The Book of One Hundred Truths by Julie Schumacher


“My name is Theodora Grumman, and I am a liar.”

There.  That’s all you need to be intrigued enough to pick up this book.  Go get it!

The Book of One Hundred Truths is a great summer vacation book, because it takes place at the beach on summer vacation.  Theodora, or Thea, is visiting her grandparents’ beach house in New Jersey.  (That’s right, the Jersey Shore is a real place, like on MTV, only with REAL people.  Please don’t watch that show, ever.  Or anything else like it.  Stay in school, kids, stay in school.)  Thea arrives in New Jersey to discover that the beach house is already full of other relatives, and she has been assigned to share a room in the attic with her annoying little cousin.  As it turns out, she is also nominated to be Jocelyn’s babysitter, much to her dismay.  Jocelyn follows her around, talking a mile a minute and asking her 500 questions all day long. Ugh. This is not the quiet summer at the beach Thea had planned at all.

Jocelyn immediately spies Thea’s secret notebook and wants to know what it is about. (She’s a nosy 7-year-old, like most little sisters/cousins are. They are curious, they can’t help it. Be patient with them.)  Anyway, back to the notebook!  Right before she boards her airplane to New Jersey, Thea’s mom hands her a brand new notebook and tells her to write it in over the summer.  Write down 100 things that are true, she says, and you might learn something about yourself.  It turns out that Thea has a bit of a problem with being honest.  She lies about everything, from tiny white lies to something bigger that has been bothering her for a while.  Lies come in all colors, did you know?  Meanwhile, some sort of lie is looming over the beach house, too, so she and Jocelyn make it their summer project to figure out what is happening…

Underneath the story about what is going on at the beach house, Thea is slowly revealing the story of how she lost her best friend.  This part made me nervous in a Bridge to Terabithia kind of way.  If you are a nervous reader, you’ll experience that here, too.  You end up with two mysteries to solve as you read and eventually all of the threads come together, and without giving too much away, I can say that I was relieved at the conclusion.  All in all, this is a great book about family and what it means to stick together. Read this book if you are part of a big family that drives you crazy, or read this book if you’re an only child (like Thea) who wishes for tons of cousins and shared vacations and traditions.  It’s all good, for whatever you need to find out about yourself.

The Book of One Hundred Truths has an AR level of 4.2 and is worth 5 points.


Masters of Disaster by Gary Paulsen


“You want me to drive off the roof of a house and bounce on a diving board with a bicycle?”  Reed had stopped walking. “That’s what you’re after here?”

“Of course,” Henry said, “because just riding off the roof would be stupid….”  pages 16-17

Henry, Reed, and Riley have decided they need to DO something to make themselves stand out, whether it’s setting a world record, solving a mystery, being cowboys, or running a dogsled in Memorial Day parade!  Henry is the idea man, cleverly assigning the worst of the duties to Reed, who inadvertently becomes the stuntman of the group.  Riley is the brains, who is prepared for just about any situation, and who documents each adventure for their proof.

Poor, poor Reed.  I won’t say much more than that!

This book was really silly, like “No way!” silly, but I loved it.  Why? Because it was about kids going out to PLAY, with no electronics, with just their IMAGINATIONS to guide them.  (Okay, there is one reference to a computer, but Riley used it to apply for a scholarship, so I’ll allow it.  See, they even had time for school during all of their madness!)  These kids TALKED to each other, sketched out their crazy plans in a notebook, and then went OUTSIDE to attempt getting famous, doing the kind of stuff that “Brings People Fame and Fortune.”

Parental involvement is minimal in this book, otherwise the boys would have been grounded immediately after their first stunt.  The boys do have a great sense of friendship, and even poor, poor Reed keeps up a positive attitude when he’s been banished to the basement due to the horrible stench he has picked up…not to mention the rash, the scabs, the possible rabies, etc.  Now I’ve said too much!

This book is short and quick at 102 pages.  Read it if you like to laugh, if you have a couple of crazy best friends, and definitely read it if you’ve read anything else by Gary Paulsen.  He wrote Hatchet and a million* other books, and if you’re a sixth grader I’ll bet there’s a Gary Paulsen story in your language arts book, too! He was a very popular author in my class this year.  At any rate, just read it because it’s funny!  Masters of Disaster has an AR level of 6.5 and is worth 3 points.

*Okay, not a million, but a lot.  I didn’t know he was so funny, so I’ll have to hit the library to get the Lawn Boy books next.  I have the first one in my classroom, but it didn’t make it home with me for the summer, which is surprising when I look at how tall my to-read pile is for vacation! What’s on your to-read list?

Throwback Thursday: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene duBois


It’s Thursday for just a few more hours, so hopefully I can qualify for my own blog post with this one! The Twenty-One Balloons won the Newbery in 1948, so at least I’ve got the throwback part correct!

At my old school, back in the teacher stacks, there were about 50 copies of this book.  I had never seen it before, but every time I went down that row of books, I stopped to examine the cover. I didn’t have time to introduce a new book into my curriculum, so I never got to read it.  I rediscovered this book again at the public library this year and I decided it would be the perfect thing to take to science camp.  It was light to pack and short in length, which was important because I knew I’d be really busy and really tired (and I was correct on both counts!)  This little book really took me by surprise!

The story is about Professor William Sherman who retires from teaching math and decides to go adventuring for a year on his own.  To make sure nobody can bother him, he chooses to travel by hot air balloon.  He has a giant balloon made and a wicker house to be the basket.  His little house has different rooms, furniture, and a porch where he can fish or do laundry while floating over the ocean! Unfortunately his journey comes to a crashing halt and he lands on the island of Krakatoa, home of the famous volcano. Sherman is amazed to discover a whole community of families from San Francisco is already living there! They have set up their civilization as a “restaurant government” and the whole thing is funded by a giant diamond mine on the island.  They have decided that their island lives are so perfect that they  keep their diamonds a secret to the outside world for fear of ruining their value.  The island’s inhabitants also invent many nifty devices to pass their time and make their lives easier, but also as a backup plan in case the volcano ever erupts.  The tremors that are caused by the volcano make the ground rise and fall in waves like the ocean, so much so that Professor Sherman gets seasick on land!

This book was absurdly delightful! I’m surprised that this hasn’t been made into a movie at this point.  (I’m picturing something very fanciful like “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” If you haven’t seen it, check it out.  Yes, it’s old and it has singing, but it’s weird and clever!)  The Twenty-One Balloons is told as a story-within-a-story, so it can get a little wordy at time, with lots of expository details.  Don’t despair though, because the author has given lots of detailed sketches to capture your imagination, as if Professor Sherman had kept a diary or journal.

This would be a great book for summer vacation, a read-aloud, or a read-along with the book on tape (perfect for a road trip!)  The Twenty-One Balloons has an AR level of 6.8 and is worth 6 points.