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Mrs. B's Favorites
...books that Mrs. Ball has read and enjoyed

Fall 2015 

Pieces of Why
by K. L. Going
I took a step forward so I was standing front and center, and took a deep breath.  This was my moment.  I reached down inside, found the music waiting, and let it loose...  I sang like a magician pulling scarves from my sleeve. More and more scarves until it didn't seem like there could be any left.  They flew up and out, every one connected to the last in a flurry of color. I sent my cool bright sounds into the thick June air, letting the scarves weave their way through the rafters of the old church. 

Tia lives in a poor neighborhood in New Orleans, with her mother who works multiple jobs to earn enough to keep them alive.  Tia was four when her father was imprisoned for armed robbery, and she hasn't seen him since.  The best part of Tia's life is her time with the Rainbow Choir, where she sings with her best friend Keisha.  Tia has an amazing voice - a true gift, the adults all say.  But there is a dark secret in her family, and after a tragic carjacking just outside the church where the choir practices, people in the neighborhood start talking.  Tia has never known the real events that led to her father's prison sentence, and when she starts to put comments together and ask terribly difficult questions, she unknowingly starts a wave of hope and redemption in her community.  Great for 6th and 7th grade!

by Marissa Meyer 

Mirror, mirror on the wall... Who is the fairest of them all?
I don't know about you, but I love a good backstory!  Marissa Meyer's written just that for her evil Queen Levana of the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlett, Cress, and the upcoming finale to the series, Winter).  What does it take to create a chraracter who chooses evil so easily?  How about a childhood with generally absent king-and-queen parents who are brutally murdered, and an abusive, bullying psychopath of a sister?  Levana is the younger sibling, horribly scarred and disfigured by burns from a childhood incident.  She has the ability to create glamours, so that when people look a her they see a vision of whatever beauty and grace she has imagined for herself, so no one knows what she truly looks like.  Her sister Channary always belittles and finds fault with everything she does, humiliating her at every turn for fun.  I came so close to feeling sorry for Levana - and I did for her when she was a child.  But as an adult, after she claims the throne for herself, she has a choice to be as bad as Channery, or to choose differently.  I can't wait to see how the series finale comes together in Winter - coming out in November

Summer 2015

 Need suggestions for your favorite genres?  Take a look at the Index by Genre page!

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
by Anita Silvey

She had gone to Africa because of her love of animals; in the end, her devotion to the chimpanzees of Gombe made her realize that she should fight for their rights and for the rights of all other animals on earth.

A delightful and interesting biography of one of the most recognized and accomplished researchers and advocates for animals!  Jane Goodall’s lifelong interest in animals began very early, where her curiosity led to many memorable family stories.  Plenty of photographs include her childhood in England, her early work with the chimpanzees of Gombe under the mentorship of Louis Leakey, and many more through her 55 years of research with the chimpanzees.  Many sidebars include information about the animals and people she has worked with over the years.  Jane Goodall has led an amazing life of purpose, and this book is a tribute to her intelligence and drive to make the world a better place.  6th grade and up.

The Only Game
by Mike Lupica

“I might stop playing baseball for good,” he said.
“You don’t mean that… You’re a ballplayer,” his dad said.

“If I don’t feel like one,” Jack said, “then I’m not one.”
“How about you do this?” his dad said.  “How about I call Coach and tell him you want a couple days to just think this through? A week even?  Just to make sure that you’re sure.”
It just came out of Jack then...“Baseball won’t bring my brother back.”

Jack is the best baseball player on his team - naturally gifted, with a love for the game and the respect of his teammates who are aiming to go to the Little League World Series this year.  Baseball is supposed to be what will help him get past the accidental death of his brother, Brad.  So no one understands why he chooses to quit the team after a single practice: not his parents, his best friend Gus, or anyone else on the team.   Cassie Bennett, the star of the softball team, though, seems to understand, telling him he shouldn’t play if he doesn’t want to.  In her, he finds a friend who understands what sports - and baseball - mean to him, and why he feels like he needs to take a break.  The two of them befriend Teddy Madden, who’s frequently made fun of because of his weight.  In taking on coaching the softball team and helping Teddy, Jack begins to find his way back to being himself.  A sports story with real heart - Lupica hits it out of the park again with this one.

Goodbye Stranger
by Rebecca Stead

Emily grabbed Bridge’s hand and said, “We’re still a set. We’re the set of seventh graders who used to draw stuff on their homework.”    “And who don’t fight,” Tab added.  “Don’t forget the Twinkie.”    “Right, Em said.  She looked at Bridge.  “Forever.”    “And ever,” said Tab.
But Bridge understood that life didn’t balance anymore.  Life was a too-tall stack of books that had started to lean on one side, and each new day was another book on top.

Three best friends navigate seventh grade and its epic pitfalls.  Friendship is tested through all kinds of changes and challenges, including new friend Sherm Russo who is facing challenges at home as well as at school.   Central to the plot is a sexting scandal that involves Emily, who makes a mistake and has to handle the consequences and repercussions.  The novel is told from multiple perspectives, including one unnamed girl who’s avoiding school on Valentine’s Day. Bad decisions, friendships, loyalty, betrayal, and forgiveness all play a part in this realistic novel which will spark all kinds of conversations.   Stellar writing and a deft touch with the characters make this a jewel of a novel!  Highly recommended for 6th grade and up.


The Girl in the Torch
by Robert Sharenow

“Goodbye, America,” she whispered.
Staring into the darkness, Sarah realized that she had nothing left.  No family, no hopes.  Nothing.  Everything good she could possibly think of was in her past.  The golden door has been permanently shut.  Then she glanced back at the Lady, her face strong and beautiful.  Sarah and her mother had looked at the postcard so many times, dreaming of seeing her in person, and of the life they would lead in America…  

“We can’t go back there,” she muttered, gripping Ivan.  “We won’t go back.”

Sarah’s family emigrated from an unnamed village where violent attacks had become common and had taken the life of her beloved father.  After reaching America, she and her mother are held at Ellis Island because of her mother’s illness, which takes her life.  According to the rules of immigration, Sarah must be sent back to the only relative she has - an abusive uncle.  After boarding the ship which will return her to her homeland, she makes the fateful decision to leap overboard with her toy bear Ivan, and swim to the statue of Liberty.  Sarah hides on the island and in the statue for weeks, living off discarded lunches and dropped coins until the alcoholic night watchman falls one night and Sarah rescues him.   With the help of Mr. Maryk, his Chinese landlady Mrs. Lee, and an orphaned newsie friend on the streets, Sarah must figure out how to survive as an illegal immigrant, without papers or legal status.  Excellent historical fiction with a diverse cast of characters and plenty of New York history!  6th grade and up.

Comments and/or suggestions for books I should read?  Come see me in the media center or email me at Karen_Ball@greenwich.k12.ct.us

Eastern Middle School       51 Hendrie Avenue, Riverside, CT 06878      Phone: 203-637-1744      Fax: 203-637-3567

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