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scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source

Category results for 'middle-grade'.

The Green Glass Sea is a very interesting idea for a book -- it tells the story of a gradual friendship between two girls who live in Los Alamos -- a place that didn't exist on paper during World War II, because it's where scientists worked on the atomic bomb. Both Suze and Dewey have parents who are working on the "gadget," and both girls are misfits to one degree or another. When they have to live together, they begin to learn to appreciate each other's strengths. 

Aside from the friendship, this story is filled with details of the period. While some scenes were, I thought, I bit overly detailed and slow, items and places are still very thoroughly described. This novel also contains positive characterizations of a woman scientist and a girl who is an engineering nerd. At the very least, this has piqued my interest for Los Alamos and what it must have been like to live there as a kid. While the story doesn't go into detail about the ethical issues surrounding the atomic bomb, that is at least alluded to by the end.

Scrounged From:

Format: Paperback
Author: Ellen Klages
Pages: 324
Content Advisory: A few "minor" swear words, a couple scenes of bullying, and a parental death is described (not graphic)

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Holes is a book that sat on my to-read pile for a long time, because I'd already seen the movie a few years back, so I wasn't as eager to read a story I'd already heard. Still, not only did I really enjoy the book, but it reminded me how much I really did enjoy the movie as well.

Even though I remembered quite a few of the details, I'd pretty much forgotten the ending, so it was nice that the story added details to what I already knew but saved some surprise for what I didn't.

Stanley Yelnats (yes, his name is a palindrome) is arrested after a freak accident makes it appear that he stole a famous baseball player's shoes. His family's life has generally been unlucky, and they blame it all on his great-grandfather who brought a curse on his family after neglecting to fulfill a promise he made to a friend.

Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, which was once a lake but is now a desert, and the boys at the camp are required to each dig a hole in the ground every day. 

It's an odd premise, but I love how the story occasionally flashes back in time to build layers of story until things gradually begin to make sense and you start to see how different characters are interrelated -- dare I say, it's a bit like an onion. Due to the complexity, it's not surprising that the movie doesn't deviate very much from the story, and it's neat that the author wrote the screenplay as well.

Sachar doesn't waste words as he describes the odd characters and their interactions, and so the book flows quickly along. I really enjoyed the story, and now it makes me want to watch the movie again.

Scrounged From: A local flea market

Format: Paperback
Author: Louis Sachar
Pages: 233
Content Advisory: A couple scenes involve violence -- some descriptions of death but not gratuitous.

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White Stallion of Lipizza is probably my second-favorite Marguerite Henry story, after King of the Wind. It can be a great introduction to the Lipizzan horses and their unique art.

The story follows Hans, a baker's son who dreams of becoming a Riding Master someday. He demonstrates a sincerity and passion in his pursuit of knowledge and experience that is admirable and contagious, and his singular focus brings him closer and closer to his goal of someday doing the courbette on his beloved Borina.

I enjoyed reading this in a large format rather than a mass-market paperback -- Wesley Dennis's numerous small illustrations really help tell the story, especially when complex horse ballet movements are described.

Scrounged From: A gift from a relative

Format: Paperback
Author: Marguerite Henry
Illustrator: Wesley Dennis
Pages: 112
Content Advisory: Injury and death are briefly described, but not in detail.

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Number the Stars is a book I know I read in middle school or high school, but since I couldn't remember much about it I decided to read it again, and I'm glad I did -- it's not a long story, but manages to portray a concise and moving picture of a family living in Denmark during the Nazis' "relocation" of the Jews. They may not be part of a resistance movement, but when their friends' lives are in danger, they know they must act to help them. The climax involves ten-year-old Annemarie who is faced with a task of delivering a necessary item to people who are trying to flee.

I was especially interested in the Afterword at the end which confirms that, while the families portrayed in this story are fictional, it is closely based on many events that actually happened (broadly) and inspired by brave people who did actually risk their lives (and some died) to save others. Definitely recommended.

Scrounged From: Our local flea market

Format: Paperback
Author: Lois Lowry
Pages: 137
Content Advisory: Murders of a sister and others are mentioned, and peril and suspense while Jews are smuggled away, people encounter soldiers, etc.

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I decided that a blurb in my 2017 round-up post did not do The Phantom Tollbooth justice, so I'm writing up an expanded review all of its own.

I'd heard of this book for a while before reading it, but the title led me to assume it was some kind of ghost story. It's not -- it's basically a geek's paradise -- full of word play, fun with mathematics, etc. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if music had colors -- like if an orchestra played the sunrise? Or what it would be like to collect sounds, or eat letters? Or what a world without sound would be like? (At times this is basically "Synesthesia: The Novel.") 

The story revolves around a boy named Milo who is simply bored and lethargic all the time. But when he receives a strange tollbooth in a box, he finds a portal to a land full of interesting places and eccentric characters -- for example, there's a witch who's actually a "Which," a "Whether Man," a Mathemagician, as well as King Azaz the Unabridged, all with something to teach him about the value of learning and curiosity. 

It's a very fun story, especially the parts that involve word play and puns (which is why I'd much rather read the book myself than have it read to me, and imagine it could be more fun for children to read on their own as well). I suppose this is a book about learning, but also something about how to be wise, or how not to be ignorant, or how/why to pay attention to all that's around you -- in a way it's about educating yourself, but without all the heavy-handed "educational" stuffiness. 

Scrounged From:

Format: Paperback
Author: Norton Juster
Pages: 256
Content Advisory: There are a few scenes of peril, especially toward the end.

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