Friday, December 16, 2016

THE BABY by Lisa Drakeford

The Baby
There's a party at Olivia's house. Someone reports unusual noises coming from the bathroom. Imagine the shock when Olivia discovers her best friend Nicola giving birth to a baby. Olivia never even knew her best friend was pregnant.

Once the baby is born, the truth comes out. Nicola confesses that Olivia's boy friend Jonty is the father. The two friends stop speaking.

As the months go by those involved with Olivia and Nicola have different reactions. There's Olivia's strange younger sister Alice. She was completely mesmerized as she watched the birth of a baby in her very own bathroom. Now that the baby has arrived, Alice loves to visit and spend time helping Nicola care for the tiny thing.

Jonty gradually begins to accept the role of father and spends more and more time with the baby. Nicola is grateful for the free time and even uses it to rekindle her friendship with Olivia.

Ben is the gay friend of both Olivia and Nicola. He tries to be supportive of both friends. When things get tense, he acts as mediator despite the problems in his own life.

Author Lisa Drakeford has crafted an interesting look at a teen pregnancy. THE BABY doesn't just focus on one perspective, but rather visits the inner thoughts of everyone effected by the event. Check out THE BABY to see how life changes for five friends.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

MARCH Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March, Book Three
John Lewis's MARCH: Book Three is the latest winner of the National Book Award. His moving speech stressed his childhood memories of discrimination and how it inspired him to fight for civil rights along side Martin Luther King Jr. and others who helped change our country.

All three MARCH books are graphic novels that take young adult readers into the past to experience times that changed the course of history. The lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, the Voting Rights Act, and the marches on Washington and Selma and much more are described through the eyes of John Lewis.

The sacrifices made by those who fought for the rights of others are amazing. Their commitment to non-violence despite the brutal treatment inflicted by law enforcement and racist groups was clearly illustrated in these fascinating graphic novels. These three books are definitely worth checking out and adding to library and classroom collections.

Monday, November 21, 2016

UGLY by Robert Hoge


UGLY by Robert Hoge is like a real-life version of WONDER by R. J. Palacio. In this poignant memoir Hoge relates his journey from infant through childhood.

Robert Hoge was born with a fist-sized tumor in the center of his face. It all but obliterated his tiny nose. His legs had also not developed properly. Both were shorter than normal and misshapen. His parents were both in shock, especially his mother who expected her fifth child to be just as perfect as her other four.

Surgeons were able to remove the tumor from little Robert's face, but this was just the beginning of multiple surgeries to reconstruct his face and amputate his legs below the knees.

Robert relates his story for readers detailing everything from his mother's gradual acceptance to his siblings who always treated him as a well loved brother. Once it was determined that Robert would live, his family made every effort to help him feel that he could accomplish anything he put his mind to.

Robert's can-do attitude won him acceptance with his friends and schoolmates as well. Through trial and error he found the things he was good at and dedicated himself to being as normal as possible. Of course, there were tough times and he experienced more than his fair share of bullying, but Robert's positive attitude and sense of humor served him well.

Now married and a father of two, he has worked in the field of writing, publishing articles, short stories, and interviews. UGLY is the perfect book to illustrate courage and determination.

Monday, November 14, 2016

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT by Sarah Darer Littman

In Case You Missed It

Fans of Sarah Darer Littman’s BACKLASH will want to find a copy of her newest book IN CASE YOU MISSED IT. The focus on the potential insecurities of the internet and its use in our personal lives are sure to make readers rethink how careless we have become about the material we post.
Sammy Wallach’s father comes home from his job as the CEO of an international banking company with the news that someone has hacked data from the bank. Not only has the bank’s data been breached, but also the personal files and postings of their entire family. What follows is chaos for Sammy and her family.
Mr. Wallach warns his family about reading the hacked emails and listening to the media’s interpretation of the emails that might reveal an unpleasant side of Mr. Wallach’s business practices. But avoiding these emails is harder than Sammy anticipated. All her friends at school are whispering about them and about her father. When she finally breaks down and takes a peek at the emails, she is shocked by the knowledge that her father may not be the man she has always known. According to what she reads, he is racist and has actually defended the practice of paying women employees less than their male counterparts.
If that isn’t bad enough, Sammy’s own online diary is now out there for the whole world to read. All the times she has used her private writing to vent about her parents and her friends is now public. After reading Sammy’s private thoughts recorded in this online journal, her friends abandon her. When her parents read about the concert Sammy attended without their permission, she is grounded indefinitely. Can life get any worse? Actually, yes it can!
Author Sarah Darer Littman’s IN CASE YOU MISSED IT is definitely a page-turner. Real life cyber threats and family drama make this a must read.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

WHAT LIGHT by Jay Asher

What Light
For Sierra celebrating Christmas involves a very different tradition than most families. Owning and operating a Christmas tree farm in Oregon means she and her parents are thinking about Christmas year-round. It also means every Christmas Sierra can remember has been spent in California running a Christmas tree lot.

This season could be the last time Sierra's family opens the tree lot. They ship trees all over the country, but in recent years the profit margin has been decreasing at the California lot. Sierra has mixed feelings about the possibility. She is looking forward to staying in Oregon and being there to celebrate Christmas with her friends, but the family tradition has its attraction, too.

As she packs for the trip south, Sierra is excited about seeing the girl she considers her best friend in California. She marvels at the fact that she is lucky to have best friends in two different places. Little does she know that she is about to meet someone new who may change her life.

As Sierra works the tree lot's big tent where customers pay for their purchases and drink hot chocolate,  she notices an attractive guy her age picking out a tree. She learns his name is Caleb, and according to her friend, he has a secret that should have Sierra keeping her distance. But, as Sierra watches him return multiple times to purchase trees, she is determined to find out if the rumors about Caleb are true.

Author Jay Asher, known for the best selling 13 REASONS WHY, writes about young love and the true meaning of "giving is better than receiving." Sierra's faith in the goodness of human nature is refreshing, and her belief in love is sure to please Asher's many fans. WHAT LIGHT is the perfect Christmas book for that special YA reader in your life.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

SAVING RED by Sonya Sones

Saving Red
Molly's life isn't perfect. Since the problems with her brother, her parents have basically stopped being parents. Her father is a workaholic and her mother's addiction to pot smoking is getting out of hand. If it wasn't for Pixel, Molly's helper dog, Molly wouldn't have any support.

When Molly meets a homeless girl named Red in the park one night, she vows to find the girl's parents and return her home for the holidays. Red accepts Molly's friendship but is reluctant to accept the material goods and money Molly offers.

It is obvious that Red suffers from mental illness, something that Molly understands all too well. As Molly spends time with Red, her own situation becomes more clear. Could meeting this troubled homeless girl actually help Molly understand her own guilty feelings about her brother and her parents' issues?

SAVING RED is the latest novel by author Sonya Sones. Written in her unique style of verse, Sones takes readers into the lives of two very different teens. Their stories illustrate the toll mental illness takes on families and individuals and how important it is to reach out and support others.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

MY KIND OF CRAZY by Robin Reul

My Kind of Crazy
Hank Kirby wants to go to the prom with Amanda Carlisle, but she barely knows he exists. When he comes up with an incredibly unique promposal, he nearly burns down Amanda's house. The idea to spell out "prom" in sparklers certainly didn't go the way he planned, and instead of impressing the girl of his dreams, Hank ends up sprinting across lawns to escape the lights and sirens.

During his frantic dash to avoid prosecution, Hank runs into Peyton Breedlove. Her tendency toward pyromania has her totally impressed with Hank stunt. Also not a fan of the popular people like Amanda, Peyton praises Hank for his efforts, and they fall into an unusual friendship.

When Hank's buddy Nick expresses interest in Peyton, Hank is ready to step aside still hoping to pair up with Amanda. However, as Hank's home-life becomes more complicated, he finds himself relating to Peyton whose own personal life is a mess. Maybe there is more of a connection than Hank imagined. He might be the only person who truly understands Peyton and has the power to protect her.

Author Robin Reul has created in Hank a hero readers will begin to root for on the very first page. Hank and Peyton are true underdogs it is a pleasure to support. MY KIND OF CRAZY has plenty of action, humor, and drama to be a sure winner with teen readers.

Monday, October 10, 2016

THE OTHER BOY by M.G. Hennessey

The Other Boy
Life hasn't been easy for Shane. If asked, he would tell you that he was born with the wrong body. His official gender at birth was female, but it didn't take long for Shane to recognize that he had the mind and heart of a boy.

Shane lives with his mother who supports his transgender status completely. His father isn't accepting it quite as gracefully. Having reached the age of puberty, Shane has the choice to begin getting hormone injections that would help his body begin developing as a male. His father isn't in favor of the injections, but Shane is determined to convince him that it is necessary for him to live the life he was meant to live.

In addition to issues with his father, Shane must also deal with his friends, his baseball teammates, and the other kids at school when the player from a competitive team posts a picture of Shane in elementary school. The picture shows Shane with long, flowing hair and the clothes of a girl. How will everyone handle Shane's secret? Will they accept him for who he really is?

Author M.G. Hennessey presents a well-written and realistic picture of being a twelve year old transgender youth. Shane has understanding and supportive people in his life, but as expected, he must deal with others who either don't understand or need time to adjust to the idea of his life choices. Readers will see the struggles involved as well as the inspirational determination of Shane and his family and friends.

Monday, October 3, 2016

TOP PROSPECT by Paul Volponi

Top Prospect
It wasn't until reading this book that I realized there are 8th grade football players so talented that they have been offered college scholarships before even beginning their high school football careers. Paul Volponi's new book TOP PROSPECT tells a story with a character who experiences just that.

Travis Gardner and his brother Carter both play football and play it very well. Travis is starting 8th grade and is extremely proud of his brother who will be starting his freshman year in college with a football scholarship.

While spending time with Carter, Travis gets to show off some of his skills as a quarterback. He attracts the attention of the college coach, and before he knows it, he is guaranteed a chance to attend college when he graduates in five years. The offer creates quite a sensation in town, and ESPN even shows up to interview him.

Now the pressure is on. Travis has to demonstrate his talents in each and every game and lead his team to victory. After a successful 8th grade season, he is then faced with making the high school team and earning the spot of first string quarterback.

Amidst the stress of football, Travis must deal with his brother's jealousy, a rocky relationship with their father, his first experience with death, and at the same time keep up his grades so his mom won't shut down the whole plan. Author Paul Volponi expertly describes the rollercoaster of emotions young Travis experiences as he fights to play his best and hang onto a chance for a stellar future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

GHOST by Jason Reynolds

Castle "Ghost" Cranshaw has grown up feeling the need to be tough. He will never forget the day his father threatened to shoot him and his mother. Hiding in the storeroom at the back of Mr. Charles's store will stay with Ghost forever.

In trouble and kicked out of school more than he's in, Ghost doesn't like the thought of worrying his mother, but he just can't help himself. That's just how things are until the day he crashes track practice and shows off his natural ability to run by beating one of the team's best sprinters. Coach takes him aside and suggests he should tryout.

Running gives Ghost a purpose, but it doesn't guarantee he'll start following the straight and narrow. In an effort to fit in with the rest of his teammates, Ghost finds himself lying to Coach, the other newbies on the team, and even his mom. It takes a run-in with Coach and the threat of losing his spot on the team to turn things around for Ghost.

GHOST is the first book in a new series by author Jason Reynolds. Reynolds is well-known for WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST, THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT, and ALL AMERICAN BOYS. The new Track series will feature Ghost and his fellow runners who all might have a shot at the Junior Olympics.

Friday, September 23, 2016


The Memory of Things

The first plane hit the World Trade Center, and many thought it was an accident. Then the second plane hit the second tower, and the world knew it was an attack.

At Stuyvesant High School a relatively short distance from Ground Zero, Kyle Donohue and his classmates watch the first tower fall. The school is evacuated, and Kyle heads home to Brooklyn. As he leaves the smoke and dust behind, he stumbles across a girl covered in ash and dust and wearing a pair of costume wings. He decides to take her home.

Once home safe and sound, Kyle checks on his wheelchair bound uncle. After a number of attempts, phone calls confirm that his mother and sister will be stuck in California until planes are permitted to fly again, and his detective father is hard at work in the rescue effort at the attack site.

The girl seems to be suffering from amnesia and barely speaks. Kyle patiently tries to help her recall important details, and as the hours and days pass he begins to fall under her spell. Kyle bravely meets the challenges of caring for his invalid uncle, watching over the girl, and keeping tabs on the rest of his family from a distance. The impact of the events of September 11 unfold around him, erasing layer after layer of his youthful innocence.

Author Gae Polisner honors the anniversary of 9/11 with her new novel THE MEMORY OF THINGS not only with a stark reminder of what happened that tragic morning, but also with an emotional and inspirational story of a teen who responded courageously and responsibly in the face of frightening circumstances. The voices of Kyle and the girl tell two very different stories about the strength of love and determination.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

100 DAYS by Nicole McInnes

100 Days

100 DAYS is the story of the last 100 days in the life of sixteen year old Agnes. Agnes is one of a tiny fraction of humanity diagnosed with progeria, a disease that causes a rapid increase in the aging process. Although only sixteen, Agnes has the body of an elderly person and suffers from all the complications of aging.

Agnes, Moira, and Boone were friends in elementary until an unfortunate accident that left Agnes with a broken bone. Now they are in high school and fate arranges for them to join forces once again.

Moira dresses in black and wears dark makeup in an effort to diminish her weight issues. She has appointed herself Agnes's protector and would give her life to protect her friend.

Boone spends all his free time working multiple odd jobs to try to make ends meet for his widowed mother. While he is working, she hides a home assembling jigsaw puzzles as she tries to cope with her husband's tragic death.

Although things don't always go as planned, the three friends provide emotional support for one another as they negotiate the difficulties of their lives. Despite the odds stacked against them, they remain positive and determined to experience as much as possible.

Author Nicole McInnes takes readers into the lives of her unique characters and the experience is sure to have a memorable impact.

Monday, August 29, 2016

GUTLESS by Carl Deuker

Brock was a soccer player, an excellent goalkeeper, to be exact. It wasn't until he met Hunter that he considered playing football, and it wasn't until he met Richie that he considered playing chess.

Brock wasn't sure what his freshman year would have to offer. He was worried about his dad who had just been diagnosed with a disease that would gradually take away his ability to walk. Soccer wasn't as exciting as it used to be and his old friends seemed to be finding new interests.

The day Brock met Hunter at the park changed everything. Before he knew it, Hunter's dad had drafted him to act as wide receiver for Hunter's quarterback throwing practices. Brock's speed and agility made up for the fact that he had never played football. Despite his mother's reluctance, he was headed to team tryouts.

Brock also found a new friend. Another freshman named Richie began chatting with Brock during class and started saving him a seat at lunch. Brock was fascinated by the talented Chinese kid. He excelled in everything - chess, violin, architecture and design projects. It really wasn't a surprise that he was also a talented soccer player who ended up being an awesome kicker for the football team.

The catch was Richie was the target for every bully in the school. Brock caught flack for hanging out with him, too. Since Brock was accepted with most of the athletes because of his talent as a wide receiver, he hoped that Richie's involvement in soccer and football would earn him some respect as well. And, for a while that seemed to be the case, but the truth was, the bullies were just biding their time.

Author Carl Deuker has another hit on his hands. Deuker takes the sports novel a step farther than simply play-by-play action. He develops depth in his characters and intrigue in their lives beyond the playing field. GUTLESS is perfect for teen readers looking for a story to entertain and to relate to their own lives. This one won't be gathering dust on classroom and library shelves.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

BIGGIE by Derek E. Sullivan

Henry Abbott weighs in at 300+ pounds. That explains his nickname, Biggie.

Although he is the son and stepson of two well-known baseball players, Biggie avoids physical activity whenever possible. He is more comfortable hanging out online where he has tons of online friends. At school Biggie keeps a low profile by sitting in the back of the room and staying out of everyone's way.

Even at the gas station where Biggie works, he keeps it on the down low. He considers it a challenge to wait on the customers without actually speaking to them. There's only one customer Biggie wishes he could talk to. He has had a crush on Annabelle for as long as he can remember. He ignores the fact that she is not only a regular customer, but also a regular shoplifter.

Biggie finds himself the center of attention when his mother refuses to sign the form to excuse him from participating in phys ed. Coach places a wiffleball in Biggie's hand and sends him out to pitch. Biggie takes on the challenge and ends up throwing a shut out. Inspired by his success, he lets his younger brother talk him into trying out for the baseball team. After all Biggie has baseball in his blood so why not workout, get in shape, and maybe get Annabelle's attention.

Author Derek E. Sullivan tells the story of a social outcast determined to turn his life around. Losing weight, giving baseball a try, and coming out of his shell, Biggie shows how courage isn't always easy, but the end results may be worth it.

Monday, August 22, 2016


The Smell of Other People's Houses
THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES is filled with fascinating characters each with unique life challenges. Author Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock does an amazing job developing her teen characters and making them relatable for her readers.

Ruth and her sister are shipped off to live with Gran when her father dies in a plane crash. Ruth clings to memories of home as she attempts to adjust to Gran's strict rules. It comes as no surprise that her first romantic relationship ends with an unplanned pregnancy.

Alyce loves her parents but their separation threatens to tear her apart. Thinking her own dreams need to be set aside to assure their happiness holds her back when she should be speaking up for herself.

Dora's good luck could open doors for her future, but family threatens to ruin everything. Should she really expect more out of life, or is she undeserving?

When Hank makes the decision to take his two brothers out of an abusive environment, he knows it won't be easy. Now with one brother missing, he must decide if he can risk turning to a stranger for help.

The four teens' lives intertwine as they face life's obstacles. Readers will quickly be drawn into circumstances that will have them cheering with, laughing with, and crying with Ruth, Alyce, Dora, and Hank. Although their lives are filled with struggle, they are filled with hope and inspiration.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Lies We Tell Ourselves
It's 1959 and it's been five years since the government declared segregation was illegal. Sarah and her sister Ruth are part of a group of ten black teens who will be attending Jefferson High School, an all white school, for the first time.

The NAACP and a community group have prepared the teens for what to expect when they arrive at Jefferson. Sarah thought she was ready, but the reaction of the white students was something she never could have imagined. Pushing, shoving, tripping amid shouts of "Nigger" and "Go home" exploded around the ten new students.

When Sarah entered her classrooms and found an empty seat, the white students immediately jumped up and moved away from her, even if they were forced to stand in the back corners of the room or sit on shelves. The teachers remained ignorant to spitwads and pencils hitting the back of Sarah's head. In study hall one of her black friends was hit in the neck by a baseball hurled from the back of the room.

Another side of the story comes from Linda. She is the daughter of one of the most vocal opponents of desegregation. Her father's editorials condemn the government's pressure to combine black and white students in schools across the South. Although Linda parrots her father's opinions, she begins to question the separation of blacks and whites when she is assigned to do a group project with Sarah.

Both Sarah and Linda are struggling with the huge change in their educational life, and at the same time they are also attempting to understand a strange physical attraction they both believe is unnatural. An accidental kiss shocks them both and has them frantically searching for some way to explain their growing feelings.

Author Robin Talley brings the tumultuous events of the Civil Rights Movement to life in LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. Today's teens will be stunned by the treatment of Sarah and her friends and the extend to which white community members were willing to go to protect what they believed was their right to keeping the South segregated. This book provides excellent reading to complement assigned books like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and historical texts.

Friday, August 19, 2016

PROMISE by Judy Young

Kaden doesn't remember much about his dad. When the man went to prison years ago, Kaden ended up living with Gram. Although a bit different, life with Gram has been good. Now Kaden is starting sixth grade and hoping to find a new friend, but the return of his father might change everything.

Living out in the woods in a series of five small cabins gives Kaden a lot of freedom. Gram keeps tabs on him and so does their neighbor Emmett, but Kaden spends most of his time hanging out at the top of an old fire tower with his pet crow Kubla.

The new music teacher's son, Yo-Yo, turns out to be just the crazy friend Kaden needs to convince him that not all kids are annoying bullies. Gram even thinks Yo-Yo is ok, and she's pretty hard to please.

When Kaden's dad shows up at the cabins, he brings with him secrets that threaten to tear apart the life Kaden has always known. He wants to trust the man and hopes that he has been rehabilitated, but the suspicious activity and hostile attitude that surround the ex-con make Kaden extremely uncomfortable.

PROMISE by author Judy Young is at times heartwarming and also heart-wrenching. Kaden learns that families are not easy and dealing with disappointments requires a strong individual. Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for providing a copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ALL WE HAVE LEFT by Wendy Mills

All We Have Left
ALL WE HAVE LEFT by Wendy Mills is an emotionally moving novel honoring the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. The majority of today's teens were not even born when the tragedy that changed the world happened. This new novel uniquely expresses how this tragic event brought terror into our lives.

Alia was in the south tower on the day it was struck by an airliner. She made the decision to be late to school so she could visit her father's office to plead her case. Despite her parents' objections, Alia was determined to get their approval to attend a special art program at NYU. She just needed to convince her father how important it was to her future dreams.

Jesse was only three years old when her brother Travis lost his life in the World Trade Center. His death tore apart her family, and she would give anything to learn more about him and somehow try to heal the wounds that have made her childhood so painful.

As Alia heads to her father's office, she notices an attractive, shaggy haired young man. His intentions seem questionable, but fate puts them together in an elevator at the exact time that the first plane hits.

Readers of ALL WE HAVE LEFT will feel the incredibly intense emotions of Alia and Travis as the events of 9/11 in the World Trade Center unfold. The connections between the two very different families speak to the many ways people experienced and reacted to the events of that historic day.

Monday, August 15, 2016

THE FAT BOY CHRONICLES by Diane Lang & Michael Buchanan

The Fat Boy Chronicles
Based on a true story, THE FAT BOY CHRONICLES tells of Jimmy Winterpock, an overweight teen struggling to fit into high school.

Assigned to write in a journal for English class, Jimmy writes about his trials and tribulations as a fat kid. Fortunately, his family and church offer Jimmy support which enables him to deal with the bullying he encounters on a daily basis while at school.

Readers shouldn't worry that Jimmy's story is completely depressing. He also writes entries about a local murder and the plans his friend Paul makes to catch the murderer. Authors Diane Lang & Michael Buchanan paint a realistic picture of what it is like to be different in a world that values external beauty above all else.

Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for the opportunity to read THE FAT BOY CHRONICLES.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving
Eleven years ago six kindergarteners disappeared. Now five of them have returned.

Scarlett, Lucas, Adam, Kristen, and Sarah arrive at their respective homes having followed maps each was given when they were released. Although, one family waits patiently, the sixth child, Max, doesn't return.

None of the teens remember anything about the eleven years they were missing. They don't remember how they were taken, where they were taken, or what they have been doing for eleven years. Lucas and Scarlett are determined to piece together their past despite the opinion that they should just accept their pasts are missing and carrying on.

THE LEAVING is a haunting tale with twists and turns galore. Just when the pieces seem to be falling together, the unexpected happens. Tara Altebrando, author of several other novels for teens, has outdone herself in the suspense department. Readers will be hooked in the first pages and won't want to put it down until they know the answers.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
*Thank you to for donating this book.

A senior in high school, Elizabeth has only recently announced to her family and a few select friends that she was born a girl, but she is really a boy. Those who know the secret are being asked to call her/him Gabe.

One thing that has helped Gabe cope with the emotions of feeling born in the wrong body is music. Having John as a next door neighbor has been a dream come true. John is an old time DJ and his collection of vinyl, tapes, and CDs is massive. He recognizes Gabe's talent and arranges for him to host a late night show at the local station.

Dubbed Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Gabe's show is an immediate success with followers calling themselves the Ugly Children Brigade. Since Gabe introduces himself as a male DJ, he gains some welcomed attention from the girls in the audience. He finds it flattering, although a bit uncomfortable, since his true feelings are for his lifelong friend Paige.

Unfortunately, the radio show also gains him some unwanted attention when someone recognizes him from school and outs him as not being a "real" guy. There are threats of violence against Gabe and his family as well as Paige and John. Now the question is whether his love of music and DJing is worth possible physical harm.

Author Kirstin Cronn-Mills combines the anxiety of sexual identity and the impact on family and friends with a constant flow of musical references. Readers will instantly bond with Gabe and root for him to find love and happiness.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Product Details
*Thank you to for this book.

Marcus's world is filled with negatives - his sister died, his father left, the rest of his family struggles every day. In the midst of his messy life, Marcus encounters CM and is introduced to the game of chess. According to CM, Marcus can learn a lot about life by playing the game.

CHESS RUMBLE is author G. Neri's first book. Written in verse with illustrations by artist Jesse Joshua Watson, it presents the life of a troubled young man who finds a way to make sense of the often cruel world around him. Check out Neri's other books - YUMMY, TRU & NELLE, KNOCKOUT GAMES, and GHETTO COWBOY.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE by Brent Hartinger

Three Truths and a Lie

It was supposed to be a fun weekend in the woods. Rob, Liam, Mia, and Galen pack up and head to Mia's family's cabin in the forest.

After following the forest trail miles from the main road, they arrive at the moss covered cabin. No running water, no electricity, and no cell phone service means the four teens will have to make their own fun.

Mia suggests a party game called three truths and a lie. The object of the game is for one player to tell four personal secrets and the rest of the players are supposed to guess which of the four secrets is a lie.

Strange things begin to happen. The group hears unexplained noises and their emergency satellite phone goes missing, turns up, and then disappears again. Their imaginations begin to run wild dreaming up crazed killers, vengeful neighbors, and wild animals out to get them.

When Galen ends up dead, getting away from the cabin and back to the highway is all the others can think about. Who is out to get them? Can they trust one another? Will they make it out of the forest?

Author Brent Hartinger presents a psychological thriller that is sure to have readers on the edge of their seats. Be sure to get your hands on a copy of THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE, and be sure to keep the lights blazing while you read.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

HOW IT ENDS by Catherine Lo

How It Ends
"There are two sides to every story."

Annie's mom died on Halloween years ago. Her father has since remarried and now she has a stepmother and stepsister and is starting the year in a new school.

Jessie's best friends, Courtney and Larissa, have become her worst enemies. She has survived the bullying that began in middle school, but it has taken its toll. Plagued by anxiety and an overprotective mother, Jessie just wishes she could find a new friend.

When Annie invites Jessie to eat with her at lunch, a true friendship begins to blossom. Although, their lives are completely opposite, they somehow click and begin hanging out together constantly. Annie finds Jessie's fairly normal family a great comfort, and Jessie finds that Annie's bold personality helps bring her out of her shell.

One close friend is enough for Jessie, but Annie's more outgoing behavior has her looking for more. She connects with Courtney and Larissa despite Jessie's frustration. In hopes of helping her new friend reconnect with old friends, Annie shares the secret of Jessie's anxiety and everything begins to crumble. Violated trusts threaten their exceptional relationship. Will they be able to recover or is there a line that can't be crossed?

Author Catherine Lo hit the perfect note with her story involving the anatomy of a friendship. Teen readers will find much to relate to in their own relationships. Lo's portrayal of high school drama and teen angst is spot on. I will definitely have readers in my classes interested in HOW IT ENDS.

Monday, August 1, 2016


Daughters unto Devils
"Imagine Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie." -- Cat Winters. When I saw this blurb on the front cover, I had to have it!

After a terrible winter in the mountains, Amanda's parents decide it is time to relocate their family of seven. On a trip to the nearby town for supplies, Amanda's father hears of prairie land available for settling. Told that there are even abandoned cabins empty and ready for resettling, he returns to their small, overcrowded cabin with news that they will be leaving immediately.

Amanda has mixed feelings about leaving the only home she has ever known. Having watched her sick mother give birth to a deaf and blind baby and being closed up in the cabin for months the previous winter had almost pushed Amanda over the edge.

Meeting a young man named Henry was the only thing that helped her recover. She fell in love with him and she thought he shared the same feelings until she discovered she was pregnant. How could she tell her family about her sinful behavior and the resulting baby on the way? The sudden decision to move and the need to pitch in to help the family meant that Amanda could avoid facing the truth of her current situation.

Travel was challenging, but the family made the trek without major mishap. They passed small cabins along the way but none were large enough. Finally, the perfect dwelling appeared, but as they approached there was an unbearable stench. Opening the door revealed the scene of some unthinkable event. Unable to imagine traveling any farther, Amanda's father insisted that he could make the building habitable so the family could settle there.

Readers will quickly realize that all is not quite right about Amanda and her family. Strange knocking on the window, the sounds of an infant crying, and odd happenings give the story an unnerving feel early on that increases with each passing chapter. DAUGHTERS UNTO DEVILS is the debut novel of author Amy Lukavics.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


The Secret of the Scarab Beetle
*Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for the opportunity to read THE SECRET OF THE SCARAB BEETLE by William Meyer.

Horace j. Edwards isn't particularly thrilled to be moving to Niles, Michigan. He has always loved visiting his grandparents' farm, but now that his grandfather is dead it just won't be the same.

With his parents busy dealing with Grandma and the farm, Horace tries to make the best of things at his new school. A bully named Seth sure doesn't make it easy, and being assigned a school project with Seth as a partner really stinks. But thanks to a mysterious gift from his grandfather, Horace may have the best project ever.

The gift of an Egyptian scarab beetle, a secret doorway that leads to another time and place, and learning that he is part of a secret order known as the Time Keepers just might make Horace one of the popular kids. That is if he can stay alive and rescue his new friends.

THE SECRET OF THE SCARAB BEETLE is Book #1 in Horace j. Edwards and the Time Keepers series. Author William Meyer combines his love of Ancient Egypt with non-stop adventure. This series is a sure winner for ages 8-12, especially boys.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry

The Girl I Used to Be
Author April Henry is a master of YA mystery. The action begins on page one and the suspense never quits. THE GIRL I USED TO BE is her latest novel.

Seventeen year old Olivia had grown up under the impression that it was her father who stabbed her mother nineteen times. When she hears that evidence has surfaced revealing her father most likely died that same winter day years ago, she knows she must find out the truth.

Olivia spent several brief years living with her grandmother before the woman's death of a heart attack. After that Olivia was shuffled from one foster home to another. Now an emancipated minor with her GED, Olivia is free to travel to Medford to track down the killer who robbed her of her parents.

Having long ago changed her name, Olivia discovers that she has also changed enough physically that she is able to return to the small town to begin looking for answers without anyone recognizing her. She settles in and immediately clues begin to surface.

THE GIRL I USED TO BE is a thrilling page-turner. April Henry's painstaking research and actual reenactments make the details of the Olivia's story totally believable. Henry's fans will love it, and she will make many new ones when readers check out THE GIRL I USED TO BE.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

THE TRAGIC AGE by Stephen Metcalfe

The Tragic Age: A Novel
*Copy courtesy of my neighbor and her great ability to win books from Goodreads!

Billy Kinsey doesn't remember much about life before his father won 37 million dollars in the California lottery. The winnings paid for a luxurious house and all the trimmings in a gated community, but it didn't win Billy a new guilt-free life.

What Billy does remember is his failed attempt to save his twin sister's life. It didn't matter that he was a terrific bone marrow match, Dorie died anyway. Now despite the fancy neighborhood and plenty of money, Billy can't seem to sleep more than an hour or two at a time in the fancy house because Dorie is haunting his dreams.

Billy's grades show him to be an average student, but he makes it a point to fly under the radar. A loner, he doesn't attend high school parties and has little interest in sporting events. He has found life is easier if he doesn't get involved.

Things change the day Billy meets Twom Twomey, pronounced "Tomb." Twom is a bit of a rebel who challenges Billy to come out of his shell. Soon Billy finds himself involved with Twom and his sexy girl friend Deliza and another misfit named Ephraim. Billy also reconnects with Dorie's best friend, Gretchen Quinn. Will joining forces with this crazy group encourage Billy to rejoin the living and have some fun, or will that fun take a tragic turn and plunge him even more deeply into guilt and despair?

THE TRAGIC AGE is the YA debut for author Stephen Metcalfe. His fully developed characters, smooth style, and intense plot are all reasons to keep an eye on what he might have to offer next. I know teens that are going to love this one.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

THE ENEMY ABOVE by Michael P. Spradlin

The Enemy Above: A Novel of World War II
*Review copy courtesy of the author.

THE ENEMY ABOVE takes readers into WW II as the Nazis attempt to clear the Jews out of Ukraine. Their plan is to access the rich farm land in the area to use in supplying the German army.

Twelve year old Anton knows of the concentration camps and the mass execution of Jews, and he knows his father is off fighting with the Russians, but so far he and his grandmother and uncles have been safe. That is about to change.

Major Von Duesen is leading a group of gestapo soldiers through the area to capture and remove the remaining Jews. A vicious man, he is determined to make a name for himself by delivering all his prisoners to the General in hopes of earning a promotion.

Anton's family and neighbors have enough warning to leave their homes and escape through the wheat fields and woods to a cave some of the men have discovered. Young Anton and his friend Daniel spend some of their time exploring the cave for a second exit and a water source so the men don't have to scout for water outside the cave at night.

Von Duesen and the soldiers almost capture the water scouts one night. The Jews return to the cave to warn the others. Everyone except Anton, his grandmother and two others escape through the emergency exit. As Anton watches his grandmother facing the gestapo soldiers, he realizes she has remained behind as a distraction so the others can run farther from the cave.

Finding himself and his grandmother in German hands, will they be able to survive or will they meet the fate of so many of their people in the camps?

Author Michael P. Spradlin tells the story of the Ukrainian Jews and the frightening treatment they suffered at the hands of evil Nazis. Readers will experience the intense emotions of Anton as he follows his grandmother into danger as well as the hateful actions and desires of men like Major Von Duesen. THE ENEMY ABOVE is a great example of historical fiction that will have readers on the edge of their seats as they learn more about the complex events of WW II.

Friday, July 22, 2016

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR by Phil Bildner

Rookie of the Year
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR by Phil Bildner is Book #2 in the Rip & Red series. Mr. Acevedo's students are at it again.

Rip and Red welcome a new classmate, Tiki. Red is impressed, but Rip wants to reserve judgement, especially when Tiki threatens to take his position on the Clifton United basketball team.

Mr. Acevedo is still popular as a teacher. His daily Community Circle and anti-worksheet approach may seem unproductive to other staff members, but his students continue to thrive and become independent thinkers.

Financial problems continue to plague the school. An area of great concern to the students is the dismissal of the Lunch Bunch cafeteria ladies since the school has switched to a new food service complete with lunches that most kids don't think includes actual food. Rip and Red and friends come up with a plan to expose the awful food and the unfriendly new lunch workers. Tiki suggests the plan's name should be Operation Food Fight. It's risky, but the end result should be worth it.

Basketball also plays an important role in ROOKIE OF THE YEAR. Clifton United is determined to win all their games this year, and Mr. Acevedo has a new game plan to help make that happen.

Author Phil Bildner has another hit on his hands. Combining fast-paced action for young readers and school problems teachers can relate to, make ROOKIE OF THE YEAR a sure winner for students and classroom libraries. Be sure to check it out along with Book #1, A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

TROUBLE THE WATER by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Trouble the Water
TROUBLE THE WATER is set in Celeste, Kentucky, in 1953. The whites and the blacks get along as long as they know their place. Whites tolerate blacks using the front doors of town establishments, but the black children go to their own school and the town swimming pool is for whites only.

Eleven year old Callie doesn't think too much about the different treatment of blacks until the day she finds the old, yellow dog. That dog and an abandoned cabin in the woods bring her together with a white boy named Wendell. In an effort to find the owner of the dog and the rightful owner of the old cabin, the two become friends.

Callie writes stories for the black newspaper and is excited to do the detective work necessary to write a story about the dog and the cabin. Her curiosity and stubbornness lead her to better understand the separation that exists in her southern town. She vows to make a change, but will she be able to convince Wendell to see things her way?

Author Frances O'Roark Dowell has numerous books for middle grade readers, among them are DOVEY COE, THE SECOND LIFE OF ABIGAIL WALKER, and my favorite CHICKEN BOY.

Monday, July 18, 2016

THE SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud

The Sculptor
Graphic novels have my attention this summer. I've been collecting them for my classroom over the past year, and now I'm trying to catch up on reading them.

THE SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud comes in at a hefty 488 pages, and due to the higher quality paper used for many graphic novels, it is definitely "hefty." I found it a quick read because McCloud grabbed my attention in the first handful of pages and kept things rolling at a perfect pace.

David Smith wants nothing more than to be a famous sculptor. Growing up around art and artistic people, he developed his talent but it seems his work in never in the right place at the right time. His obsession with being famous and remembered for years to come drives him to make a deal with Death. David is given 200 days to leave his mark on the art world. Death gives him the ability to form sculptures with his bare hands but tells him his life will end whether or not he achieves his goal in 200 days.

Down on his luck financially, things are difficult for David. Meeting a beautiful young woman named Meg takes David's focus away from his art. Although she encourages him in his goal, his love for her threatens to derail his plans for fame.

Author Scott McCloud's powerful artwork combined with imaginative dialogue making THE SCULPTOR a fascinating read. I would offer a bit of caution that this graphic novel is best suited for age 16 and up due to sexually suggestive content.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

TOWERS FALLING by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Towers Falling
This is the second book about 9/11 I have read in recent weeks. The first was NINE, TEN. Both offer excellent ways to introduce the world changing tragedy into the curriculum of elementary and middle schools. Thank you to two talented authors interested in sharing history with readers who were not even born on September 11, 2001.

According to Deja, her family has always been poor, but they have hit a new low. Living accommodations provided by Avalon Family Residence shelter is about as low as it can get. Because her father can't hold a job, her family of five is now squeezed into one room, and Deja is faced with starting the year at a new school.

Her new teacher Mrs. Garcia announces they will be participating in something called an integrated curriculum. Deja has no idea what to expect, but at least she makes two fast friends, Ben and Sabeen. Ben is originally from Arizona and Sabeen's family are Turkish immigrants. Both Ben and Sabeen seem to know more about NYC than native Deja, but that soon changes as the new class curriculum is revealed.

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly tells the story of three young Americans fifteen years after the tragedy of 9/11. In heartbreaking clarity, Rhodes explains that Deja's father suffers from PTSD as a survivor of the World Trade Center collapse. All three students learn the importance of history in the shaping of their personal lives, the country, and even the world. Every library and classroom should have at least one copy of TOWERS FALLING.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Justin #1
Welcome to a new series - BLACK TOP! At just under 150 pages and priced at $6.99, JUSTIN is the first book in this fast-paced basketball series. Book #2, JANAE, is also available with book #3 due out in January.

Justin lives with his mom and stepdad. Not a bad kid, he is easily influenced by the tough guys in his less than desirable neighborhood. Watching the pickup games at Bushrod, Justin dreams of playing on his own team.

Tall and lean, Justin looks like a basketball player and he thinks like a player, unfortunately, he doesn't really have the moves of a player. He is sure that if he practices and has the right team around him, he could be good.

When news that the infamous Ghosttown team might be looking for a game, Justin is determined to find enough players to fill out a team. He convinces his friend Frank to join him in the search. They end up with Adrian, White Mike, and surprisingly, a girl named Janae. Now the game is on. Will they win or will Ghosttown wipe up the court with the inexperienced, young team?

Debut author LJ Alonge uses his own experience to inspire the games and characters described in his new BLACK TOP series. Perfect for reluctant readers as well as basketball fans, each book ends in a cliffhanger that leads into the next exciting story.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Every Exquisite Thing
Matthew Quick's unique message comes through clearly in his newest book, EVERY EXQUISITE THING. Quick's books never disappoint me, and this one is no exception.

Nanette O'Hare is every parent's dream. Good grades, star soccer player with college scholarship potential, and not into high school partying or at-risk behavior. Life seems to be steaming along just fine for everyone but Nanette.

A bit unsure about her place in the world, Nanette often spends her lunches with a favorite teacher hoping to gain some insight into what her future holds. When the teacher hands her a worn copy of a strange, out-of-print book called The Bubblegum Reaper, her life begins to make a sort of mixed up sense.

In search of her true self, Nanette locates the author of the mysterious book, Nigel Booker. Booker gives her much to think about and also introduces her to Alex. Alex is also fascinated with Booker's novel, and the two teens bond over the unique piece of fiction. Inspired by the book, they experiment in rebellious behavior that takes them far from the straight and narrow of their normal lives.

In EVERY EXQUISITE THING author Matthew Quick lets teen readers know that there aren't always pat answers for the questions that threaten to overwhelm them. Nanette's rocky journey reveals that following the expected path isn't always the most satisfying, but it takes a brave soul to decide to head into uncharted territory.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

CAMO GIRL by Kekla Magoon

Camo Girl
THE ROCK AND THE RIVER by Kekla Magoon is one of my favorite books. I recently have seen readers mentioning CAMO GIRL and decided to check it out.

Ella, Z, and Millie were close friends in elementary school. Things have changed recently for Z, and Ella finds herself his sole friend. As seventh grade begins, Millie starts steering clear of Ella and Z. She sits next to Ella on the bus, but once they arrive at school, Millie joins another circle of friends.

Ella has always been Z's defender. He refers to Ella as Milady and himself as a knight. His fantasy world has taken over his daily life causing his classmates to endlessly tease and taunt him.

At the same time Ella has her own problems. She lives with her mother and grandmother, although, her mother's job only allows her to be home three days out of every seven. A skin condition involving the pigment of Ella's skin makes her the target for almost as much teasing as Z. The nickname Camo Girl haunts her every day.

When new kid Bailey James arrives, Ella rejoices that she will no longer be the only black kid in the school. Discovering that he also lives nearby, makes life even better. Unfortunately, Z doesn't understand the new friendship developing between Ella and Bailey. Will Ella be forced to choose or can she find a way to help Z feel comfortable around Bailey? It may be a problem that she can't solve on her own.

CAMO GIRL is perfect for middle grade readers. There are many opportunities for great group discussion as readers learn about Ella's troubles.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen (Signed Book)
The first time I heard of Jazz Jennings was when I saw previews for the TLC reality show featuring her family. I decided to tune in and ended up watching each episode. As I watched, I thought, what a courageous young woman. I am glad to now have her book so I can share it with my students and others interested in learning more about transgender issues.

Jazz Jennings writes this book from the heart. She presents her story for the most part chronologically, beginning with her earliest memories of knowing she was really a girl. Unusual, because most transgender individuals don't recognize their differences and desires at such a young age. Jazz's very loving family has given her the necessary support to identify and live as her true self.

As Jazz tells her story, she speaks clearly about how she hopes her experience and advocacy will help others to understand and educate themselves about what it means to be transgender. She credits her supportive family for making her transition as easy as possible which has allowed her to live happily for most of her young life. Not that everything has been perfect, of course. Experiencing depression, learning to deal with strangers' looks and comments, and navigating the world of puberty and hormones while living an extremely public life has had its challenges, but Jazz and her family have done their best to learn what they can and pass that knowledge on to others.

BEING JAZZ is a powerful, inspiring, and meaningful book that should be readily available for readers everywhere. Its message will encourage readers to understand that we are all just people and should be accepted for we are.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Still a Work in Progress
I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the ARC tour for STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS! This is the best book I've read in quite some time.

Navigating middle school is difficult enough, and Noah is doing his best despite the fact that his sister Emma is struggling with a health issue that threatens to derail his entire family. His days are filled with typical 7th grade hormonal and emotional disasters. His best friend is involved with a girl complete with holding hands and kissing with tongue. There's the first dance jitters to contend with. Should he ask a girl to dance or sit safely on the sidelines? Each day ends with an often uncomfortable carpool ride that takes him home to homework and chores.

Noah's small school has its perks. Classes are small and most of the kids have been together forever. Teachers take the time to get to know their students and offer positive support whenever necessary. There's even a school cat - a hairless feline who wanders the halls and classrooms wearing jaunty little vests to keep his rather creepy little figure toasty and warm.

Along with the perks come decided disadvantages. Everyone knows everyone else's business, and when Noah's sister relapses, the real stress begins. Talkative friends become suddenly silent, and teachers become nosey question askers. As Noah's feelings of guilt and anger increase, all he wants is to be left alone.

Author Jo Knowles takes on the task of illustrating how an eating disorder effects a family. Noah and his parents completely change their lives to accommodate Emma as she tries to deal with her illness, but despite carefully expressed feelings and craftily prepared meals, she reverts to old habits and ends up back in rehab. Noah misses her and must learn that life goes on even though he hears his parents crying and arguing nightly as he tries to come to terms with his own role in the family's situation.

I don't mean to make this book sound like a depressing, downer of a read. It is filled with warmth and humor that will have readers smiling, chuckling, and sighing pleasantly time and time again. Knowles's middle grade humor matches that of authors Jordan Sonnenblick, David Lubar, and Brent Crawford, making it a sure winner with boys as well as girls.

There has been recent criticism of books written for middle grade readers involving topics such as heroine addiction, gender issues, and autism. Some argue that these are topics that should not be introduced in fiction for readers of this age. I completely disagree! Books like STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS can provide just what kids need to better understand what may be going on in their own lives or the lives of someone close to them. We need this kind of diversity in children's and adolescent literature now more than ever.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Gaijin: American Prisoner of War
Thank you to for their generous donation of this book.

Author Matt Faulkner's graphic novel GAIJIN: AMERICAN PRISONER OF WAR gives readers a unique view of America's version of the WWII concentration camp.

It is 1941 and the Japanese have just attacked Pearl Harbor. Living in San Francisco, Koji Miyamoto learns that being the son of a Japanese father and a white mother comes with a cost. As emotions build in the U.S. after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japanese Americans are rounded up and sent to internment camps supposedly for their "protection."

Koji and his mother are sent to the Alameda Downs Assembly Center. It is an abandoned horse-racing track turned into a camp housing over 8,000 Japanese Americans. Conditions are poor for everyone, but life is especially difficult for Koji as he is teased and taunted for being "gaijin" or "half-caste."

Using simple, direct dialogue and his detailed, colorful artwork, author Matt Faulkner takes readers back to WWII to illustrate its powerful impact right here in the United States. With so much focus on German concentration camps, many teens don't realize the horrors visited on U.S. citizens who never left our own country. GAIJIN is a must have for any library or classroom collection.

AIR by Ryan Gattis

Grey Monroe finds himself suddenly transplanted from Colorado to Baltimore, Maryland. After witnessing his own mother's death, Grey is separated from his siblings and shipped off to live with his Aunt Blue.

Quickly befriended by a dare devil named Kurtis, Grey becomes part of a risk-taking group of Baltimore teens. When he's not following his aunt's strict rules and keeping his grades up at school, Grey is learning to ride dirt bikes with Kurtis and his gang. Already an accomplished BMX rider, dirt bike riding and stunting comes easily to Grey, and before he knows it, he has the nickname "Air" and his stunt videos are breaking viewing records on YouTube.

Although it is tough to stay in his aunt's good graces and ride with his new friends without getting caught by the cops, Grey seems to make it work. However, as the dare devils attempt more dangerous stunts, the cops are determined to shut them down. One wild ride ends with the death of a young rider named Akil. Grey and his friends are sure that Akil's death is the fault of the cops who supposedly have a "no chase" policy. As a way to honor their friend's tragic death, Grey and Kurtis vow to perform stunt videos to raise money to better the lives of the kids of Baltimore.

Grey knows his aunt will not approve of the dangerous tricks he and Kurtis are planning. But more important than staying out of trouble with his aunt, will Grey even survive the death-defying stunts?

Author Ryan Gattis combines wild dirt bike adventure with the struggle of inner city teens trying to make a name for themselves and remember their friend. Filled with emotion and daring, AIR's fast pace is sure to entertain teen readers. Gattis uses short chapters and a good mix of physical action and intense character interaction to grab readers and keep them turning pages to the exciting conclusion.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

NINE, TEN: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Author Nora Raleigh Baskin's latest book is a unique story about 9/11 and the forty-eight hours leading up to the historic terrorist attack. NINE, TEN is the perfect story to introduce and begin discussions about 9/11 for those too young to have formed their own memories of that day.

Beginning on September 9th, readers hear from four separate characters from Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Sergio lives with his grandmother in Brooklyn and has never even known his father.

Aimee is trying to adjust to a new school in L.A. and deal with her mother's frequent travels back and forth between L.A. and NYC.

Naheed has always been comfortable with her Muslim heritage, but recently kids have been teasing her about her hijab, and she isn't sure how to confront the bullying.

In small town Pennsylvania, it has been a year since Will's father died in a tragic highway accident, and he is still trying to put his life back together.

Each of Baskin's characters has a connection to the event of 9/11. Together they reflect the emotions of an entire country that experienced a horrific attack that may not have touched us personally, but touched us as a nation nevertheless. Baskin reveals the personal stories of the four protagonists on the day of the attack as well as their stories one year later as they visit the memorial at Ground Zero.

A well-told tale, NINE, TEN is a must have for library and classroom collections.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

MY LADY JANE by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

My Lady Jane
Since Lady Jane Grey makes an appearance on my family tree, I had to purchase a copy of this book. The fact that it is a collaboration of three authors also attracted my attention.

History indicates that Lady Jane Grey was crowned Queen of England. Her reign lasted only nine days and ended with the removal of her head.

MY LADY JANE begins with Edward, the sixteen year old King of England. He is ill and his advisors suggest that he choose a successor to the throne. His choice is his childhood friend and cousin Jane. Legal papers are drawn up and signed giving her the throne when Edward dies.

At the same time Gifford, who prefers to called G, is chosen to be Jane's husband. The marriage is arranged by G's father who is the key advisor to King Edward. He sees it as the perfect way to retain control of the British throne. He also sees it as a way to marry off an odd son, an unfortunate victim of the Edian curse which causes him to become a horse during the daylight hours every day.

And then there's Jane. Also, only sixteen, she has a mind of her own, and her only true love is books. She surrounds herself with books and reads endlessly. The last thing she wants is to be queen, but she vows to help her cousin in his time of need.

MY LADY JANE boldly informs readers that it represents an alternative version of English history. Early on, readers learn of the Edians and Verities. These two societies have long been at odds. Edians, cursed or blessed, depending on your personal opinion, have the magical power to "shape shift." This power can either help or hinder the user; the trick being to learn to control the change. Can G use his abilities as a horse to defeat those who would harm Jane? Will Edward's newly discovered Edian ability be useful or is it too late?

Readers looking for a combination of history and fantasy will want to give MY LADY JANE a try. Although the story differs from the historical accounts I've grown up hearing, I found the book a fascinating read.

Monday, June 20, 2016

THE SEVENTH WISH by Kate Messner

The Seventh Wish
THE SEVENTH WISH and author Kate Messner have been receiving criticism recently. After hearing complaints about the subject of heroine abuse appearing in this book for younger readers, I headed to the book store to pick up a copy and judge it for myself.


Charlotte "Charlie" Brennan has two new passions - Irish dancing and ice fishing. She and her friend Dasha have been taking Irish dancing lessons for about a year. Their goal is to earn medals in an upcoming contest so they can advance to the next level and dance with girls closer to their own age.

The opportunity to go ice fishing came along at just the right time. Charlie gets invited to fish with her neighbor and his grandmother. Usually the thought of going out onto the ice is terrifying for Charlie, but the chance to catch fish and sell them to a local restaurant catches her attention. She needs to purchase an Irish dance dress for her solo performance so the extra money would come in handy.

On her first fishing outing, Charlie stays close to shore. She knows she probably won't catch the larger fish her friend and his grandmother will farther out onto the lake, but her fear takes over. She's surprised when she feels a nimble and tug on her line. When she pulls it up, she sees she has hooked a beautiful little fish with emerald eyes. The other surprise comes when the little fish speaks to her in a gravelly voice. "Release me ... and I will grant you a wish." Why not? Charlie gives it a try. She wishes to not be afraid of the ice and also that Roberto Sullivan will fall in love with her. Charlie finds her wishes coming true in some unusual ways, and she decides to return to the lake in hopes of catching the wishing fish again.

Although her wishes seem to be answered, Charlie finds out life doesn't always go the way she hopes. When the day of the dance competition arrives, Charlie's family is dealing with a crisis that robs her of the opportunity to attend the long awaited event. Unknown to the family, her older sister Abby has become involved with drugs while away at college and is being sent to a rehab facility. Dealing with the disappointment of her own canceled plans and the confusion of learning that her sister is addicted to heroine are two devastating blows that threaten Charlie's normally peaceful world.

Author Kate Messner uses the old tale of "The Fisherman and His Wife" as a vehicle to introduce the pain and suffering of having a family member addicted to heroine. The story addresses the topic in a thoughtful and understanding way which is perfect for younger readers dealing with this very confusing issue or readers wanting to understand an issue that effects more and more of those around us every day. Please consider reading THE SEVENTH WISH and passing it along to a young person in need of a story that will help them feel less alone about their circumstances. This is the type of story that begs to be shared so thank you to Kate Messner for giving it to the world.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

GENA/FINN by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Thank you Goodreads for this copy of GENA/FINN.

GENA /FINN is an unusual collaboration between Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson. Written completely in emails, blog posts, and texts, the story between two unlikely friends unfolds in bits and pieces.

Both Gena (Genevieve) and Finn (Stephanie) are total fans of the TV show Up Below. Each writes fanfic involving the characters in the show, especially the lead characters, Tyler and Zach.

Gena is a senior at a prestigious boarding school. Finn has already graduated from college and is searching for an ever-illusive job. When she moved to California to live with her boyfriend, she had hopes of finding the perfect life.

The two young women use the online world of fanfic as an escape from their daily lives. Neither has a close enough friendship with anyone to share their worries and concerns. When they connect online, they magically hit it off, and they are soon sharing secrets they would never have thought to share with their real life acquaintances.

Finn shares her fear of commitment when her boy friend proposes, and Gena shares her battle with mental illness and her concerns about college. The friendship grows to the point of almost total devotion. When tragedy strikes Gena, Finn drops everything to be there for her friend, even though she knows she may be risking her own future happiness.

Moskowitz and Helgeson illustrate the strong bonds of friendship, love, and loyalty in this unique new novel.

Friday, June 17, 2016

IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl
Amanda made the decision to move in with her father in Lambertville, Tennessee. Starting senior year in a new high school will be stressful, especially with a secret as big as Amanda's. Amanda was born Andrew.

As far back as Amanda could remember, she had seen herself as a girl. It wasn't easy for her parents, and it eventually ended their marriage. She knows she shouldn't feel responsible, but she does.

After a suicide attempt, both Amanda's parents began to understand the extreme unhappiness she feels living as a boy. Hormone replacement and surgery were supposed to fix everything, but Amanda recognized the need to start fresh. The move to Lambertville would give her that opportunity.

Nothing is ever perfect though. Their father/daughter relationship is shaky at best. Making new friends feels good but cam be dangerous if Amanda shares her past with the wrong person. Discovering an awesome looking guy and beginning her first romantic relationship is proving to be exciting but scary as hell. In Lambertville Amanda is able to be herself, but her secret is always lurking below the surface. Who should she tell? When is the right moment?

Author Meredith Russo takes readers into the life of a transgender teen whose bravery is nothing but amazing. As Russo admits in her "note from the author," the character of Amanda makes the transition from male to female in a surprisingly short time with surprising ease, but that isn't the point. Russo wants to let all teens know that living truly and honestly is the real point. Whether you are straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, or other, being true to yourself is not easy but necessary.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot
Before reading THE WILD ROBOT, I shared it with my neighbor's nine year old grandson. When he finished it, he enthusiastically rated it 5 stars! Now that I've read it, I have to agree.

The story begins when a cargo ship is caught in a hurricane. The ship is loaded with crates containing robots - all of them model ROZZUM unit 7134. As the ship sinks, the crates float off only to be smashed against the rocks on the shore of a nearby island. One crate remains whole and is washed onto a high rock where it rests until the storm passes.

A group of otters investigates the stranded crate and tear it apart. One otter's paw reaches into the crate and accidentally bumps a button on the back of the robot's head. What follows is a whirring sound and movement inside the crate. In minutes the robot frees itself from the confines of the foam packing and gazes around its new home.

Readers discover that the ROZZUM unit 7134 is a female who introduces herself as Roz. A quick learner, Roz recognizes that she is on an island and soon identifies all the wildlife that surrounds her. Although she doesn't understand how she ended up on the island, she decides to make the best of it. What follows are some quirky and sometimes hair-raising adventures as Roz deals with her surroundings and makes herself at home.

Author Peter Brown explains that the story of the wild robot was one that began many years before final publication. Used to writing and illustrating children's picture books, Brown is charting new territory with Roz and her wild island. THE WILD ROBOT is a perfect reading adventure for ages 8-12 or anyone interested in wildlife and the environment.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


The Last Leaves Falling
Only seventeen years old, Abe Sora has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Sora's gradual physical deterioration leaves him wheelchair bound and cared for by his doting mother. Used to being busy with school, sports, and friends, Sora is frustrated and lonely.

Sora turns to an internet chatroom in an effort to connect with people beyond his limited world. Anxious at first, he soon becomes comfortable with two teens he meets, Mia and Kaito. The three share their hopes and dreams, but Sora keeps his physical difficulties and declining health a secret. Eventually, he reveals the truth and is thrilled that his two friends remain true.

Sora wants nothing more than to control his life, and as his condition worsens, control his death. THE LAST LEAVES FALLING explores love of family and friends and the difficulty of end-of-life decisions. Readers who appreciated Mitch Albom's TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE will want to read this emotional tale of a much younger victim of ALS.

Monday, June 6, 2016


The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
I have begun collecting graphic novels for my students. They are excellent when it comes to getting reluctant readers interested in picking up a book. I'm finding the storylines are much more sophisticated than I anticipated. I'm surprised that students who read them and then conference with me seem to be really getting to the meat of the stories.

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL by Stephen Collins presents the message that being different is okay. Dave lives in Here where everything is neat and tidy. Rules are followed and everything runs smoothly. That is until the day Here changes for Dave.

Dave has always been clean shaven except for one whisker. No matter how he tries he can't get rid of the stubborn hair. Shaving, cutting, waxing, plucking - the crazy thing always returns.

One day Dave observes strange results on his graphs and charts at work. He shows them to his boss, but no one seems to be able to explain the odd images. That's when Dave himself begins to feel strange. Not sick, but just not himself.

When he wakes the next morning, the unthinkable has happened. The one hair has been begun growing and what follows is the growth of an uncontrollable beard. Dave's beard becomes a menace to everyone in Here. It blocks the streets and clogs the byways. The government sends in barbers and beauty operators to attempt to control the beard, but everything fails. It is finally decided that Dave's beard (and Dave) must go.

What the people soon discover is that the beard event caused lasting changes in Here. Everyone is not the same. The tidiness and sameness are gone. But maybe that isn't a bad thing after all.

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL is fascinating. Black and white pencil-type sketches bring the story to life. The only drawback I see is that the text is frequently small and difficult to read.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

CALVIN by Martine Leavitt

Title: Calvin, Author: Martine LeavittAlthough his parents argue the fact, Calvin believes he was named after Calvin, the character in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. He was born on the day the last edition of the comic appeared, and on that same day his grandfather placed a stuffed tiger he christened Hobbes in Calvin's crib. Calvin loved that stuffed tiger until the day his mother "washed it to death."

Now Calvin is seventeen and sure that he is about to flunk out in his senior year. The stress of two end of semester final projects has pushed him over the edge. A breakdown at school lands him in the hospital where a psychiatrist diagnoses him with schizophrenia.

According to the doctor, Calvin's condition can be controlled with medication, but Calvin has another idea. He is convinced that contacting Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, will fix everything. If Watterson will just create one more comic featuring Calvin without Hobbes, all will be well. This is where the adventure begins.

Author Martine Leavitt takes readers on a life changing journey. Calvin and his lifelong friend embark on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie. The goal is to meet Calvin's creator and rid Calvin of Hobbes forever. Calvin captured my heart and his story pulled me along on his odd quest. I couldn't put it down.

Monday, May 30, 2016

FALLING OVER SIDEWAYS by Jordan Sonnenblick

Falling Over Sideways
*Special thanks to Scholastic Press for a review copy of FALLING OVER SIDEWAYS.

I have long been a fan of author Jordan Sonnenblick.  DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE is one of the first books I read aloud to my 8th graders.  It convinced me of the value of sharing books aloud as a way to involve older readers.  FALLING OVER SIDEWAYS, due for release in September 2016, is Sonnenblick at his best!

Claire's life isn't going like she had hoped.  In band she is being hassled by Ryder.  He is constantly tormenting her about her second chair seat in the saxophone section.  It's almost time for seat challenges, and he dares her to try to take first chair.

Older brother Matthew has a reputation of being just about perfect.  Entering eighth grade with the shadow of his straight A average is pressure she just doesn't need right now.

As a dedicated dance student, when Claire receives the news that her best friends at the dance studio are being moved up to the high school age group and she is being left behind, she is convinced that life is not fair.  But all these irritating things become minor annoyances one September morning.

Claire is at the kitchen table trying to forget an argument she recently had with her father.  Suddenly the table is thrust viciously in her direction.  She looks up to protest just as her father slumps dramatically to his side.  His face looks strange and garbled words come from his mouth.  Claire knows this is a medical emergency and jumps into action.  She dials 911 and soon finds herself in the front seat of an ambulance with her father strapped to a gurney in the back.  What follows changes Claire's family in ways she never imagined.

Sonnenblick drama interspersed with his trademark humor will keep readers glued to FALLING OVER SIDEWAYS.  Be sure to watch for this one in bookstores this fall.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

LILY AND DUNKIN by Donna Gephart

Lily and Dunkin
Dunkin has just moved from New Jersey to Florida.  While walking in his neighborhood, he sees a blue-eyed girl in a pretty red dress.  On his first day at his new school, he meets a boy named Tim.  There is something strangely familiar about Tim, but Dunkin isn't quite sure what.

Tim McGrother frequently feels like he is living a double life.  Deep down he has always identified as a girl, but his body identifies him as a boy.  His mother and sister recognize the girl and call her Lily, but his father insists that he is Tim and should be living as the boy he recognizes as his son.

Dunkin is fighting to fit in and be comfortable in his new home.  With his father gone, he relies on his mother and grandmother, but he longs for a friend.  His mother has been great since they moved, letting him have his own space and even letting him be responsible for taking his daily medication.  But, when Dunkin finds himself part of the basketball team and hanging with kids he sees as popular, he begins to think his medicine is slowing him down.

Tim desperately wants to live as Lily, but the taunting and teasing he endures every day while living as a boy, have him too frightened to be the person he truly is.  The only place he feels comfortable is sitting up in the old banyan tree by the library.  It's a place filled with memories of his grandfather.  Tim even named the tree Bob.  When a sign suddenly appears announcing the tree will be cut down for a new park, Tim feels like his world is crumbling.

Dunkin and Lily could be so good for each, but will they discover the friendship waiting for them?

Author Donna Gephart tackles two huge issues in LILY AND DUNKIN.  Lily is transgender and Dunkin has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Personal experience and exhaustive research combine to make this a truthful and moving read.  Be sure to check this one out from your local library or find a copy at the nearest bookstore.