Sunday, March 27, 2011

Words That Start with B by Vikki VanSickle

Clarissa is just starting grade 7- she expects it to be her best year ever. Her and her best friend Benji can't wait to start school. She has long awaited the year when she will have Miss. Ross- the best teacher ever. But grade 7 doesn't turn out quite the way Clarissa expects. There are feelings for boys, new friends, new teachers and Benji who doesn't want to stand up for himself. Clarissa needs to deal with all of that at school and then things take a turn at home. Life gets very confusing for Clarissa.

I enjoyed reading this book, it reminded me of Egghead for many reasons. It also deals with growing up from a girls perspective. I always like reading books set in Ontario, and I liked how VanSickle dealt with issues of bullying, friendship, school and illness.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

I just finished reading the most amazing book Half Brother. One of my students, Jacob read it earlier this year and I borrowed it from him because it was on my to be read list. I absolutely loved this book! I need to go out and get a copy of it for my classroom.

Half Brother is set in the 1970's and is the story of a family of scientists who decide to adopt a chimpanzee named Zan and try to teach him to communicate. The father is a university professor who is overseeing the project. He keeps Zan at a distance and tries to be a casual observer. The mother is Zan's main care giver, while at the same time working on her PhD paper. Then there is Ben- he is 13 when the story starts and isn't too happy to have his life turned upside down and to have a new member in his family. Slowly Zan grows on Ben and soon Ben loves Zan like a brother. The story follows the experiment through a series of successes and setbacks that cause the characters to grow, adapt and change.

I found this story to be so moving. Ben's relationship with his father, his friends, girls and most of all Zan are so real and powerful. Oppel really captured what it is like to be 13 years old. The connection between Ben and Zan is really beautiful. Ben sees Zan as more than an animal, he loves him and the communication between the two of them is really incredible. This story brought me to tears, but it also made me laugh as I was reading it. I think it would make a great read aloud, there are so many discussion points that you could bring up while reading this. It reminded me a bit of Eric Walters book Elixir. I also know many kids will love it as much as I did.