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She’s got Moxie

12 Nov

As soon as I read the intro, I knew I was going to enjoy Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu.

For all the teenage women fighting the good fight.

And for my twelfth-grade Current Topics teacher for calling me a feminazi in front of the entire class. You insulted me, but you also sparked my interest in feminism, so really, the joke is on you.

Revenge is best served cold, you jerk.

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Publisher’s Summary: MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with an administration at her high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

Although I can’t really imagine a school in which things are truly as bad as they are at East Rockport High, the news these days makes it clear that we need more Moxie Girls. The book is horrifying, witty, and inspirational. As a mature adult, I appreciate the portrayal of Viv’s mother, a former riot Grrrl who says

“The mother I thought I would be when I was nineteen wants to tell you to do it,” she answers. “And the mother I’ve morphed into wants to tell you I’m afraid.”

The book is peppered with the pages of the zines Viv creates.

A great read about burgeoning teen activism. And boys, don’t think this is a “girl book”. You could learn a lot about what it means to be female by reading Moxie.

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Your part matters

6 Nov

The cold and rain have returned to the Pacific Northwest. I put flannel sheets on my bed and baked cranberry-pumpkin bread this weekend. When Lucy and I went out for a walk, few people were on the street and Lucy turned right around and headed for home as soon as she had done her business.

I was warm and cozy at home when I heard about the latest tragedy.   Fortunately, the characters of Come With Me, written by Holly M. McGhee and illustrated by Pascal Lemaître, reminded me, and younger readers,  that it is important to get out of my cozy comfort zone and be a positive part of the world.

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Publisher’s Summary:

McGhee’s website has a great explanation of the story behind the book. It is worth reading.

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A lovely surprise

30 Oct

I picked up Midnight At the Electric expecting sci-fi.

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Although it is set, in part, in the future, the book is much more than that. It is about love, friendship, the power of women alone and together, and how love, determination, and hope can change a person’s fate.

Publisher’s Summary: New York Times bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson’s epic tale—told through three unforgettable points of view—is a masterful exploration of how love, determination, and hope can change a person’s fate.

Kansas, 2065: Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house more than a hundred years ago and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate.

Oklahoma, 1934: Amid the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine’s family’s situation is growing dire. She must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919: In the recovery following World War I, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America. But can she make it that far?

While their stories span thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined in ways both heartbreaking and hopeful. In Jodi Lynn Anderson’s signature haunting, lyrical prose, human connections spark spellbindingly to life, and a bright light shines on the small but crucial moments that determine one’s fate.

So, if you haven’t picked it up because you don’t like sci-fi, give it a chance.

Just a little creepy

12 Oct

I make no apologies to my students. I tell them straight up that I don’t like scary stories because they give me nightmares. I am not such a weenie that I eschew all books that are potentially scary books. I can read a book until it crosses a creepy line that is complicated to explain in words. It is a gut feeling and a sense of where a book is going.

I read and added Thornhill by Pam Smy to my classroom library. It is potentially scary, but I got through it well enough. The book is half text, half illustrations. To be honest, the scariest bits are told through the black and white illustrations, so I could look quickly and move on. I haven’t book talked it, and yet the book has been checked out several times. There is a audience for scary books.

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Publisher’s Summary:  Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines—Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art—Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.

 

Retelling Beowulf

5 Oct

Yesterday, on bus duty, I spoke with a parent who surprised me by telling me she was a member of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and was writing a book base on Hindu mythology. There  are many books that incorporate various mythologies or retell epics in a modern setting. Not all of them manage to include the humor as effectively as Grendel’s Guide to Love and War.

 

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Publisher’s Summary: Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.

One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister’s Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death . . . and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact.

 

 

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.

Not everyone’s cup of tea

23 Aug

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You are either going to love or hate The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I loved it.

When I first started listening to the audiobook, I did not really like Monty in the first chapter. He seemed an arrogant and entitled dissolute young man. But there is a reason the title has vice before virtue. As the story unfolds, we see Monty’s transformation as he learns to look beyond himself and see the needs and experiences of others. And I grew to love him. I also loved the humor. The summary below uses the word “romp” and that is the perfect word for the grand tour and Monty, Percy, and Felicity reel from place to place and misadventure to misadventure.

Although she was a secondary character, I loved Felicity. She is getting her own book next year. According to Goodreads, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is “narrated by Felicity and featuring travel, pirates, and a science girl gang”.

Christian Coulson’s narration is fabulous. The novel is written in the first person and Coulson captures Percy’s arrogance perfectly in addition to his confusion and transformation.

There is sexual activity and language, so this is a book for mature readers.

Publisher’s Summary:  A young bisexual British lord embarks on an unforgettable Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush. An 18th-century romantic adventure for the modern age written by This Monstrous Thing author Mackenzi LeeSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets the 1700s.

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

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