The first one I read is called "All Four Stars" by Tara Dairman. It's about a girl named Gladys Gatsby who lives in a small town in NY, famous for it's landfill. Gladys doesn't really have any friends, but she does have a big passion for cooking. Her parents think this is a bad idea and encourage her to make friends, watch TV, play on the computer, but Gladys really wants to cook. She resorts to cooking when they aren't home and one day, things go rather badly. Gladys is trying to make creme brûlée and uses a blow torch she finds in the garage rather than one that's approved for culinary use and accidentally sets the curtains on fire, just as her parents walk into the house. Her parents decide that she is banned from the kitchen and from watching cooking shows or reading cookbooks. Gladys is bereft, but tries to make the best of things. Her teacher notices and when Gladys writes an essay about being a food critic, things take a funny turn and suddenly, there is an opportunity. I probably over-identified with Gladys, being a kid who also loved to cook (I married a chef!), but I really admired Gladys' persistence and passion for cooking and food. I liked this one a lot.
My students have been reading a lot of books about social issues and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't glad to be done with them. I really like the stories about social issues but for me they are emotionally draining. I always end up crying and I don't think it's a bad thing, but tears for three classes in a row. Ugh. Give me a break. The break came today in the form of this book. It's called "Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures" and it's by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater. Jackson wrote one of my favorite's from last year called "Double Cross" about kids who are in spy school. Their spy parents disappear and so they decide to investigate. It was great. I'm sorry to confess I haven't read anything by Maggie Steifvater, but the good news is, I'm totally going to look for her work now, because this one was AWESOME. It's about a girl named Pip who is kind of a mess (I mean that in a Southern sense, where one says "Oh, she's just a mess, bless her heart) but also in a literal sense-she struggles with personal grooming, much to the annoyance of her family and classmates. She can talk to magical animals but no one believes her. She is working hard to do research about magical animals and create her own field guide, based on the one she uses, but even better. In the prologue, she gets very excited, because on career day, one of her classmate's parents bring in 8 show unicorns. The result of her conversation with the unicorns was somewhat unexpected. In fact, the way the unicorns talk was also somewhat unexpected. I was reading this to my fourth grade class today and I actually had to stop reading for a minute because I was laughing so hard (a nice break from the tears, thank you). And that's just the first 15 pages of the book. After that, she goes to spend the summer with her aunt, a magical animal veterinarian and then things get REALLY interesting. I'm really sorry I only ordered two copies of this one because every kid in this one fourth grade class put it on hold today. (I could only find it in hard cover!) I'd better order some more, tomorrow.
Here's the book trailer.
Here's a lovely message from both Jackson and Maggie about summer reading!
The last one (in this group) is called "Dinosaur Boy" by Cory Putnam Oakes. It's about Sawyer who has modified DNA (his grandfather is scientist) and ends up being part Stegosaurus. It's kind of weird at first-just bumps on his neck (which turn into plates) but when his tail starts growing, things really get strange. Since this all starts during summer vacation, it's no big deal at first, until he has to go back to school. His fifth grade classmates are less than welcoming but his school has a zero tolerance for bullying. One of the kids gets kicked out school right away and more follow, but that's when someone notices that the kids are not only expelled, they've disappeared. This is a very fun little science fiction book. There are mystery elements and the whole idea of being a dinosaur is going to be very appealing to some kids. It's also a pretty easy read so this would be a good one for strong second grade readers up to fifth or possibly sixth grade.