Three times lucky by Sheila Turnage

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Three times lucky by Sheila Turnage.
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published 2012 by Dial
(ISBN13: 9780803736702)

Newbery honor winner and New York Times bestseller.

From the publisher:

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.

What did I think about this book?

Loved it! Highly recommended – This will be good for my mature readers who can decipher the southern voice and writing. Suggested age range 10-12. This should be a wonderful read aloud that would lead to a lot of interesting and lively discussion about the characters, the setting and some of the issues – murder, bank robbery, domestic abuse, and small town snobbery. It is interesting to think that despite the differences in geography ‘small town USA’ is probably very much like ‘small town anywhere’ – including New Zealand provincial towns – and most readers will relate to many of the eccentric and downright nasty characters we meet in the book.

My favourite quote:

“I’m Baptist. So far, Fast or Never is the only speeds I got with forgiving.”

Listen to an audio extract from the first chapter HERE :

Reviews:

Review by Betsy Bird: “the one thing I can say with certainty about Three Times Lucky is that you will never, but ever, mistake it for another book. We’ve got murder. We’ve got careening racecars. We’ve got drunken louts and amnesia and wigs and karate and all sorts of good stuff rolled up in one neat little package. I’ve read a lot of mysteries for kids this year and truth be told? This one’s my favorite, hands down.”

Kirkus reviews: “What do you get when you combine Because of Winn-Dixie’s heart with the mystery and action of Holes? You get an engaging, spirit-lifting and unforgettable debut for young readers.”

Allyson Beecher: “It might be easy to dismiss this story as just another one of those books that portray all Southerners as backwards, ignorant, and foolish…Educators should take heed in that if the only books we shared with students were stories about poor, ignorant Southerners living in small towns, then we too would be “in danger of a single story”.  However, there are Southerners (just like there are northerners) that live in small towns filled with eccentric, quirky characters.  Our responsibility as educators and reading leaders is to provide students with a rich variety that represents all types of people living in a specific region or during a designated time period.”

Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock

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Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock, Published by Nosy Crow, 2013.

Paperback, 272 pages. (ISBN13: 9780857631503) This will be available in New Zealand for purchase from April.

From the publisher:

A funny, moving and absorbing story about a young girl’s attempts to learn more about her dead father through the objects she finds in a cardboard box he’s left her.

Scarlett and her friend, Ellie, go on a sometimes hilarious, sometimes scary, journey of discovery, following the clues and always remembering to ‘keep looking up’. Was Scarlett’s dad a thief? Was he a spy? And what does it mean to be his daughter?

Fleur Hitchcock is a great new voice in children’s literature, and Dear Scarlett is a great book.

What do I think of this book?

I loved this book – it’s a heartfelt story, and will have you on the verge of tears one minute and laughing out loud the next. This book couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me. I seem to have a large number of student readers desperate for books that they perceive as being in the vein of Jacqueline Wilson. This fits the bill nicely – it’s a fabulous realistic story about coming of age and finding who you are, friendship and modern family life.

There are a lot of books and movies that follow the journey of a wife or child as they discover their husband or father does not live up to the sterling reputation he enjoyed before his demise. This story follows the opposite path. Scarlett’s Dad has been dead for many years and she never really knew him, she just has a few precious but fleeting memories of him. Worse still, everyone “knows” her father was a rather notorious thief. Mum is in a relationship with a new man who just happens to be one of the policemen that had professional dealings with her Dad. The “Step-Dad” comes with children of his own and Scarlett has to get used to sharing not only her room, but her Mum too, with a potential step-sister -“Ellie”. On the day of her eleventh birthday a man turns up on her doorstep and gives her a box of her father’s belongings.  The box and it’s contents are a mystery to her, she has no idea why the box has suddenly turned up now and whether or not her Dad was trying to tell her something. Why has he left her his housebreaking tools, strange bits of paper and other items that make no sense? Scarlett has to solve the mystery, figure out the message from her Dad and stop other people getting hold of the box.  While she does this she comes to realize her Dad was not the man she and the local community thought they knew – he was better. A long the way Scarlett not only learns about who she is, but works out how to get along with Ellie, trust her Mum’s boyfriend and also how she fits into a new blended family situation.

This will be a fantastic read for 9-10+ girls but there’s nothing to stop a few boys enjoying this story too! The story is beautifully paced, funny, sad, a little bit scary and not at all girly. Perfect realistic fiction to ladder girls from a steady diet of JW to other fiction!
Thank you Nosy Crow for publishing yet another hit!
Fleur’s earlier novel for a younger audience, ‘Shrunk’ published by Hot Key Books, is proving a real hit amongst my students, with one boy (normally a very reluctant reader) asking me longingly if there would be a series of it.

Video of Fleur Hitchcock reading from the book:

Read an excerpt of the first chapter HERE: (Courtesy of Nosy Crow Publishers)

RELATED POSTS:

Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill

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Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill.

Paperback, 278 pages
Published 2013 by Random House Children’s Publishing

From the publisher:

Introducing Darcy Burdock, a new, cool, all-conquering girl character with a fresh and distinctive take on the world.

Ten-year-old Darcy is one of life’s noticers. Curious, smart-as-a-whip, funny and fiercely loyal, she sees the extraordinary in the everyday and the wonder in the world around her.

Written and illustrated by Laura Dockrill: author, poet & performer – think Lady Gaga meets Mother Goose.

Book back cover:

My name is Darcy, I see the extraordinary in the everyday and the wonder in the world around me. This is my first book. One day it will be read by people like you. In this book you will find out: How to calm an Angrosaurus Rex with some Maltesers; Running away with a reluctant pet lamb in tow leads to some sore kneebows; Baby brothers LOVE being dressed up as girls (they don’t, they prefer zombie snakes).

What did I think about this book?

The build up prior to publication of this book was huge.  Singer Adele gave this the big thumbs up by being quoted on the cover “The world is lucky to be invited into the colourful imagination of my favorite person! You’re going to have fun!”…and from Vogue:  “Everyone is falling for Laura Dockrill“.

One of my favourite and most trusted kid-lit book reviewers, had this to say…”Britain finally has an answer to Jeff Kinney and his Wimpy Kid! Many have tried, but few have come close in my opinion, but come next March the trials and tribulations of Greg Heffley will be consigned to bargain bins in book stores across the UK. There will only be one name on everyone’s lips, and that is Darcy Burdock...” Cor blimey – high praise indeed!

I am always on the look out for anything that remotely smacks of being similar to Diary of a wimpy kid by Jeff Kinney. Wimpy Kid is probably the most requested title/series in my library with students from Years 3-6 all clamouring for it on a daily basis. In order to keep kids reading, a librarian or teacher has to feed them with similar material to keep them enthused about reading. I absolutely had to buy this based on the recommendations above – and so I preordered this well before the publication date. It arrived, I read it and I suddenly wished it hadn’t been hyped quite so much. It set the bar so high and I just didn’t feel this book reached it. Darcy is a strong character and a good example of how it is great to be different and have your own voice, but I didn’t find this lived up to the claims of knocking Diary of a Wimpy Kid of it’s thoroughly deserved pedestal.

There will be kids that will like and probably love this book and so I will happily add it to my collection of Diary of a wimpy kid read-alikes. I am interested to see how popular this is with my students and if they think it is as fabulous as the pre publication reviews suggested.

Some of the books/series I do like to recommend for fans of Diary of a wimpy kid by Jeff Kinney:

  • Tom Gates by Liz Pichon
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
  • I am not a loser by Barry Loser
  • The world of Norm by Jonathan Meres
  • The Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell
  • Middle School is worse than meatloaf by Jennifer Holm
  • Timmy Failure : mistakes were made by Stephan Pastis
  • Diary of a cricket god by Shamini Flint
  • Ted goes wild by Michael Wagner
  • Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • My life as a book by Janet Tashian

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

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Navigating early by Clare Vanderpool.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published  2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
 (ISBN13: 9780385742092)
From the publisher:

At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother’s death and placed in a boy’s boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains.

Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can’t help being drawn to Early, who won’t believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear.

But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives.

What did I think about this book?

I LOVED THIS BOOK and thought about it long after I had closed the pages. The writing is beautiful and there is depth in the plot and characters…but I wonder if the story could have been developed even further and possibly published as an adult novel? This is a tricky review to write and I am thinking about how hard a “sell” this might be to my students (My oldest are Year 6 – equivalent to 5th Grade in the USA).

So many books these days have action from the start and many readers rely on that to get them hooked. Part of my role in developing readers is to get them to see the value of a strong build up in a story i.e. getting to know the characters, the setting, the back story – before reaching the action. I know that there will be students in my school community who aren’t mature enough readers to persevere past the first chapter or two. I found the start slow and whilst I am well aware that “good things take time” my reading enjoyment was punctuated with fears about whether or not I could get anyone to read this. Once Early and Jack have left the school and are on their adventure, the pace picks up considerably and there is action and adventure aplenty. Unfortunately it’s almost too much happening too soon and so many dangerous and unsettling things happen in quick succession.  Whilst the action and adventure ties in with the parallel story about pi, it did stretch credibility somewhat.

This isn’t a title I would book talk with a whole year level, however I believe this would be valuable and moving read aloud to a group from Year 6-Year 9. Some of my more thinking and mature students will want to read this, but I would prefer to show them the book and talk about it individually . It  is likely I will offer this copy to our Middle/Senior library for their collection as I am confident more of their students will enjoy it.  As Kirkus Reviews said “Navigating this stunning novel requires thought and concentration, but it’s well worth the effort.

Reviews – I’m pasting links to these, because all of them had insightful yet differing views on this book:

Travis Jonker 100scope notes:

Kirkus Reviews:

NY Times:

Publisher’s Weekly:

Teach Mentor Texts:

Looking forward to: “The dark” by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

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The dark written by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Hardcover, 40 pages

Expected publication: April 2nd 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
(ISBN13: 9780316187480)
Looking forward to receiving a copy of this forthcoming book because of…the fabulous combination of talent that is coming together in this picture book – the quirky writing of Lemony Snicket combined with the almost subversive picture book illustrations of Jon Klassen! This is sure to be a hit with students and teachers alike.
From the publisher: 

Laszlo is afraid of the dark.

The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn’t come into Lazslo’s room. But one night, it does.

This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.

With emotional insight and poetic economy, two award-winning talents team up to conquer a universal childhood fear.

Video book trailer:


RELATED POSTS:

Looking forward to: “That is not a good idea!” by Mo Willems

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That is not a good idea! by Mo Willems

Hardcover, 48 pages

Expected publication: April 23rd 2013 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
(ISBN13: 9780062203090)
Looking forward to receiving a copy of this forthcoming book because….Mo Willems Pigeon series and Knuffle Bunny are both a very popular with children of all ages in my library. I can’t get enough of this author!

From the publisher: That Is Not a Good Idea! is a hilarious, interactive picture book from bestselling author and illustrator Mo Willems, the creator of books like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the Knuffle Bunny series, the Elephant and Piggie series, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and many other new classics.

Inspired by the evil villains and innocent damsels of silent movies, Willems tells the tale of a hungry fox who invites a plump goose to dinner. As with the beloved Pigeon books, kids will be calling out the signature refrain and begging for repeated readings. The funny details in the full-color illustrations by three-time Caldecott Honoree Mo Willems will bring nonstop laughter to story time.

One day, a very hungry fox meets a very plump goose.

A dinner invitation is offered.

Will dinner go as planned? Or do the dinner plans involve a secret ingredient . . . ?

(Don’t forget to listen to the baby geese!)

From the brilliant mind of Mo Willems comes a surprising lesson about listening to your inner gosling….

Video book trailer:

Looking forward to: “House of Secrets” by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

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The House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini.
(House of Secrets – book one of an intended trilogy)
Hardcover, 496 pages
Expected publication: April 23rd 2013 by Balzer + Bray
ISBN: (ISBN13: 9780062192462)

From the publisher: From legendary Hollywood director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Philiosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and bestselling author Ned Vizzini (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) comes this first book in an epic new fantasy series.

Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San Francisco, and all the portable electronic devices they could want. But everything changed when Dr. Walker lost his job in the wake of a mysterious incident. Now in dire straits, the family must relocate to an old Victorian house that used to be the home of occult novelist Denver Kristoff—a house that feels simultaneously creepy and too good to be true.

By the time the Walkers realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them, they’re banished to a primeval forest way off the grid. Their parents? Gone. Their friends? A world away. And they aren’t alone. Bloodthirsty medieval warriors patrol the woods around them, supernatural pirates roam the neighboring seas, and a power-hungry queen rules the land. To survive, the siblings will have to be braver than they ever thought possible—and fight against their darkest impulses. The key may lie in their own connection to the secret Kristoff legacy. But as they unravel that legacy, they’ll discover it’s not just their family that’s in danger . . . it’s the entire world.

I’m looking forward to reading this forthcoming book because…I am interested to see if this lives up to the hype of all the pre publication announcements and excitement. I am always looking for great fantasy series to feed the constant demand of readers, and hope this is another one that students will love.

 

See the author interview and book trailer here: