Sunday, January 23, 2011

Boom ! by Mark Haddon

A few years ago my book club, at the time, read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. I affectionately called it the dead dog book. I loved the book. You know I’m not much for dog books. The dogs always end up dead. Here the dog starts off dead, so no emotional strings to pull the tear ducts. Two summers ago we spent time in Scotland. We ended our trip in Edinburgh where I purchased another Mark Haddon book titled A Spot of Bother. (I got it at Waterstones!) Where the first was a YA book this one definitely was not. I enjoyed this one as well and since we had just spent time on the little island I did have some back ground knowledge.

So, I was very excited to see Boom!. The story is about two friends, Jimbo and Charlie, and the discovery that their teachers are aliens. Jimbo’s family is making a transition to Dad staying home and Mom working. Jimbo has a strained relationship with his older sister and HATES school. Charlie’s mom is a caterer and his dad is a doctor, very CSI! Charlie is, also the leader. In other words he gets both into trouble.

Jimbo and Charlie decide the must stop the aliens. OK Charlie decides and Jimbo reluctantly follows along. After they have proof Charlie disappears and Jimbo and his sister, Becky are attacked. They take off on a quest, become friends and help safe the world.

That last part is what makes this such a fun book. The aliens have most of their knowledge of earth from pop sources and ABBA! Mr. Haddon has a quirky writing is fantastic. I started the book and couldn’t put it down. This is a great 5th grade and above book. I was hoping that I could use it as a read aloud, but I was disappointed because of amount of times “Hell” is said at the end. I will push the line with read alouds but I do have a point. I get in enough trouble with cussing A LOT! I did give it to a fifth grader that loved and didn’t say peep about the language.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cybil's 2010 Middle Grade Novels Finalists

The finalists have been announced.  I know I'm a lttle late.  Here is a link to the fantastic list.  It was great fun and hard work being a Round One Judge, but it must be even harder picking the winner.  Enjoy reading the list.  Cybils 2010 Finalist List.

Milo Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg

This autumn I read many books for the Cybil’s Award. A common theme was death and autism. One book had death, violent murder, autism and a National Book Award. Through out the process I kept saying to myself “This is a beautifully written book, but does it have kid appeal?” Milo Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg is one that dealt with death and has kid appeal. The book is about a dork (the book says geek, but in my class it would be dork) named Milo Cruikshank. (I have a student this year named Milo with a last name that is even more fun or torturous.) His mother dies of cancer and after the death Milo, his sister and dad move often. Milo is always the new kid. Not an easy task for a tween, especially one that is having to deal with the death of his mother on his own.

Milo makes friends at his new school. As a matter of fact this friendship helps him start the process of fixing his family. Throughout the book Milo tries to win the heart of the girl of his dreams, balance two friendships one with a boy and one with a girl, not sticking out at school and how to be polite to strangers. Milo’s father has not dealt well with the death of his wife and mother of his children. Ok, to be blunt, Dad is a jerk. His way of dealing with the grief is to pretend that the person never existed. (Given how my dad grieved his parents Milo’s dad must be German and Dutch!) The stranger is the woman across the street. He befriends her after a tough day. Actually they befriend each other. Sylvia Poole helps Milo understand that it is important to remember loved ones. This leads Milo to take charge of his families healing in a fun and productive way.

Here is why I think Milo SN&BF has kid appeal:
  • It is well written.
  • It is funny.
  • It is sad.
  • It is filled with hilarious illustrations of Milo’s life.
  • It has an alter ego named Dabney St. Claire. (Come on with an alter ego like this what’s not to love.)
  • It has romance. Ok not really, just tween hopefulness.
  • It makes you think.

There were many wonderful books nominated for the 22010 Cybil’s and in my opinion one of my favorites was Milo Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze.