100 Chapter Books Project: Maniac Magee


Lots of people voted Maniac Magee (1990) by Jerry Spinelli onto the Top 100 Chapter Books list as it came in at number 40 but, if you read Betsy’s post about the book, you will see that there are a few reviews that are on the fence about this book as well.

What it’s about: Jeffrey Magee, a.k.a. Maniac, was orphaned at age three and ran away from his aunt and uncle’s home at age eight. He turns up a year later in Two Mills, Pennsylvania, a town divided down the middle by black and white, but has trouble finding where he belongs.

Age level: Grades 5-7

Best part: There are a lot of great characters in this story — Amanda Beale, who loans him a book and brings him home, Mars Bar Thompson, who has the best transformation of the book, and Earl Grayson, who is able to reconnect to his past through Maniac.

Worst part: It was a bit difficult to believe that there was never a social services investigation into this kid. He slept in a zoo park, an equipment shed, park benches, and multiple neighborhood houses and porches but nobody ever seems to worry about him. This bugged me enough that I could never quite lose myself in the story.

Verdict: Borrow

This was not a bad story and there were some great scenes — but also some meh ones. I think kids today would benefit from studying the horribly racist McNab family. Many of the things that the father and three sons say are things we’re hearing from a certain political candidate’s supporters and they are just as hateful even though they’re about different ethnic groups. I wonder if the wrongness of these thoughts would be more apparent if readers could see them in a truly “black and white” situation. However, there are too many unrealistic things and actions without consequences to make this a truly great story (even though it has a Newbery Medal).

Moving on … Ramona the Pest is another one that I know I read regularly as a kid but I’m worried that it won’t hold up. Still, it’s a short book so I’m sure I’ll make it through!

Schedule – March through June
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #45 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1960)
May 31 – #30 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
June 15 – #37 The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (2007)

100 Chapter Books Project: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


I’m finally feeling okay again about the Top 100 Chapter Books list after reading a truly good, fun book that almost every kid will enjoy reading. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl is obviously a story that resonates through the generations. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, and it makes the reader dream about chocolate.

What it’s about: Charlie Bucket is poor and his family is about to starve when Wonka’s Chocolates, the factory down the road, puts five Golden Tickets into five bars of chocolate, each one redeemable for a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Age level: Grades 2-5

Best part: I simply love Willy Wonka. The way he ignores criticism, has unending enthusiasm, and is owner of the largest imagination ever makes him one of my favorite book characters of all time.

Worst part: That the book never actually provides the reader with any chocolate.

Verdict: Buy

This is just such a fun read. I also reread Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator because I remembered getting it out from the library just as often as the original. I don’t know what I was thinking as a kid because that book is strange (most of it takes place in space)! I would just stick to the original Chocolate Factory. It is Roald Dahl at his best.

Next I’ll be reading Maniac Magee. I see his books all of the time in Z’s school library but I have never picked one up so I’m excited to finally take at look at this author!

Schedule – March through May
March 15 – #40 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #45 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1960)
May 31 – #30 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)

BBAW Day 5 : Blogger Burnout

Day OneIntroduce yourself (17)

Day 5 One of the unfortunate side effects of reading and blogging like rockstars seems to be a tendency toward burnout. How do you keep things fresh on your blog and in your reading?

It’s a sad truth, and while we don’t want to linger on it, you may have noticed some of your blogging buddies drop off after a while. We want to foster a sense of community and realistic expectations…longevity! How do you stay sane, grounded, and generally happy in your blogging?

Speaking of sane and happy, this week has been AMAZING! Thank you to all of you who have participated by blogging, Tweeting, Instagramming, interviewing, and sharing love with your fellow bloggers, and generally just being awesome.

THIS IS A BIG GROUP HUG! We can’t wait to do it all again next spring. Feel free to send us your ideas and suggestions to estellasociety@gmail.com.