13 October 2014

October 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.

This month, book clubs will have a hard time deciding between an exciting new fantasy that takes place in the modern world or an intriguing mystery set in the 1950s.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassanda ClareHolly Black and Cassandra Clare have teamed up for a new fantasy series. Book 1, The Iron Trial, sets up the premise, introduces us to a diverse group of characters, and gives us plenty of action. On the surface, Callum Hunt is an ordinary kid who lives with his father near Asheville, North Carolina. Look more carefully, and you'll see that he has a bum leg, but what you won't know is that he's been gifted with magic.

At twelve years old, Call's been tapped to take a test to see if he will be picked for the Magisterium, a mysterious school of elemental magic hidden in the Virgina mountains. All he knows about that realm is what his father, a Magisterium graduate, has told him: magic is evil and it killed his mother. So the boy's mission is simple; he must either fail the entrance exam or find a way to get kicked out of the academy. But once Call enters the caves of the Magisterium and discovers his talents, he's not so sure he wants to leave.

The Iron Trial is an intriguing fantasy that bears only some similarities to the beloved Harry Potter series. Yes, there is a school of magic, a great enemy, a young hero, and a mixed group of students, but Black and Clare have breathed new life in to the middle grade fantasy genre. Older readers may guess at the true nature of some of the students and teachers, but the authors have woven in some unexpected twists and surprises. Who, exactly, is evil and can anyone change his or her destiny?

The strengths of The Iron Trial lie in the characters. Friendships develop slowly and naturally, and each preteen has a distinct personality. Some have secrets, some are ambitious, and almost all of them grow and change from their experiences at the school. The plot moves along quickly, and it's pretty difficult to put the book down. The story ends on a satisfying note but with enough unanswered questions that you'll be sure to read the next installment in the Magisterium series.

The most obvious topics for discussion involve friendship, family, and bullying. But other book club groups might want to talk about the ideas of failing on purpose and the importance of keeping your mind open to try new experiences. More great questions can be found on the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site. The suggested recipe is for a fizzy lemonade, which is the favorite drink of one of the students. As a bonus, be sure to check out the Iron Trial website, where you can find games, quizzes, and other activities related to the book.

The Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. FlakeSharon G. Flake's Unstoppable Octobia May is set in the early 1950s. Ten-year-old Octobia is sent up north to live with her aunt because her parents want her to have better opportunities. The girl with the insatiable curiosity gets to know her neighborhood well and befriends all the elderly people in her aunt's boarding house. Because of a congenital heart condition, Octobia is supposed to take it easy, but her love of both making up stories and exploring are hard to suppress.

When a war veteran moves into the house, Octobia begins to think he's a vampire because he never comes out of his room during the day. She channels her inner Nancy Drew and learns some disturbing things about Mr. Davenport. Unfortunately, no one believes her . . . until the man himself goes a step too far. Will it be too late for Octobia May to save her friends and aunt from death or jail? Who will believe the outspoken little girl?

It's no wonder that Flake is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner. Octobia is full of spunk and possibilities, despite her medical condition, and there's a lot to admire about her. At the same time, however, her curiosity gets her in trouble, and some of the adults think she a little too privileged. Besides the good characters, Flake adds wonderful and provocative period details: segregated troops in World War II, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, and other issues that would be become important in the civil rights movement over the following years.

Book club discussions will inevitably revolve around race issues--not just blatant prejudices against blacks but also the idea of passing for white, antisemitism, and women's rights. Other topics include family and friendship, honesty and respecting privacy, and living with a disease. Don't forget to see the great questions on the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site. The suggested recipe is for a strawberry tart, which will remind young readers of what a good cook Octobia's aunt is.

The Iron Trial: Scholastic Press, 2014; ISBN-13: 9780545522250
Unstoppable Octobia May: Scholoastic Press, 2014; ISBN-13: 9780545609609
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

6 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 10/13/14, 6:55 AM  

Both of those authors have been good in earlier books I have read.

Topazshell 10/13/14, 12:46 PM  

I love both books especially drawn to Octobia. Will look for that one at the library. Thanks for sharing.

Daryl 10/13/14, 1:34 PM  

both sound like terrific books … thanks!

Sue Jackson 10/13/14, 6:58 PM  

Sounds like a wonderful program! I have a copy of Iron King on my shelf that I haven't gotten to yet - gorgeous book though.

Octabio sounds wonderful, too!

Sue

Book By Book

Stacie 10/19/14, 2:43 PM  

After I saw this post last week, I checked out the list. I think my daughter and I need to check into some of these books and read them together!

Julie P. 10/21/14, 6:57 AM  

OCTAVIA looks terrific! Thanks for sharing!

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