It All Comes Down To This by Karen English

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*Thanks to the @kidlitexchange for a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

It is 1965 in Los Angeles California. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never been good at making friends. Instead, she’s always kept to herself. Ever since her family moved into a new neighborhood, Sophie has had to deal with change. First off, they are the first black family to live in the neighborhood. Her new housekeeper doesn’t seem to like Sophie very much. And even though her neighbor, Jennifer, seems to be a promising friend, others in the neighborhood refuse to accept Sophie. And this is only the beginning.

Wow, this book blew me away. Not at all what I was expecting (even though I do not know what I was expecting). It is the kind of book that wraps around you and will not let you go until you finish. Only to wish it wasn’t done. I picked it up and finished it in one sitting despite its 300+ pages. I appreciated the honest, raw take on family life. No fairy tale, perfect family here! Viewing life through Sophie’s eyes was vivid and real. She will stay with me. Thank you, Karen English! I recommend this book for grades five and up.

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Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten

Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten

*I received a copy of this graphic novel for review purposes via the @kidlitexchange network. All opinions are my own.

This is such an adorable graphic novel about a “boy” created out of different pieces of lint in a dryer. Lint Boy and his friend Lint Bear spend happy days in their dryer until an evil old woman takes them away. Apparently, she does not like dolls and traps them in cages. Lint Boy must muster up his courage to save Lint Bear and the others trapped by this horrible woman.

I loved the illustrations in this graphic novel. It was sweet but with a twist that reminded me of the movie Coraline. This is the perfect addition to any school library or classrooms grade three and up.

Book Review: The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

Thank you to the @kidlitexchange network for providing this book for review.

Yuriko is a twelve-year-old girl living in Hiroshima. She lives with her Papa and has a happy, well-to-do, life. But things begin to change for Yuriko. Not only does Yuriko notice those who leave to fight in WWII stop coming home, her family has change coming too. Her Papa and Aunt Kimiko are getting married. All of who will live with Yuriko and Papa. Just as Yuriko starts to get used to the daily air raids and the family changes, she learns of a shocking family secret.

I love that, as a reader, I got to learn about the Japanese culture and life as an adolescent during WWII. Experiencing the Hiroshima bombing through Yuriko’s eyes was heart-wrenching, but important. Author, Kathleen Burkinshaw, draws you into Yuriko’s world, keeping you there long after you put the book down. This book is a must-have for every school/classroom library.

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie: A Book Review

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*I received an ebook copy of this book via the @kidlitexchange for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Tessa’s family is moving from Florida to Chicago. Her parents are excited about the old 1800s house they purchased, but right away Tessa can sense something is not right. Weird, creepy, and downright scary things start to happen to Tessa in her home. Is her home haunted? What does this ghost want? Can Tessa’s new friends help her discover what is happening in Tessa’s home?

I absolutely loved THE PECULIAR INCIDENT ON SHADY STREET! This is the perfect ghost mystery for any middle-grade reader. Creepy, but not too creepy. Although the mystery of Inez Clark is at the heart of the story, the main character Tessa, also learns a lot about friendship and dealing with change. This just might be my favorite ghost mystery book of all time! I recommend it for grades four and up.

Book Review: THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU by Jennifer Maschari

Things That Surprise You by Jennifer…

  • I received an ARC in return for an honest review via the #kidlitexchange. This book will be released August 22nd.

Emily and best friend Hazel are about to start middle school. Hazel is excited about all the new things middle school will bring, while Emily just wants things to stay the same. As their first year of middle school progresses, Emily and Hazel drift apart. Emily’s older sister arrives home from an anorexia treatment facility, causing stress for Emily and her family. Will anything stay like it used to be for Emily? Can Emily survive all the changes?

Wow, I absolutely loved this book. Did author Jennifer Maschari write about my adolescence? Emily thought she could deal with all the stresses by herself, not letting anyone in. She thought her problems were nothing compared to her older sisters’ problem. I was the same way as a child. This book captured what I believe a lot of tween children deal with. THINGS THAT SUPRISE YOU is a wonderful reflection/mirror for many middle-grade readers or those of us who used to be middle grade! I highly recommend this book for grades four and up.

Book Review: REFUGEE by Alan Gratz

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Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are on the run. Josef’s family is escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930’s via the St. Louis, traveling to Cuba. Isabel’s family is avoiding jail in Castro’s Cuba in 1994 by sailing on a makeshift boat headed for Miami. And Mahmoud’s family is leaving behind war-torn Syria in 2015, in hopes to make it to Germany. All three families are leaving behind the only life they have ever know, risking everything for a better life. They are refugees.

Author, Alan Gratz, is one of my favorite middle-grade historical fiction writers. And he knocked it out of the park with REFUGEE. I could not put it down and finished the book in one sitting. REFUGEE was intense, real, heart-wrenching, yet hopeful. As a reader, you will ride the roller coaster of life on the run. An important book for everyone to read, especially now. I recommend it for grades four and up.

Book Love for Middle Grade Lit

I review every middle grade book I read, yet I have not placed the reviews here on my blog. I figure it is about time a share the book love here too! Here are ten of my recent reads. Enjoy and share!

BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA by Lauren Wolk

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Set in the 1920s on the Massachusetts Elizabeth Islands, BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA is a beautiful novel about discovering your past while respecting your present. Twelve-year-old Crow has questions about where she came from. Once she starts to look into her past, Crow discovers more than she plans.

I cannot describe how touching this book was. I felt the love Osh and Miss Maggie had for Crow. The understanding of her desire to know more about where she came from. Family is more than blood, and author Lauren Wolk displayed this so elegantly. I recommend this book for grades five and up.

FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry

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A novel written in verse, FORGET ME NOT is a story about a girl, Calliope June, who longs to live in a town for enough time to make a friend. Making friends is not easy for Calliope since she has Tourette syndrome. Hiding her ticks is challenging, especially when kids start to notice and comment how strange she is. When a new friendship for Calliope starts to blossom, will she have to move again?

FORGET ME KNOT is an important book to have in every classroom and school library. Themes of acceptance, overcoming challenges, and doing the right thing are threaded throughout this book. Author, Ellie Terry, who is diagnosed with Tourette syndrome paints a realistic picture of life for a child with TS. The characters pull at your heart and will linger with you long after you finish the book. Beautifully written.

ORPHAN ISLAND by Lauren Snyder

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This book kept me on my toes. Just when I thought I had things figured out, author Laurel Snyder threw in a new twist. Who sent these nine kids to the island? Why can there only be nine kids at one time? Why are there certain rules to follow on the island and who created them? Why does the oldest child have to leave when a new child arrives?

If you love mystery, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy, you will love ORPHAN ISLAND. I recommend this book for grades four and up.

BUBBLES By Abby Cooper

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Imagine yourself as a kid. Not only is it YOUR fault your mom lost her job and broke up with her boyfriend, now you are seeing the thoughts of others around you. You know, like the ones you see above cartoon characters in the comics, thought bubbles. You start to believe maybe something is seriously wrong with you. It is hard enough being a kid, now this?

Author Abby Cooper writes an incredible tale about a girl who is so in tune with the people around her it is starting to consume her. As a reader, I connected with this story and the main character Sophie. I was just like her when I was a kid. I always worried about the people and events around me. I would obsess about the unknown and what I had no power over, but I never let anyone know about it. It did not manifest in the same way as Sophie’s feeling did, but none the less, I could relate. Abby Cooper has a way of storytelling that reminds you of the adolescent you. So real, so rich, so tender. A must read for fourth grades and up!

WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate

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*I received this book via a Shelf Awareness Giveaway. It comes out September 26th.

Did you know trees can talk? Red, the wishtree can. She has two hundred and sixteen rings worth of life experience and has carried over two hundred years worth of human wishes. Before her life is over, can Red help make one more wish come true?

Written from the tree’s perspective, author Katherine Applegate, crafts a tale of hope, love, and acceptance. See our world in a whole new light. WISHTREE will stay in your heart long after the last page. I recommend this book for the young and old.

YORK by Laura Ruby

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*Thanks to the #bookvoyage giveaway, I received YORK.

Once you start this book you will not be able to put it down. Every twist and turn in the plot kept me involved and tearing through each page to solve the cipher with Tess, Theo, and Jamie. Sci-fi fans will like the twist author Laura Ruby puts on New York City’s past and present day. The Morningstarr Twins invented never before seen technology for the city of New York in the late 1700s and disappeared fifty-seven years later leaving behind the Old York Cipher that can only be solved by the right people. It just so happens that seventh-graders in the present-day are the right fit for the job. This book will not disappoint.

HOUSE ARREST by K.A. Holt

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Written in a poetic format, HOUSE ARREST is a collection of journal entries main character Timothy is required to make during his year-long house arrest sentence after stealing a wallet to help pay for his baby brother Levi’s medical bills. Timothy not only has to deal with his brother’s fragile medical state. His father left not long after Levi’s birth without letting anyone know and has had no contact with the family.

Reading this book, I found myself wondering how I would handle Timothy’s situation when I was his age. How would I react? Would I be the one to run away like his Dad? Would I be like Timothy and make a rash decision? Would I be like his mom and work myself into the ground and forbid asking for help? The characters K.A. Holt created react in real, real ways. This book is shockingly real. You will love it. I recommend HOUSE ARREST for grades four and up.

LEMONS by Melissa Savage

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*I received LEMONS via a Shelf Awareness Giveaway.

This book has it all: likable, believable, quirky characters, adventure, mystery, love, and loss. It is an important story about the loss of a mother and the gain of a new friend. As ten-year-old Lem adapts to her new life in a new town, she becomes the assistant to Bigfoot Kid Detective Tobin Sky. Over the course of the summer, Lem and Tobin’s friendship leads to the discovery of something neither of them could have ever imagined.

Lemons, by Melissa Savage, is one of the best books I have read this year. I plan on reading it aloud to my fifth-grade class in September. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is what Lemonade Liberty Witt’s mama always told her. And boy does this book give kids the message, “If Lem can make it through that tough time in her life, then I can too.” I am anxious to hear the great discussions our class will have because of this book. It is a MUST HAVE for grades four and up.

REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale

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Elementary school friendships are not the easiest for Shannon. Especially since her best friend is part of a “group” where some members are not so nice or just down right mean. As Shannon navigates the complicated dynamics of the group, she discovers what type of friend she wants to be and what makes a real friend.

REAL FRIENDS is the graphic novel we have been all waiting for. I can see this book being passed around my fifth-grade classroom, just as popular as SMILE and SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier. By the end of the school year, REAL FRIENDS will look worn and well loved. I plan on purchasing multiple copies to keep up with the popularity I know this book will have in my class. I cannot wait for the release of this book. It is a must have for any classroom and school library.

THE SOMEDAY BIRDS by Sally J. Pla

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*I received THE SOMEDAY BIRDS via a Shelf Awareness Giveaway.

Bird-loving Charlie’s life dramatically changes when his Dad is sent to a hospital across the country. Injured in Afghanistan, Charlie’s Dad needs special attention from an expert doctor. Charlie’s grandmother and sole caretaker must go to be with Charlie’s father. The only person left to care for Charlie and his siblings is a strange tattooed girl named Ludmila whom they know little about. Ludmila decides to take the kids on a road trip across the country so they can be with their Dad. Charlie doesn’t want to leave home, but maybe he can spot birds from the Someday Bird List Charlie and his Dad created. During the journey, Ludmila’s secrets emerge, forever changing this family’s lives.

I fell in love with Charlie and his family’s quirky dynamics right away. Charlie and his siblings seemed real and genuine. I was pulled in by this strange Ludmila character, wondering what her connection to Charlie’s Dad was. Author, Sally J. Pla, takes the reader on a funny, heart-wrenching journey across the country. You will not get bored on this adventurous road trip. In the end, the reader will be satisfied and sad to leave the family’s side. A great addition to any fourth grade and above classroom library.

Friends and Foes (Red’s Planet Book 2): Book Review

Friends and Foes by Eddie Pittman

Thank you to the @kidlitexchange for providing this book to review. All opinions are my own.

Red is stuck on a planet with a mismatched group of aliens. There is a power struggle to see who will run this crazy group. Who will win the election? Red or Goose? Who will defeat the space pirates that return to this planet? Can they come together to save themselves?

I absolutely adored the first book, RED’S PLANET, and book two did not disappoint. I love the message of acceptance, despite differences. How working as a team can make all the difference in the universe. Red is not a girly-girl, which I love. She is brave, bold, and not afraid to stand her ground. Thank you, Eddie Pittman, for writing such strong girl character. I recommend this book for grades three and up.

#druffelites Top Ten Books

Our Top Ten Most Loved Book List

1. THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen

The False Prince was our last read aloud for the school year. Students were invested in this book. They hated if we only had ten minutes to read on a tight-scheduled day. Many class discussion arose without probing or prodding. If you want a class at the edge of their seats, or a child who cannot put the book down, this one is for you.

From Amazon.com: In this first book in a remarkable trilogy, an orphan is forced into a twisted game with deadly stakes.

Choose to lie…or choose to die.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

2. AMULET Series by Kazu Kibuishi

Talk about well-loved. I have to buy a whole new set of this series for fall. Girls and boys devoured this series and could not wait for book 7 when it came out this spring. We had wait-list after wait-list of readers read for the next book in the series.

From Amazon.com: After tragedy strikes their family, Emily and Navin move with their mother into the old home of their great-grandfather. On their very first night in the strange house, Emily and Navin’s mom is kidnapped by a tentacled creature. Determined to rescue her, Emily and Navin are led into a world of robots, talking animals, flying ships, new allies . . . and enemies. There, Emily learns that she is a Stonekeeper and essential to the survival of this world, and that her incredible story is only just beginning.

3. THE HONEST TRUTH by Dan Gemeinhart

This is the second year I have include this book as a read aloud. We were even lucky enough to have Dan Gemeinhart visit our school this spring. Students fell in love with the main character Mark and his Dog Beau as they traveled to Mt. Rainier. Taking place in Washington State was the perfect setting since our social studies unit for the year was Washington State History and Government. Students made storyboards of their favorite scene and presented them to author Dan Gemeinhart during his visit. This heart-wrenching tale of perseverance and love engage readers from cover to cover.

From Amazon.com: It’s never too late for the adventure of a lifetime.

In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.

But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan. A plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier. Even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

THE HONEST TRUTH is a rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments, and one incredible journey.

4. SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Our first read aloud of the year drew in the new fourth graders. Students quickly discovered how invested a reader can get into a book. They cared about Shiloh and despised Judd. This is a wonderful read aloud.

From Amazon.com: Marty will do anything to save his new friend Shiloh in this Newbery Medal–winning novel from Phillis Reynolds Naylor.

When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight—and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun—and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?

5. THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My words will never do this book justice. This is the most powerful book I have read. The main character, Ada, endures more than most of us could imagine. My students fell in love with Ada and HATED Mam, Ada’s mom.We were ecstatic to hear this well-deserved book won a Newbery Honor. After we completed this class read aloud, we had the pleasure to Skype with the author, Kimberly Brubaker Bradely. We found out the sequel will leave off right where this story ended. We cannot wait!

From Amazon.com: An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
 
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

6. RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate DiCamillo

We pre-ordered this book for our Fourth Grade Book Club. Students had three weeks to read the book, then we met after school to discuss. Many finished the book within one week because they could not put it down. Out of the three rancheros (best friends), Beverly was the most favorite. We were not disappointed with Kate DiCamillo’s newest book!

From Amazon.com: Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

7. SOME KIND OF COURAGE by Dan Gemeinhart

The first student to read this book in my class followed along with the award-winning audio book. He would shout, tear-up, and whisper to himself throughout the book. This is a kid who finally fell in love with a book thanks to Dan Gemeinhart. This was also our first Fourth Grade Book Club book and the group loved it. It is action-packed and full of love. It takes place in the 1800s in Washington State. Another must read!

From Amazon.com: Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he’s ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he’s lost his pony-fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.

Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn’t about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.

Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything. But he hasn’t lost hope. And he hasn’t lost the fire in his belly that says he’s getting his Sarah back-no matter what.

The critically acclaimed author of The Honest Truth returns with a poignant, hopeful, and action-packed story about hearts that won’t be tamed… and spirits that refuse to be broken.

8. WONDER by R.J. Palacio

This was another Fourth Grade Book Club book the students loved. It made them think about what it would like to be Auggie and how they treat people who may look different.

From Amazon.com: The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement.

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” 

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author ofSticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

9. DEEP, DARK, AND DANGEROUS by Mary Downing Hahn

The craze with this book started when a student read this book along with the audio book on our class iPad. He could not stop talking about how creepy this book was and how much he loved it. Students waited for their turn with the book. A great ghost story for any classroom library.

From Amazon.com: Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?

Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.

Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.

10. THE BOOK SCAVENGER by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Boy did my students fall in love with this book and ciphers. It was a great book to read aloud this year. It kept the students guessing right up until the end. What a fun book!

From Amazon.com: For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.

Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold’s new game―before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.

A MUST READ FOR ALL AGES

amazon.com

I have been away from blogging for quite awhile. Many other things in my life have needed my attention. That being said, I MUST blog about The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It has been tugging at me ever since I read it, this summer, for the first time.

Ada, the main character, is a girl that will forever live in my heart. World War II saved her life. But really, Ada’s strength is what saved her, and the love of Miss Smith.

You see, Ada was born with a clubfoot. Her mother, Mam, confined Ada to their third-floor flat in London, England. She never learned how to walk. Ada’s only view of the world was from her window. Mam mistreated Ada in various, horrific, ways. Yet Ada found strength. 

After reading this book aloud to my fourth grade class, I asked my students what they thought the author’s message was. One response was all it took to verify my decision to read this book aloud. “If Ada can make it through all her tough times, then I can.” 

Many of my students do not come from ideal home situations. I’m happy to know that Ada’s strength will stay with them. Hopefully Ada will help them through their tough times. 

Here is a synopsis of the book from School Library Journal

Gr 4–6—Bradley turns her keen historical eye from Monticello (Jefferson’s Sons, Penguin, 2011) to the British home front during World War II. Ada isn’t exactly sure how old she is; for as long as she can remember, she’s been a virtual prisoner in her mother’s third floor one-room apartment. She was born with a clubfoot and her mother uses her disability as an excuse to abuse her both emotionally and physically. Ada watches the world through the narrow confines of the apartment window, waves to neighbors in the street, and carefully gauges the danger of being beaten during each encounter with her hateful mother. She envies the freedom of her little brother, Jamie, who goes to school and generally roves the neighborhood at will. When her mother prepares to ship Jamie out to the countryside with other children being evacuated from London, Ada sneaks out with him. When the two fail to be chosen by any villagers, the woman in charge forces Susan Smith, a recluse, to take them in. Though Susan is reluctant and insists that she knows nothing about caring for children, she does so diligently and is baffled by the girl’s fearful flinching anytime Ada makes a mistake. Though uneducated, Ada is intensely observant and quick to learn. Readers will ache for her as she misreads cues and pushes Susan away even though she yearns to be enfolded in a hug. There is much to like here-Ada’s engaging voice, the vivid setting, the humor, the heartbreak, but most of all the tenacious will to survive exhibited by Ada and the villagers who grow to love and accept her.—Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ