100 Chapter Books Project: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

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1970’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume came in at number 74 on the Top 100 Chapter Books list. It’s kind of right on that border of middle grade and YA due to lots of time spent talking about puberty and budding relationships.

What it’s about: Margaret Simon is starting sixth grade at a new school after moving from New York City to New Jersey. Her mother is Christian and her father is Jewish and she spends a lot of time thinking about religion — when she isn’t thinking about boys or puberty issues.

Age level: Grade 5-6

Best part: Margaret learns some great lessons about not believing rumors about people and about standing up for herself, even against bullying family members.

Worst part: Margaret’s eventual conclusions about religion are ridiculous. They actually managed to ruin the entire book for me.

Verdict: Borrow/Skip

I really didn’t feel like writing much about this book because it made me so angry. I was actually thinking “hey, this book isn’t too bad — it’s a little weird that these girls are talking so much about their periods since I never once talked about it with any friend because EMBARRASSING but maybe some girls were different than I was” and then BAM! the most ridiculous “moral of the story” showed up in one or two sentences near the end. Margaret spends the entire book researching religion, attending different services and talking to a God that she isn’t even entirely sure she believes in about how she wants him to make her boobs grow. So what conclusion does she come to? That her parents were wrong to leave the choice of her personal religion up to her because it’s just too damn hard to think for herself and that she will just force a religion on her own children from birth and spare them the agony of thought. Yeah. That’s a great message to send to kids. Don’t bother thinking about religion. Pray that you were lucky enough to just have your parents tell you what you are and what you believe. Blech.

Moving on … I’m definitely looking forward to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate! It’s been on my TBR since it came out but I’ve just never gotten to it.

*****

Schedule – August through November

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

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)

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

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)