Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Maine Student Book Award Books 2013-14-Post One

Hello Maine Educators!  I have been busy trying to read as many of the MSBA's as I could before school starts.  I still have 7 more to go, but from my experience so far, there are some really great books on this list. For the whole list, visit the website here.

I thought I would periodically write my thoughts about some of the MSBA books throughout the fall in hopes of helping you make decisions about what books you may want to recommend to your students. These will not be full reviews, but my a brief summary and my personal thoughts on the books. 

But first, you HAVE to see this site.  My friend Cathy Potter from Falmouth Elementary School has put together book trailers of all of the titles on the list categorized by genre! Here is the link.

So here, in no particular order are 5 of the MSBA books for this year. 

Giants Beware 
by Jorge Aguirre 
Illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Goodreads Summary
Make way for Claudette the giant slayer in this delightful, fantastical adventure!

Claudette’s fondest wish is to slay a giant. But her village is so safe and quiet! What’s a future giant slayer to do?

With her best friend Marie (an aspiring princess), and her brother Gaston (a pastry-chef-to-be), Claudette embarks on a super-secret quest to find a giant—without parental permission. Can they find and defeat the giant before their parents find them and drag them back home?

Giants Beware! offers up a wondrous, self-contained world in the tradition of the very best of Pixar. Claudette and her friends will have you laughing out loud from page one.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed this graphic novel very much.  Claudette is a nice example of "girl power". She shows courage in the face of danger and extreme confidence in her abilities. It is relatively easy to read and therefore accessible to many students.  Students who like graphic novels or books with humor may enjoy this one. I recommend it for grades 3-5.

Prairie Evers
by Ellen Airgood

Goodreads Summary
A sweet, spirited ten-year-old embarks upon the adventure of first friendship in this sparkling debut

Prairie Evers is finding that socialization isn't all it's cracked up to be. She's been homeschooled by her granny and has learned the most from traipsing through nature. But now she has to attend public school, and feels just like her chickens--cooped up and subject to the pecking order. School is a jolt for Prairie until she meets Ivy, her first true friend. But while raising chickens and the great outdoors have given Prairie wisdom and perspective, nothing has prepared her for the give and take of friendship. When Prairie finds out that Ivy's home may not be the best place for Ivy, Prairie must corral all her optimism and determination to hatch a plan to help.

Fabulous writing and a narrator full of personality distinguish this lively middle-grade novel.

My Thoughts 
This is a very sweet story.  I loved watching how Prairie and Ivy's friendship developed. She sees how Ivy is being badly treated and finds a way to help. Students who like spunky characters and the theme of friendship may enjoy this book.  I recommend it for grades 4-8.

Reminds me of/Similar to: Faith, Hope and Ivy June
 and True..(Sort Of).

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate

Unless you have been out of the kidlit loop for about a year, you know about this book already.  It is the 2013 Newbery winner and beloved by all who have read it.  

Goodreads Summary

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope. 

My Thoughts 
I have much love for this book.  If you have not read it, you should.  Get a copy for your class or library.  

Little Dog, Lost
by Marion Dane Bauer

Goodreads Summary

From Newbery Honoree Marion Dane Bauer comes the tale of a boy who needs a dog, and a dog who needs a boy—a match made in heaven, if only the two can meet. Mark is a boy who needs a dog. But he can’t get his mom on board with his plan. Buddy is a dog who needs a boy. Buddy has an owner already, but not one who understands the kind of love and care—the “something more”—a dog needs. Mr. LaRue is a neighbor who needs a community. He’s alone all the time in his huge old house—and everyone needs more than that. Over the course of a summer thunderstorm and one chaotic town council meeting, these three characters cross paths and come together in a timeless tale ripe with emotions and told in verse that resolves with love, understanding, and a sense of belonging—plus a place to play a game of fetch!

My Thoughts 
Little Dog, Lost is just so sweet. I would recommend it to any dog lover.  My 11 year old, who does not love to read, LOVED it!  That is high praise. The book is 208 pages, but is written in verse so it is actually a quick read.  I recommend for grades 3-6.

Malcolm at Midnight 
by W. H. Beck

Goodreads Summary

When Malcolm the rat arrives as the pet at McKenna School, he revels in the attention. He also meets the Midnight Academy, a secret society of classroom pets that keeps the nutters (kids) safe. There’s just one problem…rats have a terrible reputation! So when the Academy’s iguana leader is kidnapped, Malcolm must prove his innocence—and that even rats can be good guys. Illustrated by Brian Lies of Bats at the Beach, this engaging middle-grade novel will have readers rooting for Malcolm as they try to solve the mystery alongside him. 

My Thoughts
I think kids will love this story of school pets who roam around at night protecting the school. They show great teamwork and determination.  There are a few twists and surprises along the way. I was actually considering using it as a read aloud this year. I recommend it for grades 4-6. 

That is all for now.  Please check back for more thoughts on the MSBA book list soon.


  1. Hi Gigi!

    You've highlighted several of my favorites on this year's list. With the exception of Giants Beware, I'm recommending all of these titles as read aloud suggestions to teachers as I share the MSBA List this fall.

    So appreciate all the support you throw behind the MSBA program! It not only benefits your students but all the readers who visit your blog also. Thanks for all you do to promote a love reading!

    Happy Reading!