25 November 2013

Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club Picks for November

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.

One of the great benefits of reading is introducing us to people and places and situations that may be foreign to us. Both selections this month foster a greater understanding of people who are different from mainstream, middle class Americans. Young readers will have a lot to mull over as they compare and contrast their lives with those of the characters in November's novels.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman PhilbrickIt's hard to believe that it's been twenty years since Rodman Philbrick first published his multi-award-winning book Freak the Mighty about an eighth grader who makes an unlikely friend and gains a brain.

Max Kane has had it tough from the very start. Not only is he miles bigger than every other kid in his grade but his dad is in jail, his mother is dead, and he's been labeled learning disabled. When the Freak (aka Kevin) moves in a few doors down, Max realizes he may have met his match for outcasts. Kevin is the size of the three-year-old, though he's really twelve years old.

When Kevin's genius is added to Max's brawn, the two become Freak the Mighty: righters of wrong, saviors of damsels in distress, and fighters of dragons. Philbrick's moving story of friendship, overcoming bullies, finding acceptance, and dealing with heartbreak will bring tears to your eyes, even as you cheer the boys on.

Besides the general themes I just listed, the discussion questions over at the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site cover other aspects of the novel, such as learning new words and Kevin's methods of coping with his condition. The recipe for hot chocolate is the perfect winter accompaniment for a book club meeting and has a special meaning for Freak the Mighty.

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. BurgSerafina's Promise by Anne E. Burg transports us to recent years in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Young Serafina has few opportunities because her family is poor and her family needs her help out, even if she is only eleven years old. But work doesn't stop the girl from dreaming, and Serafina's secret dream is to go to school and become a doctor.

When Serafina shares her wish with her papa, he tells her there is no money for a uniform or for books. But then he tells her that if her mama says it's okay and if she can earn all the needed money before the new term starts, then he will let her go to school. Serafina is determined.

Burg's Serafina's Promise is a special book in many ways. This is my first experience with a novel written in free verse, and I was surprised at how much I loved this format, and I bet your readers will love it too. By including French and Creole words in the text (don't worry, there's a glossary), Burg helps us relate to Serafina and her world. Finally, Burg makes it easy for readers to understand how Haiti's history combined with recent natural disasters have a direct impact on Serafina's life: her choices, her dreams, her family, her future, and even her friendships.

Book clubs will find plenty to talk about, including comparing and contrasting their own dreams and opportunities with Serafina's. The questions on the Scholastic mother-daughter book club site focus on family, education, and overcoming adversity. The suggested recipe is for strawberries and mint whipped cream, which remind us of one of the ways Serafina raised money for her schooling.

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

Freak the Mighty: Scholastic / Blue Sky Press (20th-anniversary edition), 2013; ISBN-13: 9780545566452
Serafina's Promise: Scholastic Press, 2013; ISBN-13: 9780545535649
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


rhapsodyinbooks 11/25/13, 8:12 AM  

I have tried to read books in free verse, but I haven't been able to get into it.

Unknown 11/25/13, 9:40 AM  

Ah, I remember reading Freak The Mighty in middle school!

Krys Reads 11/25/13, 11:24 AM  

Freak the Mighty is a mildly popular book in my library. I didn't know what it was about, but now that I do, it might be a good book to put out during RAK week or something of the like.
- Krys

Laura at Library of Clean Reads 11/25/13, 12:16 PM  

I haven't read any of these two books. Thanks for highlighting them. I am always on the lookout for good books to read with my daughter.

bermudaonion 11/25/13, 2:24 PM  

Hm, I'm wondering why I've never heard of Freak the Mighty.

Daryl 11/25/13, 2:51 PM  

these all sound great .. and i have just the little girl to buy them for .. thanks

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