Beholding Bee written by Kimberly Newton Fusco is about orphaned “Bee” who lives and works in a traveling carnival. She was born with a birthmark on her face in the shape of a diamond and is often faced with the taunts and jeers of the children (and adults) who come to the carnival when it pulls into town. Pauline, Bee’s guardian is one of a only a few people who truly see Bee as she is, but when Pauline is sent to work at another carnival, Bee decides to leave the only world she have ever known to find a home that she has only dreamed about.
I liked the story itself, Bee is a very believable character and the supporting characters are well-thought out and full of life. After her parents died, Bee began seeing a woman in an orange, floppy hat, but later finds that she is the only one who can see her. When Bee sets up house in an abandoned home she meets another mysterious old woman who looks as though she belongs in another era. I think I would have preferred the story to have remained a little more historical/realistic fiction. I didn’t care these characters as much as the other people Bee encounters throughout the story. But, these characters eventually help to show Bee that she matters to the world and her existence is important to the people around her. This story reminded me a lot of Patricia Reilly Giff’s new novel Gingersnap about the same time period that also involves an unexplained character. These two novels together could create a very interesting book discussion.
The story is beautifully written with fully developed characters and a voice all its own. For more information about the author, check out her website!
Title: Beholding Bee
Author: Kimberly Newton Fusco
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2013
Page Number: 336 pgs.
The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop written by British author, Kate Saunders was a surprisingly adventurous story for middle grade boys and girls alike. Another book reviewer described it as a cross between James Bond and Roald Dahl, and I would have to agree. Eleven-year old twins, Oz and Lily move into a chocolate shop their family inherited from a set of triplets who were chocolate makers as well as the children’s great-uncles.
Little do the children know, their great-uncles were also involved in magic as well as making chocolate. Soon the children meet an immortal, invisible, talking cat – Demerera as well as an immortal, talking rat named Spike. Along with these animals, Oz and Lilly and the neighbor boy, Caydon are invited to become a part of SMU (the Secret Ministry of the Unexplained). Adventures abound as they go scuba diving in the Thames, Oz is kidnapped by his Great-Uncle (one of which is still alive!), they meet an invisible elephant, and their parents are placed under a spell to make them believe the children are at summer camp.
I truly enjoyed the adventure and the characters in this book and I was surprised at the cover art because it didn’t seem to match the story very well. The cover art is much more whimsical and even happy-go-lucky, while the actual story involves a double murder, kidnapping, and magic. I know that sounds really dark, but it’s a really good story line. Don’t let the cover fool you, boys and girls alike would love this adventure story that’s made just a little sweeter with a touch of chocolate.
Title: The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop
Author: Kate Saunders
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2013
Page Number: 304 pgs.
My summer reading planning begins in November/December, but for the general public today is the day that our Summer Reading Program officially begins. I got to work an hour early to make sure the adult and young adult links on the website were working, updated the Facebook page, and finished getting everything in the right spot when we opened up at 9:00 am.
Let me just say, we’ve had over 250 pre-register for the program before today and already we’ve had over 100 more kids register for the program. And so far, (keeping my fingers crossed) there have been no major snafus. It has been an absolutely crazy day and I’m trying to keep my smile on and my enthusiasm at its peak so that kids are excited to be reading this summer. We have something for everyone this summer with some new programs, some old favorites, and of course a lot of great books!
I’ll be posting tomorrow with a book review or two as I am a little behind in my review posts and maybe a great story about signing up for summer reading.
Summer is fast approaching and as a librarian, I have found that many parents and even some kids are confused and misunderstand the difference between young adult books and books for those students in middle grades. Once I read past the middle grade novels in my public library in my hometown, I basically moved straight to adult books because there were not as many young adult books available that appealed to me. Many school libraries prevent students from reading certain books until they’ve reached a certain grade. I know in our library it can be a little confusing because our children’s department stretches to 8th grade, but we also have a separate are for young adult books so we have some books in both places. Some parents only want they children to read from a reading list for their grade level, well summer is a time for kids to read books they want to read and hopefully get a break from the required reading they see all school year. Here’s a quick way to understand the difference between middle grade and young adult literature.
Middle Grade Novels
These books are written for an audience of 8 – 12 year olds with characters, settings, and plots that this age group can connect with. Often there is less of a focus on a character’s feelings and internal struggle and more so on their relationships with other characters and a more plot-driven focus. Most likely these books although may not shy away from tough issues, will avoid graphic descriptions. Middle grade novels are often shorter than young adult, although J.K. Rowling started pushing longer books with a simpler sentence structure and vocabulary.
Young Adult Novels
Young adult novels are usually geared toward a 12+ audience, but again, it really depends on each individual reader. Characters in young adult novels are often coming-of-age with much of the focus on the main character and their individual growth or struggle. Young adult novels are often considered “edgy” due to their subject matter and often involve romantic story lines as well.
Overall, each child should choose books that interest them and they can understand and comprehend. Young adult novels are a great way for older children to experience and better understand about tough subjects and can be a great way to opening a door for discussion with parents. Picture books to young adult, publishers have been choosing some great books in the past few years and my mantra is that there’s a book for everyone out there…. you just have to find it!
Our library offers a few different types of book discussion groups for kids and as summer approaches, I’ve been reading like a crazy person getting ready with discussion questions, trivia, and information about authors and read-alike books as well.
This year I’m going to try a book discussion group for children entering 3rd and 4th grades. We only going to have two discussion during the summer to see what type of interest we have and then we’ll see if we want to meet during the school year or expand next summer. I found it difficult to choose books for this group of kids because children that have just completed second grade can be at very different reading levels, while outgoing third graders are often more fluent readers. I decided to pick two fun books that are not too difficult, but may challenge the younger students a little bit. Our first discussion will be on Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford. Moxy is similar to Junie B. Jones, Clementine, and Judy Moody – a little girl with a huge imagination who is not afraid of getting into a little trouble. And I thought it would be a perfect book for a summer book club because Moxy doesn’t want to read Stuart Little (which is her required reading for summer). The second book I chose was Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight. Frankie Pickle also has a HUGE imagination and chooses not to clean his room, but his imagination runs away with him and disastrous things begin to happen. I felt that kids could relate to both of these characters and I’m excited to see what they think of these books.
We also host a half an hour book discussion for our middle school students on Monday evenings for 5 consecutive weeks during the summer. For this group we offer two different selections each week (plus one extra the first week, due to high attendance). Our criteria for books for this group is that they have to be around 200 pages in order to be a feasible length for kids to finish in a week and we try to provide the kids with a lot of different genres to hit everyone’s fancy. We try to have a mystery, science fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, informational text, and historical fiction. We have also included novels in verse, graphic novels, and novels with a focus around a disability. I have found in years past, that many children have questions or would like to discuss disabilities, but are unsure of how to talk about the issue and having a book/character to talk about makes than students feel more comfortable. This year we have chosen:
- A Single Shard by, Linda Sue Park
- Surviving the Applewhites by, Stephanie Tolan
- The White Mountains by, John Christopher
- Wonder by, R.J. Palacio
- The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 by, Christopher Paul Curtis
- Anything But Typical by, Nora Raleigh Baskin
- Around the World by, Matt Phelan
- Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science by, John Fleischman
- The Tail of Emily Windsnap by, Liz Kessler
- Punished by, David Lubar
- Schooled by, Gordon Korman
Finally, another librarian on staff offers an hour-long book discussion for middle school students that we have named Literary Lunch. Usually the kids involved in this program, truly enjoy reading and will read a little longer book or slightly more advanced. This year’s books include:
- Starry River of the Sky by, Grace Lin
- Pie by, Sarah Weeks
- Chicken Boy by, Frances O’Roark Dowell
- Breaking Stalin’s Nose by, Eugene Velchin
- Perseus by, Geraldine McCaughrean
Hopefully, the students will find something they really enjoy reading this summer and maybe even will pick up a book that is something new for them to try! Summer is almost here…