Tag Archives: humor

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy. November 13, 2018. Delacorte Press, 336 p. ISBN: 9781524766436.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 740.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB meets middle school with a prank twist in this hilarious and heartwarming story about six very different seventh graders who are forced to band together after a vandalism incident.

When Theo’s photography project is mysteriously vandalized at school there are five suspected students who all say “it wasn’t me.”

Theo just wants to forget about the humiliating incident but his favorite teacher is determined to get to the bottom of it and has the six of them come into school over vacation to talk. She calls it “Justice Circle.” The six students—the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, the Screw Up, the Weirdo, and the Nobody—think of it as detention. AKA their worst nightmare.

That is until they realize they might get along after all, despite their differences. But what is everyone hiding and will school ever be the same?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Homophobic slur, Mild language

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 5-8. Having to go to school over break stinks, but circumstantial evidence surrounding vandalism brings six unhappy seventh-graders together for a justice circle facilitated by a favorite teacher. Like The Breakfast Club, each student carries a label by which they are automatically judged (the nerd, the princess, the jock, the weirdo, the screw-up), and this experimental gathering seeks to discover not only who destroyed Theo’s photographs but why. Despite a slow start, the story becomes as much a whodunit as an examination of judging others based on assumptions. Each day, the five possible perps fill out a questionnaire, offering readers a glimpse into the characters’ personalities and thin layers of clues. Meanwhile, the six learn about each other’s backgrounds, passions, and commonalities, leading to surprising results. Told primarily via Theo’s first-person narrative, readers join him as he discovers what happened and feel his ever-changing emotions about the events. Plenty of laughs and loads of interesting introspection help drive the story. Fans of Levy’s Family Fletcher books will love that Jax is one of the suspects.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
Having reluctantly agreed to exhibit his self-portraits in his school’s art gallery, seventh grader Theo is devastated when the photographs are defaced and destroyed. With trepidation he joins the five students suspected of committing the vandalism in a Justice Circle, hoping to understand how one of them could be so cruel. The suspects seem predictable types—a jock, an overachiever, a weirdo, a class clown (Jax Fletcher from Levy’s Family Fletcher books), and a stayer-below-the-radar—who are introduced in the novel’s opening pages through the first of the written assessments they are required to complete each day. As time goes on, they start to shed defensiveness, show vulnerability, and gain an appreciation for one another through their shared experience. As for Theo himself, through his introspective first-person viewpoint we see him dealing with hurt, anger, confusion, empathy, and compassion as the culprit is slowly revealed. Levy delves into sensitive topics that are both timely and of great importance to middle-school readers while also providing plenty of entertainment and humor—yoga-ball soccer, anyone?—with this winning school story. monica edinger

About the Author

Dana Alison Levy was raised by pirates but escaped at a young age and went on to earn a degree in aeronautics and puppetry. Actually, that’s not true—she just likes to make things up. That’s why she always wanted to write books. She was born and raised in New England and studied English literature before going to graduate school for business. While there is value in all learning, had she known she would end up writing for a living, she might not have struggled through all those statistics and finance classes. Dana was last seen romping with her family in Massachusetts.

Her website is danaalisonlevy.com

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Dear Sister by Alison McGhee

Dear Sister by Alison McGhee. October 2, 2018. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 192 p. ISBN: 9781481451420.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.4; Lexile: 560.

What do you do when you have an incredibly annoying little sister? Write her letters telling her so, of course!

Whininess, annoyingness, afraid of the darkness, refusal to eat lima beans, and pulling brother’s hair. This is the criteria on which little sisters are graded. Inspired by the notes Alison McGhee’s own kids would write each other, this heavily illustrated collection of letters and messages from an older brother to his little sister reveal the special love–or, at the very least, tolerance–siblings have for each other.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Talk

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 4-7. When an eight-year-old boy gets a baby sister, his true feelings emerge in a series of letters and drawings addressed to her. At first, there’s a lot of antagonism: the narrator draws over-the-top pictures of his sister (“Even though it is not my fault that you look like this, they decided not to put my picture of you in your baby book”), writes her a regular progress report (“whininess: world class”), and sends her birthday cards (“Happy sixth birthday to someone who is still obnoxious”). But 10 years go by, and his attitude gradually softens. The epistolary format is comically complemented by Bluhm’s cartoon drawings, appearing in heavy pencil scrawls in the beginning chapters, and in a more refined hand as the narrator’s drawing skills steadily improve. Glimmers of plot appear, mostly about the boy’s best friend moving away, but more endearing is the slow-but-steady growth of affection. The ending might be a touch schmaltzy for the target audience, but the dry humor and clever format should nevertheless appeal to any kid with a sibling.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
Over the years, a boy’s letters to his younger sister reveal his changing impressions of her and their relationship in this epistolary graphic novel. For the unnamed 8-year-old boy, life was less complicated before his baby sister was born. Now his parents (aka “the wardens”) ask him to write cards and letters, sometimes with accompanying drawings, to his new sibling. Beginning each note with “Dear Sister,” the boy recounts his life with honesty, expressing his frustration with her incessant crying, having to read her the same book for “the 763rd time,” and his lack of privacy. Mixed in are several apology letters that reveal that the wardens fail to understand his perspective. Only his friend Joe offers diversion. Signing his initial letters “From, Brother,” he informs his sister that he’s holding out on the love part until he’s made up his mind. During a 10-year-period, however, his letters gradually reflect his growing affection for her. When Joe moves away, it’s the sister, who’s always adored her big brother, who understands his pain. And as their friendship and affection grow, perhaps the brother enjoys connecting with—and yes, reading to—his sister after all. While books on sibling rivalry abound, this volume brings freshness to the topic with McGhee’s gentle humor and poignant scenarios (though adults may respond more strongly than kids). Bluhm heightens both with childlike sketches for the brother’s drawings and emotive illustrations for the storyline. Dear indeed for preteens facing big changes and adults with fond memories. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Alison McGhee writes novels, picture books, poems, and essays for all ages, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Someday, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages. She lives in Minneapolis, California and Vermont.

Her website is alisonmcghee.com

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Check Out the Library Weenies by David Lubar

Check Out the Library Weenies: and Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar. September 4, 2018. Starscape, 224 p. ISBN: 9780765397065.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.0.

Master of the macabre David Lubar is back with Check Out the Library Weenies, his ninth collection of Weenies Stories. Here are thirty more scary stories for the middle grade audience–perfect for both avid and reluctant young readers who like a few chills and a lot of laughs.

Don’t be a weenie. Read these stories. If you dare!

Part of Series: Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales. (Book # 9)

Potentially Sensitive Areas:Grotesque imagery, Violence

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Beware, the weenies return with 30 new tales to warp your mind and chill your spine. Lubar returns with the ninth collection in 15 years of short and sometimes shivery stories. There are sci-fi stories, horror stories, fantasy stories, and revenge stories. In a medieval village, one tale’s narrator wants a wizard to turn all of the silver in a house into gold. It’s not the narrator’s house; what possible reason could he have…it’s a monstrous reason. Pamela must stay with her great-aunt while her mother’s on a business trip. Great Aunt Hester collects dolls’ heads. Can Pamela stand to sleep in a room lined with staring bodiless dolls? In the title story, the collection’s longest, a group of bullied book lovers are locked out of their library hangout due to mold. When they create a golem to protect themselves, it turns on them. Help arrives from an unexpected quarter. A few are less engaging than others, but they’re short; just turn the page. Fans will be happy at the variety in these tales, and story notes at the close will be fun to investigate for budding authors. Also at the close: a reading and activity guide for grades four through seven that lists the common core standards it supports. Diversity is achieved largely through naming convention. Lots to like but not for the faint of heart. (Short stories. 8-12)

About the Author

David Lubar has written more than thirty books for teens and young readers. His novels, including Hidden Talents and Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, are on reading lists across the country, saving countless students from a close encounter with Madam Bovary. His novel, Dunk, won Pennsylvania’s Young Adult Book Award and was used by the New Jersey Library Association for their One Book New Jersey program. His Weenies short story collections have sold more than two million copies. He is a popular speaker at schools and conferences around the country. He also designed and programmed many video games in an earlier eight-bit life, including Home Alone and Frogger 2. In his spare time, he takes naps on the couch.

He grew up in New Jersey, went to Rutgers, and now lives in Nazareth, PA with one awesome female and various annoying felines. You can visit him on the web at www.davidlubar.com.

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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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Squirm by Carl Hiaasen

Squirm by Carl Hiaasen. September 25, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780385752985.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 740.

Snakes, grizzlies, a missing dad, a menacing drone… Carl Hiaasen delivers a wickledly funny, slightly subversive tale in his latest New York Times bestseller. 

Some facts about Billy Dickens:
*  He once saw a biker swerve across the road in order to run over a snake.
*  Later, that motorcycle somehow ended up at the bottom of a canal.
*  Billy isn’t the type to let things go.

Some facts about Billy’s family:
*  They’ve lived in six different Florida towns because Billy’s mom insists on getting a house near a bald eagle nest.
*  Billy’s dad left when he was four and is a total mystery.
*  Billy has just found his dad’s address–in Montana.

This summer, Billy will fly across the country, hike a mountain, float a river, dodge a grizzly bear, shoot down a spy drone, save a neighbor’s cat, save an endangered panther, and then try to save his own father.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals, Mild language, Reference to domestic abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. Billy Dickens isn’t your typical tween—unless your typical tween has a thing for rattlesnakes. His dad’s been out of the picture for as long as he can remember, but when Billy gets ahold of his address—Montana, not far from Yellowstone—the savvy, brave oddball flies out there solo to track him down. What he finds instead is his stepsister, Summer Chasing-Hawks, and his dad’s new wife, Little Thunder Sky, aka Lil, both Crow Indians. Unfortunately, his dad’s not so easy to track down. As the story spans from Montana to Florida and back, Billy continues to find and lose his father, who’s in a bit of a wild goose chase himself, hunting down rich-boy poacher Lincoln Chumley Baxter. As always, Hiaasen’s latest is richly steeped in the natural world and all the peril it contains, from rattlers to grizzlies. Still, what may be most satisfying for readers are the personal connections Billy makes, whether it’s getting to know his new stepsister or making peace with his dad. Hiaasen’s fan base will relish his latest tale.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
Billy Dickens is not the kind of kid who suffers bullies or poachers or absent parents. Billy’s dad left when Billy was 3. Checks arrive on the 10th of every month, but Billy’s mom destroys the envelopes to keep the return address from Billy. Shortly before summer vacation, Billy pieces one together and discovers his father’s in Montana, so he leaves Florida to find him. Billy’s tired of his mother’s evasiveness about his father—all he knows is that he’s got a new wife and family—and Billy’s ready for answers. In Montana, Billy meets Lil, his stepmother, and Summer, his stepsister, both members of the Crow Nation. But not his dad. Lil and Summer profess to know as little as his mother about his dad’s actual job, but they don’t mind having Billy wait with them for him to return (they even give him a little primer on U.S.–Native Nations relations). When his father’s truck is found abandoned with slashed tires, they get a message via drone: “See you in Florida.” Billy’s had enough. He tracks his dad down, but that turns out to be just the beginning of his adventure. Hiaasen’s newest wildlife-centered caper for middle graders is characteristically entertaining—and, just as characteristically, genially improbable. Narrator Billy’s white, a sarcastic outsider with a strong sense of justice and a deep affection for snakes. Humorous, self-deprecating narration and convoluted exploits will keep pages turning till the satisfying close. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida. After graduating from the University of Florida, he joined the Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the newspaper’s weekly magazine and prize-winning investigations team. As a journalist and author, Carl has spent most of his life advocating for the protection of the Florida Everglades. He and his family live in southern Florida.

Her website is www.carlhiaasen.com

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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.

Around the Web

Whatshisface on Amazon

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Whatshisface Publisher Page

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. May 8, 2018. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 323 p. ISBN: 9780374304089.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Clara Shin loves her untethered L.A. life, where she lives with her young Korean Brazilian dad. But when a prom prank turns into a brawl, her punishment is the worst she can imagine: working all summer on her dad’s hot, cramped food truck, KoBra, instead of vacationing in Mexico with her mom. As if that weren’t bad enough, overachiever and perennial enemy Rose Carver must also work on the truck as punishment for her part in the scuffle. Clever strategies by Dad lead Clara and Rose to see each other less as adversaries and more as friends. Meanwhile, a Chinese boy named Hamlet expresses interest in Clara and helps her realize that perhaps her old self isn’t the one she wants to embrace going forward. Flip, hip narrator Clara may seem a tad unlikable at first, but readers can’t help but get caught up in her bumpy coming-of-age journey, applauding her increasing attachment to KoBra and her drive to help facilitate her dad’s dream of opening a restaurant. With massive amounts of humor, heart, and soul, this love letter to L.A. and its diversity is a celebration of friends, family, and food trucks.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
A spirited teenager learns about the meaning of love, friendship, and family. When spunky Clara Shin, the daughter of two Brazilian immigrants of Korean descent, is forced to make up for a school prank by taking a summer job working in her father’s food truck alongside her nemesis, Rose Carver, a perfectionistic, overachieving classmate who looks like a “long-lost Obama daughter,” she thinks it’s the end of her summer. Clara’s insouciant and rebellious demeanor hides profound feelings of rejection over her glamorous mother’s decision to leave the family when Clara was 4 to jaunt around the world as a social media influencer. Clara is most comfortable hanging out with a crowd of kids who are similarly rebellious and disengaged, but a budding romance with earnest Chinese heartthrob Hamlet Wong, who works in a neighboring food truck, and a developing friendship with Rose, who has never had a BFF, teach Clara that there’s an upside to taking risks and letting people get close. When Clara feels hurt by her father’s negative reaction to a well-intentioned surprise, she takes off on an adventure that ultimately opens her eyes to all the good things that await her back home. Clara’s personal growth during this summer of change is realistic and convincing. Snappy dialogue and an endearing cast of characters bring to life this richly-drawn portrait of multicultural LA. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

Her website is www.maurenegoo.com

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How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand

How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand. April 3, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 304 p. ISBN: 9781492662020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

A new hilarious novel from the author of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever and Stranger Things Have Happened.

Rod’s life doesn’t suck. If you ask him, it’s pretty awesome. He may not be popular, but he and his best friends play in a band that has a standing gig. Yeah, it’s Monday night and they don’t get paid, but they can turn the volume up as loud as they want. And Rod’s girlfriend is hot, smart, and believes in their band―believes in Rod. Aside from a winning lottery ticket, what more could he ask for?

Answer: A different cousin. When Rod’s scheming, two-faced cousin Blake moves in for the semester, Rod tries to keep calm. Blake seems to have everyone else fooled with good manners and suave smile, except Rod knows better. Blake is taking over his room, taking over his band, taking over his life! But Rod’s not about to give up without a fight. Game on. May the best prankster win…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Rod is pretty satisfied with his life. Sure, his dad left, but he’s got a fun band and a great girlfriend. Then his mom announces that Rod’s cousin, Blake, is coming to stay for three months. Rod’s not thrilled about sharing his room for a semester, but he supposes it could be worse—and as soon as he picks up Blake from the airport, it is. Entitled, lazy Blake is a pain in the ass, but only to Rod; in front of everyone else, he’s completely charming. After a few days of this gaslighting, Rod’s starting to go a little crazy. But even if no one else believes it, he knows Blake is trying to take over his life, and Rod is about to start fighting back. Strand (Stranger Things Have Happened, 2017) imbues Rod’s downward spiral with plenty of wacky humor, and if Rod’s outbursts are a bit overly dramatic at times, readers will be too busy sympathizing with him to care. A family drama guaranteed to keep readers laughing.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
Two cousins trapped under the same roof engage in psychological warfare.Rod may not be very popular or live in a big house, but he has a tight group of friends, an up-and-coming band, and a perfectly sweet girlfriend. His dad abandoned the family, but Rod is close to his mom, a waitress. All in all, plenty to be thankful for. However, when his wealthy cousin Blake’s parents go on a three-month around-the-world cruise, guess who shows up for an extended visit? Blake and Rod get off on the wrong foot, and the pair’s conflict quickly devolves into a battle of wills and mutual sabotage. As Blake, with his high-handed arrogance, systematically chips away at Rod’s sanity, readers will howl with laughter, cringing as the author twists the screws at perfectly placed intervals. The resolution is a tad disappointing, but Rod’s narration is amusing, with a playful awareness of literary convention that makes for a breezy read. The tertiary characters are thin, particularly Rod’s band mates (readers may have trouble telling them apart), but the book aims for laughs, and it earns them. All major characters are assumed white. A well-paced comedy that doesn’t quite stick the landing. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

Around the Web

How You Ruined My Life on Amazon

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American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda by Gloria Chao. February 6, 2018. Simon Pulse, 311 p. ISBN: 9781481499101.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Body humor, Graphic descriptions, Mention of child abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. For Mei, age 17 doesn’t involve prom dates. Instead, she’s a hopeful medical student at MIT, exactly as her parents planned. Mei strains against the expectations of her traditional Chinese parents, especially after they disowned her brother for choosing love over familial duty. At first, dance is the secret indulgence she must hide from them, but soon it graduates to a cute Japanese (read: unsuitable) boy and even worse—contact with her ostracized brother. She comes to understand her culture to be both a source of pride and a prison sentence, and she must find the strength to empathize with her parents, who are just as trapped by expectations. Vibrant, complex, and refreshing, this book crafts a nuanced view of growing up in a family beholden to centuries of tradition. Chao is meticulous in showing the wrinkles of a Chinese upbringing, especially in the face of an individualistic American society. Chao’s also wickedly funny; she’s not afraid of placing Mei in embarrassing situations to show readers what she’s made of. Moreover, Chao devotes a generous amount of effort to fleshing out Mei’s mother, transforming her from antagonist to someone with whom Mei learns to identify. A soulful and hilarious debut.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
A Taiwanese-American girl finally starts to experience life beyond her overbearing parents.Mei, a 17-year-old freshman at MIT, has followed her parents’ plans so far. Now all she has to do is get into a good medical school, become a doctor, and marry a nice Taiwanese boy. But with some distance from her parents (living in the Boston suburbs, they still demand to see her at weekly check-ins), Mei starts to buckle under the weight of their expectations and the truths she discovers about herself: she’s a germophobe who can’t stomach the thought of medical school. She really, really likes Darren, a Japanese-American classmate. Unfortunately, a thinly drawn cast of characters (an old friend appears in just one chapter to make a point) and heavy-handed first-person reflections (“She didn’t know anything about them, my situation, how hard it was to straddle two cultures”) sometimes read more as a book about cultural stereotypes and self-discovery than a compelling, fully fleshed novel. Awkwardly specific and quickly dated cultural references such as a Facebook check-in and an explanation of the term “hack” jar readers from the narrative. Nonetheless, Chao’s inclusions of an Asian male romantic interest, a slightly nontraditional Asian female lead (size 8 with a big nose and “man-laugh”), and casual Mandarin dialogue are welcome and will appeal to uninitiated readers. A worthy story that stumbles. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. American Panda is her debut novel and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019.

Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.

Her website is gloriachao.wordpress.com.

Around the Web

American Panda on Amazon

American Panda on Goodreads

American Panda Publisher Page

Supergifted by Gordon Korman

Supergifted by Gordon Korman. January 2, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062563859.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.7; Lexile: 740.

The highly anticipated sequel to Ungifted from #1 New York Timesbestselling author Gordon Korman.

Donovan Curtis has never been what anyone would call “gifted.” But his genius friend Noah Youkilis is actually supergifted, with one of the highest IQs around. After years at the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, all Noah dreams of is the opportunity to fail if he wants to. And he’s landed in the perfect place to do it—Donovan’s school.

Almost immediately, Noah finds himself on the wrong side of cheerleading captain Megan Mercury and alpha jock Hash “Hashtag” Taggart. Sticking up for Noah lands Donovan in the middle of a huge feud with Hashtag. He’s told to stay away from the sports star—or else.

That should be the end of it, but when a freak incident suddenly makes Donovan a hero, he can’t tell anyone about it since Hashtag is involved. So Noah steps in and becomes “Superkid.” Now he’s gone from nerd to titan at school. And it may have gone more than a little bit to his head.

This funny and heartwarming sequel to Ungifted, which has become a word-of-mouth hit, cleverly sends up our ideas about intelligence, heroism, and popularity.

Sequel toUngifted

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 4-7. This sequel to Ungifted (2012) turns the original premise on its head when Noah, an off-the-charts genius, enrolls in an ordinary middle school. Clueless, optimistic, and determined to fit in, he fails miserably until his friend Donovan performs a heroic act and insists that Noah take the credit. Suddenly Noah rockets from superdweeb to Superkid. The amusing first-person narration rotates among several kids, from Noah and Donovan to a head cheerleader and an überjock, who all offer refreshingly different perspectives. Managing a large cast of characters with ease, Korman creates a comedy of compounded errors leading to a public disaster and, strangely enough, a happy ending.

School Library Journal (December 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-Laughs abound in Korman’s satisfying sequel to Ungifted. Donovan is the same goofy, impulse-driven kid that got put into the TaG class instead of suspension by a superintendent’s slip of the pen. His instinctive dive into a runaway truck avertsáa disaster but then precipitates a series of mishaps when his nerdy friend Noah, a downwardly mobile transfer from a magnet school, decides to take the credit for Donovan’s heroic act in order to protect him from the wrath of his ex-Marine brother-in-law. Told from the point of view of several of Donovan’s classmates in both his regular school and the magnet school that he still attends once a week for the robotics team, Korman shows the varying perceptions of heroism among Donovan’s broadly drawn community: the unsympathetic cheerleader Megan, the lacrosse-playing entitled bully, the nerds on the robotics team, the rigid authoritarian brother-in-law who is helpless when dealing with a new infant, and the plastic television host on the track of a news story. Korman expertly holds readers’ attention with a fast-paced plot culminating in a climactic denouement at the robotics meeting. Eventually, the true hero is unmasked, relationships are healed within and outside his family, and once again kindness and tolerance win the day. VERDICT Humorous, relatable, and full of heart, Korman’s gift for understanding the middle school mind is on full display.á-Jane -Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City

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.

Around the Web

Supergifted on Amazon

Supergifted on Goodreads

Supergifted Publisher Page