Monthly Archives: May 2004

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff

Wolff, Virginia Euwer. Make Lemonade. Square Fish, 2006 (reprint). ISBN  978-0805080704 208 pp. $9.99


Thanks fellow bloggers for recommending Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff. What an amazing look at a young mother and the 14 year-old-girl who sticks by her side through some really tough times and tough issues.

I loved so many things in this story. Wolff is an excellent writer and I am really in awe of her ability to show such depth of character in this book. The complicated relationship and feelings that exist between Jolly and LaVaughn are really tangible. Even though I haven’t lived through this kind of experience, the sentiments really rang true with me. People are full of complexities and beauty and humor and pride and rage and vulnerability and thought and joy and fear and so many more things. This book manages to show us so many sides of just a couple of people. (I stayed up until midnight reading this book last night. That may not be late for you other bloggers out there… but it is late for me!)

Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo & Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson


First, I was inspired by the PLA non fiction booktalk to read Close to Shore (the younger readers adaptation) and then because Allison read it and liked it I just had to read it too! I finished it in one morning… it’s a definite page turner! The story is fascinating but the storytelling really is what makes this book incredible. Facts we now know about sharks today are intermingled in the story of what happened in 1916. It’s really amazing how little people knew about sharks… to the point that even the shark experts (ichthyologists) believed these attacks were done by a Killer Whale or other sea mammal.

I also loved the facts and stats thrown in like a person is more likely to be attacked by a shark if they are swimming with a dog! (Because the dog’s erratic swimming causes sound waves a shark wants to investigate.) I learned so much from this book but I have to admit that if I had been watching it…I would have had to close my eyes at some of the gory parts!

Another nonfiction read I really enjoyed is Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson. Like Close to Shore this book is filled with photographs and primary sources which really give you a feel for the time and place. This book follows the lives of five actual children and young adult immigrants who lived in tenements in New York City. Their profiles begin in their home countries…Italy, Russia, Lithuania, Romania – describing their hardships and their reasons for emigrating. The last chapter outlines the rest of their lives answering the question “What happened to them?” The book also includes great resources like a timeline, further reading, and bibliography. If you find city histories or immigration intriguing then you’ll want to read this book.

Nonfiction Booktalks for Elementary School Children


I just finished doing a series of booktalks at local elementary schools to promote our summer reading program. I’m providing a list of the non-fiction books that the kids seem most interested in and, in my humble opinion, are the most fun to talk about. I have all my booktalks saved, so if you need them, just let me know and I can send them to you. (One observation–the kids LOVE to hear about non-fiction titles) Thanks to Kathleen Baxter who writes for SLJ and presented nonfiction booktalks at this year’s PLa conference. A lot of the following titles were recommended by her.

How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen

How to Find Lost Treasure in all 50 states…and Canada too by Joan Holub

**The Haunted States of America by Joan Holub

Calculator Riddles by David Adler

In the Land of Words: new and selected poems by Eloise Greenfield

The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon by Bea Uusma Schyffert

Outside and Inside Giant Squid by Sandra Markle

The Blood-Hungry Spleen and other poems about our parts by Allan Wolf

Wonderful Words: poems about reading, writing, speaking, and listening selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Scholastic Visual Sports Encyclopedia

**The Encyclopedia of Preserved People: Pickled, Frozen and mummified corpses from around the world by Natalie Jane Prior

**Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty by Joy Masoff

**Close to Shore: the terrifying shark attacks of 1916 by Michael Capuzzo

The ones with stars are the really big hits!

The She by Carol Plum-Ucci& Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve


We recently got in a new shipment of YA books so I’m diligently making my way through them. For those who like mysteries with a supernatural vein, I’ve been recommended Carol Plum-Ucci. Her first two books, The Body of Christopher Creed and What Happened to Lani Garver, are both cliffhangers of a sort. The mysteries are never solved which ordinarily would drive me crazy but I like it here. Her newest book is The She. Seventeen year old Evan has begun to recall the events of the night eight years ago when his parents were lost at sea. Now he begins to investigate the memories that are resurfacing. Were his parents caught in a storm as their mayday suggests, were they trying to stage their deaths to avoid a DEA investigation for smuggling drugs or is there some truth to the local legend of The She, a shrieking sea hag who destroys whoever she finds in her path?

Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines is a look at a dystopian future where cities have left their static existence moored to the earth and now travel the countryside on tracks, hunting other cities to survive. On the traction city of London, young Tom saves his hero, Head Historian Valentine, from a mutilated girl bent on murder and ends up being thrown out of the city along with the would-be assassin, Hester. As Tom tries to get back to London, he learns Hester’s story and has to determine where his loyalties truly lie.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo & Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff


I have been doing some listening …

I loved the audio of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo! I couldn’t wait to get in the car again to listen. I loved the story and the narrator…I can’t imagine a better match. I don’t usually dig anthropomorphic tales but this one is riveting. I gave one of our Trustees the audio version because the book was out…when she brought it back she told me that at some point she had started reading it but preferred the audio! So if you haven’t read this year’s Newbery winner I suggest you listen!

I am in the middle of Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff… this story is also riveting…I can’t think of a better word but I just can’t stop listening! If I had the book I would be staying up all night to finish! Hollis has been running away all her life…she feels unloved and unwanted until she lives with the Regan family… but we don’t know yet why that didn’t work out…we learn about her life through the pictures she has drawn (with an amazing artistic gift) … currently she lives with Josie, a retired art teacher who needs Hollis in a way that is greater than an emotional bond…Josie is losing her memory. For the first time in a long time Hollis feels needed again but what will happen when the “mustard” lady from the family services finds out about Josie? So I left off today with Hollis on the run again…but this time she is not alone…she’s taking Josie with her! I can’t wait to find out what happens to Josie and Hollis … and I really can’t wait to find out what happened with the Regan family.

Two you can skip:

P.S. Longer Letter Later … I have always wanted to read this book…it gets requested a lot by middle school/high school girls…but listening to a book written in letters is a drag. Also, Paula Danziger just does not make for a convincing 12 yr old girl. She sounds like a middle-aged smoker. And I found the characters and their litany of problems and letter-fights a bore.

Judy Moody Saves the World … I have been recommending this series to 3rd & 4th grade girls thinking they look so cute and are so popular…well Judy Moody is a Junie B. Jones wannabe and she is not charming at it. Instead I found her to be spoiled, rude, and generally unpleasant. It’s only 1 cassette long and I just couldn’t bring myself to finish. I would rather listen to static on the radio.