100 Chapter Books Project: Each Little Bird That Sings

EachLittleBird1

I’m always thrilled to discover a hidden gem on the Top 100 Chapter Books list and I’ve found another one — Each Little Bird That Sings (2005) by Deborah Wiles. It definitely deserves to be higher than number 71. It’s only ten years old though so there’s still time for it to gain in popularity.

What it’s about: Comfort Snowberger at ten years old is already well-versed in death. Her family owns Snowbergers’ Funeral Home and so it’s her family’s business to take care of the dead of Snapfinger, Mississippi. As it turns out, dealing with the dead is actually easier than dealing with the living, especially friends who are untrue.

Age level: Grades 4-6

Best character: Comfort Snowberger — she is an incredible kid, not flawless but able to find redemption once she figures out which are the things that really matter in life.

Worst character: Declaration Johnson — because the worst bully is the one that used to be your friend.

Verdict: Buy

I’ve never read a book that dealt with death in such a straight-forward and thoughtful way. I think if I had read a book like this as a kid, I would have had a better understanding of death and grief thanks to Comfort and her “Life Notices” (she writes positive, friendly obituaries that never get published in the small local paper because they’re not “just the facts”). Just a warning though — there is a major pet trauma toward the end of the story that may be a bit much for sensitive young ones (or me, apparently). Still, it wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm for this fantastic story.

After a little time off for spring break (yay!), my 40th birthday (boo!), and Read-a-thon (double yay!), I’ll be back with an umpteenth reread of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. If you’ve never read it, join me. It’ll be fun!

*****
Schedule – May through July
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #31 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
May 31 – #4 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
June 15 – #80 The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright (1942)
June 30 – #70 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (1994)
July 15 – #7 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (1967)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

lwworiginal

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C.S. Lewis is number five on the Top 100 Chapter Books list.

What it’s about: Simply, four siblings–Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy–find a fantasy land through the back panel of a wardrobe.

Age level: Grades 4-6

Best part: The wardrobe, of course. Why else would parents build secret playrooms, accessible only through a large cabinet?

Worst part: Sexism and violence. Here’s one example — To Susan and Lucy, spoken by Father Christmas:

“You must use the bow only in great need,” he said, “for I do not mean you to fight in the battle.” …

“And the dagger is to defend yourself at great need. For you also are not to be in the battle.”

“Why, sir?” said Lucy. “I think–I don’t know–but I think I could be brave enough.”

“That is not the point,” he said. “But battles are ugly when women fight.”

I have to admit that this time through I really noticed the sexism and the promotion of children committing violence. The fact that Aslan makes Peter prove himself by killing and then berates him for being emotional afterward instead of cool and detached and immediately wiping his sword like a trained killer made me feel sick.

Verdict: Borrow

I also found myself getting annoyed at Lewis’ patronizing tone. His writing is simple and cold and, frankly, unfriendly. It seemed like I was having a story told at me instead of to me. I think this was highlighted even more because I had to read this right in the middle of my Diana Wynne Jones month. (Unrelated tidbit: She went to Oxford and had Lewis as one of her lecturers.) Her writing is so magical and full and alive while his felt stale and sparse. I’m actually quite disappointed with this reread. Have you reread any of the Narnia books as an adult? Do some work better than others?

I’ll admit that I’ve already listened to my next book, Each Little Bird That Sings, and it was wonderful. So, if you have time, grab a copy and join me next month for the discussion. You won’t regret it. It’s a story like no other!

*****
Schedule – April through June
April 15 – #71 Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (2005)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #31 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
May 31 – #4 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
June 15 – #80 The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright (1942)
June 30 – #70 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (1994)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

hugo_intro_cover2One of the more current books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list is 2007’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (#39).

What it’s about: A young orphan, Hugo Cabret, works in a Parisian train station, keeping the clocks running after the disappearance of his uncle. His passion, though, is the automaton that he rescued from the museum fire that killed his watchmaker father. His desire to repair it and reveal the secret it is keeping leads him to unexpected relationships and a hidden history.

Age level: Grades 3-5

IMG_0068

Best part: The artwork, obviously, and the use of real cinematic history. When Z and I read this together a couple of years ago, we immediately researched Georges Méliès and his film “A Trip to the Moon”.

Worst part: The story is a bit chaotic and made me feel uncomfortable at times, seeing a child in trauma.

Verdict: Buy

A Caldecott Medal winner, this book is always a pleasure to read and the kids at Z’s school seem to love it as well. The fact that it’s a huge book but a quick read gives them a sense of accomplishment and, I think, teaches them not to fear the chunkster. It’s an imaginative format, about two-thirds images and one-third words. It allows the reader to create the bridging narrative themselves. This really is a special book.

The next book I have scheduled is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I haven’t read the book in years but I’ve always been on the fence about C.S. Lewis and Narnia so this will be interesting.

*****
Schedule – March through June
March 30 – #5 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)
April 15 – #71 Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (2005)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #31 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
May 31 – #4 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
June 15 – #80 The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright (1942)