Oliver and the Sea Monkeys

Dear Reader,

A bit of wacky humour. Brief loneliness. Lasting friendship, courage, and adventure. An easy-to-read novel that you will finish in no time at all. Only 193 pages, many of them filled with funny illustrations. Read this book when you want a rest from serious novels. Have fun!

Reeve, Philip and Sarah McIntyre. Oliver and the Sea Monkeys. New York : Yearling, 2016, c2013.

Then, when you are ready for a much longer science fiction novel, read Fever Crumb. It’s the first in a challenging series by author Philip Reeve. 

Reeve, Philip. Fever Crumb. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.
Fourteen-year-old Fever has been trained as an engineer in a futuristic culture which believes women are not capable of rational thought.  When she leaves her home in London, she makes surprising discoveries and faces unexpected dangers.  For 12 – 16 year-olds. [England; Foundlings; Identity; Science fiction; Technology]

Happy reading!

Ms. R. 

More humorous stories

More science fiction novels 


Dear Reader,

You’ve no doubt heard of Frankenstein, the horrible monster created by a mad scientist. The real story is far more interesting. Fourteen-year-old Mary and her stepmother did not get along together, so her father sent her to live in Scotland. When Mary returned to London, two years later, circumstances had not improved. So Mary and her stepsister and a poet, Percy Shelley, ran away to Switzerland where they lived in a big house on Lake Geneva. One night, eighteen-year-old Mary came up with the idea of a monster brought to life by a Dr. Frankenstein. When her novel was first published in 1818, no one could believe that it had been written by a girl. But it really was her story. And 200 years later, her horror story is still famous! 

Bailey, Linda. Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein. New York: Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, 2018.

This dramatic picture book, suspensefully illustrated by Julia Sarda, tells Mary’s whole story. Read it the first chance you get! 

Ms. R. 

P.S. If you’re interested in finding out more about classic stories, check out this list


Brave Like My Brother

Dear Reader,

How wonderful to see you looking for more serious novels. Short humorous stories are fine to read once in awhile, but you are now at an age – in grade six – where you are ready to consider more mature topics. You already know that life is not always fun. Not always easy. And you are ready to read stories that depict characters in circumstances that call for courage.

But I know that you cannot yet read quickly enough to enjoy a long book with small print. So what novels can you read that are more than simply entertainment? Here’s one just for you! 

Nobleman, Marc Tyler. Brave Like My Brother. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.

Only 100 pages long, this story is printed in a large font with lots of space between the lines and large margins. And each chapter is only 4 pages long. Actually, each chapter is a letter. Yes, a letter. It is a series of letters. The first and the last one are from Charlie, writing to his older brother, Joe, a soldier sent to England during World War II. All the others in between are from Joe, writing to tell of his experiences during the days leading up to D-Day, the Allied invasion of France.  It will not take you long to read this novel of courage in the face of bullying and fear.

And when you are finished, think about these questions: What did you learn about history from reading this story? How is being a soldier different than you expected? How do Joe and Charlie and their parents and their grandmother all show courage during the war?

pleased that you are growing into a thoughtful reader,
Ms. R.

More stories of World War II 

More stories about bullying

More stories of courage

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Dear Reader,

If you like action novels and are a quick reader, you’ll have great fun with this 381-page novel about a blind orphan who is forced to work as a thief. Setting off on a great quest with three sets of magic eyes, Peter faces danger and finds friendship. He shows courage and discovers his home. Read this great novel – by a writer raised in Canada – when you have a long weekend and lots of time. Have fun!

Auxier, Jonathan. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes: A Story. Toronto: Puffin Canada, c2011.

You notice that it’s published by Puffin. Always take at least a quick look at a Puffin book. It might not be what you are looking for right at the moment, but you can be sure it will be well written. 

Ms. R. 


Responding to ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’

Dear Reader,

Over and over you’ve heard that good readers make connections to what they read.  But often those connections can seem very mysterious. Often there seems to be no logical relationship between a reader’s reaction and the plot line of a story. For example, when I think of Sarah MacLachlan’s novel Sarah, Plain and Tall, I think of two children learning to love a stepmother who has come from far way to marry their father. I think of a stepmother who learns to love the flat land of the Kansas prairies after leaving her home by the sea. I think of how joy can come out of sadness and grief.

But a student in grade six saw something different in this classic American novel. “Sarah, Plan and Tall”, she wrote, “…changed my view of life. This book taught me that we should not expect too much from anyone as our expectation doesn’t always turn into the reality. When I was new in Canada, a girl became my friend at first and as she realized that I trusted her, she hurt my feelings by betraying me. She broke my trust by saying that I was her enemy and by making fun of my Indian accent and my Indian hairstyle. I trusted her again and again, I trusted her until I finally realized this year that she was not trustworthy and trusting her was my biggest mistake. From this long experience, I also learned that whatever happens in life is for the good. Every time she broke my trust, I cried a lot at home. I cried each and every single day. Now, the result of this long journey of three years is a stronger me. Finally, I am strong enough to not cry in these difficult situations and to make wise decisions….”

The next time you’re reading a novel, notice how the story affects you. Then, find a trusted friend who has read the same novel. Compare thoughts. How did the novel affect each of you differently?

Have fun!

Ms. R. 

Responding to ‘The Doorman’s Repose’

Dear Reader,

You already know that happy readers make connections between what they see on the page and what they have experienced in real life. Sometimes those experiences are adventures of the mind – memories of other stories and other books. Other times, those experiences bring back memories of events and emotions.  It is creating those connections between two worlds that makes reading so enjoyable. 

One student in grade six, Russ, wrote about The Doorman’s Repose by Chris Raschka (New York Review Books, 2017). “What makes this book so unusual?” he wrote. “In this book, mice act like people! How humorous! Like the mice, I’ve discovered that some vacations can turn into ordeals. Once, we went to Toronto, and we got lost on the way to our cousins’ house. It took us two days to find the proper route and by that time most of our vacation had passed.”

Later, after reading more in this novel about the life of an apartment building in New York City, he wrote, “Moping pigeons cause the gravity to shift. What a ridiculous idea! In my lifetime, I have had some quite ridiculous ideas. One time I had an idea that if I went into a locked trunk, I would see all the mechanisms of the car. So I locked myself into the trunk and felt disappointed. There was no mechanism. Only after awhile did I realize I was running out of air. I screamed and kicked. Somehow my body hit an unlocking trunk button. So I was safe.”

One way to learn how to make connections is to watch for powerful sentences.  Another way is practise writing personal responses.  Of course, before you can make connections, you have to start reading. Try these secrets of great readers to start having fun!

Happy reading!

Ms. R.