Friday, September 11, 2015

Maine Student Book Award Round Up 2

Last Friday I posted my thoughts on ten of the Maine Student Book Award nominees. Visit here to see the post. 

Here are ten more books from this year's list. 

by Marissa de los Santos and David Teague
Goodreads Summary
When thirteen-year-old Margaret's father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family's secret-and forbidden-ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man.

My Thoughts
I have to say that the time travel portion of this book came as a surprise to me. The story was moving along nicely and I was really enjoying it and then it was revealed that some people in the family have the ability to time travel. Once I suspended my belief, I was able to enjoy the end of the book. I think many 4th graders would be able to read it, but might need help when it gets to the time traveling portion. However, at 288 pages, they might be turned off by the length. 
Recommended for an independent read for grades 5-8. 
Read aloud for grades 4-8.

by Emily Carroll
Goodreads Summary
It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there...

My Thoughts
This book is a graphic novel which usually appeals to the younger target range of the MSBA. While many people really liked it and rated it favorably on Goodreads, it was a huge miss for me. The short stories are not only creepy, some are downright gory and hugely inappropriate for elementary students. My 8th grader, who doesn't mind a bit of creepiness, read it and just did not like it at all. 
I am very hesitant to recommend this book, but I guess some 7th or 8th graders might like it. 

by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Goodreads Summary
'Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.
Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.
All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.
So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.
Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.
The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

My Thoughts
This was one of my favorite books from this year's list. Fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter would really enjoy it. While I think many 4th graders could handle it, especially later in the year, it is quite long (299 pages). 
Recommend for an independent read for late 4th grade-8th grade. 
Would be an excellent read aloud for grades 4-8. 

by Ann M. Martin
Goodreads Summary
Rose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.
Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

My Thoughts
I have BIG love for Rain Reign! It was one of my favorite books of 2014. It is accessible to 4th graders. They may need a bit of help as Rose writes using homophones of words in parentheses whenever she uses a homophone, but you get used to it. Fans of Anything But Typical, Out of My Mind or Wonder may enjoy Rain Reign. 
Recommend as an independent read for grades 4-8.
It would be a powerful read aloud lending itself to discussions about autism and disabilities for grades 4-8 as well. 

Goodreads Summary
Up close with the ocean's most fearsome and famous predator and the scientists who study them—just thirty miles from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge!
A few miles from San Francisco lives a population of the ocean's largest and most famous predators. Each fall, while the city's inhabitants dine on steaks, salads, and sandwiches, the great white sharks return to California's Farallon Islands to hunt their favorite meal: the seals that live on the island's rocky coasts. Massive, fast, and perfectly adapted to hunting after 11 million years of evolution, the great whites are among the planet's most fearsome, fascinating, and least understood animals.
In the fall of 2012, Katherine Roy visited the Farallons with the scientists who study the islands' shark population. She witnessed seal attacks, observed sharks being tagged in the wild, and got an up close look at the dramatic Farallons—a wildlife refuge that is strictly off-limits to all but the scientsts who work there. Neighborhood Sharks is an intimate portrait of the life cycle, biology, and habitat of the great white shark, based on the latest research and an up-close visit with these amazing animals.

My Thoughts
People have a fascination with sharks. This is an excellent, short (48 pages) nonfiction book.  I don't normally read these types of books much, but I really liked it and learned a lot.
Recommend for grades 4-8.

Goodreads Summary
When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove's seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too? His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she's a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive. Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take, make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he's never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom's last words of advice: Trust no one. That's a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with. But then again, maybe Ronan's not ordinary at all.

My Thoughts
This book is nonstop action. It seems that poor Ronan can trust no one and the people who are after him are very good. Some 4th graders may be able to handle the text complexity and length.
Recommend as an independent read for grades 5-8. 
Read aloud for grades 4-8. 

by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen
Goodreads Summary
In this outstanding picture book collection of poems by Newbery Honor-winning poet, Joyce Sidman (Song of the Water Boatman, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night), discover how animals stay alive in the wintertime and learn about their secret lives happening under the snow. Paired with stunning linoleum print illustrations by Rick Allen, that celebrate nature's beauty and power.

My Thoughts 
This books is beautiful! With a combination of poetry and exposition, Winter Bees shares information about how animals survive the winter. I found it to be very interesting as I have often wondered about this myself. The illustrations in this picture book are beautiful. I don't see many students just grabbing it off the shelves, but it would be a great one to share with the class or small groups in grades 4-6. 

by Cynthia Lord
Goodreads Summary
When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera's lens, as her father has taught her -- he's a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he's judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special -- or only good enough.
As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn't want to see: his grandmother's memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.

My Thoughts
Leave it to Cynthia Lord to tell a sweet, touching story. Half a Chance tackles the issue of dementia and Alzheimer's in a subtle yet clear way. The main character also struggles with feelings of loneliness and jealousy as she makes new friends in her town. 
Recommended as an independent read and read aloud for grades 4-6. 

by Jaleigh Johnson
Goodreads Summary
Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields. The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home. The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible. Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

My Thoughts
This one is also a favorite from 2014. I just loved it, but at 400 pages with dense text and some "romantic" undertones, it is really more for middle school and even high school. 

by Cece Bell
Goodreads Summary
Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends. 
Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school--in the the teacher's the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it's just another way of feeling different... and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?
This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.

My Thoughts
In this somewhat autobiographical graphic novel Cece Bell sheds light on deafness and disability. Set in the 70's it describes some of Bell's early experiences in an entertaining way. My students last year really loved it. Get several copies. 
Recommend for grades 4-6. 

Come back and visit next week for more!


  1. We agree on Through the Woods...I was not in favor ;0

  2. I love this list, because I haven't read most of them! I love finding awesome books that you and other bloggers suggest! I have read El Deafo, and I absolutely adore it!

  3. I have just finished reading Ice Dog byTerry Lynn Johnson, a 15/16 Maine Student Book Award book and if you have time its a great read. It grabs you at the start and you hold on until the end.

  4. I have just finished reading Ice Dog byTerry Lynn Johnson, a 15/16 Maine Student Book Award book and if you have time its a great read. It grabs you at the start and you hold on until the end.

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