Tag Archives: friendship

A Change of Focus: A Review of ‘Surviving the Applewhites’

“Embrace everyone and everything that helps you become a better version of yourself and you will live a life uncommon.” – Matthew Kelly [The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic]

Reading Level

AR 5.5 [7 points]

Grades 6-12 [Scholastic]

Review and Comments

The Applewhite family can be described as unique or extraordinary, but those words really don’t capture the nature of the family well enough.  Idiosyncratic is the word that expresses the dynamics of the Applewhites much better.  A few members can even be described as egocentric.  Each person in this extended family has such a distinctive personality that their individual stories are quite interesting.  Their creative passions seem to divide the family, but when a theatrical crisis occurs, the Applewhites have to pull together and eventually resolve those problems.

The reader is introduced to the family by twelve year old Edith Wharton, or E.D., as she prefers to be called. She describes her family as “a spontaneous group of people who love chaos and crave freedom.” Her family even decides that the children’s education should be different because after all they are not like other people.  Their motto is:  “Education is an adventurous quest for the meaning of life, involving an ability to think things through.” So, they start the Applewhite Creative Academy where “creativity and individuality are paramount,” and the children develop their own study programs to accommodate their personal interests. 

Continue reading A Change of Focus: A Review of ‘Surviving the Applewhites’

A TESTED FRIENDSHIP: A REVIEW OF ‘THE MINIATURE WORLD OF MARVIN AND JAMES’

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.” –  Winnie the Pooh [A. A. Milne]

Reading Level

Ages 8-10

Grade 2 [Scholastic]

AR 2.6

Review and Comments

 James Pompaday and Marvin are the best of friends even though James is a boy and Marvin is a beetle.  They truly enjoy each other’s company and devotedly support one another.  Their friendship is tested when James spends a week at a summer camp and Marvin has to stay home. Marvin is troubled and wonders if James will think about him while he’s gone or even find a new friend to replace him, which would be the worst outcome.

Continue reading A TESTED FRIENDSHIP: A REVIEW OF ‘THE MINIATURE WORLD OF MARVIN AND JAMES’

Nothing is Hopeless: A Review of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

“All darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one single candle.”  – St.  Francis of Assisi

“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” – Mrs. Whatsit from A Wrinkle in Time

 

Reading level    

Grades 3-8

AR 4.7

Interest level     

Grades 5-9

Review and Comments

A Wrinkle in Time is an absolutely captivating and complex adventure.   The peculiar and diverse characters and their incredible experiences will prompt quite a range of emotions for the reader:  empathy, anger, sadness, wonder, confusion, fear, and finally joy.

The story centers on a young girl named Meg Murry.  Her background story is difficult and at times even harsh.  The emptiness and yearning for her mysteriously missing father is compounded by conflicts at school and her self-esteem.  It has been a very long year wondering where her father is and if he will ever return.  Her mother, also a scientist like her husband, is trying to hold the family together while researching her husband’s disappearance and continuing the tesseract research they started. Meg has three brothers, but her relationship with her younger brother, Charles, is very special.  He is a unique boy with exceptional gifts that are revealed as the story progresses. Charles and Meg become friends with a lonely boy named Calvin O’Keefe. Calvin finally feels he belongs somewhere after he meets them and becomes their constant and faithful companion. Charles also introduces Meg to three curious characters named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. These three know it is time to help “a very good man who needs help.”  And so the partnership to save Meg’s father begins. Continue reading Nothing is Hopeless: A Review of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’

“The most beautiful and stirring adventure that can happen to you is the personal meeting with Jesus, who is the only one who gives meaning to our lives.”–St. John Paul II

Reading Level

Grades 7-12

Review and Comments

Sixteen-year old-Josie has left her family to spend the summer with her Aunt Lily after some embarrassment and bullying at her high school.  Since, in her mind, her mother has caused the bullying, Josie is happy to get away.

Josie loves the small island where her aunt lives and she is able to quickly make friends with people while there including an incredibly handsome and exotic guy  named Niko. Unfortunately, someone from her high school is also there, Ryan McNaulty.  She is afraid he is there to continue the bullying begun by his friends at school, and is shocked to find that he wants to be her friend. Continue reading A Beautiful Adventure: A Review of ‘An Unexpected Role’

A Review of Two of the ‘Kids of Polk Street School’ Books

The Kids of the Polk Street School series is written for young readers who are eagerly beginning to stretch their reading skills to chapter books.  This is quite an exciting time of new goals for children. Each book focuses on a student in Ms. Rooney’s second grade classroom.

The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room

“Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times, in all circumstances.”  – St. Vincent de Paul

Reading level

3.2        [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

2.1         [AR]

Interest level

Grades  3 – 5

Review and Comments

The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room, the first book in the series, introduces readers to several typical second grade students.  Richard “Beast” Best is one of the students beginning the new school year in Ms. Rooney’s class – for the second time.  Because of this, Richard has to deal with a lot of concerns before he feels comfortable in a class of younger children.  What will he tell his old classmates about why he was left back?  Why does he have to feel so big next to the other second graders?  Why does he still have baby teeth?  Why can he only read ten words? Why does he get in trouble so often? The reader understands more about Richard’s struggles through his relationships with other students who eventually support and accept him.  Inevitably, there is also an irritating student who attempts to upset Richard’s adjustment to the new school year with hurtful remarks. Continue reading A Review of Two of the ‘Kids of Polk Street School’ Books

Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

“Love has hands to help others.  It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sights and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.”  – St. Augustine

Reading Level

Pre K – K, 1-2      [Scholastic – reflects the grade level at which a student reading on grade could read the book independently]

Grade 3.5            [AR]

Interest Level

Ages 4-8

Review and Comments

Boxes for Katje is a wonderful story and an outstanding example of actually living Jesus’ commandment, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)

This true story begins after WWII when the people of Europe are suffering deprivations of all kinds, and charities in America are working together to relieve those affected. Katje’s tale is intertwined beautifully with the seasons, the growing needs of the citizens of Holland, the expanding generosity of the citizens of the United States, and the engaging letters of two little girls. Continue reading Virtuous Actions of Mercy: A Review of ‘Boxes for Katje’

Led By the Spirit: A Review of ‘9 Fruits Alive, Discover the Fruit of the Spirit’

“……. the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” – Romans 5:5

Interest Level: 2-5

Review and Comments:

9 Fruits Alive is a story that introduces young children to the fruits of the Holy Spirit and gives an example of how to live each one.  These are wonderful mini-lessons about sharing the fruits of the Spirit by doing every day kindnesses such as helping someone who has fallen or comforting someone who is sad. Continue reading Led By the Spirit: A Review of ‘9 Fruits Alive, Discover the Fruit of the Spirit’

A Determined Spirit: A Review of ‘Stone Fox’

“A small body of determined spirits fired by unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

Reading Level: 

Grade 4-5 [according to common core]

Grade 3.2 [according to Scholastic]

Grade 4    [AR level]

Interest Level:

Grades 3-5

Review and Comments:

Stone Fox is a story about courage and determination.  It is a story about a young boy’s love for his grandfather and his dog that will touch the heart of the reader. Continue reading A Determined Spirit: A Review of ‘Stone Fox’

The Games In Which We Compete: A Review of ‘The Crossover’ and ‘Booked’

“Continue, dear young men, to give the best of yourselves in sports competitions, always remembering that the competitive spirit of the sportsman, though so noble in itself, must not be an end in itself, but must be subordinated to the far more noble requirements of the spirit. Therefore, while I repeat to you: be good sportsmen, I also say to you: be good citizens in family and social life, and, even more, be good Christians, who are able to give a superior meaning to life, in such a way as to be able to put into practice what the Apostle Paul said about athletes to Christians of his time: ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it … They (athletes) do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable’” (l Cor 9:24-25).—Saint Pope John Paul II from his address to the Bologna Soccer Team, December 9, 1978

The Crossover

Interest Level:

5-9

Grade Level Equivalent:

5-6

Review and Thoughts

Kwame Alexander’s book The Crossover would’ve made my basketball-lovin’ heart oh so happy back when I was in middle school.  Alexander uses poetry to write so passionately about the sport and brings in a close family to add to the drama of the novel. Continue reading The Games In Which We Compete: A Review of ‘The Crossover’ and ‘Booked’

Middle School Perception: A Review of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’

“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people will hear today.” — St. Francis of Assisi

Reading Level:  

Grades 4-5 [according to common core]

Grade   5.2 [according to Scholastic]

Interest Level:  

Grades 3-8

Review and Comments:

Greg Heffley reluctantly begins a journal at the same time he starts middle school. The journal is a very detailed record of his private thought process, observations, desires, and schemes. The reader also learns that the journal is primarily a record of his life so when he becomes famous he will only have to reference this history to recall his life story.  From the beginning, he realizes the transition to a new school is an uncertain one and brings with it many challenges.  His anxiety is on high alert as he tries to tread lightly and yet at the same time survive and fit into the intimidating world called middle school. Continue reading Middle School Perception: A Review of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’