Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, HarperCollins, April 2015.

Genre: Realistic/Magical Realism

Good for: Grades 8 and Up

Summary: Fifteen year-old Caden Bosch's life takes place in two different worlds. The first is where he is a crew member aboard a ship bound for the Marianas Trench. The second is where he is a teenager struggling through paranoia and, eventually, schizophrenia.

Thoughts: For me, this was a difficult read. Not because it was boring or a slog to get through, but because of how dark and heartbreaking Caden's story is. It begins with Caden describing his travels aboard the ship along with the crew and their mission: to find treasure by diving into the deepest part of the Marianas Trench called the Challenger Deep. Then the story begins to alternate with Caden in the real world as a teenager who becomes increasingly paranoid at home and school. For instance, he believes that a classmate he barely knows is trying to kill him. His symptoms worsen until his parents have no other choice but to commit him. Most readers will figure out partway through that the "ship" chapters are a metaphor for Caden's time in the psychiatric hospital though until then, the story can make them feel a bit disoriented and confused (much like Caden's state of mind). Illustrations from the author's son, who has dealt with mental illness himself, are interspersed throughout and help to enhance the mood. While the teen appeal isn't obvious (it is quite a heavy, dark read), it's a great one to generate discussion in a book group or classroom.

My Goodreads Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Flannel Friday Guest Post Palooza: Boots by Laurie Berkner

In celebration of Flannel Friday's 4th birthday, bloggers are hosting a Guest Post Palooza! What this means is that current bloggers are pairing up with those who would like to contribute to Flannel Friday and share their great flannel ideas.

Today my blog is hosting a post about this cute flannel from Leah King, a librarian at the Bowman Regional Public Library in North Dakota. Greetings from Ohio, Leah! 

Thank you to Kim for posting my first Flannel Friday contribution on her blog!!!

I love action songs and getting the children up off the benches during story time!  Laurie Berkner gets me bopping in no time flat.  When I did a Rain Story Time, I decided to flannelize her song Boots.  We get to spell and stomp and dance.  Does it get any better than that?! 

B-O-O-T-S boots!
B-O-O-T-S red boots!
In my red boots, in my red boots
I stomp around in my red boots.
In my boots (stomp, stomp)
In my boots (stomp, stomp)
I stomp around in my boots.

B-O-O-T-S boots!
B-O-O-T-S frog boots!
In my frog boots, in my frog boots
I jump up and down in my frog boots.
In my boots (ribbit, ribbit )
In my boots (ribbit, ribbit)
I jump up and down in my boots.

B-O-O-T-S boots!
B-O-O-T-S dancing boots!
In my dancing boots, in my dancing boots
I dance around in my dancing boots.
In my boots (bah, bah, bah)
In my boots (doo, doo, doo)
I dance around in my boots.

B-O-O-T-S boots!
B-O-O-T-S rain boots!
In my rain boots, in my rain boots
I splash around in my rain boots.
In my boots (splish, splash)
In my boots (splish, splash)
I splash around in my boots.

You could also change up this song according to your story time.  My kids would like “oinking” in “pig boots” as well as acting out in many other types of boots.

You can see Laurie Berkner singing her fabulous song Boots in the following YouTube link:
Mollie at What Happens in Storytime is hosting this week's Flannel Friday. You can find the round-up over on her blog! For more information on Flannel Friday, check out their websiteFacebook group, or Pinterest page.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Nancy Paulsen Books, February 2015.

Genre: Realistic

Good for: Grades 3 to 7

Summary: Sixth-grader Ally Nickerson can't read. She can see the words on the page, but they dance around and don't make any sense to her. Ashamed, she acts disruptive in class in order to hide the real issue of her dyslexia. Even though she's actually good at things like math and art, the other kids call her stupid and slow. So when a new teacher arrives and wants to help Ally with her problem, she is reluctant to come around and finally realize that maybe she isn't as hopeless as she thinks.

Thoughts: Overall, this is a sweet, uplifting story about a girl who thinks that just because her mind works differently, she isn't as smart or as normal as the other kids in class. Along the way, she befriends Albert, a quiet and pragmatic boy with a less-than-ideal home life and Keisha, a confident girl with a talent for baking. Ally herself is coping with a military father who is away from home. Ally and her two friends are the most realistically portrayed characters by far. There are some nice moments with the other classmates, namely a hyper boy named Oliver and the "assistant bully" Jessica. However (and unfortunately) bully-in-charge Shay and the unconventional teacher, Mr. Daniels, fall flat. While the story starts strong, it begins to fall into cliched and sappy territory with one too many uplifting moments to make it ring completely true.  Nevertheless, this is a heartwarming story overall and would be a great choice for a tween book club or classroom.

My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars