Tag Archives: fiction

The Fantastic Adventures of Nobody: A Review of ‘The Graveyard Book’

“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”—G. K. Chesterton

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades: 6-9

(This book may interest students beyond ninth grade as well, however, I think the writing lends itself to this age.)

Review and Thoughts

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman starts out with quite the attention-grabber!  As the story begins, we witness the murder of a family.  The murderer, Jack, quietly goes through a house and stabs everyone.  Luckily, before he can murder the young two-year-old, the baby climbs out of his crib and crawls down a nearby hill to an old graveyard.  Here, he is protected by  ghosts and other creatures who live there.  The mother of the young boy and the rest of his family appear as ghosts, though only briefly.  The mother cries out begging the ghosts to take care of her son.  As they agree, the young family fades into the darkness until they appear in their own graveyard to rest in eternal peace. Continue reading The Fantastic Adventures of Nobody: A Review of ‘The Graveyard Book’

Friendship is Sharing: A Review of ‘A Mouse and the Motorcycle’

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”–Leo Buscaglia

Reading Level:

Grades 4-5

Review and Thoughts:

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary is a story about a mouse named Ralph and a boy named Keith who develop a true friendship based on a love of motorcycles, speed, adventure, and an impatience to see life unfold.  I must confess that I do not like rodents or anything that I would classify as a rodent.  Ralph, however, is special and not on my mental list of nibbling mammals.  He is endearing, honest, and absolutely a thrill seeker.  Keith is a young boy who is excited about possibilities and savors new experiences. He seems mature in the way he ponders situations and draws responsible conclusions. Continue reading Friendship is Sharing: A Review of ‘A Mouse and the Motorcycle’

Do We Live Here?: A Review of ‘Fahrenheit 451’

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”–Ray Bradbury

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water,* sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lambadown the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life* that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.”–Revelation 22:1-2

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”–Ecclesiastes 3:1

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 7-10

Review and Thoughts

Fahreneit 451 by Ray Bradbury is actually my favorite dystopic novel.  It is simple, realistic, and I could probably make a good argument that we are currently living in this media driven society.  I’ve taught this book numerous times, and I love talking about it and drawing comparisons.  My students always found it fascinating that our current society is so similar to the society in the novel. Continue reading Do We Live Here?: A Review of ‘Fahrenheit 451’

A Mysterious Turn of Events: A Review of ‘Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery’

By Deborah and James Howe

A dog has one aim in life…. to bestow his heart. J. R. Ackerley

A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.  Ernest Hemingway

Reading Level:

Grades 4-5

Review and Thoughts

Before the actual story begins James Howe, the author, explains the evolution of Bunnicula — how he and his wife created a group of characters who became a story and ultimately how that story became the book, Bunnicula.

The Editor’s Note is quite clever and explains how the story of Bunnicula is then delivered to the editor by a dog carrying a large brown envelope.  Inside the envelope is a letter addressed to the editors. The letter is actually written by the dog and explains that the manuscript, also in the envelope, is written in his own words.  It tells a true story about his family (names changed to protect family), and he hopes they find it interesting enough to publish. Continue reading A Mysterious Turn of Events: A Review of ‘Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery’

An Unexpected Pet: A Review of ‘Not Norman, A Goldfish Story’

“For every animal of the forest is mine, beasts by the thousands on my mountains. I know every bird of the heavens; the creatures of the field belong to me.” (Psalm 50:10-11)

Reading Level

Grades K-1

Review and Thoughts

There is nothing happier than a birthday party with balloons, cake, and presents for an eight year old boy.  Wait!  This present isn’t what the boy wants. It’s a goldfish named Norman, and he wants a very, very different kind of pet. Mentally, the boy quickly checks off all the requirements for his ideal pet. No, he’s sure this fish isn’t what he wants.  He knows that fish are known to have a calming effect on anyone who watches them, but this present – this “pet” – is so far from perfect he decides to trade the goldfish for a good pet as fast as he can. Continue reading An Unexpected Pet: A Review of ‘Not Norman, A Goldfish Story’

A Daughter’s First Love: A Review of ‘Crow Call’

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.”  William Shakespeare

Suggested Reading Level

Grades 2-3

Review and Thoughts

Crow Call is the story about a young girl named Liz and her dad as they begin to rediscover their love after the very long separation of World War II.  They begin this journey by going crow hunting soon after he returns.  It is the fall season and Liz is dressed in her rainbow colored hunting shirt – an overly large adult shirt that comes to her knees and with sleeves that have been rolled up in order to see her hands.   From the beginning of the story the reader can sense that Liz is having trouble getting used to being with her dad again.  As they ride in the car on their way to their hunting destination she says, “I sit shyly next to the stranger who is my father.”   She also practices whispering his name over and over again, “Daddy. Daddy.” Continue reading A Daughter’s First Love: A Review of ‘Crow Call’

Wounding Others: A Review of ‘Falling into Place’

“No one heals himself by wounding another.”—Saint Ambrose

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 10-12

Review and Thoughts

I heard about Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang from the HarperCollins Common Core Reading List recommendations for high school students.  I feel like the increase in contemporary literature in today’s high schools can really help students find that love of reading that they may have lost.  At this age most students have been reading classic literature and may have had trouble connecting with it.   Unfortunately, along with contemporary literature comes a lot of contemporary issues.  I, in no way, ever condone banning a book, but there are times I feel like some literature may not be the best fit for a classroom setting.  I would strongly advise parents to look for an alternative contemporary piece.  I think Zhang’s writing is truly poetic and beautiful, but this book does not portray much goodness in its characters.  I understand that teens are bombarded with these issues in media and even in their own schools, but this doesn’t necessarily mean we need to teach it in our classrooms as well. Continue reading Wounding Others: A Review of ‘Falling into Place’

Friends Forever: A Review of ‘Frog and Toad Together’

“Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasure, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.”  St. Thomas Aquinas

Grades K-1

Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel tells the story of two faithful friends who encounter both everyday experiences and an exciting adventure.  Their friendship is as strong as another well known pair, Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. Every chapter is filled with special moments that only true friends can share. Continue reading Friends Forever: A Review of ‘Frog and Toad Together’

To the Shelter of Compassion: A Review of ‘The One and Only Ivan’

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”—St. Francis of Assissi

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades 4-6

Review and Thoughts

The One and Only Ivan is a story of loneliness and redemption that is uniquely told through the thoughts of a silverback gorilla named Ivan.  Having been raised by people in an urban setting his entire life, he remembers little of his childhood in the jungle of Africa. Now, Ivan is in a circus-themed mall where he is kept in his very small domain for visitors to come and witness his boring life. He has his friends around him (a small stray dog, a female elephant, the custodian and his daughter),  yet still Ivan is lonely. As a silverback gorilla, he should be the head of a family, and since he has seen no other gorillas, he wonders if he is the last one on earth. Continue reading To the Shelter of Compassion: A Review of ‘The One and Only Ivan’

Let Us Not Forget: A Review of ‘Inside Out & Back Again’

“Dear friends, let us not forget the flesh of Christ which is in the flesh of refugees: their flesh is the flesh of Christ.”—Pope Francis

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades 6-8

Review and Thoughts

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about a young Vietnamese girl named Ha.  While Ha is a young girl in Vietnam, she witnesses the fall of Saigon, escapes with her family to Alabama, and struggles to learn to adapt to a new life in America.  The innocent viewpoint of the young girl is a stark contrast to the seriousness of the war and of her position as a refugee.  The novel, which is written entirely in poetry, is simple and delicate and tells a story of survival and growth for Ha and her family.

The novel is broken into four parts.  Each part speaks of a different portion of Ha’s journey.  She tells about her life in Saigon before the North comes and her eventual escape from Saigon.  Next, she describes her terrible journey on boat floating at sea and nearly starving until she and her family are rescued by the Americans.  Her family’s “adoption” by a man in Alabama and their struggle to adapt to a new culture is a difficult one.  Finally, she accepts her family’s fate and learns to live as a young girl in Alabama. Continue reading Let Us Not Forget: A Review of ‘Inside Out & Back Again’