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Monday, August 31, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (20): School

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Sometimes they're themed! Since school is either starting or has just started for a lot of us, I thought I'd do a school post! No particular theme, or selection criteria beyond that.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park

Published: July 1st, 1992
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade/Chapter Book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 69
Part of a series? Yes, there are 17 of Junie in Kindergarten, and like 10 of her in first grade.
Got via: the library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet the World’s Funniest Kindergartner—Junie B. Jones! Remember when it was scary to go to school? In the first Junie B. Jones book, it’s Junie B.’s first day and she doesn’t know anything. She’s so scared of the school bus and the meanies on it that when it’s time to go home, she doesn’t.

Thoughts: Oh, I love these books. I was thinking this could be good for my graduated one, but also her sister, who will be riding the school bus in the fall, and who I had several other school books coming as well. This is very exaggerated, obviously, but kids do worry like this. It's exaggerated to how kids would think - very worse case scenario, you know?

While the things Junie worries about can be very much what kids worry about, but the humour is also super hilarious for adults. I really love these, like, so much. They're just awesome. Highly recommend. After I typed this up, I did give it to the mom of my Storytime kid who's going to kindergarten, and we talked a little about it, and she asked specifically about the adult humour, and said that she likes that in books, so that's a really cool thing to hear from a parent.

Now, to go past kindergarten:

The Report Card by Andrew Clements

Published: First on April 1st, 2004 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, but my copy was printed in September 2004 by Scholastic.
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 173
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I think I bought it from a Scholastic book order when I was a kid and still in school.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Nora Rose Rowley is a genius, but don't tell anyone. She's managed to make it to the fifth grade without anyone figuring out that she's not just an ordinary kid, and she wants to keep it that way.

But then Nora gets fed up with the importance everyone attaches to test scores and grades, and she purposely brings home a terrible report card just to prove a point. Suddenly the attention she's successfully avoided all her life is focused on her, and her secret is out. And that's when things start to get really complicated....

Thoughts: I'm pretty sure I read this when I first bought it, but I didn't remember much about it. I imagine I liked it as a kid. I would have enjoyed the genius angle, and Nora has a really good voice. She's really funny at times, and I like her approach of things. I also really liked the relationship with the school librarian that Nora had.

I don't have much to say about this - it was really cute, it was funny, I liked Nora's voice a lot. This one gets to keep its spot on my shelf, because I would enjoy rereading it, and I definitely think kids would like it. I definitely recommend this one. Especially these days when testing is such a huge part of education, and with how many kids are dealing with the pressures of that. They'd probably relate a whole lot to Nora.

The 6th Grade Nickname Game by Gordon Korman

Published: First published 1998 by Hyperion, but this edition was released in 1999 by Scholastic.
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 144 plus the about the author and stuff.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It was a library weed.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Almost everyone in Old Orchard Pubic School (OOPS) has had the dubious honor of receiving a nickname from best friends Jeff and Wiley. They've dubbed their own underachieving class the Dim Bulbs, their pop-eyed principal is better known as Deer in the Headlights, and their enormous football-coach-turned-teacher is now Mr. Huge.

It's only when a spunky red-haired environmentalist named Cassandra enters their lives that the boys begin to doubt themselves. No name seems to say it all. On top of that, some of the nicknames are backfiring, and their new teacher is in danger of losing his job. Will the nicknamers be able to get it together before it's too late?

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. For a book that's over 15 years old, it has aged very well. I think Gordon Korman has really timeless writing, and he was one of my favourite writers as a kid. Also, kind of my role model. I totally wanted to be the second Canadian kid to publish a book at the age of 12. Obviously that didn't happen (I'm about 10 years past that being a possibility), and there probably have been more, but that was my childhood dream.

This one, I particularly liked. It was really funny, and the characters were incredibly vibrant. I loved how much of the plot was about reading (remember DEAR, anyone? We totally had that at my school, and I loved it - and I like the name a lot more than SSR, or whatever), and I thought it was interesting that this one had another plot about a large standardized test, although the approach is much different in this book than the last.

This next bit is totally a spoiler so skip to the next paragraph if you want, but I think it's important to talk about because of the cultural effect it has. So here goes. The only thing I didn't really like was that the boys fought over a girl a lot, Cassandra, and nobody ever really asks her opinion on the whole thing. At the end, she isn't interested in either of them, and asks out another guy, and they state this is something they need to "forgive" her for. She's also pretty, you know, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and I'm not fond of sending that kind of message to young girls reading this book. If I gave this to a kid, I would try and connect with them afterwards talking about how it wasn't okay for Wiley and Jeff to assume that Cassandra would automatically be interested in one of them, or that she owed them anything. I really would have liked someone (maybe Wiley's older sister Lisa) to wring their ears a bit over that.

Other than that, I'm pretty much cool with this one. It gets to keep its spot on my shelf.

Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar

Published: Originally published in 1987, this edition was published probably around 1994 by Scholastic.
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 201 plus About the Author
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: Probably a yard sale.
Amazon /  Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Laura Sibbie starts a secret club at school, makes the other members them give her something totally embarrassing as "insurance," to make sure they don't tell anyone else about the club. She promises to keep the insurance secret, unless someone blabs. Gabriel, who never tells on anybody, would be a perfect member of Pig City. He wants to join, too. But when Laura asks him, something goes terribly wrong. Now there are two secret clubs in Mr. Doyle's class, and guess who's the head of the new one-Gabriel! Each club is determined to topple the other, and nobody's secrets are safe.

Thoughts: Another 6th grade book! I seriously don't remember 6th grade being this important. In this one, 6th grade is treated as a very important year grade-wise. I believe they are in a K-6 school, though, and perhaps it's because I went to a K-8 school. Also, the cap she's wearing is described on the first page as a red cap with a blue brim and silver letters. That is not a red cap with a blue brim and silver letters! Normally cover issues like that don't bug me that much, but it was on the first page.

Other than that, I liked this one. The humour is great, and there's also a good lesson about honestly and lying by omission in the book, but it's not too heavy-handed. There's great characterization, and I think this would really appeal to the age group. It has aged well (actually, my copy is in very good shape), especially because there are no pop culture type references, and I think kids would still enjoy it a lot to this day. This gets to stay on my shelf, and I recommend it.

So are you guys ready for school?

Peace and cookies,

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