The Children's Book Compass

Posts Tagged ‘Putnam

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.   (2011).  341 pages.  FSG.  Ages 11- 14.

Gantos won the Newbery for 2012 for this humorous, autobiographical novel. In 1962, twelve-year-old  Jack gets in trouble and is grounded for the summer.  His mother only lets him out of his punishment to help an elderly neighbor type obituaries for the local newspaper.  Gantos loads his story with unexpected twists and turns that are zany and sometime mysterious.

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard.  (2011).  183 pages.  Delacorte Press.  Ages 14-adult.  Realistic Fiction.

As sixteen-year-old Alex begins the school year at his boarding school, he is unable to save his roommate from drowning.  That event consumes Alex as the truth of what happened consumes him with guilt.  A supporting English teacher nurtures Alex’s poetic talents and tries to help him come to terms with the drowning.  This novel explores moral issues and the cost of peer pressure in a way that demonstrates the complexity of being a teenager.

 Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor.  (2011).  247 pages.   Putnam.  Ages 11- adult.

Reading this book was a gift.  The story features lovable and intriguing characters that by the end of the book seem like friends.  The Mother of seventh grader, Raine, unexpectedly takes a job for the summer at a small artist retreat, Sparrow Road.  Raine is not happy about having to leave her home in Milwaukee.  It turns out that her mother wants Raine to meet the father she has never known who lives near Sparrow Road.  The summer turns out to be memorable and life changing for Raine.

Bluefish by Pat Schmatz.  (2011)  226 pages.  Candlewick Press.  Ages 12- adult.

Travis has hidden a secret – he can’t read.  When he gets to middle school he encounters a teacher who discovers his secret and offers him a solution.  A new friend, Velvetta, also helps him with his reading.  Both Travis and Velvetta are dealing with grief and loss.  How they learn to trust and support each other as they become friends makes a story that sticks to the heart.


Bun Bun Button by Patricia Polacco.  (2011). Pages not numbered.  Putnam.  Grades P-3.  Picture Book.

Gather your favorite children close by and read aloud Polacco’s newest treasure.  It starts:

“Paige Elizabeth Darling adored her Gramma.  When Paige visited—which was often—Gramma let Paige help bake soft sand cookies, make the beds and feed the kitties and the dogs.

And when Paige was done, she and Gramma would climb into the Old Blue Chair which they loved and cuddle and read.”

Gramma makes Paige a bunny to cuddle and love.  Of course, that’s when the drama occurs.  The bunny, Bun Bun Button, is lost.  How he returns to Paige makes a warm and loving story.  As usual, Polacco’s colorful, action packed illustrations fill the pages.  The details in the drawings add to our understanding of the characters.  Gramma wears hiking boots, the cats and dogs cavort across the pages.  Even the gold fish jumps and peers from his bowl to join in the fun.  The book is especially notable because of the cherished relationship between Gramma and granddaughter.

Island’s End by Padma Venkatraman.  (2011).  228 pages.  Putnam.  Grades 6-9.  Realistic Fiction, Novel.

This book is an example of how reading a book about a place that is new to us takes us on a learning journey.  The author’s trip to the Andaman Islands of India provided her with background about the indigenous people who live there.  Venkatraman’s expertise is in oceanography and her research trip to the Andaman Islands also gave her an opportunity to learn about the people whose history goes back seventy thousand years.  As the plot of the novel makes clear the challenge for these people is to find a way to keep their culture alive and prevent the destruction of their islands while at the same time building bridges with modern societies.  In the story the young teenager who has become the spiritual leader of the tribe, leads her people to safety before a tsunami strikes the island.  That incident is based on an actual event when the tsunami of December, 2004 wreaked destruction across the planet.  The author relates in her note at the end of the book how “several “primitive” groups living on the Andaman Islands escaped to safety.”    Their “ancient knowledge of the movement of wind and oceans and a sensitivity to the behavior of sea birds and island creatures may have warned these native people to flee inland in the nick of time.”   As this novel so strongly shows, modern people need to take a journey of discovery to learn about the ancient knowledge of these people.

Desperate Measures by Laura Summers.  (2011).  250 pages.  Putnam.  Grades 6-9.  Realistic Fiction, Novel.

This is a story about three siblings and their difficulties when their mother dies and their father is unable to care for them.  Finally, they come to a foster home where they feel  comfortable, but then they are told they must move on again.  After reading this novel, I was struck with several questions as I made strong connections.  The sisters and brother in this story undertake a desperate journey in order to not be sent to separate foster homes.  I wondered, what are the journeys, metaphorical and actual, that we take with our own families?   On our mutual journeys, how are our perceived roles different?  Vicky in this story thinks she is taking care of her learning disabled twin and younger brother.  But, how are they caring for her?  One of the strengths of this book is the way each sister tells the story in alternating chapters.  Seeing the different perspectives offered in the novel, made me wonder how would different members of our family tell about our journey?  We have been on a journey together, but how would our accounts differ?  How would knowing the different perspectives of each person change or influence each of our understanding?   This novel provoked my thinking.  Isn’t that what a good book should do?

Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

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