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Friendship & Forgiveness

3 Dec

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The Ethan I Was Before, by Ali Standish, is a book I chose to add to my Mock Newbery Club list before I’d actually read it. It was getting some buzz and was on the lists of a few other people.

Publisher’s Summary: Life can be transformed in one moment, but does that one moment define you for life?

Lost in the Sun meets The Thing About Jellyfish in Ali Standish’s breathtaking debut. A poignant middle grade novel of friendship and forgiveness, The Ethan I Was Before is a classic in the making.

Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from Boston to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia.

Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s the home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope.

My sense from the club members who have read Ethan is that they liked it well enough, but it isn’t top of their list. It reminded me a lot of Bridge to Terabithia. 

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A new heroine

24 Nov

One of my complaints with a certain genre, the  kind of fantasy that brings ancient myths into the real world, is that they usually end up being mostly action scenes of battles with the bad guys. This is a problem for me, but what makes true fans of the genre love the books. But there is a new heroine in town.

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Two things set The Epic Crush of Genie Lo  apart from the pack. First, there is a strong female character. Female fans of Percy Jackson and other series have to be content with a female sidekick. Genie Lo is the hero! Additionally, it utilizes the stories of Chinese mythology, a much lesser known mythological canon.

It isn’t a perfect read, but it has some really funny lines and is definitely worth picking up.

Publisher’s Summary: She annihilates standardized tests and the bad guys.

Genie Lo is one among droves of Ivy-hopeful overachievers in her sleepy Bay Area suburb. You know, the type who wins. When she’s not crushing it at volleyball or hitting the books, Genie is typically working on how to crack the elusive Harvard entry code.

But when her hometown comes under siege from Hellspawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are dramatically rearranged. Enter Quentin Sun, a mysterious new kid in class who becomes Genie’s self-appointed guide to battling demons. While Genie knows Quentin only as an attractive transfer student with an oddly formal command of the English language, in another reality he is Sun Wukong, the mythological Monkey King incarnate—right down to the furry tail and penchant for peaches.

Suddenly, acing the SATs is the least of Genie’s worries. The fates of her friends, family, and the entire Bay Area all depend on her summoning an inner power that Quentin assures her is strong enough to level the very gates of Heaven. But every second Genie spends tapping into the secret of her true nature is a second in which the lives of her loved ones hang in the balance.

A fictional place I’d love to go

11 Sep

Yesterday afternoon, I received this message from my sister:

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We had a brief conversation about how much we both loved it. I read the print book and she listened to the audiobook and I think I might give it a listen because I love the book and because of the Australian accents and excellent narration.

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Author’s Summary: Second-hand bookshops are full of mysteries

This is a love story.

It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets, to words.

It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.

Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She’s looking for the future in the books people love, and the words that they leave behind.

We read this for my book club and we all loved the book…and the book shop. I’d love to go there.

Whether you read the print version or listen to the audiobook, you will love Words in Deep Blue.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

4 Sep

In my head, I refer to today as my “last day of freedom”. Good thing I like my job!

My plans for the day are simply to finish the book I am reading. What book is that, you ask? Why, it is Noteworthy by Riley Redgate.

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Publisher’s Summary: It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight. But then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped . . . revered . . . all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

This is the perfect book to keep me distracted. Jordan’s voice grabbed me from the start. I laughed out loud when, on the second page, she says

Kensington loves its hyphenated adjectives: college-preparatory, cross-curricular, objective -oriented.  “Low-stress” was not one of them.

This is the perfect book for middle and high school kids who loved Joanie Frankenhauser, but have grown up a little.

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I have not finished the book yet – remember, that is my plan for the day – but so far the romance seems chaste enough for middle school.

Enjoy your Labor day. And, for my Canadian friends and family, enjoy your Labour Day!

Change is coming

27 Aug

Teachers in my district go back to work tomorrow. I went to school three days last week in order to get some work done, but also to practice getting up and going to work. It makes the transition easier.

The main character in Paul Mosier’s Train I Ride doesn’t get a chance to practice. Rydr has change thrust upon her.

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In case you can’t see it, the blurb on the front says “She found her family before she found her home.

Publisher’s Summary: A beautifully poignant debut perfect for fans of authors such as Rebecca Stead and Sharon Creech and books like Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish. When Rydr travels by train from Los Angeles to Chicago, she learns along the way that she can find family wherever she is.

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago, to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a backpack, memories both happy and sad, and a box, containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own story begins to emerge. It’s one of sadness and heartache, and one Rydr would sometimes like to forget. But as much as Rydr may want to run away from her past, on the train she finds that hope and forgiveness are all around her, and most importantly, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

There is so much I love about this book. Rydr is a little hard to like at first, but she blossoms as she meets strangers on the train and starts forming her family. Although Rydr is white, the other characters are a diverse lot. Set over the course of three days on a train, we are able to see Rydr blossom, and I can’t lie, this book made me cry. It also made me want to read Howl,  by Allen Ginsburg.

This book might be a long shot for the Newbery, but it is one my Mock Newbery Club will read.

Speaking of my Mock Newbery club, thanks to everyone who contributed to my Donors Choose project. That is complete and the books will ship to arrive after September 8th. I have a second fundraiser running through our local, district based donors choose type program and I am only $250 away from fulfilling that, but it seems to have stalled.  You can help me complete it by making a tax-deductible donation here. I am thankful for whatever you can do to help.

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4 Jun

One of my favorite  reads when I was a young teen, was  Deenie, by Judy Blume.

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It was the story of a girl named Deenie, who develops scoliosis and has to wear a huge brace. When I entered high school in 1978, one of the girls in my year wore just such a brace for scoliosis. I felt like I had some insight into what she was living with.

Armed with this background, I was eager to read Alyson Gerber’s Braced.

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From the author’s website:Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.

This was as compelling a read as Deenie. Rachels’ mom had scoliosis as a teen and lived the Deenie experience. As a result she projects her experience onto Rachel, adding an element of parental pressure that Deenie  didn’t have, but many teens can relate to.

Although Rachel is in high school, and there is a little bit of romance, it is chaste enough for middle schoolers

 

Second Looks

20 Feb

Two times in my life I have abandoned books, only to return to them on the advice of my twin  sister, and been thrilled to have done so.

The first time was in 1994 and the book was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

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The opening chapter about the bean in the ear threw me off the scent of a great book.

The second happened just this week. I had started, then abandoned David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite because it opens in a police station with talk of a gruesome murder.

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That’s not my usual cup of tea, so I set it aside. Then, my sister asked if I had read it. I told her why I had abandoned it and she told me I should give it another try. So I did. You should give it a try, too.

Publisher’s Summary: Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.

Can I just say, too, that this is one of the best publisher’s summaries I’ve seen in a ling time.

I think, because I work with youth, I have heard enough stories of crappy lives kids have, that little shocks me. The crappy lives of the kids in David Arnold’s book aren’t especially crappy, but the story he has created is funny, heart-wrenching and sweet all at the same time. It doesn’t solve all their problems, but it gets them to a better place. We had a rainy weekend and I started and finished this book on Saturday,that is how engrossed I was in the stories of the lives of the Kids of Appetite.

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