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Showing posts from March, 2017

Illuminae

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Kaufman, A. & Kristoff, J. (2015) Illuminae. New York, NY: Random House Children's Books. 
After a recent breakup, Kady and Ezra find themselves in the midst of a battle between defending Kerenza and surviving what could be the final assault of the evil mining corporation called BeiTech. BeiTech is bent on destroying any spaceship that comes against it, so it has destroyed all the escape wormholes and trapped all the escape ships. Kady loses her mom aboard the Copernicus, whose members are victims to a viral outbreak.  In the midst of reviving their romance, Ezra's whereabouts become a mystery and Kady begins to have somewhat of a romantic interlude with AIDEN, an artificial intelligence entity.  Kady continues to search for answers and to expose the horrors that BeiTech, which happens to be run by Ezra's lunatic mother, has done
This is begins a series surrounding BeiTech's attacks and those who rise against it.  Themes of loss, trust, and survival are present, al…

The Other Side Of The Wall

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Schwartz, S. (2015). The other side of the wall. Minneapolis, MN: Graphic Universe
The Schwartzes live in East Berlin. They whole life is there: their childhood, their parents, their collegiate experience, and even their son Simon was born there.  However, they begin to realize that living in East Berlin is not the best thing for them or their son.  This graphic novel is told in Simon's perspective.  He retells how his parents grew up, met each other in college, fell in love, and then decided to leave after Simon was born.  The government didn't allow them to leave for three years.  In that time, they forbade his father to work, his parents were forced to sell almost everything they had, and they were ostracized for their choice to leave.  Finally, tired and broke, they were granted permission to leave to West Berlin - and this is the first real memory Simon has a child.

Simon Schwartz's retelling of his family's struggle to be free of the ideals of East Berlin is simi…

Everthing Everything

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Alloy Entertainment & Yoon, N. (2015). Everything, everything. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.
Madeline Whittier suffers from SCID, which means she doesn't have an immune system and is susceptible to any illness.  As a result, her mother, who's a doctor, has kept her indoors and in a sterilized life.  Maddy has a nurse who cares for her during the day.  When Olly and his family move next door, he ends up communicating with Maddy.  She initially doesn't want to talk to him, but he gets her to communicate through emails and chat. Olly and Maddie form a friendship and ultimately see each other despite keeping their friendship from her mother. Maddie's nurse, Carla, gives Maddie permission to see Olly as well.  When Olly's father is violent with him and his mother in their front yard, Maddie rushes out to intervene - and her mother sees her. Maddie's mom forbids her to see and communicate with Olly, but Maddie decides that she wants to live despite her disease. …

Speak

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Anderson, L. H. (1999). Speak. Harrisonburg, VA: RR Donnelley & Sons Company
Miranda Sordino is an incoming freshman at Merryweather High School, but she's having a bad start.  She's the subject of bullying, is called a "squealer," an outcast, and a social pariah.  She'd love to talk to her friend Rachel about it, but she's disowned her too.  Her first day of class, she loses her way and gets in trouble, she doesn't think much of her teachers or classes, except for art, and she eats lunch alone in the cafeteria. Also on the first day, she get food thrown at her and she runs away.  When she's asked why she's leaving the cafeteria, she doesn't say a word, so she gets in trouble.  Miranda finds herself in these conditions because she was raped at the end-of-the-summer eighth grade party and called the police.  Nobody likes her much because of that.  Dealing with feelings of guilt, blame, and isolation, Miranda retreats into a closed at school.…

Lily & Dunkin

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Gephart, D. (2016). Lily and Dunkin. New York, NY: Delacorte Press
Donna Gephart unfolds the stories of Timothy McGrother, who is a transgender girl who'd prefer to be called Lily, and Norbert Dorfman, a boy who's recently moved from New Jersey to Florida.  When Tim wears his mother's beautiful red dress and Norbert, who Tim later called Dunkin because he's carrying a beautiful Dunkin Donuts bag, see her, a connection is made.  Tim's mother and sister support him in his search to become comfortable with his identity as Lily, but Mr. McGrother doesn't follow suit until he meets with a doctor who tells him that Lily's life is fragile. And that he should choose between having a dead son and a daughter who's alive. Things start to slowly turn around for Lily at home, but Tim still suffers from bullying at school.  Dunkin, who doesn't know about Lily until the second half of the book, has started to hang out with the bullies, who are also his basketball …

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

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Kind, A. S. (2010). Please ignore Vera Dietz. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
Vera Dietz is a girl who'd rather be under the radar... but the death of her best friend Charlie, who she also loved (and hated) has put her under a limelight she'd rather do without.  Charlie and Vera were neighbors and best friends.  As they grew up in their dysfunctional families (Charlie with an abusive father and when Vera was twelve, her mother left her and her dad), they struggled with feelings of love, self-esteem, sexuality, domestic violence, friendship, and abandonment.  Then, Charlie dies of mysterious causes on the same day the pet store is burned.  The whole town thinks it was Charlie who did it, except for Vera. Vera struggles with the idea to clear Charlie's name because she loved him even though their relationship was virtually nonexistent about five months before he died. In the midst of feeling hatred toward Charlie after death and missing him terribly, Vera does the right thi…

The Fault In Our Stars

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Green, J. (2012). The fault in our stars. New York, NY: Penguin Group
Hazel's parents mean well by trying to protect her because her cancer's made her fragile; however, Hazel wants to be her own person and have a little more control of her life. During a support group meeting, Hazel meets Gus, another cancer patient. Hazel is reluctant to become friends at first, but afterward, Gus shows her that one can still live in the midst of pain, chemotherapies, and the looming thought that cancer will end it all.  Gus and Hazel share some very meaningful moments; Gus takes her abroad to meet the author of her favorite book.  Ultimately, Gus succumbs to cancer and Hazel must see beyond her sadness to remember her meaningful times with Gus and the beauty of life in a the bleakness of illness. Hazel's mom begins preparations to be a counselor herself and this brings Hazel comfort - to know that her mom will have a life after Hazel is gone. 
Being terminally ill and facing the possibil…

Deadline

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Crutcher, C. (2007). Deadline. New York, NY: HarperCollins Children's Books
This is the story of Ben's last year of life. After he learns that he has a rare blood disease, he decides to live his last year of high school to the fullest. Ben decides to play football with his brother Cody, who he is very close to.  He also decides to pursue the most beautiful girl on campus, Dallas Suzuki. He gathers the courage to approach her, and she asks him to hang out with her.  Later, they sleep together, and after that romance "dies," Ben focuses on other goals he's set for himself.  He challenges his teachers because he reads a lot, like his father.  He wants to make sure that Mr. Lambeer teaches in a fashion that is unbiased by his own opinions. Mr. Lambeer's lessons inspire Ben to challenge his small, all-white, town to name a street after Malcolm X.  He isn't able to see his dream realized; however, he does realize that keeping his mystery illness from his fragil…

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir

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Engle, M. (2015). Enchanted air: Two cultures, two wings: a memoir. New York, NY: Atheneum Books For Young Readers
This Pura Belpré winner and Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction finalist is a rendition of the author's life and how she feels about belonging to two countries: Cuba and the United States. Margarita Engle describes her life and experiences of visiting Cuba, remembering her mother's land, her family members, and living as an American in Los Angeles. Engle provides numerous poems with rich language and imagery so that the reader can also envision how these two places look and feel.  Then, Cuba experiences a revolution lead by Fidel Castro and the United States reacts with the Bay of Pigs assault. Engle describes her fear for Cuba and how her family will be affected by such unrest between two countries.  She is unable to revisit Cuba in 1960 and the Cuban Missile Crisis leaves a void in her heart that is never filled until present times under the administration of f…

Roller Girl

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Jamieson, V. (2015) Roller girl. New York, NY: The Penguin Group
Jamieson tells the story of Astrid's interesting summer between elementary and junior high school. Astrid's mother, who culturally enlightens her daughter from time to time, takes her to a roller derby bout for the first time.  Astrid is incredibly enthralled and knows that it's something her best friend Nicole and her would love to do together.  But... Nicole's sight is on ballet instead. Astrid is crushed that Nicole would rather dance ballet with Rachel, the worst person to ever exist, than hang out with her. This initiates a rough summer where Astrid will have to do things on her own, make new friends, and come to terms with some changes between her and her best friend Nicole. At the end of the story, Astrid comes to terms with not being a jammer (the player who scores the points) and having other friends besides Nicole.
I really liked this book.  Many middle school kids have to come to terms with let…

It's Perfectly Normal

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Harris, R. & Emberley, M. (1994). It's perfectly normal. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press
Robie Harris and Michael Emberley team up once again to talk about the normal changes teens undergo when they enter puberty and while they're growing up.  This book includes sections on defining sex, the human anatomy (inside and out), puberty, masturbation, families & babies, laws concerning reproduction, planning, and staying healthy. This book is helpful with simple language, diagrams, drawings, and pictures that will help kids, and even young adults, answer questions about the many changes that occur during puberty and how these affect adulthood.
In a follow up to It's So Amazing and a precursor to It's Not The Stork, this book completes the essential family library.  I must admit, I felt a little uneasy even opening this selection because of all the pictures of naked people and even simple depictions of masturbation.  In retrospect, it was literature about my changing …

When You Reach Me

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Stead, R. (2009). When you reach me. New York, NY: Wendy Lamb Books


Rebecca Stead arranges an incredibly clever story entertaining the idea of how time travel can affect relationships and the importance of the decisions we make.  Stead takes us through Miranda's unique experiences with a mysterious note writer who is able to make three things happen for Miranda.  She surrounds herself with her friends: Sal, who is her friend from when they were very young, Annamarie, who suffers from epilepsy, Julia, who she can't stand, and Colin, who she develops feelings for. Mark is a kid who bullies Sal and turns out to be a important because Stead enables him to travel through time. Miranda learns that Mark has traveled back in time and has been posing as the Laughing Man, who is homeless, outside her home. He comes back to save Sal from an accident with a moving truck.  Being from the future, enabled the future Mark to make the three events happen for Miranda.  In the midst of solving th…

100 Sideways Miles

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Smith, A. (2014). 100 sideways miles. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Finn Easton has a near death experience when his mother was killed by a falling horse as they passed under the freeway.  As a result, Finn has had several back surgeries and is epileptic.  Finn feels his father, who is an author, has used his condition in his books, although his father denies it.  Regardless, Finn feels like this is part of his dad's new book.  Finn father also doesn't like that he has a friend named Cade Hernandez.  Cade is rude, arrogant, and impolite to his teachers at school; however, he is a good friend to Finn - especially when Julia Bishop comes to their high school.  Julia was raped by her boyfriend; as a result, she fled Chicago and came to town to get away from him.  Finn falls in love with Julia, and when they kiss, he thinks there will be more to their relationship.  Unfortunately Julia ends up moving back to Chicago.  Finn is crushed by this move and decides to move on with …

Anya's Ghost

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Brosgol, V. (2011). Anya's ghost. New York, NY: Roaring Books Press.
Anya is a girl who's trying to find comfort in her own skin.  Being Russian and having a crush on a guy who's already taken is not exactly Anya's cup o' tea.  She could really use a true friend.  One day, as Anya is walking home, she falls into an old well in the middle of the woods.  There, she meets a ghost who seems to be the friend she's been looking for.  The ghost makes it out of well with Anya and helps her cheat on tests, find out about the guy she likes, and gets her invited to a party.  She's perfect for Anya. However, the more Anya finds out about her, the more Anya realizes that her new friend had her own agenda.  After she discovers that her ghost wants to live the life she lost by using Anya and that she is a murderer, Anya returns her crazy, ghost friend to the well she found her. Anya also makes peace with her life as it is.
Anya's Ghost includes topics that relate to se…

Drama

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Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.
Callie is a seventh grader in love with stage design and has a crush on Greg. But after Greg doesn't share the same feelings, she decides to occupy her time executing the best set design for the school play, Moon Over Mississippi. She continues to work in the midst of school friend drama.  While she tries to get over Greg, brothers Justin and Jesse walk into her life. Justin tries out for the lead in the play and gets a secondary part.  He also confesses to Callie that he is gay. Callie is there for him and continues to work hard on the set. She sets her eyes on Justin's brother Jessie. On the last showing, the leading lady refuses to perform because the leading man broke up with her, and it's Jesse who dresses up and sings the lady's part to save the show.  Callie is thrilled to be stage director next year and to have great friends.
Drama includes conflicts that plague any teenager.  This graphic novel is a g…

I Was A Teenage Fairy

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Block, F. L. (1998). I was a teenage fairy. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
A life of a young girl trapped in her mother's dream of being a model - this is Barbie's life. The book starts examining Barbie's life at the age of 11.  Her mother, a woman with a failed dream, drives her daughter to be the model she couldn't be. Barbie continues to model into her teens, and when she is 16 years old meets Todd. Todd is another model who later becomes Barbie's boyfriend.  Griffin, Todd's gay roommate, also becomes very good friends with Barbie.  Barbie is the product of a dysfunctional family.  Her mother forces her to be a part of the modeling world by any means necessary, putting Barbie in harm's way when she meets a photographer, who she and Griffin call a crocodile because they don't like him.  Both Barbie and Griffin have been sexually molested by this photographer, and that's why they both see a fairy named Mab.  Mab talks to Barbie in this inc…

The Knife Of Never Letting Go

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Ness, P. (2008). The knife of never letting go. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press
Patrick Ness begins this three-book series with the story of Todd.  Todd lives in Prentisstown, a place inhabited completely by men. Prentisstown has infected all men with a germ called Noise, which allows every thought to be heard... even an animal's thoughts (Todd can hear what his dog, Manchee thinks).  Todd ventures away from home from time and time, and on one outing, he notices that there is mental silence.  When he tells his dads about this (he has two), they advise him to go away before anyone finds out that he has experienced not hearing anyone's thoughts and to avoid an imminent war.  On his way to safety, Todd finds a girl named Viola.  He's taken aback by her because he's never seen a girl before, nor does he understand why he can't hear her thoughts the way he does everyone else's in Prentisstown. Viola is the lone survivor of a wrecked space ship. Todd also learns tha…

Lafcadio Hearn's The Faceless Ghost and Other Macabre Tales From Japan

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Wilson, S. M. & Mirokawa, M. (2015). Lafcadio Hearn's the faceless ghost and other macabre tales from Japan.  Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
This collection of translated stories includes the following titles: Diplomacy (a tale about how one's state of mind before death affects those you leave behind), The Snow Woman (a story about the effect of broken promises), Of A Mirror And A Bell (a tale about how devotion and determination can lead to uncertain results), Hoichi The Earless (a story of Hoichi, a blind biwa player who plays for the dead), The Faceless Ghost (a retelling of an encounter with a faceless woman in the mountains), and The Gratitude of the Samebito (a tale about how a true act of kindness can have big rewards). In each tale, characters experience internal conflict, conflict with the past, honor, and the consequences of betrayal.
Japanese tales have been the inspiration for movies like The Grudge, which I thought was incredibly scary, and the conce…