Just Grace

grace cover

Just Grace

By Charise Mericle Harper

 

Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (March 18, 2008)

Available in: library binding, paperback, audible, audible CD, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were 12 books in the Just Grace series.

 

Purr.

Just Grace is a girl we know: active, often in trouble, misunderstood, smart, put upon, kind, empathetic and just a bit of an attitude. There are similar characters in chapter book fiction (Junie B. Jones, Clementine, Judy Moody and Marty McGuire come to mind), but Grace Stewart is still one very welcome kid in the crowd.

I like this series because it has a number of interesting twists on the usual chapter book subset. There’s an odd and intriguing mix of geography, from France to Wisconsin to California. There are inventive projects intended to make someone feel better. The text breaks are not so much in chapter format as train of thought and, often, a numbered list. It’s easy and fresh, and a child could be mid-way through before she even realized it. That’s a confidence builder.

Best suited for girls in the second through fourth grades, Just Grace does have a few challenging components. Paragraphs can be quite long, and the vocabulary contains some real corkers for this age group, such as anthropology, inspiration and empathy. But with the author/illustrator’s lively and touching comic-style drawings and infrequent use of photos, the tough words are no roadblock. Instead, the book reads quirky and true, something utterly Grace.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

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My Father’s Dragon

Father Dragon cover

My Father’s Dragon

By Ruth Stiles Gannett, Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett

 

Published by: Random House Books for Young Readers; 50th Anniversary edition (December 13, 2011)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, audible audio, audio CD, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were three books in the My Father’s Dragon series.

 

 

Nostalgic.

My Father’s Dragon, originally published in 1948, is easily identifiable as old-school storytelling. Sometimes this is a hindrance to today’s young readers. But with this book, it’s not.

The story reads almost as a dream. There’s a secret adventure, a baby dragon who falls out of a cloud and is held captive, and an island where “… no one has come back alive.” This is the stuff of great imagination and long-ago myths. Children who love a good fantasy will enjoy this now as much as decades ago.

For independent reading, this is probably best suited for older chapter book readers; the pages without illustrations are dense, there are long paragraphs and some of the vocabulary is challenging. But perhaps the best use of this book is a one-chapter-a-night family event, as even younger children will enjoy the talking animals and chapter headings such as “My Father Meets a Gorilla” and “My Father Runs Away.”

The illustrations are lush and child-like without being sophomoric. Although our protagonist, a young boy, is pictured as somewhat flat (which aids in the fantasy believability), the animals are solid and breathe with the life of bizarre dreams.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….