Title List

Informational:

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

Biography/Autobiography:

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

Picture book:

How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? by Jane Yolen

The Giving Tree by Shel Siverstein

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Realistic fiction:

Holes by Louis Sachar

Christian:

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

Mystery/Suspense:

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Multicultural/International:

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe

Romance & Poetry:

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Fantasy:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Graphic novel:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney

2×2 Award:

Who Am I: An Animal Guessing Game by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Texas Bluebonnet Award:

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Caldecott Medal Winner:

Henry’s Freedom Box by Kadir Nelson

Caldecott Honor Book:

Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson

Newbery Medal Winners:

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Lone Star:

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Coretta Scott King:

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

LGBTQ+:

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

SciFi:

Mockingay by Susan Collins

Horror:

Goosebumps: Welcome to Camp Nightmare  by R.L. Stine

Historical Fiction:

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Goosebumps: Welcome to Camp Nightmare

Goosebumps

Introduction

Welcome to Camp Nightmare by R.L. Stine is the ninth book in the Goosebumps series.  The novel opens with the main character, Billy, heading to camp.  The reader gets a clue about the events to come when the bus ride starts off with a scare for the kids.  As Billy’s stay at camp goes on, he has a bad feeling about the surroundings, the counselors, and the director, Uncle Al.  Soon he learns his instinct is correct and his fellow campers go missing without explanation and without the concern of the counselors.  Billy is determined to find out what’s going on and ultimately ends up in a face off with Uncle Al.  The decision Billy makes changes everything about what he thought was going on.

Evaluation

Stine’s writing is easy for readers to follow, yet not too simplistic.  He uses descriptive language to effectively describe the setting and establish a spooky tone for the book.  The reader can visualize the camp and the terrifying events that occur with the creative descriptions.

Stine clearly establishes Billy as the protagonist and fully develops his character.  He easily makes friends and is loyal to the boys throughout the story.  While he is concerned and frightened by some of the events, he is determined to find out what happened to the boys who went missing.  In the end, Stine validates Billy as the hero in the confrontation with Uncle Al.  By allowing Billy to make the difficult decision, Stine shows the power of standing up for what you believe is right.  Fortunately, Billy’s choice pays off.

Finally, Stine creates a suspenseful mood throughout the story by leaving cliffhangers at the end of the chapters.  He moves the plot along at an appropriate pace and addresses each problem in the following chapter.  His writing allows the reader to follow the story along with anticipation of what will happen next.

Response

I enjoyed the majority of this book.  The plot was fast paced and each chapter’s events moved smoothly into the next.  Stine kept the suspense flowing throughout the story to keep me wondering what would happen next.  The climax of the scene where Billy and Uncle Al have a stand off was written very well.  However, I did not like the ending.  I thought it deflated everything that had preceded it.  Even though these books are geared towards pre-teens, it seemed silly and lacked creativity.  Nevertheless I think the Goosebumps series is a great introduction for young readers to the horror genre.

Conclusion

Welcome to Camp Nightmare is an exciting story about a young boy’s fearful experience at sleep away camp.  When Billy’s camp mates begin disappearing, he courageously seeks to find out what happened.  He eventually comes face to face with the shady Uncle Al who forces Billy to make a difficult choice.  The story is quickly paced and full of suspense.  It will entertain any reader who enjoys a good scare.

Stine, R.L. (1993). Welcome to Camp Nightmare. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Bud, Not Buddy

BudNotBuddy

Introduction

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis is a historical fiction novel set during The Great Depression about the title character who sets out to find his father after living in foster care.  Bud’s leaves his last foster home after suffering through conflicts with his foster brother who calls Bud “Buddy,” much to Bud’s dismay.  Bud decides to leave with his friend Bugs.  While the friends end up parting ways, Bud makes it to Grand Rapids, Michigan where he finds Herman Calloway, who he believes is his father.  Calloway is not welcoming of Bud, but Calloway’s band mates allow Bud to spend time with them and help out.  Bud eventually learns why Calloway is distant, and it’s not for the reason he thought.

Evaluation

The setting is an important element in historical fiction writing and Curtis effectively describes the atmosphere of the country during The Great Depression.  He also creates diversions from the negativity with scenes like when Bud visits a library.  Bud describes the smell of the library in great detail and draws a contrast to the oppressive smell of the outside surroundings.  This type of descriptive writing demonstrates how Bud is able to escape his reality for a short period of time.

Curtis also creates interesting characters.  Bud encounters several people in his journey to find his father and Curtis aptly illustrates their purpose.  The aggressive foster brother, Todd, bullies Bud and provides the background for the title.  Despite Bud’s requests, Todd continues to disrespect him and call him Buddy.  Bud’s courage to leave this home shows his determination to be treated right regardless of his situation. Of course the important character to Bud is Calloway.  Although Calloway is not kind to Bud, Bud perseveres to develop a relationship with him.

Finally, the plot is well developed and the resolution of the story is left open for possibility.  The pacing takes the reader from understanding Bud’s challenging life through his travels to Grand Rapids and ends with the reader predicting what will happen next with Bud and how his relationship with Calloway will develop.  While Curtis leaves the ending open to interpretation, he does not leave important questions unanswered.  By adding an unexpected revelation to Bud’s story, Curtis allows the reader to decide what will possibly happen next for Bud.

Response

Bud, Not Buddy is a book I have seen read by many students, but I had not read it before.  It was easy to follow and I liked Bud’s tenacity to find out the truth about his family.  His character is determined and shows positive traits for young people.  The setting was interesting as well.  Learning about life during The Great Depression was interesting and Curtis did a good job of including those details without slowing down the story.  I also liked the themes of the strength of family bonds.  While Calloway tried to push Bud away, Bud was determined to find the key to building their relationship, which is a good message for readers to understand.

Conclusion

Bud, Not Buddy is an engaging young adult novel that tells a lovely story about a boy who wants to make a connection with his family.  When he’s lost his mother, he conquers the challenges that come his way to find his way to a new family.  When he discovers the truth about Calloway, his mindset changes and he has a better understanding of the man.  This books has a great story line that readers will find entertaining and enjoyable.

Curtis, C. (1999). Bud, not Buddy. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

Mockingjay

Mockingjay

Introduction

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the last novel of the Hunger Games dystopian trilogy.  The story wraps up the journey of Katniss Everdeen from survivor of the Hunger Games to leader of a revolt against the Capitol to abolish the Hunger Games.  Katniss has emerged as the heroine of the rebellion against the villain, President Snow, and she agrees to head up the assassination plot against Snow.  As punishment, the Capitol captures and tortures Katniss’s friend, Peeta.  Katniss must make difficult choices in the plan to kill Snow and rescue Peeta.  She ultimately makes the decision she believes will save the rebellion.

Evaluation

Collins uses effective descriptive language to create the exciting mood and setting in Mockingjay.  While the locations in the novel are fictional, her descriptions make them seem realistic and help the reader visualize the setting.  While Collins’s writing is highly detailed, she avoids losing the reader’s attention by using precise and high level vocabulary that is comprehensible to young adults.

The plot in Mockingjay is appropriately paced.  Collins provides background explanations on characters and events without losing steam on the plot advancement.  Each event is important to the story, and Collins ensures the reader does not get lost in the back stories.  Additionally, Collins includes an event that the reader is not expecting that adds dramatic effect.  This change in direction is refreshing and exciting.

Finally, Collins stays true to the characters she’s developed in the previous novels.  While Peeta has traumatic experiences, Katniss’s loyalty to him does not falter.  Katniss also suffers in this novel, but Collins concludes the series with a powerful scene that illustrates resilience and the strength of love.  She effectively allows the characters to struggle, but provides the reader with a satisfying ending.

Response

I read the Hunger Games trilogy when it was originally released.  Similar to the Twilight books, I was immediately immersed in the characters and story.  I found Collins’s writing to be more substantial than Stephenie Meyer’s, so I enjoyed the Hunger Games novels more.  I remember making the connection to what was currently going on in entertainment, which was the rising popularity of reality TV.  I saw the parallels to audiences being entertained by the struggles and problems of people.  While some people may think the premise of the Hunger Games was harsh, it was not too far from what people were regularly watching on TV.  Collins created full characters that I connected with, and Mockingjay is one of the handful of books that I read and re-read the ending just to experience it again because it was so well written.

Conclusion

Mockingjay concludes the Hunger Games series by showing the transformation of Katniss from a common citizen to the revered leader of a rebellion.  While her choices are difficult and include sacrifices, she emerges as a stronger person than she was in the beginning.  This novel aptly solves the problems presented in the previous novels, and provides an ending that most readers will appreciate.  It is an exciting book with a positive message that young adult and adult readers will enjoy.

Collins, S. (2010). Mockingjay. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School

Diary

Introduction

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney is the tenth book in the Wimpy Kid series.  Each book follows the hero, Greg Heffley, as he documents the challenges of being a kid.  This novel tells the story of his mother deciding the family is too focused on technology and they need to go back to the basics of human connection.  On top of that, Greg’s grandfather is moving into the family home.  Eventually Greg ends up at Hardscrabble Camp, where he is forced to “rough it,” and he is not prepared for hard manual work and no technology.  Greg’s dad shows up as a chaperone, and they make a fun connection that spans the generations.

Evaluation

As the title indicates, Old School is written in a diary format.   This first person perspective allows the reader to have a clear understanding of the thoughts and feelings of Greg.  Kinney also includes supporting sketches that add humor to the entries.  While the writing is longer than a typical diary entry would be, they are engaging and provide a solid timeline for the events.

Kinney’s writing style balanced between short sentences that provide a great deal of information.  He allows his choice of words to effectively develop a plot that is engaging to a wide range of readers.  Kinney does not use complex vocabulary, but does not write in an simplistic manner.  He uses elements of understatement and insinuation to keep the attention of the older reader without confusing a younger one.

Finally, Kinney creates full characters in Old School.  Many of the regulars are featured, such as Greg’s family and his best friend, Rowley.  This book features Greg’s grandfather.  While Greg was apprehensive about his grandfather moving in, they end up developing a nice partnership.  Kinney’s characters are realistic and readers can easily relate to them.

Response

As a fifth grade teacher and mother of a boy, I have had a lot of exposure to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  I used to even limit my students to reading it because I wanted them to read something more on their level.  I regret doing that in the past, and I don’t have any limitations on what they read.  Kinney is a good writer and his stories are fun and engaging.  Old School has an entertaining plot line, but it also has some important themes such as the love of family.  While Greg has plenty of challenges with his family, they come together in the end.  This is a concept that is an important lesson for all readers.

Conclusion

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School is an entertaining story that illustrates the struggles kids have with taking a break from technology and going back to the basics of human interaction.  While it may be a challenge, it is not impossible, and it can be somewhat enjoyable.  Kinney tells a story that many readers can understand, and he includes positive themes about family and love.  This is an enjoyable book for any reader.

Kinney, J. (2015) Diary of a wimpy kid: Old school. New York, NY: Amulet Books.

 

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

Epic

Introduction

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya is a novel that is told from the perspective of the title character.  Arturo works in his family restaurant, which is planning to expand into the neighboring lot.  However, a new developer, Wilfrido Pipo threatens to foil these plans by overhauling the neighborhood into a more modern retail and restaurant space.  To further complicate Arturo’s life, he wants to be more than friends with a neighbor, Carmen.  Arturo has his hands full trying to help his family protect Pipo’s plans and win Carmen’s heart.

Evaluation

Cartaya’s writing seamlessly includes Spanish words and phrases into the narrative.  While Arturo and his family primarily speak English, they commonly use their native language to communicate.  Not only does Cartaya include this communication in a natural manner, he helps non-Spanish speaking readers understand the terms by explicitly and implicitly defining them.  This style of writing adds an element of authenticity to the story.

The plot itself is appropriately paced.  The story begins in an engaging manner and keeps the reader interested as Arturo struggles to help his family fight against Pipo and as he explores his relationship with Carmen.  The story line is well developed with enough detail to explain the events without losing the interest of the reader.  The events in the story are realistic and young people will be able to relate to Arturo’s problems.

Finally, Cartaya creates unique characters that readers can appreciate.  The first person viewpoint allows Arturo to adequately convey his thoughts and feelings about Pipo, Carmen, and his friends and family.  Additionally Cartaya effectively creates a quality antagonist with Pipo without going over the top.  Also, the character of Carmen provides a great partnership with Arturo as she empowers him to speak up for his family and fight for their restaurant.  The secondary characters of Arturo’s friends and family provide a sound foundation for his character’s integrity.

Response

This book came to my attention in another class, so I was looking forward to reading it for this project.  I think the title adds an element of intrigue for any reader.  I was immediately engaged in the reading and the level of writing is appropriate for young adults but still interesting for adult readers.  The themes of family and friendship are strong and add depth to the story.  Additionally, I liked the inclusion of Spanish terms that added to the story.  The only element I felt that was distracting was a couple of chapters that depicted interactions between Arturo and his friends were written like a scence from a play.  I assume Cartaya did that to clearly distinguish them from the rest of the story, but it was a strange diversion.

Conclusion

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is a young adult novel that explores the themes of family, loyalty, and love.  Arturo’s struggle to find the best way to help his family with the support of his friends is a positive and inspiring story.  The added details about his heritage help educate readers on the traditions and values of the Hispanic community.  It is a fun story that readers will enjoy.

Cataya, P. (2017). The epic fail of Arturo Zamora. New York, NY: Viking.

 

And Tango Makes Three

Tango

Introduction

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole is a picture book that tells the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who become a couple and eventually parents.  The authors gracefully tell the story of how the penguins, Roy and Silo, behaved as a natural penguin couple and attempted to hatch an “egg,” which was really a rock.  Eventually, a caretaker was able to procure an actual egg that Roy and Silo alternately cared for until the chick, Tango, hatched.  Afterward the penguins behaved as a penguin family.

Evaluation

While the subject of same sex animal couples is interesting, and controversial to some, Richardson and Parnell craft a well written story.  Their description of how penguins mate and how the two male penguins became a couple is clear, but subdued.  They write about the process in a way that is as natural as the concept itself.  They highlight the themes of love and family, which is the most important part of the story.

Cole creates illustrations that positively impact the story.  He uses soft colors and lines that complement the charming story.  This style supports the natural connection of Roy and Silo.

Additionally, the pictures add an element of detail to the story.  Each illustration supports the plot and helps the reader visualize the setting.  The sequence in which Roy and Silo attempt to hatch a rock is particularly effective because it shows their determination to be a family.  In the end, Cole effectively shows the love between this penguin family.

Response

This book had come to my attention in another class because it has been banned in some places because of the depiction of a same sex couple.  However, I found the writing to be sensitive to young readers and appropriately conveyed this story.  I also believe since it is based on actual events, that the topic is even more important for young readers to read about and understand.  I thought the story was adorable, and I recommend it as a read aloud and for young readers.

Conclusion

And Tango Makes Three is a children’s book about the true story of two male penguins who became mates and parents.  The story promotes acceptance of same sex families and shows that in the end, the most important part of family is love.

Richard, J. & Parnell, P. (2005). And Tango makes three. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.