100 Chapter Books Project: Holes

holesIt’s been a while since I read a Top Ten book from the Top 100 list. Holes by Louis Sachar is #6 on the list after some super heavy hitters — Charlotte’s Web, A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Giver and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. So what makes this book from 1998 so special besides its Newbery Medal?

What it’s about: Stanley Yelnats is caught with a pair of a celebrity athlete’s sneakers that were destined for a charity auction. Though he swears they fell from the sky and hit him in the head, he is found guilty of the theft. He gets to choose between jail time and a juvenile detention camp, Camp Green Lake (in possession of neither green nor lake). It turns out that it’s a work camp and the only job is digging holes, obviously in search of something but what it is is unknown.

Age level: Grade 4-6

Best part: The relationships between the boys at the camp are really believable and realistic. They are friends and yet not at the same time, looking out for their own interests but also helping each other when necessary. None of them are bad kids even though they’ve obviously made some bad choices.

Worst part: I don’t really have any complaints about this one.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

I really liked this book but that special something was missing that would have made me love it. I really think that it’s because I’ve seen the movie version a few times and, as Sachar himself wrote the screenplay, it’s very true to the book. This meant that there were no surprises for me. I think I could have loved it if there had been more suspense, more mystery. There must have been a lot of people who read the book first though since this book ended up where it did on the list. This also seems like a great book for reluctant readers because it’s all action. I think Sachar deserved a medal just for making a book about digging holes interesting.

I can’t believe that the next book I’m reading is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I can still remember being about ten years old and getting it from the school library. I haven’t read it since but I’ve still never forgotten certain parts of it.

*****

Schedule – August through October

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

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)

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)

100 Chapter Books Project: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

wherethemountainIt’s strange but I happened to queue up two Newbery Honor books in a row even though I’m skipping around the Top 100 list. This has made for a summer of fantastic chapter book reads so far. This time it was Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (2009).

What it’s about: Based on many different Chinese folktales, it’s the story of Minli and her mom and her dad who live in a very small home with few possessions and just enough food to survive. Minli’s father, Ba, is happy with his family and loves telling stories while they eat their daily rice but Ma is extremely grumpy and dissatisfied. Her dissatisfaction eventually infects Minli and the young girl sets off to find the Old Man of the Moon in an attempt to change their fortunes. She meets many interesting characters along the way and has tons of adventures. She also learns something about what true fortunes are made of.

Age level: Grade 4-6

Best part: I loved the way that so many different folktales were woven together and formed into a single story.

Worst part: The only bad part of my reading experience was that my library copy was missing a few pages about two thirds of the way in. I had to wait two days to see what happened when Minli was attacked by a tiger!

Verdict: Buy

This is one of those books with a girl protagonist that isn’t a girly book at all. I thought it was fantastic. It has gorgeous illustrations and is a great introduction to Chinese folktales. There was one character personality change in the story too that was completely unexpected and very heartwarming. I will probably see if Z wants to read it next because I think he would enjoy it too.

I’m pretty excited to finally read Holes next. I’ve seen the movie version a few times over the years and, if tradition holds, the book will be better, right? And yes, it’s a Newbery Medal winner!

*****

Schedule – July through October

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

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)

September 30 – Project Update – Two Years In!

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

100 Chapter Books Project: A Long Way from Chicago

A_Long_Way_from_ChicagoA few months ago, I was looking for a historical fiction book for Z and one of the suggestions I got was A Long Way from Chicago (1998) by Richard Peck. I didn’t end up choosing it for him but I did move it up in my own reading queue since it was #67 on the Top 100 list. It would have been a great choice though because it’s funny and crazy and yet still an educational glimpse at rural America’s past. It’s also a Newbery Honor book.

What it’s about: Joey and his younger sister Mary Alice spend summers in rural Illinois with their Grandma Dowdel, a larger-than-life woman who makes some questionable (but entertaining) decisions. This is a book of stories, one for each summer from 1929 to 1935.

Age level: Grade 4-6

Best part: The adventures. From feeding the elderly and the homeless during the Great Depression to dishing out a bit of revenge to some local hooligans, the adventures that Joey and his sister had with their grandma were certainly memorable but also taught some fantastic life lessons.

Worst part (not really): The ending. It wasn’t actually bad in anyway. It was very touching and a perfect punctuation to all of the crazy stories about Grandma. It just made me cry (and still makes me tear up even thinking about it).

Verdict: Buy

This was the perfect book to get me through the end of the school year. It was a hectic time but I would just stick in my headphones, call up the audiobook and start walking around the neighborhood. By the time I got back home, I was fully distracted and also able to put my own stresses in perspective. This is definitely what a good book should do, right?

Next is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a fantasy-adventure that seems perfect for summer reading. Feel free to join me!

*****

Schedule – July through September

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

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)

September 30 – Project Update – Two Years In!