Reviews

Friends for Ever-After: Friends For Life by Andrew Norris

Norriss, Andrew. Friends For Life. David Fickling Books/Scholastic, Inc., 2015. 234 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-545-85186-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy (ghosts)

Part of a series? No.

Plot Summary:

Francis is having a tough time; he sits alone frequently because no one at his school thinks that fashion design is a normal hobby for a boy. When Jessica sits with him at lunch, he is surprised by their pleasant conversation … and more surprised to learn that she is a ghost. Jessica is equally surprised; no one can ever see her. Together, Jessica and Francis bond, and when more people are able to see Jessica, the friends must find out if their ability to see Jessica means that they have something they need to do.

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This was a very sweet book. I had no idea what it was about when I started it, so I was very surprised by some of the twists. Without giving away too much, the book is about bullying and suicide. The topics are handled very thoughtfully, and the idea that life is worth living is upheld throughout the novel. I would be careful about how young of a reader I would hand-sell this too; suicide is a tough topic, and I would want to ensure that a reader was properly emotionally mature to read this one, but for many middle-graders, this will be a powerful read.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a really great reading circle group. I wonder if it would be fun for people to (perhaps anonymously) submit things they are interested in (in the event that they are as shy as Francis is about his hobby). Alternately, we could have a non-anonymous sharing of talents and a kind of “teach your hobby” day in the library for kids to showcase their abilities and help teach friends how to do those things (i.e., fashion design or coding or … anything!). (Ideas from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8 (Titlewave says 3-6, but given the topic >>> suicide , I’m leaning more towards Kirkus Reviews’ age range)

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Library Media Connection starred 2/1/16

Publishers Weekly starred 5/18/15

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Reviews

George by Alex Gino

Gino, Alex. George. Scholastic Press, 2015. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-545-81254-2; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51811-632-2

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES!!!

 

Genre: Realistic Contemporary Fiction/LGBTQIA Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

George has a big secret — she’s a girl. She wishes that she could ask people to call her Melissa; she wants to wear makeup and dresses and perfume. How to tell her family? She doesn’t know what to do. She does know that she wants to be Charlotte in the class play of Charlotte’s Web. She confides this dream to her best friend Kelly, and Kelly encourages her to go for it. Auditions don’t go as planned, however, and when George’s mom finds and confiscates her secret stash of girls’ magazines, it looks like nothing will go George’s way. Will anyone ever accept George for who she is? Or will all of them — bullies like Jeff who beat her up, well-meaning adults like Ms. Udell who refer to her bright future as a wonderful young man, or her mother who refers to George’s interest in girls’ things as “not cute anymore” — crush her spirit and force her to live a life that isn’t right for her?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

George is a fantastic protagonist. Her voice is so clear that it is almost as though readers are reading the actual diary of a middle school girl. Gino’s writing shines, and their narration never sounds like an adult pretending to be a kid speaking. This book is a must-read for all middle graders (and teachers … and parents … and people in general)! The drama-nerd life is also clearly expressed, and as a drama enthusiast myself, I loved that plotline.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I’d love to feature this as a book club book or reading circle choice. A potential activity would be for kids to design the set for a play if we were to stage George as a drama; this would allow for a discussion of what it takes to design a simple set, and we could talk about what the most important places were in the novel so that we can focus on those locations. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 8/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 6/1/15

Publishers Weekly starred 5/11/15

School Library Journal starred 7/1/15

Stonewall Book Award 2016

 

Reviews referenced:

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, May 6). George (Review of the book George). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/alex-gino/george/

Pavao, K. (n. d.). George (Review of the book George). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/george

Reviews

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Mullaly Hunt, Lynda. Fish in a Tree. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 276 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-399-16259-6; Tr. $7.69, ISBN 978-0-14-242642-5; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-5811-637-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This book is a deep dive into Ally Nickerson’s experience with her dyslexia. Unable to read and convinced that she is just stupid, Ally has worked very hard to prevent anyone from knowing just how much trouble she has with homework. She would rather get sent to the office for misbehavior than have her secret found out. Unfortunately, at her teacher’s baby shower, the principal pulls Ally into the hall to chastise her for the card she gave Mrs. Hall. Ally is perplexed — it had been a card with beautiful flowers on it. To her horror, she learns it was a sympathy card. Now everyone thinks she’s a monster for giving a sympathy card to her teacher who was leaving for maternity leave … hopefully, her substitute teacher won’t judge her too harshly for this mistake. Will Mr. Daniels catch on to her secret? Will anyone be able to help?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is not only a gripping book about dyslexia, but it also explores middle school awkwardness, bullies, and friendships. Ally bonds with Keisha, a girl who is very outspoken, and Albert, a science-obsessed classmate who cuts the backs off of his shoes when they get too small for him because he cannot afford a new pair. The class bully zeroes in on the trio, but Ally’s friendships help her to keep her head high. Teachers are presented as human figures — capable of mistakes but trying to do their best.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book club book or read aloud. Perhaps this would be a good reading circle book. Students should lead this discussion, as it is the kids in the novel who band together to carve out a place for themselves in the school’s hierarchy. Having students lead discussion and take charge of the topics and activities for this unit would be interesting. (Idea from myself)

 

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 12/15/14

Library Media Connection starred 9/1/15

School Library Journal starred 1/1/15

 

Reviews referenced:
Kirkus Reviews. (2014, Nov. 18). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lynda-mullaly-hunt/fish-in-a-tree/

Moore, T. (n. d.). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/fish-in-a-tree

Publishers Weekly. (2014, Dec. 1). Fish in a tree (Review of the book Fish in a Tree). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-399-16259-6