Small Towns and Quirky Characters

moon over manifest

I read Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool this weekend. It won the Newbery a few years ago, and the title keeps appearing on book suggestion lists I receive, so I had it in my pile of to-reads. There are multiple characters and flashbacks, so you have to stay on your reading toes (and probably be at least a 6th or 7th grader). It has a style and setting that remind me of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters also came to mind while I read.

The main character, Abilene Tucker, is sent to live with a family friend in a small town during the Depression. The town is chock full of quirky characters who are more interesting to me than Abilene. The minor characters are the reason I like the book. It took several chapters before the story grabbed me, but I loved the twist at the end during the courthouse scene– it was worth the wait.

snicker of magic

Moon Over Manifest kick-started a new list of books that are set in small towns with memorable side characters. Do you ever read books and get caught up with the stories of the extra characters more than the protagonist? What other books have great quirky characters?

  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
  • Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
  • Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
  • Pie by Sarah Weeks
  • Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

three times lucky

 

 

Characters with Differences

counting by 7s

I joined a group of educators to create a collaborative blog with teaching resources for upper elementary and middle school grades. My first contribution to The Lesson Deli is a list of books with characters who have a physical disability or a learning difference.

Lesson Deli-button

It was harder than I thought to create the list. There just aren’t that many books with characters who fall out of the “normal” range of abilities, although, the majority of the books on the list were published in recent years, so characters with a mental or physical disabilities in literature is becoming more common.

To see the complete list, CLICK HERE.

million dollar putt cover

I highly recommend Counting by 7s by Sloan, Wonder by Polacio, and The Million Dollar Putt by Gutman. I heard through the grapevine that there is a companion for Wonder called The Julian Chapter available on Kindle. Be on the lookout!

Do you like to read books that have characters with some kind of challenge? These books usually carry over to the sad but good list too, which can be a turn off for some readers who don’t want to cry while reading. Will you read a book that might make you cry?

Follow the Clues

mr lemoncellos library cover

A former student recommended I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein because there is a character in the story who has the same last name I do. It took me a few months to get to it, but I finally read it during my spring break.

This book follows a group of characters who are trapped in a library through a scavenger hunt of library knowledge in order to escape. The book becomes a puzzle for the reader too. It taps into your library skills and background knowledge of classic books. The riddles inserted into the story reminded me of a few other books I read and really liked. I had a starter list of this style of books in my Style-Alike book post, but I thought it was time for a dedicated scavenger-hunt-wrapped-in-a-mystery list.

Most titles on the list have the “riddle” element to them, but I also included classic mystery books like Nancy Drew where characters uncover clues to solve the crime without having to decode a puzzle first to reveal the clue.

red blazer girls cover

  • The 7th Level by Jody Feldman
  • Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
  • Benjamin Pratt & Keepers of the School series by Andrew Clements
  • Chasing Vermeer (and others) by Blue Balliett
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord (must be read in order)
  • Floors series by Patrick Carman
  • Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
  • Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
  • The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (and The 39 Clues series)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
  • Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. Beil
  • The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett
  • The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
  • The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier (older publication)
  • Theodore Boone Detective series by John Grisham
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

floors cover

Mysteries are actually a great book style for younger readers (1st through 3rd grade) because students have to maintain plot details from earlier in the book to understand any resolutions that happen later in the book. There are many series for this lower reading level that are popular. Reading multiple books from a series strengthens reading because they typically follow the same plot pattern in each book. This gets repetitive for an adult but actually helps improve reading skills in kids because they can begin to more accurately anticipate what will happen next, which makes the story easier to follow and remember.

  • The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
  • A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
  • The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I like the ones by the original author the best, 1-19)
  • Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
  • Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson
  • Jigsaw Jones by James Preller
  • The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne

jigsaw jones book cover

 

Have you read any good mysteries lately?

 

It’s Fate

tangle of knots

During one of our icy snow days, I read a new book called A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. It wasn’t the best book I have ever read but what did stick with me were the connections between the characters. The quirky characters rent rooms in a run down building without knowing they all have a relationship to each other. As the book progresses, little clues are revealed that help the reader solve the mystery about how the characters’ lives intersect. By the end, we know how and why the characters were meant to be together.

Holes

A Tangle of Knots made me think about other books I know that have this fate element to them. Books that weave character stories together to create a clever puzzle of relationships. It is a little bit like a modern (and shorter) version of Great Expectations by Dickens who always intertwined lives so cleverly. Here are the books I like that have an element of fate or destiny or secret connections.

  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  • Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley
  • The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

I just ordered The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech, which I think may belong on this list too. Can anyone confirm?

destiny rewritten

The Gateway Book

MindsinBloomButton2

I contributed a guest post to an upper elementary teaching blog, Minds in Bloom. The post is about helping kids find their gateway book and then using that gateway book to generate spin off books that build a love of reading. See my survival book list or the guest post for an explanation of a gateway book.

My favorite part of the article is the Book Trails. This is a list of books that can be generated from one starter book. Check out the post to see how to build your own book trail!

candy factory book trail

Here is a sample book trail for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Create a list of related books to keep a child reading.