July 13, 2012

Fiction Friday: Chapter 5

What?  Is it really Friday already? You know what that means... it is time for Fiction Friday!! My favorite part of the week.  I just LOVE talking books!

Whew! This past week flew by at lightning speed. I have a confession to make.  I didn't finish my two books this week.  I know...I'm sorry.  Do out of town guests count as a good excuse?  How about moving and unpacking?  Brother's 40th birthday party? What about finding a stray cat and trying to get him into a no-kill shelter?  (And that is harder than you might think.) Well, no matter which excuse you accept (surely one will do), the fact of the matter is that I did not get my books read, so....

I thought I would tell you about 2 other books that I LOVE and often fly under the radar. First up...

Shadow of a Bull 
by Maia Wojcieechowska

Shadow of a Bull won the Newbery Medal back in 1965. It is the story of Manolo, the son of the greatest  matador in Spain, Juan Oliver.  Manolo's father died in the ring and is a legend. Everyone in town expects Manolo to follow in his father's footsteps. They believe he is destined to become the next great bull fighter.  As Manolo secretly begins training for his first bull which he must fight on his 12th birthday, he realizes he may not have what it takes to be a matador. However, his friend Juan has the courage and the passion to be a great bull fighter, but nobody will give him a chance.  Manolo must look inside himself to follow his heart and find the courage to change his destiny.

LOVE. THIS. BOOK.  Seriously, it is one of my all-time favorites for 5th-6th grade.  I have used it in book clubs several times and I promise boys will devour this book. There are a lot of bullfighting terms which are conveniently defined in the back and lots of action.  I have often thought about reading this book aloud, but (because it is about bull fighting) there is some blood and I was always worried it would upset some of my more tender hearted kids. The whole story lends itself so well to discussion in terms of courage, destiny, following your dreams, family, responsibility, friendship, fear, socioeconomic opportunities, etc. It is clear why this book won the Newbery medal.  It is full of memorable lines that literally jump off the page at the reader. If I had my copy, I would hammer you with great quotes, but it is buried in a box at school.  Regardless, I can not recommend this book highly enough.  Shadow of a Bull is a solid 5th grade book with content appropriate for 4th and up. 

My second book is also for mature 4th graders and up and is a great book for literature circles/book clubs.

by Cynthia Lord

Have you heard of this one?  My readers are such an informed group, I bet you have. Rules has won oodles of awards including a Newbery honor. Several years ago, I used points to order it from Scholastic because it was one of their literature circle packs that they were offering CHEAP. At the time, I knew nothing about it, but boy did I luck out. This book is fabulous!

The story follows 12 year old Catherine who is struggling to deal with her eight year old brother, David, who is autistic.  She loves him, but is frequently embarrassed by him and often feels neglected by her parents.  All she wants is a normal life, but life with David is far from "normal". In an effort to help David better understand the world, Catherine creates rules for him to follow.  Say thank you when someone gives you a present (even if you don't like it). Don't stand in front of the TV when other people are watching it. A boy takes off his shirt to swim, but not his shorts. And my favorite...No toys in the fishtank.

As Catherine struggles to find acceptance with her life, readers get a sense of what the family dynamic is around a child with special needs.  Catherine's narration throughout the novel is heartfelt and sincere.  The reader can't help but join in her struggles, her frustrations, her friendships, and her successes.  You simply won't be the same after reading this book and you won't be able to put it down. It gives you new eyes for all students and families that have a child with special needs.

This book should be read aloud or read in a book club as it lends itself to much discussion around family, tolerance, acceptance, social norms, and love. All of my students who read it took away much more than just a good story.  For many, it changed the way they looked at the world.  After seeing the world through Catherine's eyes, they had more compassion and more acceptance with everyone.  It is a novel you should not miss and is one you will continue to think about days after finishing it...a definite sign of a great book.

Rules by Cynthia Lord Discussion Guide

So, now is the time. What other books do you LOVE?  Tell us about your favorite books for literature circles and book clubs. Link up with Fiction Friday and share your love of children's literature.

Remember to snag my button and link back to me, so that everyone can join the fun! Happy reading!


  1. Those both sound amazing! I finally will have some time next week to read. I will have to check these out.
    The Idea Backpack

    1. They really are amazing. You won't be disappointed! :)

  2. Both of these books sound amazing! I am definitely sold on Rules. The sad thing is that I already have a copy in my classroom, I must have bought it at the same time from Scholastic but I have never read it and now I can't wait! Thank you so much for the wonderful suggestions. I will be linking up in a little but with my book from this week.

    :) Nicole
    Tadpole Tidbits

  3. Thanks for the fabulous fiction finds! And thanks for stopping by my blog. I nominated you for The Versatile Blogger award so stop by and pick it up!

    Rock and Teach

  4. Rules is such a good one! I think I'm going to use it as my very first read aloud to help set the tone of my classroom and help teach acceptance. I agree with you that it should be read aloud or in lit circles because there were so many times when I wanted to stop and discuss something with my students. I hope I still have a copy buried somewhere at school. I've never heard of the bull fighter one, but it looks great.
    iTeach 1:1

  5. Thanks for two new books to add to my reading list! I can't wait to read Rules after your recommendation. I am for sure going to read Shadow of a Bull, too!!

  6. Hey Amanda,
    I just found your blog on pinterest, and I'm so glad! I'm a going into my third year of teaching and am always looking for new books for my students. I had never even heard of the SSYRA list, so that will be a great reference. I've been purchasing lots of literature circle packs from scholastic, so those have been on my reading list for the summer. I'm currently reading Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and am enjoying it. Last year I only got to four read alouds, Stone Fox, The Tale of Despereaux, Sarah Plain and Tall, and James and the Giant Peach... with the class favorite always being The Tale of Despereaux :) Anyway, thanks for your posts and keep them up!


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