Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Little Bits of Sky by S.E. Durant - OPTIONAL

Durrant, S. E. Little Bits of Sky 203 pages. Holiday House, 2017. $16.95. Language: G, Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

Miracle (Ira) and her brother Zac are foster kids. They have lived in foster homes since they were babies and now they are being sent to an orphanage run by mean Mrs. Clanks, her kind assistant, Hortense, and the friendly caretaker Silas. Ira and Zac settle into life at the orphanage and pretty soon they are the oldest. It looks as though they may never be adopted until they are invited to stay in the country for a week with Martha. Clumsy Zac does everything wrong, from making messes to breaking things. Despite everything, they have a wonderful time and Ira keeps her fingers crossed that they will be invited back.

Other reviewers have described this book as being similar in voice to those written by Sharon Creech. I agree. The main character is superbly honest and authentic. It’s a story of hope and determination to make the most out of every situation. The narrator, Ira, does an effective job of describing the ups and downs of living in an orphanage and the bond between foster children. If your readers are excited by Creech, then I would recommend you purchase this book. If not, then I would keep looking.

 EL – OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Valerie McEnroe, Media Specialist

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Backfield Boys by John Feinstein - ESSENTIAL

Feinstein, John Backfield Boys, 353 pages.  Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2017.  $18.  Language: PG (13 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (football violence, some yelling)

Jason and Tom, best friends from New York City, have been offered scholarships as freshmen  to a very expensive elite-athlete boarding school in Virginia.  Tom is an outstanding quarterback and Jason has the makings of a top line wide-receiver.  When they get to school, however, Jason is assigned to be a backup quarterback, while Tom has been put with the receivers.  What’s going on.  And the boys, best friends forever, weren’t assigned as roommates, either.  It really can’t be because Tom is black, could it?  Not in 2017 - right?!  But there is something wrong about at TGP - maybe the boys really are right.  If so, how do they prove it, or will they just walk out?

Feinstein has written a football book perfect for the year.  I don’t know when he started writing this one, but it feels like he finished it yesterday.  Very up to date, very frank and honest about modern racism.  LOVED it!

MS, HS - ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Monday, November 20, 2017

Battlesong by Lian Tanner - ADVISABLE

Tanner, Lian Battlesong (Icebreaker #3), 293 pages.  Feiwel (Macmillan), 2017.  $17.  Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (lots of danger)

Gwin and her family have been Fetchers for generations - traveling the secret ways to avoid the Devouts, but braving the small villages to bring song and joy to people’s hearts.  When Gwin’s father is captured by the Devouts in a trap, she will do anything to save him, including giving up the strange mechanical man that she found hidden in a cave.  No matter what the strange rat says, she can’t really be the Singer of legend, can she?  The crews of the Oyster and the icebreaker and a few brave mainlanders are about to change the world.

Because there are now three groups of main characters, things get a bit confusing in the back and forth of the narrative.  This is also a hearty dose of bad decisions for the sake of keeping people in dire situations.  But it seems to be fairly worth it as it rushes to the end.  I do wish that there were much more book after the climax.  I don’t know if Tanner is setting up a new trilogy or not with her resolution.

MS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Between the Lies by Cathy MacPhail - ADVISABLE

MacPhail, Cathy Between the Lies, 280 pages.  Kelpies Teen, 2017.  $10.  Language:  PG (4 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some danger)

When Jude, fourteen, disappears from school, for some reason it Abbie, the school loner, whom she texts for support.  But when Jude doesn’t return during the city-wide candlelight vigil, it all comes out that Jude and Abbie planned the whole thing as payback to Jude’s former best friend, Andrea, who dumped Jude just days earlier.  Now Abbie looks like an idiot and now everyone trusts her less than before.  Even worse - someone is out to actively make Abbie’s life miserable, whether it’s veiled threats. or making her look more like a fool, or even framing her for something bad that happened to another student.  Abbie needs to figure out who this UNKNOWN is, or her life may really be in danger.

I have read a couple of MacPhail’s earlier works; she writes a very taut, nerve-wracking thriller.  I avoid horror movies like the plague, so even reading well-crafted horror books gives me the willies.  And MacPhail can do that in spades. 

MS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School - OPTIONAL

Shang, Melissa and Eva Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School, 103 pgs. Woodgate Publishing, 2017. $6.99.  Language G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  

Mia Lee is starting middle school and  Mia is determined to try to make friends and (hopefully) be popular.  Mia is in a wheelchair because she has a form of muscular dystrophy - she can’t always hold things steady, and she has an adult aide who helps her get around the school, but otherwise Mia is just like all the other kids.  She makes these awesome stop motion videos and has joined the Video Production club, but when she wants to run for club president, her opponent is Angela - a middle school mean girl.  

The authors are sisters, Melissa has the same condition as Mia; they are writing from experience.  We don’t have enough books with diverse main characters, so this story is a welcome addition.  I like that it wasn’t about having a disability; Mia’s mother was a bit overprotective, but Mia seemed to fit in with the rest of the students despite the fact that she is in a wheelchair.  There were a lot of characters for such a short book - it was difficult to have any of them well developed, even Mia, and the story lacked depth.  I feel like I was missing something from her story.  Although Mia is in middle school, this is more appropriate for an elementary audience.  

EL - OPTIONAL  Lisa Librarian

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller - ADVISABLE

Keller, Tae The Science of Breakable Things, 304 pages.  Random House, MARCH 2018.  $17.  Content: G.

Middle school student Natalie has been hiding her mother’s battle with depression from even Twig, her best friend.  While she likes her science teacher, Mr. Neely, she can’t embrace his enthusiasm for their science projects, so he suggests to her that she make a team and join a local egg drop contest.  When Natalie sees that the winners earn a cash prize, she jumps on it as a way to maybe also help her mother.  So Natalie, Twig, and Dari, a boy in their class, form an alliance.  Just as easily as a dropped egg can crack, cracks form in the team and at home.  Can these cracks to repaired?

When I think about truly great books about middle school girls dealing with mental illness in parents, what comes to mind are Rocky Road by Rose Kent (2010) and Road to Tater Hill by Edith Hemingway (2009).  Keller comes close to joining those ranks.  I guess my big question is why is it always girls who are confronting these issues in tender ways?  Where are the books that show boys that they too can be a force for good?  Frustrating.

EL, MS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher