Sunday, February 28, 2016

ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American Boys
ALL AMERICAN BOYS definitely deserves the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award nomination it received!  Powerful and current, the story represents a part of America both present and past.

Authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely partnered to tell the tale of two teens whose starkly different lives combine to make a statement relevant to everyone everywhere.

Rashad is glad it's Friday.  A quick stop at Jerry's corner store to grab a bag of chips turns into a nightmare.  After choosing his chips, Rashad bends down to search for his phone in his backpack when a woman in the same aisle steps back and accidentally trips over Rashad's bent form.  The store owner immediately jumps to the conclusion that Rashad is a shoplifter, and before Rashad can defend himself, he is hauled out of the store by a cop and slammed to the ground.

Quinn and a couple of buddies are passing Jerry's when Rashad is being dragged from the store.  Quinn witnesses the police brutality but the intense drama leaves him too freaked out to step forward.  When he also realizes that the cop involved in the incident is also the brother of his best friend, he allows himself to be talked into thinking that he didn't actually know what transpired inside the store so the kid probably had it coming.

Rashad ends up in the hospital with a broken nose, shattered ribs, and internal bleeding.  A video of what took place outside Jerry's surfaces and begins playing on news stations inflaming outrage from both sides of the issue. 

As each day passes and everyone at the boys' high school begins to take sides, Quinn begins to regret not speaking up about what he now knows was unfair treatment of a black teenager by a white police officer.  Should he ignore the warnings of his coach and friends and do what he believes is right? 

ALL AMERICAN BOYS takes the subject of police brutality and the strong emotions connected to the sensitive issue and presents it in a format that will speak to teen readers.  The powerful message that our voices can make the difference in righting what is wrong is clearly stated and will inspire many.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational Story
"Memories come flooding back.  Dara burning the back of my hand with a lit cigarette . . . she, Kat, Steve, and their friends throwing me in the mud and kicking me as they chanted their hate for me . . . my favorite shoe floating in the toilet . . . my new white sweater, wet and stained, lying on the floor in a puddle of Coke."

Jodee Blanco shares the horrors of bullying in her book PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT ME.  A victim of bully behavior from elementary on through her years in high school, Blanco reveals the pain and humiliation she dealt with in the hopes that she might help others with similar experiences. 

Her amazing story details her parents efforts to protect their daughter including their willingness to help her change schools and their pleas to school administrators who brushed off the complaints as minor and unimportant.  The treatment by her fellow students and the blatant ignorance of her teachers is simply shocking. 

Blanco's story will offer inspiration for many who have or are experiencing taunts or physical harm from bullies.  She has become a spokesperson for anti-bullying campaigns and a program titled It's NOT Just Joking Around!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SUNNY SIDE UP by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

Sunny Side Up
I ran across SUNNY SIDE UP while looking for graphic novels to add to my classroom library.  I've collected quite a few, but surprisingly enough, they aren't flying off the shelves like I thought they would.  Maybe SUNNY SIDE UP with its quirky main character and colorful layout will convince a few readers to try a new genre.

Ten year old Sunny Lewin has packed her bag and headed from Pennsylvania to Florida.  The thrill of flying without her parents and the promise of a good time while visiting her grandfather is overshadowed by feelings that Sunny can't quite express.

Gramps lives in a retirement community that doesn't really offer Sunny much excitement.  She was hoping for a Disney World type adventure, but instead she swims alone in the pool, goes to dinner at 4:15 pm, and sleeps on an uncomfortable and squeaky hide-a-bed couch.  Everywhere she looks, she finds packages of cigarettes even though Gramps swears that he has quit like his doctor ordered. 

When she isn't bored to death, Sunny is thinking about things back home.  There is something going on with her older brother.  Overwhelming and unexplained feelings of guilt have her worrying about whether she might be to blame for whatever is going on.

One bright light in the retirement community is the son of the groundskeeper.  When Sunny meets Buzz, she finds a bit of adventure and with his help learns to appreciate and even love comic books.  Through the adventures of the super heroes she reads about, she gains the courage to confront Gramps about his smoking problem and talk to him about the guilt she feels about her brother's problems. 

The creative genius of Jennifer L. Holm & and her brother Matthew Holm will help readers understand the difficulty of dealing with family issues and the secrets that sometimes threaten to complicate matters even more. 

THE MEMORY OF LIGHT by Francisco X. Stork

The Memory of Light

Vicky Cruz wakes up at Lakeview Hospital.  That wasn't her plan.  Her failed suicide attempt has landed her in a treatment program with other mentally ill teens. 

According to Dr. Desai, she can leave at any time, and that is just what her father and stepmother expect her to do.  They believe Vicky needs to shake off her negative feelings and get back to school and her daily life.  Keeping busy is sure to fix whatever is wrong. 

After a session with Dr. Desai and meeting the other teens in group therapy, Vicky thinks Lakeview Hospital may be just what she needs.  The symptoms of depression have been obvious since her mother's death, but family members have missed her calls for help.  When her father chose to send her nanny and lifelong companion back to Mexico, Vicky realized her only support was gone.

Encouraged by fellow patients and Dr. Desai, Vicky stands up to her father and spends several weeks in the hospital in-patient program as well as some time at Dr. Desai's ranch.  This time away from family concentrating on her own mental health helps lessen the suicidal feelings that brought her to Lakeview.  There is no miracle cure, but Vicky learns some coping skills to deal with her depression and how to face her life again.

Author Francisco X. Stork wrote THE MEMORY OF LIGHT using his own personal struggle with depression as inspiration.  His portrayal of Vicky Cruz is realistic and poignant for readers suffering themselves or trying to help others suffering with depression.  There is truth, both sad and hopeful, in Vicky's story.  Life gets better for some and continues to be a dangerous challenge for others.  THE MEMORY OF LIGHT is an important piece of fiction for young adults and anyone who works with or cares about young adults.