As teachers, we all love to read the "oldie but goodie" books to our students. Caps for Sale, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc.. These are tried and true tales that children love. This week I read a few stories that I think will join the ranks of these books. These titles, I hope, will become a staple of my collection and I'm guessing teachers will read them to their classes for years to come.
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is fabulous! I have encountered so many fellow readers this summer who have gushed about this book. The story is completely original. Fresh off the assembly line, Roz, a robot, crashes onto a deserted island. Not knowing how she got there or that she doesn't belong, Roz does everything she can to survive the wilderness and adapt to her surroundings.
At first the animals run away from her in fear, but they slowly learn that she is good and kind and simply wants to help them however she can.
Oh Roz! She is so sweet and nice that I kept forgetting she was a robot. Of course metal and the natural elements of the island don't really mix so she often finds herself in a pickle, but she keep trying. She analyzes her surroundings and determines the best course. Even though she isn't technically alive, she experiences love, friendship, and even fear. It is very well written and easy to read. I think both students and teachers will love it. Grades 3 and up.
If ever a book deserved a Newbery Honor Award, it is this one. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is an incredible story that tells the tale of two children during WWII who struggle through less than ideal circumstances. Ada is 9 years old and suffers from a club foot. Because of her deformity, her cruel mother locks her away with no crutches, no education, no friends, barely any food and certainly no love or comfort. Ada have never been outdoors, never felt the sun, never experienced Christmas and doesn't even know when her birthday is. As the war begins, Ada and her little brother escape to the country where children are being sent to keep them safe (Ada has to sneak out and crawl to the train station). They are placed with a childless woman, Susan, who despite her initial protests, grows to love the kids and provides a wonderful home.
While Ada and Jamie's life prior to Susan is horribly sad, I never felt depressed while reading because Ada has such a strong spirit. Reading about how much even the smallest gift or kindness means to Ada I am reminded over and over how horrible her mother was. Regardless, Ada is determined to find a happy life. She can be difficult and doesn't trust Susan at first, but she SLOWLY begins to come around and appreciate this new chance at happiness. She is a spitfire who yearns to ride horses and run like other children. Susan does everything she can to help Ada's dreams finally come true while navigating air raid drills and preparations for the war. I read a description of this book that is perfect- "Ada's journey is both heartbreaking and triumphant." Again, for as sad as this book could be, the tone didn't feel that way. It was interesting, hopeful, and healing. I REALLY liked this book and I think I am going to read it aloud to my students come September.
Kate DiCamillo is a favorite author of teachers around the world. Her writing is beautiful and her stories are always entertaining. Children often check her books out from the library, but I've always felt that a student would get more from her books if there was teacher and classroom discussion. It's just that her books are so rich in meaning that students often miss key teachable moments on their own. When my son read Because of Wynn Dixie, he kind of skipped over the bottle tree not realizing about how important it is to the story. Raymie Nightingale is the same kind of story- underlying meanings and deep soul searching themes that kids might miss without a little guidance. I like this sentence from the Kirkus Review "somehow such modest prose carries the weight of deep meditations on life, death, the soul, friendship, and the meaning of life without ever seeming heavy, and there's even a miracle to boot."
Raymie is a young girl whose father just left the family. She has convinced herself that if she wins the local beauty pageant, he will come home. Of course to win a pageant, she had to learn to twirl a baton. She attends a local twirling class and meets two unexpected friends. The frequently fainting Louisiana with the crazy grandmom and tough talking daughter of a cop, Beverly. The unlikely trio embarks on a mission to save beloved pet and they learn the value of friendship.
I enjoyed this book. It was funny and sad and there was never a dull moment. I really think my students will like it as well, but I do worry that it's just a tad too deep for them to really "get it." This one, in my opinion, is better read along with a parent or teacher.
This book is a perfect summary of what I wish for my son. I wish that he would have a summer of camp outs, building forts, sharing secrets, laughing hysterically, and finding adventure. Fort by Cynthia DeFelice is a description of that ideal boy summer. Wyatt and Augie pay a trip to the local junk yard and find enough sheet metal to build a spectacular fort in the woods; however, their dreams of perfect summer nights are soon dashed by the local town bullies. The boys quickly launch Operation Doom to teach the bad seeds a lesson.
Reading this book in the summer was perfect because I could easily picture everything that was happening in the story. I think my students will relate to this book and the boys, especially reluctant readers, will thoroughly enjoy it. One of my favorite parts is when the boys befriend a teenager with special needs. They show him kindness and he repays them in an unexpected and hilarious way.
I wish I was still young enough to run off into the woods with my best pals! 4th grade and up.