Monthly Archives: July 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. May 30, 2017. Simon Pulse, 380 p. ISBN: 9781481478687.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. It’s not always as easy as boy meets girl. In the case of Rishi Patel and Dimple Shah, it’s more like boy is arranged to marry girl, and girl attacks boy with iced coffee. In her delightful debut, Menon tells the story of two Indian American teenagers, fresh from high school and eager for adulthood. While Rishi’s version of growing up involves happily following his parents’ life plan (giving up art for engineering and accepting an arranged marriage to Dimple), Dimple sees college as her chance to escape her immigrant parents’ stifling expectations (which include little more than wearing makeup and finding a suitable Indian husband). And yet, when Dimple and Rishi finally meet, they are both shocked to realize what it is they truly want—and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get it. While Menon’s portrayal of the struggles of Indian American teens is both nuanced and thoughtful, it is her ability to fuse a classic coming-of-age love story with the contemporary world of nerd culture, cons, and coding camp, that will melt the hearts of readers.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
A clash of perspectives sparks this romantic comedy about two first-generation Indian-American teens whose parents set an arranged-marriage plan in motion, but it backfires big time—or maybe not? In the alternating voices of her two protagonists, Menon explores themes of culture and identity with insight and warmth. Seamlessly integrating Hindi language, she deftly captures the personalities of two seemingly opposite 18-year-olds from different parts of California and also from very different places regarding life choices and expectations. Insomnia Con, a competitive six-week summer program at San Francisco State focused on app development, is where this compelling, cinematic, and sometimes-madcap narrative unfolds. Dimple Shah lives and breathes coding and has what she thinks is a winning and potentially lifesaving concept. She chafes under her mother’s preoccupation with the Ideal Indian Husband and wants to be respected for her intellect and talent. Rishi Patel believes in destiny, tradition, and the “rich fabric of history,” arriving in San Francisco with his great-grandmother’s ring in his pocket. He plans to study computer science and engineering at MIT. But what about his passion for comic-book art? They are assigned to work together and sparks fly, but Dimple holds back. Readers will be caught up as Rishi and Dimple navigate their ever changing, swoonworthy connection, which plays out as the app competition and complicated social scene intensify. Heartwarming, empathetic, and often hilarious—a delightful read. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Sandhya Menon, a New York Times and national Indie bestselling author writes books for teens (and those who still feel like teens inside!). She lives in Colorado, where she’s on a mission to coerce her family to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies she claims as her favorite.

Her website is www.sandhyamenon.com.

Around the Web

When Dimple Met Rishi on Amazon

When Dimple Met Rishi  on Goodreads

When Dimple Met Rishi  on JLG

When Dimple Met Rishi  Publisher Page

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Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate. May 2, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 400 p. ISBN: 9781419723735.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Noteworthy, by Riley Redgate (Seven Ways We Lie, 2016), features a girl who isn’t sure of anything at all. Jordan Sun is a junior at her performing-arts boarding school, but her low voice and Chinese features keep her from getting cast. Jordan’s on scholarship—her family struggles financially because of her disabled father’s medical bills—and her parents are overly invested in her success. So when she fails yet again to get cast, she considers other options. A spot has opened in the Sharpshooters, an elite all-male a cappella group. It’s college-application gold, so Jordan dresses up like a guy, borrows her cousin’s name, and auditions. Crazier still, she gets in. Jordan Sun, contralto, becomes Julian Zhang, tenor, living a double life as she’s drawn into the world of the Sharpshooters and into what it’s like to be a boy. In some ways, pretending helps her become more sure of her identity: she’s questioned her sexuality before, but as she spends more time as Julian, it becomes increasingly clear that she’s bisexual. Conversely, as she grows more comfortable acting like a guy, the surer she is that she’s not actually a transgender boy: “I knew it innately. The struggle to fit into some narrow window of femininity didn’t exclude me from the club.” It’s a smart critique of gender roles—male and female—in today’s society (a particularly notable scene is one in which Jordan, as Julian, is told in no uncertain terms to “man up” by a respected teacher), and it’s all delightfully wrapped up in a fun, compelling package of high-school rivalries, confusing romances, and a classic Shakespearean case of mistaken identity.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Redgate deftly harmonizes a lighthearted plot with an exploration of privilege, identity, and personal agency. Jordan Sun is a Chinese-American high school junior from a working-poor family who feels a bit out of place at her prestigious, arts-focused boarding school in upstate New York. Though the school’s diversity policy is bringing in more students from minority backgrounds, most of her classmates are still wealthy and white. After continued rejection for roles in the theater department, Jordan decides to try her hand at something new and joins one of the school’s legendary a cappella groups: a traditionally all-male one. To audition, Jordan adopts the male persona of Julian, and when Julian is accepted to fill a tenor spot with the group, Jordan must slip into the role of her life. As a first-person narrator, Jordan is often dryly sarcastic, but it is her lyrical prose that brings depth and empathy to a story that could otherwise be another needless riff on the cross-dressing trope. “It’s too simple to hate the people who have doorways where you have walls,” she reflects. Wearing Julian’s identity causes Jordan to question her assumptions regarding femininity, masculinity, and sexuality. Jordan ultimately shatters her own self-limiting expectations and in doing so encourages readers to do likewise. A heart song for all readers who have ever felt like strangers in their own skins. (Fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Riley Redgate speaks exclusively in third person, so this works nicely. She loves horror films, apocalyptic thunderstorms, and the Atonement soundtrack. When writing author bios, she feels as if she is crafting some weirdly formal Tinder profile.

She plans someday to start a melodramatically epic rock band named Millennial Filth. Until then, she writes acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, also novels.

Her website is rileyredgate.com.

Around the Web

Noteworthy on Amazon

Noteworthy on Goodreads

Noteworthy on JLG

Noteworthy Publisher Page

Beck by Mel Peet

Beck by Mal Peet. April 11, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763678425.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet comes a sweeping coming-of-age adventure, both harrowing and life-affirming.

Born of a brief encounter between a Liverpool prostitute and an African soldier in 1907, Beck finds himself orphaned as a young boy and sent overseas to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. At age fifteen he is sent to work on a farm, from which he eventually escapes. Finally in charge of his own destiny, Beck starts westward, crossing the border into America and back, all while the Great Depression rages on. What will it take for Beck to understand the agonies of his childhood and realize that love is possible?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Racial epithets, Sexual abuse by a religious figure, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 10-12. After a traumatic childhood spent in orphanages, Beck, born in Liverpool to a poor British mother and an African sailor, has learned to stay quiet, preferring a solitary life on the road, safe from the vulnerability of love. Peet’s posthumous novel, completed by Rosoff, follows Beck from his meager beginnings in early twentieth-century England to his harrowing first days in Canada to his peripatetic path leading him ultimately to Grace, a half Siksika woman reinvigorating her Native community in Alberta. While this often reads like a series of loosely linked vignettes rather than a complete, unified narrative, there are flashes of arresting lyricism: “Little flames, quick as lizards, ran up its black and riven trunk.” At the same time, that language can be unsparingly frank: Peet and Rosoff do not sanitize racial slurs, and the description of Beck’s sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of priests is graphic. However, older teens and adults who appreciate literary historical fiction might find plenty to appreciate in this story of a hard-won discovery of redemption and home.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
In the early twentieth century, Beck, son of a white sometimes-prostitute and a black sailor just passing through, is raised in a Liverpool orphanage and sent at age fourteen to Canada as free farm labor. First stop, though: the Christian Brothers’ institution, where initially he thrives; but when the priests make sexual advances and he resists, one of them rapes him. The rest of the novel follows Beck on a hardship-filled journey from the Ontario prairie (after he escapes his assigned farm couple’s racist abuse) down to Windsor (where he finds a home, temporarily, with kindhearted African Canadian bootleggers) and finally to Medicine Hat, Alberta. There he hires on as a farmhand for half-Siksika, half-Scottish Grace McCallister–a beautiful, strong, “troublesome woman from a long line of troublesome women”–whose story merges with Beck’s. The novel is excruciatingly painful to read at times, but that makes Beck’s eventual and hard-won chance at happiness all the sweeter. From the very first pages it’s clear we are in the hands of a master storyteller (or two; as explained in an appended note, Rosoff finished the novel after Peet’s death). The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling; the spot-on dialogue adds to the immediacy; secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no wasted words, no too-lengthy descriptive passages; yet somehow we see, smell, experience everything. Aboard a ship for the first time, “Beck felt confused and astonished by the huge discrepancy between the solidity beneath his feet and the vast liquidity of everything else.” In the Ontario countryside, a cow “gazed at the passing buggy, lifted its tail, and hosed shit like a comment.” martha v. parravano

About the Author

Mal Peet grew up in North Norfolk, and studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick. Later he moved to southwest England and worked at a variety of jobs before turning full-time to writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he had written and illustrated many educational picture books for young children, and his cartoons have appeared in a number of magazines.  Mal Peet passed away in 2015.

Teaching Resources

Beck Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Beck on Amazon

Beck  on Goodreads

Beck  on JLG

Beck  Publisher Page

The Playbook by Kwame Alexander

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander. February 14, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780544570979.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 970.

You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?

Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer/Music Video

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. Alexander uses sports as a metaphor for life in this earnest gathering of personal reminiscences. “I was tall. I thought I could ball,” he writes. “Turns out, my passion was on a different court.” He’s referring to the tennis court, where he worked his way to excellence after disappointing tries at basketball and football. Still, whatever the game—athletic or otherwise—he offers advice from his experience. Many of these rules are similar in principle: learn from failures, accept and appreciate coaching, always be prepared to take the shot when it comes, and know the rules of play—but “say yes to the possibility of sometimes making up your own.” With its black-and-orange color scheme, the page design intersperses digestible passages of narrative with basketball-themed black-and-white photos and graphics, and pithy advice from high-profile icons of achievement. General life advice, however sound, will never be a slam dunk with teens (ask any parent), but the b-ball motif adds at least some palatability, and the lessons embedded in the author’s own story may prove persuasive.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Alexander (The Crossover, rev. 5/14; Booked, rev. 3/16) turns motivational speaker in this volume of short poems, uplifting quotes, and memoir. Though several sports are represented, the collection is organized like a basketball game: four quarters (“1st Quarter: Grit,” “2nd Quarter: Motivation”), each with thirteen rules inspired by James Naismith’s rules for the sport he invented in 1891. Alexander’s personal narrative of his early life in sports weaves its way through the lively display of colorful graphics, black-and-white photographs, poems, and inspirational quotations by famous people (mostly athletes, but also Sonia Sotomayor, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and others). The volume reads like a series of locker-room pep talks by a coach with stories to tell and advice to give (“It takes skill / to make / the last shot. / But it takes confidence / to take it.” “It might look / like a / long shot / but you’ll never /make it / if you don’t / keep shooting”). Definitions of words such as focus, tenacity, and resilience add to the overall uplifting tone. dean schneider

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

His website is www.kwamealexander.com.

Around the Web

The Playbook on Amazon

The Playbook on Goodreads

The Playbook on JLG

The Playbook Publisher Page

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders

Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey by Ila Jane Borders. April 1, 2017. University of Nebraska Press, 224 p. ISBN: 9780803285309.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 920.

Making My Pitch tells the story of Ila Jane Borders, who despite formidable obstacles became a Little League prodigy, MVP of her otherwise all-male middle school and high school teams, the first woman awarded a baseball scholarship, and the first to pitch and win a complete men’s collegiate game. After Mike Veeck signed Borders in May 1997 to pitch for his St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, she accomplished what no woman had done since the Negro Leagues era: play men’s professional baseball. Borders played four professional seasons and in 1998 became the first woman in the modern era to win a professional ball game.

Borders had to find ways to fit in with her teammates, reassure their wives and girlfriends, work with the media, and fend off groupies. But these weren’t the toughest challenges. She had a troubled family life, a difficult adolescence as she struggled with her sexual orientation, and an emotionally fraught college experience as a closeted gay athlete at a Christian university.

Making My Pitch shows what it’s like to be the only woman on the team bus, in the clubhouse, and on the field. Raw, open, and funny at times, her story encompasses the loneliness of a groundbreaking pioneer who experienced grave personal loss. Borders ultimately relates how she achieved self-acceptance and created a life as a firefighter and paramedic and as a coach and goodwill ambassador for the game of baseball.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Sexist verbal abuse, Sexual harassment

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Beginning in middle school, Ila Borders played on all-male teams and was the first woman to receive a baseball scholarship to college, where she continued shattering gender barriers as a left-handed pitcher. In 1988, she became the first female pitcher to win a professional men’s baseball game. Her résumé included playing for the St. Paul Saints, Duluth-Superior Dukes, Madison Black Wolf, and Zion Pioneerzz. Besides being a fascinating sports story, this is also a moving biography of a closeted gay athlete pursuing her dreams while struggling with her own identity. Her faith as a Christian helped her navigate the insurmountable challenges. Borders endures taunts from the stands (“Go home, you don’t belong here”) that switched to requests for autographed baseballs when her prowess became obvious. Cowritten with noted baseball writer Ardell (Breaking into Baseball, 2005), this is a welcome contribution to women’s sports biographies. Baseball fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes details of life in the minors and numerous game highlights; gay athletes will connect to her struggles. A worthy companion to Jennifer Ring’s A Game of Their Own (2015) and an important addition to baseball-history and LGBTQ collections.

Library Journal (April 1, 2017)
The story of Ila Jane Borders (b. 1975), the first woman to win a men’s college baseball game and a pioneer for women in professional baseball, has faded into history. Twenty years ago, she signed a minor league contract with an independent men’s baseball team, proving herself in the clubhouse as well as on the pitcher’s mound. While we are still waiting for the first woman to appear on a major league roster, Borders made meaningful progress, maintaining her poise and sense of humor, despite teammates and fans who wanted to test her resolve, even enduring stalkers and death threats. A difficult childhood and struggles with her sexual orientation gave her the inner fortitude to endure the isolation of being far from home in an often hostile environment, and her personal history, as chronicled here with the help of Ardell (Breaking into Baseball), is related with painful honesty. Borders’s conversational style and intriguing life story make this title a winner for both public and academic libraries. VERDICT An inspiring and important account, told with grace and self-awareness that will appeal to baseball and sports fans along with readers interested in LGBTQ memoirs.-Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT

About the Author

Ila Jane Borders is the first woman to win a men’s professional baseball game. She has been honored twice at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals.

Her website is www.ilajaneborders.com.

 

Around the Web

Making My Pitch on Amazon

Making My Pitch on Goodreads

Making My Pitch on JLG

Making My Pitch Publisher Page

Braced by Alyson Gerber

Braced by Alyson Gerber. March 28, 2017. Scholastic Press, 281 p. ISBN: 9780545902144.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

The first contemporary novel about a disorder that bends the lives of ten percent of all teenagers: scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 4-7. Rachel’s life is going really well. She’s 12 and totally crushing it on the soccer field (which means more time with her best-friend teammates), and everyone agrees that the ridiculously cute Tate is within days of asking her to be official BF/GF. All of that comes to a crashing halt when her Boston specialist reveals she has scoliosis. In fact, the curvature of her spine is so extreme that she’ll have to wear a back brace—a heavy hulk of white padded plastic stretching from armpits to tail bone—for 23 hours a day. She tries to keep her spirits up but feels like a freak. Her soccer game plummets, and it seems like everyone—even her friends and Tate—are whispering in the halls. How can everything turn upside down so quickly? And where can she possibly find the strength to power through? Rachel’s first-person narration relays her story in a surprisingly intimate, beautifully earnest voice, likely attributable to Gerber herself suffering from scoliosis and wearing a fitted brace in her formative years. Here she captures the preteen mindset so authentically that it’s simultaneously delightful and painful. Every hallway whisper and direct insult will cut to the reader’s heart, and the details about the process of wearing a brace in all its agonies—and, yes, benefits—are a natural and enlightening thread through the story. A masterfully constructed and highly empathetic debut about a different kind of acceptance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)
Both the literal and figurative senses of the word “spine” form the backbone of Gerber’s debut. The same day white seventh-grader Rachel Brooks starts in an important soccer game, she learns that her scoliosis has worsened, and she now needs to wear a brace for 23 hours a day. The author, who wore a brace herself, vividly conveys its constricting bulk. But her spine isn’t the only curve Rachel has to brace herself for. Her mother, whose own scoliosis required a spinal fusion, is rigid and unsympathetic as the brace affects Rachel’s soccer technique and jeopardizes her place on the team. Her classmates gossip, and though her friends and crush are generally supportive, the author nails their realistic discomfort at being bullied by association. Ultimately, her friends help her to adjust, and Rachel learns to assert herself. As Rachel grows a spine, her mother learns to bend, sympathetically revealing the fears she never addressed during her own treatment. Their disparate experiences give scoliosis—and their relationship—nuance as well as tension. The author doesn’t diminish Rachel’s difficulties, but at heart her story is uplifting; a brace can be a “built-in drum” to dance to. An author’s note provides a short list of scoliosis resources. Comparisons to Judy Blume’s Deenie (1973) might be inevitable, but Rachel stands admirably on her own. (Fiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Alyson Gerber wore a back brace for scoliosis from the age of eleven to thirteen, an experience that led directly to Braced. She received her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and before that she taught elementary and middle school students in a supplementary education program. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn.

Her website is www.alysongerber.com

Around the Web

Braced on Amazon

Braced  on Goodreads

Braced  on JLG

Braced  Publisher Page

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall  by Jennifer E. Smith. May 2, 2017. Delacorte Press, 417 p. ISBN: 9780399559396.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Alice doesn’t believe in luck–at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday–just when it seems they might be on the brink of something–she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Luck isn’t something that 18-year-old Alice is familiar with. When she was 9, her parents died just months apart from each other, and Alice moved to Chicago to live with her aunt and uncle. Alice honors her parents by volunteering and dreaming of Stanford, though her longing to return to California is tempered by her close relationships with her cousin Leo and her best friend, Teddy, whom Alice secretly loves. On Teddy’s eighteenth birthday, Alice jokingly buys him a lottery ticket—and he wins. Teddy, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his single, overworked mother, seems like the luckiest guy in the world. But as much as Alice wants to believe that this newfound wealth won’t change him, a rift grows between them. Smith, no stranger to romance (Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, 2015) crafts another thoughtful story about a girl on the brink of major change. Alice’s struggles are relatable, and her feelings for Teddy ring true. Particularly well-developed secondary characters put the finishing touches on this lucky find. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: When it comes to teen romance, Smith is quickly becoming one of the big dogs; an extensive marketing and publicity campaign will only increase the buzz.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
When the lottery ticket Alice gives to Teddy, the boy she’s secretly loved for years, wins him a fortune, they discover money really does change everything. Orphaned at 9, Alice has grown up in Chicago with a loving family: her dad’s brother, Uncle Jake; his Latina wife, Aunt Sofia; and their son, Leo. Uncle Jake—white and fair, like Alice, is a painful reminder of her dad. Struggling to live the life she believes her parents would have chosen, remembering them as passionate altruists, Alice tutors an orphaned foster child and volunteers at a soup kitchen, refusing emphatically when Teddy, who is also white, tries to share his winnings with her. For years, since his gambling-addicted father wiped out their savings, Teddy and his mother have shared a cramped apartment. Generous and impulsive, spending lavishly, Teddy enjoys his new fame. Leo, who feels unjustifiably blessed, having lucked out with great parents (they even made coming out as gay easy), views Teddy’s win as just compensation for a bad-luck childhood, whereas Alice refuses to see good or bad fortune as anything but random. Now, unable to prevent the changes fortune brings, she must learn to weather them. While the feel-good ending feels forced—a shoe that doesn’t quite fit—this compelling read, gracefully told, raises issues seldom explored in popular fiction. How can we rationalize life’s inequalities? What do we owe, and to whom, when blessed with good fortune? Smart and entertaining, as to be expected from Smith. (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of seven novels for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. She lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

Around the Web

Windfall on Amazon

Windfall on Goodreads

Windfall on JLG

Windfall Publisher Page

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon. September 27, 2016. Month9Books, 263 p. ISBN: 9781944816926.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Skybright is plunged into the terrifying Underworld where demons are bred, while Stone, stripped of his immortal status, must find a way to close hell’s breach before more mortals die. Meanwhile, Zhen Ni, Skybright’s former mistress and friend, is now wed to the strange and brutish Master Bei, and she finds herself trapped inside an opulent but empty manor. When she discovers half-eaten corpses beneath the estate, Zhen Ni worries that Master Bei is not all he seems. As Skybright begins the dangerous work of freeing Zhen Ni with the aid of Kai Sen and Stone, nothing can prepare them for an encounter so dark that it threatens to overtake their very beings

Sequel to: Serpentine

Part of series: Serpentine (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Gore

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2016)
This thrilling sequel to Pon’s Serpentine (2015) begins soon after the Great Battle between mortals and demons, as Skybright and her compatriots struggle with the fallout and face the looming threat of a new breach to the underworld. Vivid sensory descriptions make the Chinese-inflected fantasy kingdom of Xia an immersive world. The mortal realm, the heavens, and the underworld are at once enchanting and terrifying, and at the story’s core are dynamic characters who resist confinement to archetypes. Torn away from her mortal life, Skybright grows to accept her nature as a serpent demon without rejecting her love for her friends. Zhen Ni, meanwhile, displays extraordinary cunning as she navigates her new duties as a wife while uncovering her husband’s dark plans. Kai Sen’s fierce determination to save Skybright and break the covenant makes him shed his dreamer personality to hone his magic. Stone, immortal intermediary to the gods, learns to respect and admire the mortals as he witnesses the strength of their will. The narration unfolds through their four points of view, shifting perspectives at key scenes rather than chapter by chapter. The resulting dramatic irony tests the characters’ integrity and their faith in one another. Still, they are impressively wise and compassionate, acting, when pressed, out of loyalty rather than bitterness. A brilliant second act that can be read alone. (Fantasy. 15 & up)

School Library Journal Xpress (November 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-This sequel to Serpentine begins nine days after the first volume’s conclusion. Skybright is forced to give up her life and follow Stone in order to save those she loves, and has no time to adjust. She is taken into the Underworld, where demons roam; thrown into portals to other realms; and summoned to the land of the gods. She goes through all of this only to learn that Stone has been stripped of most of his powers, the gateway to hell still needs to be closed, and if they fail, Stone will die. Skybright’s friends are not faring much better. Zhen Ni is made to marry the richest man of the land and quickly becomes concerned that he is not what he seems. Kai Sen is learning magic so that he may save Skybright from Stone. To survive, these characters from very different walks of life will need to learn to work together as a team. Pon excels at describing each scene so vividly that readers can truly picture the protagonist’s surroundings. A story of friendship, love, and duty that fantasy readers will relate to and enjoy. VERDICT Fans will love this sequel just as much as (or even more than) the first. Purchase where the first installment and rich fantasy are popular.-Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

About the Author

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. Her most recent duology Serpentine and Sacrifice (Month9Books) were both Junior Library Guild selections and received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. WANT (Simon Pulse), also a Junior Library Guild selection, is a near-future thriller set in Taipei. RUSE, the sequel, is slated for spring 2019. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade.

Her website is cindypon.com.

Around the Web

Sacrifice on Amazon

Sacrifice on Goodreads

Sacrifice on JLG

Higher, Steeper, Faster by Lawrence Goldstone

Higher, Steeper, Faster: The Daredevils Who Conquered the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone. March 28, 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9780316350235.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 1150.

Discover the daring aviation pioneers who made the dream of powered flight a reality, forever changing the course of history.

Aviator Lincoln Beachey broke countless records: he looped-the-loop, flew upside down and in corkscrews, and was the first to pull his aircraft out of what was a typically fatal tailspin. As Beachey and other aviators took to the skies in death-defying acts in the early twentieth century, these innovative daredevils not only wowed crowds, but also redefined the frontiers of powered flight.

Higher, Steeper, Faster takes readers inside the world of the brave men and women who popularized flying through their deadly stunts and paved the way for modern aviation. With heart-stopping accounts of the action-packed race to conquer the skies, plus photographs and fascinating archival documents, this book will exhilarate readers as they fly through the pages.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-6. While the cautious, conservative Wright brothers get the credit for the first successful sustained flight, the stunt and exhibition pilots who followed in their wake really pushed the boundaries of aviation development and technology. Their need for sturdier, sleeker, faster planes ushered in a decade of innovation that stretched from airfields in the U.S. to, eventually, the battlefields of WWI Europe. Numerous figures are featured here, but the history is framed within the story of thrill-seeking, celebrated pilot Lincoln Beachey. There are plenty of names to keep track of, and the action moves back and forth across the Atlantic as American and European inventors try to outdo each other. Fortunately, clear writing and chronological storytelling makes it easy for the reader to follow. Original photographs, contemporary publicity, and newspaper articles provide visuals, while sidebars offer supplementary tidbits. This look at the early days of the industry highlights the thrill and awe of a watching public as well as the fact that the sky was no longer any sort of boundary.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
The author’s passion for his subject infuses this richly detailed history of the daredevil years in flying. The introduction opens in 1915 with 50,000 spectators at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition, watching Lincoln Beachey, “the greatest, most celebrated aviator in the world,” attempt his famous Dip of Death maneuver. The narrative then goes back to fill in history about gliders and balloons before moving to its focus, the years from Kitty Hawk in 1903 to the end of this era of exhibition flying in 1915. Set mainly in the United States, the graceful account highlights a steady stream of breathtaking flights, mostly by white men but also a few white women. Fliers continuously broke altitude, speed, and distance records in exhibition contests that took the place of test flights. To make performances more exciting, they eventually added dangerous stunts like spins and corkscrews. Many pilots became celebrities, attracting huge crowds, inspiring newspaper headlines, and competing for cash prizes. Hundreds died while performing, which only made exhibitions more popular. Numerous black-and-white photographs show fliers, feats, and progress in airplane design, while diagrams help explain the physics of flying. Short sidebars add pertinent facts and anecdotes. For those who love history, aviation, or stories of great daring, this is pure pleasure. (timeline, glossary, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)

About the Author

Lawrence Goldstone is the author of fourteen books of both fiction and non-fiction. Six of those books were co-authored with his wife, Nancy, but they now write separately to save what is left of their dishes.

Goldstone holds a PhD in American Constitutional Studies from the New School. His friends thus call him DrG, although he can barely touch the rim. (Sigh. Can’t make a layup anymore either.) He and his beloved bride founded and ran an innovative series of parent-child book groups, which they documented in Deconstructing Penguins. He has also been a teacher, lecturer, senior member of a Wall Street trading firm, taxi driver, actor, quiz show contestant, and policy analyst at the Hudson Institute.

He is a unerring stock picker. Everything he buys instantly goes down. His website is www.lawrencegoldstone.com.

Around the Web

Higher, Steeper, Faster on Amazon

Higher, Steeper, Faster on Goodreads

Higher, Steeper, Faster on JLG

Higher, Steeper, Faster Publisher Page

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Borstein. March 7, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 352 p. ISBN: 9780374305710.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 890.

In 1945, in a now-famous piece of archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved Michael’s life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat.

Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Genocide, Harsh realities of the Holocaust, Antisemitism, Desecration of corpses, Sexual assault

 

Book Trailer

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. In 1940, Michael Bornstein was born in Zarki, Poland—then a Nazi-occupied ghetto. In 1944, Michael and his family arrived at Auschwitz. Miraculously, in 1953, Michael celebrated his bar mitzvah in New York City. Here, with the help of his television news producer daughter, he recounts the spectacular story of his survival. The duo chronologically document the Germans’ ruthless occupation—and eventual liquidation—of Zarki; the Bornsteins’ compulsory stint at an ammunitions factory; their tragic trek to Auschwitz; and the aftermath of the war in a land ruptured by unconscionable brutality and bigotry. But this account is shaped less by events than it is people: Michael’s father, Israel, with his dangerous devotion to a crumbling community; Michael’s infinitely courageous Mamishu; his ever-resilient grandmother; and his stubbornly spirited slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sprinkled with Yiddish and appended by an informative afterword, captioned photos, and brief glossary, the first-person narrative is a tenderly wrought tribute to family, to hope, and to the miracles both can bring. A powerful memoir for the middle-grade set.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
Michael was only 4 when he miraculously survived the liberation of Auschwitz in January 1945.Filmed by Soviets liberating the camp, he saw his image years later, but he was not ready to tell his story until he saw his picture on a Holocaust-denial website. He enlisted his daughter, a TV journalist, to help him uncover further information and to co-author this book. In the preface, Holinstat writes: “we tried to keep the book as honest as possible. While the underlying events are entirely factual, there is fiction here.” The father-daughter pair found documents, diaries, and survivors’ essays to supplement the limited memories of a very young child, and they write about this process in the preface. The first-person narrative begins with the events of September 1939, even though Michael was not born until May 1940, which feels artificial. Horrific as the experience was, the Auschwitz chapters are just part of Michael’s journey. Living in an open “ghetto” in his hometown, moving to a forced-labor camp, then to the extermination camp where his older brother and father die, returning home where Jews are not welcomed, and then living in Munich as a displaced person for six years until he can emigrate to the United States with his mother, the chronicle of Bornstein’s first 11 years parallels the experiences of many other surviving victims of the Final Solution. In today’s world, it remains more important than ever to remember these survivors. (afterword, photos, characters, glossary) (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

Michael Bornstein survived for seven months inside Auschwitz, where the average lifespan of a child was just two weeks. Six years after his liberation, he immigrated to the United States. Michael graduated from Fordham University, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and worked in pharmaceutical research and development for more than forty years. Now retired, Michael lives with his wife in New York City and speaks frequently to schools and other groups about his experiences in the Holocaust.

His website is www.mbornstein.com.

Teacher Resources

Survivors Club Teachers’ Guide

Around the Web

Survivors Club on Amazon

Survivors Club on Goodreads

Survivors Club on JLG

Survivors Club Publisher Page