February 7, 2011

Top Ten for Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today when Tom Angleberger spoke to my kids, he made a statement that really rang true with me.  He left the kids with one thought- go to your library and "poke around"... look on the shelves and find that hidden jewel, it's there.  You don't have to read books because your friends are reading them or because they are new and shiny.  So, today I give you 10 books from the past 10 years that you would find by poking around the Lemme Library (and they are all fantastic!)

Surviving Brick Johnson by Laurie Myers, 2000
Meet Nick.  He is a 5th grader who collects baseball cards.  He sorts his baseball cards by the player's ability and uses them as good luck charms- if he needs to run fast, he pus a fast player in his pocket that morning.  Well, no baseball card could prepare him for the day he makes fun of the school bully, Brick Johnson... and Brick overhears him!  Nick is afraid that Brick is going to beat him up, so he decides to take karate- but guess who is in his karate class?  Yup, the school bully!  This is a great, fun, fast read.  It would be great for kids who love the Wimpy Kid books!  
(Kelly Butcher 2011)

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, 2001
Parvana is an 11 year old girl who lives in Kabul, Afghanistan.   The Taliban rulers have imposed great restrictions on its citizens, so when they discover that Parvana's father has been translating letter written in English for people in the city, he is arrested.  Now, Parvana is left behind with her mother and younger siblings.  Because of the rules enforced by the government, women are not allowed to work outside the home.  Parvana's family is destitute- no money, no food, and they have no idea when or if their father will return   Parvana decides that she must disguise herself as a boy and get a job to earn money for her family.  If she is found out, it could mean disaster for her and her family.  
(Kelly Butcher 2011)

The Kite Rider: A Novel by  Geraldine McCaughrean 2002
This book is set in 13th century China- at a time when Mongol ruler Kublai Khan ruled.  12 year old Haoyou's father has recently died at the hands of a man who plans to remarry his mother.  His mother has no choice but to remarry since she has no money.  Haoyou decides that he must get a job and earn money for his mother.  He gets a job as a kite rider.  During this time, Chinese sailors used kite riders to determine the weather and see if luck would befall the voyage.  The rider would be tethered to a huge kite and flown up, miles above earth.  If the rider comes back alive, the ship will sail, but if the rider comes back dead, the trip is called off.  Haoyou is a fabulous kite rider and is discovered by a traveling circus.  Performing in the circus provides enough money for Haoyou to send home to his mother and prevent her from remarrying.  His adventure takes a turn when his circus is invited to perform for the Khan himself.   (Kelly Butcher 2011)
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, 2003
It's the beginning of summer and everyone is going off to camp except Gregor, an 11-year-old boy from New York City. Since his father's disappearance from their New York City home, he has been helping out with taking care of his little sisters, especially two-year-old Boots. Gregor sacrifices his chance to go to camp, letting his other sister go instead. While doing laundry in the basement of his apartment building, Boots disappears down an air chute and Gregor goes after her. At the bottom of this inner-city rabbit hole, the two find themselves in the Underland surrounded immediately by giant cockroaches, or crawlers. The story moves quickly as the two Overlanders are taken to the Queen of the Underlander humans, where Gregor learns of a prophecy which focuses on him and a quest to find his missing father. He travels with bats, crawlers, spinners (giant spiders), a rat, and two of the royal Underlanders. Gregor spends his time between protecting Boots, who doesn't know she needs to be protected, and becoming the leader of the questors who must not only save his father, but also save the Underlanders' kingdom. (School Library Journal)

Fish by L.S. Matthews, 2004
Tiger's parents have been working as volunteers in a small village in Africa.  When fighting closes in on the village, Tiger and her family must flee immediately.  All of the roads out of the village are teaming with guerrilla soldiers.  If her family is to make it to the coast and be rescued, they must put their trust in an old guide and his donkey.  As Tiger is getting ready to leave the village, she sees a small fish swimming in a mud puddle outside her hut.  She knows that the puddle will dry up and the fish will die.  She decides to rescue the fish, and takes him with her on the dangerous journey over mountains and through the jungle.  Imagine fleeing for your life while carrying a small pot with a fish inside.  The journey is dangerous, and gets worse when the group is followed by a band of fierce criminals who are taking advantage of those lost on their way to safety.  Tiger puts up a great fight even when the odds are not in her favor. (Kelly Butcher 2011)

Defiance by Valerie Hobbs, 2005
Toby's cancer has gone into remission and the doctor has cleared him to go on summer vacation with his mother.  It isn't much of a vacation- his dad has to work in the city, he is in the middle of nowhere with only a junky old bike to ride, and his mom still treats him like he has cancer.  Once Toby gets his bike fixed and rides into town, he spots a skinny cow lying in a pasture.  Toby is sure that this cow is abused and mistreated, so he goes to approach the owner for answers.  He meets the owner, an old lady who lives alone.  She tells him that the cow is very old but just fine.  Toby befriends the lady and finds that they have much in common- his mom babies him and her children baby her.  Summer vacation is looking a little better, when Toby finds a lump, and he knows it's cancer.  He refuses to tell his mom because he knows he will be stuck right back in the hospital. What will Toby do?  I'm not telling... read the book yourself.  (Kelly Butcher 2011)

A Small White Scar by K. A. Nuzum, 2006
It's the mid 1940's and Will Benson isn't very happy with the cards he has been dealt.  He lives on a ranch in Colorado where he is left to take care of his disabled younger brother.  Their mother died 7 years earlier and ever since then, their father has thrown himself into his work.  Will is just expected to take over for his mother and not allowed to explore his dreams for the future.  Will is a talented rodeo rider and decides to run away and perform in the rodeo in the next town.  On the night he leaves, he realizes that his twin brother, Denny has followed him out into the desert.  Denny has Downs Syndrome and can't be left alone in the desert- so Will has a dillema: Take Denny back the ranch and his father, get caught and never live his dreams or, take Denny with him and be held up, missing the rodeo.  He decides to send Denny back alone, and as he leaves the campsite, he is bitten by a rattlesnake.  Now Will has bigger problems to deal with. (Kelly Butcher 2011)

No Talking by Andrew Clements, 2007
The Laketon Elementary 5th grade class is legendary. Never has 1 group of children been so loud and hard to control.  Their teachers have named them "The Unshushables."   Dave Packer, one of the noisy 5th grade boys has been studying Gandhi in class, and how Gandhi practiced 1 day of silence each week so he could bring order to his mind.  During lunch that day, he is annoyed by a table of 5th grade girls and lays down a challenge to the girls: Be quiet for 48 hours. They can answer direct questions from adults with three-word sentences but must otherwise remain silent.  Once the challenge in underway, the teachers are blown away by the sudden change in the students.  But after 48 hours, they start to grow suspicious.  Now, Dave is at the center of the controversy- will he be forced to lose the contest for the boys when he is questioned, or will he stick to his Gandhi inspired silence? (Kelly Butcher 2011)

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester, 2008 
Ever since she was born, Piper McCloud has been different from other children- she has just never fit in.  She is shy and awkward, oh, and she can fly.  Her parents keep her in the house for most of her life, tethered to her highchair, but as she grows older, she learns to control her ability.  She so wants to fit in with other children, but it has been a struggle.  She gets her chance to make friends at the 4th of July softball game.  She is standing in the outfield when a fly ball rockets right to her.  She knows she can catch it- and if she catches it, their team will win, and if they win, they will love her.  So, without thinking, Piper soars into the air and grabs the ball, winning the game.   Upon landing, she is immediately swooped up by her parents and taken home.  The town is buzzing with news of the girl who can fly- and word spreads.  By nightfall, the government learns of Piper's ability, and they descend on Piper's farm.  A very well spoken and well dressed woman tells Piper's mother that Piper will never make it in the real world- that she should leave her home and come to the government funded school for exceptional children.  Her mother agrees and Piper sets off for school- but when she gets there, she doesn't fit in and things are not at all what they seem. (Kelly Butcher 2011)

Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder, 2009
It is the middle of a hot, hot Iowa summer, and 4 kids are stuck with nothing to do.  They decide to take a bike ride through town.  When the road stops in front of them and a corn field starts, they should have stopped riding and turned around, right?  Not 4 kids from Iowa!  They keep riding THROUGH the cornfield!  They keep riding until they come to a great stone wall.  They discover that this wall is magic and it can transport them to anywhere in time.  Once they figure out how to use the wall, each child gets to decide where and when they will travel to.  The youngest of the 4 goes first, and wishes to be in a real castle with knights and princesses.  They go to Camelot and meet the real Merlin... it isn't exactly what they expected!  On one of their trips, they rescue an enormous stray dog and give him a new home in a new time.  There also happens to be an amazing librarian in this book who is able to help the kids throughout the story.  As I was reading this book, I knew it took place in Iowa- but there was something very familiar about it... too familiar!  It hit me when the 4 kids ended up in a drug store that sounded a lot like the old Pearson's Drug (right on the corner, right on the way home), and they talked about Paliagno's Pizza. (PAGLIAI'S!) That was it!  I flipped to the back of the book and found out that Laurel Snyder, the author, spent some time in Iowa City and the town in the book, Quiet Falls in based on Iowa City.  She captured the essence of our town perfectly... although, I thought that this cornfield might be further North near Dyersville,  I hear that they have a pretty magical cornfield up there.  This is a great middle grade fantasy book- a nice choice for kids who love magic and time travel. There is a feeling of Narnia in this book and will appeal to both boys and girls! (Kelly Butcher 2011)
Book Blogger Hop


  1. I will share this list with my sister, who exclusively reads YA books. I love the detailed summaries. I'm so glad there is a bookish blog in top ten tuesday!

  2. I was excited to see a bookish blog post in TTT, too! Thanks for sharing your list. (And I love your blog design. Very booky - which I love!)

  3. Thanks for this great list. I can't wait to explore some of these books for my 10 year old.

  4. What?! Tom Angleberger was at your school? I am so jealous. I loved Origami Yoda and can't wait for the sequel. And Surviving Brick Johnson was one of my favorite books; thanks for reminding me about it!

  5. Kirby-
    We actually had a Skype visit with Tom! We met up in cyberspace!

  6. Some good books :)
    Hi Im a new follower , www.thephantomparagrapher.blogspot.com