Saturday, August 3, 2019

THEY CALLED US ENEMY by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

George Takei, who played the role of science officer Sulu on the Star Trek series, tells the story of his family's time in two Japanese Internment camps during WWII. The use of a graphic format with drawings by Harmony Becker allows readers to see as well as read this powerful story.

Takei shares the gripping story of his family being ripped from their home and business and transported by train to a camp in Arkansas. Only four years old at the time, Takei recalls trying to stay strong for his younger brother and sister despite the fact that he didn't understand what was happening. The family of five where forced to live in a horse stall in the first camp. Later they were transferred to another facility where they shared two small rooms.

Takei's father was elected to leadership roles in the two camps. He was instrumental in helping educate and instruct other Japanese Americans as they navigated their way through the government imprisonment. He could also understand and interpret the various laws passed by the U.S. government that further removed the rights of these Americans simply because of the circumstance of their births.

There are definite comparisons made between the internment camps and what is happening to migrant families today. It seems that the U.S. government hasn't learn from the lessons of the past.

Artwork by Harmony Becker furthers the story and allows readers to easily visualize conditions in these camps. Takei includes discussion with his father after their release as he tried to understand why the government mistreated Japanese Americans. THEY CALLED US ENEMY provides an important look at a terrible time in U.S. history.

Friday, August 2, 2019

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal

Thank you to Teenreads.com for the sneak peek of this powerful book!

This is Campbell's first football game at her new school. She volunteered to sell concessions hoping she might meet a few possible new friends. She quickly learns that the other students working with her aren't very committed to the job, but she'll try her best.

Lena is stopping by the game to catch her friends' dance performance at halftime. As soon as she can, she plans to hook up with her boyfriend Black. That will be the real highlight of her evening.

When a huge fight breaks out between students of the two rival schools, both girls find themselves huddled in the concession stand hoping to avoid the melee. When the police show up, the fighting tension escalates. Lena and Campbell make a break for a nearby classroom where they hope to collect Campbell's backpack and use her phone to call for rides. 

What follows is their desperate journey to find Lena's boyfriend and avoid more violence erupting in the city streets. The girls are soon in the middle of racial tension with shots fired, police threats, and looting mobs. 

Authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal have created a powerful story with strong characters and ripped from the headlines events. The voices of Campbell and Lena are authentic and relatable. I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT is a must read that speaks to current racial issues.

Friday, July 26, 2019

WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

It seemed like a good idea when Hetty decided to attend Raxter School for Girls. It meant getting out of Boston and not having to deal with her Navy father's constant deployments. The school was on a secluded island off the East coast with the promise of adventures in the woods and the chance to make new friends.

It turned out that a girl named Byatt and another named Reese were the only girls Hetty was able to connect with as friends. Reese's father was the handyman who fixed things around the school, and Reese was the only girl who actually lived on the island. 

About eighteen months ago strange things began to happen. An illness labeled the Tox gradually took over the school. Some girls overcome by the Tox died while others were left with deformities, an extra spine, gills in addition to lungs, and appendages covered with scales. Hetty was left blinded in one eye. 

The headmistress and remaining teacher attempted to hold things together. The Navy sent supplies, but they were never enough. The CDC had set up facilities on the mainland where tests were conducted to determine a cure. In the meantime the island was quarantined and eventually the girls were cut off from communication entirely.

When Hetty's friend Byatt disappears, she and Reese make a plan to break through the fence to rescue the sick girl. It soon becomes clear that more is going on than the girls have been told. The rescue mission quickly becomes a survival situation. Can Hetty and Reese escape? If they are successful, will the Tox end their lives anyway?

WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power is described as a feminine version of Lord of the Flies. Intense suspense, brutal images, and non-stop action will make this a popular read for young adults and adult readers as well.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL by Stacy McAnulty

Getting struck by lightning. It happens. It happened 4 years ago to Lucy Callahan. Lucy's life changed that day. After the incident, Lucy became a math savant. She could do crazy hard math problems in her head really fast. Unfortunately, there were a few side effects to get used to, but Lucy, with the help of her grandmother, manages to adapt to the changes.

The side effects included some OCD behavior that drew unwanted attention when Lucy was at school so her grandmother elected to homeschool Lucy. Of course Lucy excelled in math and had easily outpaced her fellow grade school students. 

With her unique math abilities and her quirky tics, making friends and fitting in was difficult. As the story opens, Lucy and her grandmother are attempting to come to terms with the fact that Lucy is academically ready for college, but socially stunted. When Lucy hears her grandmother's solution, she can't believe it. Grandmother thinks Lucy should try one year in middle school, 7th grade to be exact. She wants Lucy to make 1 friend, join 1 activity, and read 1 book. Can she succeed without losing control?

Readers will cheer Lucy on as she makes not 1 friend, but eventually 2. She learns how to deal with bullies, participates in an awesome community service project, and even gets suspended. 

THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL is Stacy McAnulty's first novel. She illustrates determination, the importance of friendship, and overcoming obstacles in the fast-paced, heartwarming read. I can't wait to get ahold of her second book, THE WORLD ENDS IN APRIL.



Friday, July 5, 2019

WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND by Alison McGhee

Will works at Dollar Only. He quotes music lyrics with his boss Major Tom. He remembers moments with his childhood friend Playa. He talks with the homeless man. He leaves surprise gifts for a little boy who loves butterflies. Every Tuesday night, he attempts to recreate his father's cornbread recipe, but he always fails. And, he walks and walks and walks.

At first Will is walking away from the sad things in his life. He walks to forget that his father committed suicide. He walks to avoid thinking about the three guys that raped Playa. He wants to leave all the bad things behind.

The sadness still finds Will, but he learns that leaving gifts of kindness help him cope. He forms a friendship with his boss, hands his cornbread failures over to the homeless man, befriends the little lonely boy and his butterflies, and leaves small gifts he hopes will please Playa. Memories of the Chinese store with the shelves of one hundred blessings eventually remind him of the good times with his father. His walking begins to take him toward his future as he begins to leave his past behind.

Author Alison McGhee deftly tells Will's story in short one hundred word chapters across one hundred pages. She shows her readers the importance of cherishing past moments as blessings to be taken forward into the future. WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND is a fast, yet memorable read.

THE LINE TENDER by Kate Allen

A line tender works with a dive team. The line is attached to a diver during search and rescue. A determined number of tugs on the line indicate if a victim has been found alive or dead or if the diver is in a dangerous situation. 

Lucy Everhart's father is a diver. Her mother was a marine biologist who studied sharks. Five years ago her mother died from a brain aneurysm. Lucy and her father have been getting by since then.

The summer of Lucy's twelfth year she and her best friend Fred have been working on a summer science project. Not many kids do schoolwork in the summer, but Lucy and Fred are dedicated to the subject of their project - marine life. They are creating a field guide for all the sea life they see along the coast. 

When a local fisherman snags a shark, Lucy and Fred are thrilled to include it in their guide. Inspired by her mother's research, Lucy and Fred are determined to create a detailed entry for the great white shark. Before they can finish, Lucy loses Fred in a tragic drowning accident in the local quarry. Now Lucy has lost two people she loves. As a way of dealing with her grief, Lucy sets a goal to investigate and carry on her mother's study of the great white sharks.

THE LINE TENDER is a heartbreaking story of a young girl's loss. Woven into the story are Lucy's drawings and a plethora of shark facts this reader found fascinating.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

WHERE THE HEART IS by Jo Knowles

Life has been pretty easy for Rachel until recently. She and her friend Micah would spend hours biking and swimming. Rachel didn't even mind when her parents insisted that she take her little sister Ivy along. 

Unfortunately, Rachel's parents have been fighting lately. The subject of those fights is usually money. Her mother lost her job as a school librarian because of budget cuts, and her father's job as a realtor is not paying enough to keep the bills paid. When Rachel is offered a job by their new neighbors, she hopes to pitch in and help with the family's expenses. 

Taking care of a pig named Lucy, a baby steer named Ferdinand, plus chickens, horses, and a couple of goats turns out to be a fun way to earn some needed money. It isn't always easy, but Rachel loves the animals and knows people are counting on her. At least the job helps her keep her mind off the fact that Micah is suddenly interested in one of her friends, while Rachel struggles with her own sexual identity and her own attraction to another girl in her grade.

When it becomes clear that the family money trouble is serious, Rachel realizes she will be leaving the house that has been HOME to her family for as long as she can remember. What will happen to their own family pets, her pony Rainbow and her sister's cat George? Will she still get to take care of the neighbors' animals, and will she still be friends with Micah?

Author Jo Knowles has crafted a tale about family and friends and what home really means. Readers will easily relate to Rachel's struggles as she works to discover her true self and how that fits with being a good daughter, sister, and friend. WHERE THE HEART IS needs to have a place in every library and middle grade classroom.