Review of the 6th Grade Reading List

Posted on: August 18, 2009
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My name is Grace Slansky. I’m 11 years old and going into 6th grade at Lincoln Middle School. One of the requirements is to read two books off the summer reading list. I got my list at the beginning of summer and was surprised to find that they were all books that I’d already read or had no interest in reading. My question is why would the middle school choose books that were obviously elementary school classics?

Because of Winn Dixie, Al Capone Does My Shirts, The Lightning Thief. Any of these titles sound familiar? At my elementary school they are practically required reading. This list asks kids to spend their summer rereading books instead of spending that time reading new books that they might enjoy, which would encourage them to read more.

I believe that the school system should give out looser guide lines, such as a genre, so that students may pick a book that interests them and is at their level. That way the teachers grading the book reports will get to know the kids better, too.

A Few of the Books on the 6th Grade Reading List:

Alvarez, Julia – How Tîa Lola Came to Stay. Although ten-year-old Miguel is at first embarrassed by his colorful aunt, Tia Lola, when she comes to Vermont from the Dominican Republic to stay with his mother, his sister, and him after his parents’ divorce, he learns to love her.


Creech, Sharon – The Wanderer. Thirteen-year-old Sophie and her cousin Cody record their transatlantic crossing aboard the Wanderer, a forty-five foot sailboat, which is en route to visit their grandfather in England.


DiCamillo, Kate – Because of Winn-Dixie. Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her because of her big ugly dog, Winn-Dixie.


Gantos, Jack – Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. To the constant disappointment of his mother and his teachers, Joey has trouble paying attention and controlling his mood swings, when his prescription meds wear off and he starts getting worked up and acting wired.


Hiaasen, Carl – Hoot. Roy, who is new to his small Florida community, becomes involved in another boy’s attempt to save a colony of burrowing owls from a proposed construction site.


Johnston, Tony – Any Small Goodness. Arturo and his family and friends share all kinds of experiences living in the barrio of East Los Angeles.


Martin, Ann M. – A Corner of the Universe. The summer that Hattie turns twelve, she meets the childlike uncle she never knew and becomes friends with a girl who works at the carnival that comes to Hattie’s small town.


Spinelli, Jerry – Crash. Seventh-grader John “Crash” Coogan has always been comfortable with his tough, aggressive behavior, until his relationship with an unusual Quaker boy and his grandfather’s stroke make him consider the importance of friendship and family.

View the entire 6th Grade Reading List

Kitt Kitterdge Review by Grace Slansky

Posted on: April 8, 2009
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From the LA Times Blog: The Big Picture

One of the producers of “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” which opens Friday in Los Angeles before going wide July 2, checked in with me recently, hoping to get me to see her new film, which stars Abigail Breslin as a plucky 10-year-old girl growing up in 1934-era Cincinnati. I suspect the word was out that I had a 10-year-old kid myself and might be a soft touch if my kid liked the movie.

It was a good idea, except that I have a 10-year-old boy, whose only interest in Cincinnati is that they have a baseball team. He would probably be the first to tell you that the Cincinnati Reds were so bad in 1934 that they had not one but two pitchers who lost more than 20 games. I dutifully showed my son the trailer for the film. But afterward, when I asked if he wanted to see it, 

he gave me the look he reserves for questions like, “Do you want another helping of broccoli?” However, he suggested we recruit his best friend, Grace, an actual 10-year-old girl, to review the movie. It seemed like a good idea, especially since the film is quite the exercise in girl power, with a woman writer (Ann Peacock, who co-wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia”), a woman director (Patricia Rozema, who did “Mansfield Park”) and eight producers and executive producers (including Julia Roberts!), all of them women.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Since Variety weighed in today with its review, it seemed like a good time to have a look at what Grace had to say. As it turns out, critics and kids all seem to be in agreement–it’s a perfect film for moms and daughters to see. Variety calls it “a throwback to the kinds of movies they don’t make anymore.” But here’s a pretty perceptive assessment from the real target audience:

Grace_slansky_2 Hello. I’m Grace Slansky, a 10-year-old reporter much like Kit Kittredge, reviewing “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl .”

I think the movie was better than the title. The title didn’t say anything about the story. It wasn’t as childish and girly as I thought it would be. It was more about what was happening then, in the Great Depression.

Kit Kittredge is a girl who just wants to be published in a newspaper. She goes to the Cincinnati Register and everyone laughs in her face. But she is determined. Then her family starts to run out of money, and her dad has to move to Chicago to see if he can find work. They end up taking in boarders, selling eggs and wearing chicken feed sack dresses. And then one of the hobos her mother had hired was blamed for a robbery. But Kit wouldn’t believe that he did it. She saw this as her big chance to write a story.

The boarders that stayed in her house were a magician, the magician’s hurt cousin, a mobile librarian, a mother and her son who goes to class with Kit and a dance instructor. Kit had a dog, a basset hound, Grace. And the magician’s cousin had a monkey. County and Will were the two hobos that were hired to work for them in exchange for food. They showed the children how to read hobo signs, which they put in front of houses to tell other hobos if the people inside were nice.

This was maybe the coolest part of the movie. A cat on a fencepost means that someone is a nice person. A fish bone means they have good garbage. Two arrows coming out of a circle means danger. And one arrow coming out of a circle points to a hobo jungle, which is where hobos live.

My favorite character was County, a hobo child.The acting was actually really good. I liked some of the costumes. I liked the dresses made out of chicken feed sacks.

The movie was also somewhat educational. I learned about the Depression, that the bank was taking away people’€™s houses. And I learned how to read Hobo. Not that anybody uses Hobo anymore.

top photo by
Cylla von Tiedemann/HBO Films / Picturehouse, photo of Grace Slansky by Liz Dubelman