Tag Archives: friendship

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk. July 31, 2018. Graphix, 272 p. ISBN: 9781338139228.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Lexile: 340.

Sixth grade was SO much easier for Danielle. All her friends were in the same room and she knew what to expect from her life. But now that she’s in seventh grade, she’s in a new middle school, her friends are in different classes and forming new cliques, and she is completely lost.

When Danielle inherits a magical sketchbook from her eccentric great aunt Elma, she draws Madison, an ideal best friend that springs to life right off the page! But even when you create a best friend, it’s not easy navigating the ups and downs of relationships, and before long Danielle and Madison are not exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

To make matters worse, Danielle has drawn the head of her favorite (and totally misunderstood) cartoon villain, Prince Neptune. He’s also come to life and is giving her terrible advice about how to make people like her. When she rejects him and he goes on a rampage during a school pep rally, Danielle and Madison have to set aside their differences to stop him!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cartoon violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Dany is an awkward seventh-grader navigating her way through the perilous world of middle school when she stumbles upon her great-aunt’s enchanted sketchbook; suddenly, her talent for drawing gives her the amazing ability to create friends out of thin air. But Dany’s creations start to turn on her; first her perfectly engineered best friend, Madison, begins to search for meaning in her own life. Then Prince Neptune (the disembodied head of the handsome villain of Dany’s favorite show, the Sailor Moon-esque Solar Sisters) plots his evil reign over Connecticut. At once cringeworthy and delightfully absurd, Making Friends, much like middle school itself, is somewhere between teenage cynicism and a childlike mastery of fantasy. Although Gudsnuk’s characters are sometimes suspiciously wise beyond their years, and her stylized visual references perhaps a bit too meta-referential for some younger readers, they will certainly recommend this story to readers for whom middle school is a distant and painful memory. Middle-schoolers, meanwhile, will appreciate Gudsnuk’s light touch in bringing an empathetic, joyful, and judicious treatment to those tough in-between years.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2018)
Making friends is tough in a new school; could a magical notebook be the answer? Seventh grade is not beginning well for Dany; her two besties are not in any of her classes, and not only is she having a tough time making new friends, she is also being bullied. One day, Dany inherits an unusual sketchbook from her recently deceased great-aunt. While sketching her favorite evil prince from the beloved anime Solar Sisters, she discovers that anything she draws in the notebook becomes real. Dany then creates for herself the perfect best friend: Madison Fontaine, a trendy new girl from New York City who is knowledgeable about trends, sassy, and fun. However, Dany soon learns that even if you tailor-make your own BFF, how you treat them still matters. This charming graphic novel features full-color, manga-inspired illustrations and a breezy plot that blends wish fulfillment and fantasy with an approachable and contemporary storyline. With a broad brush, Gudsnuk hits many of the angst-y issues of middle school, including popularity, bullying, family relationships, body image, and fandom, creating appeal for a large swath of readers. Main character Dany is white and seemingly comfortably middle-class, as is her creation, Madison. Secondary characters offer a bit more inclusivity, portraying different races, ethnicities, and orientations. A nifty pastiche of middle school matters. (Graphic fantasy. 7-12)

About the Author

Kristen Gudsnuk is a comics writer and illustrator. She got her start with the webcomic Henchgirl, which was later published by Scout Comics in single issue and Dark Horse Comics as a collection. Her newest works include the middle grade graphic novel Making Friends, from Scholastic Books, and Modern Fantasy, a miniseries from Dark Horse (written by Rafer Roberts). Gudsnuk also illustrated the VIP series by Jen Calonita, published by Little, Brown. Originally from Shelton, CT, she now lives in Queens, NY with her boyfriend and dog.

Her website is kristengudsnuk.com

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Swing by Kwame Alexander

Swing by Kwame Alexander. October 2, 2018. Blink, 448 p. ISBN: 9780310761914.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 610.

Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.

To go from lovelorn to ladies’ men, Walt introduces Noah to a relationship guru—his Dairy Queen-employed cousin, Floyd—and the always informative Woohoo Woman Podcast. Noah is reluctant, but decides fate may be intervening when he discovers more than just his mom’s birthday gift at the thrift shop. Inside the vintage Keepall is a gold mine of love letters from the 1960s. Walt is sure these letters and the podcasts are just what Noah needs to communicate his true feelings to Sam. To Noah, the letters are more: an initiation to the curious rhythms of love and jazz, as well as a way for him and Walt to embrace their own kind of cool. While Walt is hitting balls out of the park and catching the eye of the baseball coach, Noah composes anonymous love letters to Sam in an attempt to write his way into her heart. But as things are looking up for Noah and Walt, a chain of events alters everything Noah knows to be true about love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. Alexander (Rebound​, 2018) and Hess (Animal Ark​, 2017) struck gold with their collaboration on Solo ​(2017), and this spiritual successor follows the same free-verse format. While quieter overall than Solo, the quality of the poems and distinct characterization is still there. High-school junior Noah explains, “My best friend / Walt Disney Jones / is obsessed with jazz, / baseball, / dead famous people, / and finding cool, / if it’s the last thing we ever do.” Walt (aka Swing) is Noah’s biggest cheerleader when it comes to winning over his lifelong crush, Sam. Unfortunately, she has Noah firmly in the friend zone. On a serendipitous trip to the thrift store, Noah finds inspirational love letters written by an enigmatic author named Corinthian. With some meddling from Walt, Noah crafts artistic found poems from the love letters and leaves them for Sam to find. Ultimately a nuanced examination of changing friendship dynamics and first loves, this novel packs a punch into its shocking and extremely powerful ending torn straight from today’s headlines.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2018)
Seventeen-year-old Noah struggles with the feelings he has for Sam, a childhood friend, and is encouraged to express himself by an ebullient buddy. Noah and his friend Walt Disney Jones, aka Swing, are linked by a love of baseball. Swing is also obsessed with jazz and tries to make Noah a devotee as well. Along with their various personal dramas—Swing’s new stepfather, the romantic advice Noah is receiving—someone has been planting American flags around town, leaving folks to speculate who and why. At a thrift store, Noah purchases a travel bag as a birthday gift for his mother and inside he finds long-hidden love letters. They encourage him to put his feelings on paper, but Swing forces his hand by anonymously giving his writing to Sam, causing a rift between them. Then, out of nowhere, everything changes, and the innocence of their lives is shattered as their friendship troubles are put into perspective by something far more serious. The free verse tells a story as complex as the classic jazz music woven throughout. Noah is the narrator, but it is Swing, with his humor, irresistible charm, and optimism, who steals the spotlight. All the secondary characters are distinctive and add texture to the narrative. Swing is African-American, while Noah is white. Despite the easy flow of verse, there is a density to this story with its multiple elements. Lively, moving, and heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

His website is www.kwamealexander.com.

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That Night by Amy Giles

The Night by Amy Giles. October 23, 2018. HarperTeen, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062495778.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

An evocative story by acclaimed author Amy Giles about tragedy, love, and learning to heal.

The year since a mass shooting shook their Queens neighborhood has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar and deeply personal ways.

As Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother and Lucas takes up boxing under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, their paths converge. They slowly become friends and then something more, learning to heal and move forward together.

But what does it mean to love after an unspeakable tragedy?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Marijuana, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Suicide, Underage drinking, Gun violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. One year after a mass shooting, Jessica and Lucas, along with their families, deal with the aftermath of the event that changed their worlds forever. Shy and withdrawn Jessica struggles to recover from the loss of her brother, while also caring for her grieving mother. Angry and anxious, Lucas turns to boxing in order to release his frustrations at being a survivor and losing his brother. Jessica’s and Lucas’ paths cross, and together they form a bond that is characterized by love, healing, and moving forward. Giles’ novel is one of surviving terrible losses and of healing. As in her previous novel, Now Is Everything (2017), Giles writes from the perspective of young adults trying survive the unexpected. Told in alternating perspectives from Jessica and Lucas, the mass shooting is not the main focus; rather, the lives of those affected by the mass shooting and its aftermath take center stage. Readers will find the latest from Giles a pleasing read.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Two teens who survived a mass shooting find love as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives in the wake of loss and tragedy. It has been a year since a shooting at a movie theater left 18 people dead. Lucas survived but lost his brother, a star football player. Jess survived, but her brother didn’t, and her mother has been debilitated by grief. Lucas tries to make sense of his survival by keeping a daily record of his random acts of kindness. Therapy helps, and boxing releases a lot of the negative energy, but he still suffers from panic attacks and avoids talking about his feelings with his parents. Jess finds a job to help with the overdue bills that keep piling up since her mom stopped working, but she can’t convince her mother to spend a full day out of bed, and she occasionally depends on weed to get her through her toughest moments. When Jess and Lucas meet at work they are wary of each other, but over time they become close, helping each other through feelings of shame, guilt, and ambivalence about living normal lives after their losses. This sensitive portrayal of the complications of journeying through grief is convincing and moving. Little physical description of the main characters, combined with the awkwardness with which the diversity of very minor characters is made known, accentuates the white default. Thoughtful and thought-provoking. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Amy Giles is a young adult author. She lives on an Island that is Long with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog.

Her website is www.amygiles.net

 

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The War Outside by Monica Hesse

The War Outside by Monica Hesse. September 25, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 336 p. ISBN: 9780316316699.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A novel of conviction, friendship, and betrayal.

It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day, and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild language, Racism, Accidental death of children

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 9-12. It’s 1944 and WWII is raging, and Japanese American Haruko and German American Margot and their families—both regarded by the U.S. government as enemy aliens—have been remanded to the Crystal City, Texas, family internment camp. Though the German and Japanese populations there are largely self-segregated, Haruko and Margot meet and become unlikely friends. As their friendship intensifies, the two girls begin to fantasize about a life together outside the camp, but then two momentous things happen: they experience a moment of unusual, almost frightening intensity, and two little girls, one German and one Japanese, drown in the camp pool. After that, things change dramatically and irredeemably. Hesse (Girl in the Blue Coat, 2016) has written an extraordinary novel of injustice and xenophobia based on real history. The Crystal City camp actually existed, as did a few characters and situations portrayed in the novel. Hesse does a superb job of recreating life as it was lived by innocent people forced to exist surrounded by barbed wire fences and guards. In Haruko and Margot, she has written developed, multidimensional characters who live dramatically on the page. Readers will empathize with them and their plight, wishing the best for them but also understanding, thanks to the author’s unsparing honesty and integrity, that not all endings are happy ones.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Interned in a Texas camp during World War II, Japanese-American Haruko and German-American Margot watch their families fall apart and are driven to depend on each other, even if they should not. In 1944, teenagers Haruko Tanaka and Margot Krukow are imprisoned with their families in Crystal City, a Department of Justice family internment camp for Japanese- and German-born prisoners of war. Different from the War Relocation Authority internment camps, these are specifically meant for enemy aliens, with the possibility of repatriation to their birth countries. Haruko, fearing for her brother, Ken, serving in the 442nd division of the U.S. Army, and resenting her secretive father for their situation, starts pulling away from her family. Margot tries to keep her small family together as her pregnant mother sickens and her father is pushed by frustration and persecution into Nazi ideology. Though vastly different, the two girls find themselves attracted to each other in more ways than one. Hesse (American Fire, 2017, etc.) painstakingly researched accounts from various archival records to convey the rich and complex emotions surrounding a shameful episode of injustice in American history, during which human beings were involuntarily and irrevocably changed through the choices of others. An exploration of lesser-known aspects of Japanese-American and German-American internment during World War II. (map, historical notes) (Historical fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Monica Hesse is the national bestselling author of the true crime love story American Fire, and the historical mystery novel Girl in the Blue Coat, which has been translated into a dozen languages and won the 2017 Edgar award in the Young Adult category. She is a feature writer for the Washington Post, where she has been a winner of the Society for Feature Journalism’s Narrative Storytelling award, and a finalist for a Livingston Award and a James Beard Award. Monica lives in Maryland. with her husband and a brainiac dog.

Her website is www.monicahesse.com

Teacher Resources

The War Outside Reading Group Guide

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The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm

The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. Holm. September 4, 2018. Random House Books for Young Readers, 240 p. ISBN: 9781524719814.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.7; Lexile: 500.

Ellie’s grandpa Melvin is a world-renowned scientist . . . in the body of a fourteen-year-old boy. His feet stink, and he eats everything in the refrigerator–and Ellie is so happy to have him around. Grandpa may not exactly fit in at middle school, but he certainly keeps things interesting. When he and Ellie team up for the county science fair, no one realizes just how groundbreaking their experiment will be. The formula for eternal youth may be within their reach! And when Ellie’s cat, Jonas Salk, gets sick, the stakes become even higher. But is the key to eternal life really the key to happiness? Sometimes even the most careful experiments yield unexpected–and wonderful–results.

Sequel to: The Fourteenth Goldfish

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 4-7. In Holm’s The Thirteenth Goldfish (2014), Elle’s grandfather Melvin, a 76-year-old widowed scientist trapped in the body of a teenage boy after discovering a substance with antiaging properties, came to live with his daughter and granddaughter. More than a year after those events, seventh-grader Elle now cajoles her “cousin” Melvin into helping her conduct a science experiment for extra credit. Their project, which involves fruit flies and a mutant salamander, seems promising as a way of helping animals to regenerate lost body parts, but it has unintended consequences as well. Meanwhile, Elle navigates the awkwardness of her first date, and her grandpa/cousin Melvin deals with unsettling changes of his own. Always entertaining and often amusing, Elle’s first-person narrative offers fresh perspectives on the strength of middle-school friendships and family ties, as well as the pain of losing a beloved pet. A STEM thread runs throughout the book, in references to famous scientists, while an appended section profiles several of them and recommends related books. Lively, funny, and thought-provoking, here’s a must-read sequel to a memorable chapter book.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Some experiments don’t work out as expected. In a satisfying sequel to The Fourteenth Goldfish (2014), seventh-grader Ellie chronicles a tentative attempt at romance, a science fair experiment with her grandfather (still in the body of a 14-year-old boy), and a new appreciation for mushrooms, a once-loathed food. She and Raj, current best friend and lunch partner, have an unsuccessful movie date. A new relationship status is not in the cards, but the unexpected consequences include the rekindling of an old friendship with Brianna—someone with shared memories—and a renewed understanding of Raj’s important role as best friend. Short, readable chapters are filled with lively dialogue and gentle humor. In her first-person, present-tense narrative, Ellie describes Raj as “goth:” “he’s got piercings and is dressed entirely in black….Even his thick hair is black…except for the long blue streak in front.” Ellie’s lack of race consciousness makes her presumably white. Her divorced parents and stepfather are shadows in this account, which focuses on her strong connection with her grandfather, who’s growing and changing as well. Most unexpected in this lightly fantastic story is a tender account of the death of a beloved pet. An ongoing STEM connection is reinforced with a backmatter “gallery” of information and suggestions for further reading about the scientists mentioned. An appealing middle school friendship story that won’t disappoint the author’s many fans. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Jennifer L. Holm is a New York Times bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels Our Only May Amelia, Penny From Heaven,and Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series—the Eisner Award-winning Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. She lives in California with her husband and two children.

Her website is www.jenniferholm.com/

Teacher Resources

The Third Mushroom on Common Sense Media

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Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore. October 9, 2018. Fiewel + Friends.  375 p. ISBN: 9781250162717.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Sisters Blanca and Roja del Cisne have grown up understanding their family’s curse. Long ago, their ancestor bargained with the swans for a daughter. Every generation, the Del Cisnes have two daughters, but eventually, the swans always take one back. Roja, fierce and willful, has always believed she’d be the sister turned into a swan, while graceful, compliant Blanca would remain a girl. But if there’s anything Blanca is willing to fight for, it’s her sister. As their days together wane, two boys with curses of their own enter their lives. Barclay Holt, once the son of a wealthy, treacherous family, who has been trapped for a year in the body of a bear; and his best friend, Page Ashby, child of apple farmers, who identifies as a boy but finds that the pronouns she and her fit comfortably as well. As the four come closer together, their fates may become unalterably linked. In her fourth novel, McLemore (Wild Beauty​, 2017) is at her finest; she twines Latino folklore through the fairy tales of Swan Lake and Snow White & Rose Red to create a story that is wholly original. She writes openheartedly about families found and families given, the weight of expectation and the price of duty, and in the end offers up something that’s vibrant, wondrously strange, and filled to the brim with love of all kinds.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
Blanca and Roja, the del Cisne sisters, have grown up knowing their family is cursed as a result of a bargain made generations ago, and that eventually either Blanca or Roja will be trapped in the body of a swan and live among them. Blanca, fair-haired and sweet, and Roja, flame-haired and difficult, spend their lives trying to become more like each other so that they will be intertwined and ultimately impossible to separate when the swans finally arrive to claim their due. When a bear who is also a boy called Yearling arrives on their doorstep, followed by his friend Page (who uses both he and she pronouns), their story becomes more complicated and their fates much less clear. This tale reimagines Snow White and Rose Red as young Latinx women, and it mixes their stories with details and themes from “The Ugly Duckling,” Swan Lake, and “The Wild Swans.” Depth of character is sometimes sacrificed in order to incorporate so many threads (e.g., Yearling’s story of dealing with family corruption is less well drawn than other narrative elements). But McLemore’s vivid descriptions create a tale rich with visual detail, and readers will be compelled to keep reading to find out the fate of these sisters. christina l. dobbs

About the Author

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel The Weight of Feathers was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award.

Her website is author.annamariemclemore.com.

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Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands

Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands. September 25, 2018. Aladdin Books, 544 p. ISBN: 9781534428478.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7.

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

Christopher Rowe has no idea who he is. After being shipwrecked in Devonshire, he wakes up alone, his memories gone. Villagers tell him he was possessed by an unseen evil, and only became conscious after being visited by the local witch.

As Christopher tries to get his bearings, he realizes his current state may be far from coincidence. Dark events have been happening in this corner of Britain—village children are disappearing without a trace. There are whispers that the malevolent ghost of the White Lady has returned to steal the children away, one by one, and consume their souls.

Thankfully, friends Tom and Sally find Christopher and help him reconnect with his unique skills and talents, even as his memories elude him. But as motives and secrets are revealed, Christopher finds himself in a desperate race to reclaim his memories and discover the missing children before it’s too late

Sequel to: The Assassin’s Curse

Part of Series: The Blackthorn Key (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Violence, Child abuse

 

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.

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Nate Expectations by Tim Federle

Nate Expectations by Tim Federle. September 18, 2018. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 192 p. ISBN: 9781481404129.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.4; Lexile:.

Third time’s a charm! Nate Foster returns home to Jankburg, Pennsylvania, to face his biggest challenge yet—high school—in this final novel in the Lambda Literary Award–winning Nate trilogy, which The New York Times calls “inspired and inspiring.”

When the news hits that E.T.: The Musical wasn’t nominated for a single Tony Award—not one!—the show closes, leaving Nate both out of luck and out of a job. And while Nate’s cast mates are eager to move on (the boy he understudies already landed a role on a TV show!), Nate knows it’s back to square one, also known as Jankburg, Pennsylvania. Where horror (read: high school) awaits.

Desperate to turn his life from flop to fabulous, Nate takes on a huge freshman English project with his BFF, Libby: he’s going to make a musical out of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. (What could possibly go…right?) But when Nate’s New York crush ghosts him, and his grades start to slip, he finds the only thing harder than being on Broadway is being a freshman — especially when you’ve got a secret you’re desperate to sing out about.

Sequel to: Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Part of Series: Better Nate Than Never (Book #3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Name calling

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Online))
Grades 6-9. Drummed off of Broadway and forced to go crawling back to Pennsylvania, freshman Nate Foster is worried that high school won’t be as fabulous as the Big Apple, that his parents won’t be as supportive as his theater family, and that he’ll miss kissing his boyfriend. Yet as in the first two books in this entertaining series, readers will see a determined and resilient young man, and when Nate and his best friend turn a dull English assignment into a musical version of Great Expectations, his show-biz magic brightens the existence of his fellow students. Just as one character prophetically warns, “Charm can get you far in Times Square. But be careful back home,” this final act set in Nate’s hometown isn’t quite as charming as the high bar set in the series’ earlier NYC adventures, yet it’s satisfying and has some great one-liners (“Sometimes I feel like I’m three life choices away from having a signature wig line”). If you know the difference between a cast album and a soundtrack, this is the book for you!

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 1, 2018)
Attention theater nerds! Nate Foster has returned for one last encore. Sadly, Nate’s return is not off to a promising start. His world is breaking apart. The not-really-a-hit E.T.: The Musical did not pick up any Tony nominations, and as Broadway babies know, this usually signals the end of most musical runs. As the show enters its final days, Nate must come to terms with returning home to Jankburg, Pennsylvania, saying goodbye to his aunt and NYC–guardian, Heidi, and leaving his crush (and make-out buddy) Jordan, the star of the show. Things may not be completely bleak, however. Once home, Nate is reunited with his best friend, Libby, and begins his new quest: high school, where his adventures include self-discovery, musical theater (duh), crushes, and coming out. Federle is in fine form here, and readers will laugh out loud at Nate’s adventures (and dramatics). The storyline may have matured along with Nate, but the tone is still fresh, irreverent, and over-the-top. Some subplots may be a skosh unrealistic—such as Nate’s near-total acceptance in his new school—but readers will likely forgive a point or two as the teen thespians mount a musical adaptation of Great Expectations. As enjoyable as Nate may be, the standout character of the book is Libby, whose Tina Fey–like humor and Oprah-like efficiency will have readers in stitches. An exceptional swan song for a beloved character. (Fiction 10-14)

About the Author

Tim Federle is an award-winning writer whose works include the New York Times notable books “The Great American Whatever” and “Better Nate Than Ever,” the global bestseller “Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist,” and the Tony-nominated Broadway musical “Tuck Everlasting.”

A native of San Francisco who grew up in Pittsburgh, Tim now divides his time between New York City and the internet.

His website is www.TimFederle.com

Around the Web

Nate Expectations on Amazon

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Whatshisface by Gordon Korman

Whatshisface by Gordon Korman. May 8, 2018. Scholastic Press, 240 p. ISBN: 9781338200164.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 770.

Gordon Korman’s newest standalone novel, is a fun, funny ghost story about a nobody kid who becomes a somebody while helping a ghost right a wrong from the past.

When 12-year-old Cooper Vega moves for the third time in five years, he receives a state-of-the-art smartphone to help him stay in touch with old friends. He’s had phones before, but this one is buggy and unpredictable. When a boy named Roderick Northrop communicates with him through the phone, Cooper realizes that his phone isn’t buggy at all: the thing is haunted!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 4-7. After moving five times in three years, Cooper’s not surprised when the kids at Stratford Middle School call him Whatshisface, but two new acquaintances stun him. First Jolie, a petite, self-assured classmate who loves theater and extreme sports, befriends him. Then he meets Roddy, the ghost of a 13-year-old Elizabethan apprentice, who inhabits his new cell phone and claims to have written the original version of Romeo and Juliet. The plot thickens when both Jolie’s and Cooper’s brutish nemeses take the leading roles in the seventh-grade production of the play. Meanwhile, Cooper and Roddy attempt to retrieve his original manuscript from a billionaire’s secret vault. The novel has a bit of everything: history, crime, suspense, romance, and plenty of humor. While becoming more familiar with sixteenth-century English customs and language, readers will have the fun of hearing Roddy react to twentieth-century American culture and technology. The question “Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?” arises, but pales in comparison with “What would you do to help a friend?” Korman’s latest is an enjoyable romp from start to finish.

School Library Journal (March 1, 2018)
Gr 4-7-Army brat Cooper Vega is used to starting over in new places and being practically invisible. As he starts seventh grade at yet another school, his parents have given him a state-of-the-art cell phone. Unfortunately, the phone proves to be haunted by the ghost of an Elizabethan printer’s apprentice who claims to be the original author of Romeo and Juliet, which is being performed at his new school. Funny scenarios abound, especially when Cooper starts taking the ghost’s advice on how to impress the girl he likes. This humorous and well-paced read touches on bullying, crushes, and popularity, with a side of the Bard. VERDICT Korman fans will not be disappointed.-Misti Tidman, -Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, OH

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Takedown by Laura Shovan

Takedown by Laura Shovan. June 19, 2018. Wendy Lamb Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780553521429.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.2; Lexile: 610.

“You’re only as good as your partner.”

Mikayla is a wrestler; when you grow up in a house full of brothers who are die-hard mat heads, it’s in your DNA. She even has a wrestling name: Mickey. Some people don’t want a girl on the team. But that won’t stop her. She’s determined to work hard, and win.

Lev is determined too–he’s going to make it to the state championship. He’s used to training with his two buddies as the Fearsome Threesome. But at the beginning of sixth grade, he’s paired with a new partner—a girl. This better not get in the way of his goal.

Mickey and Lev work hard together, and find a way to become friends. But at States, there can only be one winner.

This warmhearted, engaging novel by the author of the highly praised The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary explores competition among athletes, how it influences family and friendships, and what happens when one girl wants to break barriers in a sport dominated by boys.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 3-6. Along with best friend Kenna, Mikayla is joining her first traveling wrestling league. Preferring to wrestle under the name Mickey, she’s angry when the coach of the Eagles, the team her brothers wrestled with, declares he won’t accept girls, and Kenna admits that she wants to join the drama club instead. With limited options, Mickey joins the Gladiators team. Lev, a Gladiator, is determined to make it to state championships this year and plans to train hard. However, he feels his goals are hampered when Coach pairs him with Mickey—a girl! Shovan has written a sports book that will appeal to all genders and non-sports-fans alike, who will be drawn into Mickey’s struggle to be seen as a wrestler (not a “female” wrestler) and Lev’s grappling with the realization that wrestling may not be his true passion. As the chapters alternate between the characters’ perspectives, readers will quickly become invested, particularly when the tweens’ goals eventually merge and they discover that a true wrestler is anyone with the courage to step on the mat.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2018)
Sixth-graders Lev and Mikayla are both wrestlers. They narrate in their own voices in alternating chapters, often overlapping in time and perspective, allowing readers into their thoughts and concerns, for they are wrestling with middle school friendships and family dynamics as well as on the mat. Mikayla believes that her divorced father spends all his time on her big brothers’ wrestling practices and tournaments. If she joins a team, maybe he will value her more. The prejudice of her brothers’ coach forces her on to a different team, the Gladiators. There she meets Lev, who reluctantly becomes her training partner. Lev is haunted by his failure last year to make the state tournament and is determined to get there this year. Lev is Jewish, and his best friend is a Chinese boy who loves music. Mikayla is a white Christian whose best friend is a biracial brown girl who loves to work with theatrical makeup. Their diversity is treated matter-of-factly, accepted as part of what makes them unique. Although the jargon of wrestling is not always clearly defined, readers will find the action exciting. The characters, both adults and children, are well-developed and likable. Not everything is wrapped up neatly, but there are some twists that will satisfy readers. Mikayla and Lev are winners. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Laura Shovan’s debut middle-grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was a NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry, as well a Nerdy Book Club award. Her son’s experiences as a member of a travel wrestling team were the inspiration for Takedown. Laura and her family live in Maryland, where she is a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council.

Her website is laurashovan.com/

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