Monday, October 10, 2016
Sorry it's been a little while.... back to school madness has finally calmed down. :)
I've read a few really neat books that I'd love to share.
Maxi's Secrets by Lynn Plourde begins with eleven year old Timmy telling us that Maxi, a beloved pet dog, dies before the story ends. Like most "dead dog" books, Timmy assures us that his time with Maxi taught him more lessons than he can count.
Timmy is about to start a new middle school which would be fine except for the fact that he is the size of a first grader. Timmy gets called names, put inside lockers, and is often mistaken for an elementary school student. How does he deal with it? He comes home each day to the biggest, most loyal, sweetest dog named Maxi. Timmy can deal with all of his school problems by thinking about after school hugs and puppy breath, but he soon realizes that something is wrong with Maxi- the puppy is deaf. Surprisingly, it's Maxi's disability that helps Timmy to meet his neighbor, Abby, and to make some real friends.
Even though there are moments of sadness in this story, it is overall very inspiring and also funny. Timmy is able to find humor throughout his most difficult moments of being bullied for his size. His ability to laugh at himself makes him a very likable character. Maxi is his loyal friend who loves Timmy no matter what and it's through his adventures with Maxi that Timmy learns some life "secrets." Each chapter end with a little gem such as "it's possible to hear someone even if your ears don't work." I think this author does a great job of keeping this story light while writing about some tough times. Some stories about bullying are incredibly depressing and difficult to read but not this one. Plourde keeps her young audience in mind and it's all incredibly appropriate and at times even joyful. Grades 4+
Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern was big surprise. I had never heard of it or read any reviews for it. I was shopping in a small independent book store when saw it and thought it looked sweet. I am so glad I picked it up. I LOVED it!
Benny Barrows is a fourth grade student who is still searching for a best friend and struggling to learn to ride a bike. His older brother George is autistic and can be a handful, and worst of all, his dad has a terrible accident at the beginning of the story and is struggling to recover. Benny feels like he is surrounded by bad luck all around him. His school begins a kindness reward program and Benny is convinced that if he does enough nice things, his luck will turn around.
Benny is an incredibly kind and caring character. He treats others with respect hoping to gain a "kindness reward" without ever realizing that he has a bigger heart than any character in this story. The way he cares for his brother George is a great example for young readers. Benny finds some surprising friendships along the way and unlocks an inner strength he didn't know he had. His serious talent for Lego stop motion movie making adds even more depth to a well developed character.
Like the author of Maxi's Secret, McGovern manages to take some tough topics and make them totally appropriate for younger readers. Recommended for ages 9+
Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp is another gem I found at the independent book store this weekend. Madeline Finn is having a difficult time learning to read. She really tries, but the words just run together on the page. She gets really nervous to read aloud and her confidence is waning because she is desperate to become a "Star Reader." Just when she is about to give up, Madeline Finn finds a program at the library where she can read to a lovable dog named Bonnie. Bonnie doesn't make her feel scared or nervous like some of her classmates and the dog's patience soon helps Madeline to get through her books a little faster each time she reads them.
This is an excellent book for younger students who might be struggling with reading. There are a lot of Madeline Finns out there who are feeling sad and frustrated, but with enough love, patience and practice, students can surprise themselves like she did! Ages 4-8