Elementary Fiction

This is NEWS I can get excited about.  Flat Stanley is a staple in many classroom.  He is read to students, he goes home with students, and is a going to become a world wide traveler.  I read on Sara Pennypacker’s site (see post from yesterday) that she has taken over the writing of the Flat Stanley books.  I wonder if Flat Stanley will every borrow Stuarts cape?  Maybe he will get a nickname from Clementine.  I can’t wait to see where Stanley travels and hear about his adventures.


Stuart has just moved to a new town and EVERYTHING is going wrong.  His box of treasure were mistaken for trash, he has no friends, and school starts in three days.  What if he is the shortest kid in his class?  What if he has no friends?  This is all TOO much for Stuart… he needs an adventure to get his mind off his troubles.  Where can you find an adventure?  Stuart decides that all the super heroes have adventures because they are wearing a cape.  Stuart needs a cape.  Stuart staples 100 ties together and the adventures begin! 

I love the understated humor in this book.  I love Stuart.  I want a cape made of ties!  Well done, Mrs. Pennypacker!  Sara Pennypacker is also the author of the Clementine books. Clementine is a little girl with a lot of spunk.  Clementine and Stuart would be great friends. 

The Stuart books and the Clementine books are great books for the second and third graders who need to move beyond the first start easy books but they are not difficult.  There are engaging illustrations that are important to the story line.  I would love to see more from Sara Pennypacker.  I hope she is working on some sequels with both characters.

Getting to know Mississippi Beaumont (Mibs) and her family was an unexpected delight.  I thought that because of the lower reading level this book would not hold my attention and the characters would be a bit dull and flat.  But, happily that was not the case with this book.  Mibs and her family and friends are believable, full of life, and interesting.  I thought I would do a quick read to see who might like the book and found that I can excitedly recommend it to anyone. 

Mississippi  is just about to turn thirteen.  And at that magic age Mibs knows she will be getting her savvy.  When her brothers got their savvy’s one cause a huge black out with electrical sparks while the other was the cause of a hurricane.  In fact, the family had to move to keep this brother far away from water until he could gain control of his savvy.  When Mib’s dad is injured in an auto accident, she believes her savvy will be healing power. Mibs is sure her touch will wake her dad from his comma.   In order to get to her dad’s side Mib (and her entourage) stow away in the van of a bible salesman.  Mibs discovers her savvy and it is not what she thought it would be.  Along the way she learns to find her voice amid all the other voices clammering for attention.

For Eben McAllister, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence world.  He is fascinated with the seven wonders of the world and spends his time wishing to be some place exciting… anywhere but in Sassafras Springs.

Eben’s Pa, a wise man, gives his son a challenge; find seven Wonders in Sassafras Springs.  If Eben is able to find seven things in seven days Pa will buy him a ticket to see some relatives living in the Colorado mountains. 

So the scene is set for adventure!  Not everyone likes a kid coming around asking questions.   Eben  soon finds himself saddled with a annoying pest who wants to follow him as he tries to find Wonders.  Eben does his best to ditch the Rae Ellen the pest, but she stays hot on his trail with a “Wonderful” of her own to show him.

My favorite part of the story happens when tough Coogie Jackson, sends for Eben to show him an outhouse and tell him about a Wonder.  Could an outhouse in the middle of nowhere be a wonder?  Was it a trick?  Eben has little time to decide if he believes the story before Coogie is sending him inside to get the proof neded to verify the story. 

This is a delightful story full of rich country language and descriptions.  The stories Eben gathers and the Wonders he finds give him a new perspective for seeing common things.  This story is perfect for reading aloud. 


You can read about the author Betty G. Birney.

New in Sept. 2008
New book in September 2008


Sometimes, real life is messy.  Sometimes the truth has a hard edge.  After mom dies, eleven-year-old Mackenzie O’Rourke and his brother, Kid, live with a parent who is controlled by alcohol and gambling.  After a night of gambling Mackenzie’s dad brings home a puppy.  And love happens.  No one has to remind Mackenzie to feed his dog (Cash) or take care of him.  MacKenzie lives to be right by Cash’s side and Cash, for his part feels the same.  Then Dad, in a fit of anger, gets rid of Cash by taking him into the country and dumping him by the side of the road. 
After the separation the story is told from MacKenzie’s point of view and Cash’s.  Cash tells of the pain of hunger, his capture by men who run dog fighting rings, and of heroic deeds.  All the while, MacKenzie searches desperatly for his dog.  Besides, losing his dog MacKenzie must deal with the loss of his brother, Kid, who can’t take any more of dad’s anger.
In the background of this story another tale is being told.  Cash is pit bull and the town has decided that pit bulls are dangerous and not welcome.  But, what about this mysterious pit bull that is rescuing people in cars parked on train tracks?  Are all pit bulls dangerous?  Can Cash find his way back home?  Can Kid? Fans of Shiloh will enjoy this tale of a dog lost. 
For ages 9-adult

For ages 9-adult

“What-the-Dickens” are the first words the newborn creature heard, and assumed that was his name.  His lack of information came from the fact that he is an orphan.  What-the-Dickens thinks he is alone a world he doesn’t understand.  Bravely, he does his best to get adopted by a cat.  When that doesn’t work out he finds himself in a tiger’s mouth examining a sore tooth.  One day the creature sees a someone who looks like he does and can fly like he does.  It is a skibbereen (tooth fairy) going about her business of exchanging teeth for money.  What-the-Dickens finally has someone who can tell him about himself, but she wants nothing to do with him.  So goes the story Gage tells to his cousins in the middle of a terrifying storm.  As the story grows more suspenseful, the children are able to put aside their fears and concentrate on the troubles What-the-Dickens finds himself confronting.  This is really two stories in one. The author is skilled at getting the reader to the edge of one story and weaving the other story back into the readers mind in surprising ways.  While the children deal with the lack of electrical power, adequate food, and howling winds, the skiddereen have to deal with a harsh assignment given as punishment for allowing What-the-Dickens to enter the secret colony of fairies.  The two stories intersect when Gage tells how he met What-the-Dickens and his friend Pepper on the night of this secret assignment.

King Theophilus may be able to run a country, but he seems to have no clue how to handle his daughter, Princess Penelope.   Princess Penelope has been spoiled ROTTEN by the king, with a little help from the queen.  If things don’t go her way Penelope usually screams and demands everyone give her what she wants. 

For her eighth birthday, the spoiled princess has decided she wants a pig.  Of course she gets one. 

After looking at all the pigs in the kingdom, Penelope selects Lollipop as her birthday present.  This pig also comes complete with a trainer, named Johnny Skinner, who had taught his pet pig to sit and stand. 

Now, the princess is demanding that Lollipop live in the palace.  The queen’s response was understandable to every mom alive.  “If the pig moves in… I move out!”  

In conversations with his pig, Johnny gets right to the heart of Penelope’s terrible behavior. 

“She is a spoiled child.  But in a way it is not her fault. It is the fault of her mom and dad for letting her have everything she wants.  She was quite nice, wasn’t she when we were eating the cake, don’t you think?”

Lollipop grunted.

“But then the moment she couldn’t get her own way, she flew off the handle didn’t she?”

Lollipop grunted again.

I have been quite successful at training you,” Johnny Skinner said to the pig. ” I wonder if I could train her?”

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And so, two determined children  and a pig begin a relationship full of fun and laughter along with some serious lessons.  Johnny Skinner uses Lollipop to help teach Penelope to speak calmly and think less about herself and more about others.  Johnny is determined to train Penelope and the princess is determined to have a pig living INSIDE the palace. 

This book by Dick King-Smith is fun to read and entertains the young and the old.  Students in grades three would not be too young to read the book alone ( Toward the end of the year, most second graders could read it alone too.)  But, this book begs to be read aloud *, enjoyed together and discussed.  If you have an child between the ages of 4 and 10 this would be just the right book for a bedtime chapter ( or two) a night. 

The delightful pencil drawings scattered thoughtout the book bring more fun to the story.


* A note about reading aloud.  This site has some very interesting information concerning parents reading aloud at home. http://www.carolhurst.com/profsubjects/reading/parentreading.html

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