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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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Alibi Junior High

Alibi Junior High

Alibi Junior High

Cody is thirteen years old. He has spent his life travelling the world with his Dad who is an undercover CIA agent. After Cody gets caught in an explosion intended for his Dad, he is sent to live with his Aunt in Connecticut to spend time as a regular kid in a regular school…safe.

When Cody’s Aunt picks him up at the airport in a red Jeep, you get your first look at how Cody’s mind has been trained to think:

It’s a red Jeep Wrangler. A questionable choice of transportation, as it lacks speed, mobility, and protection, although it’s a capable off-road and poor-weather vehicle. The color, of course, is totally wrong. We might as well just drive around all day sending up flares.

Cody might know his vehicles, he might know defensive maneuvers in a crowded room, he might know surveillance techniques…but he doesn’t know a thing about what to wear or what to do or what to say in Middle School, possibly one of the scariest places on earth.

For one thing, Cody likes to wear designer suits. All the spies do. And if anything will make a kid a target, it’s a suit. It doesn’t take long for Cody’s oddities to get noticed. When the bullies attack they get more then they bargained for – Cody takes out five of them with his advanced martial art skills. He might talk kind of funny and he might dress kind of funny and he might act kind of funny…but beating 5 to 1 odds makes Cody a hero. He  suddenly finds himself the center of attention…when all he wants to do is blend in, disappear, never be noticed again.

The very skills that make Cody invisible in the spy world make him stand out in Middle School. Being noticed makes Cody very uncomfortable. Being watched makes him more uncomfortable still, and Cody IS being watched, and not just at school, his training tells him this is true. But by who? And what do they want?

More kid spies you might like:
STORM The Black Sphere Eagle Strike The Theft of the Samurai Sword Spy X The Code
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Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Stage Fright

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Stage Fright

Stage Fright

Allie Finkle’s back with more rules for girls. Her class is putting on a play and Mrs. Hunter announces that the students must audition for the parts. Allie is sure she wants to audition for the main part, Princess Penelope, so she can wear a pretty dress and a tiara and be the star. But before she can say which part she wants to audition for, her friend Sophie says SHE wants to be Penelope too. The auditions pit friend against friend for the most coveted parts. It’s a competition and some good rules just might keep the auditions from getting ugly.

1. No one likes a sore loser.
2. No one likes a sore winner.
3. It’s important to accept victory modestly. (Then you can celebrate all you want in private, where the losers can’t see you.)

The auditions also pit friend against enemy. Allie and Sophie both hope to be Penelope, but even more, they definitely don’t want bragging Cheyenne to get the part. “back in Canada, I was actually the lead in all my school plays…I brought my head shot and resume in to show Mrs. Hunter. I guess none of you brought head shots and resumes, did you?” Blech. Allie and her friends are NOT impressed.

The audition day turns out to be pretty emotional. Everybody’s nervous and not everybody gets the part they want. How each person reacts to their victory or their disappointment is the fun of reading about Allie and her classmates. Despite the victory dances and the tears and the drama queen temper tantrums the show must go on so Allie can add one more rule to her list, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”

Don’t miss Allie’s other adventures and if you like her, try Bobby’s story – it’s really funny too!
Moving Day The New Girl Best Friends and Drama Queens Bobby vs. the Girls Accidently
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