If it seems like a slightly supersized edition of our monthly book round up, that’s because the kids have been reading more. In a fit of annoyance at the upteenth reread of half a graphic novel, I changed our required reading system completely to become a required hour of reading before bed with anything they wanted, as long as it was new and it wasn’t literally all graphic novels. Good things ensued. We are still doing short required reading books for things I want us to discuss together.
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
I read this book on my own awhile ago, and had completely forgotten how hilarious it is. It tells the story of Gratuity “Tip” Tuchi, an average eleven year old faced with an alien invasion after her mother is abducted. Humans are supposed to report to a new human preserve and Tip decides to drive, but meets up with an alien on the run named J. Lo. and the plot only gets crazier from there as Tip’s road trip becomes an epic cross country drive in a hover car, being shot at by new aliens, and finding out the truth about Roswell. There are not enough middle grade science fiction novels out there in my opinion (fantasy abounds, obviously) and this one is a fun one for older elementary and middle school. The narration on the audiobook is excellent, with a really great choice of narrator for Tip’s voice.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
This is such a short little gem of a book. Most people will know the story of Sadako, a young Japanese girl, who like so many after the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, developed cancer and died young. We read this one together and discussed it as a sort of counterpoint to the nonfiction book Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, which we read aloud. Both the boys felt the story was sad but touching and wanted to immediately make paper cranes for Sadako after finishing the book.
I, Funny by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
While the name on the author line of this book is Patterson, Mushroom found it when he asked had Chris Grabenstein, the author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, written anything else. Turns out he co-wrote several books with bigger name authors, including this two book series about a kid who wants to become a stand up comedian but can’t stand up because he’s in a wheelchair. I didn’t read it, but Mushroom had a very favorable report and is halfway through the sequel and convinced BalletBoy to read it as well. He says the jokes were funny but that the book is actually very sad as you learn about the accident that put the main character ended up in a wheelchair and killed his parents.
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
This is another book I’ve never read that BalletBoy picked off a shelf after seeing a positive review. The story is a strange one, but I can see why he picked it because it’s exactly the mix of reality and weird that both my boys enjoy in a book. BalletBoy says that it’s really a book about dads and being a dad. This is because the main character, who is just a kid, but a kid who happens to look like a middle aged man, poses as the father of his friends in order to enter a contest to go into outer space. But when they actually win the contest and go, he has to be the one in charge. BalletBoy liked it enough that he kept talking it up to all the grown ups he met and even reading them passages from it.
Mushroom’s Also Reading
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
This one I read alongside Mushroom so I can review it too! After reading The Thing About Georgie, also by Graff, Mushroom asked to read another of her books and we choose this one, which takes place in a just one degree away from reality world where everyone has a Talent. A large cast of characters, including a girl who bakes perfect cakes, an orphanage director who’s too good for her job, a sinister shopkeeper looking for the perfect peanut butter recipe, and a boy with a Talent for getting himself lost, alternate chapters. Their stories all intertwine and meet at a final cake bake off. Cake recipes intersperse some of the chapters. I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. I really enjoyed the magical realistic feel, but there were places where I didn’t think the story fit as well as it wanted. Mushroom also liked it, but found it hard to keep track of some of the plot lines and didn’t think the ending was satisfying enough.
BalletBoy’s Also Reading
Wolves of the Beyond: Lone Wolf by Kathryn Lasky
This series takes place in the same world as The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, a series BalletBoy refused to read when he was on his “only animal books” kick. But he found this one at the book store and decided it was better (based on the cover, I presume). It’s not necessary to have read that series to appreciate this one. It follows Faolan, a wolf cub who is born with a twisted foot and therefore an outcast from the pack. Raised by a bear and then helped by an owl, he has to figure out who he is and find his way back to a pack. BalletBoy said he liked it but is debating reading the next one.
Bomb: The Quest to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
This nonfiction book was an excellent stretch read aloud for the boys and a great way to finish our World War II unit and lead us into the Cold War. The book focuses on the personalities who built the bomb and the spies who fought over the information. It’s a really complex tale, filled with all kinds old time spy craft and bits of information about how atomic chain reactions work. It took the boys a little while to get into it, but by the end of the book they were definitely hooked.
Battling Boy by Paul Pope
This graphic novel was a Christmas gift that sat on the shelf for a little while before being rediscovered and read by both the boys last month. It’s set in a world that looks like a sort of gritty mix of the present, the old west, and the future. An old hero has died and the main character must rise to become the new hero. After reading most of the way through, Mushroom suddenly looked up from it and said, “Hey, this is a hero origin story!” The art is slightly rough and the story ends on a cliffhanger, but it looks like a sequel is already scheduled to come out later this year.
Farrar’s YA Read
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
This book wasn’t technically a YA novel, but it may as well have been since the protagonists were all in their late teens and very early 20’s. It fits into this emerging genre of books about college aged characters but since it’s a few years old, I suppose it couldn’t qualify for such new marketing. I picked up this one because it was a recommended book for people who liked I Capture the Castle (this blog’s name inspiration) on Goodreads. It takes place in postwar England, where the main character, Penelope, lives in a decrepit old manor house with her beautiful but lonely widowed mother and aspiring rock star brother. When Penelope meets a new friend, Charlotte, she is swept up into Charlotte’s family and more interesting world. Of course, she also has her first romance. While the book didn’t reach anywhere near the quality of the book that led to its recommendation, I really enjoyed the setting and the classic coming of age feel to the story.