Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin (2014)

Franny Katzenback of Pittsburg lives not too far from Dr. Salk’s search for a polio vaccine.  However, it is too late for her.  She has gotten paralytic polio, and spends months in the hospital, including time in an iron lung.  While she was in the iron lung, a nun comes to hospital regularly to read to her.  She reads her a brand new book: Charlotte’s Web. Franny falls in love with this book, and the nun gives her a copy of it to take home with her.  Finally Franny can breathe outside the iron lung, and can go home in a wheelchair.  A physical therapist comes regularly to see if she can get Franny back on her feet again (and back to school.)

Franny is short on friends now, because all the kids and their parents seem to think that Franny is still contagious (even though she’s not, of course), so they will not come close.  However, Franny does have a new friend who lives on her dog . . . Fleabrain.  Fleabrain writes her messages and does lots of things to get her attention.  It turns out that Fleabrain is even better than Charlotte the spider!

Summer Reading Online – 15 of 30

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (2014)

This is a book that will be of interest to boys as well as girls. The main characters are four brothers who are ages 12, 10, 10, and six. The two 10 year olds are not twins biologically. All of the brothers are adopted, and Jax and Eli were such friends as toddlers that their adoptive dads adopted them both at the same time. The oldest is Sam and the youngest is Frog (as in “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”.)  The brothers are all beginning a new school year in the opening chapter of the book.  As the school proceeds, things don’t go quite as each of the boys thought they would. 

I really enjoyed this book overall, and think boys (and girls) aged 8 to 10 would particularly enjoy it, as well as people who enjoy family stories.  However, something that bothers me now, and would have bothered me at that age as well (I spent time as a young child rather obsessed with what age everyone should turn in what grade.)   At 10, Eli and Jax were only starting fourth grade.  I was 10 when I started fifth grade.  It was the same with the others.  Frog was already six and only starting kindergarten, and Sam was 12 and starting sixth grade.  Excuse me, but I was 11 most of my sixth grade year . . .  perhaps all of their birthdays were in August right before the school year?

Blood Diaries: Tales of a 6th Grade Vampire by Marissa Moss

Blood Diaries: Tales of a 6th Grade Vampire by Marissa Moss (2014)

This is a cute book that I would have definitely enjoyed back in fourth or fifth grade . . . I like to think my mom would have let me read it. (She was always pretty cool about letting my choose my own, but tried to steer me away from horror, and toward mystery.  Let’s just say, I tended to prefer more horror to mystery.   That has maybe changed a bit as an adult, but mystery isn’t always my favorite genre, but then I’ve mostly gotten away from horror as well.) 

Edgar is a vampire, as is his family.  Vampire children and adults can choose to age as they wish.  Edgar could choose to age faster and skip sixth grade at school, or choose to skip middle school entirely.  He doesn’t want to.  He wants to experience the same age as his human peers.  Some of his cousins like being teens so much that they just stay the same age for  years at a time.  

So what happens when his human classmates seems to discover that Edgar is really a vampire?  And that is against the rules of his vampire family.  He needs to pass as human.  What’s a young vampire to do?

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers
(Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014)


An almost 13-year-old named Ruth, who likes to skateboard, write poetry (and publishes it on her Tumblr), and help make movies with her best friend has always known she was adopted.  Her parents adopted her as a newborn and she was in the NICU in New York.  She had a heart transplant when she was just a month old.  One day, she discovers, in the internet, a girl in England who looks exactly like her!  So she emails Ruby.   The entire book is told mainly through email, texts, poetry, and some of Jedgar and Ruth’s “Shorca!” scripts.  

I recommend this book for 10 to 12 year olds in particuar.  It deals with what it means to be a friend, a sister, a child, and finding forgiveness.

Best Kept Secret (Family Tree Book 3) by Ann. M. Martin

Best Kept Secret (Family Tree Book 3) by Ann M. Martin

This is the latest installment of the Family Tree series by Ann M. Martin.  I must say that i picked up the first book because I love genealogy and the idea of a “family tree” type of series thrilled me.  However, the first and second books kind of left me cold – not in a Stephen King kind of way – but in the way that some members of this family do not get along.  Another way they left me cold is in the style they are written.  Sometimes they feel like warm family stories and at other times, I feel detached and separated as the reader, as each chapter sometimes skips months or even years from the one before.  This book and the first two leave me with very mixed feelings.  This third one also ended with the main character, who grew up during the 1970s and ends in the 1990s, in a relationship and pregnant just as the first two did.  These books are also trying to explore both mother/daughter relationships and father/daughter relationships, and in many ways are probably fairly realistic of some families.    

I want to see what is going to happen in the fourth installment.  I thought that this third one didn’t quite leave me as “cold.”  It was wrapped up a little better, although Francie’s mother, Dana (the main character of the second book), still has an ongoing battle with her mother Abby (main character of the first book).  I still can’t discern the exact reason. They just don’t quite get along because of decisions they’ve both made.  

In this book, Francie is age seven when the book opens, and it struggling to learn how to read because of dyslexia.  Soon she’s made life-long friends, but over the coming years her immediate family goes through changes.  The next book will feature Francie’s daughter.

I don’t know what age I would actually recommend these books for.  I suppose ages 9 to 13.   I would have probably enjoyed these when I was about eleven years old, to be specific.  I might have been annoyed then, too, that some things are never resolved in this story.

Overall, I gave this one four out of five stars on LibraryThing.  

Little House and LIW in my life: Part One

As a young girl of about eight years old, I became obsessed with all things to do with the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  To note, by that time I’d seen a handful of the television show episodes (I saw more of them the next year when a local channel started carrying syndicated reruns.) The show’s original run was nearly coming to an end by then.  Anyway, I’d seen enough to know that the tv show was really nothing like the books, and had already become a separate entity in my mind.  (I know there are still people out there who think the events and people in the tv show are the complete real-life truth.)

When I was five years old, my mother read Farmer Boy aloud to my brothers and I.  The chapter that sticks out the most in my memory is when Almanzo and his siblings are left alone for the week to mind the house and farm on their own.  They use up almost all of the sugar making and eating sweets, and Eliza Jane has to repair the parlor wallpaper from where the blacking brush hit the wall after Almanzo threw it.

A couple of years later, I borrowed Little House in the Big Woods from the Wanamaker Branch of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library.   I remember really enjoying it, and then borrowed Little House on the Prairie.  I was reading ahead of where they had me in reading group in elementary school.  (My fourth grade teacher finally recognized that I could read very well, and moved me up to where I should be – in the highest reading group.  It was just previously – in first grade – I was so shy and nervous that sometimes my speaking/reading aloud was not great, but it was just nerves! Same in second and third grades. . . even though I was reading chapter books on my own silently just fine.)  In fact, I usually read the entire reading text books at the beginning of the school year, and it was pretty borrowing the remainder of the time.  


Anyway, I digress. 

I think steadily read the whole little house series so that by the summer I was nine I was re-reading the whole series.  I had my favorite titles.  I have shared one or two of my favorites in the past on this blog.   I still think Little Town on the Prairie was and is one of my absolute favorites of the series.  I loved seeing Laura growing up and having some fun with friends and family.  This book also is not quite as bleak as some of the others.  As an adult, I think I appreciate the later books in the series as well because apparently Rose (Wilder Lane) may not have done quite as much work on them.  Rose did a great job shaping the books, etc, but according to Pamela Smith Hill, author of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Rose simply did not have the time or energy to put quite as much time into re-writing her mother’s stories later on as she did with the first books in the series.  
 
I have more to say about the books, and also about my visits to a couple of the home sites over the years, but  I will tackle those things in a future post!

Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry

Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry (2014)

I highly recommend this book for readers ages eight to twelve.   It is an adventurous read.  A boy named Spencer (who is going blind eventually, though not yet in this book) and his friend Gregor (who is on the autism spectrum) love to run, and that is how they become friends.   Spencer’s mom is into doing kind things and so has him signed up to visit regularly with an older man at an assisted living home.  The older gentleman is Ed.  Ed has a book he acquired many years before in Europe.  It is rather magic – if just the right person taps the page and pulls the book mark across, the person on that page will spring to life outside the book.   We readers meet Teddy Roosevelt, Socrates, and Martin Luther King, among others.   However, there is someone after Ed, Spencer, Gregor and Ed’s great-granddaughter Mel who want to get his hands on this book.  And there is another mysterious gentleman who looks remarkably like Al Capone.  How does this all tie together?  Read this book and find out!