Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reading Journal

I just finished reading:

Stink and the Incredible Super-Galactic Jawbreaker
by Megan McDonald
illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick Press copyright 2006

This is the 5th or 6th book by Megan McDonald that I have read in the Judy Moody and Stink series. She is a smooth writer with a great feel for the interactions and dialog between a bossy older sister and a pesty younger brother. The story unfolds quickly, with great humor and wordplay. This book emphasizes "Idioms", which Stink is studying in school. Also letter writing, another of Stink's lessons from school. So it has great curricular tie-ins while being an easy to read, high-attention, humorous book about family, school, and friends. What's not to like?

I do wonder if some of the language--slang--will date the book quickly, expressions such as "way cool." However, I think she makes up some of the slang, such as Judy's expression, "rare". Will these books have the staying power of Beverley Cleery's Ramona books? I don't think they have the depth, but they do have the humor.

Chasing Vermeer
by Blue Balliett
illustrated by Brett Helquist
Scholastic, Inc. copyright 2004

While the plot is a bit contrived, I found this a very satisfying book to read. It raises some very interesting points about coincidence and intuition and patterns. It's like The DaVinci Code for kids, only much smarter, better written, and with real characters. The portrayal of friendship is very true to a six grader's experience, I think. I read this a while ago and have forgotten some of the details. This is a book I would enjoy rereading. It values asking questions more than answering questions.

The Wright Three
by Blue Balliett
illustrated by Brett Helquist
Scholastic Inc. copyright 2006
edited by Tracy Mack
agents Doe Coover and Amanda Lewis

While the 2 main characters from Chasing Vermeer also star in this book, there is a third character and we see the story mostly from his point of view. Balliett is one of only a few authors I've read who can successfully shift point of view from one character to another and make it satisfying and convincing. I don't feel she does it because she doesn't know how to tell the story in a more consistent way, the way I usually feel when an author flits from one characters interior to another. She develops clear differentiation between her characters and putting the pieces together is part of the story. Again, this book is intellectually satisfying and challenging. And the characters' interactions are honest and yet surprising.

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