Middle years fiction review – Between Heaven and earth By: Eric Walters

betweenBetween Heaven and earth is part of the seven series of books published by Orca.  The series can be read in any order, and each book is written by a different Canadian author.  The premise of the series is that a grandfather has seven grandsons. In his will he has left each grandson with a different task to complete, each book tells the story of a different grandson.

Eric Walters has published over 70 novels for grade 5-8 students, and I’ve read many of them.  I tend to recommend them heartily to students who like adventure novels.  Some of his books (like most authors) are better than others.  I had a hard time with this book.  I find that he often has main characters who are far too full of themselves and as the book progresses they learn more about the world around them, and that they still have a lot to learn.  Nothing wrong with that, although it gets a little painful when it takes 3/4 of the book for the character to really start to become more worldly and less annoying.

DJ is the main character of this book, he’s the oldest grandson, and takes himself to be the leader of the family, as though it’s his job to make sure everybody is doing what they should be, at least according to his standards.  I think this trait was supposed to be endearing, but I just found him so obnoxious, and such a know it all that I had a hard time getting past his traits to even start liking him or the book.

The task DJ has been given is to fly to Tanzania and hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro  and distribute his ashes at the top of the mountain. DJ assumes this will be a simple task, who can’t climb a mountain in 2 days?  Who needs to listen to the local guides? Why wouldn’t  you speak  to customs officials in another country as though you know so much more than them?  DJ is 17 and knows better than anyone how things should be done, at least according to DJ.  He does eventually grow as a character, but not as much as I’d hoped.

There were also several events that happened in the book that were flat out dangerous, and got solved far too easily and quickly, it made the book feel a bit false to me.  I’m hoping to read the 6 other books in the series, and since they’re written by different authors it will be interesting to see if I have a very different take on the writing style of each story.

grade 6+

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middle years review – The brilliant fall of Gianna Z by: Kate Messner

giannaAfter reading (and loving) Kate Messner’s Marty Mcguire books (great early readers!) I decided I had to try some of her middle years fiction.  The brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. does not disappoint.

Kate Messner puts the perfect voice to paper for all of her main characters.  The brilliant fall of Gianna G. follows Gianna through a turbulent month of the fall school year.  Gianna is an amazing runner, gifted artist, and completely unorganized when it comes to getting her school work finished.

Life gets even more complicated when her grandmother starts having forgetful episodes that lead to tremendous family drama, her arch nemesis goes after her spot on the cross country team and goes to any length (including sabotage) to get it.  Plus her leaf project for social studies starts to become a monkey on her back.

I loved how Gianna handled things, when times got tough, instead of blaming others, or the genuine stress around her, she sucked it up and tried to make lemonade out of lemons.  There were several scenes when I was hoping for that key moment when the main character in a complete panic loses herself and says something she regrets, but I admired Gianna even more when she was able to take a deep breath, and be the better person.  It was refreshing to read!

This book would make a great novel study for grade 5/6 and even includes a reading group guide at the back.

Review – Jake and Lily by: Jerry Spinelli

jakelily

I’m not sure if I’m happier that I loved a Jerry Spinelli book or that I just loved this book period.  I’ll admit it.  I’ve never been a Jerry Spinelli fan.  I’ve tried to enjoy his stories in the past, and oh have I tried.  But they just never really grabbed me.  Then along came Jake and Lily.

The book is written in two voices with Lily and Jake alternating chapters/entries.   Jake and Lily are twins.  But not only are they twins, they’re best friends, one half of the other.  All of that changes the summer they turn eleven.  They get separate bedrooms, Jake starts hanging out with a group of guys, and Lily is left devastated.  What ensues is a summer where Lily and Jake have to figure out what kind of people they are individually.  Great topics on bullying and becoming your own person.  Between Goombla and Goobers, this is an excellent summer read.

Grade 4-7