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The purpose of this site is to give you more information and resources about each of the new titles the Media Center adds to its collection monthly.  Each title has its own info page with details about the book itself, the author, reviews, and book trailers and teacher resources if applicable.

You can navigate the titles through the category and tag menus on the right.  Keep checking back or subscribe for updates.

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Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield. October 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781512482416.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 520.

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. Not even her dad knows the truth, and she can’t find the words to tell anyone else. She’s trapped like a butterfly in a net. Then June meets Blister, a boy from a large, loving, chaotic family. In him, she finds a glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away. Because she deserves her freedom. Doesn’t she?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. June narrates her story from the ages of 10 to 24, detailing the brutal physical and psychological abuse she suffers at the hands of her stepmother, Kathleen, and stepsister, Megan. From forcing her to overeat to convincing June that she and her deceased mother are worthless because they are black, Kathleen and Megan torture June every time her white father’s back is turned. Afraid to say anything about the abuse to her father or teachers, June finds solace in Blister, a homeschooled boy from a large family, with whom she starts to fall in love. June’s story is all the more heartbreaking because her visceral account, though fiction, is undoubtedly a reality for children suffering from abuse behind closed doors. The narrative derails considerably when an event near the end of the tale effectively forces June to internalize the idea that her silence—as a victim—is to blame. Despite a heavy-handed delivery, this novel, a 2017 Carnegie Medal nominee in Great Britain, manages to end on a hopeful note.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
Can the Guardian and Britain’s CILIP Carnegie Children’s Book Awards be wrong? Not that this lauded and nominated book by author Heathfield isn’t harrowing. It’s the 14-year–spanning story of June Kingston, a mixed-race black girl whose white stepmother, Kathleen, continually racially denigrates June and her dead mother, Loretta, who was black. It is a catalog of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse from Kathleen, abetted by June’s stepsister, Megan, and enabled by the obliviousness of June’s white father. And yes, June’s preteen friend and eventual boyfriend, Blister Wicks, a poor, creative white boy, unwaveringly supports her throughout. In chapters labeled “before” readers see the unrelenting misery of June’s life, while briefer, intermittent chapters labeled “after” take them to a time after an unspecified trauma. When that reveal comes, readers may well feel sucker-punched at its disingenuousness, as the author writes around the most obvious aspect of this story. June’s abuse at home, bullying and neglect at school, and what happens after are specifically misogynoirist, or anti–black female, thrown into high relief due to the lack of any other living characters of color in June’s story. This is a disservice to readers, especially considering such works and resources as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Ava DuVernay’s 13th, and African American Policy Forum, a pro–Black-women-and-girls advocacy organization. What’s left for readers from this lack of nuance is the glaring voyeurism. Interracial love—and racial silence—simply aren’t enough. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Before becoming a mum to her three sons, Lisa Heathfield was a secondary school English teacher and loved inspiring teenagers to read.

Award-winning author Lisa Heathfield launched her career with Seed in 2015. Published by Egmont it is a stunning YA debut about a life in cult. Paper Butterflies is her beautiful and heart-breaking second novel. Flight of a Starling is another heart-breaking read with an important message.

Lisa lives in Brighton with her family.

Around the Web

Paper Butterflies on Amazon

Paper Butterflies on Goodreads

Paper Butterflies on JLG

Paper Butterflies Publisher Page

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough. September 5, 2017. Feiwel & Friends, 372 p. ISBN: 9781250123190.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1000.

Complex, passionate, brilliant, flawed―Alexander Hamilton comes alive in this exciting biography.

He was born out of wedlock on a small island in the West Indies and orphaned as a teenager. From those inauspicious circumstances, he rose to a position of power and influence in colonial America.

Discover this founding father’s incredible true story: his brilliant scholarship and military career; his groundbreaking and enduring policy, which shapes American government today; his salacious and scandalous personal life; his heartrending end.

Richly informed by Hamilton’s own writing, with archival artwork and new illustrations, this is an in-depth biography of an extraordinary man.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 7-10. Let’s face it: as a subject, Alexander Hamilton is hot, thanks to the wildly popular Broadway musical bearing his name. This brings a built-in audience to Brockenbrough’s ambitious biography, which follows Hamilton’s eventful life from his illegitimate birth in the West Indies to his appointment by George Washington as America’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Brockenbrough gives particular attention to Hamilton’s service in the Revolutionary War and to his role as Washington’s protégé, which gave him influence far beyond his rank. Those expecting a warts-and-all look, however, will be disappointed. The few flaws the author offers—Hamilton’s vanity, his recklessness, his ill-advised extramarital affair, his obsession with honor, which would be his undoing—are largely papered over or dismissed. By the same token, his adversaries, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, are often strongly demonized. All this said, Hamilton’s life is an inspiration, a fact that Brockenbrough captures nicely in a well-written biography that fills a gap in the literature. Expect wide reader interest.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
Over 200 years after his death in a duel with former Vice President Aaron Burr, founding father Alexander Hamilton’s story is a major player in popular culture. Brockenbrough begins her narrative with a list of the contradictions of Hamilton’s life and then sets out to describe many of them in detail. Hamilton’s wretched childhood and struggles for survival and an education set a tone that depicts him as the consummate self-made man whose flaws damaged both his political career and personal life. Hamilton’s courtship and marriage to Elizabeth Schuyler, a daughter of one of the country’s most influential families, is a key part, along with prominent figures from American history. Sometimes the intricacies of Revolutionary War strategy and Constitutional Convention maneuvering slow things down, making the pace uneven. However, tidbits about Hamilton’s role in the episode with Benedict Arnold and his close relationships with fellow soldier John Laurens and his sister-in-law Angelica Church are intriguing. The story is targeted to an older audience than Teri Kanefield’s Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America (2017), so the sex scandal that derailed Hamilton’s political career is part of the story, as is, of course, the duel that ended his life. After the epilogue, the volume includes information on 18th-century medicine, attire, and warfare among other contextualizing topics ; the volume will be illustrated with archival material (not seen). With the demand for all things Hamilton still strong, this will resonate with many teen readers. (timeline, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-18)

About the Author

Martha Brockenbrough draws on her diverse experience in journalism, research, nonfiction, and literary teen fiction to bring Alexander Hamilton to life. A powerful storyteller and narrative voice, Brockenbrough is the author of the critically acclaimed YA novels The Game of Love and Death and Devine Intervention. She enjoys reading Hamilton’s original correspondence, playing board games, and spending time with her family. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Her website is marthabrockenbrough.com

Around the Web

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary on Amazon

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary on Goodreads

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary on JLG

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary Publisher Page

From Here to There by HP Newquist

From Here to There: The Story of How We Transport Ourselves and Everything Else by HP Newquist. September 12, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 128 p. ISBN: 9780451476456.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6.

This lively history of transportation follows our fascinating route from primitive technology like sandals to driverless cars and beyond!

Since humans first stood upright, we’ve been on the move. Need food? Water? Land? A place to live? Survival depends upon motion. For thousands of years, people have devised ways to move faster, farther, and more comfortably. Their inventions—shoes, skis, the rudder, the wheel, engines, rockets—have had an enormous impact on how and where human beings live and thrive.

When human beings get a move on, change happens:
– The wheel, probably first used in the Middle East around 6,000 years ago, meant building and trading supplies could be moved more easily—whole civilizations rolled out.
– The Vikings sailed far and wide because they used a keel on their longships.
– Horse-and-carriage gridlock gave rise to subways.
– The bicycle changed the world for women in terms of freedom and fashion.
– Drones and driverless cars are the future . . . coming sooner than we think.

Award-winning author HP Newquist explores the transportation inventions and technologies that have transformed the way we experience the world around us. It’s a fascinating journey!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (September 18, 2017)
In this second book in the Invention & Impact series, published in partnership with the Smithsonian, Newquist demonstrates how mobility has been vital to the growth of civilization. Beginning some 40,000 years ago with the earliest footwear, he goes on to explore the evolution of transportation methods, up through air and space travel, providing insight into how technology builds slowly and owes much to trial and error. Chapters detail significant technological milestones and figures, as well as those involved in missteps (in 1896, Sylvester H. Roper died riding the steam-propelled bicycle he invented). An engrossing, in-depth study of how far humanity has come-and how it got there. Ages 10-up. Agent: Alec Shane, Writers House. (Sept.)

School Library Journal (October 1, 2017)
Gr 4-8-Planes, trains, automobiles, and more are covered in this examination of how people get from one place to another. Newquist begins by looking at shoes, skates, and even sleds, positing that human life depends on locomotion. Subsequent chapters discuss the ingenuity of engineers and their inventions that revolutionized travel. The chapters are necessarily broad, but thorough. Fortunately, the book is well designed. Each chapter employs a color scheme (for picture borders and captions), while each spread contains plenty of beautifully reproduced photographs and archival illustrations, many selected from the Smithsonian’s vast holdings. Before the index, Newquist includes a list of resources-perfect for students who want to learn more about individual topics. VERDICT A fine addition to nonfiction collections, especially for those looking to beef up their STEM offerings.-Marie Drucker, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, NY

About the Author

HP Newquist’s books and articles have been published all over the world, and his writing has been translated into languages from kanji to farsi.

All told, he has written more than two dozen books and hundreds of articles, along with numerous awards and citations.

His writing spans a vast array of interests and issues. In the late 1980s and 1990s he wrote extensively about artificial intelligence (AI), compiling a body of work that is arguably the most extensive coverage of the AI business created to date.

Newquist’s books cover the same array of topics as his magazine articles, from brain science and space exploration to legendary guitarists and the strangeness of the Internet. To date, he has written over two dozen books. And he’s already committed to writing many more.

His website is www.newquistbooks.com.

Around the Web

From Here to There on Amazon

From Here to There on Goodreads

From Here to There on JLG

From Here to There Publisher Page

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. September 5, 2017. Sterling Children’s Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781454923459.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 700.

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. A move to dusty, distant Arizona forces 13-year-old Aven to leave her familiar life and friends behind. Don’t yawn: Bowling takes this overworked trope and spins it into gold with a skein of terrific twists. For one thing, Aven was born without arms, so the new environment—a decrepit Wild West theme park—poses special challenges. For another, thanks to loving, funny adoptive parents who have raised her to be a “problem-solving ninja” (“I’m so flexible, it would blow your mind,” she boasts), readers may repeatedly forget, despite reminders enough, that Aven is (as she puts it) “unarmed.” Moreover, when the dreary prospect of having to cope with the looks and questions at her new middle school sends her in search of an isolated place to eat her lunch, she finds and bonds with Conner, who is struggling with Tourette’s syndrome and has not been so lucky with his parents. Not only does she firmly enlist him and another new friend in investigating a mystery about the theme park’s past but, taking Conner’s involuntary vocalizations in stride (literally), Aven drags him (figuratively) into an information-rich Tourette’s support group. Following poignant revelations about Aven’s birth family, the author lets warm but not gooey sentiment wash over the close to a tale that is not about having differences, but accepting them in oneself and others.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
Born without arms, white “problem-solving ninja” Aven Green can do almost anything with her feet instead—even solve a mystery. “Now that I’m thirteen years old, I don’t need much help with anything. True story.” Aven’s adoptive parents have always encouraged her independence. She’s never felt self-conscious among her friends in Kansas, playing soccer and guitar and mischievously spinning wild yarns about losing her arms. But when her father suddenly gets a job managing Stagecoach Pass, a run-down theme park in Arizona, tales of alligator wrestling can’t stop her new classmates’ gawking. Making friends with Connor, a self-conscious white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, and Zion, a shy, overweight, black boy, allows her to blend in between them. Contrasted with the boys’ shyness, Aven’s tough love and occasional insensitivity provide a glimpse of how—and why—attitudes toward disability can vary. While investigating the park’s suspiciously absent owner, the kids discover clues with eerie ties to Aven. The mystery’s twist ending is somewhat fairy-tale–esque, but Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. Though much of this earnest effort reads like an after-school special, its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Dusti Bowling grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, where, as her family will tell you, she always had her nose in a book. Dusti holds a Bachelor of Psychology and a Master of Education, but she eventually realized that her true passion was writing. The Day We Met, her self-published YA novel, has sold over 20,000 copies. She currently lives in Carefree, Arizona, with her husband, three daughters, one bobcat, a pack of coyotes, a couple of chuckwallas, several rattlesnakes, and a few herds of javelina.

Her website is www.dustibowling.com

Teacher Resources

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus Discussion Questions

Around the Web

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus on Amazon

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus on Goodreads

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus on JLG

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus Publisher Page

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. October 10, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 286 p. ISBN: 9780525555360.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Author Interviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. It’s here: the eagerly awaited new novel by John Green, and—not to milk the suspense—it’s superb. High-school junior Aza has an obsessive fear of being infected with the bacteria Clostridium difficile (“C. diff”), which can be fatal. Her fear has become obsession, plaguing her with “intrusives,” thoughts that take over her mind, making her feel that she is not the author of her own life. She does, however, have a life: her father is dead; her mother is a teacher; her best friends are Mychal, a gifted artist, and Daisy, a well-known Star Wars fan-fiction author. To their trio is added Davis, whom Aza had known when they were 11. Davis’ billionaire father has decamped, pursued by the police, leaving Davis and his younger brother parentless (their mother is dead) and very much on their own. How will the friends cope with all this? And how will Aza cope with her own problems? Green, a master of deeply felt material, handles all of this with aplomb. With its attention to ideas and trademark introspection, it’s a challenging but richly rewarding read. It is also the most mature of Green’s work to date and deserving of all the accolades that are sure to come its way.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Nerdfighter Green’s latest takes readers through Indianapolis and the human biome.Aza Holmes doesn’t feel like herself. But “if half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn’t that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun…?” When a local billionaire—and the father of her childhood friend, a white boy named Davis—disappears, Aza (who seems to be white) and her BFF, Daisy Ramirez (who is cued as Latina), plot to find him and claim the reward, amid rumors of corruption and an underexplored side plot about semi-immortal reptiles. The story revolves around anxious Aza’s dissociation from her body and life. Daisy chatters about Star Wars fan fiction (and calls Aza “Holmesy” ad nauseam), and Davis monologues about astronomy, while Aza obsesses over infection, the ever present, self-inflicted wound on her finger, and whether she’s “just a deeply flawed line of reasoning.” The thin but neatly constructed plot feels a bit like an excuse for Green to flex his philosophical muscles; teenagers questioning the mysteries of consciousness can identify with Aza, while others might wish that something—anything—really happens. The exploration of Aza’s life-threatening compulsions will resonate deeply with some, titillate others, and possibly trigger those in between. Aza would claim that opinions about this book are unfairly influenced by “the gut-brain informational cycle,” which makes it hard to say what anyone else will think—but this is the new John Green; people will read this, or not, regardless of someone else’s gut flora. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesPaper TownsWill Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. John has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers  and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse.

John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is johngreenbooks.com

Around the Web

Turtles All the Way Down on Amazon

Turtles All the Way Down on Goodreads

Turtles All the Way Down on JLG

Turtles All the Way Down Publisher Page

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein. August 29, 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux, 353 p. ISBN: 9780374305925.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

In Backfield Boys, renowned sports journalist and New York Times–bestselling author John Feinstein tells a thrilling story of friendship, football, and a fight for justice.

Freshman footballers Jason Roddin and Tom Jefferson are a perfect pair: Jason is a blazing-fast wide-receiver, while his best friend Tom has all the skills a standout quarterback needs. After summer football camp at an elite sports-focused boarding school, the boys are thrilled to be invited back with full-ride scholarships.

But on day one of practice, they’re shocked when the team’s coaching staff makes Tom, a black kid, a receiver and Jason, a white kid, a quarterback. Confronted with mounting evidence of deep-seated racial bias, the boys speak out, risking their scholarships and chances to play. As tensions ratchet up with coaches and other players, Tom and Jason must decide how much they’re willing to lose in a conflict with powerful forces that has nothing―and everything―to do with the game they love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Mild sexual themes, Racism

 

Video Review

 

About the Author

John Feinstein is the author of more than thirty books, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled. He is also the author of numerous kids mysteries. His first young adult mystery, Last Shot, won the Edgar Allen Poe Award. John also works for The Washington Post, The Golf Channel, Sirius XM Radio, and Comcast Sportsnet.

Her website is jfeinsteinbooks.com.

Around the Web

Backfield Boys on Amazon

Backfield Boys on Goodreads

Backfield Boys on JLG

Backfield Boys Publisher Page

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey. July 11, 2017. Fiewel & Friends, 272 p. ISBN: 9781250119520.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

I’m never going outside again. 

Mallory hasn’t left the house in sixty-seven days–since the day her dad left. She attends her classes via webcam, rarely leaves her room (much to her brother’s chagrin), and spends most of her time watching The X-Files or chatting with the always obnoxious BeamMeUp on New Mexico’s premier alien message board.

But when she’s shockingly nominated for homecoming queen, her life takes a surprising turn. She slowly begins to open up to the world outside. And maybe if she can get her popular jock neighbor Brad Kirkpatrick to be her homecoming date, her classmates will stop calling her a freak.

In this heartwarming and humorous debut, Mallory discovers first love and the true meaning of home–just by taking one small step outside her house.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Ever since her dad left a few months ago, the world has been too big for Mallory, literally: stepping outside of the house gives her a panic attack. She goes to school via webcam (a development that’s been fodder for the high-school gossip mill) and chats about potential alien sightings on We Are Not Alone, an online message board, with an obnoxious but clever person with the username BeamMeUp. Still, she’s missing things: her younger brother, Lincoln, just came out of the closet a year ago, and Mallory can’t be there for him at school. When she’s unexpectedly nominated for homecoming queen, she tentatively starts to consider stepping outside her house. Of course, she doesn’t have a chance in the world of winning—unless she can get her next-door neighbor, the popular, athletic, and all-around nice guy Brad Kirkpatrick to take her to the dance. This is a charming take on high school—the friendships, the romance, and the snubs—that also tenderly explores mental illness and the stigmas that accompany it. A sweet and funny debut.

School Library Journal (May 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Authentic teen voices and a gentle love story are paired with a familiar and questionable plot. Mallory copes with extreme anxiety since her father abandoned the family; she hasn’t left her house in more than two months. She spends her time attending webcam classes, hanging out with her best friend Jenni and her brother Lincoln, and posting on a website devoted to alien research. The seemingly cruel nomination of Mallory for prom queen upsets her safe world. Instead of declining the nomination, however, she decides to pursue the crown, if only for the $500 prize; this is just enough money to fund her search for her father. Her friends, the star jock, and his brother pull Mallory out of her sheltered life; on the way, she finds true friendship, love, and acceptance. While the voice rings true and the romance is predictable yet sweet, the downfall of this book is that the protagonist’s ability to overcome her anxiety strains credulity; considering the amount of plot buildup, the conflicts are resolved too quickly. Also, character traits don’t always match character actions. How can Mallory so easily venture out of doors after becoming physically ill during her prior excursion? VERDICT Those who want an accurate portrayal of anxiety disorders should consider John Corey Whaley’s Highly Illogical Behavior. If realism isn’t an issue, the voice here will engage romance seekers.-Lisa Ehrle, Falcon Creek Middle School, CO

About the Author

Kerry Winfrey grew up in Bellville, Ohio, where she spent most of her time reading inappropriate books at the library. Not much has changed. Kerry writes for HelloGiggles and blogs at welcometoladyville.com.

She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, their son, and their dog, Merlin.

Around the Web

Love and Other Alien Experiences on Amazon

Love and Other Alien Experiences on Goodreads

Love and Other Alien Experiences on JLG

Love and Other Alien Experiences Publisher Page

Writing Radar by Jack Gantos

Writing Radar: Using Your Journal To Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos. August 29, 2017. Farrar Straus Giroux, 203 p. ISBN: 9780374304560.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 940.

The Newbery Award-winning author of Dead End in Norvelt shares advice for how to be the best brilliant writer in this funny and practical creative writing guide perfect for all kids who dream of seeing their name on the spine of a book.

With the signature wit and humor that have garnered him legions of fans, Jack Gantos instructs young writers on using their “writing radar” to unearth story ideas from their everyday lives. Incorporating his own misadventures as a developing writer, Gantos inspires readers to build confidence and establish good writing habits as they create, revise, and perfect their stories. Pop-out text boxes highlight key tips, alongside Gantos’s own illustrations, sample stories, and snippets from his childhood journals. More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who–many unwittingly–inspired Gantos’s own writing career.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Dangerous stunts

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 4-6. Leave it to Gantos to rewrite the rules for children’s writing manuals. Taking the classic writing dictum “show, don’t tell” to heart, he doesn’t just instruct kids or explain his technique; he offers many memoirlike anecdotes and narratives to dramatize the ideas—for example, the story of the class visit that inspired his book Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (1998). Never less than entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, his stories will engage even readers who have no intention of voluntarily writing anything. But that’s not his intended audience here. Speaking directly to readers who aspire to create their own books, he says, “I’m a writer and I’m on your side.” His ongoing, self-deprecating tale of the “story journal” he kept as a child becomes an involving narrative that will amuse kids while reassuring them that even a seriously good writer was once a kid who didn’t know how to start. He offers them practical approaches to learning the craft, detailed advice and examples related to keeping a journal, and a useful chapter on story structure and elements. Other particularly helpful sections involve finding good story material and rewriting in stages. A focused, fun, and uncommonly useful guide for young, aspiring writers.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
Advice on writing from one of the best writers around. “I’m a writer and I’m on your side,” Gantos says, as if he’s putting an arm around a young writer’s shoulder and guiding them through a door to a new life. With a snappy voice, his own funny ink drawings, and expertise drawn from a career full of great books, he covers just about everything: where to find ideas and characters, how to structure a story, why to keep a journal, and even what to write with. Every step of the way he includes examples from his own writing. As humorous as he is, Gantos is authoritative and serious about his craft, careful to include every building block for constructing a good story—characters, setting, problem, action, crisis, resolution, and the need for a double ending (physical and emotional). Chapter 2 (“Getting Started”) ought to be read by all teachers and parents: it’s a manifesto on how to raise a reader (and writer) by reading aloud excellent picture books to young children and placing good books in the hands of children as they get older, and he offers a handy list of just what some of those books should be. While his list of picture books is not a particularly diverse one, the middle-grade titles suggested are nicely inclusive. A standout among writing guides, valuable for its sage and friendly encouragement and for the sheer fun of hanging out with Jack. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages. His works include Hole in My Life, a Michael L. Printz Honor memoir, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Dead End in Norvelt, a Newbery Award winner. The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He began to collect anecdotes he overheard, mostly from eavesdropping outside the teachers’ lounge, and later included many of these anecdotes in his books. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking.

He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts. Her website is www.jackgantos.com

Teacher Resources

Writing Radar Education Guide

Around the Web

Writing Radar on Amazon

Writing Radar on Goodreads

Writing Radar on JLG

Writing Radar Publisher Page

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz

Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz. October 3, 2017. HarperTeen, 376 p. ISBN: 9780062642745.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, War, Violence, Smoking, Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 8-11. Based on true events and figures from WWII, Katz’s novel offers a fictional tale of a Russian airwoman called Valka and her childhood friend Pasha and how their lives are disrupted by the war. Kind, peace-loving Pasha is sent to a war-hungry veteran commander as a radio operator, while Valka eventually becomes one of the famous Night Witches, supremely successful regiments of all-women pilots, stealthily flying over enemy lines each night to drop bombs in strategic places. Pasha and Valka’s steady stream of letters—which become increasingly desperate as they’re both moved closer and closer to the front lines and, miraculously, each other—is what ultimately gets them through the war. Katz’s debut doesn’t skimp on the terrible realities of war, as described in Valka’s first-person narrative and the intermittent letters between the two characters, and she nicely weaves historical events through the fictional narrative. This beautiful, emotional entry into a key moment in Russian history will appeal to lovers of adventure novels, as well as historical fiction fans.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Katz’s highly readable novel offers an entry into the story of the Soviet Union’s famed WWII squadrons of airwomen, the “Night Witches.” An accomplished pilot of a quirky, unreliable small plane, Valka leaps at the chance to sign up for the Motherland’s first all-women fighter and bomber regiments. Soon she’s operating as a bomber pilot, assigned to one of the slow, low-flying planes used for night attacks, with her beloved cousin Iskra as her navigator. Nazi fire, terrible weather, darkness, the loss of comrades, even commands to bomb their own countrymen all come into play, exercising Valka’s aeronautical and emotional resources with dramatic effect. Most notably, though, Valka worries about her sweetheart Pasha in the infantry; when the chance comes to save him, she commits treason to do so. Katz is skillfully informative, interweaving historical figures and facts without losing emotional propulsion and suspense; at the same time, she opts to stretch credulity with an expansive correspondence between Valka and Pasha, the chattiness of which would have seriously endangered their comrades, and whose liberality with locations shows a naive–or incredible–disregard of the censors. But that very correspondence is part of what makes this story accessible to American YA readers–as does, no doubt, its suspenseful, Hollywood ending. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

Gwen C. Katz is a writer, artist, game designer, and retired mad scientist easily identified by her crew cut and ability to cause trouble. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband and a revolving door of transient mammals.

Her website is www.gwenckatz.com

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Among the Red Stars on Amazon

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Among the Red Stars Publisher Page

Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee. September 5, 2017. Aladdin, 247 p. ISBN: 9781481478519.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.5; Lexile: 620.

A cancer survivor must readjust to “normal” middle school life in this hopeful novel from the author of Star-Crossed and Truth or Dare.

Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. The hospital social worker warns her the transition back may be tricky, but Norah isn’t worried. Compared with battling cancer, how tricky can seventh grade be?

Very. Everyone is either treating Norah like she will break at any second, or acting weird about all the attention she’s getting. Her best friend, Harper, does her best to be there for Norah, but she doesn’t get it, really—and is hanging out with a new group of girls, leaving Norah feeling a little unsteady. Norah’s other good friend, Silas, is avoiding her. What’s that about, anyway?

When Norah is placed with the eighth graders for math and science she meets Griffin, a cute boy who encourages her love of drawing and Greek mythology. And Norah decides not to tell him her secret—that she was “that girl” who had cancer. But when something happens to make secret-keeping impossible, Norah must figure out a way to share her cancer story. But how do you explain something to others that you can’t explain to yourself? And then, once you find the words, how do you move forward with a whole new ‘normal’?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. Norah has lost two years of school to a battle against archvillain Lou Kemia, her vision of acute lymphoblastic leukemia personified. Now she’s rejoining her class as they begin seventh grade, but social alliances have reformed during Norah’s absence. Compounding the problem, because of the academic progress she made with her tutor, Norah is placed in eighth grade math and science, where she quickly bonds with a cute new kid, Griffin. Meanwhile, Norah’s concerned parents remain deeply involved in monitoring her daily life, which becomes problematic as Norah needs space to navigate the ordinary challenges of seventh grade, such as mean girls, baffling boys, and clueless adults. The authenticity of Norah’s story can be credited to the author’s own experience as the mother of a cancer patient. But this is not a book about cancer; rather, it’s about the process of moving forward in its wake. Readers who appreciate well-wrought portrayals of transformative middle-school experiences, such as Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger (2015), will find a story in a similar spirit here.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Norah Levy is 12 and entering seventh grade, but she hasn’t been in school for the past two years: she’s been busy fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and now she’s figuring out how to re-enter the “normal” world. Norah has difficulty making the transition from cancer patient to normal middle schooler. Everyone in her grade knows her as “The Girl Who,” and Norah is tired of people treating her differently. She makes a new friend, Griffin, who shares her taste in books and mythical creatures. But she’s doing everything in her power to avoid telling him about her cancer or talking about cancer with anyone at school. She doesn’t even explain things to her best friend. Readers will feel with her as Norah struggles with how, when, and to whom she should tell her story—if at all. The moment that really sings is when Norah realizes that there are some life experiences that change you forever, and that’s not always a bad thing. Dee, whose acknowledgments hint at family experience with childhood cancer, does an exceptional job accurately depicting Norah’s struggles in a way that is translatable to those with varied understanding of illness. Norah and Griffin are white, but their school appears to be a fairly diverse one, mostly conveyed through naming conventions. A powerful story not only about illness, but about accepting yourself for who you are—no matter the experiences that shaped you. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Barbara Dee is the author of Everything I Know About YouHalfway NormalStar-CrossedTruth or DareThe (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect BoysTrauma QueenThis Is Me From Now OnSolving Zoe (Bank Street Best Children’s Books), and Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Barbara is one of the founders and directors of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives in Westchester County, New York, with her family, two naughty cats, and a rescue hound dog named Ripley.

Her website is BarbaraDeeBooks.com

Teacher Resources

Halfway Normal Book Club Questions

Around the Web

Halfway Normal on Amazon

Halfway Normal  on Goodreads

Halfway Normal  on JLG

Halfway Normal Publisher Page