Reviews

Here for a reason: GOODBYE STRANGER by Rebecca Stead

Stead, Rebecca. Goodbye Stranger. Read by Kimberly Farr, Meera Simhan, and Kirby Heyborne. Wendy Lamb Books, 2015. 289 pages/6 hours and 59 minutes. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-0-375-99098-4; hardcover (library binding) $19.99, ISBN 978-0-375-99098-4; PLB $13.06, ISBN 978-1-53791-774-0; TR $6.84, ISBN 978-0-307-98086-1

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Part of a series? No.

Book Summary:

Bridge survived a catastrophic accident when she was little, and she can’t get the following words out of her head after a nurse remarks upon her survival, “You must be here for a reason.” What reason could that be? That’s a tough enough question without taking into account that this year Bridge and her best friends Tab and Em are starting seventh grade. While they’ve sworn on a Twinkie that they’ll never fight, will seventh grade and all of its trappings test the bonds of their friendship?

Reviewer’s Notes:

I really enjoyed this book. Bridge sounds like a seventh grader — she wants to be older, but she also misses the simpler days before all of the politics and intricacies of being twelve. Her friends are distinct characters, and the changes in point of view from Bridge’s present-day, Sherm’s letters to Nono Gio, and an unnamed character on Valentine’s Day keep the story moving nicely.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 05/15/15
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred, 09/01/15
Horn Book Guide starred, 04/01/16
Horn Book Magazine starred, 07/01/15
Kirkus Reviews starred, 06/01/15
Publishers Weekly starred, 05/11/15
School Library Journal starred, 05/01/15
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred, 08/01/15

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Reviews

Teen Read You Can’t Miss: The Hate U Give

To be honest, I posted this review during the summer but took it down because I was not sure about reviewing YA (even AWESOME YA!) that I wouldn’t add to my middle grade collection. I’ve read some great YA recently, however, that is causing me to rethink my posting decision, so I am putting this review back up on this blog. 

Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Read by Bahni Turpin. Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. 444 pages/11 hours and 40 minutes. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-0-06-249853-3; Digital audiobook $29.65, ASIN: B01N6DZ5W9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes, for older readers.

Genre: Realistic Fiction (YA)

Part of a series? No.

Book Summary:

Starr Carter finds herself never quite feeling herself. Going to a school in a very affluent community while living in a poor neighborhood means that she constantly finds herself performing: at school, she’s Williamson Starr — no slang, no attitude. With her neighborhood friends, she’s Garden Heights Starr. Starr must find a way to balance these identities when after a party, her childhood friend Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer after being pulled over. Khalil was unarmed, but as a young black man who also dealt drugs, his portrait is painted as a thug by the police and the media. Can Starr, the sole witness, speak up and testify before the grand jury?

Grade Level: YA

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2016)

The National Book Award 2017 Young Adult Literature Long List

Reviews

Sabotaging Summer Plans: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Zamora, Pablo. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. Read by the author. Viking, 2017. 236 pages/5 hours and 6 minutes. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-1-10199-723-9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Arturo is ready to spend the summer working at his family’s restaurant and eating all the ice cream he can get at Two Scoops. Enter Carmen, his family friend who has suddenly gotten super cute? And Wilfrido Pipo, a cartoonishly evil land developer bent on buying the land out from under the Zamora’s restaurant. Plus, Abuela’s health is only getting worse. Arturo doesn’t want to stress her out about the restaurant, and learning about Cuban poet José Martí is a meaningful way to spend time with his abuela (and learn about poetry so he can impress Carmen), but is it really going to help? Can Arturo and Carmen work together to save the restaurant from Pipo’s gentrification?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is AMAZING. The Zamora’s dishes are deliciously described. Cartaya captures a young teen’s voice perfectly, and Arturo is a wonderful main character. He has a lot of heart, a lot of awkwardness, and a lot of love for his family. He’s hilarious and sweet, and his friends are super supportive. This is a fantastic read.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 04/01/17

Kirkus Reviews starred, 03/15/17

Publishers Weekly Annex starred, 05/15/17

Reviews

Mysteries, Magic, and Munch: Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley

Beasley, Cassie. Tumble & Blue. Read by Kirby Heyborne. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 390 pages/8 hours and 18 minutes. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-0-525-42844-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Magical Realism/Fantasy

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Every hundred years, a mystical alligator appears in the Okeefenokee swamp. Whosoever finds this alligator has the chance to have their fate miraculously improved. Two hundred years ago, a Montgomery and a Lafayette arrived at Munch (the name the Montgomerys have given the gator) at the same time. When it became clear that one could not best the other, they asked to split  the fate … thereby cursing their families down the generations. Now, Munch is set to reappear…can Blue Montgomery fix his fate so that he is no longer condemned to lose? And will Tumble (Lafayette) Wilson — a girl determined to be a hero no matter what life throws at her — be able to help her friend reverse his fate? And what will they do if the other Montgomerys get to Munch first?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is delicious! Beasley’s writing is delightful, and Heyborne’s narration is amazing. Munch’s voice is wonderfully wicked, and Blue and Tumble are always easily distinguishable. Each cousin has a different voice, and none of the girls’ voices go into the obnoxious “Girl Voice Falsetto” that some narrators in the audiobook industry use. The story is totally engaging, and the magic of Munch’s appearances is really well done. Each Fate is also fascinating; in all, I highly recommend!

Grade Level :3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 06/01/17
Kirkus Reviews starred, 06/01/17
Publishers Weekly starred, 06/12/17
School Library Journal starred, 07/01/17

Readalikes?

Holes by Louis Sachar

Reviews

Friendship on the Field: Braced by Alyson Gerber

Gerber, Alyson. Braced. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 281 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-0-545-90214-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

At the end of her vacation before seventh grade, Rachel finds out that her scoliosis has progressed to the point where she must wear a brace. She is fitted for her brace and prescribed a 23-hour-a-day routine. Rachel has big plans for seventh grade — making starter offense on the soccer team, getting to know a guy from class better, and generally being awesome. A brace for her scoliosis has no place in her plans, but her mom refuses to let Rachel spend extra time out of her brace. Can Rachel still rock it on the soccer field in her brace? Will her teammates support her, or are they just laughing at her?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a great book. The author draws on her own experience of having to wear a brace as a teen, and Rachel’s voice comes through super clearly and realistically.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred02/01/16

Kirkus Reviews starred12/15/16

 

Reviews

Places, people! SHORT by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Sloan, Holly Goldberg. Short. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. Read by Tara Sands. 296 pages/6 hours and 33 minutes. Hardcover  $14.59, ISBN 978-0-399-18621-9 ; TR $7.69, ISBN 978-0-399-18622-6

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction / Theatre

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Julia Marks is having a rough start to her summer. Her dog/best friend Ramon has just passed away, and she finds herself looking for him all the time. She’s feeling misunderstood; with Ramon, she never had to talk about why she never says the word “short” or how it feels to be the one in the family small enough to sneak in the dog door when someone forgets their keys. This summer, she’s supposed to look after her little brother Randy, and perhaps as a way to keep both kids occupied, Mrs. Marks has Julia try out for the summer production of The Wizard of Oz with Randy. To Julia’s huge surprise, she does well enough to get cast. As a munchkin, she gets to work with Olive, a little person and adult cast member. Julia does well enough that she becomes the dance captain for the munchkins, plus she gets an added role as a Winged Monkey. Her neighbor Mrs. Chang is so excited to hear about Julia’s summer project that she starts making munchkin costumes for Julia. When Sean Barr, the director of the show, sees Julia’s munchkin gear, Mrs. Chang finds herself a role in the show. As summer progresses, Julia begins to wonder if her height really does define her — and whether that is a good or a bad thing.

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book had me crying within the first five minutes … basically, as soon as she mentioned Ramon, I was a goner. Actually, nearly every time she really talks about Ramon, I end up crying. But that’s just me! The book itself was wonderful. Julia’s first foray into the world of acting is really sweet, interesting, and plausible. It feels like readers are backstage with her as she learns what wings are, what it means to hit your mark, and more.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 10/15/16

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred, 12/01/16

Readalikes?

Better Nate than Never (according to Those About to Mock)

I’m curious to see if How to Stage a Catastrophe is a readalike.

Reviews

Punks and Posada: THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK by Celia C. Pérez

Pérez, Celia C. The First Rule of Punk. Read by Trini Alvarado. Viking/Recorded Books, 2017. 310 pages/5 hours and 20 minutes. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN978-0-425-29040-8

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!!!

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Maria Luisa O’Neill-Morales — Malú — lives and breathes punk music. Growing up in her father’s record store Spins and Needles has helped her be able to craft her punk identity. This means that moving to Chicago with her mother (“Super Mexican”) for her mother’s new professorship will also mean finding a way to preserve her punk self while not getting into daily battles with her mom (who just wants Malú to act like una señorita). Moving away from everything she knows is hard, and none of the zines she’s made arguing her case to her mom change the fact that she’ll be living in Chicago for the next two years. Upon arrival, Malú learns that not only is her punk cred unimportant to her classmates, she also finds that they expect her to act like una señorita, too, referring to her as a “coconut” for her love of punk music and culture. Can Malú stay true to herself and find a place in her new school?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is fantastic. The music references are cool, the descriptions of Malú’s zines are awesome, and the development of each character is wonderful. I would absolutely hand this off to students looking for coming-of-age stories, stories about moving away, and stories about finding yourself.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews starred06/15/17

Publishers Weekly Annex starred08/07/17

School Library Journal starred06/01/17

 

Readalikes?

Frazzled by Booki Vivat

 

Reviews

The fox and his boy: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. Balzer + Bray, 2016. 276 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-0-06-237701-2; PLB $20.46, ISBN 978-1-53792-339-0

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Realistic fiction

Part of a series? No.

Plot Summary:

When Peter’s father announces that he must go to war, it means that Peter must move in with his silent grandfather … and give up his beloved fox, Pax. Pax is puzzled by his boy’s sadness that day in the car, and when his boy throws the toy soldier far into the woods, Pax thinks it’s a game of fetch. Instead, both fox and boy are crushed as Peter is forced to rush into the car and leave his fox behind. After his first day with his grandfather, Peter realizes he can’t leave Pax on his own in the wild. Peter sets off on foot to cover the distance to find his fox. Pax realizes that living in the wild is much harder than living with his boy. Can Pax learn to take care of himself? Will he be alone forever? Will Peter make it to his fox?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book KILLED ME. I have a “no books with animals on the cover” rule because if the book is meant to be serious, I KNOW I’ll be ugly-sobbing by the end. Pax definitely delivers on that front! On his adventures, Peter meets Vola, a war veteran with one leg. Vola is a powerful character, and I loved her chapters. Pax’s voice as a narrator is clear and beautiful. Ultimately, this is a great book that I know I will never read again (TOO MUCH CRYING). I would absolutely hand this to a fan of wilderness, survival, and animal stories.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 11/01/15

Kirkus Reviews starred, 11/01/15

Publishers Weekly starred, 11/16/15

School Library Journal starred, 12/01/15

Reviews

She is here, she is here, she is here: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Barnhill, Kelly Regan. The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Narrated by Christina Moore. Algonquin Young Readers/Recorded Books, 2016. 388 pages, 9 hours and 37 minutes. Hardcover $15.41, ISBN 978-1-61620-567-6; PLB $18.56, ISBN 978-1-53791-113-7

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!!!!

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Each year, the Protectorate must sacrifice the youngest child to an evil witch who lurks in the woods. This sacrifice guarantees the Protectorate’s continued subsistence…a meager one, fed mainly by a mystical bog and often filled with suffering. The sacrifice is a necessary evil … or, at least, that’s what the Grand Elders want the people to think. There is no witch. Except, unbeknownst to the Elders, there is a witch, and she’s good. The witch, an old woman named Xan, rescues the baby every year and finds a new home for the child in the Free Cities, feeding the child starlight along the way. One year, a woman fights the Elders who come for her baby. The woman is imprisoned in the Sisters’ tower and diagnosed mad. The baby captures Xan’s heart, and one night by mistake, Xan feeds the child moonlight and enmagics her. Luna the baby is so magical that Xan must bind her magic until her thirteenth birthday. Will Luna learn how to use her magic? Is Fyrian a Perfectly Tiny dragon? Will the Protectorate ever be free of its sorrow? And why do Xan and her swamp monster Glerk remember only that “Sorrow is dangerous?”

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

UGH THIS BOOK. This book is pure magic. Christina Moore’s reading is delightful; as Barnhill has written a gem of a book that draws on oral tradition, Moore’s performance is a truly wonderful storytelling feat. Fyrian’s voice is a treat, and Glerk’s grumbling is great. This is absolutely a pick for readers who want to know more about defeating evil or coming of age. The story is extremely dark, but I think kids who already love dystopias are going to be fine with this one.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 07/01/16
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred, 09/01/16
Kirkus Reviews starred, 06/01/16

Newbery Medal, 2017
Publishers Weekly starred, 06/06/16
School Library Journal starred, 07/01/16
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred, 10/01/16