All posts by NJBiblio

About NJBiblio

I am a high school district library media specialist/wannabe tech guru who is always looking for new and innovative materials, resources, and ways to help the teachers integrate 21st century materials in their classrooms. I myself am a little bit geek, a little bit nerd, but always proud of it!

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Gen & Dixie by Sara Zarr. April 4, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062434593.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Drugs; Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Though she does reasonably well in school and stays out of trouble, Gem doesn’t have it easy. She is constantly on her mother’s case to be a more responsible parent, which puts her at odds with her sister, Dixie, who enables their mother in more ways than one. When their estranged dad shows up, Dixie is enchanted and Gem is wary, but when they discover a backpack full of money he’s left in their room, Gem and Dixie ditch their phones, run away, and spend a few days—and a few thousand dollars—figuring out what to do next. But will the money really provide Gem the independence she so desperately craves? In this illuminating, graceful novel, Zarr demonstrates how privation can reverberate through many areas of a teen’s life, and nicely emphasizes that problems don’t need to be violent or catastrophic in order for one to ask for help (which, thankfully, Gem eventually does). In addition to the powerful portrayal of poverty, Zarr teases out a moving story of sisters navigating their relationship. In Gem’s measured, worried voice, readers will discover a gulf of difference, even resentment, between the sisters, as well as a deep, affectionate solidarity in their unique circumstances. With a vivid, well-rounded cast of characters, including the adults, and a poignant portrayal of family dynamics, Zarr’s frank, resonant story is both bittersweet and triumphant.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Two sisters attempt to sort out their relationship, which is badly strained by years of living with their troubled and neglectful parents. Seventeen-year-old Gem struggles to get enough to eat each day, eventually resorting to bumming spare change off other students at her Seattle high school. Meanwhile, her 14-year-old sister, Dixie, for whom Gem served as protector when they were younger, is able to charm and flirt her way into free sandwiches, cellphones, and more. Despite their drastic outward differences, neither has any sense of safety or well-being in their tenuous living situation with their mom, who, like their absent dad, battles a substance-use disorder. When their dad suddenly returns, their lives are upended yet again, and a situation arises in which both sisters face many hard decisions. Tough, earnest, angry Gem narrates in a matter-of-fact, confessional tone, filling in the heartbreaking back story of her poor, white family in a pair of brief essays she writes at the behest of her school’s kind, supportive psychologist. Gem’s prickly, agonizingly real internal monologues quickly bring readers into her corner, and her messy, layered interactions with Dixie are heart-wrenching. As the unpredictable turns of events progress, Gem’s quietly growing convictions about her own future are hard-won and nuanced. A poignant and smart family drama with broad appeal. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, and co-author with Tara Altebrando of Roomies. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her novels have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library and have been translated into many languages. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has served as a judge for the National Book Awards. Sara lives in Salt Lake City with her husband.

Her website is www.sarazarr.com.

Around the Web

Gem & Dixie on Amazon

Gem & Dixie on Goodreads

Gem & Dixie on JLG

Gem & Dixie Publisher Page

Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy

Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy. March 28, 2017. Algonquin Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781616206291.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

“Ever wish that you could just fly away?”

When fifteen-year-old Lucy Willows discovers that her father has a child from a brief affair, a eight-year-old boy who lives in her own suburban New Jersey town, she begins to question everything she thinks she knows about her home and her life. How could Lucy’s father have betrayed the entire family? How could her mother forgive him? And why isn’t her sister rocked by the news the way Lucy is?

As her father’s secret becomes her own, Lucy grows more and more isolated from her friends, her family, and even her boyfriend, Simon, the one person she thought understood her. When Lucy escapes to Maine, the home of her mysteriously estranged grandfather, she finally begins to get to the bottom of her family’s secrets and lies.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs

 

Author Interview

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 7-10. When Lucy learns about Thomas, her half brother, she feels betrayed by her dad’s infidelity and her parents’ secrecy. Lucy finds solace in a new relationship with her friend’s older brother, Simon. Meanwhile, her curiosity about Thomas—who lives mere blocks away in her New Jersey town—motivates her to cross paths with him. She freaks out after meeting him, and takes an impromptu trip to visit her grandfather (who is estranged from Lucy’s dad) in Maine. They enjoy several days together before he suffers a ministroke and Lucy’s dad arrives. The first-person narration emphasizes Lucy’s intense reaction to finding out about her father’s other child. This YA debut suffers from an overload of story—a family drama, a romance, a road trip, and a renewed intergenerational relationship. Other flaws include occasional awkward phrasing, a random musing about race that doesn’t fit the overall tone, and a road trip that drags the pace. Strengths of the book include Lucy’s realistic response to her dad’s revelation, as well as other personal connections, and McCarthy’s fame as an actor will add interest.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Fifteen-year-old Lucy’s world is rocked when her father confesses to her and her sister that they have a half brother, the result of a brief affair. Though their mother has been aware of the existence of Thomas, who’s 8 and lives in their same New Jersey town, for many years and has made her peace with her husband’s infidelity, Lucy reels when she learns about him. Her realistically described reaction of fury and indignation builds until she finally embarks on an impulsive road trip without telling her parents, ending up at her larger-than-life grandfather’s house in Maine. This family drama is appealingly narrated in Lucy’s wry, confessional voice, and a romance she stumbles into with her friend’s stoner brother is sweetly fumbling and awkward. All the major characters seem to be white; musings about the ethnicities of various people Lucy encounters while on her clandestine trip, including a passage in which she wonders whether her own implicit bias might be at play in an interaction she has with a black man, underscore her new determination to seek out answers to questions that have gone unasked in her sheltered upbringing. A poignant, character-driven coming-of-age novel that, despite a too-tidy ending, will appeal broadly to teen readers. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Andrew McCarthy is the author of the New York Times bestselling travel memoir, The Longest Way Home. He is an editor at large at National Geographic Traveler magazine. He is also an actor and director. He lives in New York City with his wife, three children, two fish, and one dog. Just Fly Away is his first novel.

His website is www.andrewmccarthy.com.

Around the Web

Just Fly Away on Amazon

Just Fly Away on Goodreads

Just Fly Away on JLG

Just Fly Away Publisher Page

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. February 14, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 234 p. ISBN: 9780525425892.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. It’s the winter break during Marin’s first year at college, and she is facing the holidays thousands of miles from her San Francisco home. Since her grandfather died the previous summer, Marin feels set adrift. Not only has she lost Gramps, her sole caretaker, but he’d been keeping secrets, and when she discovers the truth, it shatters everything she believed was true about her life. Engulfed in pain and feeling alone, she shuns her best friend Mabel’s numerous calls and texts. But Mabel flies cross-country, determined to help her friend deal with her grief. Marin is afraid that Mabel regrets the physical intimacy that had grown between the two girls while she was still in California, and braces herself for more heartache, but Mabel surprises her in more ways than one. With the most delicate and loving strokes in Marin’s first-person narrative, LaCour paints a captivating depiction of loss, bewilderment, and emotional paralysis. Images of the icy winter surrounding Marin in New York contrast sharply with her achingly vibrant memories of San Francisco. Raw and beautiful, this portrait of a girl searching for both herself and a sense of home will resonate with readers of LGBTQIA romances, particularly those with bisexual themes, and the poignant and affecting exploration of grief and betrayal will enchant fans of character-driven fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
“If only lonely were a more accurate word. It should sound much less pretty.” It’s December in New York, and college freshman Marin is in her dorm room, contemplating a solitary monthlong stay after everyone else has left for winter break. Her single respite will be a brief visit from her best friend, Mabel. Marin is dreading the stay for reasons that are revealed in flashbacks: she fled San Francisco without informing anyone after the sudden death of her beloved Gramps, who raised her. Over the course of three days, secrets about Gramps, Marin’s long-dead mother, and the girls’ complicated relationship are revealed in short, exquisite sentences that evoke myriad emotions with a minimum of words. “I must have shut grief out. Found it in books. Cried over fiction instead of the truth. The truth was unconfined, unadorned. There was no poetic language to it, no yellow butterflies, no epic floods.…The truth was vast enough to drown in.” A surprise arrival at story’s end leads to a tearful resolution of Marin’s sorrow and a heartfelt renewal of her relationship with Mabel and her family. Mexican-American Mabel speaks Spanish, while an absence of markers indicates Marin is likely white. An elegantly crafted paean to the cleansing power of truth. (Fiction. 12 & up)

About the Author

Nina LaCour grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her first job was at fourteen in an independent bookstore, and she has since worked in two others. She has tutored and taught in various places, from a juvenile hall to a private college. She now teaches English at an independent high school.

Nina lives in Oakland, California with her wife and their two cute cats.

Her website is www.ninalacour.com.

Around the Web

We Are Okay on Amazon

We Are Okay on Goodreads

We Are Okay on JLG

We Are Okay Publisher Page

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball by Howard Bryant

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball by Howard Bryant. December 20, 2016. Philomel Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780399169052.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 1130.

From Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan to LeBron James to Steph Curry, ESPN’s Howard Bryant presents the best from the hardwood–a collection of NBA champions and superstars for young sports fans! 

Fast-paced, adrenaline-filled, and brimming with out-of-this-world athleticism, basketball has won the hearts of fans all across America—yet it is particularly popular among kids and teens. Giants of the game like Steph Curry, LeBron, and Michael Jordan have transcended the sport to become cultural icons and role models to young fans. From the cornfields of Indiana and the hills of North Carolina, to the urban sprawl of New York City, Chicago and L.A., love of the game stretches from coast to coast.

Featuring Top Ten Lists to chew on and debate, and a Top 40-style Timeline of Key Moments in Basektball History, this comprehensive collection includes the greatest dynasties, from the Bill Russell-era Celtics, to the Magic Jonson-led Lakers, to the Jordan-led Bulls, right up to the Tim Duncan-led Spurs. All the greats take flight toward the hoop in this perfect book for young fans who dream about stepping on an NBA court.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 4-7. Bryant continues his series on the history of professional American sports with a decade-by-decade account of the rise of the NBA (and ABA) from the 1950s to the 2016 Finals this past June. Rather than present a rigidly systematic chronicle or an indigestible barrage of names and statistics, he begins chapters with highlight reels of each era’s leading players and teams and then follows with amplified tributes to select stars of the court, breathless tales of hard fought Finals, rosters of colorful nicknames, and tallies of top 10 teams, players, and epic performances—all with fulsome explanatory comments. Aside from brief glances at drugs and racial issues, the author rarely, if ever, looks past the court action to the players’ private lives or pre- and post-professional careers. Complete basketball newbies will flounder, but readers with a basic grasp of the game’s rules, jargon, and history will find this a trove of awesome athletic feats, game-changing stars of the past and present, and rich fodder for heated arguments.

School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-This latest from ESPN and former Washington Post journalist Bryant alternates among overviews of each decade since the 1960s, profiles of particular players or accounts of high-profile matchups, and themed “Top 10” lists. It lends itself well to browsing, though the format also leads to frequent repetition as the same facts surface in multiple accounts. Along the way, readers learn about the founding of the American Basketball Association and its merging with the National Basketball Association in 1976, as well as the changes to the game in the face of public image problems in the early 1980s, and many long-running rivalries, especially those between the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers. A huge number of great names are highlighted, including Bill Russell of the Celtics, the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas, and Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson. An entire chapter is dedicated to the storied career of Michael Jordan, including his six national championships, an Olympic gold medal with the 1992 “Dream Team,” and two years playing Minor League Baseball after the shooting death of his father. Bryant’s history continues through LeBron James’s triumphant championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though plenty of historical narrative is provided, much of the text consists of statistics-heavy description of play; this book is definitely aimed at the basketball junkie. VERDICT An easy hook for serious sports fans seeking an exploration of the history of basketball.-Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

About the Author

Howard Bryant is a multi-award-winning author; sports journalist; and radio and television personality with ESPN and NPR. He is the author of the LEGENDS series for young readers; Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in BostonThe Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron; and Juicing the Game. The only two-time winner of the prestigious Casey Award for baseball writing, Howard is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, appears frequently on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and on ESPN Radio, and is a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition.

His website is www.HowardBryant.net.

Around the Web

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball on Amazon

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball on Goodreads

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball on JLG

Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball Publisher Page

Frank by LJ Alonge

Frank by LJ Alonge. February 21, 2017. Grosset & Dunlap, 128 p. ISBN: 9780451533593.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 690.

An action-packed basketball series from author LJ Alonge set on the courts of Oakland, CA.

Frank’s not great at staying out of trouble. He’s also not great at driving cars. After his joyride ends in a crash, he’s stuck with a court-appointed Community Mentor for the summer.

But it’s not too bad. Officer Appleby’s all right. And if anyone can handle a basketball team, a police officer, and a new girl on the horizon, it’s Frank Torres.

Sequel to: Janae

Part of Series: Blacktop

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

About the Author

LJ Alonge has played pick-up basketball in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, Kenya, South Africa and Australia. Basketball’s always helped him learn about his community, settle conflicts, and make friends from all walks of life. He’s never intimidated by the guy wearing a headband and arm sleeve; those guys usually aren’t very good. As a kid, he dreamed of dunking from the free throw line. Now, his favorite thing to do is make bank shots. Don’t forget to call “bank!”

Around the Web

Frank on Amazon

Frank on Goodreads

Frank on JLG

Frank Publisher Page

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail. February 27, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780670013081.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3;l Lexile: 620.

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.

It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.

It s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Eighth-grader Gracie is certain that she likes A.J., but when she learns he likes her best friend, Sienna, she goes all out to help the two get together. She texts him on Sienna’s phone for her as if she were Sienna, and she consults with Emmett, A.J.’s best friend and her neighbor. Emmett and Gracie have been best buds since they were little, and there’s nothing they won’t do for each other. But when Gracie turns 14, she’s not certain if she can handle some of the shifts and changes that begin to take place. This modern, middle-school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is heartwarming, funny, and tender, offering a story of young love and loyalty, friendship and family. Characters are pitch-perfect for middle-school musings and milieu: a whirlwind of activity and emotional confusion that is the bane and fuel of any early teen’s existence. Call it cute, call it clever—Vail fluently captures the spirit of today’s American middle-schoolers. See Kristina Springer’s Cici Reno (2016) for another tween take on Cyrano.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
As eighth grade comes to a close and her fourteenth birthday approaches, Gracie Grant discovers she has a problem. Out of the blue, Gracie realizes she like-likes longtime and suddenly very attractive classmate AJ Rojanasopondist. But that’s not the problem. AJ like-likes someone, as well–Gracie’s best friend, Sienna. Despite nursing a mild heartache, Gracie sincerely tries to be happy for her bestie, so much so that when Sienna panics about what to say to AJ in a text, Gracie helps compose it for her. Then she writes anotherâç¦and another, until eventually Sienna hands over her phone, and all texting of AJ, to Gracie. As their correspondence unfolds, Gracie is surprised by AJ’s sense of humor, which feels oddly familiar–kind of like Gracie’s close friend Emmett. Guilt over playing Cyrano to Sienna’s Christian, exacerbated by complex family dynamics (Gracie’s sister died as a young child) and Gracie’s tendency to overthink things, makes her prone to brief but intense emotional outbursts and moments of painful awkwardness in nearly all of her relationships. Gracie’s breakneck narration is presented in and out of text messages, folding in an effortlessly diverse cast, including Latina Sienna and Filipino-Israeli Emmett. Through her protagonist’s rollicking commentary, Vail captures the anguish and hilarity at the heart of middle school. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Rachel Vail is the author of children’s books including Justin Case, Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, and Righty and Lefty. She is also the author of several books for teens and middle grade readers, including If We Kiss, You Maybe, Gorgeous, Wonder, and Never Mind, which she wrote with Avi. Vail was born in New York City and grew up in New Rochelle, NY, just down the street from her future husband, though she didn’t know that until much later. She attended Georgetown University, where she earned her B.A. in English and Theater. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.rachelvail.com.

Around the Web

Well, That Was Awkward on Amazon

Well, That Was Awkward on Goodreads

Well, That Was Awkward on JLG

Well, That Was Awkward Publisher Page

Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan

Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan. April 25, 2017. Candlewick, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763690342.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life and the promise of love emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s.

And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Underage drinking; One instance of strong language; Characters offered marijuana and they declined

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 7-12. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley has a rich and contented life. Tiny Bayou Perdu, a shrimping and fishing town in Louisiana, offers all she needs: best friends, family, salt air, gumbo, and pure peace when she’s on the water. During a local festival, she meets Tru, a Vietnamese boy she can’t get out of her mind; but shortly thereafter, Hurricane Katrina forces evacuation. Chaos and destruction push them away, as the Rileys seek refuge with an aunt in Atlanta. There Evangeline feels lost and restless, craving home and the familiar, while her family struggles to rebuild their lives. When she and Tru discover they attend the same high school with other Katrina “refugees,” they forge an unbreakable bond. However, life remains unstable for them both, and when Evangeline’s family is given a FEMA trailer back home, not everyone in the Riley family wants to return. O’Sullivan’s debut novel excels in its expressive language and the use of place: a colorful home, a city that contrasts with the one Evangeline lost, and the aftermath of the storm that destroyed almost everything she holds dear. Told in a strong, purposeful voice filled with controlled emotion and hope, the impact of Katrina on families is as compelling as Evangeline’s drive to regain her sense of self and belonging.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Heartache and deracination wrapped in the lyrical sigh of an epic poem unfold into one girl’s story of struggle, devastation, and survival. O’Sullivan’s soulful debut follows the Beauchamp clan of Bayou Perdu from the days before Hurricane Katrina scattered the shores of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast to the aftermath that turned natives into refugees and temporary shelters into homes. Evangeline, a “white, mostly” Cajun girl, loves the tiny speck of paradise she and her family inhabit 66 miles from New Orleans. What separates Evangeline’s story from the myriad others that have come and gone in the wake of one of the nation’s worst natural disasters is O’Sullivan’s deft lyricism. One minute, Evangeline is just a girl managing her crush on Vietnamese-American shrimper and musician Tru, a girl who loves where she lives and doesn’t yearn for much else. Then the swirling white blur on the weather forecast stirs up sediment and trees and lives and hopes and tomorrows. Evangeline and her family go from lifetime residents of a close-knit fishing community to refugees in landlocked Atlanta. Displaced, confused, and resentful, the Beauchamps are adrift. O’Sullivan pairs the ache of her Evangeline with the anguish felt by the Acadian protagonists of the famous Longfellow poem. O’Sullivan’s light touch and restraint will allow readers to follow Evangeline as she stands howling into the wind that howled into her. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Joanne O’Sullivan is a journalist for the Asheville Citizen-Times. She lived in New Orleans for several years and returns to southern Louisiana frequently. Between Two Skies is her debut novel. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and children.

Her website is www.joanneosullivan.com.

Around the Web

Between Two Skies on Amazon

Between Two Skies on Goodreads

Between Two Skies on JLG

Between Two Skies Publisher Page

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams. March 14, 2017. Groundwood Books, 241 p. ISBN: 9781554989416.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

The Guy decides to have a house party while his parents are out of town. The Girl is adjusting to life in a new country. The Artist has discovered that forgery is a lucrative business. And his Ex, mother of his baby, is just trying to make ends meet.

As Guy, a feckless high-school senior, plans the party of the year, Rafi worries about her mother, who is still grieving over the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother back in Bolivia and haunted by the specter of La Llorona, the weeping ghost who steals children.

Meanwhile, Rafi’s uncle is an art dealer involved in a scheme to steal one of the most famous paintings in the world, but he needs the forgery skills of Luke, a talented artist who has just split up with his girlfriend, Penny, who wants nothing more than to get him back to be a proper father to Joshie, the baby Rafi babysits.

Engaging, provocative, darkly humorous and fast-paced, with a shocking and near-tragic ending, when Rafi’s mother’s grief tips over into mental illness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Attempted infanticide

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. The titular guy is a teenage guy named, well, Guy. The girl is Rafi, who lives with her single-parent mother, who has never recovered from the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother. The mother blames La Llorona, the weeping woman of Latin legend, for the death. The artist is Luke—and a successful artist, too. And the ex is Penny, the erstwhile partner of the artist and mother of their baby son. These characters are fleshed out through flashbacks, and then connections are established as the narrative moves from one to the next. Finally they all become involved in one way or another with the theft of an invaluable Picasso painting called—what else?—The Weeping Woman. Then what had started almost as a lark turns serious, even potentially tragic, and readers will find themselves in sudden suspense. Williams does an excellent job of making that transition and subsequently ginning up page-turning excitement. A sophisticated entertainment, this book has intrinsic appeal to adult readers as well as its primary teen target.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
The lives of four young people intersect in unexpected ways as the result of a spectacular art heist in Melbourne. In August 1986, a valuable Picasso painting is stolen off the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria and held for ransom. In alternating third-person chapters, readers learn that Luke, the talented young Artist with his star on the rise, is involved in a plot to steal the painting and return a forgery in its place. He also happens to be the Bastard Ex of Penny, a white 23-year-old trying to raise their baby, Joshie, on her own. Penny lives next door to Rafi, the Girl, a 17-year-old dealing with the eccentricities of her grieving mother, who never got over the drowning death of Rafi’s younger brother in their home country of Bolivia. And who is the Guy (his name as well as his role)? Guy is a white high school senior who unwittingly throws the biggest party of the year, which sets into motion a series of events that gets him mixed up with the lives of the Girl, the Artist, and the Ex. This fully realized cast of characters is rounded out by a supporting cast of sympathetic friends and family, all flawed in their own ways. Williams’ prose is wise, knowing, and sympathetic, her tag-team story moving along at a steady clip toward a heart-thumping climax and a satisfying denouement. A winning, offbeat romp for all ages. (Fiction. 15 & up)

About the Author

Gabrielle Williams has worked in advertising, recording studios and television. Her first YA novel, Beatle Meets Destiny, was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and was named a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth.

Her website is www.bookbookblogblog.com.

Around the Web

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on Amazon

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on Goodreads

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on JLG

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex Publisher Page

Alexander Hamilton by Teri Kanefield

Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield. March 7, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 208 p. ISBN: 9781419725784.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

The America that Alexander Hamilton knew was largely agricultural and built on slave labor. He envisioned something else: a multi-racial, urbanized, capitalistic America with a strong central government. He believed that such an America would be a land of opportunity for the poor and the newcomers. But Hamilton’s vision put him at odds with his archrivals who envisioned a pastoral America of small towns, where governments were local, states would control their own destiny, and the federal government would remain small and weak.

The disputes that arose during America’s first decades continued through American history to our present day. Over time, because of the systems Hamilton set up and the ideas he left, his vision won out. Here is the story that epitomizes the American dream—a poor immigrant who made good in America. In the end, Hamilton rose from poverty through his intelligence and ability, and did more to shape our country than any of his contemporaries.

Related subjects and concepts discussed in the book include:

Law and Legal Concepts
Due process
Bill of Rights
Freedom of Speech and the Press
Originalism / nonoriginalism (theories of Constitutional interpretation)

Government
Checks and Balances
Democracy
Electoral College
Republic

Financial Concepts
Capitalism
Credit
Inflation
Interest
Mercantilism
Securities: Stocks and Bonds
Tariffs
Taxes

Miscellaneous
Demagogues
Dueling
Pastoralism

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
The contributions and eventful life of founding father Alexander Hamilton are examined and explained.The enthusiasm for Broadway hit and cultural phenomenon Hamilton, The Musical shows little signs of abating, and its popular cast album has generated interest in the country’s first treasury secretary among all ages. This brief biography seeks to answer questions about the talented founding father whose background was so unlike those of his peers. Beginning and ending with Hamilton’s duel with then–Vice President Aaron Burr, the remainder follows his life, focusing on many of the highlights that brought him to prominence. Of course, his efforts to determine the country’s economic system and the rivalry they spawned with Thomas Jefferson are prominent. Kanefield provides necessary context for the differing worldviews of the two men, cogently explaining the strong distrust between growing mercantile interests and the planter class. In much the same way, she compares the similarities between Hamilton and Burr as well as the political differences that eventually drove them to the duel. Given the target audience, there is no mention of the sex scandal that tarnished Hamilton’s public reputation, but there is some sense of his complicated personality. The strength of the book is the generous use of Hamilton’s own words, including a section with samples of his writings. Illustrations and sidebars add clarity to the readable narrative. A solid introduction to a charismatic founding father. (timeline, chapter notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly Annex (February 13, 2017)
Well-timed to tap into ongoing Hamilton-mania, Kanefield (The Extraordinary Suzy Wright) revisits America’s formative years in a lucid biography that illuminates the personality and politics of Alexander Hamilton, spotlighting his role in shaping the structure of the U.S. government and economy. Disinherited and shunned due to his illegitimate birth at a time when birthright paved one’s way to success, Hamilton emigrated from the island of St. Croix to New York City, determined to improve his financial and social status and find fame through his own achievements. Kanefield credibly reveals how Hamilton’s intelligence, high self-expectations, commitment to his beliefs, and skills as an orator and writer fueled his advocacy of a strong central government rooted in mercantilism and manufacturing. Details about Hamilton’s complex relationships with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson offer insight into the ideologies and character of all three statesmen, and add additional human dimension to this portrait of this nation’s beginnings. Excerpts from Hamilton’s writings, period art, and sidebars defining historical, political, and legislative terms further enhance this absorbing chronicle. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)

About the Author

Teri writes novels, short stories, essays, stories for children, nonfiction for both children and adults, and lots of appellate briefs.

Her stories and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Scope Magazine, The Iowa Review, Cricket Magazine, and The American Literary Review.

Teri’s law practice is limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings.

She lives in California near the beach.

Her website is www.terikanefield.com.

Teacher Resources

Alexander Hamilton “Grab and Go” Teaching Resources

Around the Web

Alexander Hamilton on Amazon

Alexander Hamilton on Goodreads

Alexander Hamilton on JLG

Alexander Hamilton Publisher Page

Girl Rising by Tanya Lee Stone

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone. February 14, 2017. Wendy Lamb Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780553511475.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

Worldwide, over 62 million girls are not in school.
But one girl with courage is a revolution.

Girl Rising, a global campaign for girls’ education, created a film that chronicled the stories of nine girls in the developing world, allowing viewers the opportunity to witness how education can break the cycle of poverty.

Now, award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone deftly uses new research to illuminate the dramatic facts behind the film, focusing both on the girls captured on camera and many others. She examines barriers to education in depth—early child marriage and childbearing, slavery, sexual trafficking, gender discrimination, and poverty—and shows how removing these barriers means not only a better life for girls, but safer, healthier, and more prosperous communities.

With full-color photos from the film, infographics, and a compelling narrative, Girl Rising will inspire readers of all ages to join together in a growing movement to help change the world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Human trafficking; Sexual violence and slavery; Murder and genocide; Child brides; Harsh realities of poverty

 

Film Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Much more than a companion volume to the 2013 semidocumentary of the same title, which portrayed nine girls around the globe overcoming daunting barriers to obtain an education, this vibrant book stands on its own as a source of inspiration. Going into greater detail than is possible in a cinematic format, the author tells the girls’ backstories with empathy and grace; she also provides heartening updates and illuminates the context of the struggle. In 50 countries, education is not free, and in many of these, education for girls is viewed as, at best, inessential, at worst, anathema—60 million girls receive limited or no schooling. Instead, they are required to work: in some of the cases described here, they’re sold very young by their families as virtual slaves (restaveks in Haiti, kamlari in Nepal). Child marriage—14 million cases yearly worldwide—represents essentially the same script. The closing chapter is a call to activism, and close-up full-color photos of the girls profiled will let young readers connect even more. Some of the stories contained here are perhaps too strong for younger readers, although it was a seven-year-old girl in Toronto who came up with the notion of Pencil Mountain, which ships school supplies to Ethiopia. Readers may be moved to initiate projects of their own.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
Although unfortunate circumstances in developing countries prevent girls from getting educations, nevertheless they remain resilient. Sibert Medalist Stone begins by explaining how the documentary Girl Rising inspired a book that further amplifies and explores the heartbreaking and inspiring stories of girls around the globe who are advocating for access to and freedom of education. Collected from over 45 hours of raw video interview footage, direct quotes from women and girls unveil a distressing web of hardships for girls as young as 5 and the unjust factors that prevent them from bettering their lives: poverty, human trafficking, modern-day slavery, child marriage, and, perhaps the most prevalent, gender discrimination. Around the world, the book zooms in on the struggles of girls from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone, among other countries. Both portraits and documentary-style photographs are numerous, and infographic designs will appeal to younger readers. Stone’s passionate, deliberate, and compelling narrative explores the culture of gender discrimination and induces a sense of urgency for a solution. The recounted interviews offer insight, candor, and emotion, sparing readers little.A moving account of hardships and triumphs that is bound to inspire future activists, this is a devastating but crucial read. (author’s note, appendix, bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Tanya Lee Stone is an award-winning author of books for kids and teens. Her work, which includes YA fiction (A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl), picture books (Elizabeth Leads the Way and Sandy’s Circus), and nonfiction (Almost Astronauts and The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie) has won national awards such as the ALA’s Sibert Medal, SCBWI’s Golden Kite Award, YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, Jane Addams Book Award Honor, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, NCTE’s Orbus Pictus, and Bank Street’s Flora Steiglitz Award. 

Her website is www.tanyastone.com.

Teacher Resources

Girl Rising Educator’s Guide

Girl Rising Full Curriculum

Around the Web

Girl Rising on Amazon

Girl Rising on Goodreads

Girl Rising on JLG

Girl Rising Publisher Page