Fly With Me is a masterpiece of transdisciplinary study. The book examines birds from every possible angle: biological, historical, conservation, art, and stories. Poetry is peppered throughout complementing the other information. It's a National Geographic book, so you can trust that the photography throughout is stunning. Perfect for bird enthusiasts and curious minds.
Kate DiCamillo’s characters have a warmth and richness of language that I associate with the South. You will fall in love with Louisiana Eleffante, child of the tragically dead Flying Eleffantes circus performers. Her story begins: ”I am going to write it all down, so that what happened to me will be known, so that if someone were to stand at their window at night and look up at stars and think, My goodness, whatever happened to Louisiana Elefante? Where did she go? they will have an answer. They will know. “This is what happened. “I will begin at the beginning.” Granny, who is raising Louisiana, wakes her in the middle of the night raving about the curse which has hung over their heads for generations. They take off on a road trip leaving friends and home behind. Winding up in a small town in Georgia, Louisiana wakes to find Granny gone! There she meets a Reverend, a grouchy motel-owner, and a boy with a pet crow. I love Louisiana’s voice which manages to be funny and profound at the same time. She must find her own way and her path brings up big questions about her past and her identity. Warm and generous hearts will help her along the way until she can find a place to call home. As the walrus-faced Reverend Obertask says,”‘I do think that, more often than not, love has a way of finding us,” Indeed.
Tessa's Picks, 3rd-5th grade, Character driven, Contemporary fiction, Friendship.
Marin has been in foster homes since she was abandoned by her mother when she was four years old. At eleven, she has never given up home that her mother will return and there will be a happy ever after ending. Everywhere she goes she carries three pennies and the I Ching which she uses to guide her choices. But now it is not giving her the answers she wants. Dr. Lucy Chang wants to adopt her. She tells Marin that she has four chambers to her heart and even though one is full, she still has lots of room left. Marin does not have to think of her as her new mother if she is not ready…but rather as a new kidney ready to do its new job. Marin tries hard not to be drawn in by Lucy’s kindness and understanding. When Marin hears that her mother is relinquishing her rights to her, she amps up her efforts to track down her mom. She is quite a good detective but one has a feeling of dread as she gets closer to her goal. Watched over by Gilda, a solid character who is her social worker and an unexpected owl who lives in a building near Dr. Lucy, Marin evades their attempts to guide her. As Marin gets closer to finding answers, all I wanted was for her to give Dr. Lucy a chance. Heart wrenching and ultimately satisfying Marin’s story will touch you.
Tessa's Picks 4-5th grade, Contemporary fiction, Character driven, Family life, Issues fiction, Tear jerker
A historical novel and a sports story! Set in 1945, World War II is raging and racism and prejudice are felt on the home front. Highlighting a little know situation in California that affected immigrants, we learn that an influx of men from India who came to Yuba City where not allowed to marry women of different races. Single Indian women did not immigrate, so these men frequently married Mexican women as they were seen as belonging to the same race---“brown.” Nine-year-old Maria Singh has an Indian father and a Mexican mother and home life is an interesting mix of both cultures. Maria longs to play softball and is desperate to convince her conservative Sikh father to let her join the first ever girls’ softball league. The family has bigger problems when the owner of the farm they work suddenly decides to sell. Papi is not allowed to become a US citizen and therefore can’t buy land. Prejudice and discrimination confront them while Maria is determined to follow her dream. She takes a risk and asks the school board for a playing field for all kids, boys and girls. Feisty Maria is an ace ball player and this book is a homerun!
4th-5th grade, Character driven, Family life, Historical fiction, Global perspectives, Issues fiction, People of color
Red is over 200 years old, but she still doesn't understand people. She's been the community's wish tree for a long time and seen all sorts of wishes from the silly to the profound. She's never actually done anything to grant a wish though. Trees are the strong, silent types. Then one day a new girl wishes for a friend. When Red finds out that she's going to be cut down, she decides that for once she's going to do something to make a wish come true.
I love the perspective of a Red Oak as a narrator and all the critters who live in and around her. There's so many delightful details like the naming conventions of all the animals from skunks (named after something sweet) to opossums (named after their biggest fear.) As someone who is fond of jokes that aren't always appreciated by others, I identified with the tree's attempts at humor.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate Erica's Picks 3rd - 5th Grade Tags: Animals, Character Driven, Friendship, People of Color
When Anna reads Secret Garden, she decides she wants to create a magical garden of her own. Her family just moved to a new house with a back yard that looks pretty rough and weedy, but she can already see how it would look with a little help. Luckily there's a girl on her street whose birthday is just one day apart from hers. She can help her get the garden ready. But when school starts and poison ivy attacks, Anna wonders if she's lost her friend and her garden.
I love Anna's imagination and the way she navigates her new friendship. A lot of kids will love the storyline about the lost baby bunny they rescue. It's great for kids learning to read chapter books on their own, but parents would enjoy it as a read aloud as well.
Year of the Garden by Andrea Cheng
Erica's Picks 1st - 3rd Grade Tags: character driven, animals, contemporary fiction, friendship, people of color
Detective Gordon is getting on in years but he's still the best detective around. When he discovers a young mouse who steals a single nut out of hunger, he decides that instead of arresting her, he should take her on as an apprentice and give her food and shelter. They work together to solve cases around town. It's a funny book with a lot of heart and it would make a great read aloud. My favorite part is how particular he is with his stamp. It reminds me of when I let kids stamp their library books.
Since Cadence Jolly’s mom left town five years ago, the whole town protects and fosters her shyness. Now she is almost eleven and wants to break out of her shell. She needs to find the self-confidence to let herself and her amazing singing voice shine. There are going to be auditions for the church choir and Cadence and her friends Zara and Faith mean to make the grade. When a secret recording of Cadence singing leaks and catches the attention of the whole church, her friend wants to take the credit. How can she put herself out in the world and still keep her friends? Will she have the confidence to step into the spotlight? The sense of love, faith and community is heartwarming and Cadence is an endearing protagonist. Don't miss President of the Whole Fifth Grade by the same author.
Tessa's Picks, 3rd-5th grade, Contemporary fiction, Character driven, Friendship, People of Color
When Clover's friends get accepted into a horse camp and leave her behind, she knows she's fallen victim to her bad luck yet again. Then she stumbles upon a magical animal adoption agency in the woods by her house. She learns how to take care of fairy horses, unicorns left behind by spoiled princesses, and even a baby dragon. It seems her luck is turning around, until the owner of the agency disappears on a trip and leaves her to take care of the animals by herself. Will she be up to the challenge? Is there more bad luck lurking around the corner? Clover's summer is going to be either the best or worst of her life, but it certainly won't be boring!
I would have been all over this when I was a kid! Employee at a magical animal adoption agency would have immediately become my dream job, and I would have spent hours playing imaginary games where I was Clover. Even as an adult I couldn't resist the charm of this novel as Clover slowly gained confidence and learned how to take care of herself by taking care of others. Plus, fairy horses! They're tiny horses for fairies! Why has no one told me about these before?
Albie has always been an 'almost'. No matter how hard he tries his work is only ever almost good enough. So he wasn't surprised when he found out that he was only almost good enough for his private school and he had to leave it for a public one. That means no more school with his best friend, one in a set of two triplets whose family is now starring in their own reality TV show. But Albie is starting to make new friends at his new school and they have a special math club there that is way better than sitting through regular math class. Perhaps this new school year will be better after all. Or perhaps it will just turn out to be another 'almost.'
I love how heartfelt this novel is without ever becoming saccharine (unless you count all the doughnut references.) The book is full of great characters, memorable small moments, and valuable life lessons. If you're looking for a realistic school story, this is an excellent choice.
Erica's picks 3rd - 5th grade Tags: Character Driven, Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Friendship, School Stories