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.