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Friday, January 20, 2017

Three quick reviews -- good books for middle elementary

Smith, Roland, (2008)  IQ: Independence Hall.  Ann Arbor:  Sleeping Bear Press

Image result for iq roland smith

Opening lines:  "From a window across the street, Eben Lavi watched the couple and the two children leave their loft and climb into the back of a white limosine.  It pulled away from the curb and started down the street.  A moment later a blue SUV fell in behind the limo, three cars back, and began to follow."

Q and his step-sister Angela are the children of famous rock star parents.  When they are on tour with their parents, the coach bus breaks down and an old drifter shows up and fixes it.  Their parents explain that the drifter is actually Boone, and old roadie friend of theirs.  Soon Q and Angela find out there is more to Boone than meets the eye and before they know if they are caught in the crossfire between Israeli secret-service operatives and a group of ex-FBI mercinaries.  And underneath it all are some surprising revelations about Angela's late mother.

This book has all the excitement of an action adventure spy movie, but, one that is maybe with the violence is toned down, a bit more humor, no offensive language and a story that is perhaps a little easier to follow than a typical YA spy novel.  There are several other books in the series.  This is a good one for stronger readers in fourth and fifth grade especially.   I suppose some parents might object to the way that Q and Angela deceive their parents from time to time.

Quattlebaum, Mary (1996) Jazz, Pizzazz, and the Silver Threads.  New York:  Bantam.

Image result for Jazz, Pizzazz, and the silver threads

Opening lines:  "Each time Jenny clicked her magic wand against the table and --whoosh-- a scarf appeared, Calvin felt his attention click up from his history book and whoosh away."

Okay, so the writing on this book didn't win any awards, and the story isn't utterly gripping, but it is about a nine-year-old boy named Calvin whose quest for a pet leads him to care for his nieghbor Jenny's pet hamster, and, when that plan goes awry, Calvin is soon organizing a jazz concert with geriatric dancers in a desperate bid to keep the hamster.  Wacky hijinks ensue.

This is a story that may well make seven- to ten-year-olds laugh.  They may enjoy the social interaction in the book.  And it is short enough at 120 pages that it might be managable for a struggling reader.  Plus it involves a pet hamster.

Nothing offensive here at all.

Gannett, Ruth Stiles (1948) My Father's Dragon  New York: Random House.

Image result for My Father's Dragon

Opening Lines:  "One cold rainy day when my father was a little boy, he met an old alley cat on his street.  The cat was very drippy and uncomfortable so my father said, 'Wouldn't you like to come home with me?'"

So begins the story of the father, Elmer Elevator, who undertakes a mission to Wild Island to rescue a dragon that is unjustly imprisoned there.  For this vital mission, Elmer packs into a backpack: "...chewing gum, two dozen pink lollipops, a package of rubber bands, black rubber boots, a compass, a toothbrush and toothpaste, six magnifying glasses, a very sharp jackknife, a comb and a brush, seven hair ribbons of different colors, an empty grain bag with a label saying "Cranberry", some clean clothes, twenty-five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and six apples."  The story which follows is improbable, involves outwitting animals, ends with a freed dragon, and is silly and sure to be a hit with first and second graders who have good senses of humor.

This is a classic.  Nothing offensive here.  Might be worth a look.

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