Monday, October 23, 2017

MMGM: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus/Ban This Book/The Loser's Club


Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.


I've found a new book for my favorite book's shelf.  I absolutely loved this book, so bare with me while a gush a bit.  I even read it to my sixth graders and they loved it too.  Aven is such a wonderful character, so full of heart and determination and a willingness to try.  What makes it even better is that her parents are so there for her, in fact they are responsible for teaching her that having no arms is no excuse for not trying.  They've taught her to do for herself as much as she can.  But moving to Arizona, away from all her friends, isn't what Aven expected.  And she gets tired of all the stares she gets at her new school.  She even avoids the cafeteria so that the students don't see her eating with her feet.

In her efforts to avoid the cafeteria Aven visits the library where she meets Connor, a fellow outcast, who happens to have Tourette's Syndrome.  His barking embarrasses him immensely, especially when the other students make fun of him.  But as Aven and Connor become better friends they start helping each other grow stronger.  And when Zion, another so-called 'freak' joins the group things start to look up for Aven.

At the same time, Aven is adjusting to her new home at Stagecoach Pass, a falling apart western theme park that her parents are now managing.  When there appears to be a mystery surrounding the owner of the theme park, Aven recruits Connor and Zion to help her solve it. But the mystery takes a rather unexpected turn, leading Aven to wonder about her past as well as her future.

I loved the humor that Aven uses to cope with the challenges in her life.  But it's her strong spirit and desire to help others that carries the day.  This is one of my favorite books of the year and one I plan to share over and over, not just because the character is disabled but doesn't it stop her, but because of the relationships that shine through so beautifully, flaws and all.


 Sixth grader Alec can't put a good book down. So when Principal Vance lays down the law--pay attention in class, or else--Alec takes action. He can't lose all his reading time, so he starts a club. A club he intends to be the only member of. After all, reading isn't a team sport, and no one would want to join something called the Losers Club, right? But as more and more kids find their way to Alec's club--including his ex-friend turned bully and the girl Alec is maybe starting to like--Alec notices something. Real life might be messier than his favorite books, but it's just as interesting.

With The Losers Club, Andrew Clements brings us a new school story that's a love letter to books and to reading and that reminds us that sometimes the best stories are the ones that happen off the page--our own!


In this delightful story about readers uniting to do what they love, Alec also faces normal 6th grade challenges.  He wrestles with his interest in Nina, the girl who helped him form his club.  On top of that he faces off with his former friend, who is also determined to win Nina over. Plus, he has to come up with a way to present his club's activity to the parents for the upcoming open house.  Suddenly, what he intended as a way to get away with reading as much as he wants has become a lot more work than he ever planned.  Alec was easy for me to relate to seeing as how I too love to read.  And finding a balance between school, reading, and friends is a common problem for other book lovers as well.  Once again, Andrew Clements has written a book that young readers will be able to easily relate to and enjoy.


An inspiring tale of a fourth-grader who fights back when her favorite book is banned from the school library--by starting her own illegal locker library!

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That's when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate's mom thought the book wasn't appropriate for kids to read.

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned books library out of her locker. Soon, she finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read.

Reminiscent of the classic novel Frindle by Andrew Clements for its inspiring message, Ban This Book is a love letter to the written word and its power to give kids a voice.


I knew when I picked up this book that it would probably make me angry, I am a librarian after all. And I was right, it did make me angry.  As a librarian, I am well aware that not every book fits every reader, but for one person to dictate to everyone else what they should allow their children to do is just wrong. Especially when the whole book hasn't even been read.  I found myself seriously cheering for Amy Anne's courage as she provided books for her classmates on the sly.  I couldn't approve of this as a teacher, but as a reader I was with her 100%.  

It all starts when Amy Anne goes to the library to check out her favorite book only to discover that it's been taken off the shelf because a parent objected to it.  When she goes to the school board meeting with Mrs. Jones the librarian, she finds herself unable to find her voice, and her book along with a bunch of others are banned (or 'removed' as the school board justifies).  What especially irritate me at this point is that the board is ignoring it's own policies to satisfy this parent, and none of the board members have read the books they are having removed.

But when Amy Anne informs her friends of what has happened, they form a group to resist by providing the banned books secretly from Amy Anne's locker.  But as word spreads about the illegal library, the risk of discovery becomes greater.  And Amy Anne can't help but suspect the activist parent's son of possible betrayal. When things come to a head, it's up to Amy Anne and her friends to find their voice before there are no books worth reading left in the library.

I'm glad I read this book, it demonstrates wonderfully the dangers of censorship and book banning. This is also a great story about a young girl learning to find her own voice in a world she feels ignores her, which ends up helping her out at home as well as at school.


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