Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah. May 9, 2017. Scholastic Press, 400 p. ISBN: 9781338118667.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

Boy meets girl. Girl changes everything.

Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.

Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart—and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.

Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting, Strong language, Drugs, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Acclaimed author and Islamophobia expert Abdel-Fattah pens another timely story. As a child, Mina came to Australia by boat, a Muslim refugee escaping turmoil in her native Afghanistan. Now, as a teen, she enters an elite preparatory school on the other side of Sydney, on scholarship. Michael, a natural-born Australian citizen, hasn’t spent too much time second-guessing his parents’ involvement in a local anti-immigrant group, until he sees Mina, and his unquestioning trust in his parents begins to fray. Told in chapters alternating between Mina and Michael, this mature, nuanced novel explores the forces that feed anti-immigrant sentiment and the hypocrisy that festers in hateful beliefs. There are no easy answers here, and, indeed, several uncomfortable moments as Michael resists his parents’ deeply held beliefs. Though a novel like this could easily become didactic, Abdel-Fattah expertly sidesteps heavy-handed lessons, instead deeply rooting the story in the experiences of these two teenagers, rendering their story, encompassing romance, a testament to friendship, and a powerful call to action, in utterly real and sympathetic terms. Though the setting is Australia, readers will find direct parallels to current situations in the U.S., and given the fallout of the 2016 election, this book could not be more necessary. Deserving of wide readership and discussion.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
An Afghani-Australian teen named Mina earns a scholarship to a prestigious private school and meets Michael, whose family opposes allowing Muslim refugees and immigrants into the country. Dual points of view are presented in this moving and intelligent contemporary novel set in Australia. Eleventh-grader Mina is smart and self-possessed—her mother and stepfather (her biological father was murdered in Afghanistan) have moved their business and home across Sydney in order for her to attend Victoria College. She’s determined to excel there, even though being surrounded by such privilege is a culture shock for her. When she meets white Michael, the two are drawn to each other even though his close-knit, activist family espouses a political viewpoint that, though they insist it is merely pragmatic, is unquestionably Islamophobic. Tackling hard topics head-on, Abdel-Fattah explores them fully and with nuance. True-to-life dialogue and realistic teen social dynamics both deepen the tension and provide levity. While Mina and Michael’s attraction seems at first unlikely, the pair’s warmth wins out, and readers will be swept up in their love story and will come away with a clearer understanding of how bias permeates the lives of those targeted by it. A meditation on a timely subject that never forgets to put its characters and their stories first. (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Randa Abdel-Fattah is an award-winning author, former attorney, and an expert on Islamaphobia in Australia. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Does My Head Look Big In This? and Ten Things I Hate About Me, as well as the middle-grade novel Where the Streets Had a Name. Ms. Abdel-Fattah lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and their children.

Her website is www.randaabdelfattah.com

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Hostage by Guy Delisle

Hostage by Guy Delisle. April 25, 2017. Drawn & Quarterly, 436 p. ISBN: 9781770462793.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

How does one survive when all hope is lost?

In the middle of the night in 1997, Doctors Without Borders administrator Christophe Andre was kidnapped by armed men and taken away to an unknown destination in the Caucasus region. For three months, Andre was kept handcuffed in solitary confinement, with little to survive on and almost no contact with the outside world. Close to twenty years later, award-winning cartoonist Guy Delisle (PyongyangJerusalemShenzhenBurma Chronicles) recounts Andre s harrowing experience in Hostage, a book that attests to the power of one man s determination in the face of a hopeless situation.

Marking a departure from the author s celebrated first-person travelogues, Delisle tells the story through the perspective of the titular captive, who strives to keep his mind alert as desperation starts to set in. Working in a pared down style with muted color washes, Delisle conveys the psychological effects of solitary confinement, compelling us to ask ourselves some difficult questions regarding the repercussions of negotiating with kidnappers and what it really means to be free. Thoughtful, intense, and moving, Hostage takes a profound look at what drives our will to survive in the darkest of moments.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Discrimination, War, Violence, Alcohol, Harsh realities of being held hostage

 

Author Interview

 

About the Author

Born in Quebec, Canada, Guy Delisle studied animation at Sheridan College. Delisle has worked for numerous animation studios around the world, including CinéGroupe in Montreal.

Drawing from his experience at animation studios in China and North Korea, Delisle’s graphic novels Shenzen and Pyongyang depict these two countries from a Westerner’s perspective. A third graphic novel, Chroniques Birmanes, recounts his time spent in Myanmar with his wife, a Médecins Sans Frontières administrator.

His website is www.guydelisle.com

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An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder

An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder. June 13, 2017. Philomel Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780399169007.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 770.

Modern history unearthed as a boy becomes an innocent victim of corruption in the underbelly of Bolivia’s crime world, where the power of family is both a prison and the only means of survival.

It’s 1999 in Bolivia and Francisco’s life consists of school, soccer, and trying to find space for himself in his family’s cramped yet boisterous home. But when his father is arrested on false charges and sent to prison by a corrupt system that targets the uneducated, the poor, and the indigenous majority, Francisco’s mother abandons hope and her family. Francisco and his sister are left with no choice: They must move into the prison with their father. There, they find a world unlike anything they’ve ever known, where everything—a door, a mattress, protection from other inmates—has its price.

Prison life is dirty, dire, and dehumanizing. With their lives upended, Francisco faces an impossible decision: Break up the family and take his sister to their grandparents in the Andean highlands, fleeing the city and the future that was just within his grasp, or remain together in the increasingly dangerous prison. Pulled between two equally undesirable options, Francisco must confront everything he once believed about the world around him and his place within it.

In this heart-wrenching novel inspired by real events, Melanie Crowder sheds light on a little-known era of modern South American history—where injustice still darkens the minds and hearts of people alike—and proves that hope can be found, even in the most desperate places.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Criminal culture, Harsh realities of prison life

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. In Bolivia, Francisco is itching to finish high school, but all his plans come to an abrupt halt when his indigenous father is arrested on false charges, and he and his little sister are forced to live in the cramped, filthy prison with him. Though they can leave for school, every day is a struggle to scrounge up enough money for food, a mattress, and a cell, all while protecting themselves against dangerous criminals in the prison. Informed by Crowder’s experience in South America in the late 1990s, this trenchant novel explores the result of a corrupt Bolivian law enacted as part of the U.S. war on drugs, which disproportionately affected poor, uneducated, and indigenous populations. Francisco narrates the tale, and his anguish over the conditions in the prison and his panic over protecting both his father and sister come through in both his visceral language and the poems he writes for a school project. This hard-hitting, ultimately hopeful story will open readers’ eyes to a lesser-known historical moment and the far-reaching implications of U.S. policy.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 15, 2017)
Francisco, a middle-class Bolivian high school senior, and his younger sister must move into a dangerous prison after their indigenous father is wrongfully arrested. Inspired by real events, according to an author’s note, Francisco’s tale is set in 1999 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The 17-year-old son of a light-skinned, college-educated mestiza and an indigenous taxi-driver father, Francisco is smart but hot-tempered. He knows he’s privileged enough to go to high school and play pick-up soccer with friends instead of having to work, but he’s also painfully aware that’s he’s too short and dark (unlike his fair Mamá and 12-year-old sister, Pilar) to be taken seriously by Bolivia’s white elites, who don’t see beyond his dark skin and Aymara face. Francisco’s life takes an irreversible turn when Papá is falsely arrested under “the 1008,” a draconian drug law. An unimaginable betrayal leaves Francisco and Pilar no choice but to live in San Sebastián prison, which permits inmates’ spouses and underage children to reside inside. Readers will feel utterly invested in Francisco’s various challenges: protecting his sister from prying eyes; worrying about his gentle, poetic father in a tough, soul-sucking place; finishing high school; and figuring out whether to take Pilar to their peasant grandparents’ Andean village on the Altiplano (high plains). There’s also a sweet, slow-burning romance between Francisco and a quiet young woman with a hidden ferocity that terrifies, enthralls, and inspires him to write Neruda-esque poetry. A riveting, Dickensian tale set in 1990s Bolivia. (glossary, selected sources) (Historical fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Melanie Crowder  is the author of National Jewish Book Award finalist and ILA Notable Book for a Global Society Audacity, as well as A Nearer Moon and Parched. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Melanie lives with her family on Colorado’s Front Range where she has worked as an educator for more than a decade.

Her website is www.melaniecrowder.net

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Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley. June 6, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781101937655.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

A beautiful love story for fans of Jandy Nelson and Nicola Yoon: two teens find their way back to each other in a bookstore full of secrets and crushes, grief and hope–and letters hidden between the pages.

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city–and to the bookshop–to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side–surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages–they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Underage drinking, One instance of extreme bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 8-12. It’s rare that a book beginning with epigraphs by Franz Kafka and David Foster Wallace lives up to those weighty words. It works in this small Australian novel because here, and in the bookshop that provides its setting, the weight of the words is measured by the connections between the people who read them. Three years ago, Rachel moved away after writing a love letter to her best friend, Henry, which he never received. Now she’s back, having failed year 12 and lost her brother in a drowning accident—but she’s not speaking about any of that. She and Henry tenuously restart their friendship as Rachel works at the bookshop Henry manages. Rachel catalogs the shop’s most unique feature, the Letter Library, which holds books with inscriptions, notes slipped between pages, and years of correspondence between lovers and strangers. It’s a project that, like the book itself, is bittersweet: the bookshop is for sale, which could set Henry on a path directly away from Rachel. In Rachel’s and Henry’s alternating chapters, interspersed with excerpts from the Letter Library, the mysteries of love, loss, death, and missed connections are explored. As she did in Graffiti Moon (2012), Crowley has built a warm cast of surprising and memorable characters and placed them in universal circumstances that slowly unfold into something extraordinary.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Rachel’s best friend is the love of her life in this Australian import.By the end of high school Rachel realizes her fondness for Henry, her childhood buddy, has intensified. When she and her family moved to live on the coast, she left Henry a love note, but he didn’t respond to it. After her brother, Cal, drowns, Rachel’s grief is so profound that her heart goes into lockdown. Three years since she’s seen Henry, Rachel returns, telling no one about Cal’s death. The setting is Howling Books, owned and resided in by Henry’s family. It’s a neighborhood secondhand bookstore with a room called the Letter Library, where patrons underline passages and leave letters within books. By the time Rachel begins working at Howling Books she has forsaken her love of the sea, Henry has a girlfriend, and the bookstore is in peril. Shifting between Rachel’s and Henry’s voices with interspersed chapters of found missives, this is a story of longings hidden within the heart and revealed through the pages of books. Henry and Rachel, both white, are such honest, resonate characters that readers might want to join them for a cup of coffee, lingering over long conversations replete with silliness, accented by sadness, and blooming with ideas. This journey is original, wise, and essential, because as Henry points out, “Sometimes science isn’t enough. Sometimes you need the poets.” This love story is an ode to words and life. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Cath Crowley is an award-winning author of young adult novels, including Graffiti Moon and A Little Wanting Song. She lives, writes, and teaches creative writing in Melbourne, Australia.

Her website is www.cathcrowleyauthor.com

Teacher Resources

Words in Deep Blue Discussion Guide

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Point Guard by Mike Lupica

Point Guard by Mike Lupica. April 4, 2017. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481410038.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 810.

Gus and Cassie have always been on the same team off the field, but in this third novel in New York Times bestselling author Mike Lupica’s Home Team series can they stay friends when they’re on the same court?

Everyone assumes that Gus, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, is a baseball guy. But this year Gus is even more excited about basketball than any other sport he’s ever played. He’s been practicing some new moves and lately he’s more surprised when he misses his shot than when he scores. Plus now that he’s convinced his friend Teddy to try out for the team and Jack’s shoulder is healed, it looks like Walton’s home team will be unstoppable.

But this isn’t going to be the season Gus expected, because their team is getting a new player—and she just happens to be one of his best friends. Gus knows Cassie is more than good enough to compete on the boys’ team, and besides they really do need a point guard, so why isn’t he able to shake the feeling that she belongs on their bleachers rather than their bench? And to make matters worse, with their center Steve Kerrigan constantly making comments about his Dominican heritage, and Steve’s dad voicing his views on immigration as he runs for office, Gus is starting to wonder if he really belongs in Walton after all.

Can Gus find a way to bring the home team together both on and off the court, or will all these prejudices block their shot at a winning season?

Part of Series: Home Team

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Lupica trots his Home Team ensemble out onto the court for a whirl of fast-break hoops action threaded with provocative personal issues. Gus Morales is upset when his intensely competitive friend Cassie tries out for the boys’ town basketball team. To Cassie and everyone else, his disturbance reads as a case of prejudice—an accusation he stoutly denies. Cassie’s vitriolic refusal to talk things out and some of her behavior after she makes the team only solidifies Gus’ suspicion that she’s out to win at any cost rather than be the best teammate (or friend) that she can be. Is he right or just rationalizing? Is her attitude justified or just a sign of selfishness? Lupica leaves it to readers to decide (and perhaps give their own buried attitudes a fresh once-over) as he carries the Walton Warriors through a series of dramatic last-second wins and losses. A subplot featuring racially charged local and student elections that directly mirror 2016’s ugly presidential campaign will, hopefully, become less topical over time.

About the Author

Mike Lupica is the author of multiple bestselling books for young readers, including the Home Team series, QB 1HeatTravel TeamMillion-Dollar Throw, and The Underdogs. He has carved out a niche as the sporting world’s finest storyteller. Mike lives in Connecticut with his wife and their four children. When not writing novels, he writes for Daily News (New York) and is an award-winning sports commentator.

His website is www.mikelupicabooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Point Guard Reading Guide

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Say No to the Bro by Kat Hegelson

Say No to the Bro by Kat Hegelson. May 2, 2017. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781481471930.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 610.

Ava’s plan for surviving senior year at her new school is simple: fly under the radar until graduation. No boys. No attachments. No drama. But all that goes out the window when she gets drafted into the Prom Bowl—a long-standing tradition where senior girls compete in challenges and are auctioned off as prom dates to the highest bidder.

Ava joins forces with star quarterback Mark Palmer to try and get herself out of the competition, but their best laid schemes lead to self-sabotage more than anything else. And to make matters worse, they both begin to realize that the Prom Bowl isn’t all fun and games. When one event spirals dangerously out of control, Ava and Mark must decide whether shutting down the Prom Bowl once and for all is worth the price of sacrificing their futures.

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. No high-schooler dreams of being uprooted right before senior year, but Ava takes it in stride. Sure, her mom left, but her dad has landed his dream football coaching job at Patterson, his high-school alma mater. Patterson has a long-standing tradition called the Prom Bowl: 14 senior girls are nominated to compete in challenges and are auctioned off as prom dates. New girl Ava, not as traditionally beautiful as others, is picked as the wild card. She turns to Mark, Patterson’s star quarterback, who has his own issues with the Prom Bowl, and the two plan sabotage, even as they start to fall for each other. But tradition runs deep, and this won’t be so easily upended. Helgeson, who cowrote Gena/Finn (2016) with Hannah Moskowitz, makes her solo debut in this tale of prom gone wrong. The intensity of Ava and Mark’s connection doesn’t always ring true, but the problems inherent with girl-on-girl competitions are tempered by heated discussions of feminism. More than just a prom-night romance, this will prompt good conversation.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
The new girl in town grapples with unwanted attention after being forced into a high school prom-date auction.After her mother left and her father uprooted the family to a new town, white teen Ava Vanguard hoped to fly under the radar in her senior year. But her status as the daughter of the new varsity football coach puts her squarely in the gaze of Mark Palmer, the white star quarterback. It’s not long before she’s embroiled in an unfamiliar tradition: Prom Bowl. Officially a fundraiser for prom, Prom Bowl selects a group of girls for a series of competitions, and boys bid on them to become their dates. The highest bid becomes prom queen. Ava’s been marked as the wild card, and it’s clear she’s different—she isn’t thin, doesn’t care about clothes, and doesn’t party. She begins to sabotage herself; she wants out immediately. But as she and Mark grow closer, her feelings about Prom Bowl shift. She excels. Maybe she’s the girl who can show the underdogs what’s possible. But Prom Bowl has more insidious surprises than she expected, and she and Mark face the consequences. Ava’s voice outshines Mark’s in their alternating, first-person chapters—she’s a fully formed, likable character, whereas Mark remains predictable. But both their attraction and growth feel forced, leaving little to tug readers along. A thinly veiled riff on the teen film She’s All That, lacking charm. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Kat Helgeson is a Chicago-based author of novels for young adults. She is a 1980’s cake walk champion, claims a career total of two points scored during regulation basketball, and she’s undefeated at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. Having retired from the circus at age fourteen, she now works in marketing by day and writes by night. Kat lives with her husband, her dogs, and a healthy preoccupation with fictional characters. She is the coauthor of Gena/Finn with Hannah Moskowitz and the author of Say No to the Bro.

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The Forgetting Spell by Lauren Myracle

The Forgetting Spell by Lauren Myracle. April 4, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062342096.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 620.

Most people in Willow Hill think Darya is the prickliest of the Blok sisters. What they don’t realize is that on the inside, Darya is soft and gooey from feeling everything, all the time.

When Darya turns thirteen, the goo gets stickier—and as Darya’s Wishing Day approaches, all she wants is to forget the silly tradition ever existed.

Except…she can’t. Ten years ago, a wish made by Darya’s mother splintered their family into pieces. Last year, Darya’s sister Natasha wished for their broken mother to return. This year, Darya has a chance to wish away parts of the past, and who wouldn’t want to do that?

Darya, that’s who!

The past is something you’re supposed to leave behind. Which is why Darya has locked and sealed her most painful memories inside the far corners of her mind, where they can no longer hurt her.

But when some of them begin to leak out, Darya realizes the decision about what to wish for—and what not to wish for—is probably the most important choice of her life.

Sequel to: Wishing Day

Part of Series: Wishing Day

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 4-7. In Wishing Day (2016), Myracle introduced three sisters whose mother had disappeared some years ago. It focused on the eldest, Natasha, and the three wishes she made on her Wishing Day, a rite of passage for girls growing up in Willow Hill. Now her sister Darya turns 13, and it’s her turn to repeat the ritual with wishes of her own . . . maybe. After unexpected revelations send shock waves through her life, Darya feels pressure to wish for her mother’s desires instead of her own. Struggling to recall long-hidden memories, she makes her wishes and deals with the consequences. Feisty and independent, though loyal, Darya brings a fresh outlook to her family’s ongoing troubles. While the Bird Lady’s cryptic comments suggest magical elements, and the occasional flashbacks to four-year-old Darya’s experiences with her mother add complexity to the novel, the straightforward, present-day narrative remains the most satisfying element of the novel. The second volume of the Wishing Day trilogy will leave fans eager for the story’s resolution in the final book. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Myracle’s current flagship series is being supported by a tour, exclusive author content, and more.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Thirteen-year-old Darya Blok struggles to unravel the mystery of her mother’s eight-year absence and to do the right thing on her return.There is powerful, unpredictable magic in Willow Hill, where, on the third day of the third month of their 13th year, girls make three wishes which may or may not come true. If you are one of the three white Blok sisters, with Baba Yaga in your family tree, they will. You’d better use them wisely. Darya’s mother, who left when Darya was 5, is back in town, shakily recovered from serious depression and not yet ready to resume her old roles. She wants Darya to use one of her wishes to right a wrong she committed at 13. Darya finds this unfair. She isn’t even sure she believes in magic. Aching and angry, she’s also infuriated by her new friend Tally’s insistence that Darya’s lucky. Tally lives in a foster home, and her mother, diagnosed as schizophrenic and institutionalized, refuses to see her, so her perspective is understandable. In this second book in the Wishing Day series, readers are drawn into middle-child Darya’s changing moods by the first-person, present-tense narrative. Though set in the present day, occasional flashbacks provide insight into childhood events. A convenient conclusion offers plenty of room for her little sister’s story. A poignant tale about missing mothers that will leave readers anxious to read more. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Myracle is the author of numerous young adult novels. She was born in 1969 in North Carolina. Lauren Myracle holds an MA in English from Colorado State University and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. she has written many novels, including the famous IM books, ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r.

Her first novel, Kissing Kate, was selected as one of ALA’s “Best Books for Young Adults” for the year 2004. It was named by Booklist as one of the “Top Ten Youth Romances” of the year, as well as one of the “Top Ten Books by New Writers.” Her middle-grade novel, Eleven, came out 2004, followed by its YA sequels (Twelve, Thirteen, Thirteen Plus One) .

Her website is www.laurenmyracle.com

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Lucky in Love by Kasie West

Lucky in Love by Kasie West. July 25, 2017. Scholastic, 333 p. ISBN: 9781338058017.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 520.

Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
A teen discovers that winning the lottery has an inescapable downside. Maddie’s one of nature’s caretakers, a worrier with plenty to worry about. Money’s tight at home; her unemployed dad and overworked mom fight all the time; her college-dropout brother sleeps all day. On her 18th birthday, a convenience-store clerk talks her into buying a lottery ticket, winning her a $30 million payout. Keenly aware her wealth’s unearned, Maddie’s impulse is to make generous gifts to her parents and brother. A relative she’s never met solicits investment in his real estate deal. As news of her win spreads, a popular classmate persuades her to buy a sports car from her dad, curating Maddie’s makeover and stylish do with blonde highlights. Maddie’s old friends feel discarded, but she’s overwhelmed as her generosity’s met with envy, resentment, demands, and betrayal, even from family. Money can’t fix what’s broken. Only Maddie’s friendship with Seth Nguyen feels uncorrupted. Artistic, genial, observant, confronting cultural bias with pointed humor, he’s her romantic anchor. Seth’s an American kid of Vietnamese-American, U.S.–born parents, a rarity in teen literature, but in their California region, where 20 percent of residents have Asian roots, he and white Maddie inhabit the same cultural mainstream. The romantic cover photo positions both side to, but while Maddie’s race, with her long blonde hair and fair skin, is clearly conveyed, black-haired, olive-skinned Seth’s is more ambiguous—it’s disappointing this Asian-American romantic hero isn’t firmly announced as such. There’s a wealth of profoundly topical, thematic territory to explore in lottery wins; this iteration, with its cast of culturally and economically diverse characters, is especially resonant. (Fiction. 12-16)

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 8 Up-Maddie’s world is about to change. She’s a senior in high school, waiting for college acceptance letters to start rolling in. UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State–Maddie expects to get into them all. She has been doing nothing else but studying and working for all of high school, and now she’s ready for her efforts to pay off. And pay off they do: on her 18th birthday, on a whim, Maddie plays the lottery and wins! The money-$50 million -solves a lot of problems, such as college tuition and her family’s financial troubles. But with this windfall comes a cost. It’s hard to stay focused on what matters, and it’s even harder to know whom to trust. Practical Maddie is torn between the easy life and the life she has worked so hard to make for herself. In the end, she finds a balance-friends, family, college, money, and the Boy-with a few stumbles along the way. A quick read with lots of dialogue, the story is sweet and safe, and Maddie’s stumbles are swiftly remedied. VERDICT Lighthearted, romantic but never gratuitous, and honest without being overbearing. Fans of Susane Colasanti, Jennifer E. Smith, and Jenny Han will enjoy this smart girl protagonist dealing with the typical (and not-so-typical) drama that senior year of high school brings.-Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA

About the Author

Kasie West is the author of several YA novels, including The Distance Between UsOn the FenceThe Fill-in BoyfriendP.S. I Like YouLucky in Love, and By Your Side. Her books have been named as ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and as YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. Kasie lives in Fresno, California with her family.

Her website is www.kasiewest.com

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Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand

Stranger Things Have Happened by Jeff Strand. April 4, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 272 p. ISBN: 9781492645399.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

At 15, Marcus Millian III, the great-grandson of the famous Zachary the Stupendous, is already a talented illusionist. But when Marcus chokes during a card trick and leaves the audience unimpressed, prideful Zachary promises that he and Marcus are working on an illusion that will shock, stun, and astonish. That night, Zachary dies in his sleep.

To uphold the honor of Marcus’s beloved great-grandfather, the show must go on, and Marcus will need to make a shark disappear in front of everybody. It would take a sorcerer to pull this off, but, hey, Marcus is the next best thing…right?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Until the sudden death of his beloved mentor and great-grandpa—Zachary the Stupendous, as he had been known in his stage magician days—the strangest thing that had ever happened to 15-year-old Marcus was being bitten by two parakeets at age seven. Now, following the rash acceptance of a wager to perform the most astounding magic trick ever, the grieving teen finds himself, in rapid succession, threatened with death by creepy magician Sinister Seamus; uncharacteristically calling out a trio of hulking bullies; assaulted by a pair of armed thugs, because a quixotic new classmate fancies himself a masked crime fighter; and, most dizzying of all, being unexpectedly kissed by just-friend Kimberly. So all Marcus has to do is defend himself from serious injury with card tricks, cope with a massive case of stage fright, and keep from saying or doing something stupid to alienate the equally flustered Kimberly. That’s not to mention the various technical challenges involved in, as it turns out, making a live shark disappear on stage. As he did in The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever (2016), Strand flings a visionary, if impulsive, protagonist into encounters that simultaneously test his mettle and leave readers weak with laughter. The card-trick strategy may meet with mixed success, but Marcus is enough of a winner to earn both admiration and enthusiastic applause.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Marcus is a high school freshman whose vomit-inducing stage fright presents a major barrier to his dream of becoming a world-famous magician.Inspired and mentored by his great-grandfather, the retired Zachary the Stupendous, Marcus has been honing his craft since infancy. When his great-grandfather passes away unexpectedly, it is up to Marcus to uphold the family honor by developing and performing a truly spectacular illusion. With an ever narrowing window in which to prepare, combined with stress from school bullies and the aptly named Sinister Seamus, Marcus leans on his few friends to pull off the event. Marcus and his friends seem to dwell in a predominantly if not exclusively white world. Strand stuffs the dialogue full of witty banter, which is at first amusing, but over the course of the book, it gives the impression that each character, including the third-person narrator, is a would-be vaudevillian comic. The result is little depth or differentiation to the characters’ speech, and their endless riffs become annoying rather than endearing. Though the central characters are all high school students, the hit-you-over-the-head humor combined with ridiculous plot elements make the book feel as though it’s written for a much younger audience. Best enjoyed with willfully suspended disbelief and a laugh track. (Fiction. 12-14)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

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Stumbling on History by Fern Schumer Chapman

Stumbling on History: An Art Project Compels a Small German Town to Face Its Past by Fern Schumer Chapman. August 1, 2016. Gussie Rose Press, 56 p. ISBN: 9780996472524.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.4.

“Who will remember?”

Edith Westerfeld, an 89-year-old Holocaust refugee, wonders if the memory of the Nazis murdering her parents, along with millions if other victims, will outlive the survivors. Now — 76 years after Edith’s parents saved their daughter’s life by sending her, alone and terrified, to America — she returns to the small German town where her family had lived for hundreds of years. Invited to witness the installation of a memorial to her family — part of an effort throughout Europe to confront the genocide of World War II — she experiences how art is helping today’s generation face and atone for crimes of the past.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of the Holocaust, Antisemitism, Anti-Romani sentiment, Xenophobia

 

 

About the Author

Critically acclaimed Chicago-based writer Fern Schumer Chapman has written several award-winning books. Her memoir, Motherland — a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and a BookSense76 pick — is a popular choice for book clubs. Her two other books, Is It Night or Day? and Like Finding My Twin, are used in middle and high school classrooms. In 2004, the Illinois Association of Teachers of English (IATE) named Chapman the “Illinois Author of the Year.” Twice, Oprah Winfrey shows have featured her books. Her latest work, Stumbling on History, was released in September 2016.

Her website is fernschumerchapman.com

Teacher Resources

Stumbling on History Teaching Guide

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