Monday, May 29, 2023

I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU (For Young Adults) by Chasten Buttigieg


After writing his memoir for adults, Chasten Buttigieg has also written a version for young adults. Using his experience as a middle school teacher in this kid friendly edition, Buttigieg captures what it was like growing up in Traverse City, Michigan. 

Chasten tells about his family and what it was like to be different than his siblings. His loving parents had high expectations for their children and were proud of what they accomplished. More imaginative and creative than a lot of the other kids Chasten grew up with, he channeled his energy into drama and art endeavors. Knowing that his drama teacher offered a safe space in the school theater, he sought out this space as often as possible.

His energetic work ethic kept him busy as he worked multiple jobs with the goal to buy a car that promised his freedom to get beyond Traverse City. His senior year in high school was spent as an exchange student in Germany. This experience convinced him that he needed to go to college to broaden his worldview even more.

College wasn't exactly the escape Chasten hoped it would be. He still didn't fit in and switched his field of study numerous times. Finally ending up majoring in drama, he found his people. Also by then, he knew he was gay, but opening up about it especially with his parents was a challenge. 

I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU details the difficulties of growing up as gay in a conservative part of the country. His honest, straight-forward approach as he explains the challenges will surely be just the thing many young LGBTQ+ readers will find helpful.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023



If you haven't discovered author Mindy McGinnis, run don't walk to the library, bookstore, or somewhere to get a copy of A LONG STRETCH OF BAD DAYS. You won't regret it, and you'll be looking for all of her other books when you finish.

Lydia Chass is anxiously awaiting her escape from the small town she has called home. She will graduate in the spring as valedictorian of her class of less than 70 students. She was sure of that fact until the day she was called to the guidance counselor's office. Unfortunately, a mistake was made, and she is short one history credit. If she doesn't earn that credit, she will not graduate. So much for all the college applications she's filled out for Ivy League schools. No way will she be accepted without that credit.

Another student has run afoul of the same mistake. Bristal Jamison was hoping to be the first Jamison to ever graduate from high school. She always thought her multiple discipline issues, fighting, and being on probation would be her downfall. Instead, it's this measly little history credit. She immediately considers who she will need to beat up to fix the problem.

Lydia and Bristal agree to team up to record some historical tidbits about their small town on Lydia's podcast On the Ground in Flyover Country. Lydia figures uploading some great episodes will also be seen by some of the colleges she's applied to and might help her get some offers. Also, there isn't a shortage of material in their small town, especially during what everyone calls "the long stretch of bad days" that involved a tornado, a flash flood, and the town's one and only murder. Let the research begin.

Author Mindy McGinnis knows how to grab a reader's attention and weave a tight, yet action-packed tale. Colorful background and quirky characters mixed with laugh out loud humor make this book a winner. If all that doesn't peak your interest, how about a cat named Uneven Steven.

Saturday, May 20, 2023



I had never heard of "parachute kids" until I heard someone mention this book. Written as a graphic novel PARACHUTE KIDS by Betty C. Tang reveals the fact that many immigrant children arrive in the U.S. with their parents, but later are left on their own because their parents are forced to return to their home countries leaving the kids to handle things on their own.

Ann and her two older siblings are told their family is moving to America for a better life. The trip promises all the fun of Disneyland and other vacation-like adventures. There is some fun, but then it is time to settle in. Ann and her siblings are enrolled in school where they are expected to learn English and excel so they will have a chance at a good future. 

Making friends isn't easy when you don't know the language and customs. Ann feels alone. Her sister is busy studying for the upcoming SAT, and her brother is off with friends of his own. Life isn't at all what Ann expected.

Things get even worse when their father announces he must return to Taiwan because his Visa has expired. He promises to return but not for months. Then their mother must leave them as well. Now the three siblings are left behind to manage their own lives until their parents can return. Attending school, shopping, managing money prove to be complicated without parents to make decisions and mediate arguments. Their illegal status must remain a secret or they could end up in jail or sent back to Taiwan.

PARACHUTE KIDS is a real eye opener. The graphic novel format makes for a quick, easy read. It is an important read for everyone.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023



Agnes has been getting to know her neighbor, a woman named Gracy. Gracy volunteered to drive Agnes to her orthodontist appointments since Agnes's mother is busy working at the bank. There isn't much to talk about on the drive there until the day they see an opossum in the road. Agnes assumes it is dead and will soon be squished by a passing car. Gracy gives Agnes a quick lesson on opossum behavior as they stop the car and move the animal off to a protected spot beside the road. Who knew this would open Agnes's mind to questions and thoughts she never had before.

When Agnes's mother announces she must start attending a confirmation class at their church, Agnes is furious. She doesn't mind church and knows that her mother's boss seems to believe it is necessary, but Agnes isn't even sure she believes in God so how is she supposed to take this class seriously.

As she listens to Pastor Paul and reads the required workbook assignments, she is getting even more frustrated. Why does Eve get blamed for everything? Why do stories in the Bible put the men in charge? And, why is God always portrayed as an old man with a white beard? None of it seems fair.

When Agnes stumbles across the poet Maya Angelou and learns she was a favorite of her mother's, she begins to visualize God in the image of the poet. She mentions this at church and is criticized for not thinking of God the way the church dictates. 

As she reads more poetry and chats with Gracy about her thoughts and feelings, Agnes is encouraged to love herself and believe what she thinks is right. Could this cause her mother to lose her job? Will standing up and discussing her beliefs help win her friends or turn them against her?

Author Ann Braden explores friendship, religion, and speaking up for oneself in OPINIONS AND OPOSSUMS. This fast-paced read with the colorful cover is sure to entertain as well as open minds and stimulate discussion.

Monday, May 15, 2023

THE ONE AND ONLY RUBY by Katherine Applegate


Readers will be thrilled with this new adventure related to THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. Ruby is the little elephant who bonded with Aunt Stella. Now the gang is living at the sanctuary where their lives are safe and secure.

The story focuses on Ruby and her experiences. She opens up to her friends and shares the memories of her birth and early time in Africa. All the friends listen to the horrible account of her mother's death and the poachers who stole her tusks.

The early memories have been awaken by the fact that Ruby will be celebrating her Tuskday. She hates her tusks. They hurt and they remind her of unpleasant times. Her sanctuary family insists the celebration is necessary, but all Ruby wants is to escape.

Readers will enjoy the antics of Bob and the large and loveable Ivan as Ruby relates her story. Author Katherine Applegate has succeeded in gathering the gang together with all the excitement and heart of her previous books. I wonder if she has anything else in store.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

A ROVER'S STORY by Jasmine Warga


This book is going to be on the required reading list for my Children's Lit class in the fall. I can't wait for the future teachers in the class to read it and get excited about sharing it in their future classrooms.

Resilience "Res" is a Mars rover. At the beginning of his story he is in the NASA lab. Scientists are still building him and tweaking his systems. He has formed a bond with two of the scientists, Xander and Rania. Although the other rover named Journey, in a neighboring lab, doesn't approve of Res connecting with the humans, Res doesn't care. Imagining he feels human emotions makes him feel special. 

Readers will follow Res on his path from creation to launch and eventual arrival on Mars. The exploration of the planet involves complicated communication between Res, a satellite named Guardian, and a drone named Fly. As a team they spend years on Mars filming, making recordings, and drilling for rock samples. They even try to revive an old rover that went offline on a previous mission.

Scattered throughout Res's story are letters written by the daughter of Rania. She was assigned to write a letter to Res when she was twelve and continued to write to him long after. Since her mother is one of the NASA scientists working on Res and following his work on Mars, she feels connected in a special way.

If you don't think you can become connected emotionally to a robot exploring a planet far, far away, you find out it is totally possible if you read A ROVER'S STORY. Author Jasmine Warga explains the combination of fact and fiction she called on to create Res and his story. This is a wonderful read for middle grade and up.

Friday, May 12, 2023

WORST-CASE COLLIN by Rebecca Caprara


Twelve year old Collin keeps an orange notebook filled with worst-case scenarios. Ever since his mother's tragic accident, he has wanted to be prepared for any emergency. Maybe if he had known the accident would happen and been there, maybe he could have prevented it. Now Collin lives his life hoping to be prepared for anything. 

Collin has several good friends he counts on. They stand by him when the bullies at school pick on him, and they understand his "worst-case" life philosophy. He appreciates when they invite him to their houses for movies and sleepovers. Those invitations allow him to escape the confusion and chaos in his own home. Collin is proud of his professor father who spends all his time trying to solve one of the most important math problems in the world. If successful, he could win a million dollars.

Solving math problems is one thing, but Collin's dad is also a collector, or rather, a hoarder. Their house is filled with all kinds of stuff threatening to smother them both. Collin is able to keep his own room mostly free of the junk, but he isn't always successful. He is grateful for his close friends, but he lives in fear of them finding out the horrible secret of what he calls The Hoard.

WORST-CASE COLLIN by Rebecca Caprara is a wonderful novel in verse that highlights friendship and family and all the complicated issues involved in both. Readers will fall in love with Collin and root for him to regain control of his life as he navigates loss the public and private issues that threaten to pull him under.