Saturday, December 26, 2015

Realistic Fiction

Standiford, Natalie. The Only Girl in School
January 26th 2016 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

When Claire's best friend Bess moves away from their small island in the Chesapeake Bay, Claire is the only girl in their small school. Sure, she gets the girls' clubhouse all to herself, but it's not any fun. She writes Bess letters detailing her year, including her participation in soccer and sailing competitions, square dancing, finding out about the Legend of Smuggler Joe, and a production of A Christmas Carol in which Claire gets to play ALL of the female roles. It doesn't help that in the 5th grade, her friend Henry is starting to feel too old to have a girl as a friend and doesn't want to hang out as much, and the rather odd Webby wants to hang out with her. 

Strengths: It's great to read books about children who don't live in suburban Ohio, so this had some fun elements. The boy/girl interactions are realistically portrayed, and there is a lot of humor.

Weaknesses: The letter format makes this seem dated already, and there weren't as many details about life on a small island as I wanted. Potter's Piper Green books have more fun details, even though it is for younger students.  

What I really think: ADORED this author's The Boy on the Bridge, which was rich with place and period details, but this was a bit of a disappointment. The cover looks dated as well, so will most likely not purchase. 

Cobb, Amy. Dude, Where's My Saxophone (Band Geeks #1)
Published January 1st 2015 by Calico

Zac is disorganized and frequently in trouble, so when his junior high school band goes to a sleepaway camp, Mr. Byrd, the director, makes sure to keep a close eye on him. Sure enough, things start to go wrong-- the band's music goes missing, and Zac's saxophone is taken as well. Is this the result of a bet made with another band? The bands are competing for points, and Zac's band keeps getting in trouble. Will Zac be able to prove that it's really not his fault?
Strengths: This was a fun, easy-to-read story about something that does interest many students-- band. Happy, upbeat-- that's hard to find these days. 
Weaknesses: Most of the students in band excel academically, and the reading level on this is a grade 3.5. Not only that, but the plot was a bit convoluted, so my students who do read on that level might have trouble following it. This is a series by Abdo, so rather expensive. I think I will pass on buying the rest.
What I really think: I would love to see something like this in a regular trade novel.

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