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Monday, November 10, 2014

Excellent read aloud for third grade -- and it is about a somewhat brave shrew!

Vernon, Ursula (2008)  Nurk:  The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew.    Orlando:  Harcourt.

After I finished reading the Lord of the Rings books to my youngest daughter, we both felt like we needed a break before we started something else huge.  I had recently read Ursula Vernon's Digger and so when I checked to see what else she had written and I came across this book, we decided to give it a try.  Turns out, it is a wonderful book.
Nurk is a shy and nervous little shrew.  He spends most of his life indoors, wishing he were as brave as his adventurous grandmother, Surka.  When he discovers her lost diary and receives a message meant for someone else, Nurk finds himself in a boat made from a snail shell, travelling downstream to answer a call for help from the dragonfly kingdom.  Nurk seems to get more and more nervous as his adventure gets him into more and more perilous situations, but he keeps going. 
That just tells you the plotline, though.  What is wonderful about this book is the way it is told.  There are excerpts from his grandma's journal (her handwriting was atrocious) that include accounts of her fighting hungry crocodiles and maddened eggplants, and meeting blue chickens and friendly trolls. Nurk's love for dry socks becomes an important part about how he survives the traps put in his way by the fiendish grizzlemole.  And there is a tree that grows talking (and mildly discouraging) salmon as if they were fruit.
I also love that there are some bits in here that adults will appreciate more that the kids (and that is okay).  Consider this quote from Grandma Surka's Journal "Being in charge isn't much fun.  Sure, you can sleep in late, but there are so many things to worry about all the time.  The best plan for any sensible adventurer is to sweep in, take the throne, live like a king for a few weeks, and then sneak out in the middle of the night before people start asking questions about road maintenance and tax relief."
I can think of nothing in this book that would cause it to be challenges.  It is great for reading out loud to second or third grade, and could be read independently by third through fifth grades (and up).
Check it out.

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