Readjustment blues: Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

Dee, Barbara. Halfway Normal.  Aladdin, 2017. 247 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-1-48147-851-9

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

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Part of a series? No.

Book Summary:

Norah’s cancer finally appears to be in remission, meaning Norah can FINALLY return to school after two long years away. That said, jumping right back into middle school is a little bit scary, especially considering that she wants to be just-Norah, not “The Girl Who …”, especially especially considering that none of the adults will say the “c-word” (cancer) and that kids only see her as the girl who got sick. When she hits it off with new kid Griffin, she’s more desperate than ever to be a “normal” kid who just happens to have had cancer. Can she blend in as she wishes, or will her teachers’ insistence on how cancer must have shaped her and her parents’ overprotectiveness give her away?

Reader’s Comments:
Norah is such a delightful character. She’s sassy, she’s worried, she’s sweet, and she’s just an all-around great seventh grader to follow through this novel. I definitely recommend this book about what happens when a student survives cancer and needs to return to school.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews starred, 06/15/17

School Library Connection starred, 11/01/17
School Library Journal starred, 08/01/17


Bad News Ballerinas: Tiny Pretty Things

Charaipotra, Sona, & Clayton, Dhonielle. Tiny Pretty Things. Narrated by Imani Parks, Nora Hunter, Greta Jung. HarperTeen, 2015. 13 hours and 12 minutes. (438 pages). Hardcover $15.44, ISBN978-0-06-234239-3; PLB $15.56, ISBN 978-1-51812-929-2; TR $8.54, ISBN 978-0-06-234240-9;  Audio $26.45

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

Genre: YA/Realistic Fiction/Ballet!

Part of a Series? Yes — duology; Shiny Broken Pieces is the sequel

Plot Summary:

Life at the American Ballet Conservatory is cutthroat. The book opens with new girl Cassie reflecting on her good luck to be a young dancer with a solo part in the show … only to have her suffer a fall that injures her so badly that she must leave the conservatory.

The story picks up the next school year. Gigi is the new girl in school, fresh from California. Also the conservatory’s only black dancer, she immediately feels ill at ease, missing the camaraderie of her California studio. Bette Abney knows that this is her year to take all of the solo roles, and June Kim realizes that her mother’s ultimatum — a solo or she must go to public school — is for real. When Gigi earns the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Bette is left reeling, things get tense. Bette will stop at nothing to be the best … and June is finding herself more and more motivated to do just the same. Who will be the prima?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a lightning-fast story. Each narrator has secrets, motivations, and needs that keep the reader going. For readers who enjoy some serious drama (with startling consequences!), this book has a lot to offer.

One note: the audiobook gets tough when actors need to do accents for the Russian teachers.

Trigger Warnings:

  • eating disorders
  • violence
  • drug abuse
  • harassment

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:


Grade Level: YA (9-12)

Awards and Starred Reviews: n/a



Leave it on the court: The Crossover

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 237 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN  978-0-544-10771-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-48985-855-9


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes


Genre: Sports Novel/Novel in Verse


Part of a series? No, but Alexander’s Booked is similar in style and content for readers who want more like this book.


Plot Summary:

Josh (Filthy McNasty) and Jordan (JB) Bell are twins and stars of their middle school basketball team. Their father Chuck Bell, former basketball star, helps them prepare for their goals of eventually playing on all-star college teams. When Josh loses a bet, his bald-headed brother gets to cut off a precious lock from Josh’s hair. Joking around, JB doesn’t pay attention to his cutting and ends up chopping off five locks, forcing Josh to get his hair cut short. Deprived of his prized hair, Josh’s mood can only worsen when JB falls for the new girl in her pink Reeboks; with both his hair and the company of his brother taken from him, Josh loses his temper during a game and hits his brother in the face with a ball so hard he nearly breaks JB’s nose. Their mother suspends Josh from the team, leaving him more free time to worry about his father’s failing health — and the fact that his father refuses to see a doctor.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Alexander’s poetry flies across the page. Moments can be slow and contemplative, or words can explode, grow, smash together, and slide around as Josh describes the game he plays. The story progresses at a good clip, and the passage of time marked by holidays and the food shared is a powerful way to return readers to the thought of food and how it affects the family.


This is a fantastic book; writing a novel in verse is not easy, and this book is gorgeous. The action, the thought behind those actions, and the characters themselves are brought to life. I would recommend this to any reader; sports fans may love the play-by-play details, but anyone can enjoy the poetry.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be fantastic for a poetry unit. Readers can also make poems out of alphabet soup and cookies, adding a 3-D level to the poetry creation. Students can also go out into the school community for fifteen minutes and just listen, then come back and write a poem incorporating when they heard on campus; Alexander uses this onomatopoeic technique frequently, and those are always exciting poems to read. (Ideas from myself).


Grade Level: 5-8


Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2015

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 2/1/14

Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 2015

Kirkus Reviews starred 1/15/14

Library Media Connection starred 8/1/14

Newbery Medal, 2015

Publishers Weekly starred 1/20/14

School Library Journal starred 3/1/14

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 8/1/14


Reviews referenced:

Clarke, T. (n. d.). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (2013, Dec. 18). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from

Vardan, E. (2015, Apr. 26). The crossover by Kwame Alexander  |  Book review (Review of the book The Crossover). The Children’s Book Review. Retrieved from


Magazine! ChopChop

ChopChop Magazine. Belmont, MA: ChopChop Kids. 4 issues yearly. $14.95 per year

Interest Level: 3-8

Cuisine: Varied

This magazine is a resource for families who want to get cooking together. The issues include wonderful columns such as ideas for being more active (“Lead the Way—Take a Walk After Dinner” is one in the Fall 2016 issue), interviews with young activists or food experts, and fun food-themed puzzles and games such as mazes and word searches. Recipes include many great photos, including step-by-step photos for more complex actions in recipes (i.e., how to flip a quesadilla in the pan). Children of varying ages are shown doing age-appropriate cooking tasks; for example, photos of a little boy named Liam show him helping to shake something up and do other tasks safe for a very young child to do in the kitchen. Older children are shown using blenders and chopping vegetables. Captions also explain what each child is doing, naming children by name so that the information is made more concrete rather than a more abstract direction (i.e., “Liam is mixing…” instead of “Mix the ingredients”). The reason I chose to add this subscription is because it has a lot to offer a library collection. Not only is it endorsed and reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was also named “publication of the year” by the James Beard Foundation, an honor that Judy Bolton-Fasman of Huffington Post points out is “the equivalent of an Oscar in the food world” (2013). Each issue has a theme, and it is filled with recipes and ideas based on that quarter’s cooking theme. This means that plenty of new recipes will be coming in every few months for kids to try. It also shows children of varying ages cooking; this helps reinforce the idea that kids are able to cook, and this may help children stick with wanting to learn even when new recipes are hard. Finally, the interviews and other supplementary material give kids something else to look at while flipping through; they can learn other things about nutrition as they browse recipes.


Review referenced:

Bolton-Fasman, J. (2013, Sept. 9). Cooking fun, cooking healthy with ChopChop Magazine and Cookbook. Huffington Post. Retrieved from     healt_b_3893517.html