Tag Archives: friendship

The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands

The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands. September 5, 2017. Aladdin Books, 532 p. ISBN: 9781534405233.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 610.

Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this third novel of the award-winning Blackthorn Key series.

Wherever Christopher Rowe goes, adventure—and murder—follows. Even a chance to meet King Charles ends in a brush with an assassin.

All that’s recovered from the killer is a coded message with an ominous sign-off: more attempts are coming. So when Christopher’s code-breaking discovers the attack’s true target, he and his friends are ordered to Paris to investigate a centuries-old curse on the French throne. And when they learn an ancient treasure is promised to any assassin who succeeds, they realize the entire royal family is at stake—as well as their own lives.

In the third heart-pounding installment of the award-winning Blackthorn Key series, Christopher, Tom, and Sally face new codes, puzzles, and traps as they race to find the hidden treasure before someone else is murdered.

Sequel to: Mark of the Plague

Part of Series: The Blackthorn Key (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Underage drinking, Murder

 

About the Author

Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher.

His website is kevinsandsbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

The Assassin’s Curse Reading Group Guide

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Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield. October 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781512482416.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 520.

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. Not even her dad knows the truth, and she can’t find the words to tell anyone else. She’s trapped like a butterfly in a net. Then June meets Blister, a boy from a large, loving, chaotic family. In him, she finds a glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away. Because she deserves her freedom. Doesn’t she?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. June narrates her story from the ages of 10 to 24, detailing the brutal physical and psychological abuse she suffers at the hands of her stepmother, Kathleen, and stepsister, Megan. From forcing her to overeat to convincing June that she and her deceased mother are worthless because they are black, Kathleen and Megan torture June every time her white father’s back is turned. Afraid to say anything about the abuse to her father or teachers, June finds solace in Blister, a homeschooled boy from a large family, with whom she starts to fall in love. June’s story is all the more heartbreaking because her visceral account, though fiction, is undoubtedly a reality for children suffering from abuse behind closed doors. The narrative derails considerably when an event near the end of the tale effectively forces June to internalize the idea that her silence—as a victim—is to blame. Despite a heavy-handed delivery, this novel, a 2017 Carnegie Medal nominee in Great Britain, manages to end on a hopeful note.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
Can the Guardian and Britain’s CILIP Carnegie Children’s Book Awards be wrong? Not that this lauded and nominated book by author Heathfield isn’t harrowing. It’s the 14-year–spanning story of June Kingston, a mixed-race black girl whose white stepmother, Kathleen, continually racially denigrates June and her dead mother, Loretta, who was black. It is a catalog of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse from Kathleen, abetted by June’s stepsister, Megan, and enabled by the obliviousness of June’s white father. And yes, June’s preteen friend and eventual boyfriend, Blister Wicks, a poor, creative white boy, unwaveringly supports her throughout. In chapters labeled “before” readers see the unrelenting misery of June’s life, while briefer, intermittent chapters labeled “after” take them to a time after an unspecified trauma. When that reveal comes, readers may well feel sucker-punched at its disingenuousness, as the author writes around the most obvious aspect of this story. June’s abuse at home, bullying and neglect at school, and what happens after are specifically misogynoirist, or anti–black female, thrown into high relief due to the lack of any other living characters of color in June’s story. This is a disservice to readers, especially considering such works and resources as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Ava DuVernay’s 13th, and African American Policy Forum, a pro–Black-women-and-girls advocacy organization. What’s left for readers from this lack of nuance is the glaring voyeurism. Interracial love—and racial silence—simply aren’t enough. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Before becoming a mum to her three sons, Lisa Heathfield was a secondary school English teacher and loved inspiring teenagers to read.

Award-winning author Lisa Heathfield launched her career with Seed in 2015. Published by Egmont it is a stunning YA debut about a life in cult. Paper Butterflies is her beautiful and heart-breaking second novel. Flight of a Starling is another heart-breaking read with an important message.

Lisa lives in Brighton with her family.

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. September 5, 2017. Sterling Children’s Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781454923459.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5; Lexile: 700.

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. A move to dusty, distant Arizona forces 13-year-old Aven to leave her familiar life and friends behind. Don’t yawn: Bowling takes this overworked trope and spins it into gold with a skein of terrific twists. For one thing, Aven was born without arms, so the new environment—a decrepit Wild West theme park—poses special challenges. For another, thanks to loving, funny adoptive parents who have raised her to be a “problem-solving ninja” (“I’m so flexible, it would blow your mind,” she boasts), readers may repeatedly forget, despite reminders enough, that Aven is (as she puts it) “unarmed.” Moreover, when the dreary prospect of having to cope with the looks and questions at her new middle school sends her in search of an isolated place to eat her lunch, she finds and bonds with Conner, who is struggling with Tourette’s syndrome and has not been so lucky with his parents. Not only does she firmly enlist him and another new friend in investigating a mystery about the theme park’s past but, taking Conner’s involuntary vocalizations in stride (literally), Aven drags him (figuratively) into an information-rich Tourette’s support group. Following poignant revelations about Aven’s birth family, the author lets warm but not gooey sentiment wash over the close to a tale that is not about having differences, but accepting them in oneself and others.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
Born without arms, white “problem-solving ninja” Aven Green can do almost anything with her feet instead—even solve a mystery. “Now that I’m thirteen years old, I don’t need much help with anything. True story.” Aven’s adoptive parents have always encouraged her independence. She’s never felt self-conscious among her friends in Kansas, playing soccer and guitar and mischievously spinning wild yarns about losing her arms. But when her father suddenly gets a job managing Stagecoach Pass, a run-down theme park in Arizona, tales of alligator wrestling can’t stop her new classmates’ gawking. Making friends with Connor, a self-conscious white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, and Zion, a shy, overweight, black boy, allows her to blend in between them. Contrasted with the boys’ shyness, Aven’s tough love and occasional insensitivity provide a glimpse of how—and why—attitudes toward disability can vary. While investigating the park’s suspiciously absent owner, the kids discover clues with eerie ties to Aven. The mystery’s twist ending is somewhat fairy-tale–esque, but Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. Though much of this earnest effort reads like an after-school special, its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Dusti Bowling grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, where, as her family will tell you, she always had her nose in a book. Dusti holds a Bachelor of Psychology and a Master of Education, but she eventually realized that her true passion was writing. The Day We Met, her self-published YA novel, has sold over 20,000 copies. She currently lives in Carefree, Arizona, with her husband, three daughters, one bobcat, a pack of coyotes, a couple of chuckwallas, several rattlesnakes, and a few herds of javelina.

Her website is www.dustibowling.com

Teacher Resources

Insignificant Events in the Life of  a Cactus Discussion Questions

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. October 10, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 286 p. ISBN: 9780525555360.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Author Interviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. It’s here: the eagerly awaited new novel by John Green, and—not to milk the suspense—it’s superb. High-school junior Aza has an obsessive fear of being infected with the bacteria Clostridium difficile (“C. diff”), which can be fatal. Her fear has become obsession, plaguing her with “intrusives,” thoughts that take over her mind, making her feel that she is not the author of her own life. She does, however, have a life: her father is dead; her mother is a teacher; her best friends are Mychal, a gifted artist, and Daisy, a well-known Star Wars fan-fiction author. To their trio is added Davis, whom Aza had known when they were 11. Davis’ billionaire father has decamped, pursued by the police, leaving Davis and his younger brother parentless (their mother is dead) and very much on their own. How will the friends cope with all this? And how will Aza cope with her own problems? Green, a master of deeply felt material, handles all of this with aplomb. With its attention to ideas and trademark introspection, it’s a challenging but richly rewarding read. It is also the most mature of Green’s work to date and deserving of all the accolades that are sure to come its way.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Nerdfighter Green’s latest takes readers through Indianapolis and the human biome.Aza Holmes doesn’t feel like herself. But “if half the cells inside of you are not you, doesn’t that challenge the whole notion of me as a singular pronoun…?” When a local billionaire—and the father of her childhood friend, a white boy named Davis—disappears, Aza (who seems to be white) and her BFF, Daisy Ramirez (who is cued as Latina), plot to find him and claim the reward, amid rumors of corruption and an underexplored side plot about semi-immortal reptiles. The story revolves around anxious Aza’s dissociation from her body and life. Daisy chatters about Star Wars fan fiction (and calls Aza “Holmesy” ad nauseam), and Davis monologues about astronomy, while Aza obsesses over infection, the ever present, self-inflicted wound on her finger, and whether she’s “just a deeply flawed line of reasoning.” The thin but neatly constructed plot feels a bit like an excuse for Green to flex his philosophical muscles; teenagers questioning the mysteries of consciousness can identify with Aza, while others might wish that something—anything—really happens. The exploration of Aza’s life-threatening compulsions will resonate deeply with some, titillate others, and possibly trigger those in between. Aza would claim that opinions about this book are unfairly influenced by “the gut-brain informational cycle,” which makes it hard to say what anyone else will think—but this is the new John Green; people will read this, or not, regardless of someone else’s gut flora. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesPaper TownsWill Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. John has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers  and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse.

John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is johngreenbooks.com

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Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee. September 5, 2017. Aladdin, 247 p. ISBN: 9781481478519.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.5; Lexile: 620.

A cancer survivor must readjust to “normal” middle school life in this hopeful novel from the author of Star-Crossed and Truth or Dare.

Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. The hospital social worker warns her the transition back may be tricky, but Norah isn’t worried. Compared with battling cancer, how tricky can seventh grade be?

Very. Everyone is either treating Norah like she will break at any second, or acting weird about all the attention she’s getting. Her best friend, Harper, does her best to be there for Norah, but she doesn’t get it, really—and is hanging out with a new group of girls, leaving Norah feeling a little unsteady. Norah’s other good friend, Silas, is avoiding her. What’s that about, anyway?

When Norah is placed with the eighth graders for math and science she meets Griffin, a cute boy who encourages her love of drawing and Greek mythology. And Norah decides not to tell him her secret—that she was “that girl” who had cancer. But when something happens to make secret-keeping impossible, Norah must figure out a way to share her cancer story. But how do you explain something to others that you can’t explain to yourself? And then, once you find the words, how do you move forward with a whole new ‘normal’?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. Norah has lost two years of school to a battle against archvillain Lou Kemia, her vision of acute lymphoblastic leukemia personified. Now she’s rejoining her class as they begin seventh grade, but social alliances have reformed during Norah’s absence. Compounding the problem, because of the academic progress she made with her tutor, Norah is placed in eighth grade math and science, where she quickly bonds with a cute new kid, Griffin. Meanwhile, Norah’s concerned parents remain deeply involved in monitoring her daily life, which becomes problematic as Norah needs space to navigate the ordinary challenges of seventh grade, such as mean girls, baffling boys, and clueless adults. The authenticity of Norah’s story can be credited to the author’s own experience as the mother of a cancer patient. But this is not a book about cancer; rather, it’s about the process of moving forward in its wake. Readers who appreciate well-wrought portrayals of transformative middle-school experiences, such as Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger (2015), will find a story in a similar spirit here.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Norah Levy is 12 and entering seventh grade, but she hasn’t been in school for the past two years: she’s been busy fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and now she’s figuring out how to re-enter the “normal” world. Norah has difficulty making the transition from cancer patient to normal middle schooler. Everyone in her grade knows her as “The Girl Who,” and Norah is tired of people treating her differently. She makes a new friend, Griffin, who shares her taste in books and mythical creatures. But she’s doing everything in her power to avoid telling him about her cancer or talking about cancer with anyone at school. She doesn’t even explain things to her best friend. Readers will feel with her as Norah struggles with how, when, and to whom she should tell her story—if at all. The moment that really sings is when Norah realizes that there are some life experiences that change you forever, and that’s not always a bad thing. Dee, whose acknowledgments hint at family experience with childhood cancer, does an exceptional job accurately depicting Norah’s struggles in a way that is translatable to those with varied understanding of illness. Norah and Griffin are white, but their school appears to be a fairly diverse one, mostly conveyed through naming conventions. A powerful story not only about illness, but about accepting yourself for who you are—no matter the experiences that shaped you. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Barbara Dee is the author of Everything I Know About YouHalfway NormalStar-CrossedTruth or DareThe (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect BoysTrauma QueenThis Is Me From Now OnSolving Zoe (Bank Street Best Children’s Books), and Just Another Day in My Insanely Real Life (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Barbara is one of the founders and directors of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. She lives in Westchester County, New York, with her family, two naughty cats, and a rescue hound dog named Ripley.

Her website is BarbaraDeeBooks.com

Teacher Resources

Halfway Normal Book Club Questions

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. September 5, 2017. HarperTeen, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062457790.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes, Gun violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Imagine a world in which everyone who is about to die receives the shocking news in advance by phone, and you have the premise of the wildly imaginative new novel by Silvera. Eighteen-year-old Mateo receives such a phone call at 12:22 a.m., while 17-year-old Rufus receives his at 1:05. Both boys, who are initially strangers to each other, now have one thing in common: they will be dead in 24 hours or less. Alone and desperately lonely, the two find each other by using an app called Last Friend. At first dubious, they begin a cautious friendship, which they describe in their respective first-person voices in alternating chapters. The ingenious plot of this character-driven novel charts the evolution of their relationship as it deepens into something more than simple friendship. Silvera does a remarkable job of inviting empathy for his irresistible coprotagonists. As the clock continues to tick the minutes away, their story becomes invested with urgency and escalating suspense. Will they really die? Perhaps, but, ultimately, it is not death but life that is the focus of this extraordinary and unforgettable novel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
What would you do with one day left to live?In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived. Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

About the Author

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

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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

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The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780425290408.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 670.

From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Perez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. In her story of seventh-grader Malú, debut author Pérez harnesses the spirit of School of Rock and gives it a punk rock spin. Malú isn’t happy about her recent move to Chicago, because it meant leaving her dad (her parents are amicably divorced) and his record store behind. She tries to assume a brave punk attitude, but she can’t help being anxious on her first day of school, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the class mean girl. When Malú learns about the upcoming Fall Fiesta talent show, she decides to form a band, with the hopes of finding “her people” in the process. While this plan hits a few snags, it results in friendships and a Mexican punk mentor. Like any good riot grrrl, Malú finds a creative outlet in making zines, several of which appear in the novel and call attention to Malú’s passions, heritage (she is half Mexican), and private concerns. Pérez delivers an upbeat story of being true to yourself and your beliefs, that tweens will rally behind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2017)
Malú wants to be totally punk at her new middle school, but her Mexican-American mother would prefer she learn to be a proper señorita. Twelve-year-old María Luisa O’Neill-Morales, aka Malú, loves punk-rock music, hanging out at her father’s indie record store, and making zines. She doesn’t love moving from her home in Gainesville, Florida, to Chicago for her professor mother’s two-year appointment at a university. Although she loves both of her amicably divorced parents, Malú—who favors Chuck Taylors and music T’s—feels closer to her laid-back, artsy white father than her supportive but critical academic mother, whom she calls “SuperMexican.” At Malú’s new majority-Latino school, she quickly makes an enemy of beautiful Selena, who calls her a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) and warns her about falling in with the class “weirdos.” Malú does befriend the school misfits (one activist white girl and two fellow “coconuts”) and enlists them to form a band to play a punk song at the Fall Fiesta. Middle-grade readers will appreciate the examples of Malú’s zines and artwork, which delightfully convey her journey of self-discovery. The author surrounds the feisty protagonist with a trio of older women (including her mom, her best friend Joe’s tattooed, punk-loving mother, and his humorous Abuela) who help her embrace being Mexican and punk. A charming debut about a thoughtful, creative preteen connecting to both halves of her identity. (Fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.

Her website is celiacperez.com

Around the Web

The First Rule of Punk on Amazon

The First Rule of Punk on Goodreads

The First Rule of Punk on JLG

The First Rule of Punk Publisher Page

Saving Marty by Paul Griffin

Saving Marty by Paul Griffin. September 19, 2017. Dial Books for Young Readers, 208 p. ISBN: 9780399539077.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Lexile: 650.

Fans of Because of Winn Dixie will adore this warm and heart-wrenching story of the friendship between a boy and a pig who thinks it’s a dog.

Eleven-year-old Lorenzo Ventura knows heroes are rare–like his father, who died in the war, or his friend Paloma Lee, who fearlessly pursues her dream of being a famous musician. Renzo would never describe himself as a hero, but his chance comes when he adopts Marty, a runt piglet.

Marty is extraordinary–he thinks he’s a dog and acts like one too–and his bond with Renzo is truly one of a kind. At first, the family farm seems like the perfect home for Marty, but as he approaches 350 pounds, it becomes harder for Renzo to convince his mom that a giant pig makes a good pet. So when Marty causes a dangerous (and expensive) accident, Renzo knows Marty’s time is up. He’d do anything and everything for his best friend, but will everything be enough to save Marty?

Paul Griffin masterfully melds the heartrending and the hopeful in this unforgettable story about the power of friendship . . . and the unsung heroes all around us

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence, Discussion of war, Discussion of suicide, Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 4-7. On the heels of the acclaimed When Friendship Followed Me Home (2016), Griffin returns with another story celebrating the deep bond between man and animal. In rural western Pennsylvania, Lorenzo Ventura, who’s large for his 11 years, forges a deep connection with a pig that thinks he’s a dog. Lorenzo names the pig Marty after the deceased father he never met, but unfortunately his mother, struggling to keep their household afloat, says Marty’s got to go. As Marty grows and grows, his girth causing a number of problems large and small, Lorenzo presses for information about his father. Though slight, Griffin’s novel packs a powerful punch, particularly when Lorenzo receives some unexpected news—his father, struggling with PTSD, had in fact committed suicide. A bit unfocused at the beginning, the story gains momentum midway, culminating in an emotional and heartrending climax. Griffin captures a slice of Americana—the flyover farms of middle America—rarely depicted so sensitively in contemporary middle-grade fiction. Hand this one to fans of animal-centered stories.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2017)
A failing peach farm and a mountain of bills force 12-year-old Lorenzo Ventura’s mother to consider selling his best friend, Marty—a pig who thinks he is a dog. The only things Renzo has to remember his father by are his Bronze Star, some letters, and his guitar. When new and conflicting details about his father’s death emerge, the white middle schooler is anxious to know the truth. But his mother and her father, Double Pop, are distracted with saving their home. When Paloma Lee, Renzo’s mixed-race (Korean and Colombian) friend, leaves for music camp, Renzo is left alone with his questions and Marty, whose size and enthusiasm are becoming dangerous. Renzo’s search for answers leads him to some profound truths: love is complicated, and people will continually surprise and sometimes disappoint you. But whether they are working single parents, military veterans, or simply friends willing to go the distance, heroes come in many types, and Renzo’s story is a celebration of them all. Renzo is a gentle-hearted dreamer who learns that there are some things worth fighting for. And Marty is the pig who guides him toward the man he is growing to be. Smart, honest, and heart-achingly real. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Paul Griffin lives, writes, and trains dogs in New York City. His previous novel, The Orange Houses, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults Top Ten, an International Reading Association 2010 Notable Book for a Global Society, a Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Book of 2009, and an Amelia Bloomer Project Award winner.

His website is www.paulgriffinstories.net

Around the Web

Saving Marty on Amazon

Saving Marty on Goodreads

Saving Marty on JLG

Saving Marty Publisher Page

Sled Dog School by Terry Lynn Johnson

Sled Dog School by Terry Lynn Johnson. October 3, 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 198 p. ISBN: 9780544873315.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 660.

Eleven-year-old Matt is struggling in school and he has to set up his own business to save his failing math grade. But what is he even good at? The only thing he truly loves is his team of dogs, and so Matt’s Sled Dog School is born. Teaching dogsledding should be easy, right? But people, just like dogs, can be unpredictable. And sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is admit they need help.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
To fulfill a school project, an 11-year-old boy starts a sled dog school with unexpected results. Matt lives off the grid in Michigan with his parents and younger sister and wishes his family were more mainstream. His stay-at-home father knits and does pottery, and Matt is derisively called “Smokey” by his classmates for his woodstove-smoke smell. Matt is also doing poorly in math class even though he solves practical problems easily outside of school. One thing Matt does love about his life is the sled dogs his family raises and runs. For a school extra-credit project designed to teach business and accounting skills, Matt starts Sled Dog School. His two clients, both about his age, have vastly differing abilities and personalities. Tubbs, blithely uncoordinated, nonetheless has an enthusiastic personality, and his approbation of Matt’s family life makes Matt begin to see it with more appreciative eyes. Overachiever Alex is intelligent and naturally adept, but she is condescending—until a crisis brings all three together. Themes of friendship and problem-solving are slipped effortlessly into the funny and fresh plot, and authentic off-the-grid details bring the story to life. Everyone in the story appears to be white. A tale of loyalty and friendship—with a strong dose of validation for readers who learn from doing rather than books—that hits all the right notes. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Terry Lynn Johnson writes outdoor adventures.

Terry’s writing is inspired by her own team of eighteen Alaskan huskies. Her passion for adventure has provided her with a rich background to write from.

When she’s not writing, Terry enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking. She works as a Conservation Officer (Game Warden) in Whitefish Falls, Ontario.

Her website is www.terrylynnjohnson.com

Teacher Resources

Sled Dog School Curriculum Guide

Around the Web

Sled Dog School on Amazon

Sled Dog School on Goodreads

Sled Dog School on JLG

Sled Dog School Publisher Page