Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Neighbors of various kinds

Springstubb, Tricia. What Happened on Fox Street
Mo Wren loves her neighborhood that backs up to a wooded area. Since she knows everyone, she can keep an eye on her younger sister Dottie when her somewhat unorganized father has to go to work, run around the neighborhood, and still feel safe. It has everything she needs, including a friend who visits for the summer, shops, neighbors who keep her in line, and memories of her deceased mother. When all of the neighbors get letters from a man trying to buy up and redevelop the neighborhood, Mo is worried that her ideal life may come to an end, especially when she finds out her friend may no longer visit for the summer. Things come to a head when Dottie runs off during a storm, secrets are revealed, and Mo finds out whether or not she will get to stay on Fox Street.

Strengths: This has a good sense of place, supportive adults, interesting problems and an appealing cover.

Weaknesses: Not a whole lot happened, and there were many elements that made this seem like the sort of story teachers love to read to a class, but classes don't much care for.

Cook, Kacy. Nuts.
When Nell finds two baby squirrels in the yard that have fallen out of their nest, she researches the best way to care for them on line. She chooses to ignore the most important bit of advice-- turn them over to an animal rehabilitator. Instead, she enlists her parents and two brothers into caring for the animals, getting advice from the woman who posted the information by telling her that she is older than 11 and too far from a rehabilitator. Since the children are homeschooled, they do a lot of research into wildlife habits and are able to spend time caring for the animals. One meets a tragic end, but the other, Mantha, prospers to the point where it is necessary to release her into the wild. Nell is reluctant to do this, but finally realizes it is necessary.

Strengths: Wow. I know more about raising squirrels than I could ever use. The research in this book is very apparent, but the cautions are very clear as well. Again, appealing characters and supportive adults make this interesting.

Weaknesses: I don't have a lot of students who are that interested in animals, so I'm unsure whether or not I will purchase this.

Kephart, Beth. Dangerous Neighbors.
From the publisher: "Set against the backdrop of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Katherine cannot forgive herself when her beloved twin sister dies, and she feels that her only course of action is to follow suit."

I picked this up because I am always intrigued by World's Fair type exhibitions, but this is much more about Katherine's fragile mental state. It is a very lyrical, probing book, but very slow. It is listed as grades 8-12, and I think that is definitely the case. It moved very slowly.

Booking Mama, Caribou's Mom, There's a Book and Word Lily all liked this very much.


  1. I've had a good response to Nuts from all the 6th graders I've shown it too - the cover really grabs them. I'd recommend it.

    Full disclosure: I am also behind Nuts b/c it has a realistic presentation of homeschooling! There's only about 2 books that I've found so far that do and this is number 2. The latest theme I've seen in books with a homeschooled character is to show parents taking their kids out of school so they can be free labor and claim to be "homeschooled". Argh! I grew up in a city with a very large homeschooling population, was friends or acquainted with many, many homeschoolers and I never met ONE whose parents let a job of any kind, for the family or the kid, take precedence over their education. Ok, rant over. Grr.

  2. I'm interested in the Kephart, but for myself, not my kids. I've started noticing how hard it is to get my 6th grader to read non-SF books (where SF means science fiction or fantasy).

    On the other hand, he's quirky enough to be a terrible model of a modern-middle-schooler.