Category Archives: magic

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

hi_res_FLF_COVER_2-330 The first time I heard Charlotte’s Web was while sitting on the carpet of my 4th grade classroom in 1975 when Mrs. Smith read the book aloud to us. I was captivated. At the time, I had no idea that the book was already more than 20 years old. Fleabrain Loves Franny opens in the early 1950s, just after E.B. White published Charlotte’s Web, and main character Franny is just as smitten with Charlotte as I was. We meet Franny not long after she’s recovered from polio and is grappling with life in a wheelchair. She’s still considered contagious by her friends and their parents, and she wishes for a friend like Charlotte. Fleabrain is no Charlotte, but his imperfect love for Franny sets her off on a journey–both fantastical and internal–that provides both a needed escape from reality as well as a solid plan for her new normal. Franny is a sympathetic character who doesn’t evoke pity, but respect. One of my favorite lines is when Franny’s former gang of friends parades by her house yet again, waving and saying how much they miss her. She thinks: “Which Franny do you miss? Because, actually, I’ve been here all along. In the flesh.” She doesn’t want or need to be treated with kid gloves, and the resolved friendships in the end are both satisfying and realistic.

Teachers and students often ask if we have any new historical fiction titles on the shelves, and I’m looking forward to recommending this one in the fall.

Publisher’s description:  This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys historical fiction

* is interested in science (especially microbiology and germs/bacteria/viruses/medicine)

* loves a light touch of fantasy

* is struggling with feeling different from his or her peers

* would like to vicariously visit the Seven Wonders of the World

* is a fan of  E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Katie Speck’s Maybelle series.

Charlotte_Maybelle

Use this book to discuss:

* Differences–So often we highlight ways in which we are different from other people, instead of celebrating the many ways that we are alike. Having a peek into Franny’s point of view, we realize that the kernel of who she is has not changed; it’s her community who has changed the way they see her through a lens of fear

* The science behind vaccines –As I looked through our library’s online catalog, I realized that we have quite a few non-fiction titles about epidemics and the role/effects of disease throughout history. Jonas Salk, the man who discovered the polio vaccine, is mentioned several times in the book.

* Points of View–While most of the story is told from Franny’s point of view, we do see snippets of Fleabrain’s point of view, as well. Especially in the end, when Fleabrain can’t communicate with Franny, students can discuss misunderstanding, intentions, and forgiveness all within the context of friendship.

For schools with Internet filters that block YouTube, click here for the trailer on School Tube.

Visit author Joanne Rocklin’s website here and my interview with her here in 2012.

Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams Books

Publication Date: August 2014

ISBN-13: 978-1-4197-1068-1

Number of Pages: 288

For ages 9-12

My (Sort of) Fairy Tale Ending by Anna Staniszewski

Today Biblio Links welcomes back author Anna Staniszewski!

My-Sort-Of-Fairy-Tale-Ending-CoverAnna’s third book in her My Very Unfairy Tale Life series was released earlier this month. Just like the first two books, I adored Jenny in My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending. She’s flawed, magical, earnest, and sincere.

Here’s the plot summary from the publisher’s website:

You think a trip to Fairy Land sounds fun? Clearly you’ve never been turned into a mouse by an Evil Queen.

This. Is. It. My most important mission as a magical adventurer ever. And probably my last. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure if I defy the council and travel to Fairy Land to rescue my parents, I’m so fired. They say it’s too dangerous. That the Queen Fairy is crazy, and she’s hoarding all the magic to do unspeakable things (like steal the leprechauns’ gold and make all of her subjects attend mandatory parades).

But none of that matters. I finally have a chance at happily ever after with my family. And crazy fairy or no crazy fairy, I’ll do whatever it takes to bring them home.

~

In my library, I get fairy book requests daily  from little girls (K-2). But older readers like fairies, too, and I have a hard time keeping this series on the shelves. 

I asked Anna how her book fits into the classroom.

Anna Staniszewski-1Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, “That kid needs a copy of MY VERY (SORT OF) FAIRY TALE ENDING.” Who is this kid?
Anna Staniszewski: That kid is someone who likes to laugh and who enjoys adventures that turn traditional fairy tales upside-down. And if that kid is a fan of puns, even better!
Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

Anna Staniszewski: We’d see a lively discussion about fractured fairy tales–why we like retelling fairy tales, and why they’re so fun to “break.” I suspect there might also be a round of Fairy Tale Mad Libs (which is a big hit during my school visits).
Biblio Links: What writing advice do you have for kids?
Anna Staniszewski:Never stop writing! I’ve loved writing since I was young, but for a while I let other things in life distract me from it. If you enjoy writing then make sure to always make it a top priority.

Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?
Anna Staniszewski: They can visit my website (www.annastan.com) where I have information about my books, upcoming events, school visits, etc.

Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

Here’s a bit more about the wonderful Anna:

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their black Labrador, Emma.

When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author ofMy Very UnFairy Tale Life and its sequels, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail and My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending, all published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at www.annastan.com.

Click here  to read the sparkling reviews and first chapter of My  (Sort of) Fairy Tale Ending and check out the trailer:

…and the first two books in the series!

 

MyVeryUnFairyTaleLife_CVR.inddMy Epic Fairy Tale Fail Final Cover RGB

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Publication Date: November 5, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1402279331 (paperback)

Interest Level: Ages 9-12

Reading Level: 4.5

Number of Pages: 224

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!
Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

 

 

Rose by Holly Webb

517zbG28mQL._SY300_I was charmed by Rose right from the start. She’s likable and believable–someone you’d want as a friend.

Publisher’s description: Rose isn’t like the other orphans at St Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls. Instead of dreaming of getting adopted by loving, wealthy parents, Rose wants to get a job and be independent. She doesn’t need anyone but herself. She finds her escape working as a maid for Mr. Fountain, an alchemist. Unable to ignore the magic that flows throughout the grand residence, Rose realizes that just maybe; she might have a little bit of magic in her too. This new series featuring magicians, witches, talking cats, mist-monsters, and friendships will have young readers in a trance!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys reading about magic and alchemy and mystery,

* is ready for some scariness, but not too too much, and

* gobbles up historical fiction or stories set back in time.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–While this story is from Rose’s point of view, we soon meet Freddie, the alchemist’s haughty apprentice. Freddie has no redeeming qualities at the start, but will grow on you as you (and Rose) get to know him better. Ask students to retell (in writing or orally) Rose’s first meeting with Freddie from Freddie’s point of view.

* Chemistry--Although the potions and magic mixtures are straight fiction, it would be fun to pair this title with a science unit on mixtures, solutions, and chemical properties.

*Genre blending–More and more books today are difficult to fit into one genre, and this is one of them. Fantasy? Check. Historical fiction? Yup. Is it more one than the other? Let you students decide.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky

Publication Date: September 3, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1402285813

Number of Pages: 240

Interest Level: Ages 9 and up