Tag Archives: family life

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. September 5, 2017. Scribner, 285 p. ISBN: 9781501126062.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 840.

An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Clinical description of slaughtering an animal

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Jojo, 13, and his 3-year-old sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, while their mother, Leonie, struggles with drug addiction and her failures as a daughter, mother, and inheritor of a gift (or curse) that connects her to spirits. Leonie insists that Jojo and Kayla accompany her on a two-day journey to the infamous Parchman prison to retrieve their white father. Their harrowing experiences are bound up in unresolved and reverberating racial and family tensions and entanglements: long-buried memories of Pop’s time in Parchman, the imminent death of Mam from cancer, and the slow dawning of the children’s own spiritual gifts. Ward alternates perspectives to tell the story of a family in rural Mississippi struggling mightily to hold themselves together as they are assailed by ghosts reflecting all the ways humans create cruelty and suffering. In her first novel since the National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones (2011), Ward renders richly drawn characters, a strong sense of place, and a distinctive style that is at once down-to-earth and magical.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
Ward (Men We Reaped, 2013, etc.) follows her excellent, National Book Award–winning novel Salvage the Bones with her third book-length work of fiction, a searching study of all the ways in which people damage each other, sometimes without meaning to.Leonie, a young African-American woman, lives in the eternal childhood of addiction and dependency; her life revolves around trying to escape from herself, which is no help to her children, one a toddler named Kayla, the other a 13-year-old boy named Jojo. The three live with Leonie’s parents, the gruff but tender grandfather a font of country wisdom (“Goats is mean and pigs is smarter than you think. And they vicious too”), the grandmother steadily being eaten alive by an aggressive cancer. “Each time Leonie told me something mean, Mam would tell her to leave me alone,” a grateful Jojo recounts, devastated to see his mother hollowed by her illness. Clearly the older couple cannot take care of the children, but when Leonie’s white boyfriend is released from prison—Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm, no less—things go from bad to worse. It’s not necessarily that the drugged-out couple is evil, but that they can’t take care of themselves, much less anyone else, leaving the children to their own resources—and, as the story progresses, Ward makes clear that those resources are considerable, just as Leonie, who is haunted by the ghost of her dead brother, realizes that she has been dealt a hand that, while tragic, is simply part of the business of life: “Growing up out here in the country taught me things,” she thinks. “Taught me that after the first fat flush of life, time eats away at things: it rusts machinery, it matures animals to become hairless and featherless, and it withers plants.” Time doesn’t improve most people, either: it leads them into adulthood, makes them mean and violent and untrustworthy, all lessons the kids must learn the hard way. Though rough and cheerless, Ward’s book commemorates the resilience of children, who, as in the kindred film Beasts of the Southern Wild, are perforce wise beyond their years. Not as strong as its predecessor, but expertly written all the same, proving Ward’s position at the forefront of modern Southern letters.

About the Author

Jesmyn Ward is the author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Men We Reaped. She is a former Stegner Fellow (Stanford University) and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is an associate professor of Creative Writing at Tulane University.

Her work has appeared in BOMB, A Public Space and The Oxford American.

Teacher Resources

Sing, Unburied, Sing Reading Guide

Around the Web

Sing, Unburied, Sing on Amazon

Sing, Unburied, Sing on JLG

Sing, Unburied, Sing on Goodreads

Sing, Unburied, Sing Publisher Page

 

 

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Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren. November 28, 2017. Tor Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9780765386281.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Freddy wants desperately to not be noticed. She doesn’t want to be seen as different or unusual, but her step-brother Roland gets attention because he’s deaf, and her little sister Mel thinks she’s a private detective. All Freddy wants to do is navigate high school with as little trouble as possible.

Then someone moves into the house on Grosvenor Street. Two extremely odd someones.

Cuerva Lachance and Josiah aren’t . . . normal. When they move in next door, the house begins to exhibit some decidedly strange tendencies, like not obeying the laws of physics or reality. Just as Freddy thinks she’s had enough of Josiah following her around, she’s plunged into an adventure millennia in the making and discovers the truth about the new neighbors.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2017)
A Canadian teenager learns about herself—and the fabric of the universe—when she goes traveling in time with an immortal 14-year-old.Freddy Duchamp is uncertain where she fits in at high school, especially since her only two friends are about to dump her in a bid for popularity. But her attempt to survive by flying under the radar is utterly torpedoed by her strange new neighbor and classmate, Josiah, who seems determined to provoke attention and anger at every opportunity. Surviving high school soon becomes beside the point when Freddy finds herself traveling in time with Josiah, thanks to Josiah’s even weirder housemate, Cuerva Lachance. Josiah and Cuerva Lachance are actually immortal forces representing order and chaos respectively. They’re balanced out by an endlessly reincarnating mortal known as Three, who must choose between the other two in each time period. Apparently, either Freddy, her clever younger sister, Mel, or her sullen, geeky stepbrother, Roland, is the incarnation of Three in Freddy’s time, but the two immortals aren’t certain which of them it is. As Freddy traverses the past and future, she becomes ever more convinced that there’s more to Three and the choice than Josiah and Cuerva Lachance are willing to reveal. Time travel is a tricky trope to make consistent, but Maaren employs it deftly. Her teenage characters are incredibly plausible. In contrast, it seems odd that Freddy’s mother and stepfather could truly be as absent as they seem; it is possible (and sad), but it mostly feels like yet another trope: in order to have adventures, you have to get the parents out of the way. This debut novel could easily be pigeonholed as YA, and certainly those in that age group will gravitate to it, but adults shouldn’t hesitate to dive in, too. A charming, extraordinarily relatable book with the potential to become a timeless classic.

Library Journal (November 15, 2017)
Like any teenager with an eccentric family, Freddy Duchamp just wants to get through high school as an ordinary student, but her precocious little sister Mel, who wants to be a detective, and deaf stepbrother Roland, who’s a huge geek, aren’t much help. However, when a van crash next door leads them to meeting their new neighbors Cuerva Lachance and Josiah, any attempt at normalcy gets thrown out the window. Even odder is their house, just barely larger than a TARDIS (the time-traveling machine of the British Doctor Who), which suddenly whisks Freddy away with the neighbors-thousands of years into the past. Maaren’s characters are by turns charming, annoying, and frequently hilarious. The quick pace and dialog may remind readers of Madeleine L’Engle or Jasper Fforde, making the protagonists timeless in their own way. VERDICT With definite YA crossover appeal but enough action and intrigue for adults, Maaren’s enchanting debut is for anyone who enjoys stretching their imagination or is nostalgic for their teenage years.-KC

About the Author

Kari Maaren is a Canadian writer, cartoonist, and musician who lives in Toronto with a large collection of musical instruments and a larger collection of books. Her first novel, a YA science fantasy entitled Weave a Circle Round, will be coming out from Tor in the fall of 2017.

She also has a completed webcomic, West of Bathurst, and a new one, It Never Rains. West of Bathurst has been immortalised in an enormous print collection that is heavy enough to use as a weapon. Her two albums, Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off and Everybody Hates Elves, are geeky in nature. She has won Aurora Awards for her music and comics.

Kari teaches English courses at the university level. She is currently waving at the students who have just done searches on her name. Her website is karimaaren.com.

Around the Web

Weave a Circle Round on Amazon

Weave a Circle Round on Goodreads

Weave a Circle Round on JLG

Weave a Circle Round Publisher Page

Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco. September 19, 2017. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 326 p. ISBN: 9780385754026.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 880.

Rosie’s led a charmed life with her loving dad, who runs the town donut shop. It’s true her mother abandoned them when Rosie was just a baby, but her dad’s all she’s ever needed. But now that her father’s had a stroke, Rosie lives with her tough-as-nails grandfather. And her beloved dog, Gloaty Gus, has just gone missing.

Rosie’s determined to find him. With the help of a new friend and her own determination, she’ll follow the trail anywhere . . . no matter where it leads. If she doesn’t drive the whole world crazy in the meantime.

Kimberly Newton Fusco’s tender story brings to life a feisty, unsinkable, unstoppable, unforgettable girl who knows she’s a fighter . . . if she can only figure out who’s already on her side.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2017)
Could Rosie’s life be much worse?While still a baby, she was abandoned by her emotionally distant mother to the care of Rosie’s father, so she could “make something of herself.” He and her “big lug” of a dog, Augustus, were all a girl could need. But a year ago, her father suffered a disabling stroke, and her mother returned home just long enough to give her dog away. In the far-from-tender care of her grumpy, bewildered, but loving paternal grandfather—and under the threat of being taken away by her mother—Rosie has spent the past year desperately searching for her dog, thinking of little else. Her gripping, animated narrative—she’s given to employing medieval-style curses she and her papa have invented—is spun out across a dismal landscape of struggling but colorful and richly developed (though mostly default white) characters. There’s Phillippe, neglected by his mentally unstable mother, constantly hiding within a giant overcoat, and now in Mrs. Salvatore’s loud but tender foster care; Cynthia, another neglected child, who can rarely stop talking; a mute, outsider woman, Swanson, who has an undeservedly fearsome reputation; and Mr. Peterson, a teacher who could make all the difference if Rosie would let him. Ultimately, it’s Rosie’s heart and determined spirit that see her through to a hopeful, well-deserved resolution. God’s bones! Magnificent. (Fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (June 1, 2017)
Gr 3-5-Rosie has had a very difficult year. That’s what her fifth grade teacher writes in the comment section of her report card, and it’s true. Until now, Rosie has lived a charmed existence with her doughnut shop-owning, book-loving father and her very bad (but very lovable) dog, Augustus. But then one terrible day, her father has a stroke and Rosie is forced to live with her tough-as-nails, anchovy-eating grandfather. Things become even more unbearable when her estranged mother makes a quick trip from California to get Rosie’s life in order-and gives away Rosie’s beloved Augustus and won’t reveal where she sent him. As Rosie embarks on a relentless quest in search of her BFF, she encounters obstacles (her prickly grandpa, her rickety and dangerous bicycle, and the swirling grit that blows through the sandpit-ridden town where she lives), with little help from others. But Rosie won’t quit, and her journey takes her to unexpected places. Readers’ hearts will ache along with Rosie’s as she struggles to find not only her dog but also love and belonging in her harsh surroundings. The slow pace may test readers’ patience. But where the novel may lag in plot, it makes up for in character, with a fleet of unforgettable personalities who both guide and thwart Rosie. VERDICT This heartfelt tale with a rewarding ending will appeal to young fans of Kate DiCamillo, Holly Goldberg Sloan, and Jennifer Holm. Recommended for libraries serving middle grade readers.-Laura Lintz, Henrietta Public Library, Rochester, NY

About the Author

Kimberly Newton Fusco is the author of three other novels, Tending to Grace, The Wonder of Charlie Anne, and Beholding Bee, which garnered many accolades. Before becoming a novelist, she was an award-winning reporter and editor for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Ms. Fusco lives in Foster, Rhode Island, with her family.  Her website is www.kimberlynewtonfusco.com

Around the Web

Chasing Augustus on Amazon

Chasing Augustus on Goodreads

Chasing Augustus on JLG

Chasing Augustus Publisher Page

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey

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

I’m never going outside again. 

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

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

Around the Web

Love and Other Alien Experiences on Amazon

Love and Other Alien Experiences on Goodreads

Love and Other Alien Experiences on JLG

Love and Other Alien Experiences Publisher Page

The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle

The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle. September 5, 2017. Blink, 304 p. ISBN: 9780310758518.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Child abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Emilie Day, who has epilepsy, delights in her secluded world and spends most days with her service dog, Hitch, in her home, away from society. Her world is shaken when her mother forces her to attend public school in order to meet people. Once at school, Emilie makes a few friends and instantly develops feelings for another classmate, Chatham. Despite this, Emilie conceals her epilepsy from them. When her worst fear comes true, Emilie has to decide if her hope for living is stronger than her desire to retreat back into her secluded world. Hoyle’s debut is one of substantial emotion, and readers will be plunged into Emilie’s perspective from the very start. Emilie is strong and witty; Chatham, however, seems too good to be true. Still, young readers will relish the immediate romantic attraction between the two. Similar to Leanne Lieberman’s The Most Dangerous Thing (2017), this novel has a lot going for it that plenty of readers will appreciate: emotion, humor, and romance.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
A teenager with epilepsy who has recently lost her father to cancer overcomes the depression induced by grief and illness as she acclimates to attending public school for the first time in several years and finds a boyfriend.Home-schooled and reluctant to engage with strangers, Emilie spends her spare time reading, cuddling with her therapy dog, Hitch, and playing board games with Cindy, her 8-year-old neighbor. Forced to begin classes at the local high school, Emilie is determined to remain aloof. A smart, creative girl named Ayla and a hot (and very nice) boy named Chatham befriend her, making it hard to stay distant and self-contained. Conflicts with her mother, who is just beginning to date, and concern about the potential embarrassment of having a seizure at school further complicate Emilie’s life. Miserable and self-absorbed, Emilie is exceedingly articulate. Indeed, her first-person narration sometimes sounds older than her years, particularly when describing her crush. Extended metaphors abound, most involving water. That’s logical given the Outer Banks setting and Emilie’s fears, but they slow the flow of the plot and contribute to the not entirely believable tone. Emilie seems to be white, and so does her world, aside from the occasional student of color. Smoothly written and packed with (perhaps too many) challenging issues, Hoyle’s debut may feel a bit glib and predictable to some readers; others will swoon over the dreamy Chatham and root for Emilie to come out of her shell. (Romance. 14-16)

About the Author

McCall Hoyle writes honest YA novels about friendship, first love, and girls finding the strength to overcome great challenges. She is a high school English teacher. Her own less-than-perfect teenage experiences and those of the girls she teaches inspire many of the struggles in her books. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with her family and their odd assortment of pets—a food-obsessed beagle, a grumpy rescue cat, and a three-and-a-half-legged kitten. She has an English degree from Columbia College and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. She lives in a cottage in the woods in North Georgia where she reads and writes every day.

Her website is mccallhoyle.com

Around the Web

The Thing With Feathers on Amazon

The Thing With Feathers on Goodreads

The Thing With Feathers on JLG

The Thing With Feathers Publisher Page

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway by Jeff Kinney. November 7, 2017. Harry N. Abrams, 224 p. ISBN: 9781419725456.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.6.

Greg Heffley and his family are getting out of town.

With the cold weather and the stress of the approaching holiday season, the Heffleys decide to escape to a tropical island resort for some much-needed rest and relaxation. A few days in paradise should do wonders for Greg and his frazzled family.

But the Heffleys soon discover that paradise isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Sun poisoning, stomach troubles, and venomous critters all threaten to ruin the family’s vacation. Can their trip be saved, or will this island getaway end in disaster?

Sequel to: Double Down

Part of series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Jeff Kinney is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and a six-time Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award winner for Favorite Book. Jeff has been named one of Timemagazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He is also the creator of Poptropica, which was named one of Time magazine’s 50 Best Websites. He spent his childhood in the Washington, D.C., area and moved to New England in 1995.

Jeff lives with his wife and two sons in Plainville, Massachusetts, where they own a bookstore, An Unlikely Story.

Her website is www.wimpykid.com

Around the Web

The Getaway on Amazon

The Getaway on Goodreads

The Getaway on JLG

The Getaway Publisher Page

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson. September 5, 2017. Dial Books, 248 p. ISBN: 9780525429982.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.6.

The author of Roller Girl is back with a graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and the Renaissance Faire.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Body humor, Bullying, Discussion of sex

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 4-7. After years of homeschooling, Imogene is excited to start public school for the first time. Plus, she finally gets to perform in the Renaissance faire, where her mom has a shop (or, shoppe) and her dad plays a knight. Imogene doesn’t have much trouble sliding into her new role at the faire, but middle school is another story. Rules about who to sit with, what to wear, and how to fit in are confounding, especially when she’s getting some seriously mixed messages from the popular girls in her class and realizing how different her family is. Jamieson’s appealing, naturalistic artwork, full of warm tones, realistic-looking characters, and saturated colors, playfully incorporates medieval imagery along with Imogene’s more mundane homelife, particularly when Imogene fears that her misbehavior at home, thanks to frustrations at school, makes her more of a dragon than a knight. Jamieson masterfully taps into the voice and concerns of middle-schoolers, and the offbeat setting of the Renaissance faire adds some lively texture. Kids who loved Jamieson’s Roller Girl (2015) will adore this one, too.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2017)
A home-schooled squireling sallies forth to public school, where the woods turn out to be treacherous and dragons lie in wait.Imogene Vega has grown up among “faire-mily”; her brown-skinned dad is the resident evil knight at a seasonal Renaissance faire, her lighter-skinned mom is in charge of a gift shop, and other adult friends play various costumed roles. As a freshly minted “squire,” she happily charges into new weekend duties helping at jousts, practicing Elizabethan invective (“Thou lumpish reeling-ripe jolt-head!” “Thou loggerheaded rump-fed giglet!”), and keeping younger visitors entertained. But she loses her way when cast among crowds of strangers in sixth grade. Along with getting off on the wrong foot academically, she not only becomes a target of mockery after clumsy efforts to join a clique go humiliatingly awry, but alienates potential friends (and, later, loving parents and adoring little brother too). Amid stabs of regret she wonders whether she’s more dragon than knight. In her neatly drawn sequential panels, Newbery honoree Jamieson (Roller Girl, 2015) portrays a diverse cast of expressive, naturally posed figures occupying two equally immersive worlds. In the end Imogene wins the day in both, proving the mettle of her brave, decent heart in finding ways to make better choices and chivalric amends for her misdeeds. Readers will cheer her victories, wince at her stumbles, and likely demand visits to the nearest faire themselves to sample the wares and fun. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Victoria Jamieson is the creator of the Newbery Honor winner Roller Girl. She received her BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked as a children’s book designer before moving to Portland, Oregon and becoming a freelance illustrator. She has also worked as a portrait artist aboard a cruise ship, and has lived in Australia, Italy, and Canada. She maintains a not-so-secret identity as Winnie the Pow, skater with the Rose City Rollers roller derby league and has a not-so-secret past as a Renaissance Faire groupie.

Her website is www.victoriajamieson.com

Around the Web

All’s Faire in Middle School on Amazon

All’s Faire in Middle School on Goodreads

All’s Faire in Middle School on JLG

All’s Faire in Middle School Publisher Page

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody. August 8, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 464 p. ISBN: 9780374380762.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

A fresh and funny novel about how one different choice could change everything.

Three years ago, Kennedy Rhodes secretly made the most important decision of her life. She declined her acceptance to the prestigious Windsor Academy to attend the local public school with her longtime crush, who had finally asked her out. It seems it was the right choice―she and Austin are still together, and Kennedy is now the editor in chief of the school’s award-winning newspaper. But then Kennedy’s world is shattered one evening when she walks in on Austin kissing her best friend, and she wonders if maybe her life would have been better if she’d made the other choice. As fate would have it, she’s about to find out . . .

The very next day, Kennedy falls and hits her head and mysteriously awakes as a student at the Windsor Academy. And not just any student: Kennedy is at the top of her class, she’s popular, she has the coolest best friend around, and she’s practically a shoo-in for Columbia University. But as she navigates her new world, she starts to wonder whether this alternate version of herself really is as happy as everyone seems to believe. Is it possible this Kennedy is harboring secrets and regrets of her own? A fresh and funny story about how one different choice could change everything, Jessica Brody’s In Some Other Life will keep readers guessing, and find them cheering for Kennedy until the final page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. Right before her freshman year, Kennedy Rhodes made a life-changing decision: she declined acceptance to the prestigious Windsor Academy to attend the local public school with her longtime crush and new boyfriend. Three years later, the decision seems to have been the right one—at least until a series of events makes her wonder what life would have been like if she had chosen differently. Luckily, she gets to find out when she mysteriously wakes up as a Windsor student the following day in a life that she’s only dreamed of having. Kennedy quickly learns how that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either. Brody crafts a lighthearted story very much in the vein of her A Week of Mondays (2016), examining the impact our choices can have on our lives, and showing that even the things that we most desire can come with unknown sacrifices. Though the plot itself can be slightly predictable at times, Brody’s novel captures the essence of high school through her well-developed characters. A whimsical exploration of the theory of the multiverse.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Three years ago, Kennedy Rhodes passed up her dream—a spot at a prestigious high school—for a boy she hardly knew. Now 18 and a senior at an underfunded public school, Kennedy is still with Austin, serves as editor-in-chief of the award-winning school paper, and dreams of studying journalism at Columbia—but she still wonders “What if?” Following a few humiliating incidents, Kennedy goes to Windsor Academy to beg for the spot she gave up. Angered by the dean’s predictable rejection, Kennedy storms out, falls, and is knocked unconscious. She wakes in a reality in which she had accepted that space at Windsor: she’s now at the top of her class and will no doubt get into Columbia. As she navigates this privileged new life and puzzles out the differences between herself and the seemingly perfect Other Me, Kennedy discovers the latter harbors a troubling secret. Kennedy needs to right Other Me’s wrongs, but at what cost? Aside from some non-European surnames such as Wu and Patel, race is ambiguous, implying that Kennedy and Austin are both white. Many readers may find it difficult to drum up sympathy for a girl who gave up her dream for a boy, but the temptation to second-guess decisions is an instantly recognizable one, and Brody’s execution of Kennedy’s process is a thoughtful one. Readers will find themselves wondering “What if?” right along with Kennedy. (Fiction. 13-18)

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About the Author

Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape.

After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author.

Her website is www.JessicaBrody.com

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It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English. July 11, 2017. Clarion Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780544839571.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 680.

It’s 1965, Los Angeles. All twelve-year-old Sophie wants to do is write her book, star in the community play, and hang out with her friend Jennifer. But she’s the new black kid in a nearly all-white neighborhood; her beloved sister, Lily, is going away to college soon; and her parents’ marriage is rocky. There’s also her family’s new, disapproving housekeeper to deal with. When riots erupt in nearby Watts and a friend is unfairly arrested, Sophie learns that life—and her own place in it—is even more complicated than she’d once thought.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Racism and racist language, Sexist language

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 5-8. Bookish, quiet Sophie lives in a mostly white, middle-class neighborhood in L.A. with her class-conscious parents and older sister, Lily, who can pass for white. Life seems fairly easy, though she’s certainly no stranger to the cruelty of racism. But in the summer of 1965, as the Watts riots fill the news, several changes shake up Sophie’s world: she finds evidence of her father’s infidelity; her sister starts dating a darker-skinned man, whose experience of being black is much different from theirs; and she personally sees the unfairness of widespread racism when she auditions for a play at the community center. Amid classic middle-grade topics, English deftly weaves a vivid, nuanced story about the complexity of black identity and the broad implications of prejudice. The Watts riots appear mostly in the background, but English stirringly highlights how black anger isn’t localized solely among victims of police brutality. Rather, rage simmers everywhere. Even Sophie, whose most aggressive move is defiantly shouldering past a white girl in the library, thinks to herself, “Gosh, that was a wonderful feeling—being colored and liking to fight.” Through Sophie’s first-person narrative, readers will gain an insight into her struggle to puzzle out her identity, particularly when what she knows about herself is at odds with the expectations and assumptions of the various communities she inhabits. Thoughtful and well wrought, this novel is compassionate, pointed, and empowering.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2017)
The daughter of an art gallery-owning mother and a lawyer father, twelve-year-old Sophie has advantages most children her age do not. However, the summer of 1965 in Los Angeles brings challenges no amount of money can fix. Sophie must navigate her older sister preparing to leave for college, her parents’ continual arguments, and the family’s overly critical housekeeper. Not to mention that Sophie’s is the only African American family in an otherwise all-white neighborhood. In response to her friends’ query about what it feels like to be “Negro,” Sophie answers, “You remembered what you were all the time. All the time.” From learning about Emmett Till to witnessing an innocent man’s arrest, Sophie is forced to face a reality different from that of those around her. As much as budding author Sophie tries to focus on writing her novel and auditioning for the starring role in the community play, these issues are a constant presence, coming to a crescendo with the Watts rebellion. How Sophie reacts to these challenges, and what she learns in the process, results in a true coming-of-age story. The perspective of an upper-middle-class African American family is an unusual and welcome one; and Sophie’s interactions with her white best friend make for a particularly honest dialogue. Fans of Rita Williams-Garcia will enjoy this moving, frank novel. eboni njoku

About the Author

Karen English is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winner and the author of the Nikki and Deja and The Carver Chronicles series. Her novels have been praised for their accessible writing, authentic characters, and satisfying storylines. She is a former elementary school teacher and lives in Los Angeles, California.

 

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Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. May 2, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9781101994856.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 770.

From the author of the critically acclaimed Wolf Hollow comes a moving story of identity and belonging.

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

Vivid and heart wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Seais a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence, Kidnapping

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 4-7. Crow was a mere baby when she drifted to the shore of one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts in the first quarter of the twentieth century. She has since grown up with the painter Osh as her stand-in father; their only other friend is Maggie, who teaches Crow. Nearby Penikese Island was home to a leper colony at the time of Crow’s birth, and most of the island folk assume her birth parents were lepers and shun her. Now a 12-year-old and uncertain of her parentage, Crow becomes increasingly curious following a fire on the now supposedly vacant Penikese. Where did she really come from? What happened to her parents, and is there a chance she has any surviving blood relatives? Crow’s quest for answers as she grapples with her uncertain identity shapes the 2017 Newbery Honor Book author’s sophomore novel. While this quiet, affecting story lacks the palpable sense of dread and superb pacing that made Wolf Hollow (2016) so impossible to put down, there’s still plenty to admire in this more classic-feeling historical novel, which calls to mind Natalie Babbitt’s The Eyes of the Amaryllis (1977). Wolk has a keen sense for the seaside landscape, skillfully mining the terror the ocean can unleash as a furious nor’easter heightens tension in the novel’s climax. Historical fiction fans awaiting her follow-up will be pleased.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 15, 2017)
This book will make people want to run away to the Elizabeth Islands.It’s the 1920s. Crow and her adoptive father, Osh, live in a tiny house on a tiny island off Cape Cod, but her descriptions make it seem strange and mysterious. The cottage is “built from bits of lost ships,” and it’s full of found treasures: “a pair of sun-white whale ribs arched over our doorway, a tarnished ship’s bell hanging from their pinnacle.” Every chapter in the book has a new mystery to be solved: why was Crow sent away in an old boat when she was a baby? Why is a fire burning on an abandoned island? Did Capt. Kidd really hide treasure nearby? But some readers will love Wolk’s use of language even more than the puzzles. Crow says her skin is “the same color Osh [makes] by mixing purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green.” (The race of the characters isn’t always identified, but Osh says, “I came a long, long way to be here,” and his native language and accent make him sound “different from everyone else.”) The pacing of the book isn’t always as suspenseful as it should be. There are a few lulls, which the author tries to fill with heavy foreshadowing. But the mysteries—and the words that describe them—are compelling enough to send readers to the islands for years to come. A beautiful, evocative sophomore effort from Newbery honoree Wolk (Wolf Hollow, 2016). (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

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Beyond the Bright Sea on Amazon

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