Category Archives: writing

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston

cover49096-mediumWhen I first saw this sweet cover, I thought that Ava and Pip would be an early-ish chapter book, along the lines of Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine series or Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody books. This adorable cover deceives, however, as Ava and Pip is a solid middle grade novel that I think many of my 4th-6th grade students will love. While Judy and Clementine start off their series in third grade, Ava is a 5th grader, and her sister, Pip, a 7th grader. Ava and Pip‘s word count is twice that of Clementine and Judy, and the sentence structure is more suited to an upper elementary grade reader. The paperback version is coming out in March of 2015, so I’ll be interested to see what they do with the cover.

Ava is lovable, flawed, smart, and introspective. Her attempts to right a wrong are both believable and sympathetic, the family dynamics are charming and realistic, and the ending is satisfying. I look forward to recommending this one in my library this fall.

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

Publisher’s description:  AVA AND PIP is the diary of a good kid who does a bad thing.

Ava is an outgoing 10-year-old with a painfully shy 12-year-old sister. Ava gets mad at Pip and feels bad for Pip all at the same time. Mom and Dad are constantly fretting about Pip, and Ava sometimes feels invisible in her own family. When Pip’s 13th birthday party gets ruined because a new girl named Bea throws a boy-girl party on the same day, Ava, outraged, enters a writing contest with a thinly-veiled story called “Sting of the Queen Bee.” Bea finds out and is not pleased. She didn’t even know there were two parties on the same date. Bea confronts Ava, and the two reach a truce and decide to team up to try to help Pip come out of her shell. They devise five Pip Pointers. At first Pip resists, but little by little, she learns to speak up—and Ava does too. In fact, by helping Pip find her voice, Ava ultimately finds her own. She tells her parents that she would like some attention too, and she tells her diary that she has found her goal: She wants to be a writer someday.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys books in diary format

* tends to be shy

* loves words

* has siblings

* is a writer

Use this to discuss:

* Voice –The irony is that, throughout the story, Ava is trying to figure out what “voice” is in writing, yet her own voice oozes with sparkle and personality.

* Word Play–Ava’s entire family are self-proclaimed “word nerds.” They exchange puns, rhymes, and, most notably, palindromes (words and phrases that read the same both forward and backward, like A-V-A- and P-I-P, or “Was it a car or a cat I saw?” ) .

* Sibling Rivalry–Perhaps this category should be “sibling envy,” but that’s not quite accurate, either. Ava is envious of the attention that her parents give to her older, painfully shy sister, Pip, yet I don’t ever get the sense that Ava would want to be like Pip. All siblings feel this way at times, and the book will make a nice springboard for those discussions.

* Writing–Ava is an aspiring writer, and there’s a lot in these pages about finding one’s voice, writer’s block, etc. that could be culled for writers’ workshop activities.


Visit author Carol Weston’s website here to learn more about her. Students will be delighted to see how many autobiographical tidbits they can find that connect the author’s life and the book.

Check out the excellent educator’s guide by clicking here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Publication Date: March 2014

ISBN-13: 978-1402288708

Number of Pages: 224

For ages 9-12


Once Upon a Baby Brother by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Summary (from the jacket flap):

It was a dark and stormy night…

Lizzie loves to make up stories and tell them to anyone and everyone. But now that her annoying baby brother, Marvin, has joined the family, only her faithful dog, Big George, has time to listen. Fortunately, Miss Pennyroyal, Lizzie’s teacher, loves stories, too. Each day at writing time, Lizzie grabs her Princess Merriweather pencil, snaps open her Imagination Notebook, and she’s off on a writing adventure:

The brave young girl rescued her teacher from the alligator pit…

Lizzie’s so full of writing ideas, it seems that nothing can stop her. And then one day, something does–and not even her Princess Merriweather pencil can help. What’s a star writer to do?

Click here for  reviews.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* Has a new baby sibling

* Is a budding author

* Is a reluctant writer

* Regularly bemoans, “But I can’t think of anything to write!”

Use this to teach:

* Pre-Writing/Brainstorming–Students can create their own Imagination Notebooks just like Lizzie’s to keep track of their story ideas.

*Descriptive Writing--Lizzie uses strong verbs, descriptive language and laugh-out-loud dialogue that students will want to emulate in their own writing.

*Journaling–Lizzie deals with her exasperation over her baby brother through her writing, which would make a good springboard to journal-writing for kids.

*Family–Even though Lizzy’s brother annoys her at times, she ultimately learns to appreciate him and the their sibling bond.

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Publication Date: 2010

ISBN-10: 0374346356
ISBN-13: 9780374346355

Reading Level: 3.3

Interest Level: Elementary School