Saturday, October 27, 2012

Peck, Richard. (2002). Fair weather. New York: Penguin.

Thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett has never strayed further from her family's farm than a horse can pull a cart. Then a letter from Aunt Euterpe arrives, and everything changes. It's 1893, the year of the World's Columbian Exposition -- the "wonder of the age" -- otherwise known as the Chicago World's Fair. Tucked inside the pages of the letter are train tickets to Chicago, because Aunt Euterpe is inviting the Becketts to come for a visit and go to the fair! For Rosie, it's a summer of marvels -- a summer she'll never forget.

Just the opposite of A Year Down Under, this book has the country mouse going to the city. I enjoyed this book as much as the other books by Richard Peck, especially because of the historical names and places interwoven throughout the story and the hysterical characters.

Peck, Richard. (2005). The river between us. New York: Penguin.

The year is 1861. Civil war is imminent and Tilly Pruitt's brother, Noah, is eager to go and fight on the side of the North. With her father long gone, Tilly, her sister, and their mother struggle to make ends meet and hold the dwindling Pruitt family together. Then one night a mysterious girl arrives on a steamboat bound for St. Louis. Delphine is unlike anyone the small river town has even seen. Mrs. Pruitt agrees to take Delphine and her dark, silent traveling companion in as boarders. No one in town knows what to make of the two strangers, and so the rumors fly. Is Delphine's companion a slave? Could they be spies for the South? Are the Pruitts traitors? (Barnes and Noble overview)

When I was in junior high and high school I read mostly historical fiction for pleasure. Witch of Blackbird Pond and Withering Heights were two of my favorites. If this had been around during that time I would have picked this as one of my favorites as well. The plot of mystery, history, and love story all interwoven was intriguing. I can see recommending this book to those students who enjoy historical fiction or enjoy reading about the civil war era.

Peck, Richard. (2006). The teacher's funeral. New York: Penguin.

Russell Culver is fifteen in 1904, and he's raring to leave his tiny Indiana farm town for the endless sky of the Dakotas. To him, school has been nothing but a chain holding him back from his dreams. Maybe now that his teacher has passed on, they'll shut the school down entirely and leave him free to roam.

I enjoyed the twist this book provided by having Russell's sister Tansy become the new teacher. I work in a rural school district and many of the students are familiar with having an older sibling be the caretaker for various reasons.  Wish I had read this book when I was teaching older kids though as I think they would have connected to the plot and characters. I work in a second and third grade school library and I think this book is a little above their reading ability and appreciation.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Peck, Richard. (2006). Here lies the librarian. New York: Dial.

Peewee idolizes Jake, a big brother whose dreams of auto mechanic glory are fueled by the hard road coming to link their Indiana town and futures with the twentieth century. And motoring down the road comes Irene Ridpath, a young librarian with plans to astonish them all and turn Peewee's life upside down.

Besides being a book involving librarians as characters, this quirky book was a fun read. I especially enjoyed the historical tidbits strewn throughout the book about librarian school, the beginning of the automobile industry, and then the end where car racing was weaved into the main characters life. I had a third grade student tell me he enjoyed reading this book due to the "car parts". It is definitely a book that has something for everyone.

Stevens, Janet and Susan Stevens Crummel. (1999). Shoe Town. New York: Harcourt.

Little mama mouse dreams of a hot bath and a long nap. Her babies have grown up and moved away from their snug shoe-home. Mama imagines settling into a quiet life, until Tortoise, Hare, and other storybook strangers turn up in search of a home. Soon Mama has a busy life—and lots of new friends—in glorious Shoe Town.

With characters from other stories and a twist on "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe", this book would be another great introduction and comparison to classic nursery rhymes and stories. I enjoyed reading it and having the unexpected ending. Students could even continue this story as a writing activity with other characters from other stories wanting to live in Shoe Town and drawing what shoes they live in.

Crummel, Susan Stevens. (2000). New York: Harcourt.

Jack Rabbit says it's a great day to make tumbleweed stew, but who wants to eat that? With a bit of ingenuity, Jack soon has everyone from Armadillo to Vulture adding something to his delectable stew.

This is a Texas (or prairie) twist on the classic Stone Soup. I enjoyed it and think that many students in Texas will enjoy it as well since they will be familiar with all of the characters.  Tumbleweed Stew would be a good introduction to comparing classic stories that aren't set in familiar places or involve familiar characters.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Peck, Richard. (2010). A season of gifts. New York: Penguin.

Relates the surprising gifts bestowed on twelve-year-old Bob Barnhart and his family, who have recently moved to a small Illinois town in 1958, by their larger-than-life neighbor, Mrs. Dowdel.

After reading the other two Peck books involving Mrs. Dowdel, I was glad to know there was one more book with this whimsical and forthright character. The chapter involving the Christmas pageant/wedding reminded me of the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I think that if those characters could meet they would feel as if they were looking in a mirror.