Posts tagged ‘bullying’

A STICKY SITUATION

Andy the Spider: Captured (Volume 1) 2nd edition

Written by Samantha Rindfuss

Charming chapter book for lower middle grade students focusing on a somewhat unusual grouping of large and small animals. Andy and his sister Emily are sibling spiders who often find themselves at odds. Emily is an expert web weaver, and Andy can’t seem to catch a meal so he often uses his speed to snatch Emily’s food. When Emily disappears, the timid Andy goes off to search for her. This trek into the forest results in a host of adventures and intrigues told in first person by a cast including owls, squirrels, fireflies, a hamster, a porcupine, a skunk, a caterpillar, and a coyote. Two human siblings alternately provide the spiders with a source of hope and fear.

The plot has lots of twists and turns in its 120 plus pages. Rindfuss leads the reader on a roller coaster of emotions but also supplies ample amounts of humor. Animals are infused with human character strengths as well as flaws. Harry the villain owl is a classic bully. Will the laws of the forest ensure justice? Do Andy and Emily resolve their differences and what lessons will their harrowing experience teach them?

Perfect book for beginning readers as well as reluctant readers who enjoy adventure stories with animals. Good discussion book for a teacher read aloud.

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MIGHT MAKES RIGHT

The Race: an inspiring story for Left-Handers

Written by Janet Hurst-Nicholson

Illustrated by Vanessa Burger

Vicky hates sitting next to Graham in school. He is always bumping into her. Vicky is left-handed and finds it difficult to accomplish simple tasks that seem to come easy for everybody else. She is a klutz in sports and never seems to excel. To make matters worse, everyone seems to make fun of her. Vicky is looking forward to her grandmother’s upcoming visit. She has been busy trying to finish a needlepoint cover as a gift, but even that seems to be coming out wrong. Vicky wants to prove to her grandmother that she is successful, so she and her friend Vicky practice nonstop to win the egg balancing race. Her grandmother will be watching; they are determined to win. An unexpected turn of events leads to a new race being added at the last minute. Will Vicky get a chance to prove to herself and others being left-handed actually be an advantage?

I loved this chapter book. Perhaps being married to a left-hander and having a left-handed son has made be acutely aware of some of the everyday problems left-handed people face. This book presents the problems and enables all of us right-handers to understand how difficult it can be for someone who is a “lefty” to function in a world of right-handed preferences. The world is finally becoming more attuned to the need for left handed tools and devices. Recommend this book highly for teachers, parents and children as a read aloud or a book for families to discuss and share.

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A BAD DREAM

National Park (National Park Trilogy Book 1)

Written by Hinesh Vithal

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An interesting tale narrated by Rajah, a puggle comfortably ensconced with the Patel family in suburbia. When the family decides they will take a vacation trip to the game preserve, he is excited but remains haunted by a dream that his life will be cut short by a lion attack.

Readers will learn about life in the wild as they meet lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, buffalo, and wild dogs. As the family ride through the game preserve, readers feel as if they are a part of nature. The personified animals have a complicated system of government to which all inhabitants of the national park adhere led by a Council of the Big Five. When the vehicle in which Rajah is riding is overturned, he is injured and rescued by the animals. Rajah becomes an integral part of a habitat that is far out of his comfort zone, yet he is rapidly assimilated into their culture and conflicts. When internal discord threatens to wreck the government of the animals and their safety, Rajah becomes an unwilling hero.

This book contains one or two curse words, but is appropriate for readers twelve and older. The plot is cleverly done, if sometimes a bit wordy. Readers will take away factual knowledge of the game preserve, its inhabitants, and some messages that animals and humans might well take note of. Looking forward to see what happens in the rest of the trilogy.

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EASTER EGGCITEMENT

A Rabbit’s Tale: An Adult Easter Story (Praying Mantis Series Book 1)

Written by Diogenes Ruiz

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An interesting Easter story for teens and adults. Written from a Christian fiction perspective, though not a preachy story with a totally one sided perspective. At the outset the reader gets the impression she is reading a middle grade novel. Juan Arias is a fifth grader growing up in non-religious Catholic family with his father who is a computer programmer, his mother a homemaker, and his younger sister, Angie. Juan has a passion for photography; he is eagerly waiting for a subscription to National Geographic to arrive in the mail. A new family rents the house across the street, but Monty turns out to be a mean-sprinted bully. Their first encounter involves Monty placing a dead squirrel in Juan’s mailbox. Monty terrorizes Juan and threatens his sister if Juan reveals that Monty stole Juan’s photograph to submit as his own.

The scene shifts as Monty moves away and Juan grows to adulthood. Sadly, Juan follows in his father’s footsteps and gives up his dream of photography to marry Leigh, who turns out to be a self-centered selfish brat. But Juan’s sister Angie marries Ray and has two beautiful children who adore Juan. When Ray talks Juan into dressing up as the Easter Bunny for a holiday party, an outlandish set of events is put into play leading to a shakeup of family relationships, embezzlement, and attempted murder. Juan becomes a victim once more; it appears that his life will be ruined. Characters from past and present are intertwined in a melange of emotions and devious plots.

The Easter story is woven into the well-developed plot and interesting characters. As the title indicates, this book is part of the Christian fiction genre, though it relates a sometimes funny, sometimes sad commentary on what life can dish out.

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HANGING IN THERE

Frogman: The Incredibly True Confessions of a Sixth Grade Superhero

Written by Emily Cosentino

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Humorous middle grade adventure centering on the life of Alex Addison, who leads a fairly normal life until the day he picks up a frog at the beach. Alex’s family consists of his computer nerd professor, dad, his super nervous mom who is an ex nurse, an annoying eighth grade sister, Libby, and a four year old brother, Sam.

A couple of days after picking up the frog, Alex begins to change. Suddenly he is able to leap great distances, develops webbed feet and the ability to stick to any surface, and grows a super long tongue capable of picking up and flinging objects great distances. Upon returning to school in September, his voice croaks when Alex tries to sing in chorus, and he develops a passion for eating insects. That enables Alex to become a school sensation when he challenges the school bully, Dirk to eating the grossest lunch in the cafeteria on Fear Factor Friday. When Sam discovers Alex’s secret, he promises to keep quiet. Alex’s friend Joel is determined to prove that Big Foot is real, but he soon shifts his attention to studying the strange creature who is hanging out by the pond. Of course that is Alex sneaking off to the pond to keep his skin moist during the drought. Alex will have his ups and downs, becoming a hero when he rescues a cat in trouble, momentarily becoming a football star by punting down the field, and rescuing both friend and foe from a fire. Alex is a sixth grade superhero, whether he likes it or not.

This book is just under two hundred pages and is intended for the middle grade audience ages eight through twelve. Boys especially will appreciate the humor in sibling rivalry relationships. There are lots of laughs as well as a discussion of serious peer issues like bullying, coming of age, and problems at school. Recommended for readers in grades three to six who enjoy tales about characters facing their everyday issues and crises.

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TIME TRAVEL TROUBLES

Youngtimer: Adventures in Travel Book 1

Written by G.G. Fulton

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First book in a series of middle grade time travel adventures. Carly is a twelve year old sixth grader who is very bright. So bright that her school is determined to skip her two grades. When Carly gets wind of this, she comes up with an ingenious plan to prevent that from happening. Her scheme includes bribing a fellow student to pretend to be her boyfriend by doing his homework for him, and slacking off in school assignments so that she appears to be a love sick preteen incapable of earning her teacher’s trust and unenviable nerd status.

In terms of everyday life, Carly and her best friend Patti are pretty ordinary. Carly is very close to her grandpa who is a bit of an eccentric because he spends lots of time locked up in his workshop. When her grandfather unexpectedly passes away, he leaves her a box of instructions with a letter. He tells Carly not to open the box until she turns eighteen. Patti convinces her to give in to curiosity. After all, who can possibly wait six years, an eternity in a twelve year old’s life.

Now Carly often acts first and thinks second. That will lead the friends into trouble when they start experimenting with using the time machine locked in grandpa’s garage. The friends go back in time to visit a One Direction concert, the filming of their favorite movie on the island of Santorini, and visiting a school bully named Lulu, with unexpected consequences each time. But Carly receives her biggest scare when she attempts to go back in time to prevent her parents from meeting. What was she thinking? Now her life as she knows it won’t exist.

Readers in the middle grades will love the strengths and flaws in both the children and adult characters in this series. Targeted for grades four through eight, boys and girls will find a lot of familiar problems and situations. Good book for classroom discussion. I look forward to examining other books in the series.

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A MOVING EXPERIENCE

Benjamin Dragon: Awakening (Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon Book 1)

Written by C.G. Cooper

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Ten year old Benjamin Dragon is a very bright child who has already skipped two years in school. He is the son of Tanya and Timothy Dragon, a powerful lawyer and businessman. Their frequent moves plus Benjamin’s small statue and last name provide fertile ground for bullies. On the first day of a new school Benjamin is bullied on the playground. Egging him on to fight, Nathan lies on the ground bloodied and injured. But Benjamin is puzzled because he never even touched the boy.

When his parents urge him to go to the hospital to apologize, Benjamin discovers that he and Nathan have a lot in common. They become good friends, but Nathan is just as puzzled about what happened. When Benjamin is at the scene of a close-call car crash, and the car swerves away to avoid hitting a young girl, Benjamin begins to suspect he had something to do with it. Weird things begin happening. Benjamin swears Nathan to secrecy.

A strange old man named Kennedy pays a visit to Benjamin and explains that there are certain special people in the world. Some have the gift of healing, some the gift of growing, and others the gift of destruction, which roughly translates to telekinesis. He informs Benjamin that he will be trained in his gifts.

Benjamin is scared, but he is elated that he will be attending Camp Walamalican with his friends Nathan and Aaron. There he meets another gifted one named Wally who is a healer. On the other hand, Benjamin will come face to face with a destructor who threatens to corrupt him and destroy people that he loves. Will Benjamin learn how to use his powers? How can he adjust to living a normal live, while coping with extraordinary power?

Recommended for a middle grade, young adult and adult audience. The characters and plot are well developed. Addresses lots of issues pre teens and teens face like bullying, fitting in with peers, being gifted, and getting along with parents. Look forward to more in the series.

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