Cannonball Read IV Book 3: Totally Joe by James Howe

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I hated that the soldier doll had my name. I mean, please. I didn’t play with him much. He was another Christmas present from my clueless grandparents. One time when they were visiting, my grandpa asked me if G.I. Joe had been in any wars lately. I said, “No, but he and Ken got married last week.” Every Christmas since then, my grandparents have sent me a check.”

Joe Bunch is one of the group of four from The Misfits. Joe’s teacher has assigned an “Alphabiography” in which his students have to write a biography, each chapter starting with a letter of the alphabet. Joe is a gay pre-teen and is very accepting of himself. However, he has to deal with the jerks around him who are not as accepting. The story takes us through the months of October through March of 7th grade and the story of his first relationship with another boy, coming out to his parents, and really coming to terms with who he is.

I didn’t like this one as much as I liked the Misfits but, still, I thought it was good.  Howe is really good at character development. I grew to really like Joe when reading about him in The Misfits, (from the perspective of  Bobby). It was really wonderful to see the world through the eyes of Joe. I would recommend this book to kids in 5th to 7th grade.

Cannonball Read IV Book 2: The Misfits by James Howe

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“This business of really knowing people, deep down, including your own self, it is not something you can learn in school or from a book. It takes your whole being to do it—your eyes and your ears, your brain and your heart. Maybe your heart most of all. —Bobby Goodspeed”

This is the story of a group of 4 friends. They are the Misfits; the kids who don’t fit in. They have the misfortune of being bullied. The narrator of the story is Bobby Goodspeed, also know as Fluff (named because of his love of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches. And because he might be a little on the chunky side.) He tells the story of how this group ran Addie (also know as String Bean)  for President of the school on a grass-roots, third-party called the No-Name party. The No-Name Party’s platform can be summed up with this line:

Sticks and stones may break our bones but names will break our spirit.

These kids are tired of being picked on and they are standing up for themselves.

I loved this book. I loved the characters. I especially loved the Narrator, Bobby. He is funny, if not a little bit self-deprecating. But I can relate to that. The character development in this book is fantastic. In fact, I’m really looking forward to reading Totally Joe and Addie on the Inside (both characters from this story). Howe does a fantastic job with dialog. I think character development is the greatest strength of this book. The story is wonderful, but I really grew to love the characters.

I would recommend this book to kids in 5th-7th grade.

Cannonball Read IV Book 1: Vanishing Acts by Phillip Margolin and Ami Margolin Rome

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Vanishing Acts is the first novel in the new Madison Kincaid series. It takes place in Portland, which is fun for me since I live in the area.

“I think he’s hiding something. I just don’t know what it is. But there’s something he’s not telling me. “

And with those words from her lawyer father Madison Kincaid is intrigued. She is a budding detective and future lawyer. Her father is working on a case involving the possible murder of her 2nd grade teacher. Madison wants to help her dad solve the case. At the same time, her best friend is missing and she feels compelled to find her. Other things Madison is dealing with? Being bullied by her fellow soccer teammates AND a possible first boyfriend. All of this during her first few weeks as a 7th grader! Madison is a busy girl! But she is smart and doesn’t let anything stop her. I like her.

And I really like this book. The story moved along very well. The character development was good. Overall, it was very well written for a Juvenile Fiction book. Well written Juvenile Fiction books can be hard to come by so it’s always nice to find one. I thought this was a delightful mystery and would recommend it to kids in 5th-6th grade.