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Novelist: A Cure for the Reading Funk

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I have been in a reading funk lately. Even as a librarian, I find myself having a hard time connecting with that just right book.  Usually my motto is “So Many Books-so little time.”

Life feels stressful at present and I want pure escapism.  Perhaps I’ve worked so hard reading children’s books for this blog that I haven’t found time to read for  me.  Usually when I walk into a library, I feel like a kid in a candy store.  But sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the choices.  My reading life has never fit in to simple categories.

One great cure for the reading funk is the Novelist Online Database.  It’s available on most public library’s webpages.  Library employees will be happy to share this resource with you.  Novelist recommends books for adults, teens and children. It links back to the library catalog so you can reserve the book

Novelist can…

  • help you locate all the books by your favorite author.
  • provide read-alikes for popular authors and titles
  • provide genre lists for countless interests.  (There are 8 themed lists for teen graphic novels and 13 themed lists for adult mysteries.)
  • locate a book with a particular setting.
  • find books in series
  • find informational as well as fiction books.

Once you locate a book, there are book reviews, age range, lexile levels and subject headings.  I have been using Novelist and Novelist K-8 for years. I have yet to tap into to all the resources available.

Novelist is a great tool for teachers and homeschoolers.  It’s easy to find books that supplement the curriculum.  Historical fiction can be a great way to help students grasp history.  Parents can also use Novelist to help children explore their interests. This database has evolved over time to meet the changing needs of its users.

Novelist is as its best recommending books to upper elementary, teens and adults. The upper elementary years  can be a golden age of reading. .  During this time, children begin getting more specific in their reading choices. If we want children to enjoy reading, we need to offer them lots of choices. There will be more competition for entertainment as children reach their teens.   Finding the right books for children and teens is a key ingredient in creating lifelong readers.  Novelist is a great tool in this process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SMILE!

images5PYIMJNP     Let’s face it. Middle School is traumatic! Middle schoolers think eveyone notices everything they do. Classmates can be cruel. Anything that makes you differrent from your classmates feels like torture.

Smile by Raina Telemeier is an autobiographical graphic novel chronicling the ups and downs of middle school and high school, a tough season for any adolescent especially if there’s something that sets you apart from your classmates.

At age 12, Raina fell on the pavement resulting in losing her two front teeth. Six year olds with missing front teeth are adorable, twelve years olds not so much. Raina’s life for the next four years includes dental surgeries, trips to specalists and two sets of braces.Most of all, she feels different from her classmates. Her story also navigates crushes, friendships and other teen drama.

Smile encourages the reader to laugh and sympathize with Raina’s recollections. When she spies her crush in the hall, she is so enamored that she walks right into a row of lockers.  When she tries on extensive headgear for her braces, She exclaims, “C’mom Mom, let’s go get me some glasses, a pocket protector and some velcro shoes.”

Raina begins her story with sixth grade and ends in high school. Along the way, she learns to chose her friends more carefully and pursue her talents for drawing and singing. She gradually settles in with a new group of artsy friends that are kinder, more authentic and accepting.

Kids love graphic novels.  Teachers and librarians are increasingly realizing the benefits of this genre.  Smile, however, is an exceptional graphic novel.  It won the Wil Eisner Award for best books for teens.  Telgemeier has published two other graphic novels, Drama and Sisters.  Fans of her books can create their own comic scenes at www.scholastic.com/raina

 

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Of Hamsters and Princesses

harriettheinvinciblePrincess Harriett Hambone isn’t your typical princess, even for a hamster. She doesn’t like getting all dressed up and hanging around the palace. She dislikes her etiquette lessons. She doesn’t want to be sad or melancholy like other princesses. She loves ridiing her quail, Mumsey, and pretending to slay dragons.

Harriet’s parents can’t help but be a little overprotective. They know that their daughter is under the curse of the wicked fairy, Ratshade (listed third on Fairy-God Mouse Today’s Most Wicked List.)

Ratshade showed up uninvited to baby Harriet’s christening party and cast a spell. On her 12th birthday, Harriet will prick her finger on a hamster wheel and fall into a deep sleep.  There are three conditions:

  • Harriet will not need food or water while asleep.
  • She will not need to use the bathroom.
  • The kiss of a prince will wake her.

Harriet’s parents tell her about the spell on her tenth birthday. Harriet, being the optimist that she is, concludes that she now has two years to be invincible.   She celebrates by jumping off the highest tower in the castle into the moat, knowing that nothing can happen to her until she turns twelve.

And so the next two years bring glorious adventures for Harriett and Mumsey as they go cliff diving, dragon jousting and hunting Ogrecats. She rescues ” helpless maidens from terrible dragons and helpless dragons from terrible princesses”. Harriet develops quite the reputation in the kingdom making it difficult for her parents to line up a prince to rescue her.

When the evil Ratshade shows up on Harriet’s twelth birthday,  Harriet plans a counter attack with disastrous results. All 117 occupants of the palace are asleep, Harriet must find a way to reverse the spell.

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Harriet the Invincible is the first book in a new series by Ursula Vernon of Dragonbreath fame. With its many cartoon pictures and large font, it makes an excellent early chapter book. There is enough sophisticated humor that upper elementary students will also enjoy this fairy tale parody. Boys too will also enjoy stories about the nonconformist princess. It has more pictures and fewer words than the Dragonbreath books.

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The second book in this series Of Mice and Magic will be published on March 15.

 

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2016 Newbery Honors Books

So yesterday, the ALA Book awards were announced.  For me, this is a more exciting event than the Oscars, The Golden Globes or the Super Bowl.  I was pleased that two of my favorites were chosen as Newbery Honor untitled (3)Books. (more about the Newbery Award later)

       The War That Saved My Live. by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, is a powerful novel that takes a unique focus on the second world war.  Many children were being evacuated out of London and sent to live with families in safer areas of England.  It’s a good novel for 4th-7th grade.

Ada narrates her story. She has a club foot and knows that she is different from other children.  She can’t remember ever leaving her small London flat where she spends her days gazing out the window at the other children and families on their way to school and work.  She knows that her mother is ashamed of her.  Most people assume that Ada is slow minded.  Ada has been gradually teaching herself to walk but it is a painful process.

When Ada learns that her brother Jamie’s class is being sent away from London to escape the bombs, she sees this as a grand opportunity.  Ada and Jamie have lived in squalor for years.  They catch the train with only the clothes on their backs.  When they arrive at their location, all the children are lined up.  People from the community arrive to take the other children into their homes but nobody choses Ada  or Jamie.

The woman in charge takes them to the home of Susan Smith.   Ms. Smith has been a recluse for years. She lets everyone know that she doesn’t like children or anyone else for that matter.   She reluctantly agrees to take the children out of a sense of duty.

There are big changes for Ada and Jamie.  They have to get used to things like baths, changes of clothing, underwear and pajamas.  Susan takes them to the doctor where they are diagnosed with malnutrition and impetigo.   Ada is granted greater mobility when she is given a pair of crutches. Since they are eating three meals a day,  Jamie and Ada decide that Susan must be very rich.

Ada is a gutsy little girl. She and Jamie thrive under the care of Susan who immediately recognizes that Ada is intelligent even though she is not allowed to attend school.  Susan teaches her to read. “That foot is a long way from your brain,” Susan tells her.

Ada becomes a valuable volunteer and makes new friends. She falls in love with a pony   and learns to ride him using an old fashioned side saddle. She even helps capture a spy.

After years of neglect, Ada and Jamie have many struggles with their new life and there is always the threat of their mother who might come to claim them. This is a wonderful story of three people becoming a family even as the war wreaks havoc all around them.untitled (4)

 

 

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a well-written graphic novel about the Roller Derby.  Roller Girl is a good book for upper elementary and middle school.

When Astrid goes to the Roller Derby, she is instantly hooked.  She is so excited about attending Roller Derby  Camp.  She is disappointed that her friend doesn’t want to join her.  The camp is harder than she ever imagined, but Astrid pushes on in spite of  falls and bruises.

Astrid also learns about friendship when she and her closest friend seem to be moving in different directions. Astrid learns to appreciate old and new friendships.

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        Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan was also named a Newbery Honor Book.  I have read two excellent books by this author, Becoming Naomi Leone (upper elementary) and Esperanza Rising (middle and high school).  I am going to reserve this one today.

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        The Newbery Award is given to the  book selected as the most outstanding contribution for  children’s literature.  This year’s  winner is Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena.   This story about a boy and his grandmother has lots of critical acclaim. Many predicted that it would win the Caldecott Award or The Coretta Scott King Award.  Traditionally  Newbery awards go to juvenile fiction and occasionally Young Adult Books.  So I imagine this choice was a surprise to almost everyone.  I will talk about it more when I get more time to look at the book.

The War That Saved My Life won the Odyssey Award for the best audio book production and Echo won the Odyssey Honor Awards. I highly recommend audio books.  They can be great on long car trips.  They are usually narrated by actors.