Review: The Best Man by Richard Peck

Kirkus and Booklist named Best Man one of the best books of 2016. Archer Magill begins this story with a wedding that forces him to hide under the porch with his best friend, Lynette. The novel ends with Archer landing the role of best man in another wedding. In between, the story follows Archer and Lynette through elementary school along with Archer’s three wholesome role models: grandpa, his dad, and Uncle Paul. When a new student teacher comes to town, Mr. McLeod, Archer’s world is thrown for a loop—but one that he embraces. Archer is charmingly oblivious for the entire novel, but his innocence makes his growing up all the more powerful. Although this coming of age story follows Archer from first to sixth grade, the content is best for fourth to sixth graders. Reading this book is like eating a bowl of warm, homemade soup with the fireplace blazing…

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Review: A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Gerta wakes up one morning to find that a heavily defended wall divides her country. Her father and brother are caught on one side of the Berlin Wall while she, her mother, and other brother, Fritz, remain at home in a land where even bananas are a freedom not to be had. Desiring a better life on the western side of the wall, Gerta and Fritz risk their lives to build a tunnel to freedom and their family. Along the way, they must reconcile white lies, true friends, and false enemies. The ending seems unrealistic even for historical fiction, but maybe I just need to read more about the Berlin Wall. I kept hoping for a slightly stronger historical background and faster-paced novel—there is a lot of digging—but overall, A Night Divided introduces young readers to a piece of history and feelings that they may not be familiar with. Kate…

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Book Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi is a nine-year-old girl who lives by herself in Villa Villekula with her pet monkey and horse. Along with her friends, Annika and Tommy, she bakes cookies on the floor, defeats bullies, tells tall tales, and collects treasures. Pippi constantly finds herself in trouble while attempting to attend school and tea parties but also possesses unusual strength and the ability to charm robbers. Pippi Longstocking is the day-to-day chronicles of an eccentric girl. I read this title in school in second grade, but Pippi Longstocking is designated more for third to sixth graders. Pippi plays with pistols and tramps roam the streets at night. Glanzman draws Pippi as an impish looking girl, and her red hair and freckles set her apart from her Swedish friends. This otherness is furthered in the way that Lindgren describes other cultures. Like Dahl, she crosses the line into racism—although brushing “differences” off with the…

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Review: One Day At Horrorland (Goosebumps #16) by R.L. Stine

Lizzy and her family are lost on the way to the zoo. While pulled over on the side of the road, a monster from the Horrorland billboard peers at them through the sunroof, inviting them to visit (or warning them to run away). It should be a bad sign when the car bursts into flames in the amusement park parking lot, but for some reason, this family of five continues into the park with its Horrors—the monstrous gatekeepers. With a doom slide that never ends, reflecting mirrors that threaten to squash anything in their path, and coffin canoes, the family soon realizes that this park is more terrifying than fun. Unfortunately, the monsters have other plans and no one leaves Horrorland alive. Or do they? As the book notes, “The signs give a warning. There is always a warning,” which must be taken seriously. Although One Day At Horrorland has…

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Review: Lemons by Melissa Savage

Lemonade’s mother dies, and she finds herself in Willow Creek, a small Bigfoot-obsessed town, with her grandfather, Charlie. Her new friend, Tobin, owns a Bigfoot detective agency and “hires” Lem to help him sort through and document Bigfoot sightings. Like Lem, Tobin has also lost a parent; his dad went MIA during the war and although brought back alive, has mysteriously disappeared in transit. The two friends struggle together through their losses and grief as they begin to uncover a few surprises. Lem must also reconcile the meaning of home as she decides whether or not to stay with her grandfather or return to her old home via a well-intentioned adoption. A book that questions the boundaries of family, friendship, and heartbreak, Lemons is a beautiful middle grade read for third to seventh graders. Well-written, Savage does not begin the plot heavy with backstory. Instead, she jumps headfirst into Lem…

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Review: The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Suzy and Franny are growing apart as Franny starts hanging out with the popular crowd and caring more about cute boys. Suzy, the more bookish of the two, decides to retaliate against Franny’s cruel actions. Unfortunately, Suzy is never able to explain her disgusting actions and finds herself not only grief stricken but also feeling sickeningly guilty because Franny drowns while on vacation. Suzy refuses to talk to anyone: her parents, brother, therapist, and lab partner. Written with science report-like overtones, Suzy becomes obsessed with finding out the cause of Franny’s death and ultimately decides that a deadly Australian jellyfish has stung and killed her friend. Determined to prove this theory to herself as well as everyone else, Suzy seeks out the advice of experts, one in particular named Jamie. The Thing About Jellyfish is a National Book Award finalist. With themes of grief, growing up, and mental illness, fourth…

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