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Posts Tagged «diversity»

Refugee

Monday, November 27th, 2017

51pelgst+7L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_by Alan Gratz, 338 pages, Grades 6-8

Three stories, three different times, all refugees escaping a beloved home where it has become too dangerous to continue to live. Josef’s family is escaping Nazi Germany in 1939, Isabel and her family are braving an escape from communist Cuba in 1994, and in 2015 Mahmoud and his family are desperately running from the violent war in Syria that continues today. Each family encounters a series of unbelievable challenges and dangers that threaten their lives, their sanity and their faith in humanity itself. Josef and his mother board the crowded ship, the St. Louis, with his father who is suffering delusions and severe anxiety after spending some time in a concentration camp. Isabel’s sea journey is in a makeshift boat built by a neighbor; her pregnant mother courageously comes along despite the fact that she is almost due to give birth. Mahmoud’s family endures abuse, and even imprisonment and beating as they try to make their way north to Germany. Each story alternates, but you can choose to read each story chronologically following the narrator if you prefer.

If you enjoy harrowing stories of historical fiction you might also enjoy: A Night Divided, by Jennifer Nielsen, Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys, Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan.

As Brave As You

Monday, August 28th, 2017

26875552by Jason Reynolds, 410 pages, Grades 6 and up

Genie wants to know things, and when he doesn’t know something he can tend to worry about it. He absolutely loves Google because he can ask it all the things he is curious about and he usually gets an answer, but this summer he and his brother are staying with their grandparents where there is no internet. He went from Brooklyn to rural Virginia where everything is a mystery and he doesn’t even have Google! Genie is not having any trouble keeping busy, though. He has personal mysteries to investigate – he keeps track of questions in his notebook , a new landscape to navigate, and, of course, chores, like scooping poop and taking care of birds – things you don’t have to do growing up in the city.

If you enjoy books about summertime or visiting grandparents you might also like: A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, or Watsons Go To Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis.

A Year Without Mom

Monday, April 18th, 2016

without momGraphic Novel by Dasha Tolstikova, 167 pages, Grades 6 and up

Dasha’s mom is moving to the United States for one year and leaving her behind in Russia with her grandparents. Dasha is plenty responsible and independent and she gets along fine with her grandma and grandpa but there are some things 12 year olds just can’t discuss with their grandparents. Dasha’s year is full of hard decisions and some heartache and Dasha has to brave it all on her own.

If you enjoy graphic novels you might also like:  The Memory Bank, by Coman & Shepperson, or Little White Duck, by Liu and Martinez.

The Thing About Jellyfish

Friday, January 29th, 2016

24396876by Ali Benjamin, 343 pages, Grades 6-8

You know that moment when you and the best friend you have had all the way through elementary school just don’t seem to be seeing eye to eye anymore? This had just happened to Suzy at the end of the school year last June. Suzy was fed up with Franny and her clique and they had not seen each other all summer. Sometimes friends just grow apart, sometimes friends just need a little break; Suzy knew that. But then her mother got the phone call; Franny drowned. Her best friend was dead, really dead. And, now Suzy cannot understand how this can be true; Franny knows how to swim after all. Suzy is convinced it must have been some kind of freak Jellyfish sting accident, and she is determined to prove it.

If you enjoy sad books that are also about friendship you might also enjoy: Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

The Lighning Dreamer

Monday, November 9th, 2015

lightningby Margarita Engle, 244 pages, Grades 7 and up

This novel in verse is based on the true story of a young woman who speaks up for the poor enslaved and mistreated people of her country, Cuba. She is inspired by a rebel poet and moved by those living without freedom all around her. She risks her own life and freedom to speak out about these inequities.

Sometimes novels in verse can make stories even more powerful and moving. If you enjoy novels in verse you might also like: The Aleutian Sparrow, by Karen Hesse, or The Surrender Tree, by Margarita Engle, or Paper Hearts, by Meg Wiviott.

How I Became a Ghost

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

51L2Lg+T8bL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Tim Tingle, 139 pages, Grades 6 and up

There was a time when Isaac’s life was happy and peaceful with his Choctaw family and his dog, Jumper. But this is not the story of that part of Isaac’s life; this story is actually told by his ghost, so right away you see things are not going to end well for Isaac. Isaac becomes a ghost during the Trail of Tears, but that doesn’t stop him from helping his family and friends survive their harrowing journey.

If you enjoy stories about the Native American experience you might also enjoy:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, Ghost Hawk, by Susan Cooper, House of Purple Cedar, by Tim Tingle, or The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich.

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

hold tightby Laura Rose Wagner, 263 pages, Grades 8 and up

One moment, Magdalie is living an ordinary life in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; she goes to school, spends time with her best friend and cousin Nadine, and helps her auntie with chores around the house. The next moment her world is turned upside down; she has no home, no school, no family and maybe no best friend. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 it caused devastation throughout the region. Magdalie survives the quake but is challenged with surviving the new chaotic world.  How can she embrace her future now that everything is different?

P.S. The author is a former student of Piedmont Middle School

If you enjoy books about persevering after a disaster, you might also enjoy: The Red Pencil, by Pinkney, or Mockingbird, by Erksine.

Revolution

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

18527498by Deborah Wiles, 495 pages, Grades 6-8

This is book 2 in the Sixties Trilogy by Deborah Wiles.

 

It is 1964 and Sunny’s life has been taken over by a stepmother, her children, her mother and a dog. She feels like starting a revolution or at least participating in a protest like her mother might have done. Sunny’s life really isn’t that bad, at least she go where she wants. Raymond is African American living near Sunny but in very different circumstances. He can’t even swim in the “public” pool just because he is Black. That, at least, is about to change because Sunny and Raymond are in the middle of Freedom Summer when desegregation advocates flocked to Mississippi to register African Americans to vote. Jo Ellen (the older sister character in the book Countdown, by Wiles) is part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that comes to Sunny’s town to register voters and Sunny admires her right away. The three characters’ stories overlap during one of the most memorable time in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Wiles makes the book especially interesting to read by scattering news articles, radio transcriptions, and other elements of popular culture of 1964 throughout grounding the story in the historical time frame.

 

If you enjoy books about the Civil Rights Movement in American history you might also enjoy: One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine, or the non-ficiton book called Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip M. Hoose, or the biography called Warriors Don’t Cry by Beals

 

Fish in a Tree

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

fish in a tree - final coverby Lynda Mullaly Hunt, 276 pages, Grades 6

 

Ally has a lot of ideas; she loves to draw and loves to create stories in her mind, but she cannot put her stories into words on paper. Because of her struggle with words she finds herself in embarrassing situations at school. Sometimes her mistakes make other people laugh and rather than admitting she really doesn’t understand, she pretends that she makes mistakes on purpose; she plays the class clown. This is how she makes it to middle school before anyone knows she has dyslexia, a learning difference that makes reading very challenging. Being the class clown has helped her escape embarrassment, but when you pretend to be someone you’re not it is hard to make real friends. This might be the year Ally decides to be strong and finally be herself.

 

If you enjoy books about kids overcoming obstacles at school, you might also enjoy: Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin,  Counting By Sevens, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos.

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

18079754by Brenda Woods, 222 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Violet is happy; she loves her family. She even loves her perfect sister, though she is a bit envious. Her sister is gorgeous and talented and fits in perfectly at home and in public; no one ever questions how she is a part of their family. Violet’s father was African American and her mom is white. Now that her dad is dead, she is growing up as the only person of color in a white family and just being seen as part of the family out in the world is not simple. No one can just see that she belongs, and even though she is close to her mom and sister she longs for somewhere to fit it without anyone questioning it. Her father’s mother is an artist and is doing a show nearby. Violet is determined to go to the show and convince her grandmother to be a part of her life; since her father died her grandmother has not contacted their family out of both grief and anger. It is time Violet finds a connection to the rest of her personal identity and her father’s family, but is this angry grandmother the way to find it?

If you like stories about personal identity you might also enjoy My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman, A Mango Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, or My Name is Mina, by David Almond.

A Time to Dance

Friday, January 9th, 2015

timetodanceby Padma Venkatraman, 305 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

To Veda, dancing is like breathing; it is a natural and necessary part of life. She is highly competitive and the star pupil of her Bharatanatyam dance school until the accident. When Veda loses part of her leg she has to learn to redefine what she knows about dancing, and what she thinks she understands about life itself.

 

If you like books about athletes overcoming adversity you might also enjoy: Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, Curveball:The Year I Lost My Grip, by Jordan Sonnenblick, and One Handed Catch, by M.J. Auch

 

Caminar

Monday, January 5th, 2015

18166935by Skila Brown, 193 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Carlos lives in Guatemala during a civil war. When he is little his village is quiet and peaceful, but as the war comes closer things begin to get frightening. Soldiers make camp nearby and although they seem nice enough, there is a sense that trouble is lurking in their backyard. Eventually, the war separates Carlos from the rest of his family.  He is starving and alone when the soldiers find him. Should he trust them? Can he survive without them? When the soldiers were camped outside their village his mother told him he was not old enough to stand up to them, but has he grown up since then? If only he could ask his mother if he was ready, so he would know what to do to save his grandmother’s village.

 

Click here to see if this book is available.

If you like stories of war and courage, you might also like: A Long Walk To Water, by Barbara Parks, or Now is The Time for Running, by Michael Williams.

One Man Guy

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

onemanguyby Michael Barakiva, 255 pages, Grades 6-10

 

Alex Khederian’s parents lied to him. They promised him he could go to tennis camp and instead he is going to summer school! This seems bad enough, but then his best friend and constant confident, Becky, decides to kiss him. Because he is not attracted to her, the whole thing goes badly; Alex unintentionally hurts Becky’s feelings. Has he lost his best friend too? Things are adding up to the worst summer ever when Alex meets a boy named Josh in his summer school class. Josh and Alex are very different in many ways; Josh is an expert about cool places in the city and Alex is a specialist of everything Armenian (having grown up in a very proud Armenian family). The boys relationship turns into something more than friendship.  Now, Alex needs a friend to talk to more than ever; he knows Becky could help him explain his relationship with Josh to his seemingly old-world parents, but will she ever forgive him for rejecting her?

 

If you like books about identity, you may also enjoy Every Day, by David Levithan, or Totally Joe, by James Howe, or The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

My Basmati Bat Mitzvahby Paula J. Freedman, 236 pages, Grades 6-7

Tara’s mother is from India but converted to Judaism when she married Tara’s father. They are one big culturally mixed happy family and Tara has always felt comfortable with her mixed heritage, but now that she is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah she is thinking a lot about her Indian grandparents and hoping that taking this step does not mean that she is denying the Indian part of her identity. How can she commit to Judaism without somehow denouncing all that is Hindu? Of course, Tara is also an adolescent dealing with all the awkward and challenging social situations of middle school: friends, boys, Hebrew study, robotics club and school work. How will she find time to make sense of who she really is when she is just trying to cope with the everyday crises of middle school existence?

If you enjoy stories about identity, you might also like: Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip, by Jordan Sonnenblick, or Totally Joe, by James Howe.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

ToAllTheBoysI_veLovedBefore_FinalCoverby Jenny Han, 255 pages, Grades 7-12

Lara Jean and her sisters call themselves the Song Girls after their mother’s last name. When their mother dies that special bond and their loving daddy helps them keep them all close, but it is her big sister Margot that takes over all the big family responsibilities and the mommy role especially for their younger sister, Kitty. When Margot leaves for college Lara Jean finds herself stepping into some pretty big shoes; she is having a hard time measuring up. Lara Jean has never really had a boyfriend, but she has fallen in love before and she keeps a secret box of love letters written to her former crushes. In the midst of juggling school, finding her way socially, and all the new jobs she is taking over from Margot, somehow her secret letters are winding up in the hands of the boys she wrote them to! How did this happen? Could anything be more embarrassing? How can she recover from this, and keep things at home going in Margot’s absence?

If you enjoy realistic fiction about fitting in at school you might also like: The Misfits, Totally Joe, or Addie on the Inside by James Howe. If you like teen romance stories you might also like The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Ghost Hawk

Monday, March 31st, 2014

ghost hawkby Susan Cooper, 328 pages, Grades 6-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

It is time for Little Hawk to transition from a boy to a man so he must venture out into the wilderness and survive for a few months bringing along only his tomahawk, bow and arrow, and a knife. This harrowing survival story is only the beginning. When Little Hawk returns to his village ready to rest and visit with his family he finds his village empty; plague has taken everyone but his grandmother. Little Hawk’s life is an inspiration to a young white boy named John Wakely who suffers challenges of his own; his life would not follow the path it does without the influence of Little Hawk, and Little Hawk’s life is forever changed as well. Even though this is fiction, the story includes a historical timeline of the true events at the end of the book.

If you enjoy historical fiction that takes place in early American history you might also like: Sofia’s War, by Avi, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

The Lions of Little Rock

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

by Kristin Levine, 298 pages, Grades 6-8

lions of little rockMarlee is growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas the year after the famous Little Rock Nine integration. In the aftermath of that difficult year, the town is pushing back against the federal integration order, and the schools that are refusing to integrate are shut down.  Marlee is in middle school and has her own personal struggles. She is great with math, but speaking aloud is a real struggle, in fact to many she appears completely mute. This year there is a new girl in her class and when they are partnered up for a project Marlee finds herself able to talk to Liz; they become close friends. Liz is smart and confident and enjoys Marlee’s company as well. Unfortunately, Liz has a secret. A secret so big that she cannot even tell Marlee no matter how much she wants to trust her; a secret so big that it might endanger both girls lives.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction about the civil rights era in the United States, you might also enjoy: The Watson’s Go To Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis, or One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

So B. It

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

sobitby Sarah Weeks, 245 pages, Grades 6-9

Lucky for Heidi and her mom their neighbor Bernadette helped raise Heidi and take care of her mother as well since Heidi was a tiny baby. Heidi’s mother loves her, but she really could not have taken care of Heidi by herself; she is mentally disabled to the point that she only has about 27 words in her vocabulary. One of those words, “soof,” drives Heidi crazy because she cannot figure out what it means! Heidi, at 12, is becoming more and more curious about her past; she wants to understand who she is and where she fits in the world. When an old camera turns up in the back of the closet and provides some photographic clues Heidi is off, determined to find herself and her past without any help from anyone!

If you enjoy books about kids who persevere and triumph despite the odds, you might also enjoy Counting by7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Zeitoun

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Zeitoun_loresby David Eggers, 337 pages, adult biography

Zeitoun is the biography of a man living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina.  His full name is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, but everyone calls him Zeitoun for short.  He and his wife Kathy have been living in New Orleans for years raising their four kids and running their business, so when the threats of the hurricane come in at first they think the reports are exaggerated and that they will remain in the city and ride it out.  Eventually, though, they decide that Kathy will leave with the children for a few days, just to be safe.  Zeitoun wants to remain behind so that he can watch after all the different properties they own, and try to minimize the damage.

The hurricane, of course, does more damage than anyone can imagine and Zeitoun uses his canoe to row around the city helping those he can and keeping an eye on his property.  At least he does this until the Homeland Security police scoop him up and unlawfully throw him into a prison.  He is not given a call, or a lawyer and his family does not even know where he is. This frustrating and harrowing story reads like an adventure even though it is a true account of this family’s ordeal.

If you enjoy biographical adventure stories you might also like:  Into The Wild, by Krakauer, or Three Cups of Tea, by Mortenson, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Ralston.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Hold Fast

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

by Blue Balliett, 274 pages, Grades 6-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2016

Early lives with her father, Dash, her mother, Summer, and her little brother, Jubilation.  They are a happy family hoping to live in a cute little house one day.  They play word games, and read books together in their little apartment while Dash tries to save up enough money for their dream house. To make extra money he has a new night job sorting books; his day job is at the local library.  He and Al go through boxes of old books to send to a second-hand bookseller somewhere.  The job seems a little strange to Early, but she never expected it to be dangerous.  One day her father goes missing and the next their apartment is invaded and ransacked and they are out on the street.  The little family of three struggles to “hold fast” living in a shelter while they wait for Dash to return, but when the police prove less than helpful Early is compelled to solve the mystery behind her father’s disappearance herself.

 

Blue Balliett has written a lot of terrific mysteries:  Chasing Vermeer, The Wright Three, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box; if you enjoy Hold Fast, you might like those as well.

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Russell Freedman, 119 pages, Grades 5-9

“‘He was the architect of his own fortune, a self-made man,’ Douglass wrote of Lincoln.  He had ‘ascended high but with hard hands and honest work build the ladder on which he climbed’ –  words that Douglass, as he was aware, could easily have applied to himself” (Freedman 103).

 

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a lot in common:  they both grew up poor and uneducated, they both taught themselves because they greatly desired knowledge, and they both wanted to end the practice of slavery in the United States.  They were also very different men: Douglass was born a slave, Lincoln was born free, Douglass had to spend the first part of his life tortured and enslaved, and though Lincoln’s family was poor and he had to work hard he was never tortured.  Douglass and Lincoln also had different approaches to the problem of slavery, but they respected one another greatly even when they did not agree.

 

Freedman’s book is not only interesting, but also an easy read; you feel compelled to continue reading every word as though it were a suspenseful novel keeping you on the edge of your seat.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction, you might also like other books by Russell Freedman like:  The War to End All Wars, Who Was First:  Discovering the Americas, or The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Outcasts United

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Warren St. John, 226 pages, Grades 7 and up

This is a book of many true stories beginning with Luma Mufleh.  She is a Jordanian exchange student and avid soccer player, who decided to remain in the United States after completing her education at Smith University in Massachusetts.  She made her way to the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia and stumbled upon a very interesting city called Clarkston.  

The U.S. government had been relocating refugees since the 1980s and this little town had become extremely cosmopolitan.  People fleeing wars in their homelands of Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Ethiopia and many other countries all ended up thrown together in the town of Clarkston.  Mufleh was drawn to the place when she noticed their grocery store carried food she missed from home, but the thing that really grabbed her attention was the groups of young boys playing soccer on every available field she saw.  All of them were playing in bare feet, but they showed more passion for the game than any of the kids she was coaching in the suburbs.  She decided to bring a soccer program to Clarkston.  Mufleh coaches three teams of boys called the Fugees; this book is a collection of their stories and the teams’ stories.  

To watch a video about the team go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ItUYQhQ_CHg#!

 

 

The Mighty Miss Malone

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

miss maloneby Christopher Paul Curtis, 307 pages, Grades 5-7

Deza lives with her parents and her older brother, Jimmie, in Gary, Indiana.  It is 1936, and even though her parents are both hardworking people, the Depression has taken its toll on their family.  Her father lost his job a while back and even though he is always looking for work there is just nothing to be found.  

Deza makes her family proud because she is the gets the highest marks in her class and does her best to keep her brother in line as well; this is how she earns her nickname, “the Mighty Miss Malone.”  It is a good thing she is mighty, because their family is put through the wringer; it seems like whatever can go wrong does go wrong, and the question is: is Deza tough enough to help her family make through the terrible trials of the Depression?

If you like historical fiction you might like other titles by Christopher Paul Curtis such as: Bud Not Buddy, Elijah of Buxton, or The Watson’s Go To Birmingham.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

mantepieceby Annabel Pitcher, 211 pages, Grades 7-10

Jamie is an optimistic soul whose life is crumbling around him.  Five years ago one of his twin sisters was killed in a terrorist attack in London.  Her ashes are a constant reminder of the family’s loss.  Jamie was only five when this happened, so he has no real memories of this sister alive and does not understand the reason the urn is such a central part of their current lives. Their father gives the urn offerings of food, and they string up a stocking for it at Christmas time.  

Jamie and his other sister, Jas, are trying to get by on their own as each of their parents falls into despair.  Their mother abandons them, and their father moves them to the country to try to start again, but can’t pull himself together to get to work, or even to put the beer down, get off the couch and take care of his children.  

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is a harrowing story of a troubled family trying to move forward in the wake of great disaster, but it is also the story of personal courage, friendship, and love that breaks all the rules and helps us carry on.

If you enjoy sad stories you might also like:  See You at Harry’s, by Jo Knowles, or Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine.  

If you appreciate books whose main characters have a challenging parental situation, you might also like Guitar Boy, by M.C. Auchs, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

The Great Unexpected

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

great unexpectedby Sharon Creech, 226 pages, Grades 6-7

Naomi and Lizzie are two orphan girls living in a small American town with many albeit distant connections to Ireland.  One day boy called Finn falls out of a tree practically onto Naomi’s head, and this begins the magical mystery.  Who is “this Finn boy” and who is the Dingle Dangle man who has been seen around town, and what do they have to do with the orphan girls?   The girls’ story is told alternating with a tale of others who live across the ocean in the old country, and, of course, they are somehow all connected.  

The Great Unexpected reads like a modern Irish fairy tale; if you enjoy fairy tales, or realistic fantasy you might also like:  A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews or My Name is Mina and I Love the Night, by David Almond.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

See You At Harry’s

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

seeyouhby Johanna Knowles, 310 pages, Grades 6-9

Fern’s father owns a diner called Harry’s and he is always coming up with publicity schemes that he hopes will bring in more customers.  In this family you never know what kind of crazy t-shirt you’ll have to pose in to advertise the restaurant.  

The only one who is ever enthusiastic about these nutty ideas is Fern’s little brother, Charlie, who is only 3 years old.  Her teenaged older siblings are even more disgusted than Fern is with their dad’s TV ads and trucks plastered with family photos inviting you to come down to Harry’s.  

Life is pretty busy with both parents working at the restaurant, and four kids to keep track of, but even though the older kids often feel neglected and taken for granted, everyone seems to love one another. One day a tragic event changes their lives forever; can their love weather such a brutal storm?

If  you enjoy sad stories you might also like Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitchner.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

A Mango Shaped Space

Friday, December 14th, 2012

mangoby Wendy Mass, 270 pages, Grades 5-8

Mia has been seeing colors for as long as she can remember, but she hasn’t told anyone about it since fourth grade when she tried to explain that numbers and letters come in certain colors.  The entire class burst into laughter; this was not only humiliating, it also made Mia feel like a freak.  Until then, she thought everyone saw colors the way she did.  She even named her grey and white cat Mango after the color he leaves in the air when he moves.  Finally, she is diagnosed with synesthesia, a condition that affects many people, and she begins to explore her identity trying to connect with others like her.

It is a relief for Mia to find people who see the world the way she does, but unfortunately this self-discovery alienates her from her friends and family just when she really needs them most.

If you enjoy reading about people who see the world differently, you might also like Anything But Typical, by Raleigh Baskin, Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper, Kissing Doorknobs, by  Terry Spencer Hesser or Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Wild Things

Friday, December 14th, 2012

wildthingsby Clay Carmichael, 241 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Zoe, who is eleven years old, has had a hard life already.  She hasn’t grown up with a lot of motherly affection or concern, and she has had to deal with a number of her mother’s boyfriends stealing her mother’s attention over the years as well.  

When Zoe’s mother dies, her Uncle Henry takes her in, but Zoe is not sure what she thinks about the arrangement.  Having been left to her own devices all her life has made Zoe very independent and capable; she knows how to take care of herself, but she is not sure if she can ever bring herself to trust anyone else.

Adults in her life have not really panned out, is Uncle Henry up for the challenge of a wild thing like Zoe? 

If you enjoy books with characters facing a challenging family situation, you might also like Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

The Other Wes Moore

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

the_other_wes_moore_bookcoverby Wes Moore, 239 pages, Adult Biography

READMONT BOOK OF 2012-13!

The author Wes Moore had a challenging childhood.  His father died when he was very young, his mom had to work multiple jobs to support their family after his death, and they had to live in neighborhoods plagued with drugs and gangs.  

Moore survived his turbulent youth, however, and went on to become a decorated war veteran, college graduate, and Rhodes scholar.  It was when he was in South Africa on his Rhodes fellowship that his mother told him about another young man, about his age, and from his home town, who had just been arrested for robbing a jewelry store; the robbers had killed a security guard. This young man’s name was also Wes Moore, and this Wes Moore was convicted to a life sentence in prison.  

The shock that there could be another person, with his identical name, growing up in a very similar situation who ended up in such a different place made the author want to understand the other Wes Moore, and how their lives had diverged so significantly.  This is the biography and autobiography of the two Wes Moores.

If you enjoy reading biographies of contemporary people, you might also enjoy The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba, or Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, by Karen Blumenthal, or Aung San Suu Kyi, by Sherry O'Keefe.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Unforgettable

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Unforgettableby Loretta Ellsworth, 256 pages, Grades 6-9

Baxter can remember what his mom was wearing when she came to pick him up from kindergarten ten years ago including what her voice smelled like to him.  It seems like it would be a cool trick, like photographic memory, but Baxter also cannot get rid of these memories or any information, and they can be a burden.  Also, this kind of gift can be used for evil, and, in fact, his mom’s last boyfriend thought of an illegal way to profit from Baxter’s gift. This criminal boyfriend is just about to be released from jail for those crimes; Baxter had been a key witness, so he and his mother are moving to a small town across the country to escape his anger.  It is hard to be new in a strange town, but Baxter has found someone from his past to connect with, and even though she can’t remember their kindergarten days together, of course, Baxter can.

If you enjoy books about kids with unusual abilities, you might also enjoy Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Wonder

Monday, September 17th, 2012

121009_DX_WonderBook.jpg.CROP.article250-mediumby R.J. Palacio, 315 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2014

Going to a new school is always hard, especially if you have to be the new kid in a middle school, but for Augie it is even more difficult than that.  August has never attended school before; he has been home-schooled because he could not attend consistently since he was busy having so many surgeries.  

He had to have surgeries because he was born with several different facial malformations.  His face does not look like everyone else’s; he is used to being around people who know him and love him, but to suddenly find himself in a school with a bunch of adolescents he doesn’t know is pretty scary.  He is not sure if he will find a place to fit in, and if everyone will get to know who he is beyond his outward appearance.  

Who is the real Augie and can he manage to get known for something other than his unusual face?

If you enjoy reading books about kids who overcome obstacles, you might also enjoy Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erksine,  Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

A World Away

Monday, September 17th, 2012

world awayby Nancy Grossman, 394 pages, Grades 7 and up

Eliza has lived her whole life sheltered from modern technology, and she has also lived a life free of modern problems like materialism, consumerism and deceit.  Eliza and her family are Amish and she has never left the Amish community where they do not have telephones, movie theatres, or shopping malls.  They do not listen to music, and the girls do not wear pants.  

Once in their lives Amish adolescents are offered an opportunity to see what it is like to live among “the English” – as they call people living outside the Amish community. During this important year, called Rumspringa, Amish teens are allowed to explore the world outside and decide which life they prefer.  Once they promise themselves to the Amish, they cannot leave without shame, so the decision is made very thoughtfully.  

A World Away is the story of Eliza’s Rumspringa year.  The magic of technology in all its forms is exciting, but there are things about her home she misses terribly.  Which life will she choose?

If you enjoy reading about adolescents challenged to make difficult decisions, you might also like reading:  The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Chol, or Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Ghetto Cowboy

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

ghetto_cowboy_coverby G. Neri, 218 pages, Grades 5-8

 
Cole has caused his mom so much trouble that she has decided to deliver him to his father’s in the hopes that Cole’s dad can shape up her 12 year old before it is too late.  Cole has never met his father, so he’s unsure what to expect, but when he finds out his father lives like a cowboy in the middle of the city racing horses and teaching city kids to ride, he is beyond shocked.  He cannot believe his mom is leaving him in this crazy place; his father doesn’t even have an extra bedroom for him, and his idea of helping out around the house has Cole shoveling horse manure!  Who is this ghetto cowboy, and how could his mom trust him to take care of Cole, when everything around here seems to be falling apart?
 
If you enjoy reading books about different cultures right here in our country, you might also enjoy Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch. If you like books about families dealing with troubled teens you might also enjoy Watson's Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech.
 

Out of My Mind

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

OutOfMyMindby Sharon Draper, 295 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Melody has an amazing memory for detail; she is extremely observant and intelligent.  The only problem is, no one around her can tell how much she understands because her cerebral palsy makes it almost impossible for her to communicate.  Her parents believe she is smart and her caretakers can see she has a good brain, in fact, one of her caretakers comes up with a system that helps Melody communicate simple things, but Melody craves so much more. All of her ideas, thoughts, jokes and insights are trapped inside her.  How can she get the recognition she deserves for her brilliant mind if no one can really tell what is going on in there?

If you enjoy books about kids who overcome adversity you might also enjoy Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

After Ever After

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

after-ever-afterby Jordan Sonnenblick, 260 pages, Grades 6-9

Jeff is a cancer survivor.  When he was five he was diagnosed with Leukemia, but he has been cancer free for years now.  Still, the has to deal with repercussions from the experience. He has a bit of a limp, but that just means he bikes instead of going out for track, and it doesn’t keep Lindsey from thinking he’s cute, so that’s not a big deal.  He also finds math challenging because one of the cancer drugs messed with that part of his brain, but he is not too worried about that either until the state institute an exit exam for the eighth grade.  Normally, this is something that his big brother Steven could have helped Jeff figure out, but he was off finding himself drumming his way through Africa.  Jeff doesn’t want to worry his mom; he feels like she has worried enough about him.  He also doesn’t want to upset his accountant dad who cannot understand why Jeff doesn’t get math the way he does, so he decides to keep them both in the dark.  Luckily his best friend Tad, a cancer survivor himself with after effects of his own, agrees to tutor him in math.  In exchange, Jeff promises that he will help Tad build the strength to walk across the stage at their graduation; Tad uses a wheelchair because his cancer treatment affected the strength in his legs.  Naturally, nothing is as simple or straightforward as it seems, which anyone who has had to battle cancer at five should have realized.

After Ever After is a companion book to Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie.  Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie is told from Jeff’s brother’s point of view when he is first diagnosed with cancer as a little kid.  

If you enjoy books about overcoming adversity, and challenge you might also enjoy:  Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, or Waiting For Normal, by Leslie Connor.

A Monster Calls

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

monstercallsby Patrick Ness, 204 pages.  Grades 7 and up.

Connor has been making his own dinner, and putting himself to bed for a while now.  His mom has been sick a long time. The treatments seem never-ending.  There is always something new to try; something that will surely work this time.  It is hard for him, but he has it under control, and he is managing just fine, until some bullies start bothering him at school, and a monster moves into his backyard and starts waking him up in the middle of the night trying to scare him.

The monster takes Connor on a journey of stories, each more unexpected than the next. On the way he learns that things are not always what they seem and he finds the strength to face his worst fear of all.  

The combination of the illustrations and the writing is so powerful that it brings the reader along on Connor’s emotional journey in a way that feels tangibly genuine and raw.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you like sad stories you might also enjoy:  After Ever After, by Jordan Sonnenblick, or The Poet Slave of Cuba, by Margarita Engle.

Now Is The Time For Running

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

nowisthetimeforrunning__spanby Michael Williams, 233 pages, Grades 7 and up

Deo is playing soccer when the soldiers arrive.  At first they hope that they will shout and shoot into the sky and then move on to the next village to show their power, but the soldiers are serious about violence this time.  Deo and Innocent narrowly escape the massacre and run from their home with only a few possessions. Deo is the younger brother, but Innocent is disabled and suffers from emotional fits when he isn’t able to calm himself with his radio, so it is Deo who has to make all the decisions to make sure they are safe.

The teens face immense difficulties as they make their way to the border, but it is when they get there that the real challenge begins. Deo and Innocent have to make their way across a raging river and through a wild animal preserve just to escape the war, but even away from the war safety is very hard to find.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy reading stories about real places and situations that are very different from your own, you might also like:  No Ordinary Day, Breadwinner, or I Am A Taxi, by Deborah Ellis, or Crossing the Wire, by Will Hobbs.

No Ordinary Day

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

noordinarydayby Deborah Ellis, 155 pages, Grade 5-7

The day Valli leaves her miserable coal mining village and sets off on an adventure is no ordinary day; it is her happiest day so far.  Valli is a clever survivor; she ends up in Kolkata, India and lives alone on the streets borrowing and begging to fill her belly, and sleeping in the cemetery when she can sneak by the guards.  Life is hard, but she is stubbornly optimistic.  Valli approaches strangers to ask for food, dives to the bottom of the river to collect change; she has a gift for getting what she requires and when she is finished with something she makes sure to give it to someone else in need.   

One day she meets a lady doctor whom she is sure will give her a few rupees (Indian money), but while they are talking Valli steps on some burning coals.  The doctor is alarmed, but Valli doesn’t feel a thing; she tells the doctor that she has magic feet, nothing can hurt her.

Leprosy is one of the most feared and misunderstood diseases probably because of the way it disfigures its victims.  Even today people with the disease are considered outcasts of their societies.  In reality, leprosy is hard to get, and, in fact, can be cured if diagnosed and treated.  Unfortunately, often those who contract it are not in a position to get assistance.  

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy reading about social situations much different from our lucky circumstances here in Piedmont, then you might also enjoy The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis, Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan, or Now is the Time for Running, by Michael Williams.

Waiting For Normal

Friday, January 6th, 2012

waiting-for-normalby Leslie Connor,  290 pages, Grades 6-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Addie’s life has a lot of “twists and turns” that she doesn’t expect.  She used to live with her Mommers, Dwight and her two little sisters, but after what she calls her big mistake everything changes.  Now, she and Mommers are moving into a trailer home and “the littles” (her sisters) are moving away with their dad, Dwight.  

Addie is good at making the best of almost every situation; her mom calls the trailer a piece of junk in the middle of no where, but Addie calls it an adventure and sees her new loft-room as cozy, not cramped.  Even when there is no food in the house, she can create a delicious meal, in fact, she has invented a repertoire of toast-dinner recipes.  

Addie’s winning personality makes her a lot of friends, but her life is far from normal; she might need more than optimism to get her to out of danger in the end.

Other stories about challenging family situations are:  Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Grounded, by Kate Klise, and Ruby Holler, or Bloomability, by Sharon Creech.

 

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

revolutionby Ying Chang Compestine, 249 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Ling is nine, her parents are both doctors and they live in China surrounded by neighbors who are their friends.  Little by little the China they know begins to change around them.  The young people call themselves revolutionaries and say they value equality for all, but soon their chants “Down with the bourgeois!” and actions turn against people like Ling’s parents who have been educated.  Ling faces challenges of school bullies, the disappearance of friends and family, the lack of food and necessities as well as the abuse of loved ones as the China she knew transforms into a different place entirely.

If you would like to read more about this time period you might also enjoy a biography called:  Red Scarf Girl, by Ji-ling Jiang, or Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Chun Yu

 

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

small actsby Gloria Whelan, 209 pages, Grades 6 and up

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Rosalind, an English girl growing up in India, prefers to spend her days exploring the city streets and bazaar with her friend Isha, but her parents don’t know that.  Her father is away at war and her mother is still grieving over Rosalind’s brother who died while he was away at school in England.  It is her brother’s death that made it possible for Rosalind to remain in India – her mother cannot bare to part with her only child now even though most British children are educated in England – but her father is becoming concerned about Rosalind’s education and behavior; her disobedient, unconventional ways might get her sent to England after all, and just as she is becoming interested in Indian politics, in particular a dynamic leader working for India’s independence through peaceful protest named Ghandi.

If you enjoy this book you may also like other titles by Gloria Whelan including:  Parade of Shadows, Homeless Bird, or Angel on the Square.  They are all historical fiction novels with strong female characters.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

A Long Walk To Water

Thursday, January 5th, 2012
alongwalktowaterby Linda Sue Park, 120 pages, Grades 5-8
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Salva is at school when they attack.  The teacher sends the boys running out the back door and into the forest to get away from the invading rebel soldiers.  

This is the beginning of Salva’s journey through southern Sudan into Ethiopia on the run from the war sweeping his country, and he is on his own; he was separated from his family when their village was attacked.  

This novel is based on the true life of Salva Dut who now lives in the United States and has started an organization that digs wells to help people in the country where he grew up.

Salva Dut’s website:  http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/salvas-story/

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy stories about ingenuity and survival you might also like the biography by William Kamkwamba called:  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Elijah of Buxton

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

elijahofbuxtonby Christopher Paul Curtis,  341 pages,   Grades 6-8

Elijah wishes he was not quite so fragile.  He can take off running when he sees a snake, or might feel like crying when someone tells the sad story of escaping from slavery in America.  His parents worry that his fragile nature might make his life difficult, but it is that very nature that turns him into a hero.

Buxton was a real town established in 1849 by an American abolitionist who hoped to give people escaping American slavery a place to live as free human beings. The story of Elijah is fictional, but things that happen are realistic for the time and place.

Even though his family thinks he is a delicate soul, Elijah finds courage deep inside himself and takes a lot of risks to do the right thing.  It is a dangerous time to be African American; Elijah’s adventure is truly heroic.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Connections:  Christopher Paul Curtis is gifted at creating exciting stories that happen to be set in realistic times in history.  If you like Elijah of Buxton, you might also like Bud Not Buddy, or The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, both by Curtis as well.

Guitar Boy

Friday, May 13th, 2011
guitar boyby M. J. Auch      260 pages        Grades 6-9
Travis is out on the street.  His father, at his wits end after his mother’s accident, lost his temper and kicked him out of the house with nothing but the clothes on his back and his mom’s old guitar. Not only does Travis have to worry about how to survive on the street,  he is also worried about the rest of his family. His younger sister had to give up going to school to take care of their three younger siblings; the three little ones are missing their mom, and don’t really understand what has happened to her; his father is so distraught he has lost one job and cannot find another; his mother, rather than being helped to recover, has been housed in a convalescent home with a lot of people not expected to get any better.

Travis has his hands full, and his pockets empty. Guitar Boy is a different kind of survival story.

Other stories about difficult family situations are Bloomability, by Sharon Creech, and If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko.

 

Grounded

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Groundedby Kate Klise 196 pages Grades 6-7Daralynn’s father, brother and baby sister died in a plane accident, and Daralynn is only alive because she was grounded that day and had been forced to remain behind.

After the tragedy, her mother becomes the hairdresser for the dead at the local mortuary to make ends meet, but it is not easy to recover from such a shattering loss.  Daralynn’s mother is not only over-protective of her, but also seems to be angry about everything, and kind to no one.

Even Daralynn’s Aunt Josie, her father’s sister, is often the victim of Mother’s attacks.  When Josie starts dating Daralynn’s mother’s competition, things really heat up.  But, there is something suspicious about “Uncle Clem,” Josie’s new beaux, and Daralynn’s investigation might just prove to be the thing her family needs to pull them back together.

If you enjoyed Regarding the Fountain by Klise, you won’t be disappointed by this sweet narration.  Another great book about family perseverance in the face of tragedy is Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine

 

The Running Dream

Friday, March 25th, 2011

running dreamby Wendelin Van Draanen,  336 pages,  Grades 7 and up“‘Fifty-five flat!’ Kyro shouts, ‘Fifty-five flat!’

CYRM NOMINEE 2013

It’s a new personal best for me.
A new record for the league.” (11)

At sixteen Jessica is on top of her game, about to take league, maybe even go to state, when the track team’s bus is hit by an out-of-control car.  One of the team loses her life, and Jessica’s right leg is crushed.

Jessica is a runner; running is not just something she likes to do, it is woven into her identity, so the accident takes more than her leg, it makes her question who she is.

Personal strength, friendship, family, and courage pull Jessica forward on her journey to discover who she is and who she can become.  It is as inspirational a journey as the many true journeys of people in similar situations.

The following is a link to a TED talk with Aimee Mullens, also a runner, called “Aimee Mullans and Her 12 Pair of Legs.” http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom

Monday, February 7th, 2011

george clooneyBy Susin Nielsen,  229 pages,  Grades 6-8

Violet is having a hard year.She almost poisons her step-sisters (unintentionally, of course), she breaks a classmate’s nose (less than unintentionally), she crashes into a movie star’s car (honestly by mistake), only to name a few of the mishaps of her seventh grade year.Really, Violet is only tying to make it through middle school, survive visits with her dad and Jennica (her dad’s new wife, who is fake in more ways than one), and make sure her mom doesn’t fall for the wrong guy again, but somehow nothing seems to go as planned.If only she could get George Clooney to write her back, she is sure he will love her mom and make her real sister’s and her life much better.

If you enjoy realistic fiction with a bit of humor like Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison, orAbsolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, then Dear George Clooney… might be for you.

The Danger Box

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

danger boxBy Blue Balliett, 306 pages  mystery for Grades 5-8

Zoomy is legally blind, but he can see things if he holds them close up.  He loves to read  and play games on the computer, and he also loves to investigate and collect things.

He arrived on his grandparents’ front step when he was a newborn baby.  They love him and take him in;  they know their son, Zoomy’s father, can’t take care of a baby, because he is running wild; an alcoholic who is always in a lot of trouble with the law.

Zoomy’s life is going along just fine until the summer his dad shows up in a stolen truck and dumps a stolen box in their garage.  His father’s mysterious  appearance is the beginning of Zoomy’s life spiraling out of control.  First, his grandparents let him investigate the contents of the stolen box, then his dangerous dad threatens Zoomy while he is alone at the library,  then his grandparents are visited by a mysterious stranger, and finally there is a big fire at his grandparents’ shop that doesn’t seem like an accident.

What will happen to Zoomy? Could it all come down to the contents of the stolen box?

If you enjoy this book you might also like:  A Dog for Life, by L.S. Matthews, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, or  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly.

Mockingbird

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

mockingbird-by-kathyrn-erskine-book-cover-1By Kathryn Erskine, 235 pages, Grade 6-8

Caitlin and her father are feeling broken after tragedy strikes their family a second time.  Caitlin’s mother died of cancer three years before and now her brother, Devon, is dead after a violent incident at school.   On “the day their lives fell apart”, as Caitlin calls it, Devon’s door was slammed shut and Caitlin doesn’t feel like she can open it.  She misses her brother, and his  room and all it holds especially a special place next to his bed where she used go for comfort.  It was Devon who used to help her cope with the worlds of the town, the classroom and the playground.   He  always said Caitlin was brave; he even liked to call her Scout after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Now that Caitlin’s dad spends a lot of time crying  and Caitlin, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has to be especially brave.  She would like to help her family put the pieces back together, but she is not sure how to do that.  After talking to the school counselor one day, she decides what they need is  “closure” and she is on a mission to get it.  But, first she has to find out what it is and how you get a hold of  it.

For other stories about how families find closure try Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

The Poet Slave of Cuba

Friday, September 24th, 2010

poet slaveBy Margarita Engle, Art by Sean Qualls    p. 183  – Grades 7-12 – biography

Trapped as a slave in a wealthy home in Cuba, Juan Francisco Manzano lived his life in fear of the cruel punishments of his masters.  This sad and harrowing story was uncovered because the young slave,  Manzano, wrote vivid poetry that describes his time as a slave.   In Cuba poetry is like television; many people perform poetry for others and stories are often carried across the country because people repeat the poems they have heard.  It is for this reason that the author, Margarita Engle, was inspired to write this biography in verse, paying tribute to Manzano’s work.  While enslaved Manzano could not stop creating poems in his head; sometimes his owners praised him for his creativity and other times he was severely punished.  The poems were part of Manzano and came to him as naturally as breathing; no punishment, no matter how harsh, could stop him from being himself.

Connections:  For other serious stories in verse try Aleutian Sparrow or Out of the Dust, both by Karen Hesse.  For stories about people escaping oppression try 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight From Slavery, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, or The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Choi.

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori (Book One)

Friday, September 24th, 2010

nightingale floorBy Lian Hearn, p. 305 – adult fiction

Takeo has never known his father, who died many years before, and he has been growing up in a remote and peaceful Japanese village surrounded by the rest of his loving family.  The rest of Japan is not so;  it is a time of warlords, and secret societies in the middle ages, and Takeo’s home is attacked and destroyed by a warlord named Iida who is threatening to take over the whole country.  When Takeo returns from a walk in the woods and  sees his village burning, something inside him takes over.  He scares the warlord’s horse and causes Iida to fall to the ground.  Understanding his fatal blunder, he runs back into the woods chased by the warlord’s soldiers.  They all run into a man on horseback who fights for Takeo, cutting off the arm of one of Iida’s best warriors.  This mysterious man turns out to be a lord of the Otori clan, another of the powerful families of Japan.

Takeo’s life changes completely from this day forward.  He is adopted by the Otori and  he discovers his father was a famous assassin.  He also finds out his real heritage is the Tribe, a kind of secret ninja society; he possesses some of the Tribe’s extraordinary abilities.  He can hear details across a crowded courtyard, or through a wooden door, he can make himself “go invisible” and become as silent as a ghost.

In these turbulent times, talents like these are desired by many, and Takeo finds himself pulled in different directions, but he is determined to complete the final task for his adopted father:  kill Iida, the same  lord who burned his village and killed his family.  The trouble is the only way to reach the warlord in his palace is to cross the nightingale floor, a huge room covered in a floor that sings whenever anyone touches it.  How can he  cross the nightingale floor and avenge his family?

Connections: For other stories taking place in medieval Japan try The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard, or The Sword that Cut the Burning Grass: A Samurai Mystery, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Monday, August 30th, 2010

the boy who harnessedBy William Kamkwamba,   p. 273 – adult autobiography

When William was a kid he loved to take thing apart.  He dissembled his parents radios and spent hours investigating a neighbor’s bike light, spinning the wheel to turn it on and stopping the wheel to turn it off.  Sometimes this experimenting drove his parents crazy, but it was this kind of thinking that would save his village.  When he was 13 Malawi experienced a two year famine; his family survived, but were left nearly penniless.  It was this struggle that was the spark igniting William’s creative thinking; he just knew that power was the answer to his village’s troubles.  If they could somehow control energy, they could work later into the night, pump water to their crops, farm more efficiently, and farm enough crops to save some for hard times.  He used his local library, a one-room building about a quarter of  our library reference room) and the town junk yard to build a working windmill.  The people of the village thought he was crazy until his house was filled with light.  He was finally recognized by the wider world and was honored at TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design): Ideas Worth Sharing. Check out – William Kamkwamba:  How I Harnessed the Wind. This incredible teenage journey is a compelling read for middle school students and adults as well.

Connection:  For other true stories about overcoming astonishing odds try Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, Of Beetles and Angels, by Mawi Asgedom, or 5,000 Miles to Freedom, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin.

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Drums1by Jordan Sonnenblick.    p. 273    Grades 6-8

Most younger brothers can be a pain, but 8th grader Steven Alper’s five-year-old brother Jeffrey really takes the cake or pie, that is.  He borrows Steven’s prized pair of drumsticks to stir his dangerous pie, a “zesty blend of coffee grounds, raw eggs and their smashed shells, Coke, uncooked bacon, and three Matchbox racing cars.”   When he’s not trying to keep his mischievous brother from being a pest, Steven is pretty much preoccupied by his two passions–drums and beautiful 8th grader Renee–that is, until his little brother is diagnosed with leukemia.  The diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization of Jeffrey turn Steven’s life upside down.  He’s trying to keep his family’s situation a secret from friends and adults at school but having a difficult time coping on his own–which he is because his mom’s staying at the hospital and his dad is lost in his own world.   Torn between resentment toward his parents for neglect and compassion for  his little brother, Steven loses himself in his music, taking refuge in the basement with his drum set.  He’s feeling pretty hopeless until he takes the school counselor’s suggestion and focuses on what he can change.

Although the story is sad in parts, Steven narrates it with sarcasm and humor and what comes through strongest are the love these brothers feel for each othe and their resilience.  This is a story that will pull at your heart strings.

Connections:  The sequel is After Ever After.   If you enjoy Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie, you would probably also like Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar.  The library also owns nonfiction on leukemia and coping with serious illnesses.

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

firefly lettersBy Margarita Engle, 151 pages  Grades 6 Up

In this novel-in-verse told in three voices, inspired by the diaries and letters of 19th century suffragette, Frederika Bremer, we learn about the many barriers women faced in Cuba.  Frederika visits Cuba from Sweden and stays with a wealthy family whose daughter, Elena seems more confined by her society’s expectations for women than the family’s slave, Cecilia who travels with Frederika as her interpreter.

Connections:  For other novels in verse, try reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech or Out of the Dust or Witness by Karen Hesse.

Blessing’s Bead

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

blessings-bead-debby-dahl-edwardson-book-cover-artBy Debby Dahl Edwardson, 178 pages  Grades 6-9

The mysterious blue bead in her grandmother’s sewing basket and the stories of her Inupiaq ancestors provide the grounding Blessing needs when she is forced to live with her grandmother in a remote village in northern Alaska while her alcoholic mother is in treatment.  This novel, in two parts, starts in 1917 with the story of Blessing’s great-grandmother’s experiences with the arrival of Siberian traders and survival of the Spanish influenza epidemic.

Connections:  Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George is another story of a girl caught between worlds in Alaska.  For a story that focuses on the effect of influenza on a small Alaskan village, read The Great Death byJohn Smelcer.

One Crazy Summer

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

one crazy summerby Rita Williams-Garcia  p. 218  Grades:  5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2013

It’s the summer of 1968, and eleven-year-old Delphine flies from New York to Oakland with her two younger sisters to spend the summer, uninvited, with the mother who walked out on them when Delphine was seven and Fern was just a few days old.  Her father feels the girls need to get to know their mother, but that does not make Cecile any more welcoming.  In fact, she won’t even let the girls into her kitchen.  Dinners are take-out food on the living room floor and breakfast is at the Black Panther summer camp.   The girls are on their own, but each comes into her  own that summer.   Told from Delphine’s perspective, this is a lively, often humorous, story of resilience with characters you will come to know and love.

Connections:  A novel about the Black Panther Party for older readers  is The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.  Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers is set during the Harlem Renaissance, another significant period in African American history, and tells the story of another crazy summer.

Totally Joe

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

totallyjoeBy James Howe, 189 pages  Grades 6-8

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>“Being who you are isn’t a choice.”Although he had always lived this life lesson, it wasn’t until his favorite aunt gave him a button printed with these words that thirteen, year-old Joe really thought about what it meant for him, as a gay 7th grader, as well as for his schoolmates.Joe’s family and friends have always encouraged him to be himself (including dressing-up in dresses, playing with Barbies and cooking in an Easy-Bake oven) and he has always embraced his originality even when it led to teasing. Through an alphabiography project for his teacher, Joe shares his growing awareness of himself and his friends.

Connection:  Joe and the other characters were first introduced in Howe’s novel, The Misfits.  For other stories where characters share their life experiences through school writing assignments, try reading Love That Dog or Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge, or Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.

Pop

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

pop-gordon-korman-book-cover-artby Gordon Korman  p. 260  Grades:  6-9

Pop!  That’s the feeling and imagined sound that comes from taking the hit in tackle football and that sixteen-year old Marcus has come to love.  Before this summer, Marcus had always held back as quarterback, fearful of being injured.  New in town and hanging out in the park to practice his football maneuvers, he meets Charlie, an eccentric older man who challenges Marcus and teaches him to play rough and tumble football fearlessly.  Disappointed that Troy Popovich gets to start as quarterback, Marcus takes on his role as lineman with a vengeance, winning him not only the acceptance of his teammates but also Troy’s former girlfriend.  The tension grows between Marcus and Troy when Marcus learns that Charlie is Troy’s father and discovers the reason behind Charlie’s increasingly odd behavior.  Korman delivers lots of football action as well as a thoughful story.

Connections:  Here are some other good football novels for teens:  Crackback by John Coy, Necessary Roughness by Marie Lee, and Gym Candy by Carl Deuker.  Matt Christopher writes football stories for younger readers.

Imperfections

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

imperfection_by_lynda_durrantBy Lynda Durrant   p. 171   Grades 5-8

What is perfection?  When Rosemary Elizabeth arrives at the Shaker community of Pleasant Hill, she has plenty of delicious food to eat, spotlessly clean, white clothes to wear and beautiful surroundings.  She also gets to leave her drunk, abusive father and knows that her younger brother and sister are safe, too.  But, can Rosemary Elizabeth live up to the Shaker ideal of perfection with all of the rules about eating, sleeping, dressing, working, praying and talking?  Even if she can, does she want to?

Connections – Other stories that depict the impact of the Civil War on the youth is Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

Nation

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Terry_Pratchett_NationBy Terry Pratchett  367 pages  Grades 7-10

The tsunami seemingly washed away their distinctly different worlds and left them both stranded.  After the wave, Mau returns by dugout canoe from his coming of age quest to his village (the Nation) gone, and the trail of destruction leads him to the grounded wreck of the Sweet Judy, the ship that was to bring Daphne from her home in Victorian England to join her father in the “South Pelagic.”  With supplies from the wrecked ship and Mau’s knowledge of the land, the two start to rebuild the Nation as wounded survivors start arriving from other islands and as Daphne holds out hope that her father will come find her.  Daphne (known as the ghost girl), with her curious customs, strange clothes and white skin, struggles to communicate and fit in with her new community while Mau, the very young chief of this new Nation, is called the demon boy for having no soul without the completion of his manhood ceremony.  As this group struggles to survive, they live in fear of the inevitable arrival of the Raiders.

Connections:  For other tales of shipwrecks or deserted island survival, try reading Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, Overboard by Elizabeth Fama or Seaborn by Craig Moodie.  For more background on the book and the process of writing it, watch this video interview with the Terry Pratchett.