Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sunshine State Book Review: Touchblue by Cynthia Lord

Alright all you fellow Florida Bloggers!  This is for you!  If you teach grades 3-5 then you know what Sunshine State Books are but for those of you who do not, let me give you a run down.  Every year a group of people (the Sunshine State Young Readers Association) pick 15 books that they think are exemplar books for our students to read and they are called the Sunshine State Books.  Now, some schools make a big fuss over reading them and some do not.  We do!

In our grade for every student that reads all 15 books before a teacher can read them all, we give them a special lunch, like McDonalds or Subway.  Then at the end of the year we have a big Sunshine State Feast!  There is at least one food item from each book (and the students have to guess what book each food is from), games, prizes, etc.  Sadly, this past year we only had 11 and could not do it but the year before we had over 40 students read all 15!  Fingers crossed for this year!  Our media specialist also throws a big party with awards and prizes and what not.  What can I say?  We like to promote reading :o)

I'm one of those teachers who will read these books as a read aloud on the rainy or non recess days.  Although I'm not always sure what they're about or which ones are good for read alouds vs. independent reading, which book would be best for 5th as opposed to 3rd, etc.  As I TRY and read all 15 Sunshine State Books I will be writing a review that will hopefully help me decide as well as help you.  Maybe you have the same dilemma, maybe you just want to find a new book for your students?  Whatever the case may be, I hope these reviews help!  If you do not want an in depth summary or possible SPOILER ALERTS, I would not keep reading!  I don't divulge too much information but maybe more than you want...  Now on to my first book!

Touchblue by Cynthia Lord

Touchblue is a very heartfelt story about a little island town off the coast of Maine.  They are a one school island and ever since a family with five children moved to the mainland, there is a threat of their school having to close down.  Should this happen, many other families would now have to move to the mainland as well.  In order to stop this from happening, the local Reverend has come up with a solution!  He asked five respectable families to foster a child each.  By doing this they are helping out their community to save their school and a child in need of a good home.

The story is told from the main character's, Tess, point of view.  Tess is about 11 and is pretty naïve when it comes to the real world and change.  As Tess's family fosters a young boy named Aaron, 13, she learns that not all of the world is as pretty and wonderful as her little island.  I wish it told the story from Aaron's point of view occasionally because he is such a troubled/deep character but the author does a good enough job of hinting and having Aaron speak his mind that you know what's going on in his head.  For my kiddos, a good portion of them sadly, would be able to relate to Aaron and be able to know what he is thinking without any help from the author.

It's 186 pages and was a very easy read.  I started it at 4 PM and finished before going to bed that same night (now I went to bed around midnight mind you, lol).  I will say that every chapter starts off with a superstition, most have to do with boats, so that might need some explaining.  There is also mention of drinking twice (and very minimally, the word mentioned once in a sentence and then the author moves on) when Aaron is referring to his mother.  Now, again my kiddos are in fifth grade, we talk about this sort of thing beforehand and how to act appropriately with mature books and what not.  When it is mentioned it is not ugly or doesn't get out of hand, but is mentioned when Aaron is telling Tess about his background/childhood and venting his frustration.  There are some good life lessons here and I think it will be an eye opener and real connection piece for some of my kids, maybe not for yours though and that's okay.

Lexile : 750
Rating: 4 out 5 - Had a few slow parts but all in all I think it's good for a younger group or lower level readers.  Had great real life connections and metaphors!  I liked it a lot but didn't LOVE it.
Food: Lobster (probably going to get gummies or they have lobster molds, so I can make blue lobsters!)


  1. Awesome! In Texas we have something similar, the top 20 books and the students across Texas vote to find the favorites! :) We call them the Bluebonnet Books! They're such good books to read!!

  2. We had the author Cynthia Lord come to our school this year through a grant! She is an amazing speaker and wonderful with the students if you ever get a chance to meet her or listen to her speak. I would agree that I did not LOVE Touch Blue the way I loved her other book Rules. If you get the chance, read her other novel, Rules. Rules is our 5th grade anchor text for our character unit. Our students absolutely LOVED the book and I'd like to think it made them better people as well or at least opened their eyes a little to autism and people with disabilities. I know Rules was a WOW book for me... Touch Blue was just Okay. Keep posting your favorites - I always love new books!

    - Amanda

  3. I, like Amanda, LOVED Rules! I can't wait to read more of your reviews. What are the other books on the list???