Wednesday, November 20, 2019

November Grades 5-6 Book Club: A World Below

For November's Book Club, we read A World Below by Wesley King. Finn, Ian and Mark were present. This is what we discussed.

Let's talk about the book's set up. Did you like how it was told in sections labeled "A Month Before" and "Two Hours After"? Do you think it added to the book?  

How did you feel about the fact that the book had three narrators? Were you ever confused about who was speaking? Did you prefer one narrator over the other?

Could you envision yourself in Mr. Baker's 8th graders places? How do you think you would do in such an emergency?

Describe Eric and Silvia. Do any parts of them remind you of yourself or someone you know?

Did this book remind you of any others you have read? The characters, the setting, the themes discussed?

Why did Jana's group break off from Carlos's? 

Did you find any of this book confusing?

Do you think it is realistic that everyone survived the earthquake and its aftermath?

The ending seemed to be set up for a sequel. Would you read it?

Please rate this story between 1 and 5, with 1 being the worst book you've ever read and 5 being one of the best.


For December's Book Club, we will be Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt.

Thirteen-year-old Nicki Demere is an orphan and a kleptomaniac, making her the perfect girl to portray the Trevors' daughter in witness protection, but she soon learns that the biggest threat to her new family's security comes from her own past.

We will meet on Wednesday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m. Please be sure to pick up a copy of the library book and register for each session of Book Club at the Circulation Desk.

December Grades 5-6 Book Club Suggestions

Allies by Alan Gratz

It is June 6, 1944, D-Day, and Dee Carpenter (true name Dietrich Zimmermann), an underage private in the United States Army, is headed for Omaha Beach, seeking revenge for his uncle, who was arrested by Nazis when Dee was a little boy; meanwhile, Samira Zidano, an eleven-year old French-Algerian girl is looking for the French resistance, desperate to deliver the message that the invasion is about to begin, and get their help in freeing her mother--this is the most important day of the twentieth century, and both children want to fight, and survive.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Ever since her near-fatal drowning, Cassidy has been able to pull back the "Veil" that separates the living from the dead and see ghosts, not that she wants to, and she was really looking forward to a ghost-free summer at the beach; however her parents are going to start filming a TV series about the world's most haunted places, starting with Edinburgh with its graveyards, castles, and restless phantoms--and Cass and her personal ghost companion, Jacob, are about to find out that a city of old ghosts can be a very dangerous place indeed.

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

The sequel to the critically acclaimed Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus follows Aven Green as she confronts yet another challenge: high school. Just as Aven starts to feel comfortable in Stagecoach Pass, with her friends and schoolmates accustomed to her lack of "armage," everything changes once again. She's about to begin high school...with 2,300 new kids to stare at her. And no matter how much Aven tries to play it cool, nothing prepares her for the reality. In a year filled with confusion, humiliation, and just maybe love, can Aven manage to stay true to herself?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October Grades 5-6 Book Club: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

For October's Book Club, we read Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Ian and Mark were present. This is what we discussed.

1. How do you think your life would be different if you didn’t have arms? Find some examples of the way Aven solves problems that arise from not having arms. What kind of problems would you face in your life if you didn’t have arms? 

-I'd use my legs like Aven to do things
-Also use my teeth
-I wouldn't be able to play rock, paper, scissors but I'd be awesome at soccer
-Her friends helped her out sometimes and used her brain to help figure things out

2. Think about the title of the book. Why is it called this? What does Aven mean when she says her life is an insignificant event in the life of a cactus?

-Why does she refer to herself as a cactus
-Cactus live in the desert
-They are prickly things living in the desert and oftentimes don't have arms

3. This book is told in first person, from Aven’s point-of-view. How do you think it would change if it were told in third person? Do you notice any differences between the way Aven talks to the reader and the way she writes her blog posts?

-She used "I" to indicate first person
-If she used third person, we'd probably hear more about Connor and Zion's lives and their thoughts
-She tells her blog in a funny voice, maybe trying to cover up her feelings of sadness

4. When Aven first meets Connor, and he points out that she doesn’t have arms, she says, “Oh my gosh! I knew I was forgetting something today.” How does she use her sense of humor to her advantage? Can you find other examples in the story where Aven makes light of not having arms?

-She makes light of her disability in her blog
-She is probably sad that she doesn't have arms is covering up her feelings

5. In chapter 7, a girl at school asks Aven if her disability is contagious. Why does the girl ask this? Why does it make Aven feel bad?

-Because Rebecca didn't want to not have arms. She didn't want to be different.
-She's a meanie.
-She was publicly shaming Aven for not having arms.

6. Why does Zion eat on the sidewalk behind the office by himself? Do you know someone who spends a lot of time alone at school? What might be some ways to include him/her in your activities?

-He feels like he's different from everyone else
-He's so big that he doesn't want people to watch him eat because he thinks they'll make fun of him
-No one in our grade spends time alone

7. Compare and contrast Aven and Connor. What traits do they share? What traits make them different? Do you think Connor is as comfortable having Tourette’s as Aven is not having arms? Find specific examples in the text to support your answer.

-I feel like Connor gets mad at himself for having Tourette's. It's not his fault though. 
-Sometimes Aven feels bad that she doesn't have arms but she's mostly accepted her disability

8. The Aven we meet at the beginning of the story is very different from the Aven we meet at the end. How is she the same, and how has she changed? What about Connor?

-Connor is different at the end because he's learning to accept how to have Tourette's (how it is, how he's going to be)
-Aven has learned a lot more about what it means to have no arms
-Aven has changed because she is more experienced and she learns a lot more how to have friends with disabilities

9. Think of a time when you felt empathy. What can you do to be more empathetic in your daily life?

em·​pa·​thy | \ ˈem-pə-thē  

Definition of empathy:

1the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
-I can try to imagine how it feels for people who are different than me, with a certain disability.
-I don't know how they do stuff. It's pretty amazing.
-Once a friend didn't do well on an exam and felt down and I was able to say to him "I've gotten that grade before...I've been there."
-I try to imagine what someone else feels and what their life is like

Please rate this story between 1 and 5, with 1 being the worst book you've ever read and 5 being the best.

-4 1/2
-4 1/2

The next Grades 5-6 Book Club will meet on Wednesday, November 20 at 3:00 p.m. For November's club, we will be reading A World Below by Wesley King.

Mr. Baker's eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, but their journey takes a terrifying turn when an earthquake hits and the students are plunged into a frigid underground lake, forcing them to fight for survival and find their way back above ground.

Please be sure to pick up your copy and register for the Club at the Circulation Desk!

November Grades 5-6 Book Club Suggestions

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Companion book to The Wednesday Wars, September's Book Club selection.

As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends, an abusive father, and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him until he finds an ally in Lil Spicer--a fiery young lady. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon's birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage.

Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they've got to do.

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.Unfortunately, she's not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way.

A World Below by Wesley King

Mr. Baker's eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, but their journey takes a terrifying turn when an earthquake hits and the students are plunged into a frigid underground lake, forcing them to fight for survival and find their way back above ground.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

September Grades 5-6 Book Club: The Wednesday Wars

For September's Book Club, we read The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. Ian, Logan and Mark were present. This is what we discussed.

1. Why is Holling convinced Mrs. Baker hates him?

-Because she's always giving him bad looks
-She's gives him the stink eye.

2. Mrs. Baker says that Shakespeare "is never boring to the true soul." What does she mean by that remark...what is a "true soul"?

-Someone who is kind and genuine.
-Lying was prohibited in Shakespeare's time.
-A pure soul.
-Slightly imperfect because no one is perfect.

3. What is it about Shakespeare that Holling comes to appreciate?

-Holling sees relations between his own life and things that happen in the books/plays
-He might feel like he's similar to Shakespeare

4. How do the Shakespearean plays Holling reads reflect the events in his life?

-In Hamlet, the Danish prince was trying to find himself. Holling's sister intended to go to California to find herself but only made it to Minneapolis.

5. What do you think about Holling's parents? What kind of parents are they? What is uppermost in Mr. Hoodhood's life?

-Mr. Hoodhood expects the best of his children.
-He's always got to get the best of everything.
-He is planning out Holling's future without letting Holling have any say
-The dad doesn't want Heather to go to college.

6. Does the author do a good job of describing the problems faced by seventh graders—friendship, bullying, parents, siblings, teacher expectations?

-That's the basic version of realistic fiction for middle school books that everyone likes
-At the end of the story, everything shows out in a specific way. Everyone ends up getting along.
-With most good books, the end is the only thing that makes complete sense and brings everyone together.

7. What episodes did you find especially funny? The rats episode, the yellow tights, the cream puffs?

-My favorite part was with the track.
-One of the funny parts is the rats and the yellow tights.

8. Talk about the line, "when the gods die, they die hard." What symbolic "gods" die for Holling?

-Mickey Mantle
-His father
-His mom might be a little disappointing

9. In what way does Holling grow by the end of the book? What does he does he change?

-Don't be friends with Mickey Mantle
-Holling grows by knowing what Shakespeare meant by all of his plays. What it means to be a person and what happens in everyone's lives. He understands friendship. 
-He understands what it is to have a life and to be a human being.

10. Mrs. Baker advises Holling to "Learn everything you can—everything. And then use all that you have learned to be a wise and good man." Does, or will, Holling live up to that advice?

-I think he does because he learns all of the lessons from Shakespeare
-He's learning what true life is about

-4 1/2
-3 1/2

For October's Book Club, we will be reading Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling: 

New friends and a mystery help Aden, thirteen, adjust to middle school and life at a dying western theme park in a new state, where her being born armless presents many challenges.

Please be sure to pick up your copy and register for the Club at the Circulation Desk!

Monday, September 16, 2019

October Grades 5-6 Book Suggestions

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse. Now she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.
But this summer brings a lot of big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself unexpectedly falling for another girl at camp. To top it all off, Melly’s not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock n’ roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood

In the tradition of The War That Saved My Life and Stella By Starlight, this poignant novel based on true events tells the story of a boys harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.

With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones—one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada.

Life aboard the luxury ship is grand—nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger.

They’re wrong.

Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May Grades 5-6 Book Club: Between Shades of Gray

For May's Book Club, we read Between Shades  of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Anthony, Claire, JT, Madison, Maida, and Reagan were present. Here's some of what we talked about, with guidance from the author's book website.

As the novel opens, Lina explains that though the signs were in place, she has little understanding that her parents had planned to attempt to escape Lithuania. What can be inferred about her understanding of the political climate in her country?

Lina’s mother remains calm throughout the roundup of her family; how does her family benefit from this?

When Jonas observes his mother smashing her beloved china and crystal before they depart their home, he asks her why she is destroying these items. She replies, “Because I love them so much.” (p. 18) Do you consider this an act of rebellion? In your opinion, is her reaction appropriate? In what ways is she trying to control the situation?

As Lina’s family is first placed in the truck to take them to the trains, they meet the bald man who proclaims loudly, “We’re all going to die. We will surely die.” (p. 22) How does his presence affect the other prisoners? Consider and explain how Lina and her mother react to his rants. In what ways is Elena (Lina’s mother) sympathetic to his condition?

Using examples, what are some of the specific ways Lina’s mother chooses to fight back against the NKVD?

Being held prisoner on the train brings out the best and worst in some of the inhabitants. Consider and discuss some of the ways that individuals extend their assistance and support. How do their choices differ from those who are most unkind to others?

How does the author use the embedded flashbacks to help readers understand why Lina’s family has been rounded up for punishment? Do you agree with the family’s choices? Why or why not?

Though readers mostly learn about Kostas, Lina’s father, through her shared memories, a great deal can be understood about his character. In your opinion, what kind of man is he? Is he a good father? Use textual evidence to make your case.

Upon arriving at the country train depot, the NKVD officers begin sorting the prisoners, and Lina asks, “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.” (p. 35). How does this realization change Lina? In what ways does Lina better understand her mother’s actions and motivations?

After Jonas is selected to be separated from his mother and sister, their mother is able to save his life by using her language skills and quick wit. What are some of the specific things she does to secure his safety?

Discuss the character traits that allow Lina, Jonas, and Andrius to ultimately persevere. How are these characters similar to each other? In what ways are they different? Which character are you most like?

Throughout the novel, Lina uses her passion for her art to remain connected to her family and the outside world. What are some of the specific ways she does this?

What role does Andrius play in the story? In what ways is he a catalyst for the choices made by Lina and Jonas?

Consider the consequences of not signing the documents which charge the prisoners of counterrevolutionary activities against the Soviet Union. Does Lina’s family make the right decision by refusing to “confess” these transgressions? Why or why not?

Though Lina believes that Andrius and his mother are supplying information to the NKVD officers in exchange for food and shelter, she eventually learns that the arrangement comes at a great cost to his family. How does this knowledge of the lengths his mother goes to in order to keep him safe ultimately affect him? How does Lina’s understanding of these sacrifices reshape her perception of him? His mother?

Throughout the novel, the bald man is cast as an unsympathetic character. How do his random acts of kindness help portray him as more than one dimensional? Cite specific instances from the story where you find evidence of this. Why might the author choose to include these examples?

Using the phrase, “This is a story about…”supply five words to describe Between Shades of Gray. Explain your choices.

Four 5s for this book! They "loved it"!

November Grades 5-6 Book Club: A World Below

For November's Book Club, we read  A World Below   by Wesley King. Finn, Ian and Mark were present. This is what we discussed. ...