Book Review – Race for the Sky by Dan Gutman

After years of planning and experimenting, Wilber and Orville Wright finally got the powered Wright Flyer off the ground on December 17, 1903. Look where we are one hundred and thirteen years later. According to Wikipedia, in 2016, an average of ninety three thousand commercial flights originate from nine thousand airports daily. And Boeing has a 787 Dreamliner which seats up to 335 passengers.

Race for the Sky is told to us through the diaries of fourteen year old Johnny Moore, a kid who lived in Kill Devil Hills at the turn of the twentieth century. He watched the Wright brothers create the Wright Flyer and he wrote about it in a journal that his mom gave him.

As a pilot myself, I love to read books about aviation. I visited Kill Devil Hills with my aunt and saw the place where powered flight began. I love going to the places where these things actually take place and imagine how it really happened. Reading this book added to my knowledge of Wright Brothers and how the Flyer took flight that day.

 

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Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Race for the Sky

Author

Dan Gutman

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

The book was published November 1, 2003 just in time for the one hundredth anniversary of the first flight.

Summary of the story

Fourteen year old Johnny Moore is given a journal as a gift from his mom to ring in the new century (1900). She said he didn’t have to go school if he wrote in this book every day. At that time, it wasn’t uncommon for kids to not go to school. They would stay home and help with things around the house or go to work and earn money for their families. While he did fish to earn some money, Johnny wound up getting his education in a little different way, he spent time watching the Wright Brothers build the Wright Flyer.

The Wrights weren’t the only ones trying to build an airplane. The race to put a flying machine into the sky was being attempted by men all over the world. The Wrights even had visitors come to see what they were doing. Some were truly curious, but others acted as spies and were trying to steal ideas so they could be the first to built one.

Reactions to the book

Just like Dear Mr. Henshaw, this book is written in epistolary style, from the main character Johnny Moore’s point of view through the use of his personal diary. This style makes the story more personal by showing how Johnny feels and what happened through his eyes. I really enjoy that for middle grade reads.

Gutman does a great job of writing an engaging novel to describe one of the great moments in history. Reading stories like these are a fun way for kids to learn about these significant historical events. Having been to the site and reading this book brings the significance of the event full circle for me. I would definitely recommend this book.

To find out a little more information about the author, Dan Gutman, here is a link to his website Dan Gutman’s website

If you are interested in purchasing the book, here is the link to it on Amazon Race for the Sky

 

Book Review – Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary was an author I remember reading while I was growing up. Do you remember The Mouse and the Motorcycle? How about the many stories she wrote about her character, Ramona Quimby? Did you know that Ramona’s character was born in an earlier series that Cleary wrote about another one of her characters, Henry Huggins? Henry’s friend, Beezus was Ramona’s older sister. When Cleary stopped the Henry Huggins series in 1968, she turned the focus of her writing to the two sisters.

The first book in the series, Ramona the Pest, Ramona is just entering kindergarten. This book, like the remaining books in the series, it is written from Ramona’s point of view. Having the stories written from the child characters’ point of view is a method used to make the story more relatable to the audience it has been written for. Many middle grade authors do this because having a peer tell the story makes it easier for them to relate to it. Same story told from an adult point of view, may not be received as well.

Through reading this book, I learned about the epistolary style of writing. It is a style based on having the story be told in the form of letters, diary entries or newspaper clippings. This book is written in that style. It adds an intimacy to the story that writing in a more traditional style may not be able to portray.

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Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Dear Mr. Henshaw

Author

Beverly Cleary

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

Newberry Award Winning book in 1984. In a 2007 online poll Dear Mr. Henshaw was named Teachers Top 100 books for children.

Summary of the story

Leigh Botts, our sixth grade main character, is writing letters to the author of his favorite book, Ways to Amuse a Dog. He starts by writing letters to ask the author, Boyd Henshaw, questions about his book and being an author. After a while his letters become a sharing of Leigh’s day to day feelings with Mr. Henshaw about his parents divorce and being the new kid at school. The author suggests that he put all of this writing into a journal instead of sending him so many letters.

Reactions to the book

I enjoyed the story. Cleary did a great job of making Leigh’s character very relatable to the reader. By writing with an epistolary style,  the reader gets a very intimate view of the character’s thoughts and feeling without interference from the author telling his story.

The writing style confused me in the beginning. I kept reading thinking it was going to change to a more traditional story format, which became my own distraction. When I realized that it wasn’t, I enjoyed the story more.

Leigh came across as a pretty mature kid in how he dealt with Mr. Henshaw’s responses, or sometimes lack of. It may have frustrated him a bit, but it didn’t stop him from writing. His need for someone to listen to him kept him wanting to write more.

I believe this story is very relatable for a middle grade reader. The issues that Leigh faces would be typical for kids his age. Not only with what goes on at school, but also with the thoughts that he is having about his parents’ divorce and how much he misses his Dad. I would definitely recommend the book.

Book Review – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

According to the author bio in the book, during his lifetime, E.B. White, was asked by many of his young readers if his stories were true. In a letter written to one of his fans, he answered, “No, they are imaginary tales…but real life is only one kind of life-there is also the life of the imagination.”

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 Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Charlotte’s Web

Author

E.B. White

Type of Book

Childrens/Middle Grade Fiction

Background

Published in 1952, it was awarded the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1970 and was also a Newberry Honor Book in 1953. It was also selected as one of the Top 100 Chapter Books in 2012 in a poll by the School Library Journal.

Summary of the story

Fern Arable, the young girl in our story, lives on a farm with her family. She talks her father into letting her raise a baby piglet, which she names Wilbur. When her father determined that he was big enough to sell at market, Wilbur was moved to the Zuckerman farm where Fern’s Aunt and Uncle lived. Wilbur made friends with all of the animals on the farm and another special creature, a spider named Charlotte. It is a story about growing friendships through day to day life through the eyes of these farm creatures.

Reactions to the book

Reading the book at this point in my life brought me back to my childhood. It is a well written story about how important friendship is, portrayed through animal characters. It was fun to read it again to fill in the parts that I didn’t quite remember from when I read it so long ago.

It is a classic. I would recommend it to middle grade readers and adults too.

How do you get a copy or find out more about the author?

Here is the Amazon.com link to buy the book Charlotte’s Web – Amazon.com

Here is the Wikipedia page to learn more about E.B. White – Author

Book Review – Nellie Nova Takes Flight by Stephenie Peterson

You may be wondering why there isn’t another installment of The Secret Pond on the Monday Morning Blog today. Last month, I made a plan to do a book review once a month and I picked the second Monday for the post. So, when I agreed to do this book review, I set the date for the second Monday in August. So, The Secret Pond story will continue next week and the next book review will come the week after The Secret Pond project has concluded.

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Yesterday morning after taking the dog out, I settled into my comfy chair with a cup of coffee and surfed the channels on TV. I found a Lifetime Movie Network movie about JK Rowling that caught my attention. It was about how she wrote, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, found an agent, who in turn found a publisher, Bloomsbury who then bought the rights to her first book. Little did they know when it was published in 1997 that she would go on to write seven more books in what would become a popular series for middle grade and young adult readers. Just to note, many adults are fans of the series too. The story of her journey is a very inspiring one for a writer like me who is looking to publish a trilogy of my own. After watching the movie, it got me going on my writing.

Through Facebook writing groups, I’m making connections with many published and aspiring authors all at different places in their writing journeys. The advice and support that I find in these groups is invaluable to keep working towards my dream to publish a novel someday.

About a month ago, I proposed the idea of doing a book review of middle grade books on my blog, to add some different content. I mentioned it to a couple of the Facebook writing groups that I’m a member of. One of the authors from Fiction Writers, Stephenie Peterson, volunteered to send me a copy of her first published book. Here’s my review of  Nellie Nova Takes Flight.

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Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

Nellie Nova Takes Flight

Author

Stephenie Wilson Peterson

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

Published in 2016, this is her first published book. It is also the start of a series of books starring her main characters, Nellie and Niles Nova.

Summary of the story

Nellie Nova is a nine year old girl with curly blonde hair and lots of book smarts. She has strengths in math and science, which is not typical of most young girls. After being heckled by her brother, Niles, about being just a girl, she decided to do something that he would never believe she would. Using her knowledge of science and math, she built a time machine. Along with Niles, she visits places and times in history. On one of their adventures, they are able to meet Amelia Earhart, one of Nellie’s all-time favorite people. She is a fan of Amelia’s because she is also a girl, who was brave, and made big things happen.

My reactions to her book

Loved the story. I was drawn in by her characters and story development. Peterson really made Nellie a strong girl character which was nice to see. I’m a pilot, so having Amelia Earhart be the woman that Nellie really wanted to meet, brought me into the story even more.

I would recommend it to all middle grade readers. Seeing such a strong girl character in a novel for their reading level, I think would make it an inspirational read for young girls.

How do you get a copy or find out more about the author?

To get a copy of Nellie Nova Takes Flight from Amazon.com, just follow this link

Nellie Nova Takes Flight

For more information about the author, Stephenie Peterson, and her upcoming books, here’s a link to her website

Stephenie Peterson

Book Review – The Accused (Theodore Boone #3) by John Grisham

I have quite a few writers that follow my blog which is great. Since I am planning to become a middle grade author, I want to bring some YA/Middle Grade readers, parents, teachers and librarians on to follow my blog. To make that happen, I decided that I would need to come up with some different content for my blog posts. Topics they would genuinely be interested in and want to come to my blog for.

As I worked through the WordPress workshop I was involved in last month, I brainstormed some new ideas. One of the ideas I came up with was book reviews. Not just any book review, but a review of either a YA or a Middle Grade book. That way, I could draw in those readers for a new book to read and also write the review for the parents, teachers and librarians to help them decide whether the book would be suitable for their young readers. It would also help me to read the books that my soon to be published one, The Hard Way, will be found on the shelf with.

So, I decided to start with a monthly book review this month. For the featured book for July, I went into our family bookshelf and looked at the books that the boys have read. I found one, Theodore Boone – The Accused by John Grisham. I was intrigued by the fact that it was a middle grade novel written by Grisham. I like his style in the adult novels I have read so I thought that I would try this middle grade novel out.

A book review is just one person’s view of what they read. So I will give it a shot and share my thoughts with you about this one. Check out what I have to say about The Accused in the book review below.

 

Selma’s Book Review

Book Title

The Accused (Theodore Boone #3)

Author

John Grisham

Type of Book

Middle Grade Fiction

Background

This is the third book of a series. After reading the book, I learned that it can be read and enjoyed without having read the first two books in the series.

Summary of the story

Theodore Boone (Theo), an eighth grader at Strattenburg Middle School, falls into in a stolen goods situation at school. As the son of two lawyers, he uses his knowledge of the law and interest in investigating and takes the case. He has to fight through being the one accused of the crime, to work on the case with his Uncle Ike and his friends.

Reactions to the book

Couldn’t put the book down. It was a very engaging read with characters that would be very easy for any middle grade reader to relate to. I have read many of Grisham’s adult fiction novels and I am a fan. The same writing style is found in his middle grade series. The idea of reading a mystery at that age, reminds me of the Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene. I had fun reading those books as a young girl and enjoyed trying to figure out how it was going to end. I found that reading this book was the same way.

Theo seems to be an above average kid in his knowledge of the law. He must be really interested in it to take on his case and other people’s cases like he does in the book. The other kids seem to want to help him out with it, which brings in kind of teamwork and friends helping each other theme into the story.

If you enjoy a good kid sleuth solving a mystery story, I would definitely recommend this book for any middle grade reader out there. It was even a pretty enjoyable read for this adult reader.