Sunday, June 02, 2013

Get ready for summer reading!

Yes, I was one of those children who had to be taken to the library on the very first day of the summer reading program, as if summer wouldn't begin without it. I can see myself enjoying this book on the front porch, with a glass of lemonade, the summer after 3rd or 4th grade, along with Ruth Chew's witch books, No Flying in the House, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

The Quirks: Welcome to NormalSoderberg, Erin. The Quirks: Welcome to Normal
4 June 2013, Bloomsbury USA
ARC from Baker and Taylor

All of the Quirks have magic abilities they can't control well. Bree, the mother, can make people think what she wants them to. Grandpa Quill can rewind time. Six-year-old Finn is invisible, and Penelope can make things she imagines become real. The only one lacking magic is Penelope's twin, Molly, but she can at least see Finn. The family has had to keep moving because their magic gets them into trouble (in the last town, their grandmother, who is the size of a small bird and lives outside, got dragged around by the mayor's cat!), but the twins especially hope that they can stay in Normal, Michigan. They like their fourth grade class and their teacher, Mr. Intihar, and their mother is doing well as a waitress. The entire family gets excited when Finn is made visible whenever he chews gum, so he starts attending school and has the winning idea for the local festival record breaking event-- the town is going to try to make the biggest ball of ABC gum ever created. Can the Quirks hold themselves together long enough to get through the celebration, and maybe stay in Normal?
Strengths: Loved the illustrations by Kelly Light, even though they weren't all complete in the ARC. Sort of LeUyen Pham-ish. The world-building held together, and the magic was useful and yet unpredictable. I could see this being a series-- at some point the teacher is going to marry the mother!
Weaknesses: I was a bit grossed out by a couple to things in this book-- the ball of gum, the general state of Quirk housekeeping, and an incident with mustard in the classroom. Perhaps these things are included to get boys interested in the series.

Odessa AgainReinhardt, Dana. Odessa Again.
14 May 2013, Wendy Lamb Books

There is a big difference between fourth and sixth grade. Again, I would have loved the touches of magical realism in this in elementary school, but it would be a hard sell in middle school, where student focus shifts from family to peers.

From Goodreads. com: "Fourth grader Odessa Green-Light lives with her mom and her toad of a little brother, Oliver. Her dad is getting remarried, which makes no sense according to Odessa. If the prefix "re" means "to do all over again," shouldn't he be remarrying Mom? Meanwhile, Odessa moves into the attic room of their new house. One day she gets mad and stomps across the attic floor. Then she feels as if she is falling and lands . . . on the attic floor. Turns out that Odessa has gone back in time a whole day! With this new power she can fix all sorts of things--embarrassing moments, big mistakes, and even help Oliver be less of a toad. Her biggest goal: reunite Mom and Dad."

Twerp Goldblatt, Mark. Twerp.
28 May 2013, Random House Books for Young Readers
E ARC from

I love historical fiction, even if it's set in the 1960s, but my students don't. I can't get them to check out The Wednesday Wars for anything. This book reminded me very strongly of the Schmidt title, and while it had a few good funny moments, I think I will pass. The "mystery" dragged on too long, and was a bit of a let down when I finally got to it. Still, if your students like vaguely autobiographical books, you might take a look. From

"Julian Twerski isn't a bully. He's just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade--blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he's still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can't bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.

Inspired by Mark Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters."

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