Getting Air by Dan Gutman

I’ve been booktalking this book since it came out.  I thought I knew it.  I’ve sold it to all sorts of reluctant readers, my nephew being one of them.  I think I did an okay job selling the book as most come back and ask for more… but I’d never read it.  Oops.  Well, I just finished it.   Not what I thought it or imagined it.   Nope.  Good? Yes.    What I thought it was?  Nope.  One more thing: Jimmy Zimmerman has a handmade titanium skateboard. It’s tougher than wood and fiberglass.  This is an important element in our story.

Jimmy and his friends David and Henry (aka the Woodpushers) love to skateboard. They’re on their way to the X-Games in California.  Unsupervised.  Jimmy’s younger sister Julia, is also on the plane and she’s reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.    Also on board are little old ladies on their way to a knitting convention.  Everyone is enjoying the flight: Arcadia, the flight attendant, and Mrs. Hershel, a spirited 80 year old knitter.  Then a commotion in the cabin proves to be a hijacking of the plane — and the killing of a flight attendant!  They are in serious danger!

Someone has to do something… it’s the Woodpushers or no one.  So the three boys storm the cabin and take out the hostages. Henry, who has seemingly taken at least one class on just about everything, crash lands the plane and Jimmy blacks out.  When he awakens, he discovers that 1) he’s not dead, 2) his friends, sister, Arcadia, and Mrs. Herschel are also alive, 3) they don’t know where they are.

Julia proves to be the one with survival instincts.  She directs the group in water-gathering, shelter building, and safety in general. Without Julia, the group wouldn’t have survived a month. Their rescue by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police makes for a neat ending.  And, thank heavens for that titanium skateboard.

This is not the book I booktalked over and over and over again.  It’s a fun read, but it isn’t the read I imagined it to be before I actually read.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere.  I still plan on recommending it.  I enjoyed it.  (And I’ll still pair it with Hatchet!)

Getting Air by Dan Gutman has 232 pages and is recommended for 5th to 7th graders. sh 4/12

First Sentence:

This is my ultimate fantasy …

Reading Chick Rating:

A good read. Worth telling the birds down the line about.


Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Auggie Pullman is like any other kid headed to fifth grade. He has a huge Star Wars collection, plays XBox, has a sister who adores him, and parents who want what is best for him. But Auggie isn’t like any other kid, he was born with a genetic facial abnormality. Because of the severity of his defects, and because of the large number of surgeries he’s had, Auggie has been homeschooled. Until this year. This year, Auggie will be attending Beecher Prep. It’s a private school in New York and his parents believe it’s time for Auggie to branch out.

He attends an orientation for the school and the headmaster has arranged for some incoming 5th graders to show Auggie around. It goes better than Auggie thinks and he agrees to go to the school.

Throughout the novel, Auggie reveals what it is like to have birth defects — the different reactions people have to him and how he and his family respond to these reactions: quickly looking away, not-so-silent gasps, stunned silence. Auggie has experienced many different reactions in his ten years and is prepared for the most subtle taunt, which he experiences during orientation.

Auggie seems to be assimilating into his fifth grade, when he hears an off-handed remark about him at Halloween and no one knows he’s in the room. This changes everything.

Auggie’s story turns into his sister Via’s story. And slowly, with different voices and points-of-view, the story of August Pullman’s fifth grade year unfolds.

The other characters in the book have battles they’re facing as well. They aren’t as difficult as Auggie’s, but silent battles they face at home or school. No one’s life is perfect and together this small band of misfits battle through life.

Courage. Kindness. Character.

This is a potentially very heavy story but the tone of the book is light and at times funny. Auggie is a normal 10-year-old in an abnormal situation. By having the narrators talk to the reader while slowly layering the events of the story, the author creates a dynamic and special book. Go read it!

My Auggie Moment:

I have a confession to make. Several years ago while I was walking down the street with my fiance eating an ice cream cone, I glimpsed a family sitting in a car. They were sitting three across… Adult child adult. There was a person (age and sex unknown — it was just a glimpse) in the car. And as we were walking by I blurted out, “That was some sort of child.” I think I was far enough away from the car that they didn’t hear me. I’ve learned by reading Wonder, that it doesn’t matter whether they heard me or not—I said it. I didn’t mean anything malicious or hurtful, but words and actions matter. I should have guarded my words more closely. I learned from my outburst, and the whole time I was reading Wonder, I thought about that little truck and family unit.

Wonder by RJ Palacio has 315 pages and is recommended for 5th to 8th graders. sh 2/12

First Sentence:

I know I’m not an ordinary kid.

Reading Chick Rating:

Something special. It’s so good it’s off the charts.

Breadcrumbs by Anna Ursu

Hazel Anderson isn’t having a very good year: her parents divorced and she’s having a hard time adjusting to her new school. The only good thing in her life is her friend (and neighbor) Jack. He shares her vivid imagination and a hard home life; his mom’s medical depression. For reasons Hazel doesn’t understand, Jack starts to become distant. When an enchanted shard of glass (dropped by a no-good troll/demon/imp with 17 syllables) drops from the sky into his eye, Jack’s heart is hardened. After Jack is gone for several days, Hazel inquires about his absence and his distant parents explain he’s gone to stay with an elderly aunt. Hazel doesn’t believe them and her beliefs are justified when a bully verifies Hazel’s concerns. So she sets out to do something about it. Hazel packs her bag with food (granola bars), water, and a change of clothes. She also includes an autographed baseball Jack gave her as a gift. She heads Into the Woods.

Now, these are capital-w Woods; Once-Upon-a-Time Woods. And these magical Woods take Hazel from her Minnesota neighborhood to Hans Christian Andersen-land. Hazel encounters people from all over who mistakenly enter the woods from their own neighborhood and end up wandering this enchanted place. Hazel encounters an anthology-filled cast of characters: the Woodsman, red ballet slippers, a match girl and more. Perhaps the scariest characters of all are the sweet couple who come to Hazel’s aid. It’s a lucky thing when Hazel’s dreams alert her to the fact that this couple would turn Hazel into a flower. But Hazel is single-minded in her mission; she’s come to rescue her friend. She doesn’t give in to her fears, she just continues to head north.

Continue reading Breadcrumbs by Anna Ursu

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek by Erin Dionne

Notes from an accidental band geekElsie knows music, she lives and breathes her french horn. French horn is in her blood: her father is the principal horn player for the Boston Symphony, as was her grandfather. But in order to get into a prestigious music camp she needs music ensemble experience. Elsie decides to join the marching band as a new Freshman. She may know music, but Elsie quickly learns marching band is a whole new world. Elsie struggles to learn the mellophone (French Horns do not march), make (and keep) new friends, play an instrument while balancing a hat, and maintain her more serious musical endeavors. Pleasing her parents is becoming a chore. Her father doesn’t believe she has the musical ability to get into the music camp so Elsie sets off to prove him wrong. When Elsie has the opportunity to play a solo on a nationally televised parade, on the same week her auditions are being held, she wonders if she’ll be able to do both.

Elsie was a believable character. She’s completely clueless about being a friend and girlfriend. The journey she takes from Orchestra Superstar to Band Geek is realistic.

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek has 305 pages and is recommended for 6th t0 9th graders. sh 10/11

First Sentence:

“Dad, seriously. I can go by myself. I’m not a baby.”

Reading Chick rating:

A good read. Worth telling the birds down the line about.

Opening Lines

I’m going to steal a blogger’s idea; a very, young and wise blogger it would seem.  I somehow found her via Twitter and went right to her blog.  I like a lot of things about her blog, but the thing that I took away that I knew I wanted to consider was that she includes the novel’s opening line.

Love that.  In library school, literature class finals included random quotes from the books we studied.  And while the opening line wasn’t always part of the final, it was a great way to study.  So, dear reader, I’m going to copy this wise, young blogger and add the first sentence opening lines of each book to my reviews.

True ( — Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Words are important things.  Delaware (Delly for short) Pattison’s  head is in the right place, but the response she gets to her impetuous behavior is that she is “bad”.  “Bad, bad, bad.”  And after a while, being told that, the words sort of sink in.  Delly gets that she is bad, but no one seems to tell her how to be good. Things escalate for Delly while she’s in 5th grade.   She is often truant, and gets in the way.  And she gets into a knock-down drag-out, blood pouring fight.   After a particularly bad fight, Delly is given a final ultimatum… shape up or get sent to a school for difficult children.  The words don’t seem to do much to change Delly’s mind; it’s seeing her mother’s tears that make Delly want to change.  She just doesn’t know how to handle herself when her sister and the 5th grade bully pick on her to the point she clenches her fists.  Delly’s younger brother, who looks up to Delly, gives her the coping mechanism he uses to get through rough times–count.  And Delly counts and counts and counts. And RB follows her to make sure she does.

…there’s more…!

Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo

By day Scott is a mild-mannered nobody at Harbinger Prepatory School. By night, he’s Bright Boy, sidekick to New York’s favorite superhero, Phantom Justice.  Actually, they aren’t known as supers anymore, science has discovered that there is an additional gene in certain people and they’re called pluses. If, like Scott, you have two super powers, you are called plus/pluses.

Our story starts with Phantom Justice and Bright Boy saving a woman from certain death.  Bright Boy does his sidekick thing and escorts the young, attractive woman safely to the ground. Scott/Bright Boy is going through puberty and unknowingly experiences his first erection in front of the woman, in front of news crews in his bright yellow tights.  Yep, for all of the world to see.  When Scott gets to school, it’s all anyone is talking about and it’s killing him.  When he gets home from school he learns that Phantom Justice’s archenemy, Dr. Chaotic, has just escaped from jail.  The dynamic duo stop Dr. Chaotic, and his sidekick Monkeywrench, from committing a crime.  Monkeywrench and Bright Boy have met before and the two really battle it out, but this time get away.  They meet again, and this time Monkeywrench’s mask comes off.  Bright Boy recognizes a girl (!!) from school.  Allison rips Bright Boy’s mask off.  (Problem is, she doesn’t know his name.)  Allison/Monkeywrench tells Scott/Bright Boy that they’re in a deadlock.  Neither one of them can out the other without giving away their own identity.  At school the next day, Scott freaks out while Allison is as cool as a cucumber.  She confronts Scott in a janitor’s closet and tells him to calm down.  They leave school, talking, becoming friendly, answering each other’s questions til as their alter-egos, they chase each other and end in a spectacular kiss.  In front of people. In front of their classmates. … there’s more …!

48 Hour Book Challenge Day 3 — Onward to the End

5:30 –           Here is my goal.  Finish Sidekicks and Okay for Now.  I still have to do the review for True (sort of), but that book is too good to not thoughtfully write, so it may wait til after the finish line.  And I only have til 9, so … bye

– 7:35. finished Sidekicks. I’ve planned my reading to keep Okay for Now my last book.  I downloaded Okay for Now from Overdrive for my phone.  Kept at it whenever possible, but hard to read that tiny screen. So I grabbed the book, and couldn’t put it down.  loved it so much that I don’t want it to end.  I’ve never stopped reading a book because I liked it.  So, as a reward for reading all weekend, I get to finish it.  Bye.

– 9.00 and I’m still reading Okay for Now.  Which okay for me.

total time today. 3.5 hours

Total reading time since 9 a.m. Friday, June 3rd: 24 hours.

9 – 12:30 Finished reading Okay for Now.  Wrote the review for Sidekicks and True (Sort of).  But it’s after the fact and it doesn’t count… I’m keeping 24 hours as my official end time (although I’ve spent 3.5 extra hours for a total of 27.5). I still have the review for Okay for Now to do, but will do that at work tomorrow.  I’ve got laundry to do.

Notes for next year: start at noon on Friday. Take the afternoon off and read til Sunday at noon.  As stressed out as I was I really accomplished a lot:

  1. True (Sort of) by Hannigan
  2. OyMG by Dominy
  3. The Girl Who Become a Beatle by Taylor
  4. Nerd Talk by Weissman
  5. Sidekicks by Ferraiolo (if I ever learn to spell that name…)
  6. Okay for Now by Schmidt

My favorites were: True (sort of), Okay For Now, Sidekicks, and Nerd Camp.

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

Gabe is excited to get a new step-brother.  When he meets Zack, Gabe realizes the things he likes aren’t the same thing as Zack.  Worse still?  It seems the things that Gabe likes to do are considered greeky and nerd-like to Zack.  Gabe is smart, so smart he passes the required entrance exam for the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment, and he sets out to prove the following problem:

Problem: Am I a nerd who only has nerdy adventures?

Hypothesis: No

… there’s more …!

The Girl Who Became a Beatle by Greg Taylor

Regina is just trying to keep the band together.  Her band.  The Caverns.  Two members, Lorna and Danny, want to quit. Julian, who Regina really likes, seems ambivalent to the band.  The Caverns mostly cover Beatles tunes and Regina has had a hard time booking gigs for the band.  Just before she falls asleep, Regina makes a wish: I wish I were as famous as the Beatles.”

When Regina wakes up, her Beatles paraphernalia is gone.  In its place, The Caverns stuff everywhere.  It turns out her wish is granted.  Regina regroups enough to go through the ropes and live the life of a world-famous artist and singer.  The Caverns greatest hits?  He loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah), Yesterday, and a whole album’s worth of Beatles music.  Because of The Caverns existence, The Beatles don’t exist.  Heavy.
… there’s more … !