Homeless – Laurie Halse Anderson

HomelessReading level: 4.1
Series: Wild at Heart/Vet Volunteers book 2
Genre: General fiction
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle school

I have fond memories of reading these Wild at Heart books in middle school. These, along with James Herriot’s books, inspired me to be a vet-author…which lasted several years until I realized I wanted to teach. While Homeless is part of a series, each book can stand alone. All of these books are about 6th graders who are vet volunteers, and I could see animal-loving middle schoolers devouring this series.

It’s got a pretty straight-forward lesson: listen to the adults (i.e. don’t stick your hand in a cage that has a feral cat), and don’t give up on your dream. Sunita, the main character, and I share the same dream: to have a cat of our own. Some day, Sunita. Some day.

As you may have guessed, Sunita is Indian. It doesn’t play into this book at all, except when her mother cooks and Indian meal for Sunita and her friends. As far as I know, the other kid volunteers and narrators of other books in this series are all white. But they could still be diverse in other ways. To quote Kevin Malone from The Office, “We see. Weeee seeee,” aka I’ll get back to you when I read other books in the series.

This book has some academic language having to deal with medical concepts and veterinarian dealings, but most unfamiliar words are explained. Therefore, I think it’s perfectly ELL-friendly. It’s definitely a middle school book, but a beginner ELL in 9-10th grade may find it useful, especially if they’re interested in the subject.

And yes, ladies and gentlemen, this Laurie Halse Anderson is the very same lady who wrote Speak. I’m impressed with her ability to write such different types of stories.

I really want a cat now. And this is post #100! Wooo!

Smart Dog – Vivan Vande Velde

smart dog

Reading level: 5.8 (or earlier)

Genre: Good ol’ fiction

ELL-Friendly: Yes

Library recommendation: Middle school

Despite being rather juvenile and not written spectacularly well (not like I could write a better novel or anything), Smart Dog is fast-paced, funny, and intriguing. It’s definitely a book for younger readers or those who have a low reading level. I think it’s one that could get reluctant, struggling readers to like reading, though.

I’m assuming girls will gravitate more towards this book because the main character (Amy) is a girl, although her partner-in-crime is a boy. (Isn’t it annoying how you can predict if a book is a “girl” or “boy” book? In my classroom, I’ll push for all students to read a variety of literature despite students seeming to gravitate towards certain genres based on their genders.) This book deals with very realistic issues faced by that age group (upper elementary to middle school) of being unpopular and teased. It’s gratifying in that it’s got some well-deserved revenge at the end but the real lesson is about being a good, honest person.

Looks like there is another cover out there, but this is a picture of the cover I have, and I’ve always found it kind of…weird. Just look at the faces of some of the kids. What is even happening?! But who knows, maybe it will be intriguing to the students. It’s certainly different.