The novels nominated for the Intermediate California Young Reader Medal this year will bring your 3rd through 6th graders plenty of what they love: fun, magic and imagination. As always, readers must read all novels nominated in a category to be eligible to vote. Here is a quick summary of each novel in the Intermediate category.
Chock-full of puzzles, Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein is very popular with 2nd – 5th grade readers, who love to solve the puzzles along with the characters. The Public Library in Alexandriaville had been closed for 11 years. Mr. Lemoncello, world-famous game-maker and public library supporter, set out to right this wrong by holding an extravagant party/contest for 12 twelve-year olds to celebrate the opening of the brand new state of-the-art public library. This book details that contest by following the stories of a couple of those contestants. Librarians, like me, will enjoy the many references to children’s literature and the Dewey Decimal classification system. This book begs for group projects like create a game and the website mentioned in the back of the book has extensions galore.
The other two books nominated are both fantasies. Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy is the more adventurous of the two. Oscar knows he’s different but he doesn’t know why. He understands cats, but not people. The magician’s apprentice tells Oscar he’s useless; worthless. When something unknown attacks the village and the magician is gone, Oscar wonders if he can possibly help – and how. Ursu’s robust fantasy will have readers questioning the role of magic in fairy tales and in their own lives. This is good for fantasy and fairy tale readers 4th grade and up. I have a free Story Sheet called Sensing Magic which examines Ursu’s use of sensory words to convey Oscar’s changing attitude toward magic and challenges students to begin a magical story.
Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin is the most humorous of the three novels. This is a must-read for middle grade fairy-tale lovers and has just enough humor to attract those less inclined to read. Rump paints a sympathetic and believable backstory for a character whose motivation has never been clear: Rumpelstiltskin. Shurtliff’s unnamed fantasy-land (for names are important) is whimsical enough that readers will want to stay just to find out what quirky creature might appear next. The Story Sheet Back Together Again helps students deconstruct how Shurtliff re-told Rumpelstiltskin and challenges them to de-construct and re-tell Humpty Dumpty in a new way.
Need an adventure/fantasy for 8 years and older? Like Narnia, and other great tales in this genre, Wildwood by Colin Meloy allows readers to wonder about the foundations of our society by setting up an entirely new one just outside our own. At the outset of the story, Prue’s baby brother is abducted by crows and taken to Wildwood, just across the Willamette River from Portland. Prue – and her friend Curtis – become embroiled in the machinations of politics and power in Wildwood when all she really wants to do is retrieve her baby brother.
There is much that I love about Wildwood: the moderate pacing, the varied point-of-view, the fair-enough handling of the parents, and mostly the main character Prue. I love Prue’s journey to get her brother back, and everything she learns and does along the way. Meloy deals with the themes of justice, peace and non-violence adeptly and still manages to keep the story entertaining.
This is a well-crafted story, one I would be pleased to read to a classroom full of fourth graders, or my to own family
- Title: Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles Book 1
- Author : Meloy, Colin
- Illustrator: Ellis, Carson.
- Copyright: 2011 Unadoptable Books LLC
- ISBN: 978-0-06-202468-8
- Dewey Decimal Number: Fic Mel
- Reading Range: 6.3
Gone Fishing is a treasure for many reasons. First of all: kids love it. It has just enough mischief and naughtiness to spice up a read-a-loud and keep any reluctant reader turning pages. The sibling rivalry at the center of this story will hit home with anyone who has, well, had a sibling. Even for those of us who don’t normally fish, the slimy details keep us involved and invested because we identify with Sam and rejoice as he overcomes his frustrations and failures.
The second reason this book is such a treat you may not even notice up front: it’s a novel-in-verse. And what’s even better is that the audience is second and third grade, where we have a dearth of novels-in-verse. Gone Fishing is perfect for this age group because the subject matter is on-point emotionally: a younger sister horns in on her big brother’s fishing trip with dad. Even more appealing to teachers: the poetry is meticulous. After you’ve been through the book once to catch the plot, you will enjoy re-reading to enjoy Wissinger’s craft. Here, the various poetic forms reveal the emotions as true and entertaining, without being overwrought. And, each form is outlined in a neat appendix, handy for future – and practicing – poets.
Gone Fishing is a natural fit for the second grade English Language Arts Standards in Reading Literature. The story is told from two very different points of view – both Sam and Lucy – making this a perfect read to “speak in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud (CCSS ELA Literacy 2.6).” This short book will help round out the range of complexity called for in the Standards (CCSS ELA Literacy 2.10) by introducing a wide variety of poetry.
Some students may be lucky enough to try writing some of their own poetry using the examples in the back of this book. Turning our complaints, failures and frustrations into entertaining poems can take a lot of the sting out of the curves we all get thrown every now and again. Kudos to Wissinger for setting this shining example of resiliency.
- Title Gone Fishing
- Author Tamera Will Wissinger
- Illustrator Matthew Cordell
- Copyright 2013
- ISBN 9780547820118
- Dewey Decimal Number Fic
- Reading Range 1-3 (2.6)
Out of My Mind is told by a girl who cannot speak – or even move at all – yet she loves words. Melody is practically trapped in her body. But she feels words. Sees words.
So, how does she tell the story?
That’s the question.
I absolutely loved Out of My Mind by Sharon M Draper and I have yet to find a middle school student who does not also adore the book. I understood Melody, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak, yet is highly intelligent. Draper does an exceptional job of getting the reader to feel what Melody feels and to empathize with her. The stakes in the story are high enough to keep you reading yet not falsely trumped up as some middle grades can be. There is no unnecessary death, rather the normal ups and downs of a fifth grader, told through an extraordinary lens: Melody’s.
I would recommend this book to any middle school reader who enjoys complex characters, and a realistic yet unusual story well told. This book will stay with you because it will expand your understanding of the human experience.
For teachers, this book will help with the Common Core Literacy standard to describe how a narrator’s point of view influences how events are described (ELA Literacy RL 5.6). Melody can describe events so accurately yet she is nearly unable to participate in them, verbally at least. Teachers will be able to imagine all sorts of ways to simulate this feeling for students in class. Abled-students have real difficulty with this feeling. Chapters one and two are particularly rich with “concrete words and phrases and sensory details” called for in the ELA Writing standards (ELA Writing 5.3d).
Out of My Mind
Sharon M Draper
I’m subbing in a high school library for a few weeks. Before I started this job, when I mentioned it to parents, they would ask me, “Do high school kids even read?”
That question, naturally, made me a bit defensive entering this library. I’m writing YA, ferchrist’s sake. They better read.
Once I arrived at this library I did, indeed, discover that what the teenagers check out most is: computers. But that’s OK. They’re doing their homework.
But hey, I’ve only got a few weeks at this substitute librarian thing. I want to succeed at my future dream career as a YA writer/real librarian. I need these kids to read. So I did the best thing I could think of: what motivates each and every teen to read.
I put together a book display.
At least I picked a subject they might like: Uncommon Couples. That will motivate them to read. Right? Aside from the obvious chick lit, werewolf and vampire stuff, I included Marley & Me, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Double Helix, that sort of thing.
Then I hid behind the circulation desk and watched to see if any of them picked up a book.
I didn’t witness it, but later in the day, I saw Anatomy of a Boyfriend, by Daria Snydowsky, on the coffee table next to someone’s knitting.
But she didn’t check the book out.
From my spot behind the circulation desk, I saw another girl reading the same book the next period. But she, too, left the library without stopping at the circulation desk.
I wasn’t sure whether this counted as a win for me and books or not.
Then, during lunch, a co-ed group of teenagers had gathered around the coffee table. They were taking turns reading aloud to each other. Boisterous laughter ensued. This is a librarian’s dream, right? A library full of teens, sitting together, warmly conversing, laughing, sharing literature aloud, during their free time.
It is a substitute librarian’s nightmare.
What the hell book was that? It was not The Double Helix.
They were reading Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend. That book was really getting around. Nancy (not her real name), the other librarian, and I quickly looked up reviews for the novel, which I had added to the display without reading.
“Oh, poop,” I said – not exactly what I said – as both of our screens filled with impassioned accounts of the book. I explained to Nancy how I innocently did a subject search for “dating” and found this cute cover. Then I naively stuck the book next to Anthony and Cleopatra, which no one had yet cracked.
Once lunch was over, Nancy retrieved the book from the coffee table. She opened it to a page – 151 – and read this aloud, “You’ve got a long night of bronco riding ahead of you, cowgirl.”
I frowned. “I’ve really enjoyed working with you, Nancy. I hope you like the new sub tomorrow.”
Needless to say, I took the book home and read it myself. You can see my GoodReads review here: link to review
I liked the book, so I put it back in the display. It faced a different direction, so I hate to say this, but it hasn’t been picked up since. However, I am pleased to report that some romance manga, Franny and Zooey, and Gone with the Wind have all been checked out.
And, I’m sure that Anatomy of a Boyfriend is available on any e-reader. You can check those out, as the kids know, at the library. Hey, maybe that’s why they’re checking out so many computers.