100 Chapter Books Project: Two Year Review

photoI can’t believe I’ve already been reading and sharing the Top 100 Chapter Books with you all for two years! I’ve read 44 of the 100 books in this time, 28 of which were first time reads for me. I’ve definitely found some new favorites from the list, gotten to revisit some old favorites (though they sadly didn’t always remain favorites) and, yes, even got through a couple of duds. A couple of the books even inspired readings of entire series and sequels.

Here are the books I’ve read so far, broken down into categories based on how I rated them. You can search for any of them on this site for my full thoughts.

The Great:

#12 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
#15 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
#18 The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (read and loved the entire series)
#22 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (read and loved the entire series)
#25 The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
#29 The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
#33 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
#41 The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
#42 Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (read and loved the sequel)
#53 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
#54 Half Magic by Edward Eager (read and enjoyed a sequel)
#56 A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
#57 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
#60 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
#66 The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
#67 A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
#68 The High King by Lloyd Alexander (read and loved the entire series)
#72 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
#78 Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
#83 Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
#93 Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson
#98 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
#100 Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

The Very Good:

#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
#6 Holes by Louis Sachar
#9 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
#11 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
#14 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
#38 Frindle by Andrew Clements
#35 The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
#73 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
#85 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
#87 The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
#90 The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston

The Okay:

#10 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#16 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
#17 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
#19 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#75 The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
#81 The Witches by Roald Dahl
#97 The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton
#58 Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

The Not-so-Great:

#35 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
#74 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

As you can see, Judy Blume, though I read and reread her books A LOT of times as a kid, doesn’t impress me these days. I found her books to be dated and thought they contained questionable messages. They also weren’t very memorable except for a couple of key scenes. I was really surprised by this and a tiny bit sad. I enjoyed all of the rest of the books though and, just as they should have since this is a “best” list, over half of the books fell into the “great” category. We have 13 of the Great books on our shelves already and I would love to pick up a few more of them in the near future.

Which of the books that I have read so far is your favorite?

Next up, I’ll be reading The Egypt Game and I anticipate loving it. It seems like just my kind of book, both when I was a kid and now. If you’re still looking for an RIP read, join me!

*****

Schedule – October through December

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

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 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!

*****
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!

*****

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)