Echo’s Sister (hardcover)
by Paul Mosier
Echo’s Sister‘s name is Laughter, or El, for short. On El’s first day of seventh grade at a new school, she finds out her younger sister Echo has cancer, and this news devastates her. She goes through all of the emotions- abandonment, fear, grief, resentment, anger, etc. as Echo goes through chemo and her family learns to deal with the news and reality of cancer. However, El finds herself surrounded by love and support, but it takes her awhile to realize it.
What I liked about this book was the positivity the characters had, despite the cancer. It really made me want to go and join a group to support cancer patients, or fundraise for someone who needs the support. I think that if you aren’t directly affected by cancer, it is something you just won’t think about supporting, but there are so many needs that the families have. Cancer is honestly my biggest fear, and I hope and pray no one in my family ever has to experience it. This book gives a perspective that makes me really feel for the families of patients.
What I didn’t like about this book is that it gave me a sore throat, because I kept trying not to cry! I hate crying. My throat hurts, my nose is running, and my eyes are still watery. Plus, I used many tissues. Ugh too many emotions! 😉
Book 2 of 2019
The Best Man (audiobook)
by Richard Peck
I really enjoyed The Best Man! Richard Peck was one of my favorite authors when I was in fifth and sixth grade. I can’t say I remember all of the books I read by him, but I do remember being taken by his characters and the predicaments they found themselves in. One was about some kids who lived in an old house in the city, and there was an elevator that would take them through time and they had to rescue a ghost in the house. It was called Voices After Midnight. I’m sure there were others that I loved by him, because I remember picking up his ghost stories because I loved them so much.
This story is about a boy named Archer who is in fifth and sixth grade (it takes place over a little over a year). He has a best friend named Lynette, who has a bold personality, and they a live in a suburb where everyone seems to be familiar with each other. Archer and Lynette met at a wedding as small kids, and their friendship continues through a second wedding at the end of the book. Most of the story is navigating the tricky middle school period where people are changing physically and socially, there are bullies to face and teachers to misunderstand. Archer is an average kid who loves his family, especially his uncle, who he later finds out is gay. Archer is particularly unobservant, and is the last to realize it.
What I liked about this book is the humor and wit it teaches young readers. It is hard to find middle grade literature that is so cleverly written that it will engage adult readers enough to make them giggle, but Richard Peck was an expert in his field, and I definitely found myself laughing out loud as I listened to the story while walking the dog or driving to work. I also appreciate the way Archer’s uncle was written. Him being gay is a total nonissue throughout the story, as it should be in life. It isn’t a plot point- it’s just part of the plot. There is no homophobia, just disappointment that his partner is gay and not available to his many female fans.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted Hilary to be a fake. He’s so snooty, I figured he was lying about everything, but I guess Peck wanted him to be a real person. Looking for something not to like is a real stretch, because it is a really cute story that will keep readers going from beginning to end.
You Go First (hardcover)
by Erin Entrada Kelly
You Go First is told from multiple perspectives. Charlotte is a middle school girl with a best friend who suddenly turns on her for no reason, leaving Charlotte lonely, confused, and deeply hurt by her betrayal. To top it off, her dad just had a heart attack, and she is worried about him. Ben is also in middle school, and he is bullied by “cool” kids because he is geeky and awkward, but he doesn’t report the offenses to anyone else, and continues to strive for a position on student council. His parents are in the middle of an amicable divorce, but he is angry and confused by it all. He, too, is lonely. Charlotte and Ben play Scrabble online together and occasionally talk on the phone, but never relay their troubles in an honest way, though both are struggling with similar situations. They are both struggling with very relatable middle school issues while searching for who they really are inside.
What I liked about this book is how relatable it is. I love the way she writes… as if she were just in middle school herself, but can see things much clearer now. I remember feeling left out, hurt by friends, wishing to start over each year and create a new identity… it brings back these feelings for me as an adult, and I can guarantee most students will be able to relate to these two characters because of the way she describes them and their situations so vividly.
What I didn’t like about this book was that the bullies never got their punishment. But do they ever, in real life? I can guarantee the girls who tortured me in sixth grade don’t remember my name, and I’m sure they didn’t get any sort of retribution for the names they called me, or the tears I cried because of what they said and did to me. The fact that they weren’t called out just adds to the relatability of the story.
Book 16 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 62 of 2018)
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl (ebook)
by Stacy McAnulty
I didn’t know anything aboutThe Miscalculations of Lightning Girl other than people were talking about it all over Twitter, so I decided to read it, in case it’s a Newbery contender. Lightning Girl is Lucy, a seventh grader who was struck by lightning when she was 8. The strike damaged her brain, making her a savant when it comes to numbers and calculations, as well as giving her a form of OCD that causes her to do “odd” things like sit stand sit stand sit each time she tries to sit down in class or the car and recite the numbers of pi when she’d stressed. Lucy is sent to public school, despite already completing high school online, and she becomes unlikely friends with a go-getter named Windy and an outcast named Levi. They join together on a community service project and learn the meaning of friendship and trust.
What I liked about this book was the voice that the author gave Lucy. I feel like Lucy was coming from somewhere the author has experience, whether it is OCD or math. Even if the reader cannot relate to either issue, he or she can certainly relate to the characters’ struggles with middle school relationships and finding your place. I don’t know anyone who didn’t get picked on by a bully or popular kid, feel uncomfortable in social situations at least once, or struggle with wanting to be normal or average. My students will certainly be able to relate to an aspect of this story.
What I didn’t like about this story was that we didn’t find out what Lucy’s choice was in the end, school-wise. I’m okay with that, and I think the reader can make his or her decision.
Book 14 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 60 of 2018)
The First Rule of Punk (hardcover)
by Celia C. Perez
The First Rule of Punk is that there are no rules. That’s what Malu learns from her father. She also learns that when her mom moves her to Chicago, away from her father, Malu has to start over in a school filled with Mexican-American children who embrace their culture more than she does. She also has a run-in with the queen of the school, Selena, who doesn’t hesitate to point out Malu’s faults. When Malu decides to start a punk band to enter the school’s talent show, Malu meets some friends who test her commitment and help her grow.
What I liked about this book was that it was engaging, celebrated Mexican heritage and being Mexican-American (MOST of my class will relate to that!). There was a lot that I learned, about the artist Jose Posada, punk music and philosophy, life as a Mexican-American child, and especially making a zine! I think my students will eat this book up. It is relatable and engaging and a great read overall.
What I didn’t like about this book was it hit a little close to home. I couldn’t relate to Malu in most ways, except for that feeling of wanting to perform in front of an audience but feeling anxious. I always wanted to be a singer, but I wasn’t given any singing talent. I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to, anyway! Then there’s Malu’s mother, who never seemed to be accepting of Malu’s fashion sense or interests, and they ended up with a broken relationship throughout most of the book. Her mother expected Malu to act, dress, behave, etc. in a certain way without allowing Malu to be herself. I wonder… do I do that with my own daughter? She’s extra sensitive, and maybe I need to go easier on her.
Book 41 of 40
(Book 7 of 2018)