Someone Old and Someone New

To me, at least.  Today I read two great books.  The first was by Rodman Philbrick and is titled The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.  I’ve read Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty and The Last Book in the Universe, and enjoyed them both.  This time out Philbrick ventures into historical fiction, and creates a rather larger-than-life protagonist named, of course, Homer Figg.  Homer is a real fibber, and after his brother kind of gets sold into the Union Army, Homer sets out on his own to find him.  Adventure ensues, Homer tells many a tall tale, meets a cast of interesting characters, from Quakers to carnies, and manages to survive the Battle of Gettysburg.  I cheered him on the whole way, picked up some interesting trivia about the Civil War era, and felt that Rodman had yet again pulled me in with solid character development.  I’m excited to recommend this book to some of my “war” obsessed students–it’s not really about war, but I think there’s enough to pull them in and maybe get them reading a wider range of material.



Next up I selected 11 Birthdays from my to-read pile.  This is the first novel I’ve read by author Wendy Mass, although I know I have two more by her, Every Soul a Star and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, on my bookshelf at school.  This was a great story about two friends with the same birthday who fight, end up having separate birthday parties, and in a twist a la Groundhog Day, repeat their eleventh birthday over and over until they learn some lessons, make up, and then team up to break out of the repeating loop of their lives.  Mass manages to keep the plot engaging, even as the “same” day repeats over and over, and throws in some twists that make the plot less predictable than it sounds in this review!  11 Birthdays was well-paced and I think it will appeal to many of the fans of realistic fiction in my class, though it has a bit of a fantastical bent toward the end.  The main character is a girl, which can be a hard sell for boy readers, but I think this book will be a huge hit with many of my girl readers.  I’m even liking it for a book club selection, because I can imagine fifth graders enjoying conversations around the characters and events in this story.


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