4th Grade Battle of the Books

The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson REVIEW QUESTIONS
The many readers who have laughed out loud at Robinson's uproarious 1972 novel, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, will enthusiastically welcome the return of the six cigar-smoking Herdman kids. These six waste no time bending rules: they break them outright. While the original story centered on the church Christmas pageant, the sequel has a broader focus, paving the way for more varied misadventures, virtually all of which the Herdmans craftily orchestrate. Among the dastardly deeds are the siblings' kidnapping of a bald baby, whose head they "tattoo" and show to other kids for a fee; their attempt to wash their cat (which is "missing one eye and part of an ear and most of its tail and all of whatever good nature it ever had") in a laundromat machine; and their ingenious sabotage of the school's Fire Safety Day observance. In one of the funniest scenes, cunning Imogene Herdman comes to the rescue of a boy whose head (thanks to Imogene's brother) is stuck in a bike rack: she flattens his prominent ears with Scotch tape and slathers his head with margarine so it slides through the bars. (176 pages)


Disaster on the Titanic (Ranger in Time #9) By Kate Messner REVIEW QUESTIONS
Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training, finds himself in 1912... on board the Titanic!

Everyone says the Titanic is unsinkable, and Patrick Murphy believes this most of all. He grew up near the shipyard where the magnificent ship was built and officially started working there when he turned thirteen. He's even been chosen to be part of the crew during the Titanic's maiden voyage! Ranger meets Patrick before the ship sets sail, and once on board, they befriend Maryam and Hamad. But one night, the ship hits an iceberg and starts to take on water. It's a race against time for Ranger and his friends to help get as many passengers -- including themselves -- off the ship before it's too late.  (144 pages)


El Deafo by Cece Bell REVIEW QUESTIONS
El Deafo is a graphic novel by Cece Bell, which is a loose autobiographical account of Bell’s childhood and life with her deafness. Cece suddenly becomes deaf when she contracts meningitis at a young age. Most of the story focuses on Cece’s start of a new school year while transferring from a school for the deaf to a fully-inclusive, mainstream school. The characters are anthropomorphic bunnies navigating the early-to-mid years of childhood. (248 pages)


Front Desk by Kelly Yang REVIEW QUESTIONS

Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams? (304 pages)



Jake Drake, Teacher’s Pet by Andrew Clements REVIEW QUESTIONS
Jake Drake looks back on the most terrible experience of his third-grade life-the week he was teacher's pet. Readers familiar with the fourth grader will recognize his unintentional progression into the jam. In this case, his helpful suggestion to his computer-illiterate teacher makes him her new star. Within a few hours, he is praised-and worse yet, patted on the head-by his coach, his art teacher, the principal, and even the bus driver. The boy feels the scorn of his schoolmates, and knows he can't survive much longer in the role. He implements a plan to be bad, but it doesn't work; to his credit, he finds it is more difficult than it looks. His second plan-to be direct-is more successful. Jake embodies the average boy who seldom draws attention to himself, but who is quietly observing and tries to do the right thing. He thinks through his dilemmas, and often finds support from his parents and teachers. (96 pages)


The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies REVIEW QUESTIONS
Fourth-grader Evan Treski is people-smart. He’s good at talking with people, even grownups. His younger sister, Jessie, on the other hand, is math-smart, but not especially good with people. So when the siblings’ lemonade stand war begins, there really is no telling who will win—or even if their fight will ever end. Brimming with savvy marketing tips for making money at any business, definitions of business terms, charts, diagrams, and even math problems, this fresh, funny, emotionally charged novel subtly explores how arguments can escalate beyond anyone’s intent. (173 pages)



Love That Dog by Sharon Creech REVIEW QUESTIONS
Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech's Love That Dog, a funny, sweet, original short novel written in free verse, introduces us to an endearingly unassuming, straight-talking boy who discovers the powers and pleasures of poetry. Against his will. After all, "boys don't write poetry. Girls do." What does he say of the famous poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"? "I think Mr. Robert Frost has a little / too / much / time / on his / hands." As his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, introduces the canon to the class, however, he starts to see the light. Poetry is not so bad, it's not just for girls, and it's not even that hard to write. Take William Carlos Williams, for example: "If that is a poem / about the red wheelbarrow / and the white chickens / then any words / can be a poem. / You've just got to / make / short / lines." He becomes more and more discerning as the days go by, and readers' spirits will rise with Jack's as he begins to find his own voice through his own poetry and through that of others. His favorite poem of all is a short, rhythmic one by Walter Dean Myers called "Love That Boy" (included at the end of the book with all the rest of Ms. Stretchberry's assignments). The words completely captivate him, reminding him of the loving way his dad calls him in the morning and of the way he used to call his yellow dog, Sky. Jack's reverence for the poem ultimately leads to meeting the poet himself, an experience he will never forget. (128 pages)


Number the Stars by Lois Lowry REVIEW QUESTIONS
The evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark is one of the great untold stories of World War II. On September 29, 1943, word got out in Denmark that Jews were to be detained and then sent to the death camps. Within hours the Danish resistance, population and police arranged a small flotilla to herd 7,000 Jews to Sweden. Lois Lowry fictionalizes a true-story account to bring this courageous tale to life. She brings the experience to life through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie Johannesen. (156 pages)


Sheep by Valerie Hobbs REVIEW QUESTIONS
With a sure hand, Valerie Hobbs develops an engaging story told through the eyes of a border collie whose purposeful existence on Bob and Ellen’s sheep ranch ends abruptly after a fire. From that point the canines name changes as he moves from person to person, situation to situation. Some are tolerable: the Goat Man talks philosophically as he journeys nowhere in particular along the highway. Others are intolerably cruel: when the dog refuses to perform a humiliating act, the circus trainer beats him mercilessly. The character of the dog is sympathetically delineated through realistic observations and plot developments, and readers will be drawn into his story. The resolution–his connection to an orphan boy who also finds a home–is both believable and satisfying. (144 pages)


Soccer Duel by Matt Christopher REVIEW QUESTIONS
There are two sides to every story....All Renny Harding wants is to play center striker and help his team, the Blue Hornets, win the championship. All Bryce McCormack wants is to win the championship for his team, the Yellow Jackets, and take home the MVP award. The two boys couldn’t be more different-yet when they meet face-to-face, they find they have more in common than they ever suspected. But can friendship grow where fierce rivalry lives? (148 pages)


There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar REVIEW QUESTIONS
Fifth grader Bradley Chalkers is bright, imaginative, antisocial and friendless. Unlike the kids at school, who hate him, Bradley's collection of chipped and broken little pottery animals allows him to be brave, smart and vulnerable; he uses them to resolve the rejection of peers and adults. Jeff, a new boy at school, offers friendship but then withdraws his offer, because Bradley is hard to like. Enter Carla Davis, new school counselor, who is caring and funny, and who gradually helps restore Bradley's self-confidence. Feelings and emotions are strongly evoked in this touching and serious story of a disturbed child that is infused with humor and insight. (208 pages)


Upside Down Magic Book #1 by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, Emily Jenkins  REVIEW QUESTIONS

It's never easy when your magic goes wonky.  For Nory, this means that instead of being able to turn into a dragon or a kitten, she turns into both of them at the same time -- a dritten.  For Elliott, the simple act of conjuring fire from his fingertips turns into a fully frozen failure.  For Andres, wonky magic means he's always floating in the air, bouncing off the walls, or sitting on the ceiling.  For Bax, a bad moment of magic will turn him into a . . . actually, he'd rather not talk about that.  Nory, Elliott, Andres, and Bax are just four of the students in Dunwiddle Magic School's Upside-Down Magic class. In their classroom, lessons are unconventional, students are unpredictable, and magic has a tendency to turn wonky at the worst possible moments. Because it's always amazing, the trouble a little wonky magic can cause . . .  (208 pages)