Literacy Daily

Book Reviews
    • Blog Posts
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Book Reviews
    • Job Functions
    • Content Types
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Student Level
    • Volunteer
    • Teacher Educator
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Reading Specialist
    • Literacy Coach
    • Librarian
    • Children's & YA Literature

    Family Matters

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Mar 06, 2017

    Families. By turns they leave us feeling loved and cherished as well as sometimes frustrated and confused, but love them or loathe them, there is no denying that the members of our families have great importance in our lives and keep us grounded and feeling supported. Open the cover of many books for children or teens, and you will find that family matters in many ways—no matter what form that family may take. This week’s reviews explore family and might prompt some readers to craft a gratitude list for their family.

    Ages 4–8

    Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story. Anna Forrester. Ill. Susan Detwiler. 2017. Arbordale.

    BatCountJoJo’s family share an interest in helping an endangered species survive by counting the bats that fly from their barn at dusk. After JoJo’s mother becomes worried about the species whose numbers are dropping due to white-nose syndrome, she enlists her family in counting them and sharing the data with scientists. From a high of thirty-nine one summer to a low of one in the last year, the numbers have dwindled. As JoJo’s family keep an eye on the sky, they spot three bats, a mother and two offspring. JoJo becomes hopeful that more bats will be born in future years, and perhaps the species will rebound. Back matter includes information about white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection which is killing bats, and an illustration of a diseased bat; bat facts; and background on how citizen scientists can become involved in helping researchers as they work to save bats. JoJo’s family is just one of many families who share an interest in solving environmental problems.

    A Cat Named Swan. Holly Hobbie. 2017. Random House.

    CatNamedSwanAfter his mother and siblings disappear from their cardboard box in an alley, a kitten is left to fend for himself. It isn't easy, but he manages to survive. The illustrations show just how small he is and how much danger surrounds him on the city streets. An animal control officer rescues the kitten and takes him to a shelter, from which he is adopted. As he grows accustomed to his new name—Swan—and his new family and their daily routines, he realizes that he is safe in his forever home. Although he lost one family at the start of the book, he finds another one at its conclusion. All members of Swan’s new family, including Woody the dog, integrate him into their lives. Reading this picture book, with pencil-and-watercolor illustrations which contain many details and rich colors featuring the cute kitten, may prompt readers to make a trip to a shelter to find their own purring machine to add to their family. Swan’s adoption changed his life as well as the lives of his human companions.

    Ages 9–11

    Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars. Martine Murray. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    MollyAndPimUnaware of the disadvantages, ten-year-old Molly desperately wants to blend in and be just like everyone else. But her mother, who is an herbalist and concocts various potions for what ails her family and neighbors, is clearly different from the other mothers. When her mother accidentally turns herself into a beautiful tree, Molly is left to her own devices. Alone and desperate, Molly enlists the help of Pim Wilder, a classmate who is interested in things that are different and doesn't question her story about her mother’s potions. Together, they come up with some possible solutions to her mother's plight, and along with another classmate, face down a threat from her grouchy neighbors to cut down the tree. This gently told story will have readers believing in the magic that surrounds Molly’s mother. By the book's conclusion, Molly has come to terms with her own uniqueness. Like the stars that shine above Molly and her mother, each person has something worth noticing and something that makes them stand out. Why would we ever want to hide that light or change that person to a dimmer wattage? The book offers readers important life lessons about self-acceptance.

    Town Is by the Sea. Joanne Schwartz. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    TownIsbytheSeaNot all parents enjoy the jobs they have that support their families economically, but they perform the necessary tasks because they must be done. In this moving picture book, set in the coal mining town of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the 1950s, a young boy spends his day in a most satisfactory fashion, enjoying the scenery, hanging out with a friend, doing errands for his mother, and stopping by his grandfather's grave. While he enjoys the carefree moments of his childhood, his father is working beneath the surface of the sea digging for coal. For the boy and the man, the best moments of the day are when the father returns to the surface and trudges home where he enjoys dinner with his family and gazes at the sea near their home. The last lines and the author's note let readers know that the boy realizes that his carefree life is soon going to change as he, too, must begin working in the mine. The illustrations, created in ink, watercolor, and gouache, effectively contrast the beauty of the ocean and the boy's town with the bleakness of the dark spaces in which his father labors. Concluding the book on a note of acceptance of his fate because "in my town, that's the way it goes" leaves readers thinking about life choices and the expectations and limitations placed on us by our environment, our upbringing, and the options that are available. The simple yet eloquent text and powerful visual images tug relentlessly at readers' hearts.

    Ages 12–14

    Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up. Jessica Brody. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    AddieBellAh, to be sixteen and to have the world at your feet! Desperate to be sixteen like her older sister, Rory, who wears makeup, is popular, and has a boyfriend, Adeline (Addie) Bell is sure that life will be perfect when she’s older. After she and her best friend, Grace, have a fight on her twelfth birthday, Addie makes a wish using a special jewelry box given to her by an elderly neighbor, and everything changes. She awakens the next morning to find that her wish to be sixteen has been granted. However, having missed out on those four years between twelve and sixteen leaves her at a serious disadvantage. Not only does she not know how to drive her car or put on makeup or even pull together an outfit, but she doesn't understand how to deal with boys or how to flirt. And the trigonometry and French she should know after studying the subjects for years? Forget it! Adeline is completely lost. She may look sixteen, but at heart Adeline is still an innocent twelve-year-old. She comes to realize that many things have changed in her family, and she barely recognizes herself or her parents. And where is her sister, Rory, and her friend Grace? The story is amusing, serving as a cautionary tale about wanting to grow up too fast. After all, once those early teen years are gone, they're gone forever.

    Falling Over Sideways. Jordan Sonnenblick. 2016. Scholastic.

    FallingOverSidewaysEighth-grader Claire is fed up with her life. Nothing is going right—at school, in dance class, or at home. Her science teacher seems unstable, constantly comparing her current students to her daughter, the incomparable Meredith. Her lunch companions steal her Skittles, and Ryder, her band nemesis, leaves her in the dust in playing the alto saxophone. Two of her closest friends have moved up in an advanced dance group while she remains with the younger ones. But these issues pale in significance after her father, who is a writer, has a stroke in front of Claire. Although her quick thinking saves his life, the recovery process is painstakingly slow, and she worries that he will never be the same. As the family adjusts to the changes in their lives while supporting his needs, Claire is embarrassed about her father’s appearance and physical and intellectual struggles and worries that her classmates will tease her. This is a great novel to share with middle graders trying to come to terms with an unexpected family event.

    Ages 15+

    Every Hidden Thing. Kenneth Oppel. 2016. Simon & Schuster.

    EveryHiddenThingInspired by a real-life rivalry between two paleontologists, this book takes readers into the Dakota badlands after the Civil War as whites continue to intrude on the land of Native Americans. The patriarchs of two families—the Bolts and the Cartlands—have tried to outdo each other in finding the best fossils, and now both have mounted separate expeditions to locate and unearth an enormous one, based on the information of a man who digs bones as a hobby. Both paleontologists are willing to go to any lengths to claim that fossil. These are imperfect men, with tempers, slippery moral compasses, and hubris. Their offspring, Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt, are reluctantly attracted to one another. Rachel, who has always considered herself plain but adept with fossils, wrangles a spot on her father's expedition with the intent of persuading him to support her dreams of attending college. Samuel is attracted to Rachel because of her intelligence and their shared passion for fossils. The relationship flounders on trust issues amid rich descriptions of the vast landscape in which their families’ drama plays out. There are philosophical bits threaded throughout the book as Rachel ponders what remains behind after we die, just as she considers how paleontologists conjecture the actual size, shape, appearance, and habits of dinosaurs from their remains. The complexity of the characters and their family dynamics is revealed in their actions, as they sometimes act against their own best interests.

    Piper Perish. Kayla Cagan. 2017. Chronicle.

    PiperPerishArt will surely provide the escape route senior Piper Perish needs to leave her Houston, Texas, home far behind. She and her best friend, Kit, and boyfriend, Enzo, have always planned to head to New York City and take the art world by storm. But even with the support and guidance of her art teacher, Ms. Adams, life might have other plans for Piper. In between constant battles with her older sister, Marli, whose emotional grip on the family is daunting, and odd behavior from Kit as well as Enzo's very public break-up with Piper as he realizes he prefers guys, Piper still finds the energy and motivation to create. Can her art truly save her or will it just lead to heartbreak and disappointment? The author folds in inspiring quotes from Andy Warhol and others, and splashes paint and paintings throughout the text as would be likely in journal entries of someone like Piper. The dynamics at work within her family and daily life will have readers wondering how Piper manages to create anything, and yet out of all that drama comes artwork that is memorable, even if not everyone in her family understands it.

    Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school, as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor's in Communications, a master's in English Education from the University of Tennessee and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.


    Read More
    • Children's & YA Literature
    • Book Reviews
    • Content Types
    • Blog Posts
    • Job Functions
    • Administrator
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Librarian
    • Literacy Coach
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Other/Literacy Champion
    • Reading Specialist
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Tutor
    • Volunteer
    • Student Level
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • Topics
    • Literacies
    • Content Area Literacy

    Read-Alouds for Everyone

    By Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 27, 2017

    Read-alouds are for everyone. Reading aloud a picture book, a short story, a poem, or a passage from a chapter book is an effective way for teachers, librarians, and parents to introduce young people to new topics. At all ages, read-alouds can be starting points for discussions, including difficult ones that require safe environments. The sense of community that comes with the experience of sharing a good story is more important than ever. Keeping in mind the joy that comes from the reading of a well-crafted story, this week’s column includes some stories that are fun to read aloud, and to listen to, because of their playful language and inspiring messages.

    Ages 4–8

    Antoinette. Kelly DiPucchio. Ill. Christian Robinson. 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    antoinette

    Antoinette, a poodle, has three bulldog brothers, each with a special talent: Rocky isclever, Ricky is fast, and Bruno is strong. Antoinette, however, still hasn’t discovered what makes her extra special. One day Ooh-La-La, the sister of her best friend, Gaston, goes missing while the two doggy families play in the park; Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno put their special talents to work but fail to find the missing poodle. Then Antoinette, who “felt a tug in her heart and a twitch in her nose,” sets out through the street of Paris, tracking Ooh-La-la to the Louvre. Evading the guard, who loudly proclaims, “No dog allowed,” Antoinette runs through the galleries and arrives just in time to save Ooh-La-La from a perilous fall. She’s discovered her special talent: bravery. Robinson’s flat, childlike, warmly colored acrylic paintings beautifully detail the Parisian setting. For a perfect read-aloud session, you’ll want to read DiPucchio and Robinson’s Gaston (2014), too.
     
    Everybunny Dance! Ellie Sandall. 2017. Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster.

    EverybunnyDance“EVERYBUNNY DANCE! / And clap your paws, / and twist and twirl, and shake your tail, / and wiggle and whirl.” And that’s just what a large bunch of colorful bunnies do across double-page spreads. They also play musical instruments and merrily sing “Fa-la-la-la, tra-la-la-lee, doo-dooby-doo, fiddle-de” until they notice a fox watching them. “EVERYBUNNY RUN!” Unaware of his hidden audience, the fox dances, plays a clarinet, takes a graceful bow, sighs, and tears up—until “EVERYBUNNY CLAP!” Then they all run and jump and dance and play, “all together, every day” as new friendships are made. Young children will enjoy counting bunnies and spotting the ones that wear bowties, tutus, and ballet shoes in the illustrations—and will be eager to get up and frolic along with everybunny and the fox.

    I Am (Not) Scared. Anna Kang. Ill. Christopher Weyant. 2017. Two Lions.

    IAmNotScaredThe big orange-brown bear and the small purple bear from You Are (Not) Small (2014) and That’s (Not) Mine (2015) are back for another discussion. Expressive watercolor-and-ink cartoon illustrations on expansive white backgrounds keep the focus on the two friends in their back-and-forth debate. “You are scared. / I am not scared. Are you? / No, I am brave. This will be fun! / You look scared.” There are visual clues as to what has them worried, and they are really scared as the rollercoaster approaches with a huge green snake in one of the cars. They bravely decide to be scared together, and by the end of the thrilling ride, they are ready for another one. This time the “WE ARE SCARED!!!” cries of the two bears and the snake are gleeful. This is a fun book with a gentle lesson on acknowledging fears and facing them with friends.

    The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! Carmen Agra Deedy. Ill. Eugene Yelchin. 2017. Scholastic.

    TheRoosterWhoWouldNotBeQuietEveryone and everything in La Paz had a song to sing, making the village a happy but very noisy place, where it was hard to hear, sleep, and think. The solution: Elect a mayor who promises peace and quiet. Once in office, Don Pepe’s restrictive laws make La Paz as silent as a tomb—until the rooster who would not be quiet defies the laws. After repeated efforts to silence the rooster’s Kee-kee-ree-Kee! fail, Don Pepe threatens to make soup of him. Hearing the rooster’s declaration that he sings for those who dare not sing or have forgotten how to sing, the villagers take up his song and their chorus of Kee-kee-ree-Kee! drives Don Pepe out of town. Once again, the village is a very noisy and happy place. Yelchin’s sunny mixed-media illustrations are joyful and humorous. Deedy’s appended note provides a context for the allegorical tale: “There are always those who resist being silenced, who will crow out their truth, without regard to consequence. Foolhardy or wise, they are the ones who give us the courage to sing.”

    Ages 9–11

    The Alphabet Thief. Bill Richardson. Ill. Roxanna Bikadoroff. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    TheAlphabetThiefIn the dark of night, the Alphabet Thief creeps through the city, creating havoc as she steals letters from words in alphabetical order. As a’s are stolen, coats became cots, fairs turned into firs, and boats became bots—and so on through the alphabet. The clever Alphabet Thief handles the q-with-u problem by removing them as a pair, so that queasy was easy and squash became sash. Having nearly reached the end of the alphabet, the Alphabet Thief seems unstoppable until the red-headed narrator, who has been following her, turns y’s into slingshots and fires z’s at the thief, forcing the thief to release the stolen letters: “When I open her sack, the letters spring back / And hurry on home to their words.” The clever and silly story in rhyme and playful ink-and-watercolor illustrations of word transformations may inspire readers to try some letter thievery of their own.

    A Trio of Tolerable Tales. Margaret Atwood. Ill. Dušan Petričić. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    ATrioofTolerableTales“Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes,” “Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda,” and “Wandering Wendy and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery” are a trio of tolerable—and tantalizing— tales about intriguing characters who find themselves in incredible situations. Margaret Atwood imaginatively tells these short stories with nonstop tongue-twisting alliterative wordplay. For example, Wenda, a waif who is taken by the Widow Wallop to work in her Wunderground Washery, is “a willowy child with wispy hair and wistful eyes,” whose “wise and watchful parents were whisked away by a weird whirlwind” when she was just a wee one. All three stories are ridiculously silly and totally entertaining. They are fun to read independently but even more fun when read aloud.

    Ages 12–14

    Scar Island. Dan Gemeinhart. 2017. Scholastic.

    ScarIslandTwelve-year-old Jonathan Grisby has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a remote island fortress-like facility that was once an asylum for the criminally insane. Under the direction of the sadistic Admiral, the fifteen boys (ages 10 to 14) at the reform institution are subjected to hard work; horrible living conditions in dark, dank cells; starvation diets; and the constant threat of torturous punishment on a horrible device called the Sinner’s Sorrow. On the day after Jonathan’s arrival, the Admiral and all his staff are killed by lightning in a freak accident. Jonathan, who willingly accepted his ten-month sentence as just punishment, dreads the thought of returning home and proposes that the boys remain on the island for a few days to enjoy freedom from adult supervision. However, one of the older boys, as dictatorial as the Admiral, declares himself leader, and as a severe storm brews that may sink the island, Jonathan must come to terms with events in his past and assume leadership if he and the other boys are to survive. The short, action-packed chapters of this suspenseful and unusual adventure/survival story make it a good choice for a chapter-a-day read-aloud.

    The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner and Other Stories. Terry Pratchett. 2017. Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins.

    TheWitchesVacuumCleanerIn an introduction written in 2015 (the year in which he died), Terry Pratchett tells of the origin of the collection’s 14 short stories, written when he was 17 and originally published in a local newspaper when he was a junior reporter. Pratchett states, “I tinkered here and there with a few details, added a few lines or notes, just because I can—and because as I’ve got older my imagination has got even bigger so I can’t stop myself from adding bits and bobs.” Pratchett’s stories take readers to strange and quirky places, where colorful people and creatures have wildly imaginative adventures. Pratchett fans will enjoy these tales as the beginning of his popular body of work; for others, they are the perfect introduction to a master writer of imaginative and humorous fantasy.

    Ages 15+

    The Legendary Miss Lena Horne. Carole Boston Weatherford. Ill. Elizabeth Zunon. 2017. Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

    TheLegendaryMissLenaHorneThis picture-book celebration of Lena Horne, one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century, begins with a quote from Horne herself, “You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.” Weatherford clearly shows how this belief was important throughout Horne’s life as a singer, actress, and civil rights activist in which she was, literally, a voice for African Americans. Zunon’s expressive oil paint and cut-paper collage illustrations put Horne in the spotlight whether she is performing as a vocalist for an all-white big band, singing at President Truman’s inaugural ball despite being blacklisted from movies and television, or singing the spiritual “This Little Light of Mine” at a 1963 rally with civil rights leader Medgar Evans. Back matter includes an author’s note, bibliography, and a “Further Reading, Listening, and Viewing” list. Also included is The Essential Lena Horne: The RCA Years (2010), an excellent CD for sharing some of Horne’s songs with students as a follow-up to the read-aloud.

    Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.

    Read More
    • Job Functions
    • Book Reviews
    • Blog Posts
    • Content Types
    • Reading Lists
    • Student Engagement & Motivation
    • Teaching Strategies
    • Reading
    • Foundational Skills
    • Children's Literature
    • English Language Arts
    • Content Areas
    • Topics
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Student Level
    • Tutor
    • Teacher Educator
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Reading Specialist
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Librarian
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Administrator
    • Children's & YA Literature

    Finding a Way to Fit In—Or Not

    By Danielle Hartsfield
     | Feb 20, 2017

    The need to belong somewhere and to be accepted by others is universal. All of us have faced the challenges of fitting in or will face them in the future. This week, we explore a variety of titles highlighting the theme of fitting in and finding a place to belong.

    Ages 4–8

    Leaping Lemmings! John Briggs. Ill. Nicola Slater. 2016. Sterling.

    leaping lemmingsThe adage “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” comes to life in this story of Larry, a lemming who doesn’t fit in with other lemmings. He eats pizza with hot sauce and wears hula skirts and top hats when he pleases. He tries fitting in with seals, puffins, and polar bears, but he doesn’t belong with them, either. When Larry returns home, he is horrified to see lemmings about to jump off a cliff! Larry’s quick actions save the lemmings from a terrible fate and make him a hero. Themes of thinking for oneself and bucking conformity are presented in a whimsical and humorous way. The illustrations feature shades of blue and green, fitting the story’s polar setting, and the use of gold as an accent color matches Larry’s sunny outlook. Short, rhythmic sentences make this book a perfect read-aloud.

    North, South, East, West. Margaret Wise Brown. Ill. Greg Pizzoli. 2017. Harper/HarperCollins.

    north south east westIn this previously unpublished story from the celebrated Margaret Wise Brown, the time has come for a little bird to make her own way from her mother’s nest. She travels to the north, south, and west, yet none of these places feels quite right. But when she flies back home to the east, the little bird realizes that this is where she has belonged all along. She builds a nest and starts a family of her own, and it isn’t long before her baby birds wonder which direction they should fly. The story has a quiet, calm tone, making it well suited for bedtime reading and offering a reassuring message that one will always belong at home. It can also be enjoyed on another level by young adults leaving home for the first time. The illustrations by Geisel Award winner Greg Pizzoli incorporate pastels and warm tones that add to the story’s soothing qualities.

    Ages 9–11

    Confessions From the Principal’s Kid. Robin Mellom. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    conferssions from the principal's kidFifth grader Allie doesn’t know where she fits in. During the school day, she feels alone and friendless. After all, no one wants to hang out with the principal’s daughter, especially one with a reputation for snitching—and worse, her ex–best friend, Chloe, won’t speak to her. But after school, Allie is an insider, a friend to the staff and a member of the Afters, a secret club for teachers’ kids. Allie wants nothing more than to feel like she belongs in both worlds. When she has the chance to rekindle her friendship with Chloe, Allie risks betraying the Afters and must make a choice of where she wants to belong. The plot is simplistic and predictable, yet it has a lighthearted, engaging tone. Allie is a realistic, immediately likable character with a strong voice. This story will resonate with teachers’ children and anyone who has ever wondered what really happens after school is dismissed.

    Forever, or a Long, Long Time. Caela Carter. 2017. HarperCollins.

    forever or a long long timeFlora and her brother, Julian, have never known where they belong. Shuffled from foster home to foster home for as long as she can remember, Flora wonders if she and Julian were born or if they simply just appeared one day. After two years of living with Person (her secret nickname for her adoptive mom), the trauma of Flora’s early years still haunts her. Her words stick in her “lung filter” and come out wrong when she speaks. She sabotages her chances of passing fourth grade and constantly worries whether she will be a good big sister to the baby growing inside Person. Flora and Julian must confront the painful realities of their troubled past before they can truly understand what it means to belong to a family forever. The plot is sometimes slow-moving, but the emphasis on Flora’s worries and fears makes it a good choice for exploring the inner lives and motivations of individuals. Readers will appreciate this story’s gritty realism and melancholy beauty.

    Let’s Pretend We Never Met. Melissa Walker. 2017. Harper/HarperCollins.

    Let's pretend we never metMattie is distraught when her parents move their family from North Carolina to Philadelphia in the middle of sixth grade. It means leaving behind her best friends, Lilly and Jo, and the only home she has ever known. Mattie worries about fitting in at her new school and hopes she will become just a little bit popular. When Mattie meets Agnes, the girl next door, who happens to be in Mattie’s class, things begin looking up. Although Agnes is odd and kind of immature for a sixth grader, she hatches some fun ideas. But when winter break is over and Mattie starts at her new school, she realizes the other kids think Agnes is a freak. Mattie fears their relationship will jeopardize new friendships, especially with Finn, a cute boy who seems to like her. Caught between her friendships with Agnes and more popular students, Mattie must decide where her loyalties lie. In this fast-paced story, Mattie’s problems are realistic, and her decisions may be instructive for young people navigating the complexities of the middle school social scene.

    Ages 12–14

    In a Perfect World. Trish Doller. 2017. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

    in a perfect worldJust as Caroline is poised to become captain of the soccer team and start her first job at Cedar Point, an amusement park, her mother lands a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity and moves the family to Egypt. Living in an apartment building overlooking the Nile and the bustling streets of Cairo is nothing at all like Caroline’s life back in small-town Ohio, and she wonders if Egypt will ever feel like home. Things begin to change for Caroline when she meets Adam Elhadad, a handsome Muslim boy hired to drive her family around Cairo. As Caroline and Adam’s hesitant friendship blossoms into romance, Caroline must confront the sharp differences between Adam’s culture and her own and decide whether their relationship is worth the disapproval of his family, friends, and Cairo society, especially as reports of violence against foreigners in the Middle East pepper the daily news. The story demonstrates the differences between Adam’s culture and religion and Caroline’s identity as a Catholic from America’s heartland, but it also highlights common human values and the possibility of forming genuine, lasting friendships across cultural boundaries. Readers will enjoy the tenderness of Caroline and Adam’s romance and may learn a thing or two about Egyptian history from the history-rich Cairo setting.

    Ages 15+

    Blood Family. Anne Fine. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    blood familyUntil Eddie is discovered at age 7, much of his childhood is spent locked in a room where he is forced to witness the abuse of his mother at the hands of her partner, Harris. Eddie is taken to a loving foster family and later adopted by a well-to-do couple. Although he seems remarkably well-adjusted, Eddie often feels like an outsider and is picked on by other children. The adults in his life wonder if the trauma of his past will catch up with him, and Eddie’s turning point occurs when he is a teenager and learns that Harris is his biological father. Eddie begins to fear he will become a monster like Harris, and his fear spirals out of control as he turns to drugs and alcohol and destroys his relationships with the people who love him. Not until Eddie hits rock bottom does he realize that he—not his blood family—is in control of his choices. Eddie’s early circumstances will pull at the reader’s emotions, evoking empathy and outrage. At times, the motivations of characters are difficult to discern, yet readers may enjoy piecing together inferences from facts shared by multiple, alternating narrators. The story is dark, but the theme of finding strength in oneself offers a hopeful message.

    City of Saints & Thieves. Natalie C. Anderson. 2017. Putnam/Penguin.

    city of saints and thievesTina, a self-described thief and member of the notorious Goondas gang, doesn’t belong to anyone but herself. After her mother was murdered, Tina lived alone on the streets, nursing a grudge against Mr. Greyhill, her mother’s former employer and one of the richest, most corrupt businessmen in the Kenyan city she calls home. When Tina and the Goondas hatch a plan to steal data from Mr. Greyhill’s hard drive, Tina can’t wait. She has long suspected Mr. Greyhill of murdering her mother, leaving her orphaned and separated from her beloved sister, Kiki. But on the night of the burglary, inside the seemingly empty Greyhill mansion, Tina’s plan is foiled by Michael, Mr. Greyhill’s son and her estranged childhood friend. Tina and Michael cut a deal: She will return the data if he helps her prove his father murdered her mother. Soon Tina and Michael, along with Tina’s business partner Boyboy, embark on a dangerous journey taking them deep into war-ravaged Congo. As Tina, Michael, and Boyboy uncover the dark secrets leading up to the murder, the loyalty of her friends and unexpected help from a figure in her mother’s past teach Tina what it means to be loved and to belong. Riveting, action-packed, and with a touch of romance, this story will hold the reader’s attention until the final page.

    Noteworthy. Riley Redgate. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.

    noteworthyJordan begins her junior year at the prestigious, hypercompetitive Kensington-Blaine Academy for the Performing Arts while still reeling from an unexpected breakup. To add to her troubles, she isn’t cast in the school musical yet again, and money and health problems plague her family back home in San Francisco. When a spot opens in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s most-lauded a cappella group, Jordan sees a chance for redemption. But the Sharpshooters are an all-male group. Undeterred, Jordan dresses in drag and auditions. No one is more surprised than Jordan when the Sharpshooters select her as a tenor. Now she must be one person belonging to two worlds: Jordan Sun to her classmates and Julian Zhang to the Sharpshooters. When the Sharpshooters have the chance to win a spot on an international, career-changing tour, Jordan becomes even more desperate to keep her identity a secret. Her problems catch up with her and threaten her future at Kensington just when triumph is within her reach. Although copious descriptions of the setting occasionally slow down the pace, Jordan is a dynamic and believable character. An enjoyable read for fans of Glee and Pitch Perfect, the story is thought-provoking in its examination of the fluidity of gender boundaries and identities.

    Danielle Hartsfield is an assistant professor in the Teacher Education Department at the University of North Georgia in Oakwood.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.


    Read More
    • Reading Lists
    • Content Types
    • Job Functions
    • Children's & YA Literature
    • Book Reviews
    • Student Choice
    • Teaching Strategies
    • Reading
    • Foundational Skills
    • Children's Literature
    • English Language Arts
    • Content Areas
    • Topics
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Student Level
    • Tutor
    • Teacher Educator
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Reading Specialist
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Literacy Coach
    • Librarian
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Administrator
    • Blog Posts

    Meet Some Memorable Characters

    By Carolyn Angus
     | Feb 15, 2017

    Getting into the mind of a character is one of the greatest parts of reading, whether you’re finding a new one or rediscovering an old favorite. The books in this week’s column include a story about the further adventures of Edward Lear’s Owl and Pussy-cat, a retelling of the Arthurian legend The Sword in the Stone, and enticing stories with memorable characters in realistic or fantastical worlds.

    Ages 4–8

    The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat. Julia Donaldson. Ill. Charlotte Voake. 2017. Candlewick.

    the further adventues of the owl and pussy-catWhile the newlyweds from Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussy-cat slumber in a Bong-Tree, a crow steals the wedding ring tied with a bow to Pussy-cat’s tail. Their adventurous voyage in a beautiful blue balloon to recover the ring is filled with references to places, things, and characters from Lear’s nonsense poems. In Chankly Bore they find the crow, who has sold the ring to the Pobble who has no toes: “So they crossed the sea, and the Jelly Bo Lee, / To the Pobble’s improbable land.” The Pobble is reluctant to part with the ring, so the resourceful couple visit the Calico Doves, “[w]ho flapped in the air while they knitted a pair / Of impeccable gossamer gloves, / Two gloves, / Two gloves, / Two impeccable gossamer gloves.” A swap is made, and the Owl and the Pussy-cat return home to celebrate with friends, including the Jumblies and the Dong with a luminous nose. Extend the fun of this adventure with a reading of The Owl and the Pussy-cat (simultaneously published with Charlotte Voake’s whimsical watercolor-and-ink illustration) and more of Lear’s classic nonsense verses.

    A Greyhound, a Groundhog. Emily Jenkins. Ill. Chris Appelhans. 2017. Schwartz & Wade/Random House.

    a greyhound a groundhog“A hound. / A round hound. / A greyhound. / A hog. / A round hog. / A groundhog.” As the round little greyhound awakes from a nap and the brown little groundhog pops out of his hole, the two begin a romp “around and around and around / and around!” The playfully rhythmic mix-up of words in this tongue-twister of a tale starts out quietly, then speeds up as the greyhound and the groundhog whirl across the pages. “A round hound, / a grey dog, / a round little hound dog. / A greyhog, / a round dog, / a hog little hound dog.” Following a chase of colorful butterflies and a run through a bog, the exhausted new friends settle down side by side for a rest. Chris Applelhans’s full-of-motion watercolor paintings featuring the greyhound and the groundhog at play against expansive white backgrounds perfectly match Emily Jenkins’s clever text in this joyful picture book, which is best shared as a read-aloud.

    Tidy. Emily Gravett. 2017. Simon & Schuster.

    tidyWith rhyming text and colorful mixed-media illustrations filled with humorous details, Emily Gravett tells a story with a gentle environmental message about Pete, a badger, whose tidying up of the fauna and flora of his forest home goes too far. He grooms the fox’s fur (using a hedgehog for a brush), spruces up the birds (having them use toothbrushes for beak cleaning and giving them sponge baths), vacuums up fall leaves (creating mountains of black plastic trash bags), and digs up all the trees. Following a flood that leaves a muddy mess, he paves over the forest floor. Not a good solution. Realizing he’s made a mistake, Pete enlists the animals’ help in a forest restoration project: “They put everything back, as it always had been. / (But maybe less ordered and not quite as clean.)” Pete promises to tidy up less, but the final two-page illustration, which shows the animals enjoying a spring picnic, includes a detail suggesting that Pete might not be cured of his tidying-up habit.

    Uncle Holland. JonArno Lawson. Ill. Natalie Nelson. 2017. Groundwood/House of Anansi.

    uncle hollandHolland, the eldest of the three Lawson boys, was always getting into trouble. Unable to resist pretty things, he couldn’t help stuffing them into his pockets. When he is caught for the 37th time, the police give him a choice: go to jail or join the army. Holland opts for the army and is sent to a very pretty place in the south, which is full of pretty things—“but not the kinds of things you can put in your pocket.” Holland takes up painting them instead and soon finds he’s making money selling pictures of the extraordinary fish he sees. Natalie Nelson’s digital collage artwork is the perfect match for JonArno Lawson’s story of a choice well made, which is based on a true story about his Uncle Holland.

    Ages 9–11

    Harry Miller’s Run. David Almond. Ill. Salvatore Rubbino. 2017. Candlewick.

    harry millers runEleven-year-old Liam just received his official T-shirt for his entry in the Junior Great North Run and is eager for a Saturday morning of training with best friend, Jacksie. His mother, however, wants him to help her clear out elderly neighbor Harry Miller’s house in preparation for his move into a nursing home. Seeing Liam’s T-shirt, Harry begins to relate memories of the 13-mile run he and two mates made from Newcastle to the seaside in South Shields on a hot summer day in 1938, when he was 11. Looking through an old box of photographs helps Harry recall details of the memorable run. David Almond uses a regional British accent in the narration as Harry shares memories and imparts words of wisdom regarding a life well lived—“Me great achievement is that I’ve been happy, that I’ve never been nowt but happy”—before falling asleep in his big chair. Salvatore Rubbino’s expressive mixed-media artwork, with gray-toned paintings for Harry’s day with Liam and his mother and full-color paintings for Harry’s remembrances, perfectly complements this intergenerational story.

    The Wizard’s Dog. Eric Kahn Gale. Ill. Dave Phillips. 2017. Crown/Random House.

    the wizard's dogNosewise, a stray dog rescued by wizard Merlin, is eager to increase his repertoire of tricks beyond Sit! Shake! and Lie down! When Merlin’s apprentice, Morgana, places her magic Asteria stone around his neck, Nosewise is delighted to find that he can Speak! This new trick becomes important when he sets out on a rescue mission after Merlin is kidnapped by Lord Destrian (Oberon, king of the Fae, in a glamour state), who intends to use the wizard to obtain Excalibur. Using his nose, Nosewise, joined by a young Arthur, the “poop boy” (the cleaner of chamber pots in Destrian’s castle), tracks Merlin’s scent from the castle into the Haunted Forest, through a portal into the Otherworld, and eventually to Avalon, where they do battle with Oberon (in his Destrian disguise) and the Fae’s magic-eating worms. In this retelling of the Arthurian legend of the Sword in the Stone, readers learn how Arthur became the rightful king of the human world. A hint: Excalibur can only be taken by “a worthy soul who loves man and would never do him harm.”

    Ages 12–14

    An Eagle in the Snow. Michael Morpurgo. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

    an eagle in the snowIn 1940, 10-year-old Barney and his mother, whose home has just been destroyed in the Coventry blitz, are aboard a London-bound train on the first leg of their journey to Aunt Mavis’s in Cornwall when a stranger enters their compartment. As German planes attack, the train enters a tunnel, abruptly stops, and plunges into darkness. During the long wait for their journey to continue, the stranger calms Barney’s fears of the darkness by telling stories about his friend Billy Byron’s experiences as a soldier in World War I. This courageous young British soldier’s decision not to kill a German soldier with whom he had a face-to-face encounter near the end of the war comes to make him feel responsible, 20 years later, “for whatever Adolf Hitler had done or might do in the future.” He could have stopped him, but hadn’t, at the Battle of Marcoing. In an afterword, Morpurgo provides a brief history of Private Henry Tandey VC, to whom An Eagle in the Snow is dedicated and whose personal story of service in World War I was the inspiration for the book.

    Flying Lessons & Other Stories. Ellen Oh (Ed.). 2017. Crown/Random House.

    flying lessons and other storiesWe all need diverse stories, and the short stories in this anthology, written by 10 talented authors (Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jaqueline Woodson), introduce middle graders to memorable characters who all want to belong and be accepted for who they are. Although the stories stand alone, readers will find that each story draws them to read another. Reading the stories aloud in classrooms and libraries is an excellent way to introduce young people to the We Need Diverse Books movement. The back matter includes an “About We Need Diverse Books” section by Ellen Oh, cofounder and president of WNDB, and brief biographies of the 10 contributors.

    Ages 15+

    Poison’s Kiss. Breeana Shields. 2017. Random House.

    poisons kissSeventeen-year-old Marinda is an assassin—a visha kanya, or poison maiden—who can kill with a kiss. As a baby, she was repeatedly subjected to being bitten by snakes until she was immune to their venom. Gopal, her handler, has led Miranda to believe that she is using her poisonous kisses as a weapon in service to the Raja by killing the enemies of the kingdom of Sundari. Marinda feels guilty about what she does, and when she is instructed to kiss Deven, a young man who is kind to her and Mani, her sickly 7-year-old brother, she is determined to save Deven's life. Breeana Shields's complex fantasy, which incorporates aspects of Indian culture and mythology, is intriguing. As Marinda learns who turned her into a killer and why, she is eager to destroy them—and readers are set up for a sequel.

    Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.


    Read More
    • Job Functions
    • Administrator
    • Reading Lists
    • Librarian
    • Blog Posts
    • Student Choice
    • Teaching Strategies
    • Reading
    • Foundational Skills
    • Children's Literature
    • English Language Arts
    • Content Areas
    • Topics
    • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
    • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
    • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
    • ~5 years old (Grade K)
    • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)
    • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
    • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
    • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
    • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
    • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
    • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
    • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
    • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
    • Student Level
    • Volunteer
    • Tutor
    • Teacher Educator
    • Special Education Teacher
    • Reading Specialist
    • Literacy Education Student
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Content Types
    • Book Reviews
    • Children's & YA Literature

    Love Is in the Air

    By Barbara A. Ward
     | Feb 06, 2017

    February sees the celebration of the Feast of St. Valentine, often represented by pink and red hearts, a burst of greeting cards, and sweet treats. But perhaps the best starting place for finding love is inside ourselves, where that feeling is sure to be noticeable and have a ripple effect in the world around us. Here, we celebrate love in myriad ways.

    Ages 4–8

    Love Monster and the Scary Something. Rachel Bright. 2016. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    love monster and the scary somethingIn the fourth title featuring her signature solar etchings and the adorably fetching Love Monster, this author-illustrator from England shares a story of love found amid fear. Ready for a sound sleep, Love Monster is frightened because of the terrible “crunch-crunch-crunchety-crunch” sounds he hears after heading for bed, and he imagines fierce creatures on the way to his room. Eventually, Love Monster can’t stand not knowing what is out there hiding in the dark, and he shines a flashlight on his fears. As it turns out, someone else is sleepless and nervous about being all alone. Two new friends cuddle up and face the unknown together. This is a perfect read-aloud to chase fears away. Love Monster will surely steal every reader’s heart while still leaving room for the not-so-scary Scary Something, who slips into his bed as well.

    Samson in the Snow. Philip C. Stead. 2016. Roaring Brook.

    samson in the snowA tender story of a most unlikely friendship and how love can bloom in the most unexpected places and in the worst kind of weather is complemented by lovely illustrations rendered with oil pastels, charcoal, and cardboard printing. As he rests in a field, Samson, a woolly mammoth, watches a friendly red bird gather yellow dandelions for a special friend. Although their encounter is brief, Samson worries about the bird when snow starts to fall. When he looks for her, Samson stumbles upon a mouse almost buried in the snow, and together they continue the search. Thanks to the bright flowers the bird plucked earlier for her friend, they spot her. Had it not been for that red bird’s initial friendly gesture to Samson—or the love that prompted her to gather a bouquet—she most likely would have escaped his notice and perished in the snow.

    Ages 9–11

    Everyone Loves Cupcake. Kelly DiPucchio. Ill. Eric Wight. 2016. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    everyone loves cupcakeIn the same stylish fashion in which this creative duo delivered Everyone Loves Bacon (2015), this picture book explores the dark side of the seemingly irrepressible Cupcake. Although everyone seems to love Cupcake, her focus on perfection becomes annoying, and several of the other baked goods get tired of her. Eventually, she confesses her honest feelings about birthday parties and the true nature of her frosting. Honesty about her imperfections encourages the others to share their feelings as well, setting up an oh-so-sweet ending. The digital illustrations are filled with yummy depictions of food, and several of the food-related lines are clever: a loaf of bread blames being “an early riser” for its reluctance to spend time with Cupcake, and a tea bag demurs because it has to “take a bath.” Readers should take care when reading this book because its images and descriptions are likely to send them scavenging for their own sweet treats, possibly even a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles that has plenty of love to go around.

    The Rat Prince. Bridget Hodder. 2016. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    the rat princeTold in alternating chapters by Prince Char, a royal rat, and the human he has grown to love, Cinderella or Rose de Lancastyr, a beautiful girl whose feeble-minded father’s remarriage to a cruel woman bent on bleeding him dry reduces her to a servant state, this Cinderella story with a twist features extreme cruelty and greed, leavened by acts of kindness. When the father of the prince of the kingdom hosts a ball for the prince to find a marriageable woman, Cinderella regards the ball as a possible chance to reach out to her father’s friends and persuade them to help him get away from his new wife. But Cinderella may be in danger from deranged, violent Prince Geoffrey. Although it might be odd to conceive of a girl and a rat falling in love, the two had bonded long before Cinderella had any idea Prince Char was royalty. In the end, Geoffrey is less princely than Cinderella’s rat friend.

    The Warden’s Daughter. Jerry Spinelli. 2017. Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

    the warden's daughterTwelve-year-old Cammie O’Reilly loves the notoriety that comes her way due to her proximity to the inmates of Two Mills, Pennsylvania’s Hancock County Prison, where she lives in an apartment with her father, the warden. Cammie is something of a pistol, though, engaged in a desperate search for someone who can love her like her own mother, who died saving Cammie’s life when she was a baby. Her quest for a mother sends Cammie in self-destructive directions and causes her to be blind to her father’s love and the affection of many of the inmates, especially Eloda Pupko, the trustee caregiver who keeps an eye on her. In his sure-handed way, blending pathos and humor, Spinelli weaves an enticing story that shows how an unexpected love saves one girl with a broken heart.

    Ages 12–14

    100 Days. Nicole McInnes. 2016. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    100 daysFifteen-year-old Agnes has progeria, a disease that speeds up the aging process in her body, and as her final 100 days wind down, life is viewed through the lenses of Agnes and two friends: Moira, Agnes’s best friend and protector, and Boone, who has been forced to shoulder much more responsibility than one teen should ever have to face. Because the book alternates these three perspectives, readers learn the characters’ personal secrets as well as their turbulent history together, which at times led to mistrust instead of friendship. Through the poignant stories of these three teens, the author raises questions about friendship, taking risks, and living life to the fullest. Although Agnes realizes that she will never grow up and experience romance, she desperately wants her companions to fall in love with each other while also knowing that they both love her as well.

    Lucky Strikes. Louis Bayard. 2016. Henry Holt.

    lucky strikesFourteen-year-old Amelia Hoyle comes up with a desperate plan to keep her family together after her mother, Brenda, dies during the Great Depression. She and her two siblings are living in a little house with a gas station in Walnut Ridge, Virginia, when a vagabond named Hiram Watts literally rolls off a truck and Amelia pretends he is her father. Readers’ hearts will ache for all the responsibilities this young woman must bear, the deceitfulness of her enemy, Blevins, and the lengths to which Blevins is willing to go to have what he wants. When it looks as though all is lost, it turns out that the townspeople have big hearts and more love for Amelia and the memory of her mother than she could ever have imagined, and they save the day. Readers will be reminded that family and love come in different shapes and sizes that may have nothing to do with being related.

    The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennet. Natasha Farrant. 2016. Chicken House/Scholastic.

    the secret diary of lydia bennetFans of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will be thoroughly amused by this book, which gives youngest sister Lydia’s version of the story. Readers will still encounter all the familiar characters and events from the classic, but Lydia so obviously longs to be out from under the control of her older sisters, even as she admires their grace and beauty. Farrant remains faithful to the original story, offering an explanation for how Wickham, the attractive villain who is determined to marry an heiress, and Lydia end up together. Lydia is refreshingly honest and open—and incredibly naïve about Wickham and affairs of the heart. The diary format enables readers to see inside Lydia’s head and smile at her foolishness. Although love comes to Lydia in a very different form than she expected, it comes.

    Ages 15+

    Because of the Sun. Jenny Torres Sanchez. 2017. Delacorte/Random House.

    because of the sunAfter her mother is mauled to death by a bear in the backyard of their suburban Florida home, Dani Falls moves to New Mexico to live with Shelly, her maternal aunt, a woman she hadn’t even known existed. As she deals with the past that continues to haunt her and tries to make sense of her unsatisfactory relationship with her mother, Dani basks in the desert heat, reads Albert Camus’s The Stranger, and finds acceptance by opening herself up to others, including a young man who is coping with his own losses.

    It’s Not Me, It’s You. Stephanie Kate Strohm. 2016. Point/Scholastic.

    it's not me it's youWhen popular senior Avery Dennis is dumped by her boyfriend right before the school prom in San Anselmo, California, she is understandably shocked. But, being a take-charge young woman, she examines her life and dating history for clues as to why this happened and ends up submitting her findings as a lengthy oral history project for her grade in an American history class. Through the observations of her best friend, Coco Kim, and comments from other friends, foes, and scorned boyfriends, Avery presses on to uncover why so many of her romantic entanglements have ended. Her lab partner, James “Hutch” Hutchinson, also helps her mine the data she’s collecting. Because the book is told in a series of interviews, readers must sort out facts from fallacies, but it’s clear from the start that Avery had overlooked someone who’s had her back all along. It is neat to have some perspective on Avery’s actions from those who know her best (or think they do), including some of her romantic victims. Watching Hutch get more upset and protective as the project unfolds is particularly entertaining. This might be the perfect book to read for Valentine’s Day because it demonstrates that true love does find a way—even if it takes four years for the couple to realize that they are perfect for each other.

    Barbara A. Ward teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy at Washington State University, Pullman. She spent 25 years teaching in the public schools of New Orleans, where she worked with students at every grade level, from kindergarten through high school, as well as several ability levels. She is certified in elementary education, English education, and gifted education. She holds a bachelor's degree in Communications, a master's degree in English Education from the University of Tennessee, and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

    These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.


    Read More
Back to Top

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives