Written by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
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Most people have experienced that feeling of being unwanted at the “popular kids” table in the school lunch room. But some people are faced with difficult episodes like that daily. One such girl, Kiara, is the main character in this excellent newly released middle grade contemporary novel.
Kiara is afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome. She is confused by things she doesn’t understand, and turns to Mr. Internet for answers to all of her questions. The largest one being, how do people make friends?
She tries everything, but just is not accepted by the other students. Her father cares for her deeply, but is no help to her because of his loneliness and sorrow over his wife’s decision to go to work for several months in a distant state. So when a new family moves in down the street Kiara decides to try her new friend-making techniques on Chad and his little brother.
Things go pretty well as they play together and ride bikes around town until she learns the secret of what goes on in their home. It is a home she is not allowed to enter.
Amid adventures, dangers and rescues Kiara learns that everyone has a special gift or talent that makes them unique. Through the eyes of her new found friends, she is finally able to see her own unique gift.
This present day experience story is a fantastic read for a sixth grade student and beyond. They will find it full of issues they face every day. For the same reason, it would be a great read aloud in any literacy program by a teacher or librarian. It will strengthen all literacy skills while also introducing empathy and understanding for people with differing needs. A discussion about what to do when faced with illegal issues or worries about what friends might be experiencing at home could also grow out of reading this book in a book club situation.
- Title: Rogue
- Author: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
- Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books/ Penguin Books, 2014
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-399-16225-1
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Grade Level: 5 and above
Written by L.L. Samson
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A mysterious fire threatens a boarding school. Heroic young people rescue the gruff and intimidating headmistress. There is a secret passageway. All this is in chapter one of an adventure story that combines classic literature with a modern mystery. Linus and Ophelia are teen-agers who have been left with their elderly aunt and uncle who own a bookstore while their scientist parents are on a tropical island carrying out their research. It is a miserably hot summer, the stuffy and academic narrator tells us. Bartholomew Inkster cannot tell this story without injecting bits of literary devices, Linus and Ophelia’s history along with background on the literary works they explore. Linus has discovered writings from an ancestor who tells how to bring literary characters to life. In this episode, they bring D’Artagnan and the evil Lady DeWinter to life while trying to solve a real life mystery of who wants to destroy their best friend Walter’s school. But D’Artagnan and Milady are more of a headache than a solution. And Bartholomew keeps putting in his two cents.
Written with humor and a respect for the classics, Bartholomew manages to entertain and provide descriptions of literary devices. The story could be a way to develop a guide for writing. Because the voice is so strong – think a snarky Lemony Snicket – and the characters are so eccentric, this would make a good class read aloud for sixth graders. Even better let them read it to a book buddy as a literacy activity. The students could make several lists, any one of them would be a good reading worksheet: the literary devices, story details from The Three Musketeers, even the instructions on how to make literary characters come to life. There is a great book trailer for the first book in the series on the author’s website: http://llsamson.blogspot.com/. With the commercially-made book trailer as a model, students could make their own trailer for this installment. There is a lot of action, and the story problem is maintained throughout. Not everything seems logical, and the real life villain escapes. We never do meet the three Musketeers as promised on the cover. Still the adventure is a lot of fun.
- TITLE: The Enchanted Attic: Dueling with the Three Musketeers
- AUTHOR: L. L. Samson
- PUBLISHER: Zonderkidz, 2013
- REVIEWER: Risa Brown
- FORMAT: Paperback, 166 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-310-72799-6
- GENRE: Adventure
- LEXILE: 1130, Reading level 6.2
Written by Monica S. Baker
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Freestyle may appeal to readers on the sixth grade reading level who enjoy historical fiction, especially the topic of slavery. This novel presents the story of thirteen-year-old Mitch, a modern-day kid who is fascinated by obituaries, and his fantastical dreams which occur in the 1800s.
During his nights, Mitch comes face-to-face with the Pirate Patty Cannon, a notorious kidnapper and murderer. The action is sustained as he works to evade her cunning games, escape her henchman and release a tortured slave boy. Meanwhile, Mitch’s days are filled with plenty of challenges, including concerns for his father who is a combat soldier, being shackled to a swim team named “Ladybugs” and a bratty little sister. Mitch discovers that he can solve his problems through historical research and prayer.
The chapters alternate irregularly between the modern world and the historical setting of Mitch’s dreams. In an attempt to ground the reader in the setting, background graphics are included on each chapter header page; some readers may find these repetitive graphics distracting. Because Freestyle includes a significant amount of dialog, it could be used as a read aloud or for development of a reader’s theater.
Although the sentence length and majority of the vocabulary in Freestyle could be read by younger students, parents should be aware that the conclusion includes the word “bastard” and makes reference to a sexual relationship between a slave and her owner. As a result of the violent nature of some scenes and the content, this book would fit best on a sixth grade or higher reading list.
- Title: Freestyle
- Author: Monica S. Baker
- Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, 2010
- Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
- Format: Paperback: 160 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-7643-3538-9
- Genre: Historical fiction, fantasy
- Lexile Score: 560