Tag Archives: reading guide

Slider by Pete Hautman

Slider by Pete Hautman. September 12, 2017. Candlewick Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780763690700.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

Competitive eating vies with family expectations in a funny, heartfelt novel for middle-grade readers by National Book Award winner Pete Hautman.

David can eat an entire sixteen-inch pepperoni pizza in four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Not bad. But he knows he can do better. In fact, he’ll have to do better: he’s going to compete in the Super Pigorino Bowl, the world’s greatest pizza-eating contest, and he has to win it, because he borrowed his mom’s credit card and accidentally spent $2,000 on it. So he really needs that prize money. Like, yesterday. As if training to be a competitive eater weren’t enough, he’s also got to keep an eye on his little brother, Mal (who, if the family believed in labels, would be labeled autistic, but they don’t, so they just label him Mal). And don’t even get started on the new weirdness going on between his two best friends, Cyn and HeyMan. Master talent Pete Hautman has cooked up a rich narrative shot through with equal parts humor and tenderness, and the result is a middle-grade novel too delicious to put down.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Negative attitudes toward someone with autism

 

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Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. Jack-of-all-genres Hautman turns to the mouthwatering, madcap world of competitive eating. Narrator David admires the greats: Joey Chestnut, who can down 70 dogs in 10 minutes; Takeru Kobayashi, a Guinness Record-holding lightweight; and his personal favorite, Jooky Garofalo—who legendarily lost a Nathan’s Famous championship by one single half dog. David can’t believe when Jooky’s unfinished dog appears on auction site BuyBuy.com. And he’s floored when his bid for the “piece of history” wins. Unfortunately, one mistyped decimal point means BuyBuy just charged $2,000—not $20—to his mother’s credit card. David may be able to inhale a single pizza in under five minutes, but to win the Super Pigorino Bowl’s $5,000 grand prize—and repay his mom—he’ll have to train like never before. More than a story of stomach-shattering determination, this is also an unflinching exploration of David’s bond with little brother Mal, who, though their mother forbids the label, has been diagnosed with autism. With crystalline prose, delectable detail, rip-roaring humor, and larger-than-life characters, Hautman gracefully examines what it means to be a friend, a family member, and, through it all, a kid trying to do the right thing. Readers will race to devour it, but like Papa Pigorino’s colossal BDT pizzas, this infectious tale is a thing to be savored.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
When David accidentally bids $2,000 instead of $20 on a “historic half hot dog” online with his mother’s credit card, he knows he’s dead meat. In a panic, he formulates a plan: enter competitive eating contests and use his winnings to pay his mother back, ideally before she finds out about the charge. Indulging in his particular talent distracts him from life at home; eating astoundingly large quantities of food in impossibly short time spans is obviously not quite the success his older sister, Bridgette, has achieved in college, nor is it the small triumphs of his autistic younger brother, Mal, but David takes pride in it nonetheless. He also takes pride in caring for Mal, even if the responsibility chafes on occasion, and makes some headway with Mal’s increased socialization–Mal travels further with fewer meltdowns when he is wearing sunglasses, for instance, and David also uncovers a pattern to the characteristics that make food appealing to his brother. Despite the often-nauseating drama around the eating contests, the first-person narrative explores the two brothers’ relationship in a nuanced way (except for the main character’s occasional use of ableist language: “With the enormous glasses and his headphones and his hoodie, [Mal] looks like a normal kid pretending to be a rap star”) as David becomes more attuned to Mal’s perspective and ways of communicating. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Pete Hautman is the author of Godless, which won the National Book Award, and many other critically acclaimed books for teens and adults, including Blank Confession, All-In, Rash, No Limit, and Invisible. Mr. Hautman was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Pete lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

His website is www.petehautman.com.

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Slider Discussion Guide

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The Assassin’s Curse by Kevin Sands

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

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

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

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

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

Sequel to: Mark of the Plague

Part of Series: The Blackthorn Key (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Underage drinking, Murder

 

About the Author

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

His website is kevinsandsbooks.com.

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The Assassin’s Curse Reading Group Guide

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Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

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

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

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

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

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

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Reviews

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

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

About the Author

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

Her website is BarbaraDeeBooks.com

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Halfway Normal Book Club Questions

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Halfway Normal on Amazon

Halfway Normal  on Goodreads

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Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Sourdough by Robin Sloan. September 5, 2017. MCD Books, 262 p. ISBN: 9780374203108.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her―feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

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Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
The starter comes into Lois’ life unexpectedly. She had moved to San Francisco to work as a software engineer, teaching robot arms to perform any job functions you can imagine. Her only comfort after another demanding day was ordering soup and sourdough bread from two brothers running a food-delivery service. But when the brothers are suddenly forced to leave the city, they give Lois the starter they use to make their bread, instructing her to keep it alive. Suddenly her life spins in a different direction. This inventive novel, from the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (2012), is filled with crisp humor and weird but endearing characters. As Lois takes her first tentative steps into the world of baking, her loaves appear to have faces in the crust, and the starter—Is it singing?—takes on a life of its own. Then, after she gains entry into a mysterious underground farmers market on the cutting edge of food technology, demand for her special sourdough begins to rise. At once a parody of startup culture and a foodie romp, Sourdough is an airy delight, perfect for those who like a little magic with their meals, as in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate (1992).

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A listless coder discovers inspiration—and some unusual corners of the Bay Area—via a batch of sourdough starter.Lois, the narrator of Sloan’s second novel (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, 2012), works at a San Francisco robotics firm, where long hours move her to regularly order in from a sandwich shop. The place is peculiar—it’s delivery-only, and the two brothers who own it are vague about their background (“Mazg,” they say)—but the food is amazing, especially the sourdough bread. When the brothers leave town, they eagerly bestow their sourdough starter on their “number one eater,” and though Lois is hapless in the kitchen, she soon masters baking so well her loaves catch the attention of her employer’s in-house chef and, eventually, an elite invite-only farmers market in Alameda. Early on, the novel reads like a lighthearted redemption-through-baking tale with a few quirks: the starter seems to have moods of its own and the loaves’ crusts crack into facelike visages. But in time the story picks up—and becomes somewhat burdened by—a strenuously oddball supporting cast and various allegorical commentaries about human virtues amid the rush to process and automate everything, including food. (One of Lois’ coding challenges is teaching a robotic arm to crack an egg.) Among the characters are a collector of vintage restaurant menus, members of a club for women named Lois, the Mazg brothers’ forefathers, and a fellow baker who plays Grateful Dead bootlegs to encourage his own starter. Sloan’s comic but smart tone never flags, and Lois is an easy hero to root for, inquisitive and sensitive as she is. But the absurdities of the plot twists (in part involving her starter’s need to acquire a “warrior spirit”) ultimately feel less cleverly offbeat than hokey. “I oscillated between finding this vision totally ridiculous and finding it deadly serious,” Lois bemoans at one point. But the story increasingly leans toward the former. Fluffy but overbaked.

About the Author

Robin Sloan is the author of the novels Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. He grew up near Detroit and now splits his time between the Bay Area and the internet.

His website is www.robinsloan.com

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Sourdough Discussion Questions

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Sourdough on Amazon

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Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Avakening by Manal al-Sharif. June 13, 2017. Simon & Schuster, 289 p. ISBN: 9781476793023.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 990.

A ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.

Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties she was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound that resembled suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her teenage brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in her garage, she was forbidden from driving down city streets behind the wheel.

Daring to Drive is the fiercely intimate memoir of an accidental activist, a powerfully vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men—and won. Writing on the cusp of history, Manal offers a rare glimpse into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia today. Her memoir is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties, absurdities, and joys of making your voice heard.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

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Booklist (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
In 2011, Manal Al-Sharif was arrested and jailed for driving a car in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Her imprisonment attracted international attention to the country’s restrictions on women. Manal’s memoir chronicles her evolution from a fiercely religious young woman into a champion of women’s rights and the face of the Women2Drive movement. Though there is no legal statute barring women from driving, Saudi culture enforces strict customs that force women to rely on hired drivers and male relatives to get around. Without reliable transportation, many women are unable to work, run basic errands, or even seek medical attention in emergencies. After her arrest, Manal was slandered in the national press, received death threats, and was denounced by religious leaders. In addition to her driving, Manal’s experiences as a young woman highlight the many other barriers for women, such as the requirement to have a male guardian’s permission for most decisions. Her memoir is an intimate look at life for women growing up in Saudi Arabia and the challenges of seeking major social change.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Inside the walls of segregation and oppression dictating the lives of Saudi women.Arrested and imprisoned for “driving while female” in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in 2011, Saudi author and activist al-Sharif, formerly an information security expert at the Aramco oil company, chronicles her long path to feminist activism within a deeply conservative Islamic culture. From forced circumcision at age 8, condoned by her largely uneducated parents, to extreme segregation between the sexes in her poor community of Mecca, including separate entrances, covered windows, high walls, and the necessity for a guardian or close male relative to accompany women anywhere and sign any legal documents, the author found emancipation very gradually, a process she compares to the experience of those involved in the American civil rights movement. Indeed, in Saudi Arabia, the dictates of religious culture, rather than law, were and are iron-clad regarding women; al-Sharif required the permission of her father to pursue everything from education at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah (considered a scandalously “liberal, progressive city”) to her first job at Aramco (the only IT woman employed during her 10 years there) to marriage. The author’s decision to drive emerged from a long frustration with getting around via hired drivers and costly taxis, as all Saudi women were consigned to do: in a kind of perverse logic, al-Sharif had bought a car for her hired driver to use. Yet after a liberating work trip in America, where she got an actual license, she convinced her brother to help her drive and sympathetic women friends to video the great moment behind the wheel, which led to her arrest and harassment by the religious police. Ultimately, al-Sharif’s appalling conclusion is that, in her country, “if you want to race with men, you’d have to do it with your hands and legs cut off.” An intimate and powerful book from what is hopefully only the first of many Saudi voices to speak out.

About the Author

Manal al-Sharif is a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia who was imprisoned in 2011 for driving a car. She has been lauded by Foreign PolicyTimeForbes, and the Oslo Freedom Forum. Daring to Drive is her first book.

 

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Manal al-Sharif TED Talk

Daring to Drive Reading Guide

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Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker

Sinking the Sultana by Sally M. Walker. October 10, 2017. Candlewick Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9780763677558.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.1.

The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn’t the Titanic. It was the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River — and it could have been prevented.

In 1865, the Civil War was winding down and the country was reeling from Lincoln’s assassination. Thousands of Union soldiers, released from Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, were to be transported home on the steamboat Sultana. With a profit to be made, the captain rushed repairs to the boat so the soldiers wouldn’t find transportation elsewhere. More than 2,000 passengers boarded in Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . on a boat with a capacity of 376. The journey was violently interrupted when the boat’s boilers exploded, plunging the Sultana into mayhem; passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam, and flung overboard into the churning Mississippi. Although rescue efforts were launched, the survival rate was dismal — more than 1,500 lives were lost. In a compelling, exhaustively researched account, renowned author Sally M. Walker joins the ranks of historians who have been asking the same question for 150 years: who (or what) was responsible for the Sultana’s disastrous fate?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, War, Violence, Criminal culture, Graphic descriptions of burn victims

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 7-12. It may surprise many to learn that the worst maritime disaster in American history was not the sinking of the Titanic. It happened 47 years prior, but the story begins during the Civil War, when the prisoner exchange system ended and the Andersonville prison camp swelled with Union soldiers. Once the war ended, these prisoners needed to be returned home, and transporting troops became a lucrative business for steamboats along the Mississippi River. Walker sets the scene for the Sultana disaster as she describes the captain’s greed (allowing 2,400 passengers when the legal capacity was 376), the chief engineer’s decision to repair rather than replace a deteriorating boiler, the flooded river, and other factors that would come into play. She tells the story through the lens of select soldiers and paying passengers, who each met different fates aboard the steamer. The author not only relates the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed 1,537 lives but also why it was almost forgotten. History buffs, and even adults, will be the biggest fans of this crossover YA title.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
The worst maritime disaster in American history, one that could have been easily prevented, is comprehensively recounted in this briskly paced narrative. On April 27, 1865, the Sultana, a Mississippi River side-wheel steamboat, exploded just north of Memphis on the Mississippi River. The boat, which had a capacity of 376, was carrying over 2,000 passengers, most of them Union soldiers recently released from prisoner-of-war camps. When the Sultana’s boilers exploded, passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam or fire, and flung overboard into the cold, churning Mississippi River. Despite rescue efforts, over 1,500 lives were lost. The narrative focuses on five survivors. Walker chronicles their experiences in battle and as prisoners of the Confederates, their ordeals in the disaster and rescue, and what became of them after. She also discusses the official investigation into the disaster. The cause of the explosion was a damaged boiler that had not been properly repaired. Bribery was responsible for the gross overcrowding aboard the Sultana, but no one was ever held responsible or punished. In addition to archival illustrative material, Walker makes extensive use of primary sources, such as diaries and newspaper reports, although it is surprising more use is not made of the survivors’ recollections Chester Berry collected and published in 1892. Quibbles aside, a finely detailed, well-researched chronicle of a little-known disaster. (maps, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sally M. Walker is the author of the Sibert Medal winner Secrets of a Civil War Submarine as well as many other nonfiction books, including Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation. Sally M. Walker lives in Illinois.

Her website is sallymwalker.com

Teacher Resources

Sinking the Sultana Discussion Questions

Sinking the Sultana Teachers’ Guide

Around the Web

Sinking the Sultana on Amazon

Sinking the Sultana on Goodreads

Sinking the Sultana on JLG

Sinking the Sultana Publisher Page

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. May 2, 2017. Sourcebooks, 480 p. ISBN: 9781492649359.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 980.

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger.

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive – until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Clinical description of the results of radium poisoning

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
In 1917, the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation willingly employed young women, paid far better than most businesses, and had many enticing perks—including the glow. Radium girls, most in their teens and early twenties, painted watch dials with a luminescent paint mixed with radium dust, which clung to their hair and clothes and produced a telltale glow about them as they walked home each evening. At the time, radium was used in cancer treatments and touted in expensive tonics, so the girls didn’t question smoothing the radium-laden paintbrushes in their mouths, as instructed, or even painting their nails with them. But the women would soon suffer horrific pain and grotesquely shattered bones and teeth, and the company, it would be discovered, had known better. In 1928, just eight years after women had earned the right to vote, a group of former radium girls brought suit against the companies whose knowledge of radium’s hazards, and careless disregard for them, had endangered and harmed them. This timely book celebrates the strength of a group of women whose determination to fight improved both labor laws and scientific knowledge of radium poisoning. English author Moore, who directed a play about the girls, writes in a highly readable, narrative style, and her chronicle of these inspirational women’s lives is sure to provoke discussion—and outrage—in book groups.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
British author Moore (Felix the Railway Cat, 2017) takes a slice of ugly American history from nearly a century ago, telling a compelling narrative that could be ripped from recent headlines.A few years ago, while living in London, the author went online to search for “great plays for women,” and she found These Shining Lives, a play by Melanie Marnich about the radium poisonings and subsequent workplace-related deaths of factory employees, primarily in Ottawa, Illinois, and Newark, New Jersey, in the 1920s and 1930s. Eager to learn more, Moore traveled to the United States to research the deaths. She found two narrowly focused, quasi-academic books about the saga but nothing for general audiences. Deciding to focus on the employers, the United States Radium Corporation in New Jersey and the Radium Dial Company in Illinois, Moore alternates chapters focusing on more than 15 women employed in Newark and a dozen women in Ottawa. Each one of them became sick from their piecework painting numerals on clock faces using a radium-infused radioactive substance that allowed the products to glow in the dark. Many of the employees died while in their 20s and 30s after years of agonizing illnesses. The employers, as well as the scientists and physicians attending to the women, denied liability for the suffering and deaths. At first, the employers claimed that the radium was benign. Later, when the toxicity had been documented, the employers blamed the women workers for careless use even though the women were observing workplace protocols. Moore clearly separates the heroines from the villains throughout this deeply researched book, and she never masks her outrage. A handful of physicians, public health investigators, and lawyers obtained some monetary awards for the victims, but the money was far from sufficient for adequate justice.Moore offers such vivid portraits of suffering that certain passages can be difficult to read, but this is an important story well told.

About the Author

Kate Moore is a New York Times best selling writer with more than a decade’s experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2015 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called ‘These Shining Lives.’ She lives in the UK.

Her website is www.kate-moore.com

Teacher Resources

The Radium Girls Reading Guide

The Radium Girls Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Radium Girls on Amazon

The Radium Girls on Goodreads

The Radium Girls on JLG

The Radium Girls Publisher Page

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Far From the Tree: Young Adult Edition: How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another . . . Our Differences Unite Us by Andrew Solomon. July 25, 2017. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 464 p. ISBN: 9781481440905.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

From New York Times bestselling author Andrew Solomon comes a stunning, poignant, and affecting young adult edition of his award-winning masterpiece, Far From the Tree, which explores the impact of extreme differences between parents and children.

The old adage says that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, meaning that children usually resemble their parents. But what happens when the apples fall somewhere else—sometimes a couple of orchards away, sometimes on the other side of the world?

In this young adult edition, Andrew Solomon profiles how families accommodate children who have a variety of differences: families of people who are deaf, who are dwarfs, who have Down syndrome, who have autism, who have schizophrenia, who have multiple severe disabilities, who are prodigies, who commit crimes, and more.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original and compassionate thinker, Far From the Tree explores how people who love each other must struggle to accept each other—a theme in every family’s life. The New York Times calls the adult edition a “wise and beautiful” volume, that “will shake up your preconceptions and leave you in a better place.”

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Racism, Homophobia, Psychological trauma, Physical abuse, Sexual assault and abuse, Clinical discussion of sexual abuse, Self-harming

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
How do parents react when a child is far different from themselves—and how do those children cope with difference?This young-readers’ edition of the original 2012 tome is far shorter but follows an identical format. In the first and last chapters, the author speaks of his own life journey as a gay Jew; in between he tells of families encountering the following differences: deaf, dwarfs, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, rape, crime, and transgender. He speaks with sensitivity about children who find community—or not—with others like themselves. He discusses such deeply philosophical and ethical questions as whether cochlear implants at birth are leading to the genocide of the Deaf community and whether parents of “pillow angels”—severely disabled children—should agree to medically stunt their children’s growth so the children can always be moved by loving arms instead of cranelike equipment. He argues that many children born “far from the tree” eventually find acceptance and even celebration among their families—but also despairs for those who deal with schizophrenia and those conceived by rape. Readers are not spared distressing details: a severely autistic child smears himself with excrement, then flings it at his parents; a family pet is killed gruesomely as a warning to a lesbian couple and their transgender child; there’s a substantial list of parents convicted of killing their children—and who are given light or even nonexistent jail sentences. Less mature teens—or those with low self-esteem—may well profit from confining their reading to the eloquent, encouraging first and last chapters. Virtually every teenager struggles with difference and identity; at its best, this book will help its readers understand and embrace intersectionality. (notes, further reading) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Andrew Solomon writes about politics, culture, and health. He lives in New York and London. He has written for many publications–such as the New York TimesThe New Yorker and Artforum–on topics including depression, Soviet artists, the cultural rebirth of Afghanistan, Libyan politics, and deaf culture. He is also a Contributing Writer for Travel and Leisure. In 2008, he was awarded the Humanitarian Award of the Society of Biological Psychiatry for his contributions to the field of mental health. He has a staff appointment as a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Cornell Medical School (Weill-Cornell Medical College).

His website is andrewsolomon.com

Teacher Resources

Far From the Tree Reading Guide

Around the Web

Far From the Tree on Amazon

Far From the Tree on Goodreads

Far From the Tree on JLG

Far From the Tree Publisher Page

Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson

Falcon Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson. September 19, 2017. Charlesbridge, 176 p. ISBN: 9781580897884.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 620.

“I back up as Cooper did and then sprint toward the edge. Just as I’m about to launch myself across the crevice, a hot wave of nausea grips me. I stumble at the last second. My leap is not enough to propel me to the other side. I reach for the edge.

And miss.”

Thirteen-year-old Karma is lost in the backcountry of Montana with her falcon, Stark, and a runaway boy named Cooper. She ‘s desperate to find help for her dad and brother after they find themselves in a terrible accident on a back road.

Karma wouldn’t be in this mess if her parents hadn’t insisted on returning Stark to the bird’s original owner. Life at her father’s bird sanctuary–and Karma’s dreams of becoming an apprentice falconer–will never be the same now that she has to give Stark back. Lost in the wild, her bond with the tamed falcon only grows stronger. All the while, Cooper gets his own lessons on how to trust in newfound friendship.

Both Karma’s and Cooper’s mettle is tested by mountain terrain, wild animals, severe weather, injury, and their own waning hope as this edge-of-your-seat adventure story vividly portrays the special bonds that can form between humans and animals.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. Homeschooled 13-year-old Karma loves her rescued falcon, Stark, and is obsessed with learning to be an apprentice falconer; but her father, owner of a bird sanctuary, finds Stark’s original owner and insists on returning her. He allows Karma and her younger brother to accompany him and the bird to Canada, but soon after dropping off a young hitchhiker, Cooper, the trip goes terribly wrong. Their van overturns, trapping Karma’s father, and she must trek across unfamiliar, rugged terrain in search of help. A day later, she is joined by Stark and Cooper, who both sense Karma needs assistance, and together they endeavor to survive the wilds of Montana. Riveting action and harrowing experiences keep readers on the edge as the kids and falcon race to get back to Karma’s father and brother before it’s too late. Cooper’s character develops as his backstory is revealed, and fans of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series will see parallels between Brian and Karma, particularly their strength in the face of adverse circumstances. An exhilarating survivalist adventure.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
Lost in the Montana wilderness, two white children and a tame gyrfalcon learn to trust one another. Thirteen-year-old home-schooled Karma lives in Montana on her family’s bird-of-prey education center, where she helps her white father train raptors. Karma longs to have friends but worries she talks too much about hawks and falcons—her favorite is a rescued white gyrfalcon named Stark. When Stark’s owner reclaims her, Karma reluctantly drives with her father and younger brother to deliver her. Shortly after letting off an unfriendly teenage-boy hitchhiker named Cooper, their van blows a tire and crashes. With her father and brother injured and Stark escaped, Karma sets out to find help. After she falls into a crevice, she is rescued by the mysterious Cooper, who spotted her thanks to the white bird circling overhead. Overjoyed to find Stark, Karma continues her search for help. As she and Cooper hike into the wilderness, they endure a slew of unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snicket proud (grizzly, near-drowning, falling, infection, thunderstorm/hail), and Cooper gradually reveals his past. Karma’s simple present-tense, first-person narration is inconsistent in her worry for her father and brother, and interesting information on falconry and raptors is imparted in an academic style that lacks smooth integration into the story. The components are there; the cohesion is not. (Adventure. 9-12)

About the Author

Terry Lynn Johnson writes outdoor adventures.

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

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

Her website is www.terrylynnjohnson.com

Teacher Resources

Falcon Wild Curriculum Guide

Around the Web

Falcon Wild on Amazon

Falcon Wild on Goodreads

Falcon Wild on JLG

Falcon Wild Publisher Page

The Answers by Catherine Lacey

The Answers by Catherine Lacey. June 6, 2017. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 304 p. ISBN: 9780374100261.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

An urgent, propulsive novel about a woman learning to negotiate her ailment and its various aftereffects via the simulacrum of a perfect romantic relationship

In Catherine Lacey’s ambitious second novel we are introduced to Mary, a young woman living in New York City and struggling to cope with a body that has betrayed her. All but paralyzed with pain, Mary seeks relief from a New Agey treatment called Pneuma Adaptive Kinesthesia, PAKing for short. And, remarkably, it works. But PAKing is prohibitively expensive and Mary is dead broke. So she scours Craigslist for fast-cash jobs and finds herself applying for the “Girlfriend Experiment,” the brainchild of an eccentric actor, Kurt Sky, who is determined to find the perfect relationship—even if that means paying different women to fulfill distinctive roles. Mary is hired as the “Emotional Girlfriend”—certainly better than the “Anger Girlfriend” or the “Maternal Girlfriend”—and is pulled into Kurt’s ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection.

Told in her signature spiraling prose, The Answers is full of the singular yet universal insights readers have come to expect from Lacey. It is a gorgeous hybrid of the plot- and the idea-driven novel that will leave you reeling.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs

 

Reviews

 

About the Author

Catherine Lacey is the author of Nobody Is Ever Missing, winner of a 2016 Whiting Award and a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and The Answers. In 201, she was named one of Granta‘s Best Young American Novelists. Her essays and fiction have been published widely and translated into Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish, and German. Born in Mississippi, she is now based in Chicago.

Her website is www.catherinelacey.com

Teacher Resources

The List Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Answers on Amazon

The Answers on Goodreads

The Answers on JLG

The Answers Publisher Page