Cheng, Andrea. The Year of the Garden (Anna Wang 0.5)
April 11th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARc from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Anna is a little scared to have moved out of her apartment in Manor Court and to start a new school for third grade, but she likes having more space, especially when she finds a place where she can garden. Her mother cleans for the Shepherds, a kind elderly couple who give Anna some seeds and a copy of The Secret Garden. Anna finds a place near her house to clear for gardening, and meets a neighbor, Laura, who has just moved to Cincinnati from a farm in Indiana. The two start a great garden, but once school begins, Laura is more interested in playing soccer with her friends. School is okay otherwise, and Anna likes her teacher, who gives lessons on things like "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle". During the winter, the two girls find an abandoned bunny, which Laura's mother drives to her sister's farm in Indiana so it can survive. The girls reconnect at the farm, and once they get back home, are better friends.
Strengths: This is a great story about how friendships adapt to outside influences, and the gardening aspect is great. My friend Wendy and I found baby bunnies when we were in second grade, so this is spot on with elementary interests, especially when it comes to friend drama. Also positive-- neither of the Shepherds, while ailing, die. This series does well with my struggling 6th grade readers.
Weaknesses: I found it hard to believe that a third grader would read The Secret Garden.
What I really think: I will definitely purchase, and am sad that Cheng passed away in 2015.
Ain, Beth. Izzy Kline Has Butterflies
March 7th 2017 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central
Izzy is wary of starting fourth grade and anxious about everything-- her parents' divorce, her older brother's pierced tongue and emotional distance, her friends at school.There are annoying boys, a class play (based on Free To Be...You and Me), and a best friend with a potentially serious health issue. Izzy manages to navigate these issues in a realistic way as the year progresses.
Novels in verse are a good way to offer impressions of events, and are frequently a good choice for classroom read alouds. I can see this being used as a springboard for discussions on a variety of topics. What should fourth graders know about divorced parents? Sick friends? Siblings who are maturing? Feeling anxious? Fourth grade is always a hot bed of friendship drama, with girls being mean to each other, children having first crushes, and girls and boys trying to get along despite different ways of reacting to situations. School projects also can be interesting and frightening at the same time, and acting in a play can be both exhilarating and frightening.
There are a growing number of novels in verse for younger reads, such as Shovan's The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary and Sternberg's Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie. The verse isn't formulaic like Helen Frost's work, but still manages to be poetic and emotionally evocative. This was also thematically reminiscent of Linda Urban's work or Barbara O'Connor's Wish.
Too young for my students, and not my cup of tea. Divorce, friend with cancer, too much sadness. I'm very picky about novels in verse. I also could not tell what year this was set. Free To Be...You and Me? That would put it in the 1980s for me (since there is a videotaped version of it), but at one point, a fourth grader is reading Love, Stargirl, which came out in 2007.