Tuesday, November 13, 2018

BLENDED by Sharon M. Draper

Blended

Isabella "Izzy" knows both her parents love her, but she also knows that their constant fighting that ended in divorce is a fact of life she must accept. Since her father moved back to Ohio, her life is a back and forth tug of war. One week she lives with her mom. One week she lives with her dad. In between there's Exchange Day when everyone meets at the mall in front of the Apple Store for the handoff.

Both her parents have new significant "others" and there's even Darren whose mother is Izzy's dad's new girlfriend. Izzy has a room in each house, clothes in each closet, and even a different backpack for each week.

One thing has been bothering Izzy a lot lately. Her mother is white and her father is black. This never used to be an issue, but recently Izzy has been feeling like she doesn't really belong anywhere. Her skin tone identifies her as black to most who see or know her, but is that who she truly is and does it really matter? She knows, of course, it does, but with the rest of the turmoil in her life, Izzy isn't sure how to talk about it.

BLENDED is author Sharon M. Draper's latest book. Izzy's story highlights how lucky she is with loving parents and an awesome ability to play the piano, however, even when outward appearances indicate happiness, Draper draws attention to issues that often lurk in the shadows. Labeled for an 8-12 year old audience, BLENDED has much to offer for readers of any age. It is definitely one to check out soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

SAVING WINSLOW by Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow
SAVING WINSLOW is the latest book by author Sharon Creech. It is the heartwarming tale of a tiny donkey and the boy who promises to love and care for it. Creech fans will want to add this to their already awesome collection of her books.

Louie has had some rather depressing experiences with animals in the past. Whether it is fireflies, worms, goldfish, hamsters, or kittens, they either die or run away within a few days. When Louie's father brings home a tiny, newborn donkey, Louie swears this time will be different. No one else seems to be supportive, but Louie begs them to "Think positive!"

There are some rough patches, but the donkey Louie christens Winslow thrives. Many positives come from raising the little fellow. Louie makes a new friend, Nora, who gradually warms up to Winslow and the rest of Louie's family. Winslow also helps Louie occupy his mind when he is missing his older brother who is far away in the army.

At just over 100 pages with short chapters, SAVING WINSLOW is perfect for any reader or animal lover looking for an inspiring read. I'll be sharing it with some 5th graders in the near future. I'm sure they will love it.


COUNT ALL HER BONES by April Henry

Count All Her Bones

The all-star cast of characters from GIRL, STOLEN is back! Author April Henry returns to Cheyenne's story to let readers know what happens next.

Several years ago Cheyenne and her mother were in an accident that left her mother dead and Cheyenne blind. Not long after the tragedy, Cheyenne was mistakenly kidnapped when the family car was stolen with Cheyenne sleeping in the backseat.

Griffin Sawyer stole the car for his father's chop shop, but when it's discovered that the daughter of the head of Nike is part of the package, Griffin's father, Roy, decides to demand a ransom.  Cheyenne is ultimately rescued and Roy is sent to prison.

COUNT ALL HER BONES picks up with the start of Roy's trial. Cheyenne and Griffin are scheduled to testify, but Cheyenne's trusting nature results in a second kidnapping. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as the imprisoned Roy sets a complicated plan into motion. Will Cheyenne's self-defense training pay off? Is Griffin part of the new plot or is he also a victim?

COUNT ALL HER BONES is a must read for fans of April Henry. A big thank you from this reader for letting us know what happens next.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P by Alex Gino

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!

Jilly can't wait until her little sister is born. She is already planning how she will teach her little sis how to make the perfect PB&J sandwich.

The day finally arrives. Her sister is born and she approves of the name her parents choose, Emma. Before Emma even leaves the hospital, it is discovered that she has a significant hearing loss. Special doctors and audiologists quickly become part of Emma's young life. Once Jilly's parents find a support group, some the confusing information begins to make sense. Jilly gets busy researching and vows to learn how to sign (ASL) so she and Emma can communicate.

Jilly also finds a source of information and support in the chatroom of the online game she plays. It  turns out that "Profound" as she knows him is a member of the support group. His real name is Derek, and he is as just as dreamy in real life as he Jilly thinks he is when he's gaming online.

Jilly's colorful extended family welcomes baby Emma, but another uncomfortable situation develops at a holiday meal when her uncle and even her grandmother make hurtful, racist remarks toward Jilly's aunt and cousins. There is much to learn about people's feelings and how hurtful words are often disguised as innocent comments. Jilly is beginning to understand the need to speak up and take a stand when others need her help.

One thing Jilly learns is that not everyone makes hurtful comments on purpose. Aunt Alicia explains,
"It's like the difference between stepping on someone's foot by mistake and kicking them. Only one is mean, but they both hurt. Sometimes you don't have to be trying to hurt someone. You just have to say the wrong thing."

Author Alex Gino covers quite a bit of controversial territory in YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P. Hopefully, readers will be inspired by Jilly's commitment to speak up and make a difference in the world around them.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

DEAR EVAN HANSEN: THE NOVEL by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel (B&N Exclusive Edition)
I'll be perfectly honest and say that I knew nothing about the hit show of the same name, but after reading the novel, I'd now love to see the Broadway version.

Evan is in therapy and medicates himself to get through the day. He is happiest when he is blending in and not the center of attention. However, there are times when he wishes someone would "see" him. His mother is always working or attending classes. His father has remarried, moved to Colorado, and is about to have another child. Evan dreams of Zoe Murphy but knows she'll never give him the time of day.

According to Evan's therapist, writing letter to himself will help him deal with his depression. During the summer he wrote one of the letters every day, but it didn't seem to help. Lately he's been ignoring the therapy assignment. On the day Evan decides to type up a letter while in the computer lab, Connor Murphy picks up the letter from the printer and keeps it. Evan doesn't think too much about it until he realizes he won't have a letter to show his therapist.

What follows is a complicated web of lies stemming from Evan's letter. After Connor commits suicide, Evan finds comfort in leading people to believe that he was Connor's only friend. Thinking this will somehow help comfort Connor's parents and sister Zoe, is the main motivation for the lie, but Evan finds strange comfort himself when the Murphy family begins including him in their lives.

DEAR EVAN HANSEN illustrates the lengths a lonely person will go to be seen by others. Connor's emotional issues and Evan's depression are all too common. This novel may help bring the problem to light.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

KNOCKOUT by K. A. Holt

Knockout
Levi is back! When he appeared (and almost died) in HOUSE ARREST by K. A. Holt, he was only a sickly little kid. Now he is in middle school and his health has improved. His older brother Timothy is studying for the MCAT test and hoping to head off to medical school. His mother is busy working, and he has been able to connect with his dad who he sees every other weekend. Things are definitely looking up.

Levi loves to make people laugh and he loves hanging out with his best friend Tam. Unfortunately, Tam has discovered a new friend, Kate, and Levi worries that people are laughing at him more than with him at times. One weekend his dad suggests that Levi find a sport. He even offers to pay for fees and equipment for any sport Levi wants to try.

Sports have never been on Levi's radar. He's always been on the small side. His lungs have always been his worst enemy. He still makes regular trips to a Cincinnati hospital to have his airway checked. There are times when he describes breathing like trying to breathe through his mother's coffee stirrer. Exactly what sport would be possible?

Turns out that boxing has a special appeal for Levi. Being small has its advantages when it comes to speed and agility. His dad is all excited, except for the cost, but Levi thinks he's figured a way around that problem. The real issue is his mom. There's no way she is going to approve of a contact sport like boxing, and Timothy is so wrapped up in his studying that he might as well not even exist.

KNOCKOUT by K. A. Holt is the sequel to her novel in verse called HOUSE ARREST. Fans of the first book will easily fall back into the rhythm of Holt's "shaped poetry" and fall back in love with Levi and his crew. Check out both of these great books!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST by Susin Nielsen

Optimists Die First
Petula's life is filled with crushing guilt. Although no one else does, she blames herself for the death of her baby sister. Since the tragedy, Petula has vowed to be ever watchful. She holds everything together for her mother and father by doing her chores, fixing dinner, and cleaning up after the houseful of cats her mother has rescued. She trolls the internet for stories of tragic deaths and keeps the printouts in a scrapbook.

It isn't until Petula meets Jacob in a small art therapy group at school that she begins to see life with a more positive outlook. Jacob has experienced tragedy of his own, but his passion for film and his ability to convince Petula to face some of her fears opens the possibility of a relationship Petula never dreamed she would have.

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is another book by author Susin Nielsen. I'm so glad to have recently discovered her heartfelt yet humorous tales. Her characters are sure to grab readers from the start and make them seem like long lost friends. With just the right combination of tension and lighthearted humor, Nielsen is able to surprise and entertain.