Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mary Poppins by P L Travers

This is an oldie but a goodie.  With the new movie coming out, I wanted to go old school and highlight a classic.

Most people know the story of the Banks family needing a nanny and one literally coming with the wind.  The book is somewhat different from the classic Disney movie, but the character of Mary Poppins is a classic in both renditions.

I highly recommend that people read the old version and see the genius that Travers created.

Well, that was awkward by Rachel Vail

From the Publisher:

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can't breathe, can't walk,can't anything-and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking- A.J. But it turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie's beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J.'s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She's had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best. It's all good. Well, almost all. She's trying. Funny and tender, Well, That Was Awkward goes deep into the heart of middle school, and finds that even with all the heartbreak, there can be explosions of hope and moments of perfect happiness.

This book does such a great job of showing the feelings of self doubt that every middle school student feels.  Also, it is great to read about how these friends negotiate around the frustrations and confusion that accompany first crushes.  Oh, and one thing that was not mentioned in the above summary is that AJ's best friend is also a very good friend to Gracie as well.  So, the confusion compounds.  

I recommend this book to students in middle school so that you know you are not alone.  I recommend this book to those of us no longer in middle school to remind us of how it feels to be in middle school.  Pick it up; read it; it won't be awkward at all. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Miles Morales Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds

Miles Morales is an average teenage boy.  He has a best friend who plays video games with him.  He has a crush on a girl.  He goes to a great school.  Oh, and did I mention...he is Spider-Man.  What, I should have led with that?  Okay, Miles Morales has a quick spidey-sense that he uses to help those around him, but lately something is off.  He does not get the same vibe he used to get.  He is beginning to wonder if a kid like him just can't be a super hero.

Want to know about Miles Morales's story--check this book out!

I really liked the action of this story, and even though the story is completely different--I can't wait to see the movie that is coming out this Christmas with Miles Morales.
Here is the trailer for the movie.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yPsDcKeXQ4

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Julia's mom decides that her children need something to do over the summer, so she signs them up for the community play.  Julia's brother, Randy, is quite talented, but Julia does not think she has any special talents at all.  What she does not realize until she gets there is that the play is a musical--The Wizard of Oz, and she is cast as the lead munchkin.  Julia is older than all of the other children who have been cast as munchkins, but she befriends a woman who teaches her that it doesn't matter how you look on the outside.  The inside is what matters.

This is a lesson for everyone.  I recommend this book as a quick read.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Four Four Two by Dean Hughes

Yuki is an American.  He was born in America, and that is all that he has known.  But, during World War 2, some people did not treat him as an American citizen even though he was.  He was not seen as anything but a threat. To defend his family's honor, he decides to enlist and fight for this country that he loves but has scorned him.

Yuki and his friends are put into the Four Four Two--a segregated Japanese American unit--where they were put in the heat of battles.  Will he return home to America?  If he does, what kind of America will greet him?

This book was an amazing read as Hughes really got to the heart of the matter with what happened to Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  I highly recommend this one.  Really step into someone else's shoes and see how they lived in Four Four Two by Dean Hughes.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Impyrium by Henry H. Neff

Hazel's family has been ruling Impyrium for over 3000 years with their amazing magic skills, but the family magic is not what it used to be.  Hazel is the youngest daughter, and there is nothing extraordinary about her.  Or, is there?  Her oldest sister is supposed to take over the throne, and Hazel is just the youngest sister.  Hazel has been told that she is unremarkable, but now, her grandmother is taking a special interest in her.  Hazel may be able to keep the family in power when no one else can, but she is afraid of the magic that she is exploring.  It is dark magic, and she cannot control it.  She cannot control herself without help from her lifetime mentor, but her grandmother wants to send the mentor away.  Why is her grandmother so bent on her using the dark magic when it could destroy her and the entire kingdom?  What is her grandmother not telling her?  Will she be able to rule and stay true to herself?  Answer these questions and more in Impyrium by Henry H. Neff

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter is your average 10 year old boy living in a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs in his aunt's and uncle's house.  Harry is just your average boy who is living a miserable life with the Dursleys overshadowed by his cousin, Dudley.  Harry is just an average boy who can talk to snakes. Wait!  He is just an average boy.  Isn't he?  Harry sure thinks so--he might even consider himself below average.

Until--the owls start showing up.  His aunt and uncle try to ignore them at first, but they just keep coming to let Harry know how special he is.  Harry is actually a wizard, and his aunt and uncle have hidden the truth from him his entire life.  Now that he has turned 11, he is old enough to enter Hogwarts, a school for young wizards.

And, his life is about to change.  Harry is far from average.  He is a celebrity in the wizarding world, but he has no idea why.

If you have never entered into this world with Harry Potter, I recommend that you check it out at your library.

By student suggestion, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is our book of the week.

Come by the library to enter to win a copy of this great read.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mayday by Karen Harrington


Wayne was your average 7th grade before many things happened.  His uncle died, and he and his mother have to travel to attend the funeral.  At his uncle's funeral, Wayne receives the US flag that he is bringing home to his grandfather.  But, tragedy strikes in the air.  They are in a plane crash, and the flag is literally sucked out of the plane with the debris.  Wayne also loses his ability to speak.  Middle school is hard enough to navigate when you are able to communicate. After time, the doctors say that Wayne should be able to speak, but he needs to find the will to speak.  What will it take for him to find his voice?  How will he be able to find the flag that he is so desperate to bring home if he cannot talk? 

This book touched a chord with me because I love to talk, and I wondered how I would feel if I could not talk.  What would bring me out of my pain enough to talk?

I loved the book even though it did not end in the way I thought it would.  I recommend this one, but be prepared to feel something.  If you have lost a loved one, this book will speak to you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks

A twelve-year-old boy is found loitering at Washington's National Gallery of Art.  He has dissociative  amnesia; he has no idea even what his name is.  He is placed with a temporary foster mom, and her daughter, Camille, names him Art since he was found in an art museum.  Art wants to remember and in fact, he believes that his life depends on him remembering who he is and what brought on the amnesia.  Art convinces Camille to go with him on a journey for information with the few clues that he has.  But, criminal mastermind, Dorchek Palmer, and his cronies are after them at every turn.  Why would they be after a twelve-year-old?  What does he know?  Will he figure it out in time?

Find out in The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Frogkisser by Garth Nix

From the Publisher:

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother's new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land -- and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

I was on the fence about reading this book.  It looked like just another fractured fairy tale.  But, I truly enjoyed reading it.  There are twists along the way, and it was fun to read how things turned out overall.  It reinforced the fact that people have good in them if given the chance to show it.

I highly recommend this good read.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Book of the Week Announcement

I have been suggesting books through a remind text once a week or thereabouts.  I took a break over the summer, but I will be starting again on Monday with a book of the week.  I will have a blog post with a description and a link to a google form.  This google form will encourage people to sign up for a copy of the book to be given away at the end of the respective week.

Our first week to begin the giveaways will be next week August 27--August 31.

I hope this will bring renewed interest into the book of the week.

Keep reading!

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Justyce McAlister is a top student at a private school.  He is on his way to success, but when he goes to help his ex-girlfriend out, things go south quickly.  His ex-girlfriend was drunk, and he was trying to get her in the car to drive her home.  She wants to drive herself, but he cannot allow that to happen because she is in no shape to do that safely.  His ex-girlfriend is biracial, but she appears to be white, so the police officer assumes that Justyce is trying to rob her or cause her harm in some way.  Justyce is an African American male, and a police officer arrests him.  Justyce has never been in trouble with the police before, and he is not sure why he is being treated this way. He knows that this has happened to guys in his old neighborhood, but he is a clean cut, smart boy who is going places.

After this incident, he decides that he is going to read the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr and do what Martin does.  He begins writing letters to Martin to get his feelings on paper.  With the incident and the readings, Justyce begins to see things a bit clearer in his life.  The boys in the private school make a lot of "jokes" at his expense under the guise of just kidding around.  He has to examine his ideas and the actions of those around him.

Justyce also comes from a poor family, so he is on scholarship at this school.  But, his best friend, Manny, who is also an African American male, comes from money. They are great friends, but Manny has many things to figure out as well.  These boys must look at what is going on around them to see things as they are and not just as they want them to be.

This book is a must-read.  I have to say that there is a twist that I did not see coming, and it carried the story to a different place than I had envisioned.  I highly recommend reading this book.

Cover image for Dear Martin

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Beanstalker and other Hilarious Scary Tales by Kiersten White

Think you know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood?  Well, maybe if you throw a twist or two or three or four or well...you get my meaning.  In this story, there are surprises throughout the tales as White twists these familiar stories together.  And, the voice she uses to tell the story is like she is sitting in the library telling me the story yet getting distracted along the way--then, getting back on track--then, getting distracted, again, you understand where I am going.

I recommend you read this story if you like fairy tales--especially if you like twisted fairy tales. 


Monday, June 11, 2018

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

May and Libby are best friends in fifth grade when they decided to create a character named Princess X.  Libby created the drawings, and May wrote the story.  Then, tragically, Libby died in a car accident.  May's parents get divorced, and she moves away.  Years later, May comes back to visit her father for the summer, and she sees a picture of Princess X.  Then, she sees another and more and more.  She cannot believe it.  How could someone have stolen their character?  May must get to the bottom of this.  Is it possible that Libby is still alive?  If so, she is in danger.  May must figure this out.  If Libby is still alive--can May find her in time to help her?  Find out in I am Princess X.

The Window by Amelia Brunskill

Jess and Anna are 17 year old twins who are close, but they have drifted apart in the last few weeks.  Jess doesn't know why, but she decides that she is going to talk to Anna about it.  Jess is in class, and she is called out to talk to her parents.  Anna was found on the ground outside her window--dead.  How did this happen?  Was it a suicide or an accident?  Jess cannot believe that it is true until she sees the body for herself.  The police rule it an accident, but Jess cannot believe their rendition of what happened.  She knows there is more to the story, but is she ready to find out what more there is? There are many dark secrets that her sister was hiding, but will Jess be able to figure out what they are in time to protect others in the town?

I liked this book, and thought the author did a good job of bringing suspense to the end of the chapter so that I could not put it down.

If you like a good suspenseful mystery, pick this one up.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

Rashad is getting ready for a party because he is ready to cut loose with his friends and leave his responsibilities behind.  Before he goes, he wants to stop at the local store and get some snacks.  He picks up his snacks and remembers that his money is in his bag.  He bends over to get the money, and a woman who was also there to pick up something on the way home trips over him.  Before they can untangle the mess, a police officer steps in to break up what he assumes is a theft and assault on the woman.  Rashad is caught, and the police officer takes him to the floor.  Then, he takes him outside and yells that he is resisting arrest and begins to beat him.  The beating is bad, really bad, very bad. 
On the street, Quinn sees the beating, and he cannot believe his own eyes.  The police officer is the brother of one of his best friends and has been a big brother figure for him after his father died.  He does not know what to do.  He decides that he has to run and get away from what he has just witnessed.
Rashad goes to the hospital, and Paul, the police officer, is put on administrative leave while the situation was investigated.  Quinn does not want to believe that Paul was wrong, but he cannot ignore what he saw even though he is being pressured to do just that.
This story is told through the lens of these 2 boys as they tell about their experience from one Friday to the next Friday.  One week in the lives of 2 boys tells a story that must be told because we need to understand how it affects us all.

I highly recommend reading this story.  I hope that you will read the book, and understand more. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm

When is enough going to be enough?  This is the question that 3 middle schoolers ask themselves at Parkland Middle School.  They have been bullied, and they are not the only ones.  But, bullies are many times crafty and do things when the adults are not looking.  Then, they even blame the altercations on the kid who is being bullied.

Russell along with 2 others decide that they will fight back with an anonymous board where they can post exactly what is going on in the school with the hopes that things will change.  But, the bullies don't like their actions being in the spotlight, and they may not go down so quietly.

This is a great story about being able to speak up and fight back when you see things that are just not right.  If more of us do that, there will be fewer problems and more solutions.

Try this good read by Doug Wilhelm.  You will be glad that you did.

2 different cover designs but the same book

Cover image for The revealers

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen

Chaim and Gittel are 14 year old twins who must endure unbearable hardships during the Holocaust.  In 1942 Poland, the Abromowitz family is forced to share an apartment with another family who are less than hospitable.  Though the other family is hard to deal with, the Abromowitz family cannot leave them behind especially when the father goes missing.  Chaim must overcome his fear to sell his mother's engagement ring to get the money to leave the ghetto before they are all deported to a concentration camp.  They make a plan to go through the forest, but not everyone makes it through.  When, Chaim and Gittel meet up in the forest, they have hard choices to make about who they will be able to trust.  Needless to say, they met more horrible people including Dr. Mengele who wants to perform awful experiments on them.  How will they survive?  But, they must survive.

I have to admit.  This story was hard to read.  Stories about the Holocaust are hard to read.  The atrocities seem unbelievable.  But, that is the EXACT reason that I must read them and share them with as many people as I can.  They happened.  If they happened due to hate and ignorance and bystanders looking the other way, then it could happen again if we do not do something.  This story will not be an easy one to read.  You will be disgusted by the awful part of humanity that reared its head during this time in history.  But, Yolen is able to weave in glimmers of hope as well.  Chaim is a poet, and she adds that piece to the story which shows how important poetry can be to help people express themselves and the thoughts of a group of people.

After writing The Devil's Arithmetic over 30 years ago, Yolen said that she would not write another Holocaust story.  It took her 4 years to write this one.  But, she did it because this story is one that needed telling.  Being her 365th or 366th book (because she had 2 drop on the same day), you need to read it.  Hear what Chaim and Gittel have to say.

Cover image for Mapping the bones

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

Jeffrey was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4 years old.  We learn about his illness and his brother, Steven's, story in Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie.  Now, Jeffrey is 13 years old, and he has to learn to navigate life after leukemia in middle school.  He is known as the kid who had cancer, and he wants to move past it.  Will he be able to do that?  And, Steven is absent.  He is half way around the world and does not respond to emails--no matter how many Jeffrey sends to him.  Jeffrey is not sure how to make it without his brother especially when the pressures of middle school start weighing on him.  Take my advice.  Read this book AND Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie.  It really is a must!

When I read Knockout, I was reminded of After Ever After because they are both stories about the little brother who was sick and is now navigating life in middle school.  The authors wrote them in very different styles, but you will tissues with both of them.  I am pretty sure there is a man who works out at the YMCA who still tells of the crazy woman sobbing next to him on the treadmill.  That crazy woman would be me.  I laughed and cried throughout this book.  You will NOT be disappointed with this great read.  (But, honestly, go ahead and get both.  You can't read just one.)
Cover image for After ever afterCover image for Drums, girls, & dangerous pie or the other cover looks like this.Cover image for Drums, girls & dangerous pie

Knockout by K A Holt

Levi wants to be treated like a regular kid.  Yes, he was very sick as an infant.  But, he is fine now.  Really, he is.  Mostly, he is.  At least, he hopes he is.  His mom and brother are overprotective is all.  His dad understands.  He wants to participate in a sport.  At least, his dad wants him to participate in a sport.  Levi decides that he will try boxing to satisfy his dad and see if he really is okay.  The thing that is COMPLETELY unexpected is that he is really good at boxing.  What will happen if his mom and brother find out?  Will he be well enough to find out how good he really is at this sport?  You can find out in Knockout by Holt.

Now, the thing that I did not mention is that this is the sequel to House Arrest.  Levi was the sick infant whose brother risked everything to save and whose dad ran out when he could not handle the pressure.  Levi doesn't know what we as readers of the first story know.  He has to figure it out for himself.  And, I can honestly say that Holt delivers a great "rest of the story" for Levi.

Cover image for Knockout

Friday, February 16, 2018

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

In a society that proclaims to have eradicated poverty, war, disease and all other problems that plague mankind, everything should be perfect.  But, to keep these things in check, there must be a group that takes care of population control. This is where the elite group of scythes come in.  They must "glean" people.  This group is highly revered and feared and have been performing this task for many years.  One day, Scythe Faraday decides to take two apprentices, Citra and Rowan, who are just 16 years old.  In just one year, they must learn how to kill people efficiently and humanely.  Is that even possible for a 16 year old to do?  Scythe Faraday assures them that he has chosen them both for a reason and that he will teach them himself.  Until, in an unexpected turn of events, he is no longer able to mentor them.  They are both given to other scythes that may not have the same beliefs as Scythe Faraday.  Will they survive to become scythes?  Do they want to survive the training?  What kind of society would ask this of some of the citizens? 

Find out in this gripping first in a series novel by Neal Shusterman.

I have read many books by Shusterman, and he does not disappoint in this new series.  In fact, I came away thinking about the many lessons to be learned from it.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a good read. 


Monday, February 12, 2018

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany.  His family found a ship to board to leave Germany, and they got onto it. 

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994.  Castro said that Cuban citizens could leave if they chose, and her family chose to go to America in the hopes and dreams of finding a better life.

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015.  His family must leave their home country to survive.

All 3 of these young people are refugees from their respective countries.  They MUST flee to survive.  Will they make it to their chosen destination? 

Gratz does a masterful job of telling these three stories independent of each other, but he ties them together in the end showing how much one's actions can affect others. 

This book is one that I would recommend to everyone because it gives a perspective that puts a human face to the refugee issue in our world.  Pick up this great read and learn from these 3 young voices. 

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

Calliope and Eliot meet in town under odd circumstances.  Both are fifteen; both have parents with interesting jobs; both are sure that their parents are weird; both are ready for a relationship; both do not tell the other at first. 

This is one of my favorite romance stories in the library.  I love it for several reasons including that it is told in multiple perspectives.  You hear from both Calliope and Eliot.  I think it is very important to remember that there are AT LEAST 2 sides to a story.  Most of the time we do not get to hear the other side, and we as humans do a poor job of guessing what the other person is thinking.  If we took the time to find out the real motivations behind others' actions, we would understand and empathize more with what is going on in the lives of others.  For me, that definitely makes for a good story.  Please take the time read this touching story.

Cover image for Scrambled eggs at midnight

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Bryce and Juli are in 8th grade now, but to really understand their story, you have to look back to 2nd grade when Bryce moved in across the street.  Juli was so excited to have someone her age that she went straight over to help out.  She just knew that they would be best friends.  Bryce had other ideas that did not include Juli AT ALL.  Now that they are in 8th grade, things may just have flipped.  Find out in this wonderfully written story about friendship, love and family.  This is an Oldie But A Goodie--and I do mean a goodie.


Monday, January 29, 2018

The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

Winnie has a wonderful treehouse which turns out to be her safe place since her parents are always fighting over their time with her.  Winnie's parents are divorced, and they want to spend an equal amount of time with her.  Precisely--equal.  She spends 3 days with one parent, 3 days with the other parent, and on Wednesdays she gets to spend in the treehouse alone.  This sounds great to her parents, but when they continue to fight even though they never see each other Winnie is affected. 
She decides to revolt and stay in the treehouse.  Then, her friends decide to join her in a stand off against parents and parent rules.  Soon, the media gets wind of the plan, and the ten children are in the treehouse for not hours but days.  What will bring them down?  Find out in The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff.

The Great Treehouse War

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Extra by Kathryn Lasky

Lilo is a young Sinti girl in Nazi Germany.  One night she along with her mother and father are snatched from their home and sent to a camp where other gypsies were sent.  Lilo and her mother were separated from her father immediately, but Lilo made quick friends with Django who could arrange things such as food and information.  Lilo and her mother were chosen for a medical procedure, but Lilo is able to hide and escape from it.  After her mother endures the surgery, Lilo knows that she has to do something or her mother is not going to survive.  Django finds out that the filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, needs extras for her film.  Since the inhabitants of this camp have darker skin, they fit the roles of the film nicely.  Django tells Lilo about it, and she secures a spot for her and her mother to go on site for the movie.  This saves them for a time, but more atrocities occur throughout the making of the film.  Leni Riefenstahl is no savior--she is out for herself and the Third Reich.  Who will survive in this story?  Find out in The Extra by Kathryn Lasky.

It is not the best Holocaust novel that I have read, but this novel tells a part of the Holocaust that is not generally discussed. For that reason, I recommend reading it if for no other reason than to remember the history.

Danny Blackgoat, Navajo Prisoner by Tim Tingle

Danny is a Navajo teenage boy when he watches soldiers burn down his home, kill his beloved sheep and capture his family to join in the Long Walk of 1864.  Danny decides to fight back, but he is labeled as a troublemaker.  He is then sent to a Civil War prison at Fort Davis where he is targeted for terrible treatment.  Danny has to battle bad men, but he does not forget his Navajo heritage along the way.  How will Danny survive and live out his destiny?  Find out in this quick read.

Again, this is a piece of history that is not talked about much which is why reading this type of novel is so important.  #weneeddiversebooks

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Well...you cannot go wrong with a special OBAG--Oldie but a goodie!

I read this book just recently as an adult.  What a great read!  If you have already read it, AWESOME!  I encourage you to read it again.  If you have not read it before, this is a solid suggestion.

Meg does not fit in at school.  People at school think that she is slow and a trouble maker.  Meg's little brother, Charles Wallace, also has the reputation for being weird and not too bright.  Nothing could be further from the truth as we see when they go on a quest to find and rescue their father along with their friend, Calvin.

Take a journey with these great kids as they travel through A Wrinkle in Time.