Friday, August 31, 2018


Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish
Many people automatically assume that Marcus is a bully. He is six feet tall and weighs 180 pounds and is in the eighth grade. When you are that big, people make assumptions.

Actually, younger kids come to Marcus for protection. When Marcus discovers a demand for his services, he decides to turn it into a business to help supplement the family budget. However, when Marcus punches the real school bully for calling his brother the R word, the principal not only suspends Marcus for his behavior but also shuts his protection business down.

Marcus's suspension gives his mother an idea. Using some of their emergency cash, she plans a trip to visit relatives in Puerto Rico. Marcus was born there, but his little brother had never visited. They would visit San Juan and stay with an uncle while they reconnect with other family. Marcus is especially excited about the possibility of seeing his father who abandoned the family just after Charlie was born.

Author Pablo Cartaya takes readers on an adventure in which Marcus discovers that family is truly important even when the family member he most wants to see turns out to be a disappointment. MARCUS VEGA DOESN'T SPEAK SPANISH celebrates the uniqueness of every individual and the talents each brings to the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

THE DOLLAR KIDS by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

The Dollar Kids

The rundown town of Millville is looking for new residents to revitalize the town after the closing of the papermill. It is offering five families houses for the low price of $1. There are some qualifications. Each family must have at least 3 children and acceptable repairs must be made to the houses within the first year to earn each family official ownership.

Lowen Grover's family has the opportunity to buy one of the dollar houses. It is the perfect chance for the family to escape the city and for Lowen to escape the guilt he feels for the violent death of his friend Abe. 

The Grovers have a plan. Mr. Grover will keep his job in the city and commute on weekends to help with repairing the multiple problems with their new house. Mrs. Grover, originally from England, has plans to open a small restaurant featuring Cornish pasties. With the help of Lowen and his brother and sister, they are ready to tackle the physical work necessary to make their new Millville house a home.

Complications come in many forms. Some Millville residents are not as welcoming as others. A competitive business owner is determined to make selling Cornish pasties as difficult as possible. There's an uncooperative village council member, a coach who expects Lowen to develop his non-existent athletic skills, and living next to a funeral home is not the best way for Lowen to forget his role in Abe's death. There's a lot to overcome, but Lowen is determined that he and his family can make the best of a challenging situation.

Author Jennifer Richard Jacobson's newest book THE DOLLAR KIDS captures the effects of today's financial crisis on a small town as well as the strength of family and friendship when the chips are down. Lowen is an immediately likeable character, and readers will root for him to succeed as he attempts to leave behind the past and start fresh in Millville.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

AFTER ELI by Rebecca Rupp

After Eli
Danny Anderson is looking for answers. His older brother Eli was killed in Iraq. His parents are not able to answer his questions. His mother has turned Eli's room into a shrine, and she has all but shut herself off in her room. His father was always a man of few words, and Eli's death is definitely something he doesn't want to talk about.

One way Danny has coped with losing Eli is by creating a Book of the Dead. In the book he lists people who have died, when they died, how they died, and if possible why. That's what he longs to learn about his brother - why Eli died.

Two people are there for Danny. One is Walter. Walter is the target for the bullies at school, but he and Danny connect. The other person there for Danny is a new girl Isabelle. Her crazy ideas and carefree attitude actually mask some deep issues, but she begins to help Danny see beyond the pain of his loss.

Author Rebecca Rupp deftly combines humorous dialogue and description with serious issues and conversations to create a story sure to touch the hearts of teen and adult readers alike.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

THE HISTORY OF JANE DOE by Michael Belanger

The History of Jane Doe
Ray and Simon are used to being misfits. They eat at their own lunch table and hang out together because no one else seems to notice them unless it is to poke fun at their expense.

Enter Jane Doe (Ray ops for using a fake name for the girl who changes their lives). No one is sure why Jane's family moved to Burgerville, but it's something Ray vows to figure out. Jane immediately connects with Ray and Simon, and both of them fall for her.

As a history buff, Ray insists that Jane learns the history of Burgerville and steps forward to show her the highlights. When Ray's tour begins to take on the feeling of dating, Jane suggests finding Simon a girl friend of his own. Wow! Who would have believed that outcasts like Ray and Simon would be hanging out with girls?

Something is obvious from the start. Jane has issues. Ray is so happy with Jane, he wants to do whatever is possible to make her feel happy, too, but that might be more than anyone can handle.

Author Michael Belanger explores loneliness, love, and loss in THE HISTORY OF JANE DOE. Readers will learn that even when something doesn't last forever, it is still worth the effort.

Monday, August 13, 2018

FADEAWAY by Maura Ellen Stokes

Samantha "Sam" and her best friend Reagan may only be starting their freshman year, but they are going to take the high school basketball team by storm. A powerful pair on the court, they have promised each other that the high school gym will be their stage and they will perform like no others.

After a summer pickup game, Reagan decides to stay and play with a group of guys. Sam reminds her they have already been playing for a while and they should probably head home. Reagan brushes off Sam's warning and heads back to the court. That's the last time Sam sees Reagan alive. A rare, undiagnosed heart condition causes Reagan to collapse in the middle of the game. She never recovers.

Sam's life comes to a screeching halt. She can't imagine continuing on after the loss of her friend. There's no way she can play basketball again. Going to school is torture. It's like half of her is missing. It isn't until she meets a boy dressed all in black who refuses to answer the geometry teacher's questions that things start to look better for Sam.

Author Maura Ellen Stokes's book FADEAWAY explores friendship and loss, and what it takes to keep going even when life seems determined to take everything away. This new release will tug at your heart at the same time it offers hope and recovery.

Friday, August 10, 2018

AWKWARD by Svetlana Chmakova

AWKWARD by Svetlana Chmakova is a fast, fun read with an appropriate message for readers of all ages. Chmakova shows her talent in both story-telling and art in this graphic novel.

Penelope (Peppi) makes an unfortunate mistake on her first day at her new school. Her reaction to an accidental collision with a fellow student is to push him out of the way as she yells, "Leave me alone!" She immediately regrets her action and knows she should apologize, but it seems easier said than done.

Peppi, not the greatest student, finds her science class and the demand of homework more than she can handle. When the science teacher assigns her a tutor, she can't believe it when this tutor turns out to be the boy she shoved.

Other plot twists involve a competitive battle between the art club and the science club, an uncomfortable family situation involving one of Peppi's new friends, and the continued pressure to improve her grades and fit in without being considered a nerd.

The graphic novel format makes AWKWARD an easy read which means its message is accessible to readers no matter their ability level. There are lots of opportunities for discussion which also makes it perfect for classrooms and book clubs.

MY FAMILY DIVIDED: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diane Guerrero with Erica Moroz

My Family Divided: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope
Immigration is a hot issue in politics today. Diane Guerrero, an actor in Orange Is the New Black, Jane the Virgin, and Superior Donuts, shares her story about overcoming the devastation of her parents' deportation.

Diane's parents and her brother arrived in the U.S. from Columbia before she was born. They were searching for a better place to raise their family. Born in the U.S., Diane was automatically a citizen, but her family remained undocumented. Years went by as the family settled in and worked hard to make a home.

During those early years, Diane's father found a lawyer to help him with the complicated process of becoming a citizen. He paid the lawyer monthly payments totaling many thousands of dollars. After Diane's mother was arrested and deported, her father went to check on the progress of his citizenship case only to find the lawyer's office empty. Terrifying times followed ending in the deportation of both of Diane's parents and her brother.

America was home to Diane, and determined to stay, she found help from friends and enrolled in a high school for the arts in Boston. It wasn't easy. Debilitating depression, financial struggles, and missing her parents all threatened to destroy Diane. Through hard work and dedication she is a college graduate and a successful actor involved in the fight to protect immigrants like her parents.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer
It's 1968. Delphine, and her two young sisters, Vonetta and Fern, journey from Brooklyn, NY, to Oakland, California to spend a month with a mother they have never really known.  According to their father, it is time they spend some time Cecile.

The three girls board the plane with varying degrees of excitement. Delphine has vague memories of her mother, Vonetta was just a baby, and Cecile was pregnant with little Fern. All Delphine remembers is watching Cecile leave days after the birth of her third daughter. The story Delphine has always heard was that their father refused to allow Cecile to name the newest baby one of her made-up, imaginary names. She took one last look at her newborn daughter in her crib and left.

The visit to Oakland is quite the adventure. Cecile, a self-described poet, is busy with her art and doesn't have time for the foolishness of taking care of three young girls. During the day, she ships them off to a community center for free breakfast and lunch at a summer school program sponsored by the Black Panthers. Delphine, used to watching over her sisters, takes on the role of mother as she plans activities, cooks supper for all of them, and keeps the peace when her mother is agitated.

Despite her mother's odd and neglectful behavior, Delphine is determined to connect with her and get to know as much as she can about this strange woman. They may not get to visit Disneyland, but they do take memories back to Brooklyn of an independent woman and first hand knowledge of an important time in the history of civil rights.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

PETEY by Ben Mikaelsen

Oh my! How did I miss this brave and wonderful book? It was in my classroom, but I never picked it up, and judging by the sign out card, very few of my students ever took notice of it either. Well, take my advice and get your hands on a copy today! And be sure to share it with a friend.

Petey was born in 1922 in Bozeman, Montana. He was born with cerebral palsy, although the condition was not recognized at the time. After several years of his parents trying to care for him and his siblings, they relented to institutionalizing little Petey. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed as an "idiot" and sent to live in an insane asylum.

No one recognized that nothing was wrong with Petey's mind until he had been at the institution for years. One of the workers final noticed that Petey smiled and reacted to the world around him. Bit by bit with the help of a few of the caregivers and another patient named Calvin, Petey began to communicate on a very basic level.

In his seventies, Petey was finally moved to a local nursing home. A new boy in town came to his rescue one winter day and an unusual friendship began. Despite his physical challenges, Petey remained optimistic and inspired his young friend Trevor to view the world from a new perspective.

Author Ben Mikaelsen's beautifully crafted novel describes a man whose life should have been filled with sadness and despair, but Petey's outlook on life is just the opposite. Touching and inspiring, PETEY is sure to be a classic.