Saturday, October 12, 2019

THE CLASS by Frances O'Roark Dowell

As a reader who enjoys multiple points of view, I found THE CLASS to be a fun, fast-paced read. Each chapter features the POV of one the twenty sixth graders in Mrs. Herrera's class.

Ellie starts the adventure as she contemplates writing a book about her classmates. She has already finished one book she is sure she could get published if she could only find someone in the publishing business. In the meantime, she decides to focus on her sixth grade classroom. She begins to fill her latest notebook with observations of her fellow students. 

It quickly becomes obvious to Ellie that just seeing the outside of a person doesn't mean you understand the inside. She makes note of who seems nice, who seems mean, and those like Henry who seem a bit crazy. Ellie also observes Mrs. Herrera as she hears whispers that their teacher might be "on thin ice" when it comes to her teaching position.

As the story unfolds, each of Ellie's classmates "speak" enabling the reader to get a glimpse into each of their lives and what makes each of them unique. Ellie isn't the only one interested and concerned about the fate of Mrs. Herrera and the mystery of some missing items and a former classmate's strange return.

Author Frances O'Roark Dowell has been a favorite of mine since I read CHICKEN BOY years ago. I was excited to see this new novel and even more excited that it is an awesome read.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


There has been a lot of buzz about this book. I've seen it advertised as a #MeToo book for the middle grades. It truly lived up to all the positive comments for this reader. MAYBE HE JUST LIKES YOU by Barbara Dee needs to be in every middle and high school library. It needs to be read by students and adults. It needs to be discussed by everyone. It totally answers the question printed on the cover - "How do you know when someone crosses the line?"

Looking forward to seventh grade, Mila is excited about her friend Omi's birthday. She and her other friends have planned a surprise during lunch. Mila knows Omi will love it. 

All goes well until several of the seventh grade basketball players try to join the celebration. They insist on hugging the birthday girl, but their hugs actually seem focused on Mila instead. Feeling incredibly uncomfortable as they squeeze her and rub her fuzzy, green sweater, Mila escapes their embraces as soon as possible.

For some reason the boys continue the physical contact during other chance meetings with Mila. In the hallway, on the bus, and even in her favorite spot, the band room. When Mila mentions the odd behavior, her friend Zara brushes it off as flirting and asks Mila what she is doing to attract the attention.

Mila would love to bring up the uncomfortable situation when she talks to her mother, but when her mother breaks the news that she has lost her job, Mila doesn't want to cause more stress. Overhearing an angry phone call between her divorced parents convinces Mila that she needs to keep things to herself.

Author Barbara Dee tells the story of all too familiar behavior identified as sexual harassment. Many readers will be shocked to learn that this harassment takes place in the world of our children. The topic seems an accepted part of our daily lives as the media covers its presence in even the highest office in the land. The time has come to eliminate this harassment, and Barbara Dee's newest book is the perfect vehicle to introduce the subject and encourage discussion.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

THAT NIGHT by Cyn Balog

Hailey and Kane have been best friends forever. When Kane's father suddenly remarries, Declan enters the picture. Declan is Kane stepbrother and soon becomes Hailey's boy friend. Their relationship ends with Declan's death, and now Hailey is looking for answers.

It's senior year and one year since Declan died. Hailey's friends, family, and her therapist think it's time she moves on. Her grades are dropping, she skips school, and she has no plans for her future. Hailey's attention is focused on that night. Even though the night Declan's life ended in that shed is etched in her mind, the details remain foggy. Hailey can't escape the fact that she somehow had something to do with his tragic end.

Author Cyn Balog takes readers on a wild ride in THAT NIGHT. She details how a girl's friends and family may think they have the best intentions, but they don't have the answers Hailey needs, even though the answers she desperately seeks may not be what she expects.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo

Pregnant as a freshman in high school and living with her grandmother, Emoni is just trying to get by. Her grades at school aren't that great, and now that she's a senior, decisions must be made. With the encouragement of a supportive teacher, Emoni begins to think college might be a possibility.

When Emoni hears about a new elective class in the culinary arts, she's excited. There's nothing she likes more than making creations in the kitchen. She decides to give it a try, but the demanding chef who teaches the class seems to expect too much. He isn't a fan when Emoni uses her imagination to add ingredients and try new directions with the recipes he gives the students. Is it true that she will have to blindly follow directions if she works in a chef's kitchen? Is compromising her creativity something she wants for her future?

The arrival of a new boy changes things for Emoni. Although she tries to ignore him, there's something about him that attracts her. Maybe he's even good for her, but she doesn't want anything to threaten the goals she has for her life and her daughter's. 

Author Elizabeth Acevedo known for the award winning book THE POET X has created another story to captivate readers. Emoni is sure to grab the hearts of readers and inspire them to strive for the best in their own lives.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

RUN, HIDE, FIGHT BACK by April Henry

RUN, HIDE, FIGHT BACK is author April Henry's most intense book yet. This story could easily appear in today's headlines. In fact, that might make it too intense for some. The realistic situation and spot-on details make this page-turner a book readers won't quickly forget.

It is a typical day at the Portland shopping mall. The stores and food court restaurants are packed with shoppers completely unaware of what is about to happen. 

Seventeen year old Miranda is busy outwitting the security cameras so she can shoplift cosmetics. Javier is picking up after messy customers. Amina carries out her duties as a store clerk. Parker is wishing he didn't have to drag his little sister with him all afternoon, and Grace is eating with her mother when a bright red stain blossoms on her mother's chest. Multiple shooters have begun wrecking havoc in the crowded mall.

Five teens end up hiding in the storeroom/office in Amina's store. Parker would be part of that group, but he loses track of his little sister and rushes off to follow what he hopes is her red coat in the distance.

Some shoppers manage to escape, but many are taken hostage behind the chained doors at one of the exits. The shooters' demands must be met or they will begin killing hostages. Can law enforcement negotiate a peaceful settlement before any more people lose their lives? Will the trapped teens be able to find a way out? Most importantly, is the mall shooting the only event of the day?

Author April Henry's vast research and field experience combine to create this believable, yet fictional terrorist attack. Readers will be holding their breaths as one intense scene after another unfolds. Librarians and classroom teachers better purchase multiple copies because this one is going to be in demand.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

THE LOST by Natasha Preston

Natasha Preston of Wattpad fame has done it again. Her new thriller THE LOST is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Teens have been disappearing from a small town. Most have been listed as runaways. Piper and her friend Hazel are usually homebodies. Hanging out at each other's houses, watching movies, and just chilling is their usual entertainment. Their concern for the missing teens turns them into investigators. They want to find out what is happening.

Heading to a beach party, Piper and Hazel accept a ride from an attractive young man. Piper, who had briefly met Caleb, was thrilled to have a chance to get to know him a little better. It quickly becomes obvious that Caleb and his friend have other plans for the girls.

Piper and Hazel find themselves with several other teens in a secluded building. Their captors welcome them to the "game." If they don't follow directions and endure a variety of tortures, they will be killed, or possible be forced to kill one another.

If you haven't experienced Natasha Preston's writing, THE LOST is the perfect place to start.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

CRACKING THE BELL by Geoff Herbach

After Isaiah's sister Hannah was killed by a drunk driver, Isaiah fell apart. He had worshipped his older sister, and her loss ruined his parents' marriage and sent him barreling in the wrong direction. His delinquent behavior ended in his father offering him a choice - join the football team or return to the juvenile detention facility that hadn't worked for him the first time. Isaiah chose football, and his life turned around.

Now a senior and about to turn eighteen, Isaiah is a star player, star student, and seemingly a star son. In the game against Lancaster, Isaiah messed up. Headed for a tackle, he put his eyes down and slammed into his opponent. He was out cold. He came to and jumped to his feet before his teammates suspected the severity of his injury. Despite the fact that he heard what he described as "witch whistles" and a constant deadly shriek, he went through the motions at the end of the game and headed home.

By the next morning it was clear Isaiah was hurt. A trip to the emergency room with his parents revealed the diagnosis as a severe concussion. It also became evident that this was not his first concussion. NO MORE FOOTBALL! At least that's what his mother declared.

Since Isaiah believed that football had brought him back to life after losing his sister, the idea of not playing sent him over the edge. How could he survive without the game? Would the promise of a scholarship from Cornell University disappear? What was the point of hard work, good grades, and good behavior if what he lived for was gone?

CRACKING THE BELL explores the dangers of sports injuries, specifically concussions. The threat of second impact syndrome is real, and players, parents, and coaches around the country should be concerned. Thankfully, fictional Isaiah had a strong support system of family and friends, and the strength of his determination to see him through a physical and emotional struggle.

Anyone who plays football or cares about someone who plays football should read CRACKING THE BELL. Author Geoff Herbach's smooth flowing style makes reading ten pages feel like barely reading two. He makes Isaiah and his story leap off the page and demand to be read.

Thank you to the author for generously sharing this ARC. Release date - Sept. 2019.