Written by Deva Fagan
Buy on Amazon
Life has never been easy for Trix. An orphan and an outcast among privileged students in the boarding school where she lives as a charity case, Trix survives because she is stubborn and angry. Suddenly everything changes. It starts small. She can read writing that no one else can on the poster for Circus Galacticus. A strange man appears outside her dorm room window, climbing in her room and attacking her. Then her hair turns pink. She needs answers and thinks that the mysterious message on the circus poster may hold the key. She meets the Ringmaster and he offers her a place at the circus. This is no ordinary circus. This is an intergalactic spaceship filled with outcasts who are searching for a way to survive against the repressive government of the Mandate. Trix must find out what her talent is and if she fits into this complicated world of new creatures and new rules before she endangers herself and the entire circus. She learns that the piece of meteorite that her astronaut parents left her is something much more important than she thought and gives her valuable clues to who she really is.
Throughout Trix’s journey of self-discovery, she remains stubborn and rebellious but she learns that she doesn’t have to always take on the whole universe by herself. Her courage to do just that helps her win the day. Lots of adventure and science fiction daring-do. Students can make a chart as a reading worksheet of each choice that Trix has to make, what her options are and what she chooses to do as a way of examining her character. There is a discussion guide on the author’s website: (http://devafagan.com/circus-galacticus-discussion-guide/). Although there is also a book trailer on the author’s website, students could make their own as a literacy activity.
- TITLE: Circus Galacticus
- AUTHOR: Deva Fagan
- PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
- REVIEWER: Risa Brown
- EDITION: Paperback, 291 p.
- ISBN: 978-0-547-85087-0
- GENRE: Science fiction
Written by Dianna Dorisi Winget
Buy on Amazon
A Smidgen of Sky is Dianna Dorisi Winget’s debut middle grade novel and it shines on many levels. Readers at the fourth grade reading level and up will fall in love with the protagonist, ten-year-old Piper Lee because of her spunk and voice. She puts her soul into all of her worries as she actively sets off to eliminate each and every one of them.
Piper Lee has meaningful problems that feel as real as the character Winget has created on the page. Several years prior to where Winget starts Piper’s story, we learn that her father’s plane crashed out at sea as he tried to rescue some friends during a bad storm. Because nobody has found his body Piper Lee has not given up on him and believes with all her heart that he will return. But her mother does not share Piper’s opinion that her father will return and has moved on with her life. In fact, her mother’s about to get married and is encouraging Piper Lee to move on with her life, too!
But Piper can’t. Her loyalty toward her father is too strong. So she is determined to find her father and break up her mother’s relationship with Ben, her future step-dad. Because she will stop at nothing, she takes dangerous risks to realize her dream. But is it what she really wants?
A Smidgen of Sky will give fourth grade readers a close look at how challenging it is for kids to lose a parent and gain a step-parent, as well as the good things that come from a blended family. Best of all, Winget’s story offers hope to those going through a similar situation.
- Title: A Smidgen of Sky
- Author: Dianna Dorisi Winget
- Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
- Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
- Paperback: 195 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-7636-6459-6
- Genre: fiction, family, contemporary
Written by Ellis Weiner
Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Buy on Amazon
How often do you get to read a book where the end and the beginning are on the same page? That’s just the crazy devices fourth graders will enjoy in this romp through the lives of Abigail and John Templeton.
As a read aloud book, it’s also appropriate for younger kids. Despite the humor, there are a lot of emotions shown and lessons to be learned. The twelve-year-old twins have lost their mother. Their father, a professor and inventor, is having trouble dealing with the loss of his wife. Getting a “ridiculous dog” helps a little because he has to go outside to walk the dog, Cassie. But he decides that moving to a new university is the answer. When father and kids show up at “Tick-Tock Tech,” the kids’ nickname for the new school, father is confronted by villainous Dean D. Dean, who claims the professor stole his invention. Dean D. Dean kidnaps the twins in order to get the professor to sign over rights to the invention, but the kids, of course, outsmart him and his twin, Dan. For one thing, the twins each have a hobby that proves useful in thwarting the Deans. Plus they are smarter than the Deans. The invention, the Personal One-Man Helicopter or POMH, turns out to still have a few bugs.
The author and illustrator make such a great team, you would think they were of the same humorous mind. The illustrator seems to understand each and every crazy invention Professor Templeton comes up with. Throughout the text, the author speaks directly to the reader through the narrator, adding to the silliness. This is planned as the first in a series about the Templetons. The book and eventual series have their own website at www.thetempletontwins.com, where kids can continue the fun with the narrator.
- Title: The Templeton Twins Have an Idea
- By: Ellis Weiner
- Illustrated by: Jeremy Holmes
- Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2012
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Hardcover: 229 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-8118-6679-8
- Genre: Chapter book, Humor, Family
- Lexile Score: 850L
Written by Garth Edwards
Illustrated by Max Stasyuk
Buy on Amazon
The world behind the hedge is a strange one and three friends must adapt quickly to save themselves from kidnapping or worse. When Milly decides to run away from Mercy Hall, an abusive orphanage, George and Sam know they must help her. As they meet next to the hedge, it opens and three figures in hooded, orange robes grab her and drag her through the opening. George and Sam surprise the kidnappers and fight them off. Before they can go back, the hedge closes. » Read more
Written by Mike Jung
Illustrated by Mike Maihack
Buy on Amazon
Welcome to Copperplate City, a world where superheroes are in every city and an alert system sends out city-wide texts when their local hero, Captain Stupendous, is on the job.Vincent Wu and his friends have organized the only serious Captain Stupendous fan club in town. They have, like, an archive of material on him and all the other fan clubs are lame. So they know something is wrong when Captain Stupendous is tricked by the latest super villain, Professor Mayhem and his indestructible robot. » Read more