Author: Jerry Spinellli
Reading Range: 4.3 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: This book traces Donald Zinoff’s life from first to sixth grade. Zinoff is a very unusual boy. His first day of school he goes wearing his favorite hat which is a giraffe. He thinks the best job in the world is to be a mailman like his father. Zinoff can be loud and laughs at inappropriate times. His handwriting is terrible and he is bad at sports. Yet, he has a good heart. He tries to do what he thinks is right. Some of his teachers like while others can barely stand him. He is very hyper. He does not have many friends. As the years past, the kids in his class notice how different he is from them. They start to call him a loser because he cannot seem to do anything right. At first, Zinoff does not notice that he is different from the other kids around him. He starts to realize how different he is from them. He tries to fit in but he is not always successful.
Review: What makes someone a loser? To many of the characters in the book, Zinoff is considered a loser. He does not excel at the things that most people consider important. He is not good at school. He is not good at sports. He does not fit in with the other kids. He lives in his head more than he lives in the world.  The thing is that Zinoff has a good heart. He does not give up. Even when others think he is terrible, he keeps going and trying to do the best he can. He sees the world differently then most people. Zinoff is not really a loser. He is just different but at that age many children have a hard time accepting children who are different. Even some adults have a hard time accepting people who are different. He reminds me of a boy I used to know. This boy had trouble because it was hard for him to read social cues. He ended up annoying more of his classmates to the point they snapped at him. He did not understand what he was doing to them. I would recommend this book to just about any grade. I think it is a good book to use to discuss what a loser is and maybe people we think are loser are actually not.
Additional Info:
Main Characters:
Donald Zinoff-Zinoff is different from many of the children in his class. They consider him a loser because of his differences. He tries his best and he has a good heart. He used to throw up until he had a surgery to fix his stomach.
Mr. Zinoff-He is Zinoff’s father. He is a mailman and he loves his son.
Mrs. Zinoff-She is Zinoff’s mother. She gave him stars when he did something good.
Andrew-He was Zinoff’s neighbor until he moved away. They meet again in sixth grade and he is considered a cool kid.

Polly-She is Zinoff’s little sister.

Mr. Yalowitz-He is Zinkoff’s 4th grade teacher. He is one of the teachers who likes Zinoff.

Miss Meeks-She is Zinkoff’s 1st grade teacher. She is one of his favorite teachers.

Mrs. Biswell-She is Zinoff’s 2nd grade teacher. She hates children and especially hates Zinoff. He drives her crazy.

Theme: Individual versus society, Inner versus outer strength, Will to survive

Bibliographic Info:

Spinelli, Jerry. (2003). Loser. New York, NY: Scholastic



A Wrinkle in Time-Review

Author:  Madeleine L’Engle
Reading Range: 4.7 (Accelerated Reader)
Interest Range:  Ages 10 and Up (Amazon.com)
Plot:  Meg Murry and Charles Wallace’s father is missing.  He has been missing for a number of years.  He is a scientist, as is their mother, who has been working on a secret government project.  Everyone in their town believes he has run off on them. Only they believe that somethings has happened to him. Charles Wallace has special abilities that lets him read the minds of others. They meet another boy named Calvin O’Keefer who has abilities of their own. They become friends with him.  They also meet Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which who reveals to them they know where Meg and Charles’ father is.  The three of them go on a journey to rescue him and discover that there is a great evil keeping him imprisoned. They have to find a way to save him and to save themselves.
Review:  Meg idolizes her father and believes that him coming home will make everything in her life better.  As the story goes on, Meg discovers that even through her father is smart, he is not as perfect as she thought. Meg starts to come into her own power and realizes that she is capable of more than she thought. This book touches on issues of religion and conformity. Meg does not fit into her town because of who she is. When they go to find her father, they discover a planet where everyone is expected to be the same. They are punished if they are not. There is a scene in the book where a boy is being punished because he is not bouncing a ball the correct way. This is done because it is believed that order is better than chaos. Differences are not something to be embraced but gotten rid of. I would recommend this book for people who like science fiction and fantasy. I wish I read it when I was younger instead of an adult because I think I would have loved it as a child.
Additional Info:
Book One in the Time Quartet.
Main Characters:
Meg Murry-She is the eldest daughter of Alex and Kate Murry. She is worried about her father because he has been missing for the past few years.
Charles Wallace Murry-He is the youngest son of Alex and Kate Murry. He is Meg’s brother. They are very close to one another. He an ability that allows him to know things others do not know.
Calvin O’Keefe-He is their friend. He also has an ability like Charles Wallace.
Dr. Alex Murry-He is the father of Meg and Charles. He works for the government as a scientist. He has been missing for years. The people in town assume that he ran off.
Dr. Kate Murry-She is the mother of Meg and Charles Wallace. She is also a scientist.
Mrs. Whatsit-She has the ability to change her shape. She helps Meg and Charles Wallace look for their father. She is the youngest of the three Mrs. Ws but that means she is only a few billion years old.
Mrs. Who-She helps Meg and Charles Wallace look for their father. She offers them advice.
Mrs. Which-She is the oldest of the Mrs. Ws. She helps them travel by tesseract to find their father.
IT-This is the being that is holding Alex Murry captive. It also controls the planet they visit.
The Man with Red Eyes-He is the mouth piece for IT.

Theme: Chaos and order, Dangers of ignorance, Fate and free will, Good versus evil, Growing up

Bibliographic Info: L’Engle, M. (1962). A wrinkle in time. New York, NY: A Yearling Book.


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.