she goes into a manic state and is hospitalized.  Footer is always worried that she is going crazy and when she starts having visions, hallucinations,or memories of the night of the fire she really thinks she is losing it.  Was she there?  Was her mother?  

This was an interesting books that looks at mental illness in a straighforward, accurate way from the viewpoint of the child.  The mystery was good and my "aha" came just before the main character's.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

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This is an excellent book for those who enjoy quiet, character driven stories.  This book meanders through a little over a year in Calpurnia's life as she starts working with a vet, learns to type, helps her brother Travis with his strays, endures the aftermath of the Galveston Hurricane, studies with her grandfather, and starts earning money.  Calpurnia is a spunky girl at the turn of the century who is not content with the norms of the day.  She is inquisitive and loves science.  This book is episodic and at times this bugged me when seemingly months would skip by in one episode and then go back.  

The other Calpurnia Tate book doesn't go out much in my library so I am torn about this - love the character and the history but my students usually are drawn to more plot driven texts.