Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy!

Warning! Read Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything and Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel before proceeding!

Ronald “Cheesie” Mack is about to enter a new world…middle school. Luckily, he’s got his best friend Georgie by his side, but how can Cheesie and company make an impression on students and teachers who are totally new to them? Cheesie thinks he may have the answer. Run for 6th grade class president!

But there may be a problem. Cheesie’s friend from elementary school, Lana, also wants to run for president. (You may recall that Lana is most definitely NOT Cheesie’s girlfriend!) Cheesie doesn’t want to hurt Lana’s feelings, but he does want to be known as something other than “June’s little brother.” What’s a kid to do? Well, Cheesie comes up with something that will satisfy almost everyone…

During all of the class election craziness, Cheesie also has to deal with his horrible sister, joining the school’s cross-country team, and generally learning to survive middle school. He encounters everything with the humor, wit, and intelligence that have gotten him out of jam after jam. The question is…will it be enough this time?

Find out how Cheesie, Georgie, and a charming cast of characters make it to the finish line when you read Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy! by Steve Cotler!

The Adventures of Beanboy

The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader is a nominee for the 13-14 South Carolina Childrens’ Book Award. This novel, told through drawings and first person narrative from the perspective of seventh-grader Tucker MacBean, has real heart. This is a book that I will be all-too-happy to share with my students, especially those who love comic books and are looking for a hero they can really relate to.

Tucker MacBean feels like his life is spinning out of control. He’s virtually invisible at school, he rarely sees his mom (who works during the day and attends college at night), he has to take care of his younger brother, Beech, and his dad has packed up and moved to Boston. Tucker is desperate to find a way to make things a little better for everyone…and he may have just come across something that will work.

Tucker’s favorite comic book, H2O, is holding a contest to see who can come up with H2O’s sidekick. The prize? The new sidekick will be featured in upcoming episodes, and the prize winner will receive a full college scholarship. Pretty great, right? Well, Tucker gets the bright idea to enter the contest…and try to win the scholarship for his mom. Tucker thinks he’s come up with a great idea for a sidekick–Beanboy, a boy who harvests the majestic power of beans–but how can he prove to the contest judges that his creation has the heart of a true hero…and how can Tucker find the hero within himself?

In Tucker’s quest to come up with the perfect comic book sidekick, he’s also facing the scariest girl at Amelia Earhart Middle School, the terrifying Sam Zawicki. Sam seems to delight in being mean to everyone…except Beech, Tucker’s little brother. With him, she’s almost nice, and that small bit of niceness starts to make Tucker think that there may be more to Sam than anyone knows.

Time is running out for Tucker to enter the contest with the power to change his life. Things will get in the way–his run-ins with Sam Zawicki, finding time to work on his entry, coping with a mom who’s never around (but really wants to be) and a special needs brother (who he dearly loves and will do anything for), a school dance, mean girls, and doing the right thing–but Tucker will do everything in his power to not only enter this contest but win. Is H2O’s new sidekick (hopefully) everything he should be? More importantly, what has Tucker learned about himself as he’s struggled to create a hero? Find out when you read Lisa Harkrader’s The Adventures of Beanboy!

The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister

Kara McAllister is the only girl in the seventh grade who’s never been kissed.  Even worse, she’s never come close to having a boyfriend.  But she’s determined to change all that.  This year is her year.  She’s even going to make her quest for a boyfriend her science project.  She’ll use what she knows about the scientific method to gather data on guys she finds attractive and what they’re looking for in a potential girlfriend, and–Voilà!–she’ll apply her new-found knowledge and nab herself a boyfriend–and an A in science.  Simple, right?

As you can imagine, nothing is simple when it comes to figuring out boys and finding the perfect boyfriend, especially when the guy at the top of your list asks out your BFF.  Kara uses observations, “expert” advice, interviews with her sister, surveys, and eavesdropping in the boys’ bathroom to answer her all-important question:  How do I get a boyfriend?  Sometimes her research methods land Kara in a bit of trouble, and she even considers abandoning her project altogether, but she moves forward and realizes that maybe the key to finding a boyfriend isn’t to figure out what they’re looking for but to realize what she’slooking for.

Kara learns that she has to be true to herself if she wants others to see how great she is.  Yes, she (like everyone else in the world) could improve on a few things, but she has to be herself if she wants a boyfriend.  No, not just a boyfriend, but a boyfriend who will really make her happy.

Will Kara McAllister ever succeed in finding a boyfriend?  What will be the final results of her science project?  I’ll leave that for you to find out when you read The Boy Project by Kami Kinard.

Ungifted

Donovan Curtis’ middle name should be “Trouble.” He can’t seem to stop himself whenever the opportunity for mischief arises. Usually, he can get out of the messes he makes…but this time is a little different. All he did was hit a statue with a stick. How was he to know that the statue actually had two parts…and one of them was loose? Could he have possibly predicted that a large metal globe would careen down the hill at school and crash into the Hardcastle Middle School gymnasium during a big basketball game? Probably not…but all of it is his fault, and he knows that a severe punishment is coming.

…or is it? Donovan knows that it’s just a matter of time before the superintendent calls him to the office for the punishment of a lifetime. Finally, the call comes…but it’s not exactly for what Donovan was expecting. It seems that there was a little mix-up, and Donovan is being transferred to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction (ASD). No detention.  No community service. No paying for the damaged gym. No, thanks to a paperwork snafu, Donovan is being moved to a school for gifted students. Nevermind that he’s not what any teacher (or parent, sibling, friend) would call “gifted.” While everyone is a little perplexed by this news, Donovan sees it as his chance to escape from the trouble he’s caused at Hardcastle Middle. After all, if he’s not there, it’ll be a lot harder for the superintendent to find him!

On Donovan’s first day at ASD, it becomes pretty clear that he doesn’t belong there. He doesn’t excel in any subject, and he spends more time in the bathroom than anywhere else. Both his teachers and his fellow students question why Donovan was placed at ASD. Soon, though, Donovan makes a place for himself at this prestigious school (that has much cooler, expensive, and newer stuff than the “normal” school down the road). Maybe what the high-IQ crowd needs most is a little dose of normal!

Donovan brings new life to his ASD homeroom. He convinces the class to give their robot a name. He shows them that playing lots of video games might give someone some mad skills in operating said robot. He gets his very pregnant sister to provide the class with a much needed human growth and development credit. He introduces one genius to YouTube (which may or may not have been a mistake). It’s also thanks to Donovan that his new friends get to experience their first school dance. (It doesn’t end well.) Even though Donovan knows he’s not really one of them, he feels more at home with his genius friends than he ever did with his trouble-making buddies at Hardcastle.

Even as he’s starting to fit in at ASD, Donovan’s past is closing in on him, and it’s just a matter of time before it’s revealed that he’s responsible for destroying the Hardcastle gym. What will happen to Donovan? And how will it effect his placement at ASD and the friendships he’s created there? Is Donovan really as “ungifted” as everyone seems to think, or do his gifts lie outside the realm of academics? Read Ungifted by Gordon Korman to learn how one kid can bridge the gap between “nerd” and “normal.”

This book is a great read for anyone who’s ever struggled to fit in. The story is told from multiple perspectives–kid and adult, student and teacher, nerd and normal–so every reader should find something to relate to in Ungifted. I think this book highlights that everyone has gifts. Some are just more obvious than others.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel

Last night, I both started and finished reading the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.  The Third Wheel is the seventh book in this series.  This past summer, I read the first six books in the series IN ONE DAY. I read the seventh book in about two hours.

It is a super-fast read, but, in my opinion, The Third Wheel might just be the best book in the entire series. Like the others, this book is hilariously funny, but I think the seventh book had even more funny moments to offer than the previous six books. I especially enjoyed Gregory’s account of what life was like for him before his birth. (Apparently, he remembers much of his time in the womb. It’s kind of weird to think about.) His recollection of his life as a baby is equally side-splitting.

Greg Heffley’s distinctive voice is probably the best thing about this entire series, and it really shines in The Third Wheel. His tales of his relationship with his family, his turmoil over finding a date to the Valentine’s dance, and his confusion when things don’t go as planned (and they never do) make for a book that young readers will absolutely devour. Greg is a thoroughly relatable character, and I know that children of all ages will find something to identify with in this book (and the rest of the series).

For even more information about The Third Wheel and the entire Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, visit http://www.wimpykid.com/.

The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee

Warning!  Read The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Darth Paper Strikes Back before continuing.  The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee picks up right where Darth Paper left off.

When we last saw the students at McQuarrie Middle School, Dwight (the “owner and operator” of the famous Origami Yoda) had been suspended.  He is now attending Tippett Academy, and his friends (Tommy, Kellen, and the gang) aren’t quite sure what to do without him…or Origami Yoda.  Who will give them the advice they need?  Who will keep them from embarrassment and trouble?

Chewbacca to the rescue!!!   Sara has arrived with the Fortune Wookiee!  This paper fortune teller, along with his companion Han Foldo, has come to McQuarrie Middle to guide students in the ways of the Force (even though Chewie and Han never used the Force).  But why does the Fortune Wookiee’s advice seem to get the guys to do exactly what the girls want them to do?  This is one mystery that needs to be solved!

Another mystery that is plaguing the students at MMS concerns Dwight.  According to reports, ever since he transferred to Tippett, Dwight has become normal (boring).  He does his homework, he behaves in class, he’s given up origami (even Origami Yoda), and he’s just not as lively as he used to be.  What’s going on here?  Can Dwight’s friends—and even his arch-nemesis Harvey—discover the truth before both Dwight and Origami Yoda are gone forever?

Just like the other Origami Yoda books, The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee combines humor, Star Wars, art, and mystery to create a fun, fast read that everyone will enjoy.  And this isn’t the last we’ve heard from the students of McQuarrie Middle!  Something horrible is about to happen at their beloved school, and they’ll need to harness the power of the Force to fight it!

If you’d like to learn more about this fantastic series (including how to fold your own origami Star Wars characters), visit http://origamiyoda.wordpress.com/.  Have fun!

Wonder

Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a boy who’s about to enter fifth grade. This will mark the first time Auggie has ever been at school with other kids. He’s been homeschooled up until now, and he’s not entirely certain he wants that to change. Auggie’s nervous about how the kids at school will react to his face. See, Auggie was born with a facial deformity–for lack of a better word–and he doesn’t exactly look like most kids. But everything else about him is perfectly normal. He’s a good student, he’s funny, he loves Star Wars (a kid after my own heart), and, most of all, he just wants to belong somewhere. But will anyone be able to look past his appearance and really be Auggie’s friend?

As it turns out, there are a couple of kids who befriend Auggie, but Auggie worries that he’s some kind of charity case to them.  Nothing about middle school is easy–especially when your face might as well be a target for bullies–but it’s a lot easier when you’ve got a couple of friends who have your back.  Even though Auggie has doubts (sometimes justified) about his friends on occasion, he’s forming lasting relationships with people who see him for the wonderful person he is.

Read Wonder to discover how one very special kid can change the minds, hearts, and attitudes of those around him and turn an entire school–even a community–into a model of kindness.  This book gives me hope that the world we live in can change for the better.

I haven’t touched on a lot of what happens in Wonder–Auggie’s relationships with his parents and sister, how he deals with all of the changes in his life, etc.–but these are things you need to experience for yourself.  This book isn’t just Auggie’s story.  Yes, it’s told primarily from his point of view, but we also get glimpses into the minds of his family and friends.  It’s eye-opening and humbling, and I challenge readers to examine their own thoughts and prejudices against people who may look different from them.  We’ll all relate to the characters in this book in different ways, and reflecting upon how we relate to these characters could have the power to change our attitudes about ourselves and others.