Dec 312019
 

“Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson looks at people, even teenagers, on death row. He has made it his job to make sure justice is served. The dignity and respect with which Mr Stevenson speaks about his clients provide the rays of hope we need to work to change the system. This nonfiction book may be represented on the screen soon. Definitely worth a read!

“The Boy in the Black Suit” by Jason Reynolds.
Reynolds is a good writer. His characters seem to escape the page. He captures the grief and poignancy of being lost in a wilderness of pain after the death of a loved one. However, the ending seems a bit rushed.

“The Doughnut Fix” by Jessie Janowitz.
An imaginative story showcasing how determination and creativity allow a family moving from the big city to a small town to make it their home (albeit unwillingly in some cases). Using a light touch of comedy, the author shines a soft light on each character’s flaws while also emphasizing their strengths. Entrepreneurship and the stress children are sometimes under due to academics and changing friendships are also issues laid bare.

“Home in the Woods” by Eliza Wheeler

This gorgeously illustrated picture book looks at a family living in the country and trying to survive during the Great Depression. This is a wonderful way to introduce the topic.

Nov 212019
 

If you follow instagram, twitter, or booktube, you might have heard of a reading challenge called “Nonfiction November”. Four prompts were given or you can just try to read more nonfiction than you usually do.  See announcement here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8_N_8sL_M

Keeping in the spirit, you could easily combine National Native American Heritage Month with Nonfiction November by reading some of the following:

Louise Erdrich is well-known for her many fiction titles; however, this short little look at her reading life and culture is one of my favorites.

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While it is worthy of its classic status and one of my all-time favorite reads, it does leave you with a pretty bleak view of the future state of Native American tribes and nations.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present ??

This is definitely on my TBR list (To Be Read)!  It is on the 2020 Carnegie Medals shortlist!!  If you have a nonfiction lover to buy a present for this December, this might be a great selection!

Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving

Bruchac is a great storyteller and this is a great way to include all of those present at the first Thanksgiving.

 

Nov 132019
 

This is my favorite of the Kendra Michaels’ series. Fun, action-packed romance. This is a series you will want to read in order or all will be a muddle.

The Angel Experiment: A Maximum Ride Novel (Book 1)

Genetically-modified teen “angels” duke it out with the bad guys in this angsty dystopian book. The teens make up a tight “family” group as they try to survive. There are hints of a potential romance between two of the main characters. Told in the first person, this fantasy has a few inconsistencies and a very vague plot line although this is the first in the series so it might get stronger as it continues.

Restart

A unique story with fabulous characters and a great plot. Korman wins again with his mix of comic one-liners and serious topics.  What would we do if we were given a second chance to be a better person?

Neck & Neck

Leopold the giraffe is accustomed to adoration and snacks galore so when a cheerful, bouncy interloper threatens his realm, Leopold decides to clear the field. The kids loved the bright pictures and found the story quite humorous.

Oct 102019
 

As we move farther into “cold weather” territory, it is important to stock up on the things that will get us through until Spring:  hot chocolate, blankets, fuzzy socks, and BOOKS!  Here are a few recommendations to help with those stacks.

The Round House: A Novel

 

     A chilling look at the disintegration of a family following a horribly brutal act against the Mother. Erdrich incorporates Native American folklore in the middle of the book to pull the “before” and “after” together and this worked up to a point. The characters, plot, and writing are very good and pull the reader in to this sad story.

Not If I Save You First

 

      Two high-profile teens learn to work together as they battle the Alaskan wilderness and Russian assassins. Great adventure, humor, friendship, and teamwork.  This was a smart survival read.

Wishtree

A beautifully written novel packed with imagination, wit, friendship, and hope. I plan to recommend this to everyone.  It is the perfect size for a classroom read-aloud.

Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen

It is hard to find out you aren’t the only one with a certain talent. When a new girl moves in, Ella finds out her “kickball bombs” aren’t unstoppable any more. As she learns to deal with her feelings, she also learns how to be a good teammate and friend.

 

 

 

Oct 042019
 

It is cold. It is rainy. This morning someone had the audacity to mention snow……  It is time to get serious about reading. Because really. Nature is to be avoided when it is cold outside.

A Better Man: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel 

No one does mystery with a heavy dose of beautiful writing like Louise Penny. This wasn’t one of her strongest as I actually guessed the ending about 3/4 of the way through; however, I was still there for the melancholy atmosphere and the family ties. This is the fifteenth in the series and it is still going strong!

The Last Word

As a historical novel, this will stand proudly by most of the adult versions of today. It was refreshing to see an intelligent young woman struggling against the strictures of her time without a completely dark, bleak atmosphere. Also, the relationship between the couple was more of a true romance built first on respect and friendship instead of just biology.

Survivor Girl

An adventure with strong, young protagonists who learn families don’t have to be perfect to be ok but things do need to be real. Excellent story.

Franklin's Flying Bookshop

A dragon, a bookshop, and true friendship. What else could you possibly need?  Beautiful illustrations?  Check. Great story? Check. It is sure to please.

If I Don't Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings 

The survivors are from different regions and different backgrounds. Ages varied at the time of the violent acts. Some of them watched family and friends die. Others heard the shots and lived through the harrowing moments without ever actually laying eyes on the shooter. Each of them dealt with the aftermath in their own way. Some learned to forgive. Others not. Some became activists in gun control and/or school safety. This is definitely not an easy read but it does feel like a necessary one. My only quibble with this book are the editing mishaps scattered throughout which distract the reader from the essays.

 

Oct 012019
 

The cool weather is moving in! Is it really time to put away those summer reads in favor of some spooky, gothic tales?

The Good Ones (Happily Ever After Book 1)

This is a fun-loving, sweet, touching ode to romance and romance novels.  There’s always room on the reading roster for romance.

 

Warcross

I have mixed feelings about this book although some of those feelings extend to most of the young adult genre. I loved the complex characters and the exemplary writing. The cliffhanger left me ambivalent and the jury is also still out on the bait-and-switch.

Lemons

3.5 stars. Set in the immediate post-Vietnam era, an orphaned young girl struggling to deal with her grief is sent to live with her Grandfather in Bigfoot country. Grief, abandonment, bullying, and PTSD are all a major part of this story that still manages to be sweet, gentle, and humorous.

Hats Are Not for Cats!

Hey! If it must get cooler than hats should be shared equally in the animal kingdom.  Besides, cats look regal in EVERYTHING.  A fun book containing pictures of lots of cats, hats, and the realization that the greatest things should be shared by everyone.

 

My Own True Name: New and Selected Poems for Young Adults, 1984-1999 (Pinata Books for Young Adults)

Poetry is hot right now and this one contains some gems!  Many of the most atmospheric of the poems are set in the desert.

Frankenstein

Oh, alright!  If it must get cooler, I will join the hordes of readers selecting gothic reads. One story, two monsters. A story of arrogance, stupidity, self-involvement and betrayal. That covers the scientist portion of the story. Loneliness and brutality are ascribed to both monsters.

Aug 012019
 

Hindley and Bates make for a winning partnership in “Do Like a Duck Does”!  This is one mama you don’t want to mess with…..

Another mama you don’t mess with is mine.  When she told me to read this book, she didn’t have to twist my arm too hard as I have read and loved other books by Kate DiCamillo including her Mercy Watson series and Raymie Nightingale.  It lived up to its billing!  Great characters, good plot and writing and a wonderful dog. Who could ask for more?

 (technically 3.5)

I had to read this book before school started again as it has been recommended to me by so many reluctant readers.  Simple and direct writing make this adventure story accessible and the character has grit, determination, and common sense to spare.  I did get a little tired of “the secret” which the author never developed but kept dropping into the middle of whatever life and death situation was occurring.

Marisa de los Santos is usually a sure bet but this book fell a little flat. The characters didn’t feel believable and the story faltered a bit…

Because no Summer is complete without a gigantic goal, this is my buddy read…..have mercy about covers it.

Jul 242019
 

 

Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell historical series is all good fun!  If you are looking for something frothy to read this Summer, look no further. It has mystery, romance, and sparkling wit. This is the fourth book in the series.  It is set on an island where superstitions abound about Mermaids and smugglers.

While Raybourn’s novel winks at the reader as she describes the islanders’ beliefs in Merfolk, this novel by Shea Ernshaw gives the “mermaids” a sinister turn. Many, many years ago, three sisters were hung as witches in this little village by the sea. Each year since that time, the three sisters come back, take over the bodies of three teenage girls, and lure young village boys to their deaths. The writing is good but the story was predictable and suffered a bit at the end.

There were no mermaids in this middle-grade novel. There were escaped prisoners. An imaginative use of letters, texts, and comic strips to illustrate the state of a small town before, during, and after a prison escape helped hold my attention. However, it felt as if the author decided to get a specific message across and built her story around that message instead of vice versa.  In this case, racism is prevalent and bad became a cudgel to drive home the point when it might have been better to “show” instead of “tell” all of the time.

Tara Lazar, Author, and Ross MacDonald, Illustrator, struck comic gold with this little book. What a fun way to present numbers! Private I looks into the disappearance of 9 after rumors abound that 7 ate 9. I will recommend this to several of our teachers.

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Ayaz Virji is a young doctor who moved his family to rural Minnesota to provide care to the community. However, after the election of 2016, he felt betrayed and concerned for the safety of his family.  Encouraged by a local Lutheran Minister to speak publically about what it is to be Muslim, Virji made several appearances to talk with concerned citizens; however, this often left him more discouraged. This was an enlightening audiobook.

 

Jul 152019
 

If you enjoyed Enger’s writing in “Peace Like a River”, you will enjoy “Virgil Wander”.  The characters and the writing are the point. The plot is vague and ebbs and flows without a complete resolution. Enger likes to add a touch of magical realism to his almost fairy-tale like stories.

 

High octane action and imagination to spare as the Author pulls from current day issues to set the stage for her apocalyptic mayhem. Great fun.

I am always leery of “funny” books because I rarely find them to be as hilarious as everyone else. However, this one lived up to the billing.  When a group of unteachable kids meet up with a burned out, ready for retirement teacher, sparks fly.  Sweet and just wonderful.

The illustrations are charming and the story is just fabulous. Pick it up…no matter your age.

Jun 212019
 

When a young woman moves into a new neighborhood, her kleptomaniac cat decides to “fix” the lonely people in the community while he simultaneously tortures the neighbor’s dog. This is a cute, light story that is perfect for a palate cleanser between heavier books. If you love cats, you should definitely check this one out.

Jessie’s mother died when she was fourteen-years-old. Now she is sixteen and starting a new school after her father eloped and drug her across the country to sunny L.A. where every girl seems to be blond, skinny, and rich.  All of the things that Jessie is not. Soon after her arrival, Jessie receives an e-mail from an anonymous source offering to give her all the info she needs to survive her junior year. I have been surprised at just how many teen books deal with grief in a very realistic, compassionate way. This book does a great job of describing the loneliness of grief and dislocation. There is also quite a bit about sexuality.

When Jilly’s sister is born deaf, she attempts to find out more about being deaf from an on-line friend. Her friend is not always nice or patient with her questions. I found this book to be realistic in the responses of frustration from the oft questioned acquaintance. There are a lot of serious issues discussed in this book. There is also a police shooting.  I think the issues were covered in a sensitive way.

If you haven’t hopped on the “Pete the Cat” train, you need to get your groove on!  This groovy cat thinks life is “all right”.  Kids love Pete.

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Albright was the first female Secretary of State under President Clinton. She was also a refuge as a child fleeing to the United States from the Nazis. This was a deep dive into various fascist regimes in the past and her concerns for the future. Check it out on audio on Libby!