Posts tagged ‘agoraphobia’

WHAT’S IN THE SUITCASE?

Mr. Brown’s Suitcase

Written by Kate Hughes

Mr.Brown'ssuitcase,pic

An interesting novel set in England explores the life at home and school of a middle school boy. Jez is understandably confused and bitter. His step-dad Steven is an out of work alcoholic who resents him, while favoring his two young sons Josh and Cal. Mum is so fearful of him that she has developed agoraphobia, refusing to go out alone even to shop for food. Jez has assumed responsibility for bringing food home and getting his brothers to school. He attempts to cover his problems by being a rebel at school.

One day, his teacher Mrs. Wright becomes ill. A substitute named Mr. Brown rapidly turns the tables on the out of control students in the class. Mr. Brown has only two rules; raise your hand to say something and treat others the way you want to be treated. At first Jez continues his mischievous behavior, but later becomes intrigued by the soft spoken man who makes learning interesting and rewards students by allowing them a peek in his secret suitcase. Jez is dying to know what is in it.

In the meantime, things get worse at home. Jez becomes the man of the house, but learns that he is not as tough as he thinks when neighborhood bullies try to lure him into vandalism and shoplifting. He discovers a hidden artistic talent which Mr. Brown encourages him to develop. Overhearing a conversation by chance, Jez decides he must act. He is really scared, but he forces himself to contact someone who will change all their lives for the better and give the family a new start.

This book honestly explores the issues of peer pressure, divorce, alcoholism and domestic violence that many children must face each day. The author does not preach or reveal solutions, but allows her protagonist to show the possibilities by trial and error. Children age nine or ten and older should find the story appealing and informative.

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AN UNLIKELY PAIR

My Monster Burrufu

Written by Alberto Corral

Illustrated by Alessandra Sorrentino

MyMonsterBurrufu,pic

This chapter book is targeted for eight to twelve year olds; the easy going storytelling style and charming illustrations interspersed throughout make it visually appealing as well. I can’t make up my mind which character I love the most, Olivia, the seven year old mistress of the monster’s house or Burrufu, the melancholy monster.

At the beginning of the adventure, Olivia is about to move from the city to a home four hours away in the country. She immediately endears herself to me when I read the note she left to the new tenants asking them to take care of the house and sending them hugs and kisses. Upon arriving at the old three story house, Olivia and her dog Tula begin to explore the home’s nooks and crannies. They hear noises in the attic; her father, Steve, tells her jokingly that maybe it is a monster. Olivia thinks he is making fun of her, and when he assures her that a monster in the house is good luck, she feels relief.

Olivia can’t sleep and goes down to the kitchen to have some milk and cookies. To her surprise she spies a furry white claw stealing cookies! So the adventure begins….Olivia is determined to lure the creature out by setting a cookie trap. She discovers that the monster lives in the attic and is a writer like her father. Because Olivia’s dad spends lots of time in his study writing, she has lots of time on her own. Olivia learns that her friend Burrufu can make himself very large when he frightens people; he is fearful of going outside and scaring people. Olivia wants to make him feel wanted and secure so she tries to provide him with courage. One day Burrufu is discovered and chaos ensues. Will Olivia be able to remain friends with her monster, who is really a talented and sensitive writer or will they both be forced to relinquish their friendship due to the fears of others?

This book contains approximately one hundred pages and ten short chapters. It can be used as a classroom read aloud or read independently as a chapter book for readers in the middle grades. There is plenty of humor and adventure. The plot contains enough twists and turns plus thought provoking issues to challenge the middle grade reader. Highly recommended.

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