Saturday, November 03, 2007

Me and the Pumpkin Queen, by Marlane Kennedy

I am the sort of person who doesn't drive to county fairs, art festivals, or other such community events with any excitement or hope that I'll really enjoy the excursion. But I am often surprised when I'm actually at such events---surprised to find myself fascinated with some exhibit or performance. That's kinda what happened to me, reading this book. After the first two pages I was not really getting into it and was ready to give up, but after just a few more pages I was engaged with the main character, Mildred, with the rural setting, and with the plot of growing humongous pumpkins. The other main plot line: Mildred learning to grow up without her dead mom, was one of the things that I didn't feel excited about in the first couple pages, but this plot line plays out so subtly and realistically that I was able to jump into and enjoy the whole story.

Now that I'm teaching older elementary aged children (5th and 6th graders) I've reoriented my "transitional" book radar. It's no longer books that ease readers into the world of chapter books that I'm constantly searching out (a big priority as a teacher of "struggling" fourth graders). Rather, it's chapter books that are smack in the middle of the middle. Books that are harder than "easy" or "beginning" chapter books, but easier than those chapter books that fifth and sixth graders who are reading "on grade level" often enjoy. For lack of any better identifier, and I think it's pretty fitting, I'm gonna call these "fourth grade" books. This is one of those books, and I am very glad to have found it.

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