25 June 2013

Review: June 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.

The Loser List by H. N. KowittI agree with the folks at Scholastic that a book club pick for middle grade girls doesn't necessarily have to have a female protagonist. The Loser List by H. N. Kowitt is a perfect example. Right off, young readers will love the design of this book. Each page is lined like notebook paper and the font looks like hand-written printing. Not only that, there are ample illustrations throughout because Danny Shine loves comic books and practices his drawing every chance he gets.

In fact his craft is what gets him in trouble in the first place. When he refuses to give up his special art pen to one of the class bullies (a girl), he and his best friend, Jasper, end up on the Loser List, which is written on the wall of the girls' bathroom. When the boys decide to sneak into the bathroom to delete their names, Danny's life begins to take a downward spiral.

A day in detention with the bad boys gives Danny a new perspective, and as he gets caught up in the benefits of having the protection of the tough bunch, he loses sight of what's really important, such as his friendship with Jasper, his good reputation, and the importance of being honest and kind. He also discovers that, although he doesn't want to be part of the boys' gang, looks can be deceiving and you can't really know someone just by the way he or she dresses or talks.

The Loser List will likely generate a lively discussion. Topics include friendship, staying true to oneself, honesty, knowing when to take things into your own hands vs. needing to tell an adult, and having a passion (like art). Young readers will also like the secondary story line of Danny's crush on a girl who doesn't seem to know he exists. It's all very sweet and very age appropriate.

The discussion questions at the Scholastic book club site cover these issues and more. The suggested recipe is for Skull cookies, which are a perfect symbol for Danny's brief time with the troublemakers.

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe StoneThe second book selection for June is The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone. Despite the cover photo, this is actually historical fiction that takes place during World War II in Maine. Eleven-year-old Flissy, who was born in the UK, is taken by her parents to her father's childhood home to escape the bombings in London.

Flissy has never met her grandmother, uncle, and aunt and never even knew she had a twelve-year-cousin, who was taken in by the Bathburn family when he was baby. Her adjustment to her new life doesn't go smoothly. Not only hasn't she received any mail from her parents, who returned to Europe, but she senses that her relatives are keeping deep, dark secrets.

The Romeo and Juliet Code unfolds slowly as Flissy and her cousin, Derek, learn about their family's past and the truth about Flissy's parents. Throughout it all, the period details emphasize the differences between British and American children in the mid-twentieth century. Although adults may figure out some of the plot about midway through the story, all readers will find plenty of surprises by the end of the book.

Discussion topics include honesty and secrets within a family, the need for security, wartime, young love, friendship, marriage, family loyalty, sibling relationships, and coping with great change. I think girls will spend a lot of time talking about the differences between America and England during the war and the way that Flissy's relatives treat her. The family is not mean, but they seem very different from Flissy's parents.

The reading guide at the Scholastic book club site offers other interesting topics sure to generate a good discussion. The suggested recipes are for a traditional English tea with scones, which Flissy misses when she first moves to Maine.

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

The Loser List: Scholastic / Scholastic Press, 2011; ISBN-13: 9780545240048
The Romeo and Juliet Code: Scholastic / Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012; ISBN-13: 9780545218276
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 6/25/13, 6:58 AM  

Well, as you know, I just loved the Phoebe Stone book. And there is plenty for discussion in it. What a great choice for the book club!

bermudaonion 6/25/13, 7:59 AM  

They both look good to me!

Vasilly 6/25/13, 10:49 AM  

The Romeo and Juliet Code sounds like a winner. I'm going to see about a copy for my middle graders.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads 6/25/13, 12:29 PM  

My daughter read both of these books. We actually read The Romeo and Juliet Code together and loved it.

Julie P. 6/25/13, 6:50 PM  

Booking Daughter enjoyed the second one and I can vouch that kids love books that look like notebooks.

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