Invisible Emmie (paperback)
by Terri Libenson
AR Level 3.8, 2 points
Invisible Emmie is for the quiet, shy girls who are unsure of themselves and need to know there is hope for them. Emmie is basically an only child since her older siblings are adults, and she lives with very busy parents. She loves drawing, has a best friend, and a huge crush on a boy named Tyler Ross. She and her best friend write fake songs about their crushes, and her letter gets out, causing extreme embarrassment. Meanwhile, there is a perfect girl named Katie who is pretty, smart, confident, and also likes Tyler Ross. Emmie’s embarrassing situation causes her a lot of stress, but also causes her to grow as a person.
What I liked about this book was the humor that Libenson uses in both her drawings and her uncomfortable situations. Some of the humor is subtle, so an intelligent reader will have to think about the drawings and captions to understand, but it will give the reader a chuckle.
What I didn’t like about this book was the ending. It bugged me. I understand the meaning, but I think that 1) it will confuse younger readers, and 2) it didn’t make a lot of sense. Whose imaginary friend gets jealous???
Book 13 of summer 2017!
All American Boys (audiobook)
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
All American Boys is a book that needs to be in the hands of everyone. I really appreciate Jason Reynolds as an author, and I thought this one was really well co-written. Both voices come out loud and strong. It is about a boy named Rashad who is picking up some chips and soda, and is mistakenly accused of stealing by a cop. The cop then beats the crap out of him, putting him into the hospital. Quinn, in the mean time, witnessed what happened, but the cop is a family friend who is like a big brother to him. Quinn can’t get past the fact that what the cop did was wrong, and he has to decide whether to push aside his loyalty to do what is right. Rashad deals with his own feelings, being accused of doing something wrong just because he is black.
What I liked about this book was that it was told from two perspectives (and read by two different people on the audiobook). Rashad is a black teen, and Quinn is white. Jason Reynolds is a black author and Brendan Kiely white. I liked that it was written and told from a black and white perspective. I will never ever understand what it is like to be an African American living in America, facing discrimination and racism. What stood out to me was the list of rules Rashad had to learn that were not part of my education as a white teenager. These are the kinds of things that help us understand what is going on in today’s society (although I wouldn’t limit it to today- it seems like a lot hasn’t changed from 70 years ago).
What I didn’t like about this book (although I understand) is the cussing, only because I want to share this with my students. Unfortunately, while many of my students hear (and use) the kinds of words, I am not about to respond to angry parent complaints. It has a message that NEEDS to be heard, but it’s definitely a YA book.
Book 12 of summer 2017!
See You in the Cosmos (ebook)
by Jack Cheng
See You in the Cosmos is about Alex, an 11 year old rocket enthusiast who has made it his mission to send his golden iPod into space for intelligent life. He has recorded himself speaking on the iPod so aliens can learn more about planet Earth. Alex has a mother who is missing most of the story (but we later find out is mentally ill), an older brother who lives in LA, and a dog named after his hero, Carl Sagan. Alex goes to a rocket festival where he plans to launch his rocket, and he meets several men who take him to Las Vegas and then Los Angeles to help him find a missing dad and catch up with his brother. Along the way, Alex discovers he has a Terra, who becomes very important to him. This story is a series of events that leave you feeling sad, stressed, and confused, but only because it is told through an ongoing narrative mostly by Alex, who is naive and young, and doesn’t see things as clearly we as the readers see them.
What I liked about this book was the idea that family isn’t necessarily who created you or who you’re blood-related to. Alex had a group of people who loved and cared for him, who took on the roles of mom and dad, older siblings, grandparents, etc., even if they weren’t those people. It puts things in perspective when students are upset about not having a dad, for example, but they have a great step parent or uncle or family friend who love and care the same way a dad might.
What I didn’t like about the book (or I should say, YOU might not like about the book, it didn’t bother me so much) was the voice. It is a series of recordings by Alex, and written exactly as he would say them. That means there are missing periods, tons of run-on sentences, and there are so many things that were missing (because Alex didn’t know) that I wanted to know. It requires a bit of patience, and you have to get used to it, but I felt that added to the charm of the book. I can see my students getting frustrated with the writing, though.
Book 11 of summer 2017!
The Someday Birds (hardcover)
by Sally J. Pla
AR Level 4.8, 9 points
I really enjoyed this book, another on the Mock Caldecott lists I’ve found online. I’m continuing my quest to read them before the winners are announced, but honestly, I expect to still be left confused about where I went wrong with my book choices!
The Someday Birds isn’t a feel-good story, but it is filled with hope and growth and knowledge kids wouldn’t get otherwise. Charlie is a 12 year-old boy who clearly has Asperger Syndrome, or is on the Autism Spectrum at the very least. His OCD requires him to wash his hands 12 times (since he’s 12 years old) several times a day when he feels unclean or is stressed. He has a bathroom rating scale, and only eats chicken nuggets. He’s also obsessed with birding, keeping a bird journal and learning everything he can about a famous birding expert, Tiberius Shaw. Before the novel begins, Charlie’s mom dies (when he was two). Sometime recently, his dad was traveling in a jeep in Afghanistan as a journalist when his jeep was hit by a bomb and he suffered from a brain injury. While he survived, he is in a hospital while doctors perform tests to try and get him back to normal. Charlie, his older sister Davis, and younger twin brothers are left in the care of their grandmother. Their dad is transferred to another hospital on the other side of the country, and Ludmila, a mysterious woman who appeared in their dad’s room, is in charge of taking care of them. The four traumatized kids then make the trip across country and learn about their country, their caretaker, and themselves.
The name The Someday Birds comes from the list that Charlie and his dad made prior to the accident. They wanted to see certain birds someday. Charlie makes it his goal to see these birds for his dad, to cheer him up.
What I liked about this book was the learning opportunities it provides its readers. For example, I’d say 9 out of 10 kids (and that’s being generous) have never heard of the war in Bosnia, or Bosnia itself. Ludmila recounts her experience and gives students insight. It also allows readers to see through the eyes of someone with OCD or Autism. They can look at his choices and see why he makes them, but then see how they affect others. Of course, readers get to learn more about birds, and that is always something I enjoy!
What I didn’t like about this book was nothing, really… it was a good read. No complaints.
Book 10 of summer 2017!
Beyond the Bright Sea (ebook)
by Lauren Wolk
No AR quiz yet
I was a little cynical about this book, because I read a lot about Wolf Hollow by the same author, and I heard it was a children’s book written for adults. I have yet to read Wolf Hollow (I brought it home to read this summer), but I let it taint my initial feelings. Luckily, I read the book and developed a better opinion of Beyond the Bright Sea.
Crow washed up on the shore on one of the Elizabeth Islands near New Bedford, Massachusetts. She was only a few hours old and in a tiny leaking boat, but luckily, Osh found her and raised her like he would his own, although she always knew he was not her real father. It was rumored that she was born on Penikese Island, where there was a leprosy colony, so Crow was shunned by the townspeople, except for Miss Maggie, who isn’t afraid to touch her. One day, Crow discovers she has roots on Penikese, and she discovers who her parents were, as well as what they left behind for her. This is a story with a good mystery, but it it is also sad and humorous, and you will grow to like Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie.
What I liked about this book was the way it kept me going. I started to figure out parts of the mystery, and I was frustrated that I would have to read the entire book for Crow to figure it out, but the author knew better- Crow figured it out shortly after I did as the reader, and I looked forward to unexpected twists after that.
What I didn’t like about this book was that Osh was so sad and hurt by Crow wanting to know about her real family. Osh, a tough, quiet man, was the stand in for Crow’s family, and he realized that she might not need him now that she learned who her family was. That made me sad, because I can imagine that my own (step) dad would feel the same if I wanted to spend more time with my biological father. I could relate to the situation.
Book 9 of summer 2017!
What Light (audiobook)
by Jay Asher
AR Level 4.5, 9 points
What Light is about a girl named Sierra who lives in Oregon on her family’s Christmas tree farm, but travels south to California for a month to sell the trees with her family. She is torn between spending December with her best friends in Oregon, and her friend in California. Sierra tries not to get attached to a cute boy named Caleb, especially with the rumors floating around about him, but they soon meet and spend time together, and being teenagers, they fall for each other quickly. Sierra also has to come to terms with the rumors about Caleb. Now that Sierra has broken her rule about falling for someone she will only see one month out of the year, she has to decided whether they should continue their relationship.
What I liked about this book was that it was light, and it didn’t make me think too hard during the summer. It is a Christmas-themed book, but good summer reading.
What I didn’t like about this book… I was disappointed. I remember 13 Reasons Why as being powerful, emotional, and engaging (I mean there’s a series based on the book!). I had higher expectations. This wasn’t anything super special. I was waiting for a climax that never happened.
Book 8 of summer 2017!
Hour of the Bees (hardcover)
by Lindsay Eager
AR Level 4.5, 9 points
Hour of the Bees was talked about last year, and it was one I never got to before the ALA awards (it didn’t win). It was really good! I don’t know what took me so long! Carol isn’t looking forward to her summer on her grandpa’s sheep ranch. He has Alzheimer’s, and her father’s plan is to sell the ranch and get him moved into a retirement home. Carol’s job is to help them get the house packed up, while watching her little brother, avoiding her older sister, and missing out on her friends’ exciting summer before starting middle school. She is annoyed by the bees that keep appearing around her head, despite the intense heat and drought. Carol is also in charge of watching her grandpa Serge, but she finds herself immersed in his stories about Sergio and Rosa and a magical tree. What starts out as a story about an annoyed tween becomes a fantastic story that will have you glued to your book. I read most of it in one day.
What I liked about this book was the way it sucked me into the story of Sergio and Rosa and the magical tree. I knew where the story was likely going, but I was really hoping it wasn’t a strange alternate reality (think of Don Juan DeMarco with Johnny Depp). This book did not disappoint. I was happy with where it was going and how it ended, and I may have even shed a tear at the end.
What I didn’t like about this book was the character of Alta. She bugged me, and I didn’t like the way she was a super B and then became nice in the end.
Book 7 of summer 2017!