Written by Deborah & James Howe
Illustrated by Allan Daniel
Ages: 6-9, 128 pages
Genre/Topics: Humor, Mystery
The fun and adventure begins when the Monroe family returns from the movie with a new family addition – a rabbit. The family agrees to name the bunny Bunnicula, since it was found at the movies while watching Dracula. However, two family members are hesitant about Bunnicula – Chester the cat and Harold the dog. We learn about Bunnicula from Harold’s perspective. Chester believes Bunnicula really is a vampire and with Harold’s reluctant help they discover more about Bunnicula. Bunnicula has fangs and stays awake at night. Is Bunnicula really a vampire? Humorous events occur as Chester is determined to prove that Bunnicula is a vampire.
I loved Bunnicula! I really did laugh out loud as Harold described the weird events happening in the house since Bunnicula arrived. The reader learns about Chester’s mischievous behavior and Harold’s family loyalty. The book is mysterious without being scary. Readers will be curious about Bunnicula and want to know more about Chester and Harold’s adventures. There are additional books in the Bunnicula series. I highly recommend Bunnicula for a fun read!
Doug is a robot who is plugged in each day by his parents to become the smartest robot. All the information about the city is downloaded into Doug, but then he notices a pigeon outside the window. Doug decides to unplug and ventures into the city. He learns more about the city than the information that was downloaded, such as garbage cans smell, flowers grow out of sidewalks, and fire engine sirens are loud. However, there was one thing that Doug never downloaded. A boy in the park asked Doug if he wanted to play, but he knew nothing about playing. Soon Doug and the boy play hide and seek and other games in the park. Doug made his first friend. He went home to his robot parents who still thought Doug was the smartest robot.
I thought Doug Unplugged was a very cute and humorous book. We’re all fully aware how much time children (and adults) spend on computers and electric devices. Sometimes they don’t even know how to experience the real world. I also enjoyed Doug Unplugged, because the people and robots are bright colors so there’s no race. Go ahead and unplug yourself from all devices and explore the world!
Louis is a Trumpet Swan, however he was born without a voice. His father and mother are concerned, because without a voice he will have difficulty finding a mate in the Spring. Louis is also worried because he doesn’t want to be different from his siblings. Louis’ father takes a risk and steals a trumpet from a music shop, so that Louis will now have a voice. The problem is that his father is in debt from stealing a trumpet and smashing the shop. Louis is grateful for the trumpet, but knows he must help his father repay the debt. As a young swan, Louis met Sam Beaver who is a kind boy and loves animals. Sam takes Louis to school and helps him learn to read and write. With Sam’s help Louis gets paying jobs to play his trumpet and becomes quite famous to repay his father. More importantly, Louis now has a voice and can woo the swan he loves. Although Louis was born different he is determined to be his best and never gives up his dreams.
E.B. White is most famous for Charlotte’s Web, so The Trumpet of the Swan may get overlooked. The Trumpet of the Swan is a sweet book with many powerful messages. There is a fantasy element, since the animals have human-like characteristics and people communicate with Louis however it can still be used as a tool for discussion. Some possible discussions may include being different, never give up, love what you do, friendship, and animal care.
Most people don’t even think giants exist and those that do are usually very afraid of them. However, the Big Friendly Giant or the BFG doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Sophie is an orphan who first meets the BFG while looking out her window at night. The BFG notices and reaches through her window to take her away, since nobody would believe her if she said she saw a giant. Soon Sophie realizes that the BFG is friendly and has no plans to eat her, instead he was out at night putting dreams with his long trumpet into children’s ears. It’s not always pleasant, because the BFG is the smallest among other giants who desire to eat human beans every night. When the large and revolting giants are out eating human beans, the BFG captures dreams and stores thousands into jars. Sophie learns where the giants plan to find their next meal and the BFG and her form a plan to stop them before it’s too late.
The BFG has all the standard humor, fun, and zany words that are unique to Roald Dahl. So far I haven’t been disappointed by one of his books. I’m sure you’ll wish you also knew a giant, well at least a friendly one.
Marty McGuire is a third grade student who loves everything about the outdoors and nothing about fancy dresses. She’d rather be caught with mud than wearing a frilly dress or dancing. Third grade started terrible, since her best friend was stolen from Veronica Grace Smithers who now controls recess. Things turn even worse when her teacher casts her to be the princess in the class play, The Princess and the Frog. Marty wants nothing to do with being a princess, but her teacher says that she has confidence and is perfect for the play. Marty has trouble being frightened by a toy frog, since she’d rather capture real frogs. She plots a plan with a classmate to make the play more memorable.
I thought Marty McGuire was a cute book about the importance of being yourself, but also learning how to handle moments when you don’t want to do something or don’t think you’re the best person for the job. Marty often has personal struggles, since she wants to call people names who upset her, but she never does because she’s not allowed to. Marty handles the situation without getting too upset while still being herself. The book is sometimes predictable, but I’m sure young readers will enjoy Marty’s humorous situations. A second book, Marty McGuire Digs Worms, releases February 1, 2012.
Genre: Realistic family with abnormal animal behavior, humor, 139 pages with some illustrations
Mr. Popper’s Penguins was a delightful read and I used as a read-aloud for 5th graders. I often found myself laughing out loud with the children. The basic idea is a man who loves everything about Antarctica and enjoys listening to explorations. His dreams become reality when a crate arrives with a penguin inside. Of course, there was chaos at first but then the family preformed a show with the arrival of additional penguins. Mr. Popper became a famous person in the city of Stillwater.
Until the recent movie with Jim Carrey, most people weren’t aware of this book since it was published in 1938. It also gained a Newbery Honor Award, which highlighted books for the year but didn’t win the Newbery Award. Now, some may be thinking that I ran out to watch the recent movie with Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, but I decided not to see it. Too often movies based on the book don’t do the book justice, but that’s a whole different topic. Perhaps I should make myself see it to compare the book towards the movie. The published year doesn’t matter, so even after 70 years it’s still a great book. Overall, it’s a very cute and funny book that will cause you to shake your head at the silliness of Mr. Popper.
– opening pages:
It was an afternoon in late September. In the pleasant little city of Stillwater, Mr. Popper, the house painter, was going home from work….
He had never hunted tigers in India, or climbed the peaks of the Himalayas, or dived for pearls in the South Seas. Above all, he had never seen the Poles.
– Mr. Popper’s Penguins (page 3 & page 6)