Posts tagged ‘peer relationships’

A LOT TO CHEW ON….

Life in the Gumball Machine

Written by Maureen Bartone

An interesting chapter book targeted for readers in the seven to eleven year age range. On her tenth birthday, Daisy goes for a bike ride with her two best fourth grade friends, Patrick and Michael. Daisy is often considered a tomboy, but one thing her two friends have never persuaded her to do is to play football. When the three friends pause to investigate an old shed, they discover an abandoned gumball machine. Daisy decides that she must have one so she deposits a coin. Soon the machine rumbles and sucks all three of them inside. Little do they realize the adventure awaiting them inside.

Bartone uses lots of human and kid friendly dialogue to describe how the three humans shrink and meet the gumball people and their exciting world. Our three human friends will discover that outside appearance matters little, the real person is wrapped inside. Daisy will experience that football game and face her hidden fears. Lessons learned include how we behave and what we do are a lot more important than how we look.

Daisy is looking forward to her birthday party that afternoon, but things are looking grim that the three friends will free themselves from the gumball world and return to their normal size. The only way to escape is for another person to come along and discover that abandoned candy machine. That does not appear to be a likely possibility. Will the three friends keep their cool and figure out a way to return home? What will happen to their newly found gumball friends? How will Patrick, Michael and Daisy’s lives be changed forever?

The plot of this middle grade chapter book is simple and the text straightforward with enough excitement, surprises and humor to keep the reader entertained and the advice from becoming preachy. A surprise near the end sets the scene for a new adventure. Recommended for children in grades two through six.

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FROM BAD TO WORSE

Charlie Bingham Gets Clocked #1

Written by Maggie M. Larche

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What else could go wrong? Charlie is in love with his teacher, Miss Walker. His best friend Brad brings his one-eyed lizard to school and loses it. The intelligent but insecure and nervous Brad has just been nominated to be on the Knowledge Bowl team. Miss Walker’s favorite alarm clock has disappeared. Two girls who are bitter enemies vow to become detective rivals locked in a contest to find the culprit. To make matters even worse, their muscle-bound music teacher, Mr. Wainwright, is also enamored of Miss Walker. He is determined to find and punish the student thief. Throughout the school day this elusive clock will make its way around the school until the culprit is found. Will the truth ever come out? Who will finally solve the mystery? Will the thief get the punishment he deserves?

This book is aimed at the eight to twelve year old audience and features a nice balance of elements that appeal to this age group. There is lots of humor, enough plot twists, and empathetic characters with which readers can identify. Readers will surely be able to see themselves either as victims or heroes in the plot. Recommended as a fun read for friends or classmates to share and discuss.

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FOSTERING A SENSE OF WORTH

Snow Pup: Holiday Heartwarmers Book2)

Written by Mimi Barbour

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This is the second book in Barbour’s holiday series. Well-written plot with realistic characters that has no real connection to the Christmas holiday other than the setting. Deputy Shawna Mallory is a thirty-one year old single cop who lives in the rather sleepy town of Carlton Grove. She has a deep commitment to her job, and moves quickly when she hears an amber alert on the radio for a missing eleven year old boy. Mallory hears a dog barking; she finds the boy under a snow drift being guarded by the pup. The sheriff agrees to take the boy in while he awaits a new foster care family.

Complications arise when the boy’s real father arrives back on the scene from an overseas assignment in Chile. John Reid McCrae appears to have a poor parenting track record, but Shawna’s friend Alice knew him many years ago and offers a different opinion. In the meantime Shawna grows attached to Billy, who is about to be given to a new foster family. Billy runs away once again, but even more puzzling is the strange affect Billy’s dad has upon Shawna. What outcome ensues for Billy, John, and the Deputy Sheriff whose lives have become entangled.

A heartwarming story revolving around coming of age, domestic violence, foster care, romance, pets and peer relationships that will tear at the heart strings of young adult and adult readers. Actually, the book could be a middle grade read if one is willing to look past a few curse words and one or two light romantic scenes. Snow Pup is the kind of story that will put the reader in the mood for the holiday season.

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FROM RAGS TO RICHES

The Improbable Rise of Paco Jones

Written by Dominic Carrillo

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A very well-written novel that traces the experiences of a Mexican-American eighth grader struggling to fit into an exclusive private school and falling in love for the first time. Paco Jones is taunted by his classmates as Taco Jones; he is unattractive, nonathletic, uncool and poor. Paco’s biracial parents are determined to see that their son has a chance of success and struggle to give him a good education. Paco wants to gain the acceptance of his peers and please his parents. To complicate his situation further, Paco falls desperately in love with a black girl named Naomi, who is dating Trent, one of the popular jocks at school. When Naomi becomes impressed with Paco’s intelligence and honesty; she takes him into her confidence and reveals her true feelings about Trent. Strangely enough, Trent also enlists Paco’s help in his effort to woo Naomi. Paco becomes trapped between his two friends, and almost gets expelled in the process. Despite the trouble in which Paco finds himself, he remains true to his principles revealing his real character.

This tale deals with many issues that young adult readers face. Paco faces racial discrimination, economic insecurity, first love issues and parental child responsibilities. He winds his way through a myriad of difficulties, only to find out that there is not always a simple solution or a rosy ending. Characters are well- developed multicultural, and multidimensional; readers empathize with Paco, find a strong female role model in Naomi, and discover the strengths and flaws in others like Trent and Mr. Holiday. As a bonus, the author/teacher provides discussion questions that align with the US common core standards. This book also provides a flashback for adult readers who may have forgotten those turbulent junior high days. Recommended for readers age twelve and older.

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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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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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DOESN’T FIT THE MOLD

Natasha the Party Crasher “The School’s Out Summer Bash”

Written by Eileen Rose Giadone

Illustrated by Michael Murray

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Natasha La Rue is an ebullient and vivacious elementary school student who is looking forward to summer vacation in just three days. Every day her friends pick her up on the way to school; her personality always seems to make her stand out. Without warning, Natasha’s friends decide they are tired of her boisterous behavior and begin to ignore her. No matter what she does, they make her feel invisible. On the last day of school, Natasha sadly walks home alone, watching her friends celebrate. Natasha becomes more angry and hatches a plan to get even with her friends.

A celebration for the beginning of summer had been planned in the town square for that evening. Natasha buys some “get even” supplies and begins to implement her plot for revenge. What dire deed is Natasha planning and will she be successful? Will Natasha and her friends discover something new about themselves?

The illustrations in this book are a nice combination of digital art and hand drawings that use exquisite color and exaggerated facial expressions to communicate the author’s message. I would recommend this book to readers ages seven and up. The author is also a songwriter and that is evident in the way the words flow easily from line to line and page to page. Look forward to more adventures with Natasha La Rue.

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