Are You There God? Its Me, Margaret.

 Author: Judy Blume

Reading Range: 3.6 (Accelerated Reader)

Interest Range: 3-5 (AR Finder)

Plot: Margaret moves to a new town with her parents before starting her sixth grade year of school. This is about the changes she experiences as she goes through her year of school. She is making new friends. She is learning about herself and her family.

Review: Margaret captures the feelings that most young girls feel when they start to enter puberty.  There is a longing to change but there is also embarrassment about those changes.  Margaret wants to start her period and develop breasts but she is embarrassed to buy her first bra.  This book also shows the range of body shapes and mental ages that sixth graders can be at.  An example of this can be seen with Laura Danker.  Poor Laura is already in sixth grade and she looks like a full-grown woman.  Margaret’s friend, Sylvia, starts to spread rumors about Laura making out with boys. That is not true but because of what she looks likes they assume it is.  It is often assumed that because a child’s body looks like an adult that they are actually more mature than they really are.  This is a good book to give a young girl as she starts to navigate her way through puberty to help her understand some of the feelings and changes she is going through.

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Margaret Simon –She is starting the sixth grade in a new school and town after moving from New York City.  She is becoming a teenager.

Barbara Simon– Margaret’s mother.

Herbert Simon – Margaret’s father.

Sylvia Simon – Margaret’s grandmother.  She is her father’s mother. Margaret is very close to her.

Nancy Wheeler – Margaret’s first new friend when she moves.

Laura Danker –She becomes Margaret’s friend after a few misunderstandings.  The most developed girl in their class.

Themes: Growing up, Acceptance, Religion.

Bibliographic Info:

Blume, J. (1970). Are you there, god? it’s me, margaret.. New York: Yearling.

Tagline:

 

Hatchet

First edition cover 

Author:  Gary Paulsen

Reading Range:  5.7 (Accelerated Reader)

Interest Range:  Gr 4-8 (AR Finder)

Plot: Brian Robeson’s parents are divorced.  He is trying his best to cope with that fact.  His father has gone to work in the Canadian oil fields.  He is going to visit him for the summer.  While flying in a bush plane to go see his father, the pilot has a heart attack and dies.  Brian is forced to land the plane.  He is left alone in the wildness without anyone but himself to help him.  He has to learn fast how to survive otherwise he would not last long.

Review: This book is very fast-paced even through its focus is only on one character.  There is not a lot of dialogue in this book because most of it is Brian by himself.  It is interesting watching the way he changes through the book.  Brian thought the biggest issue he would have to deal with was keeping his mother’s secret for why she divorced his father.  Then something bad happens and Brian has to adapt quick.  The author gives a sense of the danger that Brian is in.  If he makes one mistake, he could get serious hurt or even die.  This book may seem to appeal just to boys but this book is for anyone who wants to read a story of survival.

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Brian Robeson-He is going to visit his father for the summer.  He is trying to deal with his parents’ divorce until he discovers he has bigger issues to deal with.

Themes: Survival, Independence, Self-Reliance

Bibliographic Info:

Paulsen, P. (1987). Hatchet. New York: Bradbury Press.

Tagline: 

A Monster Calls

Me doing a book reading for “A Monster Calls.”  Listen if you’re interest.

Link

Gender and Books

I was talking with my mother before I started to write this post.  My mother teaches a children’s literature class in college.  She was telling me that when she talks to her students about “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” a number of her female students will raise their hands to say they read and loved that book.  When she mentions “Hatchet” for guys almost no male students raise their hand for that book.  Girls seem to have books they read and share.  It does not seem guys are the same way.  In her opinion, girls have more books then boys.

Do I agree with her? I think I do.  In the last few years, it seems that things for children have gotten very specifically marketed for gender for boys and girls.  I worked a few book fair and it was fairly easily to pick out the books for boys and girls by just colors.  Pink, light blue, and white for girls.  Dark blue, red, black for boys.  As an example, there were counting books and instead of being gender neutral, girls got purses while boys got trucks.  That applied even for tweens.  There was a book series call “Dork Diaries” that seemed like a girl version of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”  I have seen both boys and girls read “Wimpy Kid” and I know both genders like it.  I do not see many boys reading “Dork Diaries” because the pink covers would scare them off.

To be honest, I do not think that this is a good idea.  I think that it gives an impression to boys that reading is for girls.  Boys do not read as much as they should be reading.  The people who are pushing reading are more likely to be women.  Growing up I saw both my parents reading.  They shared books with me.  I still share books with my mom and dad.  I am not sure how many boys have that experience of their fathers giving them books to read.  Who is the parent that holds out books to their kids?  I am not sure because I am not a parent, yet.

I think there is hope.  I want to close with this story.  A boy showed me the books he checked out a few days ago.  One of them was “The Hunger Games.”  He told me that he thought that Katniss was cool.  He liked her because he thought she was strong and tough.  I think boys will read books about girls and they like it when they are strong and capable.  There are books that can unite boys and girls.  I think we need to make more of those.

Camo Girl

Author:  Kekla Magoon

Reading Range:  3rd grade(AR Finder)

Interest Range: 5-8(Follett Library Resources)

Plot:  Z has been Ella’s friend from third grade.  He is the weird kid in school always in his head having adventures.  He was the one who helped Ella through the worst day of her life, her father’s funeral, with his stories.  Since his father left and his mother lost their house, he retreated further into his head away from reality.  Ella tries to protect him as best as she can when their other friends leave them and start to tease Z over his differences.  Things start to change when a new boy, Bailey, comes to school.  Ella is not the only African-American student in school anymore.  Ella starts to develop a friendship with Bailey but her new friendship starts to threat her old one with Z. Ella is struggling with accepting herself and waiting to be popular.  There is a scene in the book where Ella walks with her eyes closed to the bathroom so she does not see her face in the mirror.  Her skin is camo toned with light and dark patches.  Bailey offers Ella a chance to be accepted by other kids but she feels she would have to leave Z behind.  Z cannot come with her because he is just too weird and broken.  In the end, can she really save him?

Review:   This book mostly focuses on Ella but all three children in this book are coping with loss in their own way.  Ella’s father died of cancer because of that she becomes super-protective of those she loves.  Z’s father abandoned his family so he uses his stories to help him cope with missing his father.   Bailey’s father is in a military hospital because he has post traumatic stress disorder.  Bailey uses popularity to hide his pain from everyone but Ella.  They are children trying to handle emotions that are overwhelming to them.  These are kids that are trying to deal with issues that even adults have trouble with.  Some of their coping methods are better than others.  I would recommend this book to kids who like to read stories that deal with heavy real-life issues.  Be prepared to cry.

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Ella-She is the narrator.  The story is told through her eyes.

Z-He is her best friend since third grade.  He spends a lot of time in his own world and it is starting to affect him.

Bailey-He is the new boy.  Ella and him are starting to become friends.

Themes:  Friendship, Loyalty, Love

Bibliographic Info:

Magoon, K. (2011). camo girl. new york: Aladdin. 217p.

Tagline:  Everyone has something to hide.

I like it when this happens

I saw one of my students a few days ago.  I was talking to him about the books he was reading.  He likes reading offbeat books like “Darth Paper.”  I suggested he read this book series called Dragonbreath.  It is in a world where lizards and dragons go to school like people.  It is about a dragon boy and his friend who go on all of these weird adventures.  I thought he would like it.  I saw him the day after he went to the library.  His nose was struck in a Dragonbreath.  He told me he liked it a lot and wanted to read other books in the series.  I like it when I knew my students well enough to suggest books they might like and they actually listen to my suggestions.  That is the coolest feeling in the world.

Olympians-Hera

Author: George O’Connor

Reading Range:  3rd grade (according to AR Finder)

Interest Range:  8 and up (according to AR Finder)

Plot:   This graphic novel is a retelling of the classic myths that feature Hera.  It tells of her wedding to Zeus and how she dealt with Zeus’ lovers and children.  In particular, the story focuses on her “revenge” against Heracles as he tries to complete his Twelve Labors.  In this version, Hera saves Heracles in life in exchange for him to perform the Twelve labors as an adult.

Review:  This book is for children (or adults) who are interested in Greek mythology.  It has a very interesting view on Hera.  Too often, Hera is seen as a woman scorned who wants revenge against her husband’s lovers and the children that result from those unions.  In this book, Hera is not just the villain and she is seen as just as powerful as Zeus.  Zeus is afraid of her.  She is responsible for making Heracles a hero.  She is the one that is pushing him to greatness instead of punishing him.

Additional Info:  This is the third book in a series called “Olympians.”  These books can read as stand-alone or one after another.  Each book focuses on a Greek god.  There are four books so far in the series-Book 1 is Zeus, Book 2 is Athena, and Book 4 is Hades.

Main Characters:

Hera-Goddess of Marriage

Zeus-King of the Gods

Heracles-Son of Zeus and Alcmenes

Theme: Courage,  Perseverance

Bibliographic Info:

O’Connor, G. (2011). Olympians: Hera the goddess and her glory 3. New York, NY: First Second.

Tagline:  From the wrath of an Olympian comes the Twelve Labors of Heracles!

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