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New Review Tuesday: Animal Heroes (a la Despereaux!)

Like Sonja, I'm just thrilled to see the attention surrounding the movie version of The Tale of Despereaux. When author Kate DiCamillo appeared on The Today Show last week, the kids peppered her with questions about character, plot, and theme. Very sophisticated readers!

You can check out my interview with DiCamillo in this month's issue of Instructor. And if your students are looking for more stories in the spirit of The Tale of Despereaux, here are some new animal heroes:

26986929 DiCamillo recommended Elise Broach's Masterpiece during our interview, and I'm so glad I took her up on her suggestion. Masterpiece is the story of a beetle named Marvin who draws an elaborate miniature picture for the eleven-year-old boy who shares his apartment, James. James gets all the credit for the drawing and soon the two get sucked into an artistic mystery reminiscent of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Chasing Vermeer. Fans of those stories, as well as middle-grade animal novels such as The Cricket in Times Square, will fall big-time for Marvin!

51s9c9c2lcl_ss500_ Kathi Appelt's The Underneath came out last spring, and if you haven't read it yet, get to it—so that when the Newbery honorees appear, you will have read at least one of the picks! Obviously, I can't be sure this incredible cat-and-dog story will make the list, but it was a National Book Award Finalist, and it's been getting major buzz in mock-Newbery circles. Like Despereaux, The Underneath has the feel of a literary classic, and is sure to appeal to serious readers in grades three through five.

The Underneath just might be my favorite middle grade novel of the year. What was the best book you read this year? Don't forget to e-mail Sonja, so that she can include your pick in this week's round-up!


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