Georgia has always been a good student even though her brother Rafe could possibly be the worst student ever! She starts middle school and is immediately in the shadow Rafe left. All the teachers assume she is just like Rafe and treat her horribly. The Princess Patrol makes fun of her and she doesn’t really make friends. Rhonda, a girl who screeches everything she says, starts following Georgia. She is also in a band that doesn’t really know how to play and is horrible. Rafe even signs the band up to play in the Battle of the Bands at the school dance. It seems like nothing is going her way.
I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, but I know they are hugely popular with the kids. The book contains lots of drawings and illustrations that will really appeal to kids who like books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. Even with all the humor, the book does introduce some serious situations. There is bullying from the Princess Patrol, who I can’t believe actually get away with the things they say. There is also the grandma’s dementia. Finally, it turns out Georgia is adopted and she has to deal with this. Unfortunately, these things are just touched on and not really dealt with. Despite that I think the kids will embrace this book like they do all the others in the series.
Willow Chance is a special girl; she is interested in plants and medical diagnosis; she is an undiscovered genius. Willow has just started middle school when she aces a standardized test and is accused of cheating. This sends her to Dell Duke, incompetent counselor, and allows her to meet her only friend Mai, whose brother Quang-ha sees Dell as well. These are the people around her when her world is destroyed. Her adoptive parents are killed in a car crash. Suddenly Willow is alone in the world with no family and no place to go. Mai takes charge and convinces her mother to allow Willow to stay with them, pretending she is a family friend even though they have never met. Mai’s mother Pattie is from Vietnam and operates a nail salon. The family lives in a one room garage behind the salon, which would definitely not pass a social services inspection. So Pattie convinces Dell to let them pretend to live in his apartment. She takes charge and transforms it into a home. Before you know it Willow, Mai, Pattie, Quang-ha and Dell are like a real family. Willow slowly comes out of her grief as the family comes together, but will she be able to stay with her new family or will the state take her away and destroy all she has known again?
This is one of those books that will break your heart. Willow’s grief on losing her parents is real and visceral. You can feel and understand her pain as she shuts completely down. Willow is also very strange; her interests are strange; she doesn’t interact with people in what is considered a normal way; she doesn’t fit in. But she fits with this new group of people and she brings them together as a family. There are a couple things that kept this book from being perfect for me. The first is the fact that Willow is not forced to go to school for months. Her case worker, the school district, Pattie, Dell, none of them make her go to school. She tells them she isn’t ready and they drop it just like that. She is supposed to be homeschooling during this time, but no one checks on that either. The second thing is the ending…it is way too perfect. The entire time I was reading it I assumed Pattie would somehow get custody of Willow. There was no way the book was going to end with her losing her family again. However, at the end Pattie somehow ends up being rich, rich enough to buy an apartment building in California. Seems she was forcing her family to live in the garage so she could save up some cash. Really!!???! She always came across as a working mom trying to build up her business and keep her family going. Plus she makes Dell pay for everything! Pattie’s romance also seems to come out of left field. I think it would have been a stronger ending without the wealthy, two-parent Disney ending.
I received a copy of this book at ALA 2013 and from Netgalley.com.
Lola Zuckerman is always last. Having a Z last name means she never gets to go first in anything. She really wants to win the Going Green challenge at school and become Green Captain. But since she is last all her ideas get taken. Then she comes up with composting. Her rival Amanda comes up with trash-free lunch. The 2nd grade class votes on which one they want to do and Lola wins. She rubs into into Amanda’s face and is a bit mean about it. But Lola quickly learns her lesson and she and Amanda become friends. This is definitely a beginner chapter book. Lola is a bit obnoxious and not really that nice. She does redeem herself at the end, but she is still not one of my favorite characters.
Charlie is dreading 4th grade. He has learned that he will have Mrs. Burke and she hates him. He threw a shoe last year that accidentally hit her in the head. Once school starts it does seem like he is right. Charlie is always getting into trouble for some reason and Mrs. Burke is always on his case. But things are not always what they seem.
I thought Charlie was funny and I actually really liked Mrs. Burke. This book is geared towards younger/first chapter book readers even with the 4th grade characters. I think it will definitely find its place, especially with boys.
Genie has become the class blogger. Her blog has to be about wishes, hopes and dreams. Genie finds that she is a pretty decent blogger and really enjoys it. School isn’t nearly as fun as blogging though. Her best friend Sarah seems to have changed over the summer. She met Blair at summer camp and now Blair is going to school with them. All they seem to care about is make-up and boys and each other. Genie is feeling left out and left behind. But she starts making friends with some of the other 5th grade girls and realizes she has more in common with them then Sarah and Blair.
I like this story and I think girls are going to like it as well. I do think it is maybe geared towards younger girls even with the 5th grade characters. I wish there was more resolution between Sarah and Genie at the end of the book, but the lack of it does make it seem more realistic. Sometimes friends just grow apart. We have different friends for different parts of our lives. It isn’t always easy to make that change, but our new friends are usually good fits and make us happier than our old. I think that is a good message for kids.
Ask the Passengers is an interesting look at one teen girl’s struggle with coming out. Astrid lives in a small town in Pennsylvania. She feels alienated from her family; her mom is a bitch, her dad is stoned all the time and her sister Ellis isn’t interested. Astrid’s two best friends are gay, but pretend to date each other as a cover. Astrid has been sort of seeing Dee Roberts, a girl she works with, for a couple of months. She isn’t sure how she feels about being gay and doesn’t really want anyone to know. After she finally comes out to her friends they get busted for being underage at a gay club. Now Astrid is completely alone as rumors fly and relationships deteriorate. She struggles with whether she should label herself as gay and what she should tell her parents.
The thing I liked about this book was how realistic it was. It can’t be easy for someone living in a small town to come out. Astrid is feeling pressure from all sides. Dee is out so she is uber-pushy in wanting Astrid to come out; she is also pushy to increase their physical relationship which pisses Astrid off and makes her uncomfortable. Her friends want to know all about her sexuality even though they keep theirs hidden. Her mom seems only interested in her sister and her sister enjoys the attention. Dad has checked out, sneaking out to the garage to get high all the time. As Astrid studies the philosophers, particularly Socrates (who she renames Frank), she starts questioning everything and having imaginary conversations with Frank. The title of the book comes from Astrid’s habit of watching planes and sending her love to them. She doesn’t feel like she has a place to give her love so she sends it off to those flying above her.
I like Astrid; she is sarcastic and snarky and unsure. She doesn’t want to be part of the rumor mill. She just wants to be herself, without labels or questions. I thought her family’s response to her sexuality was pretty typical. I also thought the response of the town was pretty typical. Equality is not a given, even in this day and age. People are still small-minded and filled with hate. I think the message of acceptance in this book is a good one and something we should all strive for.
Tara Feinstein is negotiating the waters of 7th grade and preparing for her bat mitzvah. She questions whether she should even have a bat mitzvah; can she reconcile her Indian side with her Jewish side? She is also dealing with her best friend Rebecca who might have become friends with Sheila Rosenberg and her other best friend Ben-O who might actually LIKE her!
Most books for middle grades are all about white characters with a middle-class, christian background. This was a nice, fresh, multi-cultural book. I liked that being Indian or being Jewish was not really treated as different, just as something you are. Tara’s only conflict was how to meld the two cultures. I really liked all the middle school angst of new friends and boys and everything that goes along with it. I would definitely recommend this one.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publishers on Netgalley.com.
Arlo is an orphan who lives with his grandpa, Poppo. Poppo’s memory is not so good anymore. He wonders about and forgets things a lot. Poppo has a stroke and ends up in the hospital; Arlo ends up in a group home. He decides to run away and find his grandma, Ida Jones. Ida lives in Edgewater, Virginia, so Arlo hops a bus for the 350 mile trip. He hasn’t seen Ida since he was 2 years old when his parents died. There were hard feelings between Ida and her husband and Poppo. But Ida is happy to see Arlo and takes him in. He settles into Edgewater, makes new friends and starts learning more about his father. He still thinks about Poppo, who he talks to on the phone, and worries about living so far from him. Ida had planned on selling her house and moving to a retirement community, but all that changed when Arlo arrived. The prospective buyer, Mr. Grainger, is pretty insistent however and starts causing trouble for Ida.
There aren’t a lot of books like this with a kid dealing with a grandparent’s Alzheimer’s. I enjoyed the fact that even without parents Arlo had a loving family who really wanted what was best for him. The mystery surrounding Mr. Grainger was interesting and surprising. I also really enjoyed Arlo’s new friend Maywood. I liked her family and her obsession with ghosts. I also like that the supernatural occurrences were not explained. We don’t know what really happened, if anything happened or if it was all in Arlo’s imagination. Good story and mystery.
I received this book from Netgalley.com.
Brendan is starting junior high. He likes science and keeps a science notebook to record his findings and thoughts. He meets Morgan, a girl who has been homeschooled but is now going to junior high. Morgan latches on to Brendan despite his best efforts to shake her off. They get paired together for a science experiment involving manure. Brendan is also having problems with his dad and his best friend. He has to navigate the waters of junior high, friends and girls and manage to keep his head above water.
This is an interesting exploration of the life of a junior high science geek. I liked how complicated Brendan’s life is. He had to deal with a lot of different issues including his confusing feelings towards Morgan. This is a time in a boy’s life when things aren’t so simple anymore. Girls become interesting, friends can change, parents start to act differently. Poor Brendan! The science aspect of the book was interesting and I liked all the information given at the end about different ways to find information about the science in the book. I am not sure this book will resonate with all readers, but I think it definitely has its place and will be a gem to some.
Oona and Fred have a cat named Zook. Zook is a sick kitty who has to get fluids to help his kidney’s function. Oona is teaching Fred to read using rebuses and stories about the past lives of Zook. She is upset that her mom is dating Dylan (the villain) who she thinks is the past owner of Zook. There are misunderstandings, life lessons and big and little whoppers.
I am not sure if I would have felt the same way about this book if I had read it instead of listening to it. But since I listened to it, my opinion is not the best. The narrator uses voices for each of the characters and I have to admit they got on my nerves after a while. Listening to the book also highlighted some weaknesses in the writing that might not have been as noticeable reading it. For instance, Oona uses way too many phrases like for instance, for example, and also, and others. It isn’t a normal way a child would speak (or anyone really) and it is pretty annoying. The story isn’t bad though and I am sure kids will enjoy this tale about Oona, Fred and Zook. It also offers a good starting point for discussions on telling the truth, letting new people into your life and death and grief.
Feather and her grandfather set out on a quest to heal her young brother Peter. Spotted Eagle is a Lakota medicine man and he wants to teach Feather the traditions of their people. Their quest leads them throughout New York City during a raging snowstorm as they meet a Chinese herbalist, a homeless woman, a bear at the zoo and a grandfather at the Empire State Building. Their journey is full of magical coincidences that help making the vision quest more special. Feather’s mom, Ann, is resistant to the old ways and doesn’t want anything to do with a traditional healing ceremony, but Feather and Spotted Eagle are determined to help Peter.
I really enjoyed the fact that this book highlights a culture not seen in children’s realistic fiction very often, the Native American culture. I also liked that it was not only set in modern times, but also in a modern city. It highlighted how Native Americans can adapt their cultural traditions to fit a modern world, but still honor those ancient customs. I thought Feather and her grandfather were both fun, dedicated, interesting characters throughout the book. I did think Feather’s parents were a little one-dimensional, but they didn’t play a very big role in the book. I liked how the reader was left wondering if there was really magic playing a part or if it was just coincidences. A very special book that I am sure would be great for discussions.
The Penderwick sisters are home on Gardam Street and ready for an adventure But the adventure they get isnt quite what they had in mind. Mr. Penderwicks sister has decided its time for him to start dating–and the girls know that can only mean one thing: disaster. Enter the Save-Daddy Plan–a plot so brilliant, so bold, so funny, that only the Penderwick girls could have come up with it. Its high jinks, big laughs, and loads of family warmth as the Penderwicks triumphantly return.
When summer comes around, its off to the beach for Rosalind . . . and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend, Jeffrey.
That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick)–a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor. But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalinds directions about not letting Batty explode? Will Janes Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty–contrary to all accepted wisdom–the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune? And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls . . . these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?
Its a rollicking ride as the Penderwicks continue their unforgettable adventures in a story filled with laughs and joyful tears.
In this affecting and beautifully written story of family and forgiveness, 12-year-old Raine spends the summer at a mysterious artists colony and discovers a secret about her past.
Born a bastard, Molly Bolt is adopted by a dirt-poor Southern couple who want something better for their daughter. Molly plays doctor with the boys, beats up Leroy the tub and loses her virginity to her girlfriend in sixth grade.
As she grows to realize she’s different, Molly decides not to apologize for that. In no time she mesmerizes the head cheerleader of Ft. Lauderdale High and captivates a gorgeous bourbon-guzzling heiress.
But the world is not tolerant. Booted out of college for moral turpitude, an unrepentant, penniless Molly takes New York by storm, sending not a few female hearts aflutter with her startling beauty, crackling wit and fierce determination to become the greatest filmmaker that ever lived.
Critically acclaimed when first published, Rubyfruit Jungle has only grown in reputation as it has reached new generations of readers who respond to its feisty and inspiring heroine.
After her twelfth birthday, Rory checks off a list of things she is finally allowed to do, but unexpected consequences interfere with her involvement in the movie being shot at her school, while a weird prediction starts to make sense.
The Rent Collector is the story of Sang Ly, a poor Cambodian woman who lives in Stung Meanchey, a municipal dump. She and her husband survive by picking out recyclables from the thousands of tons of trash that are deposited in the dump each day. Their young son lives in the shack with them and is constantly sick. Sang Ly wants a better life (or any life) for her family and her son. She convinces the rent collector to teach her to read in the hopes of improving her circumstances. In the process she learns more about herself and the rent collector.
I got this book at ALA 2013; I don’t usually pick up books for adults, but this one looked intriguing. I am so glad I did. This was a wonderful book about a young mother’s determination to change her life and of an old woman’s desire to make amends. I loved how we learned more and more about the rent collector as Sang Ly learned more and more about literature. I really enjoyed the fact that the author included excerpts from actual literature from around the world in the book. Even though parts of the book were fictionalized it is based on true people which makes it that much more amazing. I would definitely recommend this one to a lot of people.
A foster child named Angel and twelve-year-old Stella, who are living with Stella’s great-aunt Louise at the Linger Longer Cottage Colony on Cape Cod, secretly assume responsibility for the vacation rentals when Louise unexpectedly dies and the girls are afraid of being returned to the foster care system.
When the difficult star of the reality television show “Expedition Survival” disappears while filming an episode in the Florida Everglades using animals from the wildlife refuge run by Wahoo Crane’s family, Wahoo and classmate Tuna Gordon set out to find him while avoiding Tuna’s gun-happy father.
More than a year has passed since Marjan, Bahar, and Layla, the beautiful Iranian Aminpour sisters, sought refuge in the quaint Irish town of Ballinacroagh. Opening the beguiling Babylon Café, they charmed the locals with their warm hearts and delectable Persian cuisine, bringing a saffron-scented spice to the once-sleepy village.
But when a young woman with a dark secret literally washes up on Clew Bay Beach, the sisters’ world is once again turned upside down. With pale skin and webbed hands, the girl is otherworldly, but her wounds tell a more earthly (and graver) story–one that sends the strict Catholic town into an uproar. The Aminpours rally around the newcomer, but each sister must also contend with her own transformation–Marjan tests her feelings for love with a dashing writer, Bahar takes on a new spiritual commitment with the help of Father Mahoney, and Layla matures into a young woman when she and her boyfriend, Malachy, step up their hot and heavy relationship.
Filled with mouthwatering recipes and enchanting details of life in Ireland, Rosewater and Soda Bread is infused with a lyrical warmth that radiates from the Aminpour family and their big-hearted Italian landlady, Estelle, to the whole of Ballinacroagh–and the world beyond.