Love That Dog- Sharon Creech


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This book was handed to me by the woman in charge of curriculum at my current school.  She told me that it was the newest book that they had ordered for bibliotherapy.  I was immediately intrigued because I have read other books by Creech before and was interested in what this one was like.  Once I found out it was written as a series of free verse poems I was a little more hesitant but decided to give it a try.  It took me 15-20 minutes to read straight through- which especially for the population of students I’m working with is a big plus!  The book is written as if a early teen boy wrote the poems and through them a small story line develops revolving around his feelings about poetry and about his pet dog.

One of the things I really really enjoyed about this book is that Creech included references to well known poetry such as The Red Wheelbarrow, some of Robert Frost’s poems, and poetry by Walter Dean Myers (one of my favorite YA Lit Authors).  The focus for the bibliotherapy aspect of the book is to encourage our students to use writing as an outlet, identify their feelings, and to discuss loss and grief.  In addition to that I think that we can really use this book to explore a poetry unit- focusing specifically on the poems mentioned int he book and then writing our own poetry as well.

When I hopefully do teach this book I will fill you in on how it goes, and perhaps find a way to post any activities that I create or adapt to go with it!

This book is definitely a 6-9th grade book.  I would recommend it for middle school primarily, though reluctant readers in 9th grade may appreciate its brevity.  Our class is primarily male and we are hoping that the male protagonist will make it appealing to them.

Awards:
Christopher Award
Mitten Award (Michigan)
Claudia Lewis Poetry Award

Number the Stars- Lois Lowry

This book is a bit of a change for me as it is a bit more middle grades than young adult.  That being said, I’d heard good things so I decided to pick it up and read it.  The story, as most of you probably know, is about a young girl during WWII that lives in Holland and how her family is affected by the Nazi occupation.

It was interesting to read this book so soon after I read Postcards From No Man’s Land (I read both a couple of months ago).  Both provided insight into the war in Holland, but both were extremely different.  Overall I honestly wasn’t that big of a fan of Number the Stars, perhaps if I were more into books for upper elementary school students I would have felt differently.  It appears to be historically accurate, but I felt the plot and the characters lacked development.  I wanted to know more.

The book is definitely school appropriate and could be used for grades 4-7 though I’d say 5/6 is ideal.  This would be a good book to pair with a history lesson on WWII.

Awards:

WINNER 1991 – Arkansas Charlie May Simon Master List
WINNER 1989
– Sydney Taylor Book Award, Association of Jewish Libraries
WINNER 1991 – Kansas William White Master List
WINNER 1991 – Kentucky Bluegrass Master List
WINNER 1990 – Maine Student Book Award
FINALIST 1993 – Massachusetts Children’s Book Award
WINNER – Newbery Medal Winner
WINNER – ALA Notable Children’s Book
WINNER – School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Kit’s Wilderness- David Almond


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Kit’s Wilderness is a novel that is very realistic but includes fantastical elements.  Kit is a 13 year old boy whose family has recently moved back to the town in which is grandfather grew up.  Part of the story revolves around Kit’s grandfather’s declining health and mental state.  I identified with this aspect of the story the most having gone through it with my grandmother for the last 3-5 years.  I think that a lot of students can identify with that as well.  The other big part of the story is the relationship between Kit and another boy, and their connection to the history of the town.  This is where ghosts and fantasy come into play in the story.  I liked the book, but generally prefer stories that have little to know fantasy in them- if they are supposed to be realistic stories.  I think this novel could be used in a classroom setting.  Teen boys may be inclined to enjoy this book as it is very male centered.  There is also a female character that plays a somewhat central role, so girls in class won’t feel completely left out. I’d say this book is good for a 7-8th grade classroom.

Awards:

A Michael L. Printz Award Winner
An ALA Notable Book 
A “Publishers Weekly ” Best Book
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Booklist Editor’s Choice
A Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year

Tangerine- Edward Bloor

  Tangerine kept me interested for the entire novel.  Paul, the seventh grade protagonist, is an engaging character with whom I was able to empathize.  One of the story lines that kept me the most intrigued throughout the book was the mystery of how Paul’s eye sight was harmed.  There is just enough mystery and intrigue in this book to keep you guessing.  There is also a focus on soccer, fitting in, and differences between social class in the book.  This book is very appropriate for middle school students and I think could be used for individual reading or whole class reading. 

 

 

Awards:

ALA Top Ten Books for Young Adults

Horn Book Fanfare Book

An American Bookseller Pick of the List

NYPL “One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing”

A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book

Bullyville- Francine Prose

  I picked this book up in the hopes that it would address the issues of bullying in a way that speaks to students.  In that regard it fell short.  While I found the novel interesting, it did not do enough to show the negative effects of bullying and what the best ways do deal with it are.  However, it would help facilitate a discussion of bullying.  The story follows a 14 year old boy named Bart through a family tragedy surrounding 9/11 and his subsequent attendance at a prestigious all boys boarding school.  Based on content and reading level I think this book would be best used with 7th and 8th graders.  There are very few female characters but I don’t think that would keep girls from enjoying the story.  Overall I didn’t mind the book, and would consider using it if my class were having bullying issues and I wanted to be able to start a dialogue about it.  It would be a fine choice for individual reading as well.

There is a reading guide available for this book through the publisher.

Awards:

Publishers Weekly Best Book

Scorpions- Walter Dean Meyers

I really enjoyed Scorpions.  I think Meyers does a good job of portraying what life can be like for kids living in impoverished neighborhoods.  The reading is pretty easy, and I think that this book can be used successfully in a middle school classroom.  Or even for a class of struggling 9th graders.  It lends itself to discussions about gangs, violence, loyalty, school and more.  I would also recommend it for individual reading.  It may appeal more to males than females due to the male protagonist.

Awards:

Margaret A. Edwards 1994

Out of the Dust- Karen Hess

This historical fiction piece is written in verse form. The language is easy to understand however. It takes place during the 1930’s in the middle of the “dust bowl.” This book I believe is appropriate for students ages 10-13 depending on their reading level. If a class were studying this time period it could be an interesting text to read along with it. The protagonist is female however, which might make it harder for male students to appreciate.

 

 

AWARDS:

Newberry Medal 1998

Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

IBBY Honor List

ALA 1998 Top 10 Best Books for Young Adults