Friday, October 10, 2008

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

Martin, Ann M. A Corner of the Universe. New York: Scholastic, 2002.

Hattie’s life changed forever the summer her uncle Adam came home. She didn’t even know she had an Uncle Adam. He’d always lived in a school for people with disabilities. Here’s what Hattie has to say about that summer.

“My father’s movies are great, but they don’t begin to tell the story of the summer. What’s left out is more important than what is there. Dad captured the good times, only the good times. The parts he left out are what changed my life” (xiii).

To find out what happened that summer, read A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi

Rinaldi, Ann. The Coffin Quilt: The Feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. San Diego: Harcourt, 1999.

Fanny McCoy knows about hard times. She lives in the mountains of Kentucky. Fanny McCoy also knows about feuding and killing. That’s right. She’s part of that McCoy family of Hatfield and McCoy fame. She lived through the feud. Now Fanny McCoy wants to tell her story.

“My writing is kind of like Adelaide’s blood purifier that she’s always giving Ma. And besides, I don’t aim to be like our sheep, so shy that if a wild animal attacks, they just lie down and get ready to die. There’s been too much dying around these parts for my liking. I’m plumb sick of it. And I don’t even know if it’s all over yet. So I’m going to write what happened. The way it was for me, at least. The way it was all my life. Since I was a knee baby of seven” (6-7).

To hear Fanny McCoy’s story, read The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Ibbotson, Eva. Journey to the River Sea. New York: Scholastic, 2001.

Maia wants a family more than anything. She’s delighted when her lawyer finds distant relations living in Brazil. They want Maia to live with them and they have twin daughters Maia’s age. So Maia travels to Brazil in the care of the new governess, Miss Minton.

“She was becoming more and more excited. The color, the friendly waving Indians, the flashing birds, all delighted her, and she was not troubled by the heat. But at the center of all her thoughts were the twins. She saw them in white dresses with colored sashes like pictures in a book, laughing and welcoming and friendly. She imagined them getting ready for bed, brushing each other’s hair, and lying in a hammock with a basketful of kittens on their laps, or picking flowers for the house” (26).

But life with her new relations is not what Maia imagined. They live as though they are still in England. They do not eat native food or embrace local customs. Mrs. Carter wages a never-ending war against insects. Mrs. Carter doesn’t believe in pets as they carry germs. They never go outside. The twins don’t like Maia. They are even cruel to her. Maia likens the Carter’s house to a prison for so it is to her. If it were not for Minty, such a life would stifle Maia. With Minty’s help, Maia continues her studies and even makes friends with the locals. To read more about Maia’s adventures in Brazil, check out Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Horvath, Polly. Everything on a Waffle. New York: FSG, 2001.

“I live in Coal Harbor, British Columbia. I have never lived anyplace else. My name is Primrose Squarp. I am eleven years old. I have hair the color of carrots in apricot glaze (recipe to follow), skin fair and clear where it isn’t freckled, and eyes like summer storms” (3).

Primrose is satisfied with her life. She has a mother and a father. She’s happy, but things change one day in June. There’s a bad storm. Her dad’s out fishing. Her mom goes to find him. They don’t return.

“There was a memorial service for my parents but I wouldn’t go. I knew that my parents hadn’t drowned. I suspected that they had washed up on an island somewhere and were waiting to be rescued. Every morning I went down to the docks to watch the boats come in, sure that I would see my parents towed in, perhaps on the back of a whale” (4).

Primrose never doubts that her parents are still alive. She endures forgetful old ladies, careless uncles, and nosy guidance counselors. Is Primrose right about her parents being alive? To find out, read Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Maggie's Door by Patricia Reilly Giff

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Maggie’s Door. New York: Yearling, 2003

People are starving in Ireland. Nory Ryan has no choice but to leave her home. Her destination is America. Nory says, “The blight had turned those potatoes to mush, to ooze, leaving everyone hungry. Starving. Still now over Patrick’s Well hung bits of cloth, prayers that people had left. There was one of her sister Celia’s shifts” (7-8). Nory sets out alone to find her family and reach her sister Maggie’s door in America. To discover more about her journey, read Maggie’s Door by Patricia Reilly Giff.

Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff

Giff, Patricia Reilly. Nory Ryan’s Song. New York: Scholastic, 2000.

Nory Ryan and her family depend on potatoes. If the crops fail, they starve. They’ve heard that a disease is killing the potatoes. Nory worries about what will happen to her family if blight strikes their potato crop.

Think about green leaves, I told myself. Think about the sun in the sky and Da fishing on a big ship. Think about good things. What else? A red wedding dress. Number 416 Smith Street in Brooklyn. Think about… Stories of famine, people dying in their houses. Da’s little brother. A boy like Patch. Please let the potatoes be all right” (40-41).

To find out what happens to Nory and her family, read Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff.

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

Wiles, Deborah. Love, Ruby Lavender. Orlando: Gulliver, 2001.

Who is Ruby Lavender? Let’s look at a few excerpts from the questionnaire Ruby’s soon-to-be fourth grade teacher sent her.

3. Tell me about your town or neighborhood.
There’s nothing to tell. Miss Eula Dapplevine was the only colorful thing about Halleluia, and she up and left for Hawaii, deserting her kin (me), not to mention her chickens.

5. Tell me about your self.
I am a chicken thief. And a housepainter. And a floor sweeper. I have red hair and freckles the color of new pennies. I am a good writer. I have three chickens: Ivy, Bemmie, and Bess. I am about to have three more because Ivy laid three eggs. I do not eat meat.

7. What are your favorite subjects in school?
I never think about school in the summer. It is bad luck. Ask me in September. (pp. 61-63)

Ruby Lavender’s summer started out just fine. Then her grandmother, Miss Eula, goes to Hawaii. Miss Eula leaves Ruby to deal with their stolen chickens and Ruby’s worst enemy Melba Jane. Can Ruby survive the summer without Miss Eula? To find out you’ll have to read Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

Pennypacker, Sara. Clementine. Illus. Marla Frazee. New York: Scholastic, 2006.

Someone’s always telling Clementine to pay attention. Clementine does pay attention just in her own way. Surely you can understand that the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t as interesting as watching the lunch lady and janitor kiss. Paying attention is the least of Clementine’s problems this week. It all starts with Margaret, Clementine’s sometimes friend. Clementine begins her story: “I have had not so good of a week” (1).

To find out why Clementine’s week was so bad and what Margaret has to do with it, you’ll have to read Clementine by Sara Pennypacker.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

Hemphill, Stephanie. Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. New York: Knopf, 2007.

Sylvia Plath was a poet from age eight. She knew she was destined to be great. Stephanie Hemphill uses poetry to explore Plath’s life from birth to death. Here’s how Hemphill sees Plath:

Your Own, Sylvia

She could not help burning herself
From the inside out,
Consuming herself

Like the sun.
But the memory of her light blazes
Our dark ceiling.

She could not know how long
Her luminary would map the sky,
Or where her dying would lead the lost.

But for those who gaze heavenly
Or into the reflected pool of night,
She is fuel. She is dust. She is a guiding star. (246)

To find out more about Hemphill and her Sylvia Plath, you’ll have to read Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath.