Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Favorite Books

Schooled by Gordon Korman $5.99 Ages 10-14

Cap Anderson, good-natured, thoughtful, fun-loving, and kind, was raised and home-schooled in a hippie commune by his grandmother. He knows a lot about farm life, wildlife, academics, and survival skills, but he is clueless about life out in the real world. When his grandmother is hospitalized, Cap leaves his farm to stay with a social worker and attend middle school.

Talk about not fitting in, Cap is immediately the butt of jokes, and in a traditional school prank is elected class president. Not understanding that he is supposed to be humiliated and embarrassed to death, Cap sets about finding out what a class president does. His classmates gladly lead him astray, and give him impossible tasks. To their surprise he works to fulfill the tasks with determination, humor, and a growing posse of supporters.

Like Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Korman has created a character that we cheer for, that we wish was our friend, and who changes his school forever. Don’t miss this gem and pass it on to any middle school students, parents or teachers that you know.

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech $15.99 Ages 8-12

I couldn’t wait to read this book, but when I held it on my lap, I hesitated, not sure I wanted to open it. The thing is, I am crazy about Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, and I was afraid that she couldn’t possibly do it again and I would be uncomfortable and disappointed as I read the sequel. Basically, I was worried that hating a cat might not be as good as loving a dog.

Finally, I made myself open to the first page, where I found that Jack was back and Miss Stretchberry was his teacher again. Before I even finished the first two journal entries, I was hooked right back into the funny and touching interplay between this remarkable teacher and her questioning student.

Honestly, this book is a wonder. Despite Jack and his professor uncle’s doubts, Miss Stretchberry introduces her students to a wide variety of poets and poetic styles. Some Jack loves and others he struggles with, but usually comes to appreciate. Walter Dean Myers makes another cameo appearance, and there are some tender revelations about Jack’s mother that crop up in his poems. His ongoing battle with a neighborhood cat is the subject of quite a few poems and journal entries, where Jack tries to express his frustrations and tribulations.

In the end, there really was no reason for me to worry; it turns out that this cat is a perfect companion to that dog.