100 Chapter Books Project: The Boxcar Children

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The Boxcar Children(1942) by Gertrude Chandler Warner barely made it onto the Top 100 Chapter Books list at number 99. That’s likely because it is a very simple chapter book but is also the start of a very big series. It doesn’t have the weight of a lot of the other books on the list but the characters probably stuck with many readers as they grew up.

What it’s about: Simply, four siblings become orphans and go on the run because they are afraid that their Grandfather is a cruel man. They end up setting up a home in an old abandoned boxcar by a stream.

Age level: Grades 2-3

Best part: The ending is incredibly sweet and the kids are hard workers and are quite brave.

Worst part: I can’t think of anything I really disliked except for the mean people at the beginning who basically want to make the three older kids their slaves. Rude!

Verdict: Buy/Borrow

I’m only saying Borrow because this is such a simple book that not all kids will want to reread it. But it’s definitely a great starter chapter book with big print, a small vocabulary, and a quickly-moving plot. I really don’t know what my problem was years ago when I tried to read this book but couldn’t get past the first couple of pages. Maybe it’s because I had a little guy at home and couldn’t imagine a group of kids just setting off on their own. I should have kept going though!

My next read is one that I’m super torn on and we’ll probably have to have a real discussion about it. The Cricket in Times Square was a childhood favorite of mine and I truly love parts of it. But, on reread a few years ago, I also found parts that were quite awful. Sigh.

*****
Schedule – October through January
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)
December 31 – break
January 15 – #50 Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1989)
January 31 – #52 Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (1940)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Thief

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The Thief(1997) by Megan Whalen Turner is number 13 on the Top 100 Chapter Books list. It is the first book in The Queen’s Thief series, currently at four books.

What it’s about: Gen is a thief who has been imprisoned for stealing from the King of Sounis and then bragging about it in a local wine shop. He has no idea when or if he will ever be free again until The Magus, one of the king’s scholars, requests his help in a mission to neighboring Attolia that will put his thieving skills to the test.

Age level: Grades 4-6

Best part: I enjoyed the mythology of the story and the fact that there was real magic. As all mythology borrows from that of neighboring civilizations, this one borrowed from Greek mythology but wove its own tales from those classics.

Worst part: Some of the actions of party members came out of nowhere and were not supported with the character development up to that point.

Verdict: Borrow

This book was fine. I enjoyed reading it well enough but was never wowed by the plot or enchanted by the characters. Every review of it talks about the “surprise ending” but I didn’t find it that surprising or, once revealed, that interesting. I do think that it has a lot that a teacher could discuss with a class if done as a group read. And I cared just enough about Gen to wonder where the other books in the series will take him but I’m honestly not sure I’ll ever pick any of them up.

Well, I only have a dozen books left to be read for this project and it will wrap up in April. After writing these posts since September 2012, this is a bit strange! Of the final 12 books, seven of them will be rereads for me. To be honest, there are also one or two left that I’m not really looking forward to. For example, next up is The Boxcar Children which I tried to read once but just couldn’t believe enough to get into. I hope I get along with it better this time!

*****
Schedule – October through January
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)
December 31 – break
January 15 – #50 Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1989)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Mouse and the Motorcycle

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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)