Jerry Flack is not cool. He is a nerd who likes science and wears glasses. When he moves to a new town he thinks he has a shot at changing his image and becoming cool. He puts away his glasses and gets lessons on being cool from his friend Brenda. Soon he is hanging out with the cool kids and thinks beautiful Cinnamon likes him. But he also misses hanging out with Brenda and the other kids on the science team. And he still likes science and other uncool things. This is a book all about accepting who you are and what is important to you. Is it more important to be cool and do things you don’t enjoy or approve of or is it better to hang out with people you like and do things you enjoy? Jerry has to learn this lesson that we have all learned. No one wants to be uncool or unpopular, but sometimes you realize that being cool isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Rose is on the autism spectrum with Asperger’s. She is obsessed with rules, prime numbers and homonyms. She gets upset when people don’t follow the rules or when she has problems understanding something. The adults in her life respond to her in different ways. Her father doesn’t understand and all and gets angry at her when she does not respond in a normal way. Her teacher and aide try to help her through difficult situations at school. It is her uncle Weldon who truly understands and accepts Rose. Their relationship is the heart of this story and one that grounds Rose and helps her live as normal a life as possible. Her father gave her a dog one evening which she named Rain. Rose loves the fact that both of their names are homonyms (rose/rows and rain/reign/rein). A hurricane strikes their New York town and her father lets Rain out into the storm. Rain disappears and Rose does everything she can think of to find him. She calls shelters and gets her uncle to help her search. When they finally do find Rain their joy is tempered by bad news. Rose has to find the courage to do the right thing and accept the reality of the situation.
I really only remember Ann Martin for her Babysitter’s Club books (which I was obsessed with as a kid). I hadn’t read a book by her in years and have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. Rose is written so realistically that at times it is almost painful to read her story. Probably almost as painful as it would be to watch it unfold in real life. She does truly try to life as normal a life as possible, but she doesn’t always respond in the normal ways. Her meltdowns feel real and natural as does her confusion over the actions of others. I think this is an eye-opening look at what a person with Asperger’s goes through and how they think and react to situations. It was wonderful and truly worthy of the praise it is getting. The ending alone is enough to break your heart and make you want to give Rose a huge hug.
“YOU BE ME…AND I’LL BE YOU.”
ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.
Then, BAM! They swap lives—and bodies!
Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties while Ellie’s reigning as the Prince of Thatcher Middle School. As their crazy weekend races on—and their feelings for each other grow—Ellie and Jack begin to realize that maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being someone else.
Albie is a boy in fifth grade who has issues. He doesn’t do well in school. He is so bad in fact he was kicked out of his fancy prep school and sent to public school instead. He isn’t good at math or reading or spelling or art. His parents expect a lot more from him; his dad expects perfection, but Albie is just not able to deliver. He isn’t cool or smart and doesn’t have many friends. His new babysitter Calista helps though. She tries to help him study and does fun things with him. His parents are distant and don’t really seem to have a lot of time for him. Albie spends the school year trying to figure things out and figure out his place in the world.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I really liked the fact that Albie was just your average kid. He wasn’t super talented or super smart or super anything. In fact he was pretty much the opposite. He struggles with school. He struggles with making friends. Things are hard for him and they don’t get miraculously better at the end of the book. On the other hand I had a really hard time with this story. Albie’s parents are horrible with unreal expectations for him (which could be very realistic) and with little time or interest in Albie. They make no effort to find out what is going on with him or what he is having problems with or even what he likes. My biggest issue was probably Albie himself though. At one point Albie is tested for dyslexia and finds out he doesn’t have it, but he clearly has something. He is very immature for a fifth grader, he doesn’t pick up on social clues that most kids his age would clearly understand and he has a lot of problems learning. I think a lot of kids reading this book will be frustrated by Albie and the fact that he is so clueless about things. When the bully Darren starts being nice to Albie most kids will instinctively know that Darren can’t be trusted. He is clearly trying to get close to Albie because his friend is on a reality TV show. But Albie thinks he is suddenly cool and tries to help another “uncool” friend become cool. I can’t imagine any fifth grader acting like this. It seems more like the behavior of someone in third grade. I think the message of this book is good though. It is all about accepting yourself for who you are and realizing that not everyone is a superhero or has special powers. It was just a bit of a mixed bag for me though.
When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers-with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another. They are twenty. .
The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building’s other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin’s devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt’s neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including-perhaps-their aunt, who can’t seem to leave her old apartment and life behind..
Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life-even after death..
Sammy wants nothing more than to have a puppy. Unfortunately, he is stuck with Max, a smelly mutt his sister brought home. Even though Max is loyal and well trained, Sammy doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. Sammy starts working as a dog walker at CountryWood, the nearby gated community. He has to earn the money for the puppy himself. His single-mom doesn’t have any extra money for a puppy and doesn’t want one since they have Max. At CountryWood, Sammy has to deal with bully Justin who terrorizes him every time he is walking the dogs.
I’m not sure why this book took me so long to read since it is less than 200 pages. It was a nice story about a boy learning to appreciate what he has. I also liked the fact that Sammy’s friends are a nice mix of cultures and personalities. I just found the book to be a bit heavy-handed in its message. I also found Sammy to be a bit selfish and self-absorbed. I identified more with poor Max than with any of the people characters. I am sure it will find appreciative readers, but I wasn’t one of them.
This is the second book in the last but not least series. Lola Zuckerman is always last in line and doesn’t like it. Her parents are both out of town and her grandma is staying with her and her brother Jack. She is also having a bad week at school. Her best friend Amanda is spending more time with friend stealer Jessie. New girl Savannah is also trying to butt in. Lola keeps doing mean things and getting in trouble. The girls are alternatively nice and mean to each other and no one comes off perfectly nice in this book. It is a good story for those beginning chapter book readers even if it is a little long for that type of book. That is my main complaint about the book. The characters are in second grade and the book is clearly geared towards that age group yet it is a whopping 195 pages. It is a much better story than the first one of the series and hopefully the author will keep getting better.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
Things are not going well for Celie. She is fighting with her former best friend Lulu and she doesn’t even know why. She and Lulu have to attend Friendship Forward to work on their problems. Her big sister is friends with mean Trina, who Celie can’t stand. Her grandma is acting strange and her parents are worried. Celie has been spying on everyone and keeping secrets. Celie is keeping track of everything in her top-secret diary and spy notebook. There is a lot going on after all and she doesn’t want to forget anything. I thought Celie was a fun character and would appeal to girls starting to read chapter books. She is dealing with real world problems that a lot of young kids have to deal with: friends, siblings, parents and grandparents. I did think the book would appeal to younger readers, maybe early elementary grades. Even though Celie is 10, I think a lot of 10-year-olds will be beyond this book. Would probably appeal more to 8-9 year olds.
Set in the Ozarks, Winter’s Bone is the story of Ree Dolly’s desperate attempt to find her father, a meth cook who has put up the family home as bail. If he does not show for his upcoming court date, Ree, her ailing mother, and two young brothers will be turned out of their house. Attempting to question relatives of his whereabouts leads her on a dangerous journey.
Will has lived her whole life on the a farm in Zimbabwe and she loves the freedom of it. She is friends with the horseboys and loves to ride her horse over the bush and explore everything Zimbabwe has to offer. Her father is the manager of the farm owned by Captain Browne. They adore Will and indulge her wildcat ways. Then her father gets sick and dies and Cynthia moves in on the Captain. She is a young, gold-digging witch of a woman who can’t stand Will. As soon as she marries the Captain she convinces him to ship Will off to a boarding school in London. Of course Will doesn’t fit in at the school. She has had a formal education, she is dirty and wild, and the other girls are horribly cruel to her. She runs away from the school and lives on the streets of London for a while until she gets her bearings again and is able to endure the school. I really enjoyed this book. I loved the first half with Will in Zimbabwe. Her life there just seems so idyllic and charming. She has the run of the place and can basically do whatever she wants. I liked her friendship with Simon and the relationship she had with her father and the Captain. I thought it was surprising how fast the Captain gave in on sending her to London. I thought Cynthia was very one-dimensional as the villain of the story and the Captain’s capitulation very stereotypical. Since most of the book took place in Zimbabwe we really didn’t get a lot about the school before Will runs away. The girls are cruel and girls can be and Will really doesn’t help her case. She doesn’t even bathe for two weeks after getting there (gross!). I am not sure she ever brushed her hair either and it had never been cut so it was a disastrous mess on her head. I know she ran wild in Africa but that seemed a bit extreme. I also couldn’t figure out how she got away with not going to school in Africa. This is never explained properly. So while I loved the story and Will in particular I did think the book had problems that detracted from my enjoyment a bit.
Jaden was adopted by his parents when he was eight years old. He is now twelve and still has issues. He doesn’t feel safe and secure enough in his home to stop hoarding food, stealing, lying and he doesn’t believe he loves his parents. When they decide to adopt a baby from Kazakhstan, Jaden has to go along and deal with his issues of trust and jealousy. In Kazakhstan, the family discovers that the baby they were promised has already been adopted and they are forced to choose another baby in minutes. Jaden doesn’t approve of the process or the fact that the baby is blank with no reactions at all to the family. He meets a toddler named Dimash who is special needs but touches his heart. As Jaden is bonding with Dimash, his parents are trying to bond with the baby and to make Jaden bond as well. Jaden has to deal with his issues and figure out if he can love his parents and new brother and get over his jealousy and security issues.
I loved Jaden’s touching story. You really feel for this little boy who doesn’t think he is capable of love (even though he does actually love his parents). He has a lot of issues that would make it difficult for his parents to love him, but they don’t seem to have any problems in that area. He is jealous of a new baby coming in to the family believing his parents want the baby because they are not happy with him. I thought Jaden’s journey of acceptance was a beautiful one. The one thing I kept questioning the entire time I was reading was the actual adoption process in Kazakhstan. The whole thing seemed so shady and borderline illegal. It seems like you shouldn’t be able to bring just any child back from another country; you should have paperwork for a specific one. And the fact that the parents were shown a parade of babies and forced to choose in minutes was really strange. As I have never adopted a child from a foreign country I don’t know what the process would be, but I have had friends who have and they were always working to get a specific child to adopt. If you can overlook the weird adoption bits and focus on Jaden’s journey this book is a wonderful one.
When his mother is sent to jail Frankie Joe is forced to leave his home in Laredo, Texas and all his friends to move to Clearview, Illinois with a father, step-mother and four half-brothers he has never met or known about. Life in Clearview is different. He doesn’t have as much freedom; he has to go to school, do chores and report his activities to his father. Frankie Joe plans to run away and ride his bike all the way back to Texas. He needs money to take on the road so he starts a bike delivery service. As his business takes off, he starts making new friends in the people he delivers for. He does better in school and he starts becoming a part of the family.
I found this book entertaining and a quick read. Frankie Joe is a likeable character; he is enterprising and smart even if his school work doesn’t reflect it. I liked the small town part of this story and all the characters we meet. I did find some of the family members underdeveloped and a little one-dimensional, but that didn’t take away from the story. I thought all the fish-out-of-water bits were pretty realistic. However, I found it questionable that all of Frankie Joe’s friends, both in Laredo and Clearview, would be old people; he really only has one friend his age (Mandy) who is as big a misfit as he is.
Fun fast read and one I think kids will enjoy despite its problems.
Lucy is back in her third adventure. This time she is in 8th grade and wants to make it her best ever. Of course everything isn’t going the way she had hoped. Her proposal to make the school cafeteria go green is approved but she is having issues with her boyfriend Yamir. Yamir is now in high school and he is ignoring her. He doesn’t call or text or even really talk to her anymore and Lucy is getting tired of it. Then there is new boy Travis who seems to like her and does pay attention to her. Plus the 8th grade masquerade is coming up and Lucy has been roped into helping by mean girl Erica.
I think this is a good series for girls who are interested in realistic fiction, makeup and going green. Lucy is your typical teen girl with issues and problems. I like the fact that she seems more like a teen in this one instead of old-beyond her years like she has been in the other books. I’m not sure I always find her voice to be authentic but the issues she is dealing with definitely are. This is a solid addition to this series.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Poppy’s life has been turned upside down lately. She is living in the local children’s home because her grandma had a stroke. Her grandma is her whole life and Poppy just wants things to get back to normal. Then she tries to go see her grandma and witnesses an armed robbery where a store clerk is shot. Police officer Trey is the one to question her and get her story and he is concerned because she saw the man’s face. So Poppy goes to live with Trey’s mom, Marti, in a sort of witness protection program. Through Marti, Poppy is introduced to Carol and Lizzie who work at a local animal shelter and to Gunner, the most beautiful dog she has ever met. Poppy is determined to help Gunner who has some issues. She is also determined to get back home with her grandma, but things don’t always work out how we want them to.
I loved Poppy’s story. It was touching and so very realistic. Ok, so not many 12 year olds witness robberies, but lots of them live with grandparents and I am sure lots of them have grandparents with health issues. I liked the fact that not everything went Poppy’s way, but she still ending up in a good situation that worked for her. Her relationship with Gunner really made me want to adopt a dog! This is a beautiful, heart-breaking story.
I received this book from Netgalley.com.
Rufus is looking forward to the annual camping trip to White Crappie Lake with his family and his best friend Murph’s family. Then his mom goes and invites his enemy Dimitri and strange girl Lurena. Dimitri is always trying to steal Murph as his best friend and Lurena is just strange. At the campground they meet Pablo and get to talking about their pets. Rufus has a guinea pig (Fido) who thinks she is a dog and whose daughter thinks she is a squirrel (Lurena got the guinea squirrel). Fido came from a pet store called Petoria which seems to have disappeared until Pablo says he thinks he saw one. So off they go to find Petoria and another guinea pig. Turns out this one is a guinea otter?
Such a strange little book. Even though this is the third in the series I don’t think you have to have read the other two to figure it out. I think younger readers will really enjoy this story. It has a lot of humor and fun in it. I liked the mystery of what exactly Petoria is and why the animals there turn out so different. I also like that the answers are not given to us in this book.
Somebody on this bus is going to be famous, but who? That is the story of this book. Almost all the action takes place on the bus which is interesting. There are three mysteries to solve. One: who is going to be famous? Two: who lives at the empty bus stop? Three: what happened during the class of 85 graduation? During the course of the school year we get to learn about the nine middle schoolers who are on the bus. Shelly wants to be a famous singer and is very self-centered. Miranda wants to be a writer and a good friend. Spencer is worried he isn’t the genius everyone thinks he is. Jay is worried about his Poppi who is suffering from dementia. Bender is good with numbers and wants to solve the mystery of the empty bus stop. Igor wants to discover more about his dad who is in prison. Kaitlynn becomes obsessed with helping people and starts a fundraiser on the bus to help a family in need. Matthew becomes interested in physics and wins the science fair. Alice is hiding who her family is and what their connection to the mystery of the class of 85. The bus driver Mrs. B also has secrets.
The book begins with the bus crash in May and then works its way through the school year. It is an interesting way to increase the drama as the reader wants to know how they get to the bus crash. This book reminded me a bit of Because of Mr. Terupt with the alternating student chapters. However, unlike Mr. Terupt there doesn’t seem to be a lot of character growth for the kids. For the most part they all end up the same as they started. I was hoping for a little bit more. I thought the story was interesting, but the ending left a lot to be desired. The mystery of who is going to be famous was almost a throw away that negated the rest of the story. It was like oh well we couldn’t think up a good ending so it turns out Mrs. B writes a book. Really? I wanted more details about the aftermath of the bus crash and what it did to the characters, but instead everything is wrapped up in about a page. The book was much better without that ending and could have been a lot better with a stronger one.
That summer is a novel about a 15 year old girl who is dealing with her parents divorce, her sister getting married and moving off, and being abnormally tall. But don’t you worry, all of her issues are neatly resolved at the end of the book. While I really like Sarah Dessen’s writing, I found this book rather dull and unrelatable.