Sunday, October 15, 2017

Poison...












In typical Sarah Albee fashion poisons are broken down and explained in a historical context.  I love the sidebar material about the poisons themselves, famous people, mysteries, and so on.  The book is formatted by time period and the predominant poisons of the time.  Very well researched and informative.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Things Owen Wrote


















Owen has always been good at things - straight A student, well behaved.  But he has something he is ashamed of and when the evidence of that mistake is mistakenly sent to Iceland he talks his grandfather into going there to get it back.  But Owen's grandfather is starting to forget things and get confused so the journey is a tough one.

Not a bad story but ended sadly.  Not sure how many students will pick this up honestly - the cover is so quiet...

This is Just a Test


















The year is 1983.  David is getting close to his bar mitzvah but has concerns about so many things.  He is half Chinese and half Jewish and his two grandmothers can't seem to get along, of course there is the Cold War as well, he has a best friend Hector but also a new friend Scott and he isn't sure how to balance them both, and there's a girl.  

This is a coming of age story as David navigates these issues and finds out he may not be able to totally solve all the problems in the world but he can start with his own corner of it.

Sit


















This was a very intriguing set of short stories that all start with a child sitting - one in a factory making chairs, one in a food court, on in time-out, and so on.  Each story was poignant and thought provoking.  Many times I find collections of short stories a mixed bag but I felt all of these were good and so different.  2 of the situations came back around in another story which I was expecting to happen and it was successful - especially the last story.  For a short book this packed a good punch.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Skeleton Tree


















Stanly really wants to discover something unique for a contest.  He hopes that by winning he can reunite his family and maybe help his sister in the process.  When a skeleton starts emerging from a tree he thinks it is the answer to all his problems.  But it is not.  As more of the skeleton appears Stanly and his friend try to take pictures of it but they are all blurry, they disappear, or the camera gets wrecked.  And why do only children see it?  As Miren gets sicker Stanly begins to wonder if the skeleton is connected.  Is the skeleton good or bad?

So I was intrigued at the beginning but as the story went on and I could see where it was going it was just too sad.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Handbook


















Jake and his friends tolerate their parents strict rules but they aren't happy about it.  When Jake accidentally discovers a book that a neighbor threw out by mistake everyone goes nuts.  Why is a book of turnip recipes so important?  Because it is actually a secret handbook for parents.  Now the secret society of parents are determined to make sure that the book is recovered while a resistance group of kids also fights for control.

This book was amusing and I am sure some kids will like it.

Graveyard Shakes

















The book starts out with a boy ghost who seems terrified of other ghosts and then we see a scientist Nikola and his son.  Nikola needs a secret ingredient to keep his son alive. 

Then the book jumps many years and features Katia and Victoria who are attending a boarding school and not fitting in very well.  It seems that Nikola is looking for the secret ingredient again and one of the girls might be the target.  Can the little ghost and Nikola's son save them from a terrible fate?

The first part of the book moved so quickly that I was 30% done within about 5 minutes.  Then it slowed down some.  I did like the story and how it ended up but I think overall I wanted more.  My students will like it though.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Scientists in the Field... 3














So I read 3 of the Scientist in the Field books over the long weekend.  I think of the 3 the Asteroid one was my favorite followed closely by Surtsey.  Surtsey, above, is fascinating.  A brand new island and scientists investigating it was really cool.















The Pluto book was my least favorite but that was more due to some unfortunate formatting choices.  Whoever thought a bluish font on black would work well...  ugh no.  The content was interesting for sure and students who want to know more about Pluto will like it for sure.














Asteroids are so cool and this was very cool to see how scientists are exploring and discovering asteroids and ways to protect the planet from them.

Time Shifters


















This was a really interesting graphic novel.  Most people know I am not a big fan of graphic novels and honestly, the cover and most of the illustrations were not my cup of tea.  But, the story itself was pretty good.

The story started with a tragedy.  Luke's brother Kyle died while saving Luke's life.  Then fast forward several months and Luke meets some interesting characters in the woods and goes on an adventure through time.  I will admit I was a bit confused about the device and the two sides but it was intriguing and full of action.  The end was bittersweet.  Unclear whether this could be/will be a series???  I think kids will enjoy it even if I didn't so much.

Who Killed Darius Drake















What an interesting mystery.  Darius Drake is an orphan who is on a mission to figure out who sent him a message in blood that said "Who Killed Darius Drake?" because you know - he's still alive.  

Darius hires a faux thug named Arthur to help him and they are also joined by a neighbor.  Together they investigate his parents' death, his uncle's crime, and a century's old mystery with diamonds.  

The mystery was really good, not too long, intense, and with good friendships and humor on top of it.  Really liked this which kind of surprised me. 

The Dollmaker of Krakow















This was quite an interesting book - fantasy or historical fiction?  

Karolina is a doll who lived in the Land of Dolls.  Unfortunately her land was overcome by rats and she was devastated.  But then, magically she was transported to the land of humans by a dollmaker who lived in Krakow.  There she helped him make friends with a Jewish father and daughter.  But war affected the human world as well and Karolina, the dollmaker, and their friends saw the rise of Hitler and World War II.  Can the dollmaker work his magic, make the right choices, and make a difference?

Very interesting take on the Holocaust and World War II.  I will be curious to see how this is received.  I don't think it will work in my library but at a junior high I think it will work.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Wishtree

















Red, the oak tree, has had a long life.  Animals have lived in and around her for over 100 years.  A tradition has grown up around her where the townspeople hang their wishes on May 1st.  

Lately, things have shifted.  People in the neighborhood have become fearful of some new residents and the owner of the land and the tree has forgotten its rich heritage.  Can Red mend the differences and help forge a friendship between two young people?  Can she save herself in the process?

Beautiful, simple, powerful.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

One Last Word
















Nikki Grimes is so talented and this collection of poetry is so powerful and beautiful.  Using the poetic technique of Golden Shovel Nikki Grimes uses the work of famous Harlem Renaissance poets to create her own poems.  Loved this so much!!

The Way to Bea

















So let's talk middle school fiction tropes - the biggest is when your best friend suddenly stops being your friend (usually over the summer) and is now popular while you aren't.  I read stories with that idea all the time...

And yes, there is some of that in this book.  Bea went to Taiwan over the summer and when she comes back and wants to surprise her best friend at their annual end of summer pool party... well, she is the once who gets surprised.  So now Bea has no one to sit at lunch with, no real friends.  She starts hanging around the path they used to walk and even leaves haiku in invisible ink hoping Sammie will find it and things will go back to normal.  But then she meets Will and Briggs and others and starts to become friends with them.  

Can Bea discover a way to be herself? 

I enjoyed this book even with a familiar trope.  Bea was delightful and thoughtful and Will was a great character as was Briggs.  Solid choice!

One Amazing Elephant


















What a delightful story.  

Lily's grandparents and mom work in a circus.  Her dad works at a campground.  Lily struggles at times with anxiety and with feelings of abandonment - especially regarding her mother who left when she was 3.  But, she loves her grandfather even if he keeps trying to get her to connect with his elephant Queenie Grace.  When her grandfather dies suddenly Lily struggles to comes to terms with it and to find a way to help Queenie Grace through it as well.

The book is told in alternating chapters from Lily's point of view and Queenie Grace's point of view.  This lends an interesting perspective to the book.  I really enjoyed this.

A Properly Unhaunted Place

















Rosa and her mother, a ghost appeasement specialist, have just moved to Ingot.  But Ingot has no ghosts.  So why do they need a specialist?  Or did her mother move to Ingot to escape the memory of Rosa's father?  As Rosa tries to adjust to life without ghosts she meets Jasper, whose family works at the Renaissance Fair in town.  But then something weird happens...  a ghost appears.  Now Rosa and Jasper must figure out where this haunting is coming from and how to make things right.

I really enjoyed the book.  It was fast paced and had an interesting concept.  I think my younger readers will like it for the reason that made me frustrated in the end.  There was a lot of build up about how terrible it would be when the barrier was breached and all the ghosts were able to come back to town and then...not so much.  Younger readers won't mind it but older readers (like me) may feel let down.

Nile Crossing














Told in poetic narrative form this book tells the story of Khepri who is leaving home, crossing the Nile with his father, to start school as a scribe.   The poems and illustrations are lovely and the book is filled with factual information about life at the time, especially in the back matter.  A great addition to Egyptian studies.

The Watcher















Oh my word, I thought this was lovely.  Using a form of poetry called, golden shovel, Nikki Grimes used words from Psalm 121 and turned it into a poetic narrative about bullying and learning to watch and listen to the people around us.  Powerful stuff and the illustration were gorgeous as well.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl

















This historical fiction book is based on the true story of Eunice Williams, a Puritan girl who was captured and raised by Mohawks after a raid on her village.  It documents her life from that time until her death but focuses primarily on her childhood and her transition from a Puritan girl to a Mohawk girl, who although given many opportunities, chose to stay with the Mohawks.

While interesting and well researched the story reads more like a textbook instead of a smooth story.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sidetracked


















Joseph is used to being picked on - he's small, he is not athletic, and he has a learning disability.  He is totally surprised when the new girl, Heather, stands up for him in PE and then when she encourages him to be on the cross country team.  While certainly not the fastest, Joseph keeps going and learns about teamwork, friendship, and perseverance.

Overall, I liked the book.  The themes were well done and Joseph was a great character.  There were good dynamics between Heather and Joseph and the book moved along well.  There was some swearing in the beginning of the book, a weird incident in the men's restroom at the senior housing, and the use of the word "retards" which always bothers me.  Still divided about whether I will have this in the library.

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street


















Tessa is not overly thrilled about moving from Florida to Chicago, but her dad just got his dream job in the symphony orchestra so she is uprooted from her best friend and life in Florida.  Things get worse though when strange things start happening in her old house - cold air, creaking, getting locked in the bathroom, missing items, mysterious sketches, and a talking ventriloquist dummy.  Fortunately, Tessa meets some new friends who help her in her investigations.  They soon learn of a legendary ghost Inez Clarke who may or may not be buried in a nearby cemetery.  But who was Inez?  Did she really exist?  And why would she be trying to communicate with Tessa?

I thought this had good creep factor - some familiar tropes but there was an underlying theme of friendship that made this a bit different.  I liked it.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Max Tilt: Fire the Depths


















Max's life is a bit out of control.  His mom is very sick, his dad has stopped working to take care of her and as a result they aren't paying their bills.  When his mom and dad leave to seek treatment, Max is left with his cousin Alex.  As they are looking for things to sell to try to pay the bills they stumble upon an old chest and document left by none other than Jules Verne, a distant relative.  But Max isn't the only one interested in the chest, document, and the treasure it promises.  As Alex and Max embark on a worldwide journey they discover that Jules Verne's works may have not all been fantasy and a storybook villain may also have a relative.

There was lots of action and adventure here.  Lots of dead beat parents lately - just leaving Max with bills left unpaid.  But, kids won't mind.  It is the first in a series so some things were left unfinished.



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Olive and the Backstage Ghost


















Olive is under a lot of pressure.  She loves to sing but her mom, a former musician and actress, makes so many demands.  When a audition goes wrong, Olive runs away and discovers a vintage theater where she sings her heart out. Much to her surprise the theater owner, Maude, asks Olive to be in her play.  As things get worse at home, Olive spends more and more time at the theater with her new family.  But a runaway who hangs around the theater warns her that not everything is as it seems.  Has Olive found her true family or is it all an illusion?

Deliciously creepy!!!  I wish there had been a bit more back story of Maude and also Olive's dad but other than that I really liked it.

All's Faire in Middle School


















When it is Renaissance Faire season, Imogene's whole family gets involved.  Her dad is an actor, he mom has a shop, and this year Imogene gets to be a squire which means mainly helping her dad and scooping up horse droppings.  But still, she gets to be involved, play with kids.  For the most part she loves this part of her life.

But, Imogene made a big decision this year.  Instead of being homeschooled she is going to attend middle school.  She doesn't know exactly how to fit in, make friends, and navigate the pitfalls.  Can Imogene learn to fit in and be true to herself?

I loved this!!!  It is a glimpse into Renaissance Faire culture but so much more.  It tackles middle school issues in a fresh way.  The illustrations are charming.  What a winner!

Paper Chains














Katie and Ana have just started to be friends.  They are getting used to each other and learning to trust but it's hard when they both has issues with trusting others.
Katie was adopted and has always wondered about her birth parents.  But it seems like her adopted parents know things they aren't telling her.  And they are so protective because of her heart issues.

Ana's family was perfect until her hockey playing dad left them when he joined another team.  Now her mom is a mess.  Ana is trying to keep things going for her brother and take care of her mom.  When her Babushka comes to help Ana is more confused and angry than ever.

Can the two girls learn to trust each other and fix their families?

Overall I liked this but I think I wanted a bit more at the end.  When there was an accident I felt some anticipation for a bigger ending and then...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Curious Chronicles of Jack Bokimble...




















I am not really sure how I feel about this.  It was definitely unique and humorous in places but it was also pretty odd.

Jack Bokimble has an interesting talent.  He can control his shadow.  His shadow can touch things, feel things, carry things and can move around wherever it is projected.  Jack thinks it is pretty cool and feels like his shadow is his best friend.  But, when he tries to share this unique talent with people outside his own family they are afraid of him.  So how to proceed?  Ignore his talent or use it for good?

So...  I think they are some kids who will like this quirky book so I am debating whether to purchase...  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Once You Know This


















Brittany's life is not what she would like it to be.  Her new teacher wants her to see a bright future but it's hard when you are living in poverty in Chicago.  Her mom's boyfriend is abusive, her beloved Grannie is getting old and forgetful, her brother is sickly, and her mom is scared and tired.  When her Grannie gets a letter from her younger brother in Alabama, Brittany starts developing a Plan B.  

What happens is...  once the doors open, once there seems to be a possible way out, once hope becomes evident... then things can start changing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Chasing Augustus


















It has been a year since Rosie's papa had a stroke.  A year that she has lived with her grandfather.  A year since her mom gave away her dog.  A year of anger, disappointment, and bad grades.  All along Rosie has been trying to find her dog Augustus.  

There were parts I liked - Rosie's dedication to her dog mainly but...  Rosie was not very nice and overall she didn't seem to grow much.  I also didn't like the "retribution" given to a town bully with no consequence.  I also wish the father had played a bigger role because even when she finally went to see him there wasn't much about it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

















Add Beatrice Zinker to names like Ramona, Junie B. and Clementine.  Beatrice's way of looking at the world is fresh and fun.  In this first installment Beatrice has a plan with her best friend Lenny which involves spying.  But, on the first day of school Beatrice finds out that Lenny has changed over the summer and is playing with a new girl Chloe.  Can Beatrice think of a creative way to keep her best friend and adjust to some changes?

Caleb and Kit

















Kit says they were destined to be friends.  Caleb says he was just taking a walk.  Regardless of whether it was destiny or chance, Caleb and Kit met one day in the wood's behind Caleb's house and started a magical friendship that lasted the summer and helped both of escape their reality, even if it was only temporary.

Caleb has Cystic Fibrosis.  The book lays it out well - more so than other books I have read.  Caleb's disease affects his home life - his brother and mother are very protective, his dad couldn't deal with it so he left.  It also affects his friendships, his confidence, the way he treats others.  Kit seems like a breath of fresh air as she tells Caleb to just do what he wants which includes skipping out on camp everyday to hang out with Kit.  But slowly Caleb realizes that Kit is hiding a terrible secret.  Can their friendship survive Caleb's disease, Kit's secret, and the truth?

I really enjoyed this.  I wish there had been a bit more about the time Caleb and Kit spent together though.  The story really focused more on Caleb and his attempt at a bit of freedom.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library




















When Eddie's Aunt Min goes missing Eddie feels he has to go save her.  She went to the school library days ago and never returned.  The school library?  What's the big deal?  Well, it is a big deal when you belong to a family of bugs living in the wall behind an old chalkboard and the library is way down the hall.  Eddie has to find out what happened to Aunt Min and he really wants to see the library.  When he gets to the library he finds Aunt Min injured.  But things get worse from there.  The wonderful librarian goes on maternity leave after giving birth to triplets and the new substitute (and her brother who is the superintendent) want to get rid of the librarian and turn it into a testing center.  Can Eddie help others to see the value of the library before it's too late.

I loved this book in a way a school librarian whose program has been threatened would.  I loved the allusions to popular children's books and Eddie's tenacity.  The question will be whether readers enjoy it as much.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Monster, Human, Other


















Wren and Isaac have traded places.  Isaac is a monster who lives with a family of humans.  In turn, their daughter Wren, lives with a family of monsters.  This exchange program is supposed to improve relations between the two races but it's not really working.  Then to top it off another race, the Voracans, are on the move.  When the Voracans kidnap Isaac, his adopted parents are actually accused of killing him.  Can Wren figure out where Isaac is and come to the rescue?

This was a pretty interesting story.  The two kids were both likable and the plot was done well. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Click'd

















Loved the connection to girls and coding plus some important digital citizenship lessons as well.  This was a great middle school book.

Allie spent her summer at a coding camp where she developed a game called Click'd.  It was so good that she has been asked to present the game at a Games for Good competition.  Unfortunately her nemesis, Nathan, has a game that was also chosen.  

Worried that her game, that promotes friendship, might not have enough "good" she decides to release it to her school early to get success stories.  Unfortunately she soon discovers an issue with the app choosing pictures out of a device's camera roll instead of just from Instagram which leads to some embarrassing situations.  Can she fix her popular game before the competition.

Really liked this!!!  It will be a great discussion starter.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ban This Book


















Amy is an avid reader - it is her escape from her crazy family.  In fact, she would love to run away just like the characters in her favorite book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler.  Imagine her surprise then when she finds that her favorite book and others have been removed from the library shelves.  While the school board debates, the eager parent keeps removing books, and the librarian gets fired Amy decides to start a secret library in her locker of all the books that have been banned.  But can Amy truly stand up for what she believes and can she make a difference?

The hardest part about this book was believing that the characters were 4th graders.  I think if they had been 6th graders I could have "bought" it more.  Other than that I enjoyed the book and its message.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Guardian's of the Gryphon's Claw


















Sam London is pretty average.  He has tried to find something he is good at but...  nothing.  He does love to read about cryptids but that's not really a skill.  Then he starts having weird dreams for weeks of being out in the desert near a gas station and a rock formation.  Each time he dreams he gets farther until one night he meets a gryphon in the dream.  The next day he sees the location from his dream on tv and decides to go there.  Then, he meets a real gryphon and life as he knew it is changed forever because cryptids are real, they have just been cursed to be invisible to humans.

Filled with action, adventure, mythical creatures, twists, and turns this was a fun fantasy.  There was a strong hint of a sequel at the end but it didn't really leave one hanging.  I enjoyed this quite a bit.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastatlantic













This is a really interesting concept.  The earth has changed as a result of a Time Collision.  Now people from different eras have been forced to live together in a much altered world.  Diego's father, Santiago is a genius builder and has created steam substitutes since electricity no longer works.  But there are those who do not like the way the world is now and would seek to turn things back if they could.  

Diego's father is kidnapped early in the book and Diego and his friends Petey, Lucy, and Paige join a band of pirates who are going to rescue Santiago and others.

First, the illustrations.  My eBook version is not doing them any justice - I am sure they are beautiful in the physical copy and in color.  

I loved the concept but ...  for my library the characters are too old and there is a bit too much romance (that to me bordered on cheesy - but maybe that's my age).  I think this could find a place in a junior high library and I did like the Steam Punk feel of it.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Eye of the North


















Oh, I struggled with this book.  It took me a long time to read.  I just never felt invested.  The book jumped from Emmeline to Thing (yes, that is a character's name) every few pages and it was jarring to me.  I never really understood the whole point or got to know the villain(s) much at all or at least not til the very end.  Soory, didn't work for me.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Notations of Cooper Cameron


















Ever since the death of his grandfather 2 years earlier Cooper has felt compulsions - read every word three times, count his chews, wash his hands, and protect the rest of his family any way he can.  No one really seems to understand what is going on.  His mom is supportive in a way but isn't really helping, his sister is in turns understanding and extremely frustrated, and his dad is downright awful.  His mom, sister, and Cooper decide to spend the summer at the grandfather's cottage.  There Cooper suffers mostly in silence - with some instances of happiness or friendship.  Unfortunately, every time his father comes to visit things get worse.  In time Cooper starts to work his own way through and by the ending there is hope that he is really getting  better.

I get what the author was doing, especially after reading the author's note.  I had a hard time reading the book though because I was so frustrated for Cooper and the lack of help and understanding he was receiving and his father's treatment was awful.  I could see the hope by the end but overall the book was very sad for me.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart


















Aventurine is a dragon who longs for adventure but her dragon family will make her stay in the cave until she is 30.  Instead, she escapes, eager to prove that she can survive and maybe even find her passion in life.  What she finds instead is chocolate.  The smell of it draws her in and she meets a many making hot chocolate.  She demands that he give her some before she eats him.  Unfortunately for her he is a food mage and he is able to magically inject the hot chocolate with something that turns her into a human.

How can Aventurine survive as a human and even more importantly can she still pursue her new passion of chocolate?  

This was a lot of fun - a lighter fantasy combining two of my favorite things - dragons and chocolate.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball


















Leon (Americanized name) and his older brother have been sent from China to study in America.  The goal is to learn English and to learn more about technical advances and then take that knowledge back to China with them.  At first, Carson (Americanized name) the older brother seems to have all the advantages - age, he was a better student in China, and as eldest he deserves more respect.  But whether it is from his injury on the train when robbers strike, disappointment over a failed love interest, or just an inability to learn English, Carson soon becomes bitter and angry which leaves Leon wondering if he should continue to obey his older brother or strive for his American education.

This was a strong historical fiction book and a good luck at the difficulties any immigrant might experience but particularly the Chinese experience in the 1800s.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kiska


















Chalk this one up as another fascinating look at a historical event that I never knew about.  This one deals with the forced internment and mistreatment of Aleutians after a Japanese attack during World War II.  This was similar to Japanese internment.  The story follows Kiska who is based in a real girl at the time.  Kiska is able to secretly provide food for the community during their years there.  The book tells about the ordeal and what life was like for them.  Due to an attempted rape and some dalliances between soldiers and the women I won't have this in my library but it would work in a high school library. 

Hear the Wolves


















When her mother left Sloan got lost in a blizzard and lost part of hearing.  Ever since then she has been scared to be by herself.  She can do many other things but not that.  Then her father and sister decide to leave her alone while they go to a neighboring village to vote. They will only be gone for 2 days - what could go wrong?

Another blizzard is what could go wrong...  Sloan and a handful of other villagers are stuck with little food, less fuel for the fire, one of them is injured, and their are hungry wolves all around.  The group decide that the best thing to do is go to the river and take a boat to the neighboring village but the storm, the injuries (they keep mounting), and the wolves make everything slower and more dangerous.  Who will survive?

Lots of action here for sure.  I felt that in the end it was a bit too violent for my particular audience but for middle schoolers looking for a good adventure story this would fit the bill. 

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
















I found this book fascinating.  The truth of history often is in the hands of the people in control, the people who are telling it, the conquerors.  I love how Schomburg set out to find evidence of a rich history that has been too often overlooked.

Littler Women


















Although it has been many years I went through a phase where I was obsessed with little women.  I read the book several times, read other books by Louisa May Alcott as well as biographies, and watched several movie versions.  Because of this, Littler Women, which is a modern retelling, appealed to me.  The same familiar characters - Meg, Jo, Amy, Beth, Laurie, and more - and some familiar events with a more modern twist.  This book did not goes as far as the original and left out some of the sadder bits.  I think for fans of the original this is a nostalgic book.  I think I might have a hard time with newer readers because even though it is set in modern times it still has a very old fashioned feel.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Stef Soto, Taco Queen


















What a wonderful breath of fresh air!!!

Stef is a second generation Latino whose overprotective parents have a taco trick - Tia Perla.  Stef has a love, hate relationship with Tia Perla.  Yes, it is their livelihood, and she loves the food and how it makes her dad happy.  But it is a bit worn and lately a former friend has been teasing her about it.  But when the local government threatens to enforce new regulations she starts to understand how important Tia Perla is to her family.

I think what I liked most about this book was that the author didn't take the cutesy, easy way out.  At one point a celebrity eats at the taco truck.  I thought the book was going to go a certain way at that point (no spoilers) but it didn't which made it much more authentic and charming actually.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

















Aven and her family have just moved to Arizona to run a worn down attraction called Stagecoach Pass.  The job just fell into place but now Aven has to learn how to get along in her new middle school and make new friends.  That is hard for anyone but since Aven has no arms it is a bit more awkward - especially lunch.  As Aven starts to explore the area she meets Connor who also has trouble fitting in because of his Tourette's and Zion who is self conscious about his weight.  Together they work through their insecurities and help to solve a mystery of the Cavenaughs who own Stagecoach Pass.

I was pleasantly surprised by this.  Aven was a quirky, fun, honest character and addressed her situation with grace, humor, and perseverance.  Tourette's was also addressed well.  The friendship that the 3 formed was well done although I wish Zion had a bigger role.  The mystery was not huge and I wouldn't really classify the book as a mystery but it was satisfying.  Well done.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Torpedoed















This book follows the true account of two children who survived the attack on the Athena by a German Uboat early in World War II.  The account was factual and well researched and informative.  For what it was - it was good.  I wish the format had been different - maybe more of a narrative but I did find it interesting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade


















Maverick is having a rough start to sixth grade.  He wants to be a hero like his dad, he wants to fit in, heck - he wants to be taller.  But from day one trouble follows him - namely from the bully Bowen.  Even when he tries to help out other students he messes it up and either gets hurt, gets in trouble, or both.  And then there is his home situation.  With his dad gone his mom has really fallen apart - drinking, losing jobs, and terrible boyfriends.  Can Maverick be the kind of person he wants to be?

I do enjoy Sonnenblick's books - especially the voice of the characters.  This was not my favorite one but I do think the intended audience will enjoy it and I did like the way it ended.