Archive for Becky and Miss D’s Book Club

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Flora and UlyssesBook Review:  Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

“The story begins with a vacuum cleaner. And a squirrel. Or, to be more precise, a squirrel who gets sucked into a Ulysses Super Suction wielded by Flora’s neighbor, Mrs. Tickham. The rather hairless squirrel that is spit out is not the same one that went in.”  Booklist

Luckily for the squirrel, Flora has read every issue of Terrible Things Can Happen to You! and knows CPR.  She names her new companion after the vacuum cleaner that nearly took his life and intends to keep him as a pet.  She soon discovers that he’s been transformed from an ordinary squirrel, to one with superhero strength, the ability to fly, and a love for poetry.  And he’s just what this self-proclaimed cynic of a little girl needs.  She envisions that together they will conquer villains, defend the defenseless, and protect the weak.  Or something.  And they do.

DiCamillo takes a sad situation, two lonely children who have been let down by their parents, and offers something hopeful.  Flora believes that her mother loves a lamp more than she loves her — and she misses her dad who now lives in an apartment across town.  William Spiver’s mother has sent him to stay with his Great Aunt, Flora’s neighbor, Mrs. Tickham.  Ulysses brings the children together and helps them break down the protective walls they’ve each built for themselves.  And by the end of the book, he’s helped the adults see things more clearly as well.  He’s definitely a superhero as far as my daughter and I are concerned!

Endearing characters and a rich vocabulary make this a standout book.  The comic-style graphics which accompany the story complement it nicely.

Miss D and I hope you enjoy this book as much as we did!

Our favorite parts:

Becky:  The poem Ulysses wrote for Flora.  Quotes like “This  malfeasance must be stopped.”

Miss D:  Ulysses got superpowers after being vacuumed!  And it was a really cute story with lots of twists and turns.  The poem Ulysses wrote for Flora.

Discussion Questions:  http://www.floraandulysses.com/teacher.html , http://samanthagreenmysteries.com/src

Readalikes:

What We Found in the Sofa by Henry Clark, The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck by Emily Fairlie, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee.

Grades:  3 -6

 

 

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Rump, the True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

RumpBook Review:  Rump, the True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Twelve-year old Rump has been raised with the belief that his name is his destiny.  And while a name that seems to only be a playful term for butt doesn’t seem like it holds much of a destiny, he’s also always believed that Rump was not the full name his mother intended for him.  But how can he discover his true name when his mother was the only one who knew it and she died shortly after he was born?

When he finds his mother’s spindle, his life takes a dramatic turn.  He can spin straw into gold.  He’s thrilled at first, believing that he and his Gran will never have to go hungry again.  But then he realizes there’s a catch to his magic — he can trade the gold that he spins but he has to accept whatever is offered to him, no matter how unequal the trade.  No matter how repellent.  He doesn’t think his situation can get any worse but it can.  It does.

Spun gold is finer than the meager bits of gold typically found in the mountains and it captures the attention of the King who comes to village in search of its source.  For reasons of his own, the miller claims that his daughter is the spinner of the gold.  And Rump knows that he must spin for her or the king will punish her and the people of The Mountain.  But, because magic operates under its own rules, she must offer him something in return.  And unfortunately, Opal lacks imagination, locking both of them into an agreement neither wants.

Desperate to escape the terrible promise Opal has made him, Rump goes on a quest to find his mother’s family, hoping they know something about his magic that he does not.

My daughter and I loved this book!!!  Shurtliff offers a touching and believable twist on a familiar tale.  Every story has at least two perspectives, after all, and we enjoyed being given a glimpse of the “villain’s” side of things.  We also loved the hints about other fairytale characters alternate stories.  Gnomes who run messages, pixies who love gold, and trolls who want pets are just a few of the lighthearted details that make this such a fun read.

Discussion Questions:  http://lieslshurtliff.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Rump-Readers-Guide.pdf

Readalikes:   A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Half Upon A Time by James Riley, The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk and Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff.

Grades: 3-6

 

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Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Book Review:  Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily JenkinsUpside Down Magic

Nory has a strong talent for transforming into animals but can’t limit herself to one species at a time; instead of turning into a kitten, she’s likely to turn into a dritten (dragon/kitten) or a bitten (beaver/kitten).  She thinks that’s bad but Bax can’t manage transforming into animals at all; he transforms into stone.  And instead of charming animals, like other Fuzzies, Pepper terrifies them.  Together with Andres, Elliot, Sebastian, Marigold, and Willa,they are the first students in Dunwiddle Magic School’s class for Upside Down Magic.  Unlike many other educators, including Nory’s own father, Miss Star insists that unusual magical abilities are nothing to be ashamed of and encourages her students to embrace their unique talents.

My 8 year-old and I love this book!!!  It’s perfect for kids who are grappling with the pressure to be like everyone else, who are struggling with feeling like they are the only ones who can’t quite get it right, or who worry that they are disappointing their loved ones.  My daughter recently suggested that she and I have our own book club and this was an excellent choice for our first title!  The story is fun but it also lends itself well to talking about real issues kids find themselves facing, often with a great deal of uncertainty.  Click here for discussion and activity ideas.

Looking forward to Sticks and Stones, coming out the end of May!!!

P.S.  I believe that I would test well as a Fuzzy — I’ve always been good with animals.  Miss D wants to be a Flare so that she can make smores, you know, whenever.

 

 

 

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