Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Published by Amulet Books

Village of Scoundrels: Margi Preus: 9781419708978: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Inspired by real people, places, and events, this book tells the story of a group of teenagers who helped save Jews in their French village by forging documents, passing secret messages, and leading groups to safety in Switzerland.  Young police officer Perdant has been sent to keep an eye on this “village of scoundrels” for the Nazis, but as he gets to know some of the kids, he begins to question whether or not he is on the side of right. The characters, including Perdant, all come together in a finale at a ruined chalet where the teens are hiding some of their friends, hoping to help them escape before the Gestapo raids begin.  Readers will be kept guessing until the end as to what the final outcome will be. Includes a 24-page epilogue with stories and photos of the real people on whom the story is based; a timeline covering events from 1934 until 1945; and a bibliography. 320 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  One can never have too much WWII historical fiction, and middle schoolers will be inspired by the courage of these kids who risked their lives to save others.

Cons:  There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and their stories were only loosely connected.

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Carmen Saldaña

Published by Charlesbridge

Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections: Michelle Schaub ...

review + giveaway] Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections ...

Summary:  A school assignment to share a collection leaves the narrator wondering what she should bring.  Her classmates seem excited about their showing their arrowheads, marbles, and teddy bears, but she doesn’t collect anything.  She interviews family members and friends, creating poems about each of them: her mother’s buttons, her brother’s baseball cards, an aunt’s license plates–even the mail carrier’s collection of smiling faces.  The last page shows her back at school, surrounded by kids with samples of their collections on their desks. She’s not worried now, though, because she has a collection of her own–a book of poems. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A charming first poetry book for primary grade kids by the author of Fresh-Picked PoetryReaders may be inspired to start a collection, write a poem, or do both.

Cons:  This book actually came out in 2019.  

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Nesting by Henry Cole

Published by Katherine Tegen Books

Nesting: Cole, Henry, Cole, Henry: 9780062885920: Amazon.com: Books

Summary: Step by step, readers are taken through the early part of a robin’s life cycle, starting when two robins mate and build a nest together.  Soon there are four blue eggs in the nest. After the babies hatch out of the eggs, the parents are busy providing them with food and protection, including a dramatic battle with a snake that crawls up the tree.  Eventually the young robins learn to fly and leave the nest. They’ll survive the winter together, the old nest covered in snow. Includes an author’s note with additional information about robins. 40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  A perfect introduction to robins, with just the right amount of information for picture book readers.  The illustrations are outstanding, showing lots of details in black and white with occasional splashes of blue for the sky and eggs.

Cons:  As is so often the case, there wasn’t quite enough back matter to satisfy me.

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Breaking Through: How Female Athletes Shattered Stereotypes in the Roaring Twenties by Sue Macy

Published by National Geographic

Breaking Through by Sue Macy: 9781426336768 | PenguinRandomHouse ...

Summary:  While few women athletes from the 1920’s are widely remembered today, it was an important decade for women’s sports.  In chapter one, we meet Olympic diving gold medalist 14-year-old Aileen Riggin, one of the first American women to compete in the Olympics, held in 1920, the same year U.S. women finally got the right to vote.  Subsequent chapters look at each year in the decade, profiling women athletes, and also looking at the men (and sometimes women) who tried to discourage them from competing. There are plenty of photos and sidebars, and each chapter ends with two pages of other events that occurred during the year, offering a big of historical perspective.  An epilogue summarizes what has happened in women’s sports since the end of the 1920’s, with brief profiles of women athletes from 1930 until the present. Includes an author’s note, additional resources, source notes, and an index. 96 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  A fresh and interesting look at sports, written in an engaging style that will draw readers in.  Boys and girls alike will be inspired by these women who competed, often in multiple sports, against a backdrop of criticism and naysaying, opening up opportunities that continue to this day.

Cons:  The font seemed unnecessarily small, and a high-powered microscope may be needed to decipher the source notes and index.

If you would like to order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

 

Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar, illustrated by Tim Heitz

Published by HarperCollins

Image result for wayside school beneath the cloud of doom

Summary:  After a 25-year hiatus, Louis Sachar has produced another installment in the Wayside School series, this one dealing with a large cloud that’s rolled in over the school, bringing with it a sense of doom.  Of course, the plot is secondary to all the weird goings-on at the school. Familiar characters like Mrs. Jewls, Maurecia, Calvin, and yard teacher Louis are all here, with the same mix of silly supernatural happenings and ordinary school events.  Each of the thirty short chapters starts with an illustration and tells a complete story, making this a natural choice for a read-aloud. 186 pages; grades 3-5.

Pros:  Louis Sachar’s still got it, as I found myself chuckling aloud at some of the stories.  It looks like the other Wayside School books are being reissued with covers similar to this one, so we can look forward to introducing a new generation to the fun on the thirtieth story.

Cons:  Mrs. Gorf was nowhere to be found, even in ghostly form, although Miss Zarves finally made an appearance.

If you would like to order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Support independent bookstores!

I’m sure Amazon is thriving during our time at home, and I’ve placed a few orders there myself in the last few weeks.

But let’s remember that there are independent bookstores all over the country that we love and want to stay alive until they can open their doors again.  One of my favorite local bookstores is the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts.  Not only do they have thousands of great titles, but they are an amazing community resource, hosting all sorts of author visits, book clubs, and other programs.  I think their owner, Joan, is a subscriber to my blog, so I hope she is reading this!

To support the Odyssey, I’m going to temporarily stop posting my Amazon Affiliate links, and instead post a link to order from their online bookstore.  They are still filling web orders, complete with free media mail shipping.  If you don’t order through this link, I encourage you to support your local independent bookstore now and in the future.  If you aren’t in the market for any books now, consider ordering a gift certificate from them.

Take a look at The Odyssey Bookshop and give a shout-out to your own favorite bookstore(s) in the comments!

 

The Candy Caper (Trouble at Table 5 book 1) by Tom Watson

Published by HarperCollins

Image result for trouble at table 5 candy

Summary:  Narrator Molly is a third grader who sometimes “gets things stuck in her head”.  When she sees a jar of Skittles on the principal’s desk, she can’t rest until she knows how many are in the jar.  Fortunately, her friends Simon and Rosie understand her, and they offer to figure out a way to count the candies.  After a few false starts, the three of them hatch a plan to get Molly sent to the principal’s office, then to distract the principal while Molly replaces the original jar with one she’s brought from home.  The plan works, Molly gets her answer, and even her understanding parents don’t punish her for getting sent to the principal’s office. Includes three activities that connect to the story. 96 pages; grades 1-3.

Pros:  A fun school story for emergent readers, showing the progress made in reading the book at the end of each chapter.  Kids with anxiety or OCD may make some connections to Molly, who is portrayed sympathetically and surrounded by supportive friends and family (although I wish the principal had caught her so they could have had a conversation about Molly asking how many Skittles were in the jar instead of having to sneak them).

Cons:  This is part of a new HarperChapters imprint which seems to be Harper’s answer to the Scholastic Branches series.  Their website even compare one of the new series (13th Street) to Eerie Elementary and Notebook of Doom. Sure, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I think Harper would be better served by coming up with something a bit more original.

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.