Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley’s Journal by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid-  Greg Heffley's Journal

book cover image from goodreads.com

Kinney, Jeff.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Greg Heffley’s Journal. 217 p.  Amulet.  2007.  ISBN 978-0-8109-9313-6.

It feels almost silly writing a review of the first book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but a review has to be written on a book that has been, and continues to be, very popular in the Harvest Park library!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Greg Heffley’s Journal, is written as a novel/graphic novel, which appeals to a wide audience.  Greg Heffley, the main character, is the middle child, and this book is a journal (not a diary!) of his trials and tribulations during his first year in middle school.  Greg and his best friend, Rowley, are smaller than many of their deodorant-needing and shaving male classmates, and as such, are the brunt of pranks.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments in this book, such as the “cheese touch” and the Christmas thank you notes that he is forced to write.

Kids will be able to identify with the characters and what happens to them.  The author has miraculously made Greg actually sound like he is in 6th grade!  Imagine that!

For a great laugh, read Diary of  a Wimpy Kid:  Greg Heffley’s Journal by Jeff Kinney.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Tags: graphic novel, family, friends, school, siblings,

Series website:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

Series:  This book is the first book of five in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

A/R Reading level: 5.2

Interest level:  Grades 4-7

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  A Novel in Cartoons

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Love That Dog: A Novel

Love That Dog- A Novel by Sharon Creech

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Creech, Sharon. Love That Dog:  A Novel. 86 p.  Scholastic.  2001.  ISBN 978-0-06-029287-4.

They say great things come in small packages.  This book is no exception.  Creech has written a book that a lot of kids will be able to relate to.  The main character, Jack, hates poetry.  He thinks it’s just for girls.  But his caring and persistent teacher, Miss Stretchberry, keeps having them read and write poetry throughout the year, which is the time span of the book.  The book is written as Jack’s poems to his teacher.

His poems start out as complaints to Miss Stretchberry about how he does not understand what the poems and poets are trying to say.  When she asks his permission to type up the poems, he reluctantly agrees as long as she doesn’t put his name on them.  When he sees them, he thinks:

They look nice
typed up like that
on blue paper
on a yellow board.

Soon, he’s writing poems about the poems that he likes, which inspire him to write more poems.  In March, the teacher shares a poem by Walter Dean Myers, and Jack likes it so much (it reminded him of his Dad and his dog).  Jack is so inspired by Walter Dean Myers (as many kids probably are!) that on April 17th,  Jack writes him a letter asking him if he would have any time in his busy life to visit their school.  To find out if Walter Dean Myers visits Jack’s school, read Love That Dog:  A Novel by Sharon Creech.

Note: This would be a great book to use during a poetry unit to help inspire kids.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Tags: poems, poetry, school, boys, girls, animals, dogs

Author website:  Sharon Creech

Walter Dean Myers website:  Walter Dean Myers

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

A/R Reading level: 4.1

Interest level:  Grades 3-6

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Love That Dog:  A Novel

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The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

book cover image from goodreads.com

Funke, Cornelia.  The Thief Lord  349 p.  Scholastic.  2002.  ISBN 978-0-439-40437-2.

What do you get when you mix two runaway brothers, a detective hired to find them, a young group of thieves, the streets and canals of Venice, Italy, and a magical merry-go-round that can make children turn into adults and adults turn into children?  You get a great caper!

The parents of Prosper and Bo, age 12 and five, have just died.  Their mean aunt and uncle are planning on adopting Bo, but not Prosper.  The boys run away from Hamburg, Germany to Venice, Italy because their deceased Mother loved Venice. When the boys get there, they find a street gang of other orphans who are led by Scipio, the mysterious Thief Lord.  They make their home in an abandoned movie theater and between their small-time pick-pocketing and the Thief Lord’s bigger thefts, they get food and clothes.

Victor Getz, a gentle, unmarried detective in Venice, has been hired by Prosper and Bo’s aunt and uncle to find the boys.  He quickly finds them, but  he doesn’t do what you would think he is going to do.  Scipio, the Thief Lord, has some secrets he’s hiding. To add even more suspense, the Thief Lord has accepted a job to steal a piece of a wooden wing that belongs to a magical merry-go-round.  The boys have to get the wing from the home of Ida Spavento, and she has some yappy dogs that may make it difficult.

The book is full of twists and turns and adventure.  The reader will  be left breathless with each turn of the page.  For a fantastic caper, set against a perfect backdrop, read The Thief Lord.

Genre: adventure, mystery, fantasy

Tags: Venice, caper, thief, siblings, runaway, detective, orphan,

Author website:  Cornelia Funke

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

A/R Reading level: 4.8

Interest level:  Grades 5-8

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  The Thief Lord

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Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

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Wiles, Deborah.  Each Little Bird That Sings.  247 p.  Harcourt.  2005.  ISBN 978-0-15-205113-6.Get your tissue box out.

Meet Comfort.  She is a 10-year-old explorer, recipe tester, and funeral reporter, whose family owns, and lives in, the Snowberger Funeral Home in Snapfinger, Mississippi. Comfort is a slightly quirky, easy-to-like character.  She writes obituaries (called “Life Notices”)  for the  local newspaper, can tell you who has the best funeral recipes in town, and has even written the “Top Ten Tips for First-rate Funeral Behavior.”

Although her home life is not-so-typical, (how many friends do you know that live in a funeral home), she is experiencing the unfortunately typical friendship problems.  Her best friend, Declaration, has suddenly become very mean to her and is now hanging out with other girls at school that tease Comfort.

To make matters worse, two of Comfort’s relatives die that she had been very close to.  On top of that, she is expected to take care of her very annoying cousin, Peach, while all the family is oddly enough, at one of their own family members funeral.    While walking to the gravesite with Peach, Declaration, and her dog Dismay, a flash flood strikes.  She has to make a choice of who to save.  What will happen to them?

Read Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles to find out.

Genre: realistic fiction

Tags: death, family, funeral home, South, friend, dog, grief

Author website:  Deborah Wiles

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

A/R Reading level: 4.5

Interest level:  Grades 4-7

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Each Little Bird that Sings

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Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

book cover image from thedailycrosshatch.com

Telgemeier, Raina.  Smile.  213 p.  Graphix  2010.  ISBN 978-0-545-13205-3.Smile is pure genius.  For anyone who has had braces, you’ll be able to relate to this true story, told in graphic novel form, of what the author, Raina Telgemeier, went through during middle and high school.  If you didn’t have, or haven’t yet had, braces, you will still love it!  It’s painfully funny and you will most likely recognize one or more of the characters.

When she was in 6th grade in San Francisco, she fell and knocked out her two front teeth after a Girl Scout meeting.  What ensued all the way through high school were many orthodontic surgeries and many different embarrassing and odd-looking orthodontic contraptions.  Add puberty to the equation, mean girls, and the story is painfully and poignantly entertaining.

Lo and behold, she somehow survived it all.  An inspiring sidebar is that Raina began her love of creating cartoons during this time period.    So, good can come out of bad!

This book will appeal to a vast audience-from avid readers to reluctant readers, and from kids who have had orthodontic work to kids who have never even been inside of  an orthodontics’s office.

Genre: nonfiction, graphic novel, comic

Tags: braces, middle school, coming-of-age, humor, comic, beauty,

Author website:  Raina Telgemeier

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

A/R Reading level: 2.6

Interest level:  Grades 3-7

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Smile

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Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

book cover image from goodreads.com

Choldenko, Gennifer.  Al Capone Does My Shirts.  228 p.  Putnam’s.  2004.  ISBN 978-0-399-23861-1.Can you imagine living on a small island that is home  to some of the most notorious criminals?  Well, in Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko, it’s 1935, and 12-year-old Moose and his family live on Alcatraz, a small island near San Francisco, California,  that once was a maximum security prison.  His family moved to Alcatraz from Southern California, where Moose’s baseball team was doing really well, so that his Dad could became an electrician there, and so his autistic sister, Natalie, could attend a special school.

Moose is often relied on to take care of his sister by taking her places and watching her.  Moose’s Mom spends much of her time tending to Natalie’s needs, and not a lot of time tending to Moose’s needs.  Moose’s Dad is not super involved in Moose’s life.

Moose becomes friends with the few kids on “the rock”, as Alcatraz is called. The head warden’s daughter, Piper, is a cute girl, but she’s trouble.  It seems whenever she’s around, Moose gets into trouble.

Moose just wants to play baseball, and try to fit in.  Will he be able to do that?  Read Al Capone Does My Shirts to find out.

Note:  This fiction book is complemented by the nonfiction book Children of Alcatraz:  Growing Up on the Rock by Claire Rudolf Murphy (not in the Harvest Park library at this time)

Genre: historical fiction

Tags: Alcatraz, Al Capone, family, autism, siblings, friends, California, prisons

Author website:  Gennifer Choldenko

Series:  This book is the first book of two in the Al Capone on Alcatraz series.

A/R Reading level: 5.0

Interest level:  Grades 5-8

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  Al Capone Does My Shirts

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The Watson’s Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watson's Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Curtis, Christopher Paul.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963.  210 p.  Delacorte Press.  1995.  ISBN 978-0-385-32175-4.

Have you ever read a book that you just know is going to stay with you for a long, long time?

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 is one of those books.  The author manages to perfectly balance the often funny happenings of the Watson family, lovingly referred to by the 10-year-old middle child narrator, Kenny, as the “Weird Watsons”, with the very seriousness time period in which this book takes place.

It’s 1963 in Michigan.  The Watsons are planning  a summer trip to Birmingham, Alabama to visit the kids Grandmother.  The parents are actually hoping Grandma can whip some sense into their oldest son Byron, who is getting into trouble at school, and at home.

Much of the book takes place before the Watsons even arrive in Birmingham.  The pre-Birmingham part of the story is the funny part.  Once they get to Birmingham though, the story takes a realistic serious turn.  African American’s are treated much differently in Alabama than they are in Michigan, and Kenny witnesses some very somber events.

Although the book has a serious ending, it is inspirational as well, and will likely stay with the reader for years to come.

Genre: historical fiction, humor

Tags: Civil Rights, culture, Birmingham, African American, family, humor, historical fiction

Note: Mrs. Renton created a list of excellent electronic Civil Rights resources.  They are located in the Civil Rights section of the Harvest Park Welcome Page.

Series:  This book is not part of a series.

A/R Reading level: 5.0

Interest level:  Grades 5-8

Link to Harvest Park Library catalog:  The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963

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