Friday, April 23, 2021

THE WAR I FINALLY WON by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


I fell in love with Ada Smith after meeting her in THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE so I knew I would need to read the rest of her story in sequel. Despite additional challenges and the continuation of WW II, I am now assured that Ada's life offers a promising future.

After losing Susan's house to a German bomb, Ada, her brother Jamie, and their guardian must find a new home. But, first, Ada spends several months in the hospital for surgery and therapy to repair her clubfoot. She can now wear real shoes, walk relatively pain free, and run and ride like everyone else. 

Lady Thorton invites them to move into the guest house on the estate property. It isn't home like Susan's house had become, but they will try to make it their home. The war continues to bring challenges in the form of food and fuel rationing, blackout curtains, and nights in the local church steeple on the lookout for bombing raids and fires. The government also takes control of the Thorton mansion for war purposes which means Lady Thorton must move into the house she graciously offered to Ada, Jamie, and Susan.

The war also brings them Ruth, a Jewish German girl. Lord Thorton arranges for her to live with them while Susan tutors her in maths. Tensions increase as Lady Thorton sees Ruth as the enemy and treats her as such. Death also hits closer to home as Ada attempts to learn the ways of the world and overcome her anger about what life has dealt so far.

Overall, THE WAR I FINALLY WON is a satisfying sequel that brings a bit of history to life for readers.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

ALONE by Megan E. Freeman


What does it mean when the media announces an imminent threat? For twelve year old Maddie it means everyone she knows and loves disappears leaving her behind, alone. She is the last person left in Millerville, Colorado. When the announcement came, Maddie didn't join the mass exodus of people as they dropped everything and climbed aboard vehicles bound for safety.

Maddie and two friends planned a secret sleepover at her grandparents empty house, but her two friends never came. Since Maddie's parents' divorce, they have shared custody which meant her mother thought she was staying with her father and her father thought she was with her mother. They all left, and now Maddie is alone.

As the days, months, and years pass Maddie must survive with the help of her wits and a friendly rottweiler named George. Food and water are the first concerns followed by reliable shelter. Maddie uses her bicycle and a bike trailer of her mother's to travel to other neighborhoods in town to scavenge for supplies. She eventually finds the courage to drive her mother's minivan. Even with a limited amount of gasoline, the van makes gathering supplies much easier. 

Maddie alternates living in her mother's and then her father's houses. Her mother's house is more comfortable during the warm months while her dad's house offers the comfort of a wood burning stove for heat in the winter. 

The library becomes a major source of entertainment and education for Maddie. Using remembered advice from her parents and the nonfiction section of the library, Maddie is able to survive physically. She does learn that mental health and the constant condition of loneliness might be the biggest threat she will experience.

ALONE by author Megan E. Freeman is a definite page-turner. Written in verse, it is a fast-paced read that will captivate readers on the first page. The combined flavors of The Island of the Blue Dolphins and modern day dystopian fiction, ALONE is mesmerizing and memorable.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

HURRICANE CHILD by Kacen Callender


Caroline has always been told being born during a hurricane will bring nothing but bad luck. So far her life has been fairly unlucky. Her mother left over a year ago with no explanation. Caroline would love to have her father explain what happened, but he does everything possible to avoid the topic. 

This school year has been filled with bad luck. Caroline is pretty sure her teacher hates her, and she spends every day trying to avoid the girls who taunt her about her looks and her home on Water Island. It takes all of Caroline's effort to get up each morning, dress, and catch the boat Mister Lochana drives from Water Island to Saint Thomas and Caroline's school.

Her luck begins to turn around when a new girl named Kalinda enters the picture. She invites Caroline to eat with her and they find quite a bit to talk about. Caroline finds herself drawn to Kalinda in a way she's never felt before. She concludes it must be love, but when Kalinda learns of Caroline's feelings, she doesn't feel the same.

Caroline is determined to find her mother, and when she learns she lives close by, it feels like good luck has really come her way. With Kalinda's help she sets out to meet with her mother to find out the real reason she left.

Author Kacen Callender's tender, heartwarming novel explores the subjects of love, family, and depression. Despite love, sometimes home isn't always the best place to stay when life is difficult.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S. (as told to his brother) by David Levithan


When Aidan disappeared for six days, everyone in the community pitched in to search for the twelve year old and comfort his family. Had he been kidnapped or did he run away? 

On the sixth day Aidan's younger brother Lucas saved the day when he discovered Aidan sitting in front of an old dresser in the attic. The attic had been searched multiple times so how did Aidan simply appear dressed in his pajamas?

When questioned by the police, Aidan told the story of entering a magical world called Aveinieu where the skies were green, the trees were blue, and unicorns roamed with other strange creatures. Thankful that he had returned, his parents celebrated, but as the days passed, they insisted Aidan tell the truth. Aidan stuck to his story even though most didn't believe it. Only Lucas listened intently and took Aidan's word as the truth.

Author David Levithan wanders from his usual story plot to create this unusual tale. Readers will feel close to both Aidan and Lucas as a strong bond forms between the brothers despite the doubts of those around them. This fast-paced read will satisfy both the real and fantastic that live in all of us.

Friday, April 9, 2021

REFUGEE by Alan Gratz


I'm thrilled to have recently discovered Alan Gratz's historical fiction. I had the books on my classroom shelf, but hadn't read them. They are filled with well-researched events written in an adventurous, suspenseful style. I will be suggesting them frequently.

REFUGEE focuses on Josef in 1939 Germany, Isabel in 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud in 2015 Aleppo, Syria. Each are with families trying to escape their countries for a safer, better life. 

Fearful of Hilter, Josef's father has already spent time in a concentration camp and is determined to deliver his Jewish family to the shores of Cuba. The family board one of several large ships with the guarantee that the fees paid will allow them to disembark when they reach Cuba where life won't be filled with the threat of death in a concentration camp. Josef's story is fraught with peril and disappointment.

Isabel and her family are escaping the oppression of Castro's rule in Cuba. Crammed into a tiny homemade vessel, they hope to reach the United States and a life of freedom and opportunity. Isabel's mother is almost ready to give birth to Isabel's soon-to-be baby brother so all are hoping the journey will be swift and uneventful. Of course, life seldom goes as planned.

For Mahmoud, life in Aleppo, Syria, has been constant bombs and gunfire. His family has been saving money for the long trek from Syria to Germany where they've been told refugees are welcome. Once they leave Aleppo, they face one delay after another and the fear that their money will run out long before they reach their destination.

The tales of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud alternate in REFUGEE. Gratz's style will leave readers wanting more at the end of each chapter which makes for a fast and exciting read. There are also interesting connections between the characters that become clear as their stories unfold. REFUGEE is definitely a fine addition to any middle grade+ collection.

Sunday, April 4, 2021



Life with Mom and Mamaw is full of laughing and loving. It's the only life Beatrice Miller really remembers. When she isn't doing chores and cooking with Mamaw, she is riding bikes and playing games with her two best friends, Mariella and StaceyAnn.

As the start of seventh grade approaches, Beatrice dreams of changing her everyday existence into something with a bit more drama. She daydreams about a boy named Rodney, about wearing cool clothes that don't come from Goodwill, having her own phone, and having a computer that isn't the size of a truck and sits in her room where she can get some privacy. When discussions with other girls at school begin to revolve around makeup, bras, and shaving legs, Beatrice tries to have a conversation with her mom and Mamaw, but she's met with resistance as the women tell her she shouldn't rush growing up. But, how can she hope to be "cool" when everyone else is leaps and bounds ahead of her.

Author Ellen Hagan writes in verse in this heartwarming novel about leaving childhood behind. Beatrice's relatable struggle adapting to a world that seems to want her to set aside the carefree, worry- free trappings of girlhood to jump into the competitive and complicated world of adolescence will resonant with readers experiencing the same anxieties.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


If you are looking for WWII historical fiction for readers age 10 and up, THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE will not disappoint. Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley takes readers to the English countryside as the war is beginning to rage throughout Europe and headed toward England.

Ada and her brother Jaime live in London with their vindictive mother. Their living conditions are poor and food is scarce. Jaime attends school with other kids in the neighborhood, but Ada rarely leaves their small flat. She sits at the window and watches as the world passes her by. Born with a clubfoot, Ada's mother is ashamed of the deformity and keeps Ada hidden away. 

Ada is expected to prepare the meals and tea and keep watch over her younger brother while her mother works nights at a nearby pub. Any small error results in Ada being locked away in a tiny kitchen cupboard. She fears the smelly, cockroach infested space with every fiber of her being, but there's is nothing she can do.

When the children of London are sent to the countryside to escape the forecasted bombing as the war ramps up, Ada's mother sees it as a chance to rid herself of the children she never wanted in the first place. Ada and Jaime end up living with Susan, a sad, anxiety ridden woman in a small village.

Susan never pictured herself having children or tending to someone else's so the relationship is filled with tension. Neither Ada nor Jaime are very worldly making communication about manners and customs difficult. The three must learn to trust one another as they slowly form a bond that turns out benefiting all.

There is a sequel titled THE WAR I FINALLY WON. I'm eager to continue following Ada's adventures.