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


Poems to enjoy: 19 Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye

Shihab Nye, Naomi. 19 Varieties of Gazelle. HarperTempest, c1994, p2002. 142 pages. Hardcover (by Greenwillow Books) $15.44, ISBN 978-0-06-009765-3; Tr. $5.84, ISBN 978-0-06-050404-5; PLB $14.66, ISBN 978-1-41558-344-9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Poetry

Part of a series? No.

Book Summary:

Naomi Shihab Nye collects poems about her family and life as a Palestinian-American woman as well as about Palestine and how the war in the Middle East has affected the countries and the people there. Her poems have a razor-focus, often discussing olives, lemons, shoes, or trees with intense thoughtfulness and care. The poems cover deaths of children and adults, lives lost to war, and memory.

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This collection of poetry is beautiful. I found myself pausing frequently to take in Shihab Nye’s words. Here is a quote from “What news are you listening to?” that stopped me and made me absorb it for a moment:

It was winter in a minute

O I could miss who said what said

but catch the coming of winter

let me be there

please (lines 11-15).

Her other poems will also stop and plead something, pausing the reader as well and making us think. I would absolutely recommend this anthology. I also had a chance to meet the poet last year when the head of now-my library department invited me to a reading while I was interviewing for my current position. I went to the poetry reading, and Shihab Nye’s composure as a person and a poet were striking. As I read the poems for this assignment, I found myself hearing them in her voice, which, while not mandatory for enjoyment of her work, made the poems even more powerful for me.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This is the kind of poetry that I want to make sure does not remain relegated to April displays. I would absolutely recommend this to students, and I think that this is a powerful choice for any reader. This could be a really strong choice to recommend to a student who is looking at global conflict and wants to read something from the perspective of someone who has seen war and loved those who have experienced war; seventh and eighth graders could definitely appreciate these nuances. This would be a strong book club choice as well and would be a great way to get students talking about poetry without being forced to feel as though they are diving into any rhyming couplets or “school-work” poetry. Once students have a chance to read and discuss, I would invite them to write some poetry, too. (Ideas from myself; I also know that Naomi Shihab Nye led writing workshops at the school when she visited last year, so that influenced my planning.)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2003

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 6/1/02

Horn Book Magazine starred 9/1/02

Kirkus Reviews starred 4/15/02

National Book Award Finalist, 2002

New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, 2004

School Library Journal starred 5/1/02

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 6/1/02


One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garica

Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. Amistad, 2010. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-06-076088-5; Tr. $4.54, ISBN 978-0-06-076090-8; PLB 1 $12.81, ISBN 978-0-329-96783-3; PLB 2 $16.89, ISBN 978-0-06-076089-2


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


Genre: Historical Fiction


Part of a series? Yes — Gaither Sisters series.


Plot Summary:

Delphine Gaither and her sisters Vonetta and Fern are in for a rough summer. Their father has decided it’s time they got to know their mother who left the family seven years before. In order to get to know her, they have to fly cross-country by themselves to Oakland where she now lives. It’s 1968, and their grandmother, Big Ma, is not thrilled about sending her granddaughters to “a pot of trouble boiling.” Even so, they go. Cecile — called Sister Nzila by the members of the Black Panther Party who visit her home and run the People’s Center — wants nothing to do with her daughters’ visit. She sends them to Black Panther summer camp a few blocks away. Will Delphine be able to protect her sisters from the trouble around them? Will she become part of the revolution?


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This story is completely engaging. Delphine is a fantastic narrator, utterly relatable and forced to be wise beyond her eleven years. She doesn’t take trouble from other people, and she is a wonderful filter for the events of the summer of 1968. I really enjoyed reading this book


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

It would make a strong book club choice or reading to go along with a unit in American History or literature. Activities for this book could include ones that were listed in the “Extras and Activities” section at the back of the copy I received from the library. Each of the activities looks interesting, but I would perhaps choose the first activity in which students would put together a playlist of songs from the 1960s that reflect the era as well as scenes from One Crazy Summer. As the activity directs, I would have students play a minute of their songs and explain A) what moment it’s for, B) what aspect of the era it is meant to convey, and C) anything else about the music they like. I might also try activity two in which kids “adopt” a poet of the sixties and read their poetry as well as writing poetry themselves. I would skip the last performative prompt, however, as I am not comfortable directing kids to do that one their own (even asking for parental permission).


Grade Level: 5-8


Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2011

Booklist starred 2/1/10

Christian Library Journal starred 11/1/14

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/10

Library Media Connection starred 3/1/10

Parents’ Choice Gold Award 2010

Newbery Honor, 2011

School Library Journal starred 3/1/10


Program Ideas from:

Williams-Garcia, R. (2010). One crazy summer. New York: HarperCollins Children’s.


Reviews referenced:

Breck, K. (n. d.). One crazy summer (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Bird, E. (2010, Feb. 2). Review of the day: One crazy summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (2010, Dec. 22). One crazy summer (Review of the book One Crazy Summer). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from



Booked by Kwame Alexander

Alexander, Kwame. Booked. Puffin Books, 2016. 336 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-544-57098-6; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51817-158-1


TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? YES


Genre: Novel in Verse


Part of a series? No, but very similar to another Alexander novel, The Crossover.


Plot Summary:

Nick has a lot on his plate — he’s a superstar soccer player in his club, he wants desperately to ask out April from his etiquette class (which will be difficult, since all he has managed is a strangled “hello”), and he is being forced to read and memorize his father’s dictionary of obscure words. Life gets more exciting as his soccer team receives an invitation to play in a major tournament in Dallas … as does his best friend, co-captain of his rival team. Then his parents announce they are separating. Mr. Mac the librarian tries to recruit Nick for the book club, and Nick keeps getting into trouble for zoning off in English class. When a medical emergency forces Nick to stay home from the tournament, life as he knows it is over. Or is it?


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a marvelous novel in verse about soccer, middle school life, and reading.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

The action flies — the poems capture Nick’s feelings, thoughts, and actions on the soccer field. It’s a great read for anyone — bookworms, soccer fans, and reluctant readers. This could be a fun book club book or poetry unit read. (Idea from myself)


Grade Level: 6 and up


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 2/1/16

Horn Book Guide starred 10/1/16

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/16

Kirkus Reviews starred 1/15/16

Publishers Weekly Annex starred 3/7/16

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 4/1/16


Review referenced:

Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group. (2016, Apr. 12). Teens review the latest from Kwame Alexander, Deb Caletti, and more (blog post). School Library Journal. Retrieved from