Category: Elementary School

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad (InfoSoup)

Inge arrives at the small island town of Bornholm, Denmark via boat. She hasn’t eaten since the morning of the day before, thanks to missing her mother and the fish guts on the boat. Inge has never met her grandmother before, but now the two of them will be living together at her small farm. Inge brings with her plenty of laughter and trouble, but her grandmother does not seem amused by any of it. Over and over again, Inge gets into mischief, whether it is in a kicking contest with the donkey, learning how to walk in wooden shoes, or insisting that in 1911, girls can play on the grass at school too. Inge’s vibrant personality never stays down for long, but can this small island community survive her?

This book is pure silly and shimmering perfection. Inge is a marvelous protagonist, filled with life and the ability to get into great trouble even on a small farm on a tiny island. Inge is the real reason this book works so well, but so is her grandmother who proves the perfect foil for the rambunctious child. While I don’t want to spoil the book, it is the grandmother’s reaction to Inge that makes this book so special by the end.

The setting of the small Danish island also plays a huge role in the book. Set in 1911, the strict community rules rub Inge entirely the wrong way. Though some areas are moving in a more modern way, the small town keeps things traditional. With a strong focus on food, children will enjoy the changing menagerie of gingerbread creatures, the question of how thick a piece of cake should be, and the way that the grandmother feeds Inge with a beautiful determination held together by lots of cream.

A gem of a book, this would make a great read aloud for a classroom thanks to the large amounts of guffaw-level humor throughout as well as a winning young female protagonist. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

Soar by Joan Bauer

Soar by Joan Bauer

Soar by Joan Bauer (InfoSoup)

Jeremiah loves baseball but due to his heart transplant, he isn’t allowed to run or play ball. When his father is asked to work in a baseball-crazed town for a couple of months, Jeremiah insists on going along rather than being left behind with his aunt. But all is not happy in Hillcrest as a scandal breaks out soon after Jeremiah and his father move to town. Jeremiah though knows that baseball can heal too, so he sets out to follow his dream of being a coach by trying to create a new middle school team. It’s up to one boy with lots of spirit to try to inspire an entire town to care again.

This is Bauer at her best. Her books are always readable and easily related to. Here that very accessible text allows Jeremiah to shine as a character. His spirit battles his health limitations, his ability to keep on trying and to stay positive is inspiring and refreshing to see. This is a book about living life filled with the sport that you adore, whether your body allows you to actually play or not. It’s also about not letting limitations define your life but your own will power and spirit to do that.

It’s also great to see a book about moving where an unusual kid manages to make friends quickly and be accepted by most others. Happily, Jeremiah is not shy or withdrawn, but his gregarious nature, coach quotes and willingness to talk directly to adults as equals makes him quite unique. Bauer writes with such understanding of her protagonist that the entire book gels around his personality and approach to life.

A strong elementary school read, this book will be loved by fans of baseball and those looking for just a great book to read or share. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt

Friday Barnes Girl Detective by RA Spratt

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Phil Gosier (InfoSoup)

Friday has long known the power of being invisible to everyone else. Her parents rarely pay any attention to her and she got herself moved from kindergarten to first grade without anyone noticing. When she solves a bank robbery, the award money lets her pay tuition to Highcrest Academy, a very exclusive private school. Friday hopes to continue to be invisible, but her brown sweaters and jeans don’t serve as camouflage among the trendy and expensive clothes. Anyway, Friday soon discovers that what Highcrest Academy needs is a detective since there is crime everywhere! As Friday steps into that role, she tries to solve a series of cases from missing homework to who exactly is the yeti in the swamp. This funny and clever book is the first in a new series that is sure to delight.

Friday is a great female protagonist. She is highly intelligent and never apologizes for it. She is also socially awkward but manages to find a great friend at school, another girl who is her perfect foil, a daydreamer who can read emotions well. Friday has no interest in being popular, another breath of fresh air. The unlikely pair make a great team in solving mysteries and are joined by others including a doltish brother who does what he is told very well and a principal who also needs Friday’s help.

The entire book is smart and humorous. Friday solves crimes in ways that make sense and the crimes themselves are small enough to fit into a middle school campus but large enough to be fascinating. While there is some bullying, many of the boarding school tropes of mean girls are minimized in favor of the mysteries themselves. The closed-in setting of the boarding school is used to great effect as the suspects must often be right in the vicinity.

A dazzling new series, this book has tons of appeal for mystery fans and features a unique new protagonist to love. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Roaring Brook Press and Edelweiss.

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

When an earthquake hits Japan, Kai tries to help his elderly grandparents escape the tsunami waves, but he is unable to get them to move fast enough. After the immediate crisis, Kai is moved from his home in Japan to the safety of Oregon to live with his cousins. His parents stayed behind in Japan to work on the nuclear power plant that was damaged in the storm. Jet is the cousin that Kai moves in with. She dreams of being the pilot of a boat on the Columbia Bar. One day she misses checking the tide though and puts her little brother in serious danger on the water. These two cousins, each wrestling with the results of their actions and the tug of their dreams, have to find a way to forgive themselves and move forward.

Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, has once again captured the courage of children on the page. The two protagonists are unique voices in children’s literature. Kai from Japan looks at everything in America as different and foreign. He struggles with his own role in his grandparent’s death and feels a loss of honor for leaving Japan and escaping to safety himself rather than helping rebuild. Jet is a courageous girl who struggles to make and keep friends. She is passionate about sailing and boats but also about her family. Jet doesn’t warm to people easily, and the two cousins face interpersonal issues between them that are organic and realistic.

The setting too is beautifully rendered. The Oregon coast and the Columbia River Bar add real drama and danger to the story. The ever-present weather and tides, the concerns with sailing and family honor, and the dreams of Jet herself meld together into a mix of adventure and destiny. The book has facts at the end about the Columbia River Bar Pilots and about Captain Deborah Dempsey who appears as a character in the book, the only female Columbia River Bar pilot.

Realistic and dangerous adventure in a beautiful and unique part of the United States, this book speaks to working to forgive yourself and overcoming adversity by doing the right thing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather & Other Short Stories by Sara Varon (InfoSoup)

Enter the artistic process of graphic-novel author Sara Varon. Here you will see short comic stories, some done as exercises, essays and journal entries. Varon introduces each piece, sharing that she is always at least one of the characters in each of her stories. Each story has the charm and wit that one expects from a book by Varon, here is bite-sized pieces that allow readers to meet even more adorable animal characters. There are cats who long to fly, stories based on alphabet exercises, bee keeping information, swimming pools, and much much more. This is a world worth visiting multiple times!

Varon’s art is almost wordless, the characters showing much  more than telling all that they do. Varon plays with the cells of the graphic novel, breaking the walls between them by handing cups across the lines in one story and in another showing both above and below the water at the same time. She is consistently gently funny and smart in all of these stories. There is a beautiful familiarity to her work, it is at once quirky and cozy and creates worlds where one wants to exist.

Readers will find a lot to love here, whether they are reading it as future artists and authors themselves or because they love Varon’s work. Varon shows the growth of her own work as the book progresses, and also shows how from the very start she was true to her own style and vision. The collection is empowering and fresh.

The author of Robot Dreams and Odd Duck shows a back-stage view of her work, inviting young readers into her creative process. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton

The Goblins Puzzle by Andrew S Chilton

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton (InfoSoup)

The boy had never had a name, since he had been a slave as long as he could remember. He tried to be the best slave possible, but all of the rules of slavery ran together and often contradicted one another too. When he is sent on a journey with the prince, the boy witnesses a murder and is suddenly free. Soon he finds himself in the company of a goblin who knows all of the answers about the boys’ past but is unwilling to part easily with them. The goblin agrees to answer one question a day truthfully, but goblins are tricky and can’t really be trusted. Meanwhile, Plain Alice has been mistakenly kidnapped by a dragon who meant to kidnap Princess Alice. These characters all find themselves facing issues of logic, dragons, ogres and other horrible deeds on their way to unraveling who they really are.

This novel is a cunning and complicated novel for children. It takes logic and loops it, confuses it and then shows how it actually all works out. It’s a puzzle and a delightful one. Young readers will enjoy the twists and turns, groan at the folly of some of the characters, cheer as others exceed their expectations, and those who love puzzles and logic will find a book to adore here.

The characters are well drawn and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the goblin, who twists and turns but also has a hand in making sure that things turn out right. The boy is a great protagonist, often confused and always seeing the world as new, he explores and learns as he goes. Plain Alice is a strong female protagonist, using her brains to solve problems and even charming a dragon as she does so. The entire book is woven with mystical creatures but magic does not save the day here. Instead, deep thinking and logic are the winners.

A puzzle of a book that twists and turns in the best possible way, this adventure is one for smart children who can use their wits to save themselves. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

 

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

Manami loves her home on Bainbridge Island where she can walk with her grandfather and his dog on the beach. Everything changes when Pearl Harbor is bombed in 1941. Manami and her family along with the other Japanese Americans are gathered up and forced to move to internment camps far from the sea. Manami’s grandfather has arranged for someone to care for his dog, but Manami cannot bear to leave him behind so she hides him in her coat. But she is not allowed to bring the dog with them. Heartbroken, when they reach the camp, Manami stops speaking entirely, unable to force words past her dusty throat. Manami keeps hoping that their dog will find them, sending pictures on the wind to him.

Told in spare and elegant prose, Sephaban captures the devastating impact of World War II policies on Japanese Americans. Losing all of their property and belongings except what they can fit into one suitcase each, the families work to put together a semblance of a life for themselves and their children. Sepahban sets this story in a prison camp that had a riot break out and one can feel the tension building. This novel manages to show the impact of loss of civil rights and also be a voice for moving forward to embracing diversity and differences.

Manami is an amazing character. Her pain is palpable on the page, her voice buried under guilt and compounded by their internment in the camp. Everything changes for her in one moment, taken from the place she loves, removed from the life she has been living. Manami has to find a way to make a new life, but it is devastating for her as she is unable to forgive herself for what she has done.

Beautiful writing, a complex heroine and a powerful story make this short historical novel worth reading and sharing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Edelweiss.