Boyce, Frank Cottrell. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again.
The Tooting family finds itself in a position that many families are experiencing these days-- the father has lost his job. Since he is clever and upbeat, he has decided this is an Opportunity and takes to unemployment with a flourish, but his family decides he needs a project. They get an old camper van which the mother thinks can't possibly be fixed, and tell the father that when it is fixed, they will travel around the world. Of course, he does fix it, so Jem, Lucy, little Harry and the parents take off on a trek around the world. It is soon apparent that Chitty, who has the engine of the car from the book by Ian Fleming, is on a mission to restore itself with original parts, so the family finds themselves in all sorts of unusual places, including sitting near the Sphinx in Egypt selling pancakes! They also meet an assortment of villians along the way, including the Circe-like Nanny who tries to get them to stay for a very long while at Chateau Bateau while she destroys the car. The Tootings, however, are nothing if not motivated and clever, and manage to escape. What will Chitty's next adventure be?
Strengths: The Tootings are a fun, resourceful family, and the adventure is well plotted. The different places to which they travel are interesting.
WeaknessesThe tone is rather goofy, and British goofy is a slightly different flavor from US goofy. Also, very few of my students are familiar with the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie, much less the book, and I see this being a harder sell because of this unfamiliarity. Does make me want to keep the 1964 Fleming original, even though no one ever checks it out!
Stewart, Mark. Movie Blockbusters
(The Ultimate 10 Entertainment series from Gareth Stevens)
This 48 page book is at Lexile 840, slightly below the recommended level for grades 6-8, but still an interesting read. Many students will not be familiar with The Wizard of Oz (which was aired yearly, mainly in March, until 1991! My mother would always tell us that the horses didn't really change color; it just looked that way because our eyes were tired. This is the same woman who claimed the Easter bunny didn't deliver to the end of the alphabet until Monday so that she could buy candy on clearance!) or The Sound of Music, so there is a bit of a history lesson. At this point, I want to find some high interest nonfiction, and if students just spend a study hall reading it, and least they have practiced some reading skills! I'll get the $15.00 cost out of it.
The Secret Life of Money: A Kid's Guide to Cash.
This illustrated, two color guide (in green, obviously!) has a ton of information in it. It covers such various concepts as the relative value of salary, what people need spend money on, what people WANT to spend to money on, how credit cards work and the perils of them, ways to save money, ways to invest, and anything in between. It is skewed a bit heavily toward the nonmaterialistic, saving aspect of finance, but I'm okay with that. What was harder to get behind was the tiny, tiny text, which leads me to believe that this is pitched more toward high school students, despite the comic style. While I found it very interesting, I'm not sure that my students will slog through the 9 point font and the detailed information. This would probably be more useful in a middle school as a reference book rather than something to read for enjoyment.