Tag Archives: family

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier. January 24, 2017. HarperCollins, 192 p. ISBN: 9780062455734.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 720.

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Drugs

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-7. While some journey hopefully toward a destination, Rydr’s expectations are decidedly low. Following her grandmother’s death, she’s traveling by rail to meet her next guardian, a great-uncle she has never met. In the meantime, the train becomes her home. She befriends a couple of passengers as well as her Amtrak chaperone and the snack-counter attendant, while the train travels from California to Chicago. Along the way, she celebrates her thirteenth birthday, deals with a personal crisis, and forms a strong bond with a boy. Each of these occurrences has an element of the unexpected as well as a feeling of inevitability. And in the end, this tough, smart, vulnerable kid leaves readers with the conviction that wherever she’s headed, it’s going to turn out OK. Written in a style that is simple and direct but not without nuance, the novel introduces Rydr as an initially enigmatic narrator whose story becomes more intricate and more involving as the many complications of her journey elicit memories from her past. While there’s tragedy in Rydr’s background, her way forward is lit by insight and hope. In his first novel, Mosier offers a cast of well-drawn characters, an unusual setting, and a rewarding reading experience.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Rydr, as she calls herself, is trying to put a brave face on a journey that feels much like doom.The 13-year-old, hungry and broke, is the daughter of an addicted mom “who used to have public embarrassments”—but now she’s dead. Her reluctant grandmother (also now dead), whose best quality was her excellent pancakes, was her next not-quite-a-caregiver. Now the girl, battered by life but always resiliently and often cleverly struggling forward, is on a long train trip from Palm Springs to Chicago, where she’ll be placed with an elderly great-uncle she doesn’t know but whose “monthly check will get bigger” when she arrives. During the journey she’s under the care of, then befriended and perhaps even saved by, Dorothea, an Amtrak escort, Neal, a gay snack bar worker, Carlos, a traveling poet, and an antipathetic Boy Scout called Tenderchunks who touches her heart. Along the way Rydr will savor her first kiss, run away from the train and her memories—but return—leave the burden of her mother’s ashes in an Iowa wood, and nearly destroy a restroom while trying to cope with her excruciating recollections. Her pluck and her perceptive narrative voice combine to make her brief yet deeply affecting connections with caring strangers plausible although occurring over the course of just a few days. Race and culture are implied in naming convention and speech patterns, with characters defaulting to white. A harrowing, moving, immersive, and ultimately uplifting debut novel. (Fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011, but has written in some fashion his entire life. He lives a short walk from the place of his birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, but it has been a very circuitous route that brought him there. He is married and is father to two lovely daughters who both read fanatically. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, talking nonstop, and riding trains. In fact, he has ridden most of the route described in his debut novel, Train I Ride, which has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.

His website is novelistpaulmosier.wordpress.com.

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One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

One of the Boys  by Daniel Magariel. March 14, 2017. Scribner, 176p. ISBN: 9781501156168.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Drugs, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Library Journal – web only (March 10, 2017)
[DEBUT] Slim and sharp as an ice pick, Magariel’s debut features two brothers whose father triumphantly claims them after a vicious divorce, arguing that their mother never wanted them-and getting his younger son, the 12-year-old narrator, to collude in lies about her negligence. As they drive through the night from their Kansas home to New Mexico, the boys initially seem to revel in their buoyant father’s man-to-man camaraderie and the adventure he’s launched. But warning signs come early that this father isn’t entirely stable. They’ve barely arrived at their new home when he provokes a fight with a bartender, encouraging his sons’ profanity when they’re refused beers, then beats the narrator unmercifully when he gets into a scrape at school. Not used to working at home, the father soon seems distant, hollow-eyed, and increasingly violent, and the brothers have to rethink what really happened to their family. Suddenly, their choices are as stark as the New Mexico landscape, matched by the sharply pared-down language. Verdict The nerve-jarring narrative develops unexpectedly and insightfully as Magariel sketches a fine study of family, responsibility, and what it means to be a man. A satisfying if disturbing read.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

About the Author

Daniel Magariel is a fiction writer from Kansas City. He has a BA from Columbia University, as well as an MFA from Syracuse University, where he was a Cornelia Carhart Fellow. He has lived in Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Florida, Colorado, and Hawaii. He currently lives in New York with his wife. One of the Boys is his first novel.

Teacher Resources

One of the Boys Group Reading Guide

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Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long. March 28, 2017. Candlewick, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763689957.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

What if you found out your life has been threaded with secrets — ones that rocked you to your core? An affecting page-turner written in a brave, memorable language all its own.

Some words are hard to get out of your mouth. Because they spell out secrets that are too huge to be spoken out loud. But if you bottle them up, you might burst. So here’s my story. Told the only way I dare tell it.

Sophie Nieuwenleven is sort of English and sort of Belgian. She and her family came to live in Belgium when she was only four or five, but she’s fourteen now and has never been sure why they left England in the first place. She loves her international school, adores her friend Comet, and is protective of her little brother, Hercule. But it’s hard to feel carefree when her mom never leaves the apartment — ordering groceries online and blasting music in her room — and her dad has a dead-end job as a car mechanic. Then one day Sophie makes a startling discovery, a discovery that unlocks the mystery of who she really is. This is a novel about identity and confusion and about feeling so utterly freaked out that you can’t put it into words. But it’s also about hope. And trust. And the belief that, somehow, everything will be OK. Sophie Someone is a tale of good intentions, bad choices, and betrayal — and ultimately, a compelling story of forgiveness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 6-9. Sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to put something into words, particularly if the experience is traumatic. For 14-year-old Sophie, a recent discovery about her past sets her world reeling, and in an effort to make sense of it—and of who she is—she puts her pen to paper to tell her story in her own language. English-born Sophie and her parents moved to Brussels when she was five, which, according to her father, is where his family is from. But as the years pass, clues and memories surface that make Sophie begin to doubt her parents’ story. When a school letter arrives asking for copies of Sophie’s passport and birth certificate, her parents can’t satisfactorily explain why they don’t have them. Convinced that her parents are keeping a secret, Sophie starts digging for the truth, growing increasingly angry and confused the more she finds out. Long weaves an inventively written and entrancing story filled with good intentions, poor decisions, meaningful friendships, and complicated but loving family relationships. It takes something of a leap of faith on the reader’s part, as Sophie’s peculiar writing style seems somewhat nonsensical at first glance; however, those who persevere will quickly understand her true meanings. The result is an original narrative that zigs and zags in inspired ways, with a sympathetic heroine leading the way.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for most of her life; now 14, she’s beginning to wonder about the odd things her parents say when they’re fighting, not to mention certain hazy and mysterious childhood memories that don’t add up. Her mother is a rap-loving recluse and her father a garage mechanic who claims a Belgian ancestry. Yet despite giving Sophie’s younger brother the uber-Belgian name Hercule Tintin, both parents seem thoroughly English. Still, Brussels is such a cosmopolitan city that a white, sort-of English, sort-of Belgian girl with a black best friend from the Democratic Republic of the Congo flies under the radar at her international school. Poking around online one day, Sophie uncovers a clue that begins the unraveling of all the lies she’s been told. Or, as Sophie puts it in her cryptic yet strangely comprehensible way, “You probably think I lost my helix.…[C]hasing off to a foreign country to meet a pigeon I’ve just met on the Introvert isn’t anything I’d normally do. But this wasn’t a normal situation.” Sophie and her circle of family and friends are sympathetic and appealing in all their flawed humanity. Her peculiar way of speech soon reads as clearly as plain English and perfectly mirrors her internal turmoil as she navigates her parents’ shift from just mambo and don to people with a past she never imagined—which, to some extent, is a transformation every young person will understand. A creative and memorable story about secrets, lies, and moving on. (Fiction. 11 & up)

About the Author

Hayley Long is the author of several award-winning books for teenagers, including What’s Up with Jody Barton? and the Lottie Biggs books. She also works as an English teacher. Hayley Long lives in England.

Her website is hayleylongwriter.blogspot.co.uk.

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The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro. February 14, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062398949.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Watson and Holmes: A match made in disaster.

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter-break reprieve after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But Charlotte isn’t the only Holmes with secrets, and the mood at her family’s Sussex estate is palpably tense. On top of everything else, Holmes and Watson could be becoming more than friends—but still, the darkness in Charlotte’s past is a wall between them.

A distraction arises soon enough, because Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring. The game is afoot once again, and Charlotte is single-minded in her pursuit.

Their first stop? Berlin. Their first contact? August Moriarty (formerly Charlotte’s obsession, currently believed by most to be dead), whose powerful family has been ripping off famous paintings for the last hundred years. But as they follow the gritty underground scene in Berlin to glittering art houses in Prague, Holmes and Watson begin to realize that this is a much more complicated case than a disappearance. Much more dangerous, too.

What they learn might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

Sequel to: A Study in Charlotte

Part of series: Charlotte Holmes Trilogy

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Picking up just weeks after A Study in Charlotte ended, Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are on their Christmas break in London. Their friendship has taken a few steps back, though, and things seem tense. After Holmes’s mother turns suddenly ill and her beloved uncle Leander goes missing, the game is afoot. The pair travel across Europe from Berlin to Prague, bickering all the way yet still making a great team. The book is nearly all from Watson’s perspective, as was the first title in the trilogy, but a few chapters at the end are from Holmes’s view, and they are worth the wait, filled with turns of phrase that only she could dream up. This delightful sequel introduces a mystery on a grander scale with much higher stakes while staying true to the flavor of an original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. There are new characters, a kidnapping, poison, art fraud, narrow escapes, danger, drama, and a final twist with a heap of delicious, complex sleuthing that will keep readers guessing until the end. No one is ever what or who they seem. VERDICT A strong purchase for fans of A Study in Charlotte and where mysteries are popular.—Kristen Rademacher, Marist High School, IL

About the Author

Brittany Cavallaro is a poet, fiction writer, and old school Sherlockian. She is the author of the Charlotte Holmes novels from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, including A Study in Charlotte and The Last of August. She’s also the author of the poetry collection Girl-King (University of Akron) and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She earned her BA in literature from Middlebury College and her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she’s a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, cat, and collection of deerstalker caps.

Her website is http://brittanycavallaro.com.

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Exo by Fonda Lee

Exo by Fonda Lee. January 13, 2017. Scholastic, 384 p. ISBN: 9780545933438.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose their rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience.

When Sapience realizes who Donovan’s father is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
Sometime in the future, a young soldier working for the extraterrestrials who have conquered Earth fights a rebel group but learns that he has family ties to someone he sees as a criminal.Seventeen-year-old Donovan Reyes wants only to be a good soldier, even though he’s the only child of the Prime Liaison, West America’s ambassador to the zhree, who conquered Earth a century earlier. When he was a child, his dad had him Hardened, transforming his human skin into flexible armor plating called an exocel, rather like the zhree. Donovan gets along well with the fairly benign zhree, as does much of humanity, but a band of rebels remains determined to expel them from the planet. Captured by the rebels, Donovan soon learns that one of their leaders has a connection to him. He also meets the pretty rebel Anya and finds himself far too attracted to her. While in captivity Donovan begins to see rebels as individuals rather than criminals, while some of them struggle with the notion that despite his armor plating, Donovan is still human. When a new threat appears readers are left to wonder whether humanity’s life with the zhree might be a good development. Lee keeps her science fiction credible, effectively building this future world and establishing its rules efficiently. Racial differences are mentioned, though Donovan and Anya both appear to be light-skinned. Believable, suspenseful science fiction. (Science fiction. 12-18)

Publishers Weekly Annex (December 12, 2016)
Seventeen-year-old Donovan Reyes has it all: his father is the “Prime Liaison” between humanity and the alien zhree, who conquered Earth a century ago, and Donovan himself, a technologically enhanced “exo,” is part of SecPac, enforcing the law and dealing with human insurrection. When he’s captured by the resistance group Sapience, he’s thrust into unfamiliar and dangerous territory, which grows even more complicated after he discovers a personal connection to one of its members. Still loyal to the zhree and to his father, Donovan is conflicted; determined to preserve peace and lives on both sides, he disobeys orders, questions procedure, and eventually stumbles on terrible hidden truths. Lee (Shadowboxer) constructs a plausibly alien future society and uses the premise to offer thought-provoking questions on occupation and colonization, placing her hero in a murky state of morality as she explores divided loyalties and conflicting obligations. Things perhaps come a bit too easily to Donovan at times, but the story’s open-ended conclusion begs for further development and exploration. Ages 12-up.

About the Author

Fonda Lee writes science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. Her debut novel Zeroboxer was an Andre Norton Award nominee, Junior Library Guild Selection,, and an ALA Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  Fonda is a former corporate strategist, avid martial artist, and an enthusiast of food, film, and books. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Her website is www.fondalee.com.

 

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Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick. September 27, 2016. Scholastic Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780545863247.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile 860.

It’s not easy being Claire. (Really.)

Claire’s life is a joke…but she’s not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she’s dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there’s a boy, Ryder, who’s just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody’s really listening to her—if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is.

Then into all of this (not-very-funny-to-Claire) comedy comes something intense and tragic—while her dad is talking to her at the kitchen table, he falls over with a medical emergency. Suddenly the joke has become very serious—and the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. Claire feels left behind when her best ballet-school friends are unexpectedly elevated to a higher class. She spends the first day of eighth grade coping with menstrual cramps, a zit on her nose, and sniping classmates. But the worst is yet to come: her father has a stroke, making speech and movement difficult. After months of looking inward and trying to carry on normally, Claire realizes she’s been avoiding the obvious: she has a role to play in her father’s recovery. Although tentative at first, her response enables her to get beyond paralysis, weather the next storm, and move forward with her life. Sonnenblick has a knack for smart, droll first-person narration, and that’s as true here as in his earlier books featuring male protagonists. He portrays a diverse group of middle-school kids as interesting individuals, while creating a believable web of relationships among them. From her driven-to-perfection older brother to a vindictive teacher to a mean-girl classmate, the characters and their dialogue are convincing and often entertaining. The book’s beginning sounds so much like other, sunnier novels that readers, like Claire, will feel a jolt when the first crisis comes. But they’ll stay with her every step of the way.

Publishers Weekly (July 4, 2016)
After the trauma of witnessing her father have a stroke, 13-year-old Claire Goldsmith and her family struggle with their new reality. Claire must simultaneously navigate dance-class drama, getting braces (which still manages to feel like the worst day of her life even after her father’s affliction), and boys, including former friends and her frustratingly perfect older brother. Told from Claire’s perspective, Sonnenblick’s story delivers an achingly vivid portrayal of her wide range of emotions as her father returns home still recovering, suffering from aphasia and having trouble with simple tasks like eating with a fork. Claire is a bluntly honest narrator, never holding back even when anger turns to depression and her father starts to waste away (“If I were being a hundred percent honest, I couldn’t really say I was thankful he was alive in this condition”). But Sonnenblick (After Ever After) incorporates a message of hope, too: Claire’s ordeal gives her new appreciation for the power of music and a more empathetic view of those around her. It’s a powerful and profound look at a family coping with unexpected change. Ages 12-up.

About the Author

Jordan Sonnenblick attended amazing schools in New York City. Then he went to an incredible Ivy League university and studied very, very hard there. However, due to his careful and well-planned course selection strategies, he emerged in 1991 with a fancy-looking diploma and a breathtaking lack of real-world skills or employability.

Thank goodness for Teach for America, a program which takes new college graduates, puts them through ‘teacher boot camp’, and places them in teaching positions at schools in teacher shortage areas around the country. Through TFA, Mr. Sonnenblick found his place in the grown-up world, teaching adolescents about the wonders and joys, the truth and beauty, of literature.

Mr. Sonnenblick lives in Bethlehem, PA with the most supportive wife and lovable children he could ever imagine. Plus a lot of drums and guitars in the basement.

His website is www.jordansonnenblick.com.

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