Friday, October 29, 2010

#38 - The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

1959 Honor book

I decided to work on some of the older titles. I actually found a copy of this book in the Salvation Army thrift store, so - why not? And guess what? It was really good!

"Once there was an old man named Armand who lived under a bridge in Paris. Everything he owned could be pushed around in an old baby buggy without a hood - it was easy for him to move from place to place. Armand loved his solitary, carefree life. Children, he said, were like starlings, and one was better off without them.

But the children who lived under the bridge knew a true friend when they saw one, even if that friend was a little bit grumpy to begin with. And it did not take Armand long to see he had gotten himself a ready-made family - one he loved with all his heart, and one he would have to find a better home for than the bridge."

This was a sweet, very quick read, about a hobo with a hardened heart. But the Calcet children work their way into his affections and pretty soon Armand is doing everything he can to keep them all together. Very cute story!

#37 - Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

1991 Medal winner
I am officially at 10% - 37 out of 370! Wow, I have a long ways to go, lol! But I look at it this way - think of all the stories I have left to discover!
"Jeffrey Lionel 'Maniac' Magee might have lived a normal life if a trolley accident hadn't made him an orphan. After living with his unhappy and uptight aunt and uncle for 8 years, he decides to run - and not just run away, but run. And this is where the myth of Maniac Magee begins, as he changes the lives of a racially divided small town with his amazing and legendary feats."
Where to start? I LOVED this book! It was in parts heart warming, and in other parts heart breaking. Maniac is an amazing boy with a big heart. He befriends many people who change his life as much as he changes theirs. He even manages to bring together a racially divided town. But it also made me feel so bad that such an amazing boy had such a difficult life.
Definitely 2 thumbs up for this one! And I will be looking for more books by this author!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Made in the USA by Billie Letts

Let me emphasize - this is NOT a children's book. I repeat, NOT a children's book.
"Lutie McFee's history has taught her to avoid people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, fifteen year old Lutie lives in the godforsaken town of Spearfish, South Dakota, with her 11 year old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the three hundred pound ex-girlfriend of her father. While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows, and worrying about global warming.
As if their life were not dismal enough, one day, while shopping in their local Wal-Mart, Floy keels over and the two motherless kids are suddenly faced with the choice of becoming wards of the state or hightailing it out of town in Floy's old Pontiac."
If you are looking for a nice, light, fluffy happy-go-lucky read, this is not for you. The first 2/3 of the book was extremely depressing and emotionally difficult to read. However, it was definitely a page turner - full of action. There are lots of heavy topics discussed in this book - homelessness, stealing, drug use, rape, pornography, language - so if you are sensitive, be forewarned.
I try to read these kinds of books with an open mind - this particular story might not be true, but there are many similar stories out there that ARE ture. And it makes my heart break for kids in these types of situations.
Fortunately, this book DOES have a happy ending!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#36 - Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

2004 Honor Book
"Olive Barstow was dead. She'd been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bicycle weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew.

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends. But they weren't - and now all that is left are eerie connections between two girls who were in the same grade at school and who both kept the same secret without knowing it.
Now Martha can't stop thinking about Olive. A family summer on Cape Cod should help banish those thoughts; instead, they seep in everywhere.
And this year Martha's routine at her beloved grandmother's beachside house is complicated by the Manning boys. Jimmy, Tate, Todd, Luke, and Leo. But especially Jimmy. What if, what if, what if, what if? The world can change in a minute."
Incidentally, Kevin Henkes is one of my favorite picture book authors. He wrote Lily's Purple Plastic Purse and Wemberly Worried among others, which I LOVED reading to my kids when they were smaller. This book was a sweet coming-of-age novel about a girl's relationship with her family, first crush, and grief over the loss of a classmate, even if they weren't close.

Monday, October 18, 2010

#35 - Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

1941 Medal Winner
"Mafatu's name mean 'Stout Heart', but his people call him a coward. Ever since the sea took his mother's life and spared his own, he has lived with deep fear. And even though his father is the Great Chief of Hikuero - an island who's seafaring people worship courage - he is terrified, and consequently, he is severely scorned.
By the time he is twelve years old, Mafatu can bear it no longer. He must conquer his fear alone...even if it means certain death.
This classic tale of a young boy's hidden strength has been a favorite of readers of all ages since its 1940 publication."
I am going to make a confession - this was one of those books on the Newbery list that I honestly was dreading to read. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, and this one just didn't sound appealing to me at all. BUT, that is why this Newbery project is a CHALLENGE for me. I'm not going to LOVE every book on the list. So, I decided to go ahead and knock this one off the list. But, you know what? It wasn't that bad. It's not going to go on my list of all time favorites, but it was not as hard to read as I thought it would be. It had a very good message about facing your fears.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wow. That's what I have to say about this book. Just wow. It's not a Newbery book, but it was an AWESOME book. First, the blurb...

"Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her stepmother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way - think, thinner, thinnest - maybe she'll disappear altogether. "

This book deals with several psychological problems: anorexia, depression, cutting, suicide, etc. So, it is not a light, easy read. But, it was SO interesting from a psychological perspective. The book was written in a way that made you feel like you were in Lia's head, and gives insight into how people with eating disorders think.

I highly recommend this book, however, it can be quite disturbing in places.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

#34 - Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

1998 Medal winner

"A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo's life, scarring her inside and out. Her mother is gone. Her father can't talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better - playing the piano - is impossible with her wounded hands.

To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma - and in the suprising landscape of her own heart."

I wasn't sure how I'd like this book. It is written in an unusual writing style - in stanzas, like poetry, and I wasn't sure I would be able to get past that. But, I loved it, and I think it should be required reading for students of Oklahoma history!