Thursday, September 4, 2014

Maine Student Book Award List 2014-2015 Part One

Each Year The Maine Student Award Committee selects a list of books meant for grades 4-8 published during the previous year. Students then vote for a winner in March. 

My friend Cathy Potter, Children's librarian and Falmouth Elemenary, has organized a collection of book trailers for each book. You can visit it here

While I have not read all of the 41 titles (and I won't get to them all), I have read several from this year's list. There are some gems and some I personally did not love. Over the next few weeks I hope to share my thoughts about some of the MSBA 14-15 books I have read. 

Instead of giving a complete summary, I will mostly give my thoughts, please click on the titles to read a summary of the book. Here are the first 7 in the order in which I read them. 

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet
by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

I read this book back in March of 2013 and just loved it. I am so glad that Ratchet made it on to the MSBA list this year! One of the things I like about it is the different forms of writing in which Ratchet shares her story. I also love how she is not a "girly" girl, but loves fixing cars and skateboarding. 
This one would make a good choice for grades 5-8 and would be an excellent book club book. However, I feel it is better to be enjoyed by individuals and small groups than as a read aloud. 

The Water Castle
by Megan Frazer Blakemore

This book is written by a wonderful Maine author! It is a beautifully written story with a complex plot. If you are looking for a book for your advanced readers, this one would be great. The cover is deceiving. it seems to suggest that the story takes place in medieval times. It is a fantasy, but it takes place in present day. It would also make a good read aloud. There is much to delve into here. 

The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu

As an adult reader, I enjoyed this book very much. It is a complicated fantasy that I would suggest for grades 7-8. It has some confusing parts in my opinion and I just don't see many younger readers sticking with it on their own. 

Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
by Tamera Will Wissinger
Illustrations by Matthew Cordell

This is one to add to your poetry collection. It is a novel written in many different forms of poetry. It would make a wonderful mentor text during a poetry unit. Most 4th graders could read it by themselves. 

The Imaginary Veterinary: Book 1-The Sasquatch Escape
Kids love fantastical creatures. This series is based on a veterinary clinic that takes care of such creatures. While it was not a big favorite for me, fourth graders will like it for its fast paced action. I would recommend it for grades 4-5. 

Doll Bones
by Holly Black
This book was a Newbery Honor book this year and for good reason. It is beautifully written with rich language. I really enjoyed reading it. However, the plot is a bit complicated for younger readers to enjoy independently. I read it aloud to my class last year and they did not love it. I would recommend it for grades 6-8. 
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
by Kathy Appelt
This book was entertaining, but a little difficult to follow. It is mostly fantasy where two raccoons, who live in an abandoned Desoto, try to save Sugar Man Swamp from development. The Sugar Man is an ornery "Bigfoot" type character who is said to protect the swamp. There is also a realistic plot line where a family may lose their land and livelihood to developers. The writing is creative and rich, but I have not found a student who has enjoyed it very much.


  1. I greatly appreciate the honesty of your reviews. I have started to feel like many bloggers only post positive reviews of every book they read. It's not helpful to read reviews if every book gets 4 or 5 stars! While I have only read 2 of the books you mention, I had so much hope for The Real Boy after all the advanced press, and I too was disappointed. I try to read books as if I'm a fourth grader (the grade I teach), and felt that if I was getting confused as a 48 year old, a 9 year old would be really baffled. It wasn't a hit in my class. I enjoyed Doll Bones more, but also found sections confusing. Again--thanks for honest assessments, especially when you mentioned that not many students liked a book. That's a pretty big indication a book has issues. I find many children's book may appeal more to adult readers, but the actual audience for the book may not appreciate (or get) it. One book that actually had this issue in my class was The One and Only Ivan! I'm sure if it was read aloud, kids would enjoy it (with the added discussing/commentary of a read aloud). But many of my students who read it themselves were unmoved. Isn't that strange?

    1. I totally agree with you Susan. Adult readers can appreciate the writing in a book much more than students. I have read Ivan aloud and kids loved it, but not many have chosen it for themselves. It is not comfortable to share feelings about a book that are not glowing, but I try to be respectful. I am hoping to save people time and help them select the best books for their students/children. I too, read everything from the eye of a 9 year old. :-) Thanks for your comments.