Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Two on Tuesday: Tween Realistic Fiction

After seventeen years of teaching I still get excited to look at the new Scholastic book club fliers each month.  As a child taking these home and circling the item or two my mom might buy for me was wonderful.  I now feel sorry for my poor teachers who I am sure were sick of my constant barrage of, "when is our book order going to get here?" that I subjected them to.

I still order a lot from Scholastic, which continues to provide quality literature for children.

Two new and notable books that every elementary library should plan on purchasing and every teacher grades 3-5 should plan on reading recently came my way.

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart is an interesting story about a boy who wants some choices in his life.  Although the blurb only alludes to the fact that Mark has a health problem, it was obvious to me that Mark has cancer.  And that after several relapses he may not get better. With another relapse just having been diagnosed, Mark takes off to climb a mountain (along with his dog, Beau), wanting to get away from what he now must face.  His best friend Jessie thinks she knows where Mark has gone, but also wants to be his friend and give him a chance to do what he wants, as hard as that is for her to accept.

This novel is heavy with a lot of big issues and ideas for kids to explore and discuss.  However, even though as an adult I found Mark's choices and prognosis difficult, my fifth grade book club LOVED this book.  They still see things through their eleven year old eyes (thank goodness) and although they could grasp the severity of Mark's situation, they didn't see it as hopeless. I would expect that we'll be hearing a lot more about this novel. 

 Although The Honest Truth is Geimenhart 's middle grade debut, I am hopeful we will be enjoying much more from him in the future.  

Check out Geimenhart's website.

My second title of this Two on Tuesday post is A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord.

I have read everything Lord has written for tween readers and have yet to be disappointed.  A Handful of Stars, Lord's latest,  is a great book for third - fifth grade readers (and maybe even a year or two beyond that).

Lily's dog Lucky is going blind. Lucky was Lily's mother's dog, and since Lily's mother isn't around anymore, Lucky is her one link to her mother.  When he runs off Lily is grateful to Salma Santiago for catching him for her.  Salma's family are migrant workers and as Lily goes to the camp where the Santiagos live to thank her, Lily notices some ways their lives are different.

The two girls strike up a friendship and begin to find ways to raise money for Lucky to have the operation he needs to correct his eyesight.  

And as their friendship develops, Lily becomes a bit more aware of the way in which migrant workers are thought of and treated.

Lord does a great job of getting tween readers to realize that all people are more alike than different but that some of the differences are ones people learn to live with and respect.  

I've handed this book off to my fifth grade daughter. Although she will fly right through it, I am hoping it makes her stop and think a bit, too.  I can't wait to hand this off to my students to enjoy.     

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