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Capture the Flag
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Kate Messner


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Rain Reign PDF Print E-mail
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Rain Reign
Ann M. Martin

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What You Need to Know:
• When a super storm hits her town, a young autistic girl learns to cope with change and loss.
• Rose loves homonyms, and there are many examples of them throughout the story.
• Rose explains that her official diagnosis is "high-functioning autism" which is sometimes called Asperger's
  syndrome. Then she asks the reader, "Do you have a diagnosis?". That line explains a lot about Rose!
• Rose's father is often absent and border-line abusive. He's indifferent, unkind, and at one point he even raises his
  fist to her.
Sweet Book Summary:
Rose Howard, a fifth grader living in a small town in upstate New York, loves homonyms, rules and prime numbers. Rose is autistic, and those concepts give her comfort and structure. She lives with her dad (her mom supposedly left when she was a baby) and their somewhat recent acquisition, a dog named Rain (reign). Rose has trouble communicating with other kids, she can't always control her emotions, and she sometimes interrupts, disturbs and irritates those around her. Her dad, in particular, seems permanently exasperated by her and spends much of his time at a local bar. He simply doesn't accept her behavior as something that she can't control. Luckily Rose has a kind uncle, Weldon, who lives nearby and offers her support.

When Rain, her other main source of comfort, goes missing during a big storm, Rose is distraught. Despite her limitations, she devises a solid plan to find Rain, and with Uncle Weldon's help, embarks on a tireless search. Unfortunately, her hunt leads to more questions than answers. When confronted with some surprising revelations, Rose is insightful and perceptive, and she makes an incredibly thoughtful decision.

While this plot may seem somewhat simple, Rose's story is truly valuable and her character is certainly memorable. At first the inclusion of homonyms in the text is disconcerting, but after a few chapters, it becomes more natural. Rose speaks directly to readers, explaining her diagnosis of high-functioning autism and sharing details about her need for routine and the difficulties she has with too many visuals, too many people and too much noise. She reminds readers that a "diagnosis" does not define us, that we all contribute in different, yet positive ways to our families, our schools and our communities, and that accepting one another's differences leaves all of us in a better place.
Author: Ann M. Martin Illustrator: n/a Published: 2014, 240 pages
Themes: Animals, Ethics, Family Life, Fantasy, Physical/Mental Differences, Single Parents
Sweet Discussion Questions:
• How would you describe Rose's relationship with her father?
• How does her relationship with her father differ from the one she has with her uncle?
• Why does Rose like homonyms so much?
• What do you think about the way the kids at school treat Rose?
• How do you think you would react to Rose, or someone like her, if she was at your school?
• Without Rain around, Rose asks, "How do you fill empty space?" How would you answer this question if you lost
  someone important to you?
• Does Rose make the right decision about what to do with Rain?
• Would you have made the same decision?
• Is Rose better off with her father or her uncle?
• Why does Rose's father react to her the way that he does?
If You Liked This Book, Try:
Wonder, R.J. Palacio
Rules, Cynthia Lord
Mockingbird, Kathryn Erskine
Counting by 7's, Holly Goldberg Sloan
Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper
This recommendation was written by: Melissa G.
 
Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle PDF Print E-mail
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Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle
George Hagen

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What You Need to Know:
• Gabriel Finley discovers that he has a special connection with ravens, and he hopes that this revelation might
  lead to the whereabouts of his missing father.
• Some ravens in the story become evil by eating human flesh.
• Riddles and puns are used throughout the book.
• This book is the author's first novel for kids.
Sweet Book Summary:
A young boy named Gabriel discovers on his 12th birthday that he has a special relationship with ravens. He learns that he, along with his father and uncle, are each the "amicus" of a raven which means that they can communicate with ravens and even "paravolate" or merge with them to fly. Riddles, a favorite hobby of Gabriel's, are the way that ravens greet each other, and these greetings also help them to know the good ravens from the evil valravens. Gabriel's father and uncle have been missing for years, so with his new-found knowledge, Gabriel decides to search for them. Luckily, he has a few friends, both human and fowl, to help him because he will need to get past the evil valravens and their leader, Corax, in order to find his father.

I liked the usage of riddles and puns throughout the story and the quirky characters were compelling, but I thought the story was somewhat lacking in depth and purpose. There are not-so-subtle messages about forgiveness and selflessness, and a great scene of self-discovery when they cross a bridge over the Chasm of Doubt, but the plot resolves too easily and the magical elements are limited. The only real violence is the killing of birds, but the one thing that is a little disturbing is the way that the valravens become evil. It happens when they eat the flesh of their amicus - a human. I'm not a bird person, so the basic concept of a world where birds communicate - and sometimes swarm/attack - is not at all appealing to me, but for those who don't mind that aspect of the story, there is some fun to be had here. And for those who do like it, there is likely to be a 2nd, as the ending sets up perfectly for a sequel.
Author: George Hagen Illustrator: n/a Published: 2014, 384 pages
Themes: Animals, Books for Boys, Character/Values, Family Life, Fantasy, Friendship
Sweet Discussion Questions:
• Would you like to be an amicus for a raven?
• Which riddle did you like the best?
• Why do you think the owls like puns while the ravens like riddles?
• How can you tell a valraven from a regular raven?
• How and why does Gabriel's friend, Somes, change throughout the story?
• What does Gabriel do to help Somes along the way?
• Why does Corax turn evil, but Gabriel's father does not?
• Would you have trusted Septimus? Would you have forgiven him?
• Why does Gabriel's Aunt Jaz commend Gabriel for choosing trust over selfishness?
If You Liked This Book, Try:
Wildwood, Colin Meloy
The Bridge to Neverland, Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
The Apothecary, Maile Meloy
Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu
This recommendation was written by: Melissa G.