100 Chapter Books Project: The Mouse and the Motorcycle

mousemotorcycle

Lately I’ve been reading so many books from the Top 100 Chapter Books list that skew older that it was strange to read such a quick, simple book as Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Written in 1967, this is a timeless tale that is perfect for emerging readers.

What it’s about: Ralph is a mouse that lives in the Mountain View Inn, through a knothole in Room 215. One day, a boy named Keith and his parents arrive and take the room and the one next to it. Keith has a toy sports car and an ambulance but what catches Ralph’s eye is his toy motorcycle.

Age level: Grades 2-4

Best part: There is very little to date this story except for maybe the fact that there is only a single television in the hotel, down in the common area. But kids still have their toy cars that run solely on imagination and hopefully that lasts forever!

Worst part: Keith’s mom is a bit high maintenance and shrill but, otherwise, this is just a nice little story.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

After being a bit disappointed by the Ramona books on reread, I’m glad that this Cleary tale holds up. It’s short and simple but sweet. Ralph and Keith are both good kids. This story promotes imagination, kindness to animals, and exploration of your environment.

Next I will be reading Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, which I know nothing about. I’m guessing that it won’t be as quaint as this read!

*****
Schedule – September through November
September 30 – #13 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (1997)
October 15 – #99 The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warren (1942)
October 31 – #82 The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden (1960)
November 15 – #32 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1976)
November 30 – #84 The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1940)
December 15 – #96 The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (1954)

100 Chapter Books Project: Where the Red Fern Grows

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A book that was bound to be on the Top 100 Chapter Books list because teachers still read it with their classes is Where the Red Fern Grows (1961) by Wilson Rawls. I still dreaded reading it and thought it would be awful and depressing. It turned out to have more horrible things than I already knew about but also more value than I ever imagined.

What it’s about: Billy Colman lives on a small family farm in the Ozark Mountains of northern Oklahoma with his parents and three younger sisters. There is nothing he wants more than a pair of hounds and he works and saves for two years to get them. The dogs change his life and eventually even save it.

Age level: Grades 5-7

Best part: The book had a great family dynamic. Billy’s parents love him and trust him. His sisters are excitable but loving and Billy is kind to them. He even has a grandpa who is on his side. And the best thing is that, though the family is poor, they aspire to more. They save and plan to one day move to where their kids can get a better education and a better life.

Worst part: The gruesome, accidental death of a kid, the gruesome death of a dog, and the heartbreaking death of another dog. I wasn’t prepared for all of this.

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

This is a tough but good read. It is very well-written and it shows that the author grew up in this place, with these types of people. It’s honest about a life of poverty but the way the Colmans aspire to something better is inspirational. Not all of the local families aspire in the same way and some of the townsfolk are mean but there are also good people. It gets a little bogged down in hunting details for a while but the main story is strong. I have to admit that I enjoyed reading this book even when it was sad.

I’ll be rereading The Mouse and the Motorcycle next. It was one I read it a few times as a kid and then read it to Z as a bedtime story. It will be nice to have a simpler read next!

*****
Schedule – September through November
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)
October 31 – #82 The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden (1960)
November 15 – #32 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1976)
November 30 – #84 The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1940)

100 Chapter Books Project: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

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Every once in a while, I’m reminded that there were kids that submitted votes for the Top 100 Chapter Books list by the presence on the list of a book that seems out of place. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007) by Jeff Kinney is a book (series, really) that reluctant young readers love but many parents and educators quickly get tired of.

What it’s about: Told in a combination of words and drawings, this is the story of Greg Heffley, mediocre kid extraordinaire.

Age level: Grades 3-5

Best part: The success of this book allowed chapter books to have pictures in them again. It has definitely been a boon for kids who are overwhelmed by large chunks of text. I also think that the simple drawing style has given many kids the confidence to try making their own comics.

Worst part: Greg is just not a great kid. He’s mean to classmates, his little brother, and even his best friend. He’s selfish and dishonest too. If you could tell he meant well but was just awkward, I think it would be more palatable but I think there is only one time, right at the end of the story, that he does anything kind.

Verdict: Borrow

So no, this isn’t one of my favorite books but, admittedly, it’s also not the worst. Just make sure my your kid doesn’t just bring home one of these books every single week from the school library. There are lots of better stories out there!

Ever since I saw my younger brother lying in his bed, crying, while reading Where the Red Fern Grows in elementary school, I have dreaded having to read this book. I guess it’s finally my time.

*****
Schedule – August through November
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)
October 31 – #82 The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden (1960)
November 15 – #32 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1976)