Category Archives: Book Discussion

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth

It’s the summer before 7th grade.  Spunky, headstrong Violet Raines plans to do what she always does; go to fish fries with her best friend Lottie, bike and explore with her friend Eddie, and watch the thunderstorms her sleepy town of Mitchell Hammock, Florida is famous for. But when new girl Melissa Gold shows up from Detroit, she threatens everything that Violet holds dear. Soon Lottie is more interested in soap operas and makeovers than swimming and alligator hunting. Despite Lottie’s attempts to bring the trio together, Violet and Melissa just can’t seem to get along. When lightning literally strikes, Violet must decide what’s more important: desperately clinging to the past or embracing changes for the future.

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning is a wonderfully sweet story about that precarious time between childhood and adolescence, growing up and the power of friendship.

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth
Juvenile fiction | 176 pages | August 2008 | Walker Children’s | 9780802797919 | Library copy
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The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

“For a long time after that summer, the four Penderwick sisters still talked of Arundel.  Fate drove us there, Jane would say.  No, it was the greedy landlord who sold our vacation house on Cape Cod, someone else would say, probably Skye.” (p. 1)

When their regular vacation home is sold, the Penderwicks find themselves in need of a new summer cottage.  Arundel is not at all what they expected – a gorgeous mansion with sweeping gardens and an amazing cottage.  Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty are thrilled by the enchanting property.  Even more exciting is the prospect of a new friend in Jeffrey, the young boy who lives at the mansion.  Three glorious weeks spread before the girls.  What kind of adventures will they have…and what kind of trouble will they get into?

It’s taken me almost 2 years to pick up The Penderwicks and I’m glad I finally did.  It is an utterly sweet and charming book about sisters, family bonds, friendship and growing up.  It reminded me a lot of Little Women, from the relationships between the sisters, to the characteristics of the girls themselves.  There is Rosalind, the practical, maternal older sister (similar to Meg March).  Then there’s Skye, the endearingly fiesty loudmouth and dreamy, creative Jane (in these two I saw traces of Jo and Amy) and finally little Batty, the shy baby sister (just like Beth).  There isn’t a lot of action in the book, but Birdsall’s strength is her ability to accurately capture the unique bond that can occur between sisters.  Having grown up with 2 sisters myself, I can see a lot of my own childhood in The Penderwicks.  It was a delight to revist those carefree joyful days. 🙂

The Penderwicks:  A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Juvenile fiction | 272 pages | June 2005 | Knopf Books | 0375831436  | Library copy

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The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin

J. J. Tully is a retired search-and-rescue dog who’s living out his glory days on his trainer’s farm.  Compared to the excitement and danger of his previous job, farm life can be rather boring.  When a wacky chicken named Millicent (Moosh) shows up in the doghouse doorway needing J. J.’s help to find her two missing chicks, Poppy and Sweetie, he quickly negotiates cheeseburger payment and is on the case.

The trouble with chickens, J. J. soon realizes, is that they’re hard to read.  And they get in the way.  And they possibly know more than they say they know when they know it.  If J. J. is going to have any chance of rescuing Poppy and Sweetie from the evil house dog, Vince the Funnel, he needs all the information…and someone’s not talking. 

From the author that brought us Click Clack Moo:  Cows That Type, Bounce, and Wiggle, comes a new series for young readers.  The Trouble with Chickens:  A J. J. Tully Mystery is Doreen Cronin’s first venture into chapter books.   This book has been getting a lot of love around the kidlitosphere and I can see why:  short sentence structure, a mix of familiar and new vocabulary, dead-pan humor, vivid descriptions and a fast-paced plot make this a good choice for a read-alone or read-alouds.     However, I felt the shift between narrators was a little awkward at first and that I didn’t have those laugh-out-loud funny moments others were raving about.  I really, REALLY wanted to love this book, but for whatever reason the elements didn’t come together for me.  Still, I can see the appeal for many readers in The Trouble with Chickens and would have no problem recommending it.

See other reviews at A Patchwork of Books and Bookends.

The Trouble with Chickens:  A J. J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Juvenile Fiction | 128 pages | Balzer & Bray | March 2011 | 0061215325 | Library copy

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