Tag Archives: Fiction

Thirteen Reasons Why

  • 13 reasonsThe cassette tapes arrive two weeks after a classmate’s suicide, and each recipient is instructed to listen to the tapes and mail them to the next person on the list—or else there will be consequences and possibly criminal charges. Each person on the list figured in the sender’s emotional unraveling, some simply missed the warning signs, some pushed her over the edge. With the opening pages, this book’s ending is revealed. Still, between those opening pages and the final pages, Jay Asher delivers a suspenseful tale that is a haunting eulogy.

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The Dreamer

By Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis; Scholastic Press, 2010; pp 371

Plot: A fictional retelling of poet Pablo Neruda’s childhood, who as a young boy suffered from stuttering and an authoritarian father who saw only flaws and weakness in his son. The loutish patriach did not suffer physical weakness, another flaw of the young poet. The father crushes  illtellectual or artistic pursuits. Young Neruda, his head in the clouds, sees beauty and poetry in every inanimate and animate object. H

Ages: 9 to 12

Review: Gorgeous. This book is a beautiful paen that cascades off the page, veers over cliffs, and carries readers like a zephyr. Text, rhythm, and illustrations are one.

Awards: ALA Notable Book

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Misty of Chincoteague

Author: By Marguerite Henry; MacMillian Publishing, 1947; pp 174

Plot: The annual Pony Penning Day, which occurs on Chincoteague Island, is the setting for this story. All of the people and ponies mentioned in this story were real, including siblings Maureen and Paul Beebe and Grandma and Grandpa Beebe, and, of course, Misty and the Phantom. The likeable siblings, Paul and Maureen, are living with their grandparents. They have their hearts set on a pony, and lo and behold, the Phantom, a mysterious feral pony, delivers a scrawny foal that flounders on the swim from Assateague Island. Paul jumps into the water to help the foal keep her head above water. The foal is too young to be sold at penning day and needs a home. There, that’s the set up, enjoy.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12

Review: I read this book when I was a child. It was a favorite book then—as were all of Ms. Henry’s stories—and the tale of Misty and the annual roundup of the ponies on the island is as appealing as ever. 

Awards: Newbery Book Honor

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Miss You, Mina

By Denene Millner; Scholastic Books; 2010; pp 177.

Plot: Twelve-year-old Mina is going to New York City to live with her Aunt Jo and attend a six-week art camp, leaving behind her two BFFs—Liza and Samantha–for the summer. Of course, Mina is scared, and on her way to SoHo Children’s Art Camp, she falls in the subway and lands on Gabriella, who is going to the same art camp. The camp is attended by older students, including the mean girl, Paulette, who makes life very difficult for Mina. Turns out that Paulette has some issues, but mostly a step-mom and a disinterested dad. Mina makes the best of the situation and enters an art competition. Her entry, a painting inspired by her longing for her BFFs features the two girls sunning themselves on a New York rooftop “tar beach.” Mina compliments Paulette on her entry. But Paulette remains silent and does not reciprocate. Nevermind. Mina wins the contest because she applied what she learned in art school and observed in New York.

Genre: Fiction

Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12

Review: This book is part of the Candy Apple Series. Younger tween girls will identify with Mina and the girl dynamics in this book. Boys, not so much. 🙂

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Beezus and Ramona

By Beverly Cleary; Morrow Junior Books, 1955;

Plot: Four-year-old Ramona ruins everything that her 9-year-old sister, Beatrice aka Beezus, does and desires … play dates, art classes, library books, and gasp, her birthday cake, not once, but twice! The tension builds, and young Ramona reaches a breaking point on her birthday after Ramona tosses her rubber doll into the oven as the second cake is baking.  Beezus could just about strangle her sibling, but when her namesake Aunt brings a store-bought cake, Aunt Beatrice and Beezus’ mother—ultimate BFFs–reminisce about their sibling rivalry and the hideous acts that Aunt Beatice inflicted on her older sister, Beatrice realizes that she and her sister will develop a life-long friendship.

Genre: Fiction

Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12

Review: What an annoying child! Four-year-old is the bane of the existence of her 9-year-old sister, Beatrice aka Beezus. This little child was innocently devious and deliberately demonic. About midway through this book, I wanted to march this child off to the naughty corner for a well-deserved timeout! Author Cleary succeeded in making the reader sympathize with Beezus and feel her frustration, which spills over at Beezus’ birthday. The story is set in the 1950s, so young readers may find the stay-at-home mother’s life peculiar. I certainly did. The last chapter, in which Beezus learns, by watching her mother and her sister reminisce about their sibling tensions and transgressions, how she will learn to love her sister–even if she falls in and out of love with her—is downright touching.

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Bird Lake Moon

By Kevin Henkes; Glenwillow Books, 2008; pp. 179

Plot: Twelve-year-old Mitch’s father abruptly has decided he wants out of his marriage. His stunned mother, a teaching assistant, decides upon a change of scenery, so she and Mitch spend the summer at her parents’ home at near Bird Lake, a town and lake somewhere in Wisconsin. His grandparents, Papa Carl and Cherry, are the quiet types and not kid-friendly, and turns out, not the soft landing that Mitch and his mother need. His mother decides to leave Madison, Wisconsin, and spend the summer at her parent’s home, near Bird Lake. Here, Mitch feels alienated, lost, and angry. It would help if one of the adults in his life were communicative. Across the way, is an abandoned cottage, which Mitch stakes claim to, a place where he sorts out what happened to his home life, and a place that Mitch imagines will be his home someday. That is until a long-absent family returns, shattering that fantasy. The family comes with two children, and carrying baggage–a tragedy, that occurred at Blue Lake many summers ago. Despite the family’s outwardly placid and perfect appearance, it too was suffered its own loss. Mitch is not about to give up the cottage and sets out to spook the family. What Mitch doesn’t know is that the family is already haunted by its own ghost.

Genre: Fiction

Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12

Review: They grow up so fast. Seems like yesterday Kevin Henkes was penning Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, but with Bird Lake Moon, he wades chest-deep into a story about grief, divorce and healing. This boy-centric book centers around 12-year-old Mitch and his feelings and confusion over his parent’s recent separation and impending divorce. With Bird Lake Moon, Henkes presents a story that teeters between a boy making good, mean-spirited, and redemptive choices. Mitch is a boy on the edge at a turning point in his life. Will he have the courage to make a new friend or will be sabotage this friendship? Mitch and his new best buddy, learn the power of secrets, the meaning of friendship and the responsibility of that relationship. Henkes shows his range as a writer with this book. Some passages are gorgeous: Raindrops stuck to the screen in places–like unfinished needlepoint stitched in diamonds.” Henkes has written a grown up book that his early readers will enjoy, especially boys.

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Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

By Judy Blume; Antheneum Books for Young Readers; 1970; pp. 149

Plot: Margaret Simon is almost 12.Her parents uproot her from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey. Margaret suspects this relocation, in part, is to put some distance between the family and Margaret’s Jewish grandmother, who is very dear to Margaret but not so much to Margaret’s non-Jewish mother. Margaret wants to fit in and quickly joins a secret club with her new BFFs. The group calls itself the PTSs (preteen sensations). The members marvel over the fact that Margaret does not have a religion, and for the first time in her life Margaret finds this to be a sticking point, too. For instance, how does she know if she should join the YWCA or the Jewish Community Center when she doesn’t even know what she is? Margaret begins a hilarious soliloquy with God, in which she discusses her nebulous religious makeup and asks God to increase her bust and give her a period.

Genre: Fiction

Reading Level: Ages 10 and older

Review: Omigod! Judy Blume has captured the confusion, angst, social trials of being an 11-year-old girl. My library copy was worn thin and the pages torn from the hundreds, maybe thousands, or readers who read this book before I. This book is hysterical and real. Blume captured the voice of the budding and confused 11-year-old. Older readers will laugh as they remember their first training bra, first period, and first awkward kiss. Younger readers, obviously from the condition of my copy, still enjoy this book. The voice is conversational and 11-year-old Margaret’s talks with God are outrageous, for instance when she shares her impression of her first bra and then as she asks God to go easy on her when she pads the bra. This adorable 11-year-old’s conversations with the Supreme Being are laced with profound exploration of religion and identity. Although the book is 41 years old!, the themes hold up. The dialogue and setting of this book are decidedly white, considering today’s young multicultural readers, but the anxieties surrounding menarche prevail.

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