Ellray Jakes Walks the Plank by Sally Warner.
Ellray is a smart, but sometimes forgetful third grader who often finds himself in trouble, or as he would say, "messing up". The book begins during Ellray's spring vacation and he has volunteered to take home the class goldfish, only to have it die on his watch. This leads to a series of events as Ellray has to learn real life lessons about his reputation. I think Ellray is a very realistic character that 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade boys will really like. Ellray's personality really comes through since he is the narrator. It is humorous, yet touching at times - but not too mushy for its intended audience. I love the relationship he has with his younger 4 year old sister. At this point in the year most of my second graders would have a difficult time reading the book independently, but I still plan on adding a few of the Ellray Jakes books to my classroom library for when they are ready. I would love to find a early transitional series with a character like Ellray!
Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner
This is the second Marty McGuire book. Kate Messner has created a wonderful female character who does not fit the typical stereotypical third grade girl mold. Marty does not like dolls or dresses and is comfortable in her own unique skin. Hurray! In this story all the children in Marty's class are asked to participate in an environmental awareness contest in which they create a project. With Marty's grandma's help she builds a worm composting box. I thought that the book had just the right mix of science and drama, as Marty impatiently waits for the worms to do their job she over feeds them and has to deal with a pile of escaped worms. I am planning on reading this book to my class as a read aloud. I consider the book an early chapter book and too difficult for most second graders at this time, although I do have one reader in my class reading the first Marty McGuire book. I have often considered having a worm box in my class... we will see.
Pearl and Wagner, One Funny Day by Kate McMullen
In my never ending search for quality, high interest transitional chapter books with interesting characters I think I found one in this book. I am often turned off by animals with clothes talking and acting like humans, but as a second grade teacher I sometimes have to get over that! I mean, why can't the characters just be human kids? I would prefer the characters look and act like diverse children, instead of a variety of animals. In this book Wagner, a mouse is not enjoying the April Fools Day, while his friend Pearl, the rabbit is having a great day. In the end, Wagner plays an April Fools joke on his classmates. The story is more about bouncing back after a hard day or difficulty - it is definitely not about playing jokes on classmates. I plan on checking out more Pearl and Wagner books in the future. I hope I find a series worthy of adding to my classroom library.