Tag Archives: transitional books

Top 10 Characters in 2011

Confessions of a Bookaholic is hosting a Top Ten of 2011 Blog Event. Today, I list my Top 10 Characters in 2011. I listed my top ten boyfriends yesterday so I won’t repeat those characters.

  1. Dr. Pellinore WarthropThe Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey: Hands down, the best character of the year. I’m in love with the doctor. It goes beyond ‘boyfriend.’ It’s sick and twisted and glorious.
  2. Uncle Potluck Hound Dog True by Linda Urban: A secondary character who almost upstaged the protagonist.
  3. ConnorA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: … just perfection.
  4. BearI Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen: This bear of few words is my hero. mwa ha ha ha!
  5. RebeccaBigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder: Just a really well-developed character.
  6. Jack GantosDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos: Oh, Cheesus Crust!
  7. Tyrion LannisterA Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin: He is so damn fun.
  8. The Penderwick GirlsThe Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
  9. Percy JacksonThe Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan: A fun, humorous character I enjoy reading about (keep ’em coming Rick!).
  10. ClementineClementine and the Family Meeting by Sarah Pennypacker: My favorite female character for young readers.

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris (2011)

King Arthur covered his eyes with his hands. Sometimes in those early days he wondered what it would take to prove to his knights that courtesy was as important as courage (p 10).

From the author of The Squire’s Tale (read my review) comes the third in the Kinghts’ Tales series of transitional readers. Morris takes Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and makes it highly accessable to an elementary school audience.

What appears at first to be a straightforward episodic tale quickly takes on depth and humor, making it one of the best I’ve read all year. After reading Jonathan Hunt’s comments on Heavy Medal, I’m convinced it needs a sticker (and wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a book for young readers win?)! I especially support his point on length and ecomony of language. If this book can manage to be concise, humorous and true to the spirit of the original, why can’t a book like Breadcrumbs?

Read other reviews:
Heavy Medal
Kidlit Reviews
There’s a Book
The Excelsior Files

If you enjoy this, I also recommend:

The Flint Heart by Katherine and John Paterson (9/2011)

At first blow, the flint split into three pieces, the center of which was a bright black heart with a hole right through it. Fum was astounded. He had earned thirty-two sheep and thirty-two lambs with one blow of his ax. It game him an eerie feeling. He knew that such a thing did not happen by chance (p 15).

A note explains The Flint Heart is “freely abridged” from Eden Philpott’s 1910 fantasy. It begins during the Stone Age when the flint heart is made with the blessing of the Thunder God to satiate a greedy man’s desire to be chief of his village. Many years later, it is found by a kind-hearted father, Billy Jago. Billy quickly transforms into a grasping, cruel father. Desperate to have their old father back, two of his children seek out the fairies for advice. Thier paths cross with many colorful, whimsical characters until the flint heart is destroyed.

This short, beautifully illustrated novel meanders intermittently, but overall it is charming. I have no knowledge of Philpott’s writing, but fans of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane will enjoy Paterson’s short novel. 

Advance Reader Copy | Sept 2011 | Candlewick | 304 pages | ISBN 978-0-7636-4712-4 | $19.99

Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sarah Pennypacker (5/3/2011)

Our family-meeting places are the same as our regular places, except that my brother has figured out that whatever the meeting is about, he and I are on the same team, so he sits in my lap. This gives me hope for him (p 27).

Everything is N-O-T, not good. First, Clemetine sees the sign for a Family Meeting! posted and wonders what she has done to get in touble this time. Then her science project, a rat names Eighteen, goes missing. She loses her favorite hat and then, the worst news of all – her parents are having a baby!

If you’ve read any of my earlier reviews on this series, you know this girl named for a fruit has entwined herself around my heart. I love how she makes sense of the world around her.

Mrs. Resnick seemed nice, so I didn’t tell her the other bad news: that she had the wrong hair. Scientists were supposed to wild, sciece-y hair, and hers was just kind of normal supermarket-y, television-mother-y kind of hair. Probably she was embarrassed about that (p 7).

I aspire to the kind of parenting patience and wisdom Clementine’s parents routinely display. I want to see the world as Clemetine sees it. Simply brilliant writing and absolutely entertaining reading.

This is a review of an advance reader copy provided by the publisher, Hyperion Books, via NetGalley. Quotes are not final and may change.

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy (US 2011)

Why, Pearl, didn’t you know
a poem doesn’t have to rhyme?
It does not have to be written
in a certain way
at a certain time.
A poem comes
when it is needed
and writes itself
in the way it needs
to get its point across (p 63).

This novel struck me as rather unique. First, it is a novel in verse for young readers (I consider it a transitional book). Second, it tackles two delicate subjects, Alzheimer’s disease and death, not often addressed for this audience. And this is done well. Finally, Pearl, party of one, uses poetry to help make sense of the world. I don’t believe I’ve read anything that combines all of those qualities in a single book.

Pearl feels alone at school but at home, she has her mother and her grandmother. The harmony of their lives is disrupted as it becomes clear grandmother, who has taught Pearl so much, including poetry, is dying from Alzheimer’s disease.

When her class begins studying poetry, rhyme and rythm, Pearl finds her assignments difficult. How can she write rhyme and rythm in a world that holds neither for her?

Her humorous attempts to complete writing assignments, often at her teacher’s expense, earn her attention from a handsome boy in class. Reeling from the death of her grandmother and as even Pearl’s teacher comes to understand her poetry, Pearl discovers she is not a group of one. She is not alone.

A well-balanced read with a strong voice, I especially enjoyed the illustrations sprinkled throughout.

This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick, via NetGalley. Read the Kirkus review.

The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies (5/2011)

This follow up to The Lemonade War is a gem. It picks up after War, with the money Evan and Jessie made from selling lemonade missing. Everyone suspects Scott, but is he guilty? After all, no one actually saw him take the money.

Enter “Obsessie Jessie,” the “Queen of Fair,” and soon the students of 4-0 are holding a mock trial to determine Scott’s guilt. While The Lemonade War interjected math concepts, The Lemonade Crime will introduce readers to legal concepts like due process and trial by jury, among others.

But what sets this book apart is that these concepts never detract from the story and the very real emotions these kids are feeling. Kids will relate to Jessie’s need to play fair, Evan’s frustration and his desire for revenge, and even Scott’s loneliness as his parents provide him with fancy gadgets to compensate for the time they don’t spend with him.

A great addition to any summer reading list, I can’t wait to recommend this one.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Lane Smith (2010)

I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get
A bronto-bronto-bronto
Brontosaurus for a pet.
I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get
A bronto-bronto-bronto
Brontosaurus for a pet (p 21).

Lulu is a little girl who doesn’t like to be told, “No.” So she kicks and screams until she gets her way. When she demands a brontosaurus for her birthday, her parents say no and hold firm. Lulu decides to get a brontosaurus of her own and sets of for the forest.

Along the way, she encounters pesky bugs (which she kills with spray), a tiger (which she bonks), and a bear (which she stomps). Then, finally, she meets a brontosaurus. Only he doesn’t want to be Lulu’s pet. Instead he makes her his pet in this cautionary tale.

Lulu is not happy with this reversal of fortune, but the patient brontosaurus insists she will be well looked after as his pet. Lulu realizes her only option is to run away.

Viorst has some fun with the text here, often addressing the reader directly and taking artistic license because it is her story, after all. Lane Smith’s illustrations are adorable.

Read alikes: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Jim Who Ran Away from his Nurse and was Eaten by a Lion

Read other reviews:

All About {n}

Prose and Kahn

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sarah Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee (July 2010)

Mitchell made an innocent face and clapped his hands to his chest, like he was heart-crushed that she could accuse him of doing soething like that. But I could see him telling his mouth not to laugh, and I could see his mouth fightening back (p 12).

Clementine is back! This darling girl has been picked as Friend of the Week at school and she couldn’t be more excited. She’ll lead the class in pledge, be line leader, collect the milk money and feed the fish.

Best of all, the other students will contribute to a booklet full of compliments about Clementine to be given to her at the end of the week.

Clementine will try serveral methods to get the best compliments from her peers, including becoming a tattoo artist, complimenting everyone, and offering to help every classmate decorate their bikes for a rally. But when her cat goes missing, all her plans are turned upsidedown.

In her adorable, blunt fashion and with her usual accuteness, Clementine’s spirit is undeniable bright. Pennypacker also manages some jokes for the adult readers. I look forward to the next book and the next and the next.

Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R.L. LaFevers (2009)

He decided he liked Aunt Phil. Except for her unreasonable dislike of gremlins, she was very nice. Even better, she told him stuff. Important stuff that no other grownup had ever taken the time to tell him before. She also didn’t leave him behind, no matter how lacking he was in Fludd skills (p 73).

Nathaniel Fludd’s parents are explorers, but when their airship crashes in the North Pole, they are pronounced dead. Nathaniel is sent to live with his Aunt, an eccentric woman who claims to be a Beastologist. Desirous to learn more about his parents, Nathaniel agrees to accompany his Aunt on an unlikely journey to see a Phoenix reborn.

A fun book that introduces young readers to other worlds and mythological creatures in direct and explicit language that has the feel of a classic. A transitional reader I’ll be adding to my third grade reading list. Miss Print has a lovely review.

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (2007)

I can’t let him win, she thought. I can’t. She had gotten to the point where she couldn’t even remember why it had been so important to win in the first place. Now she just had to win (p 132).

Jessie and Evan usually get along. But then a letter arrives from school. Jessie, who is skipping third grade, will be in the same fourth grade class with her brother. She couldn’t be happier and he couldn’t be more miserable. They begin to argue, though Jessie can’t understand the change in her brother’s attitude toward her.

The culmination is a lemonade stand war, winner takes all.

I adore this book. Business and math concepts are brilliantly incorporated in a battle to the max between siblings who are at that delicate age when phrases like too babyish and uncool begin to surface and older siblings begin to distance themselves from their younger counterparts.

The best part was learning how the two viewed their encounters. Jessie was often confused by Evan’s behavior but all her attempts to build bridges were misinterpreted by Evan.