100 Chapter Books Project: Ramona and Her Father

RamonaAndHerFather

Ramona and Her Father (1977) by Beverly Cleary is the second Ramona book on the Top 100 Chapter Books list. It’s kind of strange that only the second and fourth books of this series got on the list. Even stranger is how different these two books are from each other.

What it’s about: Ramona is now seven and in the second grade. Things change around her house when her father loses his job and her mother goes to work full time while he looks for a new job. Ramona and her father have to deal with the stresses of spending more time together when he is not in a good mood.

Age level: Grades 2-4

Best part: I really liked the anti-smoking message. Beezus and Ramona both put pressure on their dad to quit smoking and, though it’s not easy for him and he ignores them at first, he eventually tries. This would have been a big deal in 1977.

Worst part: Ramona and her dad are in pretty constant conflict in this book, both from the stress of losing his job and from quitting smoking. And yet, after this original cover, all of them show both of them as super happy. I love that this cover acknowledges the tension and hate that future ones have to pretend everything is just peachy.

Verdict: Borrow

This was so much better than Ramona the Pest, mostly because Ramona was a kid without being a terror. The mistakes she made were honest and not bratty at all. It was also a realistic depiction of the stresses that are put on a household when a breadwinner loses their job. This book would definitely work as a stand-alone read.

Next up is Okay For Now and I’m excited to read another Gary D. Schmidt book after loving The Wednesday Wars. It’s a loose sequel and I expect it to be quite different because of the character that it focuses on but hopefully the storytelling is of the same quality.

*****
Schedule – July through October
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)
September 30 – #13 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997)
October 15 – #99 The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warren (1942)

100 Chapter Books Project: Matilda

matilda

Number 30 on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, Matilda (1988) by Roald Dahl, might deserve to be higher on the list based solely on how hard it was for me to get a copy of it! I was on hold since May 1 for an audiobook and never ended up anywhere near the front of the list. The two copies in Z’s school library were both out until this week as well and no paper copies were available in our large library system either. I finally had to read an ebook copy on my phone. This is a book that is obviously still very popular even though it’s almost 30 years old.

What it’s about: Matilda is a very bright young girl who has a horrible family. The only thing that saves her are the books she reads. Soon, though, she’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find the magic that will save her and the friends she cares about.

Age level: Grades 3-5

Best part: I loved how Dahl described the way Matilda felt as she was doing magic, for the first time and how it changed as she did it more. She says that she feels like she is “flying past the stars on silver wings”. I don’t know what could sound more magical than that.

Worst part: That the magic didn’t show up until the final quarter of the book! I would have loved much more magic but, in a short book, it’s forgivable, I guess.

Verdict: Buy

I don’t know why I never read Matilda until now, especially when I’ve read just about everything else Roald Dahl ever wrote. This is definitely one of his best and I love that it even has a list of great classics inside it that will hopefully always inspire kids to try one or two!

Next, I’ll be reading Little House on the Prairie for the first time in my life. (I know, I know.)

*****
Schedule – June through September
June 30 – #27 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)
July 15 – #94 Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (1977)
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)
September 15 – #89 The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (1967)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Wednesday Wars

wednesday wars

My next read for the Top 100 Chapter Books list was supposed to be Matilda but apparently that is the most popular book in my library system right now. I had an audiobook on hold for weeks and only got to the 5th spot on it. Then I tried to get an ebook or a physical book and those were all spoken for already as well. But, luckily, the next book on my list, The Wednesday Wars (2007) by Gary D. Schmidt, was immediately available on audio and I was able to listen to it in two days because it was simply fantastic.

What it’s about: 1967, Long Island, seventh grader Holling Hoodhood. Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that name either. But anyway, on Wednesday afternoons, the kids leave school early and the Jewish students go to temple and the Catholics go to catechism. However, Holling is the lone Presbyterian in his grade so he has to stay behind with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. He thinks she hates him for this but somehow their time together becomes something unique.

Age level: Grades 5-7

Best part: This story took a normally difficult topic, The Vietnam War, and presented it in a way that any kid could understand. There was a young Vietnamese refugee classmate and a few fathers and husbands that were away in the war. These were used in a thoughtful and intelligent way. There was even some discussion about why Bobby Kennedy was a desirable presidential candidate. It actually made me more interested in reading about the war than I ever have been before.

Worst part: Holling’s father was the absolute worst. The way he treated Holling and his sister almost made me want to cry. He was cold, distant, and selfish. I was rooting for the parents to divorce by the end.

Verdict: Buy

This book was an absolute surprise. There were a lot of interesting and unexpected things that happened. I did not expect it to incorporate Shakespeare’s plays or to have so many different types of relationships — friendships, mentorships, and family dynamics. It was honestly one of the best historical fictions on this list. Now I’ve just noticed too that Okay For Now, which I will be reading in July, is a loose sequel based on one of the side characters from this book so that should be another great read.

I’m still waiting for any sort of copy of Matilda to be available but hopefully I’ll find one before June 15!

*****
Schedule – June through August
June 15 – #30 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
June 30 – #27 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)
July 15 – #94 Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (1977)
July 31 – #44 Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)
August 15 – #76 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (2007)
August 30 – #34 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)