I've decided to change my focus just a bit in terms of the book report...
I know that most of my readers are not folks with middle school-aged children, but I'm reading a lot of books in our library in order to recommend them to students. So I think that it's only fair to include a few here (plus, I won't look like such a slacker in the reading department.) Feel free to talk about these books with folks you know who have kids, or read them yourself! Some of them are really, really good!
The first book up for review is Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein.
This book reminded me a lot of The View From Saturday, which won the Newbery Medal for E.L. Konigsburg and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. It had a similar vibe to it--kids who are different working together to solve a problem. The setting--a wonderful, magical library--is the real star of the show.
I know that as a kid, the Wolcott Civic Free Library (as small as it was) was a magical place for me. My one-stoplight town didn't offer much in the way of (safe and productive) entertainment, but the library (open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning!) was a place for me to immerse myself in books, which ultimately allowed me to 'leave' (in my mind) my one-stoplight town.
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library is a lengthy read, so it's not for students who are reluctant readers. But it does have a great message (we are stronger when we work together) and Grabenstein even sticks some learning in there, as well (how to find good information at your public library!). He also has a kid-friendly website that's fun to look at, and there are other Mr. Lemoncello books of your reader loves the first!
The other book I'd like to discuss is The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate.
(You can read more about it here.)
This book won the Newbery Award in 2013, and it is so well-deserved that I could hug Katherine Applegate until she busts. Who knew a Silverback Gorilla could be a hero?
First, it's not written like a traditional novel...pages are in snippets of events as told from Ivan's point of view, juxtaposed with how he feels about his life. There's enough empty space on most pages that it's not overwhelming to readers, and EVERYONE (including this jaded hot-flasher) will love Ivan and his determination to keep his promise.
Y'all. I can't even.
The other compelling thing about this novel is that it is based on a true story, and there's a companion picture book that talks about the real Ivan and his life in a cement enclosure, until his introduction at Zoo Atlanta. What a treat to combine the picture book with the novel, and talk about non-fictoin, fiction, and artistic license. But maybe that's too English-teachery for you.
The next book report will feature another grown-up book, I promise. Until then...happy reading!