Monday, March 12, 2018

HUNDRED PERCENT by Karen Romano Young

School Stories, Family Life, Friendship, Confidence, Kindness

From the Publisher
Christine Gouda, called Tink, and her best friend Jackie are entering sixth grade, and suddenly everything seems awkward and just plain wrong-boys are behaving differently, clothes do not fit the way they should, long term friendships suddenly seem tenuous, and most of all she needs a new nickname because "Tink" just does not fit anymore.

Booklist Review
Sixth grade seems like the perfect place for reinvention-or self-discovery-for Chris and her BFF Jackie. But their friendship strains as the girls develop at different rates and Jackie is invited into the cool kids' group. Chris tags along but isn't sure that's where she belongs, especially when her crush woofs at her, and her nerdy friend Matthew (aka Bushwhack) is considered a social pariah to be left behind. As in Stuck in the Middle (of Middle School) (2013), Young demonstrates her apt understanding of preteens, incorporating pertinent themes, such as the search for self-identity, the struggle to accept one's changing body, first crushes, the betrayal of friends, and the search for new ones. Luminous, witty writing and satirical banter between Chris and Bushwhack move the tale through the school year and offer hope that everyone can survive sixth grade. While not all of the plot is plausible, tweens will connect with Chris' struggle to find out who she is (and who she wants to be), and they'll rejoice as she emerges from her cocoon. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

My Comments
Thoughtful and authentic. This is perfect for a mature sixth grade girl. Although not a difficult read, it is a little long and focuses intently on everyday middle school social interactions and their meanings


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

HOW OSCAR INDIGO BROKE THE UNIVERSE (and put it back together again) by David Teague

Adventure, Science Fiction, Sports/Baseball, Courage, Time, Friendship, Divorce
Interest Level Grades 3-62017 - 246 pages

From the Publisher
"Oscar Indigo has never been good at baseball, so naturally he's nervous when he has to fill in for his team's injured All-Star, Lourdes. Luckily, Oscar has a mysterious gold watch that can stop time, which he uses to fake a game-winning home run. Now Oscar's the underdog hero of his town and even Lourdes wants to be his friend.

Oscar wants nothing more than to ask Lourdes for help, but what would a baseball star like her think of a guy whose fake home run actually destroyed the universe? But as he and Lourdes grow closer, Oscar understands that it isn't always what you do that makes you special--but who you are. And that confidence just might be the key to fixing the universe.

But the universe is a precarious place, and you can't just steal time without any consequences. If Oscar doesn't find a way to return the time he stole, the universe will unwind completely."

My CommentsWacky, fun, out there. I think it could be a hit (no pun intended) with upper elementary and middle school students. Would be a fun read aloud.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Ghosts, Humor, Suicide, Families, Friendship, Mystery

321 pages.

"Seeing an opportunity to use her psychic abilities, Gilda Joyce invites herself to San Francisco, where she visits her uncle and cousin, Juliet, communicates with the ghost in their old Victorian house, and learns family secrets." (Follett)

From the Publisher
"Ever since her father died, quirky Gilda Joyce has been working hard to sharpen her psychic skills. She's determined to communicate with spirits from the Other Side and become a crack investigator of spooky, twisted mysteries. After wrangling an invitation to visit relatives in San Francisco, Gilda discovers that her dreary, tight-lipped uncle and his strange, delicate daughter need her help to uncover the terrible family secret that has a tortured ghost stalking their home. From poignant to hair-raising and hilarious, this is a behind-the-scenes, tell-all account of the very first case in the illustrious career of Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator."

My Comments
I was surprised by the serious threads of death and suicide in this otherwise humorous book. Allison deftly addresses grief and loneliness in a quirky, funny girl. It is not a difficult read for middle school. Good to know, however, the issues it addresses. Well done.

THE ALCHEMYST by Michael Scott

Action-Adventure, Fantasy-Magic, Occult, Mythology, Mystery

375 pages.

Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (series)
"Fifteen-year-old twins, Sophie and Josh, find themselves caught up in the deadly struggle between rival alchemists, Nicholas Flamel and John Dee, over the possession of an ancient book that holds the secret formulas for alchemy and everlasting life." (Follett)

From the Publisher:
"Nicholas Flamel appeared in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter--but did you know he really lived? And he might still be alive today! 
The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330.
The legend: Nicholas Flamel discovered the secret of eternal life.
The records show that he died in 1418.
But his tomb is empty.
Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries.
The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects--the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time."

Order of Books
The Alchemyst
The Magician
The Sorceress
The Necromancer
The Warlock
The Enchantress
My Comments
Excellent! Give this to fans of Harry Potter and Rick Riordan. Couldn't put it down although sometimes I thought the characters got into lengthy conversations during moments of crisis which didn't seem believable even in a fantasy! Otherwise fabulous!

REFUGEE by Alan Gratz

Survival, Holocaust, Courage, Family, Immigration
Historical Fiction
338 pages
From the publisher:
"JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .
ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .
MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .
All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home."
My Comments
These stories are primarily targeted to the middle school audience although the material could easily be used in high school. The juxtaposition of the three lives drives home the common experience of heartbreak, loss, and great courage faced by refugees throughout time and country. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 09, 2018

WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate

Kindness, Friendship, Hope, Animals, Nature
256 pages
Starred reviews

From the Publisher
"The New York Times-bestselling story of kindness, friendship, and hope.

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"--people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.
You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times-bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best--writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.
This book has Common Core connections."
 My comments
Loved, loved, loved this book! It conveys messages of love and respect for all living things in a story that is beautiful in its simplicity. The world needs this book!

TEN DAYS A MADWOMAN by Deborah Noyes

The Daring Life and Turbulent times of the Original "Girl" Reporter: Nellie Bly

Biography, Narrative Nonfiction, Nellie Bly
136 pages with illustrations

From the publisher: 
"Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing columns about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off a train from Pittsburgh, Nellie knew she was destined for more and pulled a major journalistic stunt that skyrocketed her to fame: feigning insanity, being committed to the notorious asylum on Blackwell's Island, and writing a shocking expose of the clinic's horrific treatment of its patients.

Nellie Bly became a household name as the world followed her enthralling career in "stunt" journalism that raised awareness of political corruption, poverty, and abuses of human rights. Leading an uncommonly full life, Nellie circled the globe in a record seventy-two days and brought home a pet monkey before marrying an aged millionaire and running his company after his death.

With its sensational (and true!) plot, Ten Days a Madwoman dares its readers to live as boldly as its remarkable heroine."

My Comments
Nellie Bly's courage and determination make for a riveting and inspirational story that does not end with the famous story of how she managed to get herself checked into the insane asylum on Blackwell Island to cover the miserable conditions of women inmates.

The only criticism I have is that the layout is a bit confusing with parallel stories interjected on a blue background. Otherwise, highly recommended!

Friday, January 26, 2018

ANYA'S GHOST by Vera Broshgol

Graphic Novel, Ghosts, Friendship

From the publisher:
"Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn't kidding about the "Forever" part . . .
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who's been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya's normal life might actually be worse. She's embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she's pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend--even a ghost--is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks.
Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere,Anya's Ghostis a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.
This title has Common Core connections.
Anya's Ghost is a 2011Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year title.
One ofSchool Library Journal's Best Fiction Books of 2011.
One ofHorn Book's Best Fiction Books of 2011.
Winner of the 2012 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Young Adults (Ages 12-17)"
My Comments
Quick page-turner. Lessons about confidence, kindness, family, and love. A little mature so gauge your reader;  Anya has a habit of sneaking out of school to smoke cigarettes and cuts classes, and there are a few relationship incidents, but nothing beyond that. Overall, excellent! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


  • Emma
  • Irina
  • Jesse
  • Julia
  • Koyomi
  • Minju
  • Tia


In a world divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities--seventeen-year-old Mare, a Red, discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. But Mare risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.

Sixteen year old Hazel, who has cancer, meets Augustus at a kids-with-cancer support group and as they fall in love they both wonder how they will be remembered.

 Percy, expelled from six schools for being unable to control his temper, learns the truth from his mother that his father is the Greek god Poseidon, and is sent to Camp Half Blood where he is befriended by a satyr and the demigoddaughter of Athena who join him in a journey to the Underworld to retrieve Zeus's lightning bolt and prevent a catastrophic war.

Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Hero's Journey Middle School Books

Merlin, Wizards
A young boy who has no identity nor memory of his past washes ashore on the coast of Wales and finds his true name after a series of fantastic adventure. Series

 Good and Evil
A group of children in Cornwall, including the three Drew siblings, Will    Stanton, and a mysterious boy named Bran, are drawn into a dangerous battle between the forces of Light and the Dark. Series

While fleeing from Mozambique to Zimbabwe to escape an unwanted marriage, Nhamo, an eleven-year-old Shona girl, struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits.
Mister Monday-Grim Tuesday....Series

Arthur Penhaligon, destined to die at a young age, is saved by a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock, but his survival invokes the wrath of the mysterious Mister Monday who will stop at nothing to get the key back, and Arthur is forced into a desperate quest to unravel the secrets of the key and discover his true fate. Series


GUINEVERE by Sharan Newman
Tells of Guinevere's childhood when she was guarded by a majestic beast and prepared for holy sacrifice by the disciples of the Earth Mother. 

"Sharan Newman has created a portrait of what Guinevere might have been like--not a cardboard character who has been both deified and vilified over the centuries, but someone who was as bound by prophecy as Arthur and whose will ultimately was not all her own."<>

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


Historical fiction, Brooklyn, Alcoholism, Family, School, Coming of Age

Note: Current 8th grade assigned book (2017-2018)

"From the moment she entered the world, Francie needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family's erratic and eccentric behavior-such as her father Johnny's taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy's habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce-no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans' life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans' daily experiences are tenderly threaded with family connectedness and raw with honesty. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life-from "junk day" on Saturdays, when the children of Francie's neighborhood traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Betty Smith has artfully caught this sense of exciting life in a novel of childhood, replete with incredibly rich moments of universal experiences--a truly remarkable achievement for any writer.

Classic! This story brings Brooklyn at the turn of the century 1900, alive, but it is also an ageless story of tenderness, family, and love. Recommended for grades 8 and up. Also try the audio version as a family read.

SAVE ME A SEAT by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Realistic fiction, multicultural, friendship, bullies, school stories.

"Ravi has just moved to the United States from India and has always been at the top of his class; Joe has lived in the same town his whole life and has learning problems--but when their lives intersect in the first week of fifth grade they are brought together by a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and the need to take control of their lives." (publisher)

Engaging light read with a lot to think about. Highly recommend as realistic fiction through 6th grade.