Friday, November 25, 2022

MY NEST OF SILENCE by Matt Faulkner

 

The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and Mari and her family have been relocated from their small farm to the Japanese internment camp Manzanar. They share a small 20 x 20 room in the barracks and eat in the dining hall. Mari spends her time drawing what she sees in her new surroundings and hanging out with her older brother. She loves Mak despite the teasing and the noogies.

When Mak turns 18, Mari is shocked that he decides to enlist in the army. She cries as he climbs on the bus and heads off to who knows where. He begins writing her letters to let her know what he can about his new life. The letters are often vague and never enough to really comfort Mari. She pledges not to speak until he is safely home from the war.

Most people praise Mari for her vow of silence, but she is teased by the kids at school and her father complains that her behavior is "abnormal." Mari stays true to her promise hoping that her sacrifice will help Mak. Her drawing and his letters are her only hope.

At the same time readers learn of Mari's life in the internment camp, Mak shares his army life through his letters and through graphic novel format tales of boot camp and life on the battlefield in Europe. His talent as a mechanic earns him a job driving a jeep for an upper-level officer, but it doesn't keep him from seeing some hardcore action on the front. Everything he does is designed to hopefully keep him safe and headed back to Mari and his family.

Author Matt Faulkner first wrote about his fascination with the Japanese internment camps in Gaijin: American Prisoner of War in which he used a graphic novel format throughout. In MY NEST OF SILENCE Faulkner combines prose with graphic novel art to tell Mari and Mak's stories. This unique approach takes readers directly into the lives of both characters as it provides gripping details and fast-paced action. This work of historical fiction is perfect for teen and adult history buffs or anyone looking for an awesome read.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

DINGED by Tommy Greenwald

 

Back with another great sports novel by Tommy Greenwald! Once again Greenwald combines a variety of text structures to tell this action-packed football story.

Caleb Springer is just a freshman, but as his father states, he is full of natural talent. As a young QB, much is expected of Caleb and he delivers. He will be leading the Walthorne Wildcats to victory this season and, hopefully, a state championship. It doesn't take long for the older players and the community to embrace this young QB. Once they see him in action, he's all everyone is talking about.

Being the son of a well-known NFL player means Caleb has been emersed in football since he could hold a ball. He and his father discuss the game and plan strategies constantly. Recently, Caleb has been noticing that his dad is forgetful and sometimes quick to show his temper. It doesn't seem like that big a deal, but Caleb has also noticed his mother stays close to his dad and often steers him back to the subject of a conversation or reminds him about something he has forgotten. As the big game draws closer, Caleb starts to get even more concerned about his dad, but he keeps it to himself.

DINGED focuses on the dangers of football and the threats of head injuries and the long-lasting effects. As the story mentions, there have been huge advancements in the safety of the game, but players and families still need to carefully weight the risks when players hit the field. 



Friday, November 18, 2022

GAME CHANGER by Tommy Greenwald

 

GAME CHANGER by Tommy Greenwald is the perfect book for football fans or anyone looking for a novel full of tension and suspense. Amazingly, Greenwald writes about a young football player without the player even saying a word. That's because Teddy Youngblood is in a coma as a result of an injury in a training camp scrimmage.

The Walthorne Wildcats are state champion hopefuls. The official season hasn't started, but the end of summer training features the freshmen players in a scrimmage coached by the senior players. When a promising freshman player collapses and is rushed to the hospital everyone wants to know what happened. 

As he lies in a coma, his family and friends are encouraged to talk to him in hopes that their voices will have some healing power. Unfortunately, rumors begin to swirl through the community claiming there could be more to Teddy's injury than meets the eye. Through conversations, message boards, texts, and news articles readers witness the emotions and judgements as everyone searches for answers. Was it just an innocent accident or is the team guilty of actions that resulted in Teddy's serious condition?

I just ordered book #2 in the Game Changer series. It looks like another winner.



Thursday, November 17, 2022

SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS by Ron Koertge

 

I just finished the sequel to SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP. Author Ron Koertge takes readers back into the life of Kevin Boland. Now he's an 8th grader looking forward to playing baseball in high school and maybe beyond. Still writing poetry, he shares how some things have changed in his life.

Kevin is learning to cope with the fact that his father is dating. It's a little uncomfortable, but he realizes his father is probably lonely. Assured that neither of them have forgotten Kevin's mom, it seems natural that it's time for his dad to move on.

Kevin's own love life is subject of many of his poems. He is in a relationship with Mira. She's quite cute and definitely a great kisser, but she doesn't really care about baseball and only likes his poems if she is mentioned in them. When he meets Amy at a reading at the local bookstore, they become what Amy calls "poetry friends." That works out well until Kevin realizes Amy is starting to feel like more than just a friend because of poetry. 

I enjoyed following Kevin's life again. He is clever and creative. His way with words and humor will stay with me a long time.



Wednesday, November 16, 2022

SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP by Ron Koertge

 

I was introduced to author Ron Koertge when I read The Brimstone Journals and Stoner & Spaz. His novels in verse capture his characters in brief but vivid detail. SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP didn't disappoint.

Kevin Boland is fourteen. His baseball season comes to an abrupt end when he is diagnosed with mono. Doctor's orders require him to take it easy and rest. When he isn't sleeping, he spends time writing in the black and white marbled journal his father suggests might fill his time.

Having a father who is a full-time writer might have something to do with it, but Kevin finds writing helps him forget about baseball. The strange thing is the writing comes in the form of poetry. Using a book from his father's bookshelf as a sort of guide, Kevin experiments with a variety of poetry formats to delve into the subjects that fill his thoughts. He writes about baseball, of course, and girls and dating and his mother who recently died. When he is finally able to begin working out with the team again, he finds that he misses writing like he missed baseball.

Just over a hundred pages, Koertge's novel pulls readers into the thoughts and dreams of a likeable teen living with typical teen issues. I'm now reading the sequel titled SHAKESPEARE MAKES THE PLAYOFFS.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

SOME KIND OF HATE by Sarah Darer Littman

 

Everything about Declan Taylor revolves around baseball. His skill as a high school pitcher will probably earn him a ticket to college which will be helpful since even with his parents working hard at their jobs, it's difficult to make ends meet. 

Unfortunately, Declan's dreams of baseball and pitching come to an abrupt halt when he badly injures his throwing arm while showing off for a pretty girl. After surgery and painful physical therapy, Declan still isn't ready to give up on returning to the pitcher's mound, but his doctor and his family are expressing doubts that he will return to his former strength. Feeling abandoned by his family and friends and feeling blamed for his family's increased financial trouble, Declan sinks into depression and withdraws. Playing video games for hours on end is his escape. While gaming online, he is invited to join a new group who offer a different kind of friendship.

Needing someone to blame for his bad luck, Declan falls in with a group of extremists spouting conspiracy theories and hate. Their hateful rhetoric gives Declan an excuse for his loneliness and pain. When his father gets laid off by a company the extremists say is part of a globalist plot, Declan goes all in and begins participating in terrorist activities planned by the group.

It isn't until the group's leader sends Declan and some others to attack a gathering at the local synagogue that Declan wakes up to the hatefulness of the organization he has joined. Will his warning be enough to save the people he has long called friends?

Author Sarah Darer Littman uncovers the dangers of white nationalism in this unflinching story about how easily a young man is indoctrinated into an evil group plotting to do damage to innocent people. I found Declan's story to be frighteningly believable. The ease with which he is pulled into Ronan's group and brainwashed into thinking they have the answers to his troubles. His own family, busy with their work and financial difficulties, easily overlooks Declan's real pain and suffering making it simple for Declan to find comfort elsewhere. Littman's novel is important for our time and is a must read for both teens and adults. 

Monday, November 7, 2022

THE SECOND CHANCE OF BENJAMIN WATERFALLS by James Bird

 

If you are looking for a book to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, look for a copy of THE SECOND CHANCE OF BENJAMIN WATERFALLS by James Bird.

Benjamin lives in Duluth. He spends most of his time shoplifting from the local mall or simply stealing anything that catches his eye. He has been caught a number of times, but this time he finds himself in court with a judge who means business. 

The judge is about to sentence him when Benjamin's mother speaks up. She suggests that Benjamin be sent to stay with his father at the Objibwe reservation. It would be a "boot camp" of sorts. The judge agrees and Benjamin finds himself on a bus headed to see a father who left him behind years ago.

It is difficult to understand what he is supposed to learn from a guy who drank too much and abandoned his family. Benjamin isn't expecting too much from his deadbeat dad when he arrives at the reservation. What he does find is his father's new wife, a step-brother, three giant dogs, and a girl in a mask. An angry Benjamin sticks to his old ways of stealing and shoplifting, but he soon is touched by a magical something that has him rethinking his ways. Could his new surroundings and the girl in the mask change Benjamin for the better?

Author James Bird takes readers into his Objibwe culture in this tale of reform and rebirth. Readers will easily connect with the characters and the heartwarming relationships Bird creates as Benjamin earns his second chance and begins to understand what it means to be a good person.