Wonderstruck

Author: Brian Selznick

Genre: Historical fiction

Recommended Reading Age: 9 and up

Two children live fifty years apart. Ben, who is deaf in one ear, has just lost his mother when an accident leaves him deaf in both ears. He finds a clue in his mother’s room that he believes may lead to finding his father, who Ben has never met. He runs away from his relatives’ house to New York City, where he believes he might find his father.

Fifty years earlier, Rose lives as a deaf child in New York City. She spends her time avoiding her lip-reading teacher, watching silent movies in the theater, and collecting newspaper articles about her favorite actress. But one day, she sees something in town that upsets her. She ends up somewhere she isn’t supposed to be, and gets caught.

Even though these stories are set fifty years apart, they weave back and forth and have many surprising things in common. This book is unique, because while Ben’s story is told in words, Rose’s is told entirely in pictures. These black and white drawings tell an incredible story, in such a way that it almost seems that you are watching a silent movie on paper. They are very detailed and realistic.

This picture (above) shows Rose collecting newspaper articles about her favorite actress in the beginning of the book. Here is a longer excerpt from the book (below).

Don’t get discouraged by the length of this book! When I first saw it, I thought, “Uh oh, that is a long book. I don’t have time to read that.” But then I saw that out of the 630 pages, over 460 are drawings. It is actually a surprisingly fast read. Believe me, reading this book is well worth it!

Works Cited: http://easybib.com/key/cad7c7

Warriors (Series)

This is the very first book in Warriors, Into the Wild.

Author: Erin Hunter

Genre: Fiction

Reccommended reading age: Grades 4-8

Warriors is a series about four Clans of cats: ThunderClan, RiverClan, WindClan, and ShadowClan. They live separate lives in each of their territories, watched over by their warrior ancestors, StarClan, and gathering to share news once every full moon. Inside the Clan, young apprentices are trained to be warriors and to support their Clan and protect it from danger. The first Warriors book starts with Rusty, a young housecat, or kittypet. He is offered a chance to become a Clan cat by the leader of ThunderClan, and decides to accept. He joins ThunderClan, adopts the Clan name Firepaw, and begins to train as a Clan cat. He learns to hunt and fight, and to take care of the other cats in the Clan. But Firepaw is destined to be more than just a normal Clan warrior. There is a prophecy that says Firepaw will save ThunderClan from being destroyed. After much hard training, Firepaw earns his warrior name of Fireheart. Will Fireheart save ThunderClan, or will all of the Clans be destroyed? This is just the beginning of the story of the Warriors.

As with any series of books, Warriors has good and bad things about it.  One major thing is that they aren’t like most books, with three or four books in a series. Oh, no. First, you have the ‘original’ series, which has six books. Those are the ones about Fireheart. But then, you have six more, which form ‘The New Prophecy’ and then six more in ‘The Power of Three’ series. And after that, six more make up the ‘Omen of the Stars’ series.  Each series is told from the point of view of a different cat, or cats. But that’s not all! To go along with all those books, there are the special edition and manga books that tell all of the side stories that go along with the four series. And after that, you have the Field Guides that explain more history and background. All in all, there are about fifty books, and counting. I’ve read two thirds of them, tops.

Here is an example of the page that shows all the characters.

So if the number of books hasn’t confused you yet, next is the number of characters. On average, there are up to one hundred characters in each book. (But don’t worry, they aren’t all main characters, and some are mentioned only once or twice. Most of them aren’t even mentioned by name.) Thankfully, there is a guide in the beginning of the book that explains all of the characters names, what their job is, and gives a brief description of what they look like, in case you forget. But throughout the course of all those books, it doesn’t stay the same hundred or so characters. Every so often, some of the cats will die, but will be promptly replaced with new ones. To make matters worse, the characters change their names! Each cat’s name has two parts. The first part of their name is something to do with nature. This part stays the same, at least. The second part of their name is changed as the cat gets older and gets a different job within the Clan. So on average, each cat can go through three or four names in his or her lifetime. Example: Firepaw became Fireheart when he became a warrior. You might also think that all of those fifty books would be different, but I’ve noticed that they have a surprisingly similar plot structure. There are several things that happen in every series (that’s the group of six books.) Here are a few. Warning: This part may contain spoilers!

  • There is some all-powerful prophecy that tells an all-powerful cat what to do.
  • Some really good, important cat, or cats, dies.
  • Some evil cat, or cats, dies, but not before they have managed to stir up a lot of trouble, usually resulting in the death of a good cat.
  • Two cats who aren’t supposed to fall in love do fall in love. More often than not, this forbidden love is revealed and causes a lot of hard feelings.
  • In every series except the first one, the bad, dead cat, comes back to haunt innocent, good, living cats, and tries to trick them into his plan of overthrowing all of the living cats and taking control of everything.

Also beware: if you do end up reading the Warriors series, don’t get too attached to any of the characters, because most of them end up dying eventually, and more often than not they are pretty gruesome deaths. Very, very few of the cats in Warriors die peaceful deaths of old age.

Warriors aren’t all bad, but you do need to have a lot of patience and free time if you are going to read them. They are fairly addicting and it’s hard to read just one and not read the story that follows it. I think they are a good read, though: fairly easy, but still hard enough to be interesting. Good luck!

Works Cited: http://easybib.com/key/055690

A Wrinkle In Time

Recommended reading age: 9 and up

Genre: A mix of fantasy and science fiction

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

“It was a dark and stormy night.” So starts Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Misfit Meg Murry’s father has disappeared without a trace, and she feels like everything has gone wrong. Her unusually intelligent five-year old brother, Charles Wallace, seems to understand everything, but when he takes her to visit his mysterious new friend, Mrs. Whatsit, she can’t help but be suspicious. On the way to meet Mrs. Whatsit and her two friends, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, Meg and Charles Wallace meet up with Calvin O’Keefe, a boy a little older than Meg. They continue together to visit Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Mrs. Who tells the children that soon they will travel to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, who is imprisoned on a distant planet, Camazotz. Camazotz is controlled by the evil IT, which forces everyone to be exactly the same. If anyone is different from anyone else, they are severely punished. Will the children be able to rescue their father and make it out alive?

A Wrinkle in Time is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was published on March 5, 1962. Ever since then, it has been a huge hit with children and adults alike. There are over 10 million copies in print, and it won the Newberry Medal in 1963. Madeleine L’Engle first got the idea for A Wrinkle in Time driving through the painted desert with her family, and just three months later the book was finished. But getting A Wrinkle in Time published was another story. She received many rejections for two years, partly because people said they couldn’t really tell whether the book was meant for children or adults, since it dealt with such complicated theories and ideas, like the ideas of good and evil. Finally, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published the book, but they didn’t think it would be popular at all. They sent it to an outside reader, who called it “The worst book I have ever read.”  Now, it is popular across the globe, and has been translated into 15 different languages.

I really like A Wrinkle in Time. Some parts of it were complicated, like the time travel part. I still don’t really understand parts of it, but it is written so that you can follow the story even if you don’t completely understand all of the ideas and theories. In fact, Meg admits that she doesn’t really understand some of the things that Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which are explaining to her. This book is amazing, and whether you are a kid or an adult, I think you will enjoy it.

Works Cited: http://easybib.com/key/66f603

On the Blue Comet

Recommended reading age: 4th grade and up

Genre: Fiction

Author: Rosemary Wells

In On the Blue Comet, Oscar and his father have a normal, satisfactory life in Cairo, Illinois. He and his father have a hobby of collecting model trains and running them on a model layout in their basement. But when the Great Depression causes them to lose their house, Oscar’s father must leave to search for work in California, leaving Oscar and their model trains behind. Oscar has to live with his no-nonsense Aunt Carmen and her daughter, Willa Sue. One day, when Oscar is visiting a bank, the bank is brutally robbed. In a panic, Oscar jumps onto a model train station layout that has been set up in the bank. The next thing he knows, he isn’t in the bank anymore. He isn’t in 1931, either…

One thing that I found in this book that was interesting was the concept of time travel. I liked the idea of Oscar being able to hop a train to another time. I also like Rosemary Wells because she writes books for a variety of ages. She writes chapter books, like this one, but she also writes the Max and Ruby picture books.  If you visit Rosemary Well’s website, http://www.rosemarywells.com/, you can see all of the books that she has written. I think it’s great when authors can write for lots of different age groups.

Works Cited: http://easybib.com/key/1bd538

Recommended reading age: 8 and up

Genre: Fictional graphic novel

Author: Kazu Kibuishi

In this graphic novel, Emily is trying to adjust to moving to a new house when she finds an amulet in one of the dusty rooms. Her brother, Navin, ties it on her neck. Later that night the amulet begins to talk to her. It tells her that her family is in danger, and that she should keep them safe. A few minutes later, Emily hears strange noises coming from the basement of the house. Her mom goes to investigate the noises, thinking it is just the pipes. But it isn’t. When Emily and Navin run downstairs, they can’t find their mom anywhere…

Amulet: Book One, The Stonekeeper is the first in a series of four graphic novels. (For people who aren’t familiar with graphic novels, they are sort of like comic books.)  I think they get even better as the series progresses. Lots of people think that graphic novels don’t really count as reading, but I think they are fine as long as they aren’t the only thing that you read. Graphic novels are just different than regular books since the story is told through illustration. They also add a whole different aspect of reading: pictures. In a regular book, the pictures are usually there just as an added detail, but in graphic novels you really have to look at the pictures closely or you miss important details.

Works Cited: http://easybib.com/key/bb82b9

The 13 Clocks

Recommended reading age: 8 to adult

Genre: Fiction

Author: James Thurber

In a castle on a hill lives a cold-hearted Duke with his beautiful niece, Saralinda. The Duke believes that he has killed time, for in the castle are 13 clocks that do not run. Many men have asked for Saralinda to marry them, but the Duke kills them unless they can perform impossible tasks. A prince disguised as a wandering minstrel is given a task by the Duke, and he meets a strange man called the Golux. Will the Golux and the prince succeed, or be killed by the Duke?

The 13 Clocks is full of puns, plays on words, and made up words. It is a very fun book to read aloud. In one paragraph he writes:

‘Something very much like nothing anyone had ever seen before came trotting down the stairs and crossed the room.

“What is that?” the Duke asked, palely.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Hark, “but it’s the only one there ever was.”’

In other parts, James Thurber simply makes up his own words:

‘”What makes it even harder is her uncle’s scorn and sword,” sneered a tale-teller. “He will slit you from your guggle to your zatch.”’

The 13 Clocks  was originally written in 1950 and went out of print. However, New York Review recently brought it back, along with other James Thurber books that are appropriate for all ages, such as The Wonderful O (Another great book.)

The 13 Clocks is a great, fun book. James Thurber does a great job of hooking the reader with his puns and made up words, and keeping them hooked with the clever plot of the story.

Works Cited: http://easybib.com/key/75350e

Boys Are Dogs

Recommended reading age: 9-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Author: Leslie Margolis

When Annabelle’s mom decides to move in with her boyfriend, lots of things in Annabelle’s life change.  She has to move to a new house, which means moving away from her friends to a whole new school. Birchwood Middle School is very different from her previous, all girls elementary school. Her mom surprises her with a new puppy to try and cheer her up, but at first all Annabelle sees in this is a bribe to try and get her to adjust to her new life. Things get even harder when she discovers that going to school with boys isn’t all that great- they hassle her and call her rude names. Once Annabelle spends more time with her puppy and the training manual that came with him, she begins to think up a plan to train not only her puppy, but maybe get the boys around her to be nicer to her, too.

They say that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge this one by its title- ‘Boys Are Dogs’ is just as mean as it sounds. This book makes all the boys in it sound like a pack of wild animals.  A lot of my closest friends are boys. It isn’t fair (especially to boys) to make them sound like untrained, gullible puppies.

Works Cited: http://easybib.com/key/67cf12

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