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

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

Reviews

HOROBOD, or would that be HOROWOD? Rowan Hood by Nancy Springer

Springer, Nancy. Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. Read by Emily Gray. Playaway All-in-One Audiobook/Findaway World, 2010. 4 hours. Playaway $54.75, ISBN 978-1-44071-207-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this audiobook? Yes

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes — the Rowan Hood series

Plot Summary:

Rosemary’s mother is gone; burned to death by people who think she’s an evil witch simply because she is the descendant of the Elfin people, Celandine sends her daughter a spell of protection as the house is lit ablaze. Motherless and homeless, thirteen-year-old Ro disguises herself as a boy (“Rowan”) and leaves for Sherwood Forest to find her father, Robin Hood. Along the way, she offends Guy of Gisborne when she refuses to hand over her outlaw arrows (simple bolts of sharpened wood). She also meets Lionel, a giant minstrel; Tykell, a wolf-dog; and Ettarde, an escaped princess. Will finding Robin Hood solve Ro’s problems? 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

For this book, I listened to the version narrated by Emily Gray. Gray’s voice was lilting and engaging, and her accent was perfect for listening to a Robin Hood story. The only problems I had as a listener were understanding some of the magical words Springer uses; for instance, I thought that Ro’s mother was one of the “Alpha” and had “Alphin” magic. It was not until I turned to Google (having no hard copy of the book at hand) to check the spelling and find it to be “Elfin!” This is a very minor issue, however, and Gray gracefully performs every voice and sound. Her voice for Lionel captures his spirit perfectly, and it’s never confusing when Ettarde and Ro speak to one another. The chapters are broken up well, and the Playaway was easy to use.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would hand this audiobook to any student who wanted a new way to experience fantasy. Listening to this story is a lot like sitting at a campfire (perhaps in an outlaw camp?) and hearing ballads of old heroes. This is a great pick for students who prefer to listen to books over traditional reading, but this is also a fun choice for any reader. The pacing is excellent, so while it might not be perfect for listening on a run, this is also a good book for students to listen to while cleaning or doing chores. (Idea from myself).

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 4/15/01