Tag Archives: friendship

Barely Missing Everything by Matt Méndez

Barely Missing Everything by Matt Méndez. MArch 5, 2019. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781534404458.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

In the tradition of Jason Reynolds and Matt de la Peña, this heartbreaking, no-holds-barred debut novel told from three points of view explores how difficult it is to make it in life when you–your life, brown lives–don’t matter.

Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself–or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion–what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­-like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Abortion, Drugs, Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Strong language, Underage drinking, Drunk driving, Police violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 10-12. Mendez’s gut-wrenching YA debut follows three narrators—Juan, JD, and Fabi—who are struggling to get by in El Paso, Texas. They each have a goal: Juan’s best shot at college is a basketball scholarship, JD dreams of becoming a filmmaker, and Fabi, Juan’s mother, just wants to make ends meet despite an unexpected pregnancy. But, as they know too well, the world is unforgiving, and troubles like sprained ankles, broken families, and lost jobs are heaped upon them. They begin to doubt if any of their hopes and dreams will ever come true, or if the lives of three brown people matter to anyone besides themselves. Mendez minces no words as he presents issues that are all too real for many Latin American communities. Although the characters are sometimes frustrating, Mendez’s attention to raw detail in plot and diction is both painful and illuminating. With its shades of social justice, this will appeal to readers of Matt de la Peña and Jason Reynolds.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2019)
Born on the poor side of El Paso, Juan and JD fight for their dreams, knowing the odds are stacked against them. Mendez (Twitching Heart, 2012) tells the touching story of two teenage buddies, their troubled families, and the injustices they endure as a result of being poor and brown. Juan wants to play college basketball. JD wants to be a filmmaker. But following a single bad decision at a party in a wealthy neighborhood, their dreams begin to fall like dominoes. In a setting of police profiling and violent streets, it becomes obvious that the pain in this community is intergenerational. The boys must cope with parental secrets—Juan’s mother never told him who his father is, and JD’s father makes him an accomplice in a dishonest affair. As they seek answers, readers see that the future is a tidal wave pushing them to the brink even as they act with courage and good intentions. Studying, working hard on the court, impressing coaches and teachers, the teens come to understand that the world has labeled them failures no matter how hard they try. In this novel with a deep sense of place and realistic dialogue, characters who are vivid and fallible add deep psychological meaning to a heart-wrenching story. At once accessible and artful, this is an important book about Mexican teens holding onto hope and friendship in the midst of alcoholism, poverty, prejudice, and despair. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Like his characters, Matt Mendez grew up in central El Paso, Texas. He is the author of Barely Missing Everything, his YA debut novel, and the short story collection Twitching Heart. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona.

Her website is mattmendez.com

Teacher Resources

Barely Missing Everything on Common Sense Media

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To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. February 12, 2019. Dial Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9780525553236.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.9.

From two extraordinary authors comes a moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

Avery Bloom, who’s bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who’s fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends–and possibly, one day, even sisters.

But things soon go off the rails for the girls (and for their dads too), and they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. Now that they can’t imagine life without each other, will the two girls (who sometimes call themselves Night Owl and Dogfish) figure out a way to be a family?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. Two popular writers team up for a Where’d You Go, Bernadette–esque tale for the middle-school set. An entire country lies between anxious New Yorker Avery Bloom and adventurous Bett Devlin, but there’s something powerful connecting them: their dads are in love. At first horrified at the prospect of becoming—gulp—sisters, the two surprise themselves by bonding at a summer sleepaway camp while their dads motorcycle their way across China. But when their dads’ relationship sours, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get them back together. Even if the target readership eschews email these days, they’ll be hard-pressed not to be laughing out loud at the witty, clever email and letter repartee among the girls, their dads, and the rest of the supporting cast. Though the story lacks the emotional depth of more true-to-life novels dealing with blended families, such as Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick’s Naomis Too (2018), its escalating stakes and Parent Trap–like setup is sure to appeal to both authors’ fan bases. Alternately heartwarming and hilarious.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
The Parent Trap gets a modern makeover in this entertaining and endearing middle-grade novel about two 12-year-old girls, one camp, and a summer that will bond them for a lifetime. Avery, an aspiring writer from New York, and Bett, a California surfer girl, are the lights of their respective single father’s lives—and each is very much used to it. So the news that their gay dads fell in love at a conference and have been secretly dating for three months does not sit well with either of them. Worse still, the girls are bundled off to a nerd camp where they are expected to bond like family while their dads head off on an eight-week motorcycle adventure in China. Sloan and Wolizter make strategic use of their tale’s epistolary (or rather email) format to create two disparate yet familiar-feeling three-dimensional characters who are from very different worlds. That they will eventually become sisters feels inevitable, but that does not diminish the enjoyment of watching Avery and Bett bond over animals at camp, gradually growing toward each other and then with each other. Their increasing closeness is tracked in the evolution of their correspondence, which becomes littered with nicknames and discussions of everything from periods and pet phobias to boys. Bett is African-American and was carried by a Brazilian surrogate, and Avery has both white and Jewish heritages. A sweet and amusing tale that celebrates diversity while reinforcing the power of love and the importance of family. (Fiction. 10-13)

About the Authors

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California, the Netherlands, Istanbul, Washington, DC, and Oregon (where she graduated from high school). She wrote the screenplay for Angels in the Outfield and directed The Big Green, as well as a number of other successful family feature films.

The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband (the writer/illustrator Gary Rosen) in Santa Monica, California.

Her website is hollygoldbergsloan.com/

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

Her website is megwolitzer.com/

Teacher Resources

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Common Sense Media

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To Night Owl from Dogfish on Amazon

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Barnes and Noble

To Night Owl from Dogfish on Goodreads

To Night Owl from Dogfish on LibraryThing

To Night Owl from Dogfish Publisher Page

Milo on Wheels by Elizabeth Gordon

Milo on Wheels by Elizabeth Gordon. August 1, 2019. West 44 Books, 88 p. ISBN: 9781538382387.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.9; Lexile: 450.

Milo has never fit in with kids his own age. He’s often bullied for the crutches he uses to walk. When he first shows up at the Club, he sits by himself and draws plants and animals. The annual go-kart rally is coming up, and Milo starts to feel like it’s one sport he could excel at. Can Milo step outside of his comfort zone to make new friends and try something new, or will he be stuck on the sidelines?

Part of series: The Club (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Milo refers to himself as a “cripple”

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
An aspiring biologist who’s bullied because of his disability finds friends when he enters a go-kart competition. When middle schooler Milo Braverman enters a new after-school program in a new city, he braces himself for a new round of jokes, pity, and names like “bug-boy” and “cripple.” Milo, who walks with forearm crutches due to an unspecified congenital disability, cocoons himself in his field-guide sketchbook to avoid attention. But soon, some kids at The Club admire his sketches: Broadway musical aficionado Javi; accident-prone “Hurricane Addy;” artistic Noah; and Noah’s athletic sister, Zoe. In spite of himself, Milo gradually warms to them. When Miguel, the kindly director, announces the annual go-kart team rally, Milo is determined to race and prove he belongs. As the kids combine their various skills and endeavor to build an adapted go-kart in time for the rally, their enthusiasm feels natural, as does Milo’s anxiety. Obstacles arise, and Milo’s anger and mistrust sympathetically illustrate bullying’s lasting effects. Though a tad heavy-handed, Milo’s identification with a “brave” oak tree that “had overcome everything standing in its way” feels apropos; the optimistic, open ending implies that Milo’s growth, like the resilient oak’s, is an ongoing process that’s “hard, but not impossible.” Javi is from Guatemala; Milo and the other kids are ethnically ambiguous, though descriptions of Addy’s red hair, Noah’s “dreadlocks,” and Zoe’s braids will probably have readers imagining the former as white and the latter two as black. Nondescript, uncredited line drawings dot the margins. A realistic, hopeful take on meeting challenges and making friends. (Fiction. 7-12)

About the Author

Elizabeth Gordon has a master’s degree in children’s literature from Hollins University. She was a finalist for the Hunger Mountain Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, the winner of the Hollins University Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Scholarship, and winner of the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant. She has published nine middle grade books so far, including a five-book superhero series.

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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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Making Friends on Amazon

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Making Friends Publisher Page

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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Swing on Amazon

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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

 

Around the Web

That Night on Amazon

That Night on Barnes and Noble

That Night on Goodreads

That Night on LibraryThing

That Night Publisher Page

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

Around the Web

The War Outside on Amazon

The War Outside on Barnes and Noble

The War Outside on Goodreads

The War Outside Publisher Page

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

Around the Web

The Third Mushroom on Amazon

The Third Mushroom on Barnes and Noble

The Third Mushroom on Goodreads

The Third Mushroom Publisher Page

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.

Around the Web

Blanca and Roja on Amazon

Blanca and Roja on Barnes and Noble

Blanca and Roja on Goodreads

Blanca and Roja Publisher Page

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.

Around the Web

Call of the Wraith on Amazon

Call of the Wraith on Barnes and Noble

Call of the Wraith on Goodreads

Call of the Wraith Publisher Page