Our September Book Stack recognizes, appreciates, and explores books in the Read to Them library that incorporate the element of school, our at The Lamp-Post theme for this month. Did someone just ring the bell? Let’s dive in!
The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
Longfellow School’s favorite classroom pet ventures home with students and teachers, gently coaxing them to resolve their problems.
Magic Moment: Humphrey meets Aldo the custodian and begins a beautiful friendship.
“Well, well, who have we here? A new student!” a voice boomed.
The man was smiling down at me. My, that was a lovely piece of fur across his upper lip. A nice black mustache. He bent down to peer in at me.
“I’m Aldo Amato. And who are you?”
“I’m Humphrey…and you scared me half to death!” I told him. But, as always, all that came out was “Squeak-squeak-squeak.”
Aldo squinted at the sign on my cage.
“Oh, you’re Humphrey! Hope I didn’t scare you half to death!” he said with a laugh.
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
When a new girl arrives in Mrs. Pigeon’s second grade class, she wins over her teacher and her classmates with her “absolutely true stories.”
Magic Moment: Gooney Bird Greene arrives, and everything changes.
“Who are you?” Mrs. Pigeon asked politely.
“I’m your new student. My name is Gooney Bird Greene – that’s Greene with a silent ‘e’ at the end – and I just moved here from China. I want a desk right smack in the middle of the room, because I like to be right smack in the middle of everything.”
Niagara Falls, or Does It? by Henry Winkler
Hank Zipzer has three great friends, some pretty nice parents, a fantastic grandpa, and a sharp sense of humor. If only school came as easy to him as wise cracks!
Magic Moment: After his great idea of a papier-mâché Niagara Falls explodes in an epic flooding disaster, Hank is left outside the principal’s office to ponder his fate.
The hallway is a lonely place when you’re sitting on the bench outside the principal’s office. Kids you know walk by on the way to the bathroom or the water fountain, but no one says hello to you. No one even looks at you. It’s like you’re wearing a sign around your neck that says TROUBLE–KEEP AWAY.
Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley
Charlie is sure the school year is going to be a disaster when he is assigned to Mrs. Burke’s class – the strictest teacher in the school who already has it in for poor Charlie.
Magic Moment: Sometimes that super strict teacher who hates you turns out to be the best kind of teacher – one who sees the best qualities in you.
“I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “You keep saying that.”
She was quiet for a minute. Then she asked, “Do you know why I put you next to Hector in class?”
“So I would have a neat desk and be good all the time like he is?”
“No,” she said.
“Because I knew Hector would have a hard time when he started here. He comes from a long way away, and this is a big change for him. He needs people to be friendly to him. And when I asked the third-grade teachers who the friendliest boy was, Mr. Romano said it was you. The others agreed.”
I think my face got red. Something inside me turned over. I sure hadn’t expected her to say something nice like that. I smiled a little.
Cody Harmon, King of Pets by Claudia Mills
Cody might not be very good at school stuff, but he is really good at pet stuff. He graciously agrees to share his menagerie with his friends so everyone can participate in the school Pet Show.
Magic Moment: When the principal, Mr. Boone, opens up about a mistake he made and what he learned from it, Cody and his pal Tobit come to understand that making mistakes can lead to learning important lessons.
“So I looked for an elephant to borrow for today. And I found one, at a small local company that rents out exotic pets – elephants, giraffes, gorillas – for birthday parties. But when I went there to reserve my elephant, I couldn’t do it.”
“Why?” Cody asked.
“It was too sad.” The principal had tears in his eyes, remembering. “That huge majestic beast…in this cramped cage. It should have been free in the wild, but it was being hired out for entertainment, to be ridden into an elementary school by a fellow like me. I couldn’t go through with it.”
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Jack thinks that he hates poetry, which is a problem because his teacher – Miss Stretchberry – loves it.
Magic Moment: All it takes is just the right poem by just the right poet to change Jack’s mind.
I sure liked that poem
by Mr. Walter Dean Myers
“Love That Boy.”
Because of two reasons
I liked it:
One is because
my dad calls me
in the morning
just like that.
Hey there, son!
And also because
when I had my
I loved that dog
and I would call him
Hey there, Sky!
(His name was Sky.)
No Talking by Andrew Clements
When the notoriously loud fifth grade class at Laketon Elementary School decides to see who can talk the least for two days, a competition between the boys and the girls turns into a battle of wills between the students and their principal.
Magic Moment: You would think that Mrs. Hiatt, the principal who has been trying to shush the fifth graders since kindergarten, would be happy with the second day of quiet in the cafeteria. But she has just held an assembly and ordered those fifth graders to talk!
She looked around the quiet room, and the sight of all these fifth graders deliberately disobeying her–well, it nudged her over the edge. It pushed her right into the red zone.
She gritted her teeth, and an angry haze filled her mind, and she knew she was angry, and she knew it wasn’t good to be angry. But she was.
And she knew it wasn’t good to be angry and try to talk to children at the same time.
But she couldn’t help herself. She had to talk to these kids. Right now.
She could have whispered, and every fifth grader would have heard her. But she didn’t whisper.
She pulled the trigger on the bullhorn.
“HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN OUR ASSEMBLY THIS MORNING?”
Simon B. Rhymin’ by Dwayne Reed
Simon has a hard time speaking up, but once he does, he and his raps make a BIG difference on a personal and a community-wide level.
Magic Moment: While learning about homelessness, Simon discovers that his friend Sunny has a beautiful singing voice. The Notorious D.O.G. raps and Sunny sings to bring the community together to help their homeless neighbors.
When Sunny sings, it feels like his voice takes over the whole room. And I see a whole bunch of people turn around and stare at him from their seats. He sounds like something off the radio. But from like fifty years ago, of course. I’ve never heard anything like that in real life. For a minute I forget where we are. That this guy is going off like this in a homeless shelter rec room. I snap out of it and look around when the whole room starts clapping at the end of Sunny’s song.
Malala: My Story of Standing Up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai
All Malala wants is to go to school with her friends in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. When the Taliban regime tries to silence her, they only amplify her voice and her message of educational equity.
Magic Moment: Miraculously, Malala recovers from her injuries and addresses the United Nations.
“This is not the Stone Age,” I said. “But it feels like we are going backward. Girls are getting more deprived of our rights.” I spoke about how much I loved school and how important it was to keep learning. “We are afraid of no one, and we will continue our education. This is our dream.”
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally is artistic and creative, but she really excels at hiding how hard reading is for her. Finally, in her seventh school in seven years, she crosses paths with the right teacher at the right time who unlocks reading – and self-confidence – for her.
Magic moment: Finally, someone sees the brilliance inside Ally. Now if she can only see it for herself.
“…In some ways, you’re a lot smarter than other kids. You can do things they can’t. For one, you’re an amazing artist. Those drawings of yours! Wow, Ally. You’ve got talent there. What do you think about that?”
“I think it’s like saying ‘I’m sorry you’re going to die but at least people are going to bring you flowers.’”
He laughs really hard now. “See that? Seriously, Ally. Only smart people say things like that.” His voice drops. “It’s going to be okay, kiddo.”
I have never hoped for something so much as this.
Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
Ripped from the headlines, see what happens when a parent who challenges books in the school library runs up against a trio of book-loving friends.
Magic Moment: Amy Anne finds her voice and defends her fellow students’ right to read in front of the school board. She demonstrates that someone could find something objectionable in virtually any book.
The Wake County School Board doesn’t want its students to read any books that scare them, or teach them, or entertain them, or show them new things, or make them sad, or happy, or shock them, or open their minds. Which is all of them.
Restart by Gordon Korman
After a concussion wipes Chase’s memory clean, he gets the chance to decide who he wants to be, while learning who he used to be.
Magic Moment: Chase remembers bits and pieces of his old life. Was it all bad?
I’m having flashbacks of my wonderful toughness–punching and shoving kids, kicking their heels out from under them in the halls. But it’s not all bad stuff like that. I remember walking through the school with my shoulders back and my head held high. I remember feeling important and confident and powerful. Maybe some of that came from what a jerk I was, but surely not all of it. I was a star athlete and a state champion. I had a lot of friends. I was somebody in this town. It’s not a crime to be proud of that.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Auggie Pullman was born with a craniofacial condition that has kept him from attending school until fifth grade. Now, he faces the challenge of finding his way to being accepted by his peers.
Magic Moment: Auggie is actually empathetic to how he makes others feel walking by him in the hallway.
I’m not saying they were doing any of these things in a mean way, by the way: not once did any kid laugh or make noises or do anything like that. They were just being normal dumb kids. I know that. I kind of wanted to tell them that. Like, it’s okay, I know I’m weird looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the Wookiee. And if the Wookiee caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he’s a Wookiee.