13 May 2013

Review: May's Selections for the Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club

Remember when I introduced you to the Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club for middle readers? I'm committed to featuring or reviewing all the books selected for this club because I think Scholastic has picked winning titles that have broad appeal.

Don't forget that the Scholastic book club site includes more information about the books, recipes, reading guides, and contests. The resources are perfect for book clubs, teachers, homeschoolers, and any one who wants to get more out of reading books with middle grade readers.

Did you know that this is Children's Book Week? I'll be celebrating all week, starting with this month's Scholastic selections, featuring two novels that deal with family issues.

Isla's favorite day of the year isn't Christmas or her birthday, but the day she and her dad get up before dawn and drive to a nearby lake and watch the whopping swans return from Iceland. The year she turns thirteen, however, everything seems to go wrong.

First, her best friend moves to Glasgow. Then on the day the swans return, there is an accident that injures some birds and separates the flock. Finally, a few days later, Isla's father collapses while running across a field. Thanks to her quick phone call to emergency services, her father is taken to the hospital, where doctors work to stabilize his heart.

Lucy Christopher's Flyaway is a contemporary novel about wildlife, hope, first love, and coping with illness and family crisis. Offsetting Isla's worries about her father is her growing fondness for a young cancer patient, Henry, she meets at the hospital and her unwavering concern for the wild swans.

Flyaway may deal with serious issues, but young readers will love Isla's strong spirit, her passion for wild birds, and her devotion to her father. I like that her budding relationship with Henry is age-appropriate and builds slowly. In fact, it's not really clear if the teens will end up as just friends or something more, which is how it should be for youngsters who are still getting to know each other.

One great thing about Flyaway is that there are so many topics for conversation. Book clubs that would like to avoid more mature subjects can concentrate on conservation issues, brother-sister relationships, and the different ways the three generations in the novel react to hospitals and modern medical care. Other groups might compare their reactions to Henry's illness and Isla's father's heart problems or explore family dynamics, hope, facing reality, and mortality.

The discussion questions at the Scholastic book club site cover these issues and more. The suggested recipe is for the cutest bird's nest cookies, which are a perfect match for Lucy Christopher's thought-provoking novel.

Ann M. Martin's first installment of a new Family Tree series is Better to Wish, in which 100-year-old Abby looks back on the significant moments of her life during the 1930s in Maine.

Abby's father is a strict man who works hard as a carpenter to support his family during difficult economic times. He is not always the most sensitive person and has trouble accepting people who are different from him. He is also ambitious and wants to rise in social status. Abby does her best to be a good girl and obey her father, but she often has a hard time understanding his rules. Although her mother is loving and supportive, she cannot always intervene.

Better to Wish covers quite a few of Abby's memories from the time she was eight up until she is in her early twenties. Although the novel moves quickly through time, Martin is careful to develop each character, and young readers will have no trouble connecting to Abby and her sisters. Besides describing the big events in Abby's life, the novel also examines some of the overarching issues of the time, such as the economy, social customs, marriage, and opportunities for girls and women.

Some of things that Abby remembers are cutting out paper dolls with her best friend, the year Thanksgiving was almost stopped because of a big snow storm, the day her family moved from their ocean-side cottage to a big house in town, and the boys she had crushes on. But, as for most of us, Abby's childhood was not a fairy tale. She also also recalls her mother's sadness over two miscarriages, the fate of her disabled younger brother, and her father's bad temper.

Book clubs will likely want to talk about the differences between Abby's life during the Great Depression and their own in the twenty-first century, such as what Abby did for entertainment, how she helped out at home, and the types of gifts she could expect. Other topics are Abby's relationship with her father, prejudices, the importance of social status, the nature of friendship, and the bond between sisters.

For more ideas, see the discussion questions at the Scholastic book club site. The suggested recipe for Better to Wish is a strawberry ice cream cake. Your young readers will immediately recognize the significance of the ice cream for Abby.

This post will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Flyaway at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Scholastic Press, 2011; ISBN-13: 9780545342148
Buy Better to Wish at an Indie or at a bookstore near you (link leads to an affiliate program).
Scholastic Press, 2013; ISBN-13: 9780545359429
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 5/13/13, 7:34 AM  

I absolutely loved Flyaway, and I love the author!

Tea norman 5/13/13, 7:59 AM  

I would love to read Flyaway. I like the swans, the conservation, and even the tragedy with her father. I don't think this book would bore a YA.

Laura Fabiani 5/13/13, 12:43 PM  

I'm going to read Family Tree with my daughter soon, but I'm so glad you introduced me to Flyaway. I think my daughter would love it!

Julie P. 5/13/13, 10:20 PM  

I just received a copy of Family Tree too!

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