Tag Archives: magical story

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

unusualchickensUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Definitely a breezy read with some fun bits and pieces. I really like Kelly Jones’ portrayal of Sophie, level-headed, with plenty of normal kid concerns and normal kid courage. Jones included some not-too-heavy-handed tidbits about how others perceive Sophie, being half Mexican American, being viewed as poor, being “presumed” in not-so-flattering ways.

Since my taste runs more toward more saturated kind of fantasy, I wanted the chickens’ powers (and they are amazing powers) to manifest more, stronger, and add more tension to the story.  However, I can also see how this can be quite attractive to those who just want their magic to be more like everyday happenings — not too many world-altering encounters.

My narrative device-detector antenna was definitely alert for this one and wish that the letter-writing device had worked all the way through.  The really really long, as-it-happens, climatic sections did not work all that well for me: not sure when/where Sophie would have been writing to Agnes in the middle of rescuing the chickens and participating in the Poultry Show (and it is apparent that those letters weren’t written after all the excitement as a report, since Agnes would have known all that had happened and wouldn’t have needed such narration of events.)

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Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

floraulyssesOne of the most delightful books I’ve encountered!

So much of it is sparkling, like gems — the humor, the humanity, the friendship, and even the heartaches.  And there’s a special twinkle of absurdity: the squirrel poet, the hysterical blindness, the kind but weird neighbor with the “living” painting, etc.

Read this two years ago but never got to put the book note up and so much of the book is still vivid in my mind.  Indeed a great Newbery choice!


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The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

truebluescoutsby Kathi Appelt

(narrated by Lyle Lovett for Audible)

This is what outstanding, distinguished, and thoroughly enjoyable children’s books should be!  And of course, I had the additional pleasure of listening to Appelt’s narrative voice brought to live by Lyle Lovett: folky, hilarious, tender, with just the right amount of controlled drama.  This environmental tall tale set in the swamp land, featuring anthropomorphized critters, caricatured villains, down home, real but also realer than life characters, and mythical beings is perfect for a family and classroom read aloud!  One of my favorite 2013 books for sure!

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11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

I listened to this one. Ever since my daughter read and really liked this book, I wanted to fit it in my reading schedule. Time passed, and I never got around to do that — until I downloaded it on my Android phone from the New York Public Library and had the chance to have some fun with it nightly when I wash dishes! And what fun I had!

This has been a steadily popular book in my middle school library with 4th and 5th grade girls for the past 2 or 3 years and it has good reasons to be so. The ingredients are delicious: an old family feud, an enchantment placed on the two friends, the re-living of the same day with variations depending on one’s choices (which include some REALLY poor but thrilling ones,) and the reforge of a lost friendship. What not to love? I am also grateful that the narrator has a pleasant voice. A delightful ride, for sure.

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Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

Who would have thought? Richard Peck: the 21st Century Austen for the 8 to 10 set? But he IS! This little gem of a book has all the good stuff:

A cast of talking mice whose actions and living conditions are completely believable and are in tune with children’s fantasy play; a twisting, surprising, and humorous upstairs/downstairs comedy that involves Royalty and seafaring; the perennial favorite plot progression allowing the lower class main characters go up the social ladder due to good luck and hard work; and clean grown-up romances.

Peck’s deft hand also created a great protagonist in the no-nonsense Helena and made her think and speak properly like one would have from the late 1800s. I was completely charmed!

(And the full-page incidental illustrations add to its charm even more!)

Quick – go and get a copy and treat yourself and your young readers!!

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The Unnameables

The UnnameablesAuthor: Ellen Booraem
Reading Level: 4th to 6th

Pages: 318
Publisher: Harcourt
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

This is an allegory that works on many levels, made rich with well-portrayed and multi-faceted characters. Which, I guess, renders it not a true allegory since the characters are not all confined to single traits or symbolic equivalents. At the very beginning, I was dubious: thinking that the symbolism and “names” are all too transparent and too easy to predict. And yet, with the blusterous arrival of the Goatman and then all the tangential but significant side trails and events, the story drew me in and kept me highly interested and entertained. I bated my breath, hoping for a satisfying and well paced ending, and was not let down.

I very much appreciate the rich imagery, the successful world-building, and the economy of the text — also its gentle humor in the friendly way these simple folks behave. I’m also so pleased that the Unnameable acts (what one might easily interpret as “art” or “craft”) are given a made-up name of “runyuin” (which has the word “ruin” embedded — I wonder if this is even intentional) so that the interpretations can be surprising from minds not as set as mine. I can see how this book might be of great use in a 4th-6th grade classroom since it is both well-crafted and can generate good conversations!

View all my goodreads reviews.

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Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

Author: Lynne Jonell
Reading Level: 4th – 6th grade

Pages: 352
Publisher: Henry Holt
Edition: Hardcover, 2007

It’s impressive how Jonell manages to inform the readers of all characters’ personalities, feelings, and actions without ever straying away from Emmy’s perspective: readers only know what she sees, hears, and thinks. The outlandish circumstances with all the super(magical?)-powers of the rodents are accompanied by a gentle tale of friendship, longing for parental love, and the essence of stable families. I mentally applauded the several jabs at the absurdity of the over-scheduling of our children.

The illustration with the flip-book margin of Rat falling and Emmy catching him ceases being a gimmick when it visually sums up the spirit of the story: “Don’t worry. We’re friends. I will catch you if you fall.”


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