100 Chapter Books Project: The Hobbit

Hobbit_cover

One of the oldest books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit from 1938. In fact, there are only a baker’s dozen that are older. And at #14, the only book that is older above it on the list is Anne of Green Gables. So what this means to me is that readers from generation after generation have enjoyed this story, passed it on to their children and students, and kept fond memories of it … either that or there were certain movies that were coming out right around the time that readers were nominating books to this list in 2012.

What it’s about: Just in case anyone has had their head in a non-Hobbit hole for the past decade …

Bilbo Baggins (the titular hobbit) is minding his own business at home in Hobbiton when Gandalf the wizard and a troupe of dwarves show up, expecting him to join them on a quest to regain their home and treasure from the invading dragon Smaug.

Age level: Grade 5+

Best part: Bilbo’s discovery that he is isn’t necessarily the homebody that he was sure he was.

Worst part: The plot moved a bit slow at times for some modern-day kid readers.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

If recent cinemagoer dollars had anything to say about the quality of literature, then we could safely say that The Hobbit was one of the finest books ever written. However, while reading it with Z, I found that it had its ups and downs. His attention waxed and waned. I still loved every minute of it (again) but I think that he is somewhat spoiled by books that have more outrageous adventures and wackier characters. This book has deeper characters and a plodding pace. Z loved the riddles that Gollum and Bilbo shared and he was amused by the dwarves but our reading stalled when the party reached Beorn’s house. Apparently a man who could transform into a bear was a bit hard for him to wrap his head around. But I think that we had enough fun with the book that Z will look back on it fondly and will be interested in reading it again later in life.

So, I started this project two years ago and the time has absolutely flown. I know some of you are new to the project so I’m going to have a summary next time of the 44 books I’ve read so far. I’ll try one more time to convince you to pick up some of the gems for a kid (or you) to read!

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Schedule – September through December
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after
September 30 – Project Update – Two Years In!
October 15 – #79 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967)
October 31 – #48 The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1999)
November 15 – #21 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)
November 30 – #62 Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006)
December 15 – #47 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
December 30 – Winter Break

100 Chapter Books Project: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

evolutionofcalpurnia

I think I have just finished a book that will end up being in my personal Top Ten of the entire Top 100 Chapter Books Project. It was only #66 on the actual list but I hope that is because more people haven’t read it yet. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly actually caught my eye right when it came out in 2009 (I was already volunteering in the school library then). But, TBR lists being what they are, I just never got to it. I think I was meant to read it now though because, after the disaster that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret turned out to be, I needed to read a book for girls on the cusp of womanhood that could inspire them to use their brains for tasks other than just for being overly concerned about feminine products, breast growth and kissing.

What it’s about: Calpurnia Virginia Tate, or Callie Vee for short, lives in Texas at the last turn of the century. She has three older brothers and three younger ones and they live on a pecan farm.  It’s a terribly hot summer and, one day, she has a question about the grasshoppers that she sees in the yard. She gets up the courage to go ask her prickly grandfather about them since he’s a naturalist and his answer is, on first inspection, not very helpful. But his answer was actually the perfect one to inspire her to begin observing and studying nature and even to aspire to a future that not many women of the time chose.

Age level: Grade 5-7

Best part: Every damn thing.

Worst part: Absolutely nothing.

Verdict: Buy

I loved this book SO SO SO SO much. I honestly can’t think of a single moment when I wasn’t enjoying it completely. I wish I had marked some passages and taken notes as I read because there were so many small, wonderful parts that all added up to make this a stellar story. Calpurnia’s relationships with her grandfather, with her eldest brother, Harry, and even with her youngest brother, J.B., all taught her different aspects of growing up and of taking responsibility for herself and others. I think that Calpurnia would have become an amazing woman because she learned all of the right things.

Z and I were reading The Hobbit together before school ended but then late nights kept us from having reading time together through the summer. I anticipate finishing the book with him starting next week when he goes back to school. I can’t wait!

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Schedule – September through November

note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after

September 15 – #14 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1938)

September 30 – Project Update – Two Years In!

October 15 – #79 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967)

October 31 – #48 The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1999)

November 15 – #21 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

November 30 – #62 Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006)

100 Chapter Books Project: Half Magic

halfmagicA weird coincidence this time: the book Half Magic by Edward Eager is from 1954 and it comes in at number 54 on the list. Perhaps there was a bit of magic involved?

What it’s about: Four siblings–Jane, Mark, Katharine and Martha–come across a small magic charm one day at the beginning of summer and it completely changes their lives. They have adventures in time, space and even in their hometown. But the biggest magic might be something they never would have expected.

Age level: Grade 3-6

Best part: It’s the way that the kids figure out that the magic is being done by halves without adult guidance. (If they make a normal wish on the charm, it gets half-granted. So, for example, if they wish to be in a certain place, they would instead end up halfway there.) It’s a tricky bit of problem solving but they manage without any help.

Worst part: I really like this book and have no real complaints but, if I have to choose something, it’s that Sir Launcelot is a total jerk.

Verdict: Buy

Z and I read this together a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it but I think I liked it even more this time through on audiobook. It was a great ensemble narration that was fun to listen to. I also felt better about one part that seemed a bit racist the first time through because I caught the nuance of the situation. I think I might read Magic By the Lake this summer just because I had fun again with this story!

This read counts for the Once Upon a Time VIII Challenge as a fantasy title.

The next book is A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck. It was one of the books suggested to me a few months back when Z needed a historical fiction book for school. I was told that it was very funny so I’m excited to read it. I’ve already got it from the library on audiobook!

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Schedule – June through September
note: dates are not necessarily set in stone – posts may go up a day or two before or after
June 30 – #67 A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck (1998)
July 15 – #72 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (2009)
July 31 – #6 Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)
August 15 – #74 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1970)
August 30 – #66 The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (2009)
September 15 – #14 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1938)