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Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd, what a name. The poor kid. He’s unlucky too. His Dad is dead and his mother has re-married someone Odd doesn’t like (and the feeling is mutual). He’s lame because a tree fell on him and most people around him think he’s useless because of that. And to top if off, Spring won’t come. Odd’s town has had winter stretching on for days with no sign of better weather. One day Odd decides to head to a cabin of his father’s in the woods. He’s had it with the frustrations in his life and figures anywhere is better than where he’s at.

In the woods a fox leads Odd to a bear stuck in a tree. There is also an eagle circling over the bear. After freeing the bear Odd discovers that the three animals are traveling together. They are really the Norse gods Thor, Loki and Odin. A Frost Giant has trapped the gods in animal bodies and is also responsible for the winter weather in Odd’s village.

Odd decides that THIS is the something better he’s been searching for, an adventure.  He sets out to confront the trouble making Frost Giant and set things right. Author: Neil Gaiman

If you liked Odd and the funny, bickering Thor, Loki and Odin, read more about them:
D'Aulaires' book of Norse myths Thor's Wedding Day Islands of the Blessed ds and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse

Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse

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Operation Yes

Operation Yes

Operation Yes

This is a story about kids that live on a military base and attend school there.  Bo’s Dad is the commander on the base where Bo’s family lives. The base is in the US, so for now, Bo doesn’t have to worry about his Dad. But Bo lives with the reality that this could change, his Dad could be deployed to Afghanistan at any moment. Bo’s cousin Gari is also a military kid. Gari’s mom is a military nurse and has been sent to Iraq, so for the time being, Gari is living with Bo’s family.

Bo and Gari are both in the sixth grade and have Miss Loupe for their teacher. Miss Loupe knows all about army brats (that’s what people call kids whose parents are in the military). Miss Loupe knows about army brats because she teaches them and because she was one. Her brother is in Afghanistan so she knows about the worry her students feel too.

On the first day of school the kids realize Miss Loupe isn’t your average teacher. (And it’s not just her tatoos!) They don’t know what to expect when she walks in the room and begins taping off a large rectangle on the floor at the front of the class. She doesn’t even say anything, just gets down on the floor and starts taping. The kids learn that the tape rectangle is an imaginary stage and that Miss Loupe doesn’t want to be the only one on it. Drama and improv (short for improvisation – which is a kind of acting where there is no script, the actors just make it up as they go) are techniques Miss Loupe uses in her class to teach skills – even math and science, subjects not usually associated with drama.

The students learn to express themselves when they are called to “the stage”. The improv stage helps them learn to think on their feet and try really hard to say what they mean. As the year progresses the class and Miss Loupe become successful in their studies and close as a group.

When Miss Loupe’s brother goes missing in Afghanistan, the kids lose their energentic engaged teacher. Miss Loupe becomes distant and sad and sometimes she doesn’t even come to school. The kids understand why. What Miss Loupe is gong through is the very situation each one of them worries about. The kids decide that it is their job to bring Miss Loupe back by focusing all their energies on their soldier relatives and what they can do to support them. Working on their own, the kids cook up an elaborate, imaginative plan to help Miss Loupe, themselves, and their military community face the worries of war together. The kids use their new drama skills to stage a very surprising production.

I really liked Bo and Gari, Miss Loupe and the other kids in the class. I liked them because none of them were perfect. Even Miss Loupe. It is really clear that she is a great teacher and the kids love her, but she has her troubles too, just like all the kids in the class. I like characters that are a balance of their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t want to just see the good parts because people aren’t really like that.

Miss Loupe’s improvisation activities help the kids learn  how to adapt to changes they can’t predict. That’s a skill each one of them needs, because in their lives, you just never know. The kids never could have predicted that Miss Loupe would have such a life altering event, but when this unexpected thing DOES happen, they are able to use their best skills to come up with a plan and implement it – that is moving forward even when things are tough and you don’t think you can. Author: Sara Holmes

If you liked getting to know these military kids you might also like to read about Piper Reed, she’s a Navy brat.

#1: Piper Reed Navy Brat
#2: Piper Reed the Great Gypsy
#3: Piper Reed Gets a Job

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The Blue Shoe

The Blue Shoe

The Blue Shoe

The Blue Shoe is a fairy tale kind of story. It takes place in a little village in the mountains where people have jobs like making shoes by hand. Hap Barlo lives in this little village with has Dad who is the village beekeeper. When Hap’s Dad is unfairly sent to Mount Xexnax, the village prison, Hap goes to live with Grel, the village shoemaker. Hap is happy with Grel, happy as he can be, at least, without his Dad. But then Hap is ALSO unfairly sent to Mount Xexnax.

When Hap gets to Mount Xexnax he realizes that he is going to be forced to work in a mine looking for a rare blue diamond…and he isn’t alone. There are many people from Hap’s village in the prison, people who really did nothing wrong. There are also Aukis, blue-skinnned gnome-like people who are enslaved in the mine. As Hap begins to make friends among the prisoners (especially spunky Sophie Hartpence) he learns that his Dad is indeed alive and leading an underground resistance against the people running the mine. Hap is ready to join up and put the mine out of business for good.

Running a revolution isn’t easy though. For one thing, the Aukis and the humans don’t trust each other at all. It is Hap who begins to break down the barriers that have kept the prisoners from uniting to stand up against their oppressors. The prisoners have to confront their own prejudiced feelings about each other before they can form an effective team. Hap is detemined and brave and stubborn – it’s interesting to watch how his leadership skills and his ability to value what each person can contribute, bring about the freedom everyone is seeking.

This one might look like a fairy tale but Hap’s abilities are just as useful today. Author: Roderick Townley. The book also has several illustrations by Mary GrandPre – she’s the illustrator of the Harry Potter books.

If you like Hap’s story you might also like these over-the-top adventures:
The Secret of Zoom Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat The Name of This Book is Secret Fortune's Magic Farm
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Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical

12 year-old Jason is in the 6th grade. He is an avid writer and likes to spend his free time on a website called Storyboard, an online space where users share stories they’ve written with each other.

Jason likes Storyboard so much because he can do all of his communicating with written words. He doesn’t have to look at anybody and they don’t have to look at him. On Storyboard he doesn’t have to figure out anybody’s facial expressions or body language. Because he is autistic, these things are hard for Jason. Plus, when he’s online, nobody notices if he blinks his eyes a lot or flaps his hands.

Jason has a huge vocabulary and active imagination. He shares a story online that is discovered by fellow Storyboarder Rebecca. They begin to communicate about their writing on Storyboard and a friendship develops – perhaps the first real friendship Jason has ever had.

I really liked this book because Jason tells the story. You get to see how Jason sees the world as an autistic person. Being able to tell how another person is feeling by looking at the expression on their face or by observing how they move their body…that seems really simple to us “neurotypicals.” Jason has to struggle with interpreting these messages all the time. His brain is just not wired to pick up on those signals from other people.

It is really interesting to hear Jason describe how odd and mysterious our behaviors seem to him. If somebody scowls at Jason, he doesn’t get the message that the person is mad. He may look at the person and say, “are you having a good day?” which will just make the person madder…even though Jason intended to be nice. In order for Jason to know that the person is angry the person would have to say the words outloud, “I am angry.”

And Jason does have some odd behaviors…like blinking his eyes a lot. Some of his habits are so noticable they drown out the fact that there is lot more normal about Jason than there is not normal. Seeing what is normal about Jason is what this book is all about.

  • Look Inside Anything But Typical
  • Read Chapter One Anything But Typical
  • Anything But Typical on CD

Jason reminds me a lot of Ted in The London Eye Mystery. Ted is also autistic. Other people find his lack of emotion and overly logical manner odd, but when he uses this unique way of thinking to solve the mystery of his missing cousin, his different way of thinking, the thing that make his seem odd to others, earns some respect.

Some other books about differently wired kids and their friends:
The London Eye Mystery The Mealworm Diaries Adam Canfield The Last Reporter Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
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The Beef Princess of Practical County

The Beef Princess of Practical County

The Beef Princess of Practical County

12 year-old Libby lives in Practical County, Indiana. (Not a real Indiana County – but it could be.) She lives on her family’s cattle farm and is excited to be old enough to choose two calves to raise for her County Fair. She chooses the calves in September. Her job is to raise the calves herself all year and then choose one to show at the Fair the next summer. Having the winning cow at the Fair would bring a lot of pride to her family, and also a good amount of money to her college fund at the post Fair cattle auction.

Even though the calves she names Piggy (eats alot)and Mule (really stubborn) are a lot of work, Libby falls in love with them, especially, Piggy, who is affectionate and frisky. Libby’s dad warns her that she shouldn’t name the calves. The reason? He doesn’t want Libby to get too attached because after the Fair, the calves will be sold at an auction and turned into, well, hamburgers. It’s not something Libby has ever really thought about before – the fact that all the cows on her farm eventually become meat on somebody’s table, even her own. I mean, she has always known this, but never really thought about it that much until she spends months and months looking into the big brown eyes of her two little calves.

When Piggy has a barnyard accident he fails to do what beef cattle need to do – gain weight. Libby’s Dad tells her that he must be sold now, before the Fair, before he can lose anymore weight.

Libby’s Dad: Listen Lib, cattle are raised to produce food. Steers are not pets. They need to be sold at market weight. Otherwise, their meat will be no good, and all the feeding and caring you’ve done for them will be for nothing.

Libby: He was just making me face what would happen at the end of every steer project. They all end with goodbye.

Libby turns her attention to Mule, her last chance to have a champion steer…and faces the inevitability of having to say goodbye to him eventually too. But she doesn’t like it, so she does the one thing she can think of to do in protest, she announces to her family that she is now a vegetarian.

No meat. It’s just disrespecttful to our fine furry and feathered friends.

In a cattle raising family, this is quite a bombshell announcement. Libby finds that it is harder than she thought to stick to her new eating rules. She also discovers that it is harder than she thought to figure out how she really feels about meat and whether people should eat it.

This book is a really good look at life on an Indiana farm. It’s also a really good look at a person trying to figure out how they feel about eating meat. Whether you are a person that doesn’t mind eating meat or a person who doesn’t even want to think about it, much less do it, Libby, her family and her farming community will give you a lot to consider. Plus, Libby’s best friend and her little sister are terrific characters and add a lot of comic relief to the story.

One of the subplots (a subplot is a part of the story that isn’t the main action, but still part of what’s going on) is about Libby entering the Beef Princess contest at the Fair. A tomboy vegetarian is a pretty funny contestant for a pageant promoting beef. Author: Michelle Houts

  • Look Inside The Beef Princess of Practical County
  • Read Chapter One The Beef Princess of Practical County
The Beef Princess reminds me a lot of Charlotte’s Web. Fern and Libby have a lot in common. They both love their animals and even though they KNOW farm animals are raised to be eaten, they don’t want the animals they love to be made into dinner.  
Charlotte's Web Our Farm Vegetarian Food Cattle Kids
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