Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Piney Woods is the neighborhood of Elijah of Buxton, and it is wonderful to be invited back there again. The older folks in the town used tales of the madman of the woods to scare the children into behaving and staying out of the woods.
Then the same idea occurs to some of the older children. To make sure the little ones stay scared, they occasionally wear hoods over their heads and howl after dark. They just have to really careful to make sure the parents and grandparents don’t catch on to what they are up to, cause, boy oh boy that would be trouble.
Benji and Red have many adventures, and grow through them all. Christopher Paul Curtis continues to enthrall fifth grade readers as well as sixth grade readers and beyond with all the various things that can happen in the woods. Just as some are terribly terrifying, others are completely hilarious. Often within mere pages of each other.
While this is a historical fiction and will fulfill standards in literacy, it will also fulfill standards in history as it is a carefully researched novel that clearly portrays Irish immigration in Canada in early 1900. Librarians and teachers will want to include this companion novel in their collections right next to the Newberry Honor Book about Elijah of Buxton.
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- Title: The Madman of Piney Woods
- Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
- Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2015
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Hardcover, 364 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-545-15664-6
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Grade level: 4 to 6
Written by Cynthia Lord
In this heartwarming and fun story, Lord’s characters ring true to life, informing development without hitting kids over the head with what they’re learning.
Lily lives in wild blueberry country, also known as Maine. She works hard, helping her Mémère and Pépère (grandmother and grandfather) run the only grocery in a small town. As the wild blueberry harvest progresses and the blueberry festival approach, Lily worries about her dog, who is going blind. Two elements of blueberry growth that figure in the story are the migrants who work the harvest and the mason bees that pollinate the bushes. The new – very good – friend Lily makes is a migrant named Salma. Lily gets Salma started painting bee houses, the blocks of wood in whose holes the bees live. Lily plans to use the cash from selling the houses to help her dog. Meanwhile, Lily is dealing with her changing relationship with her best friend, Hannah, and with missing her dead mother. Hannah is the defending Blueberry Queen, Lily’s mother won the crown three years running, and Salma wants to enter the contest. So her emotions are extremely conflicted.
Lord packs a lot into this story. Fourth graders will find a lot to relate to regarding friendship and differences (and similarities) in culture. They will learn about the history of blueberries plus a bit about both Latino migrants and French Canadians. And they will also learn about helping their pets and mason bees. As with Rules, Lord handles all these issues with great sensitivity.
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- Title: A Handful of Stars
- Author: Cynthia Lord
- Published: Scholastic Press, 2015
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
- Grade Level: 3 to 7
- Genre: Fiction, culture, friendship, pets
- ISBN: 978-0-454-70029-0