Tess and her family live on a small island of the coast of Maine. Their school has so few students that it may be closed by the state, which would mean that the family will move to the mainland. Eleven year old Tess is devastated at the thought of leaving their home and the life of lobster-fishing that she loves.
The islanders come up with a rather unique idea to save their school. If they could have enough families take in foster children the student population would increase enough to keep the school open. Tess and her family do their part by taking in Aaron, a 13 year old boy who has been in several foster homes in his young life.
"Touch blue and your wish will come true" is just one of many sayings that the superstitious Tess believes. Her attitude is "why take chances?" when there are so many ways to bring the luck that will make everything work out!
When Aaron, a very talented trumpet player, arrives on the island not everything goes smoothly. He resents the fact that he was taken from his (alcoholic) mother at a young age. Tess had been expecting Anne of Green Gables! Both Tess and Aaron have to learn how to get along and what it means to be part of a family and a community. This is a very sweet and touching book, with a nice ending that is realistic -- not everything wrapped up in a nice neat package. As a read - aloud, I will want to get to know my students first to see if it's appropriate subject matter. You can download my usual SSYRA brochure here for this book.
The Candymakers tells the stories of four children who are selected to enter a candy contest to create a new candy that will be manufactured and sold by one of the candy companies. Logan, Miles, Daisy and Phillip all have secrets, and there are secret connections between them that begin to unravel as the story develops. I found the story very difficult to get into, but when the book began to change perspective and tell the story of each character it became easier for me. One of my biggest quibbles with the book is that it is another book which seems to try to do a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" type story (The Gollywhopper Games is another example of that). Yes, it's a different take on the story, but Charlie is a classic that can't be touched in my opinion.
This is a very lengthy book, and is a 5th grade level reader, so it won't be a read-aloud for me in third grade. I do think a lot of older students will really enjoy it, and of course I have a brochure if you would like to use it in the classroom. You can download it here.