In this post, Robin shares her thoughts on some books first. Each selection has a “Maegan says” note at the end.
Maegan’s teacher compiled an excellent list of “choice” books for summer reading; she only needs to read one of these but of course she wants to tackle them all. I hope she always keeps this “can do” spirit. Thanks to the fabulous folks at The Blue Bunny Book & Toy Store for ordering us everything on the list. According to the Scholastic Book Wizard, some of these choices are far above her grade level; she wants to read them independently, so I feel compelled to read them when she is finished. Then I can ask her questions and check her comprehension and ability to connect to the story. First up is The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonnie Becker.
I fell in love with Ms. Plum right away. As she anticipated her new class, she thought: “They will be wonderful. Hopers and schemers, helpers and dreamers, jokers and heroes. I can’t wait to meet each and every one.” It would be an amazing gift to children if every classroom teacher considered his or her students in this way.
Tales of magical grown ups just never get old. Ms. Plum probably hangs with Mary Poppins and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. In addition to her unorthodox lessons, over the course of the school year, Ms. Plum chooses different students to get something from her magical supply closet. It doesn’t take long for the students to realize that with the requested item (paper, push pins, etc.) out will also come a small magical animal. Each animal that emerges comes out for a specific reason for that particular child and helps him or her grow or change in some positive way.
Maegan says: My favorite animal that comes out of Ms. Plum’s closet is the little donkey who takes everyone’s notes across the room in little baskets. I liked how the children figured out that their grumpy ideas were making everyone, including the donkey, feel more sad. So they stopped.
I also liked when the monkeys came out and gave everyone candy. Each candy tasted just right to each person. I can’t decide what my perfect candy would taste like. I love candy. I want to go to Ms. Plum’s class! I think you’ll have a lot of fun reading this book. Pig snout! Pig snout!
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
This one’s not on the summer reading list, but recently I had the pleasure of reading Ramona the Brave to Maegan. I devoured the Ramona books as a child; I felt like she was a friend I knew personally. Although the books trace Ramona as a preschooler all the way up through the middle grades, Ramona the Brave is set in the first grade. Being a passionate, spunky six year old is frustrating when you feel everyone is rushing you to just grow up.
There are so many memorable scenes in this story, but my favorite part is the infamous “owl scene,” in which Ramona’s classroom neighbor copies her art project detail for detail. The teacher doesn’t notice or take the time to understand what really happened, and heartbreaking drama follows suit. Although Ramona reacts to life’s injustices with a bit too much passion, she really is just misunderstood. Beverly Cleary gets the emotions so right.
Details of the story are dated but still charming. If your child enjoys Ramona, she will also probably enjoy Junie B. Jones.
Maegan says: Ramona Quimby reminds me of the song “Naughty” from Matilda: the Musical, which we saw in New York City over April Vacation. Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.
My favorite part of this story was when Ramona had a babysitter on Parents Night at school. She really wanted to talk to her Mom when she got home, so she left her a note on the hall table. The note said “Come here, Mama. Come here to me.” She didn’t even sign her name, but her Mom knew it was from Ramona!
I would like my Mom to read me another Ramona book because I find her so different from me. I also just like my Mom to read to me.
The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy
How would you feel if your school library was guarded by a grouchy dragon? This sweet tale teaches us not to judge one another based on prejudices. Maybe dragons aren’t all bad once you get past the scales, and perhaps small children can look at a book without smudging the pages or ripping the covers. Loaded with puns and groaners, you will laugh out loud if that sort of humor tickles your funny bone. Clever, modern illustrations complete this story about Miss Lotty’s transformation from Miss Lotta Scales to Miss Lotty, Library Goddess.
Maegan says: There is a librarian, but she’s a dragon! She will not even let the children touch the books. Her name is Miss Lotta Scales. A girl named Molly lost her glasses and couldn’t see a thing; she found herself in the library by accident. A book dropped on her head and she put it in her lap. She found her glasses and started to read the book “Snuff the Magic Dragon” out loud. When Miss Lotta Scales heard Molly reading to the children, she decided to take over reading to the children. Her scales fell off and she turned into Miss Lotty! What’s a librarian that’s not at least a little bit or a little part dragon? Who would guard the books?
We love books about dragons. If you do, too, try these picture books:
How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head by Bill Peet
There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
Puff The Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow (with music cd)
Dragonology by Dugald A. Steer
Ryan’s Picks for Chapter Books Featuring Dragons:
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
How to Train your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
Beast Quest #1: Ferno the Fire Dragon by Adam Blade
The Fire Within by Chris D’Lacey
For more mature readers, grade 5 & up:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Eragon by Christopher Paolini