Tuesday, November 26, 2019

SKYJACKED by Paul Griffin

Five private school students are headed home from a camping trip. They board the private jet owned by one of the student's parents and settle in for their four hour flight home to New York. 

It doesn't take long for strange things to happen. The usual copilot has called in sick and has been replaced by a tiny, young pilot named Sofia. The chaperone for the trip is unusually quiet and impatient and not interested in chatting with the five teens. 

Less than an hour into the flight, the daughter of the plane's owner becomes mysteriously ill. It seems to be an allergic reaction, but no one knows the cause. Despite efforts to treat her, she dies. 

When the passengers discover the cockpit door is locked, speculations begin that the unknown substitute copilot may have taken over the plane. What is going on? Have terrorists targeted the students? Will there be a ransom demand? Is there a way for them to take over the plane and land it safely?

As the teens are struggling to make sense of their situation, a young intern is watching everything from the National Air Traffic Control Center in Virginia. Can she provide research information that will unlock the mystery of the hijacked plane and save the passengers or will she only be able to watch as events unfold and the plane either crashes or is shot down?

Author Paul Griffin takes readers on a thrill ride beginning on page one. The fast-paced action doesn't let up for a minute. SKYJACKED is a perfect example of a page-turner readers won't be able to put down.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

ROLL WITH IT by Jamie Sumner

Ellie was born with cerebral palsy. She uses a wheelchair. She loves to bake and has every available cooking app on the iPad her father gave her.

Ellie lives with her mother who teaches high school. Ellie's father left soon after she was born. He keeps in touch, but barely.

Just before the second term of Ellie's sixth grade year, her mother announces that they are moving. Ellie's grandfather has been diagnosed with dementia, and after an accident while he was driving, Ellie's mom thinks they need to help grandma take care of him.

Ellie has always loved visiting her grandparents, but living in their tiny trailer in a retirement village trailer park isn't where she wants to be. It means starting a new school, sharing a room with her mother, being lifted in and out of the miniature shower, as well as trying to make new friends. It is not an ideal situation, but Ellie knows she needs to make the best of it.

Ellie isn't the only young person in the trailer park. She quickly meets Coralee and Bert. They will be hitching a ride to school with Ellie's mother who will be substituting in the high school. They seem a bit strange at first, but soon Ellie finds they are helpful and loyal. With them on her side, she just might be able to handle all the sudden changes and maybe even win the community's annual pie baking contest.

ROLL WITH IT by author Jamie Sumner shows just what can happen with a little grit and determination. It is a must-have for libraries and classrooms middle grade and up.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

GUTS by Raina Telgemeier

I heard recently that GUTS by Raina Telgemeier is currently the most popular book in the country. Well, that meant I should order it, right? Having read it in one sitting, I totally understand its appeal.

Raina may have the flu. She and her mother are battling the chills and both are vomiting. Unfortunately, Raina's symptoms seem to hang on. Just looking at some foods or even thinking about them, triggers an upset stomach and Raina's fear of vomiting. 

Soon her stomach aches are causing her to miss school. When she is able to go, she ends up running to the bathroom with diarrhea or heading to the nurse's office where she must face the fear of seeing other sick students vomit. A trip to the doctor reveals Raina is "health as a horse."

When Raina's condition continues, some suggest it's puberty or anxiety. Her parents try to get her to talk about what's bothering her with little luck. Finally, Raina's mother takes her to a therapist. Talking isn't any easier with a stranger, but Raina's parents insist she needs some help.

After several more incidents, it is discovered that Raina has IBS - irritable bowel syndrome. The doctor makes some suggestions about diet and stress, and the therapist suggests some coping skills for Raina. It takes some time, but she slowly begins to adjust to the kind of lifestyle her body needs.

In this true story graphic bio, author Raina Telgemeier reveals her struggles with physical issues and anxiety. Her honesty about a difficult topic can provide inspiration for young and old alike. GUTS is truly deserving of being the most popular book at the moment.


Growing up, Grace Lin loved to read, but she always wondered why there were never any Chinese girls in the stories she loved so much. After finishing art school, she decided to create the books she wanted to read as a child. Many of her chapter books feature a family just like hers.

THE YEAR OF THE DOG begins with the Chinese New Year. Pacy has hopes that this year will be perfect. Her goal is to "find herself." She'd like to be rich and famous, but finding a way to accomplish that proves difficult.

As one of only two Chinese girls in her school, Pacy is thrilled when a Taiwanese girl arrives and is in Pacy class, she believes it is proof of the luck of the Year of the Dog. Together, Pacy and Melody support each other through difficult times.

More luck comes Pacy's way when she earns 4th place in a national book writing contest. The $400 prize is awesome, but even more special is the fact that Pacy does indeed "find herself" as she realizes being an author is perfect for her future.

Author Grace Lin's humor combined with her honest look at living as a Chinese-American will have readers clamoring to read her books.

Monday, November 18, 2019

FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME by Mariama J. Lockington

Makeda "Keda" Kirkland was adopted as an infant. She is black and her adoptive parents are white. She knows they were thrilled to have her join their family, and she knows that her parents and her older sister Eve love her. However, sometimes being black in a white world is tougher than anyone understands.

Lena, Keda's best friend back in Maryland, understands. She is also black and was also adopted by white parents. They have always helped and supported each other, but Keda moves to New Mexico leaving Lena behind. They write and call when they can, but life often gets in the way.

Things don't go well at Keda's new school. Bullies pick on her, especially in the locker room during gym class. When one of the girls calls Keda the "N" word, Keda is shocked, but she isn't sure where to turn. When she reports it to a teacher, she is told no one heard it so discipline will have to wait until next time. 

Keda confides in Lena through their shared notebook. Keda's mother finds the notebook before it is returned to Lena, and the result is Keda's mother storming into the school and withdrawing both Keda and Eve. She declares homeschooling is the answer. 

Unfortunately, homeschooling isn't exactly what the girls or their often absent father think is best. Also, Keda's mother, a former concert violinist, suffers from bipolar disorder. She spends days deep in depression while the girls fend for themselves. It isn't until during one of her manic episodes when she whisks them away to Colorado that their father understands the severity of the situation.

Author Mariama J. Lockington deftly describes Keda's feelings as she struggles with being different, and she paints a vivid picture of living with a parent with a serious mental health issue. There is much to discuss in this fast-paced read. It is perfect for middle grades and up. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

FREE LUNCH by Rex Ogle

I am so glad I pulled this book off the shelf while visiting the bookstore. It is a heart-wrenching, gutsy account of author Rex Ogle's childhood. His truthfulness is brave, and his determination inspiring. Although, it is suggested for ages 11-14, everyone needs to read it, especially teachers or anyone working with children today.

Rex is hoping sixth grade will be a great year, or at least an improvement on the past. Unfortunately, he starts the first day with a black eye thanks to an not uncommon incident at home, and he discovers he's been enrolled in the Free Lunch Program. While all the other students hand over their cash, he must shout out his name and status to the hard of hearing lunch lady in the checkout line.

Rex's typical day includes leaving home without breakfast and making it through school while being taunted about his secondhand clothes, free lunch, and dilapidated backpack. Once he gets home, there's the empty refrigerator, a needy little brother, and an abusive mother and her even more abusive boyfriend. If it wasn't for the rare visits and phone calls from his grandmother, Rex would probably lose all hope.

Since this was the only life Rex ever knew, it is amazing he was able to soldier on and accomplish anything. His candid account of living in poverty and violence will open the eyes of readers and stay with them long after finishing the last page. Having worked as a children's book editor in New York, Rex now lives in California. This is his first book.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander

Author Kwame Alexander has teamed up with Dawud Anyabwile to create the graphic novel version of his well-known THE CROSSOVER. The original text is combined with action-packed graphics that enhance the story for Alexander's fans.

Twins Josh and JR Bell are seventh graders who have inherited their Euroleague champion father's basketball skills. Josh is all about the game especially his ability to thrill the audience with his fabulous dunking skill. Although his brother JR is a skilled player as well, his attention has been focused elsewhere lately.

JR has discovered girls. Namely, one girl in particular, and their budding romance is an irritation for Josh. Alexis has distracted JR from his brother, prepping for the game, and even his school work. Josh's anger is building toward his brother and may threaten the team's performance.

Another distraction for both the brothers is their father's health. The former basketball star suffers from hypertension and recently the chest pains that usually accompany heart disease. Fearful of hospitals and doctors since his own father's death, ignoring his symptoms may be leading to serious consequences.

Fans of Kwame Alexander will love this graphic novel version of THE CROSSOVER. It also helps make reading Alexander's work more accessible for less experienced readers. Pick up a copy today!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


I didn't always believe it, but eventually I learned that we can't know what another individual is thinking and feeling. Author Amy Sarig King captures this perfectly in THE YEAR WE FELL FROM SPACE. We may think we know what makes our loved ones tick, what fills their minds and hearts, but all we can really do is be there to listen and to love them as we all deal with often unimaginable issues.

Liberty and her younger sister Jilly's world is crumbling. When their parents announce they are separating, Liberty describes it as feeling that they have fallen from space. 

She and her father have shared a fascination with stars and the night sky. Liberty knows all the constellations, but she believes she's sees her own even more amazing shapes when she gazes at the heavens. Convinced that everyone should create their own constellation shapes, she draws maps, many, many maps, to illustrate her belief in hopes that others will find the same pleasure in studying the stars.

It is fitting that when Liberty's family falls apart, she is witness to a meteorite falling to earth. She knows no one will believe her so she keeps her discovery a secret. She manages to get the heavy stone home to her room where she uses it as a sort of therapist. Liberty confides in the stone and asks it for advice. 

Life isn't just about her parents' separation and her father's depression and questionable mental health. Liberty is also dealing with bullies at school. At one point a classmate orders all the sixth graders to cease communicating with Liberty. Left to hang out with a fifth grader, Liberty hopes middle school will mean more students from other elementary schools and maybe some new friendships. 

Unable to share her feelings with her stressed parents, Liberty's anger builds. Throwing a toaster through the window does get everyone's attention, but it still isn't easy to express her feelings in words. It takes rough times and some shocking discoveries to convince Liberty that talking things out is the best way to deal with her rollercoaster emotions.

Author Amy Sarig King is an advocate for discussing mental health and understanding depression. Her own heartbreaking experience has enabled her to bring this thoughtful book to readers everywhere.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

ON THIN ICE by Michael Northrop

Ked Eakins is known by most at his middle school as Freak. Although he has gotten used to it, it still hurts, and now that his best friends seem to have abandoned him for the more popular people, it's pretty hard to handle. 

School isn't Ked's only challenge. Shortly after he was diagnosed with kyphosis, a condition that is deforming his spine, his mother left. Now Ked lives with his dad in a crappy second floor apartment. They are about to lose their crappy home because of Ked's dad's gambling habit. If his dad doesn't win the Thin Ice contest to guess when the river ice thaws and topples a wooden tower, they won't be able to pay the rent.

Inspired to help with their financial crisis, Ked "borrows" some of the partial rent money and buys a broken down Road Rokkit. If he can fix the mini-motorbike, he should be able to sell it for a big enough profit to save their apartment. Unfortunately, the odds are against Ked in many ways. Does he have the know-how to repair the bike? Can he get the needed parts? Can he find a place to work on it so his dad doesn't find out? 

Despite hassles from the school bully and Ked's less than helpful friends, he discovers one teacher willing to provide a space for Ked to try to make his wish come true. ON THIN ICE by Michael Northrop focuses on a boy intent on saving what's left of his family and his home. Ked's determination will inspire readers and maybe even have them finding space to make things of their own.