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Posts Tagged «family problems»

Ghost

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

ghost-9781481450157_hrby Jason Reynolds, 181 pages, Grades 6 and up

Castle, or Ghost, is a great runner. He is so good that he gets recruited for an elite team just by showing up and showing off one day while they were training which is pretty amazing. The challenge is he has to keep his act together, no more “altercations” at school. Fights just seem to happen to Ghost – anger boils up inside and he can’t stop himself – but now he has to make sure he stays out of trouble or Coach will kick him off the team.

Try some other books by Jason Reynolds: Boy in the Black Suit and As Brave as You!

On The Edge of Gone

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

51+fV4a0zOL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_by Corinne Duyvis, 456 pages

Everyone knows a comet is going to collide with earth. Even though time is short, Denise’s mom is taking her sweet time getting ready to go as if it was any normal day. Some of earth’s people have been selected to board generation ships; these ships will have to spend time away from the earth while the planet heals and becomes habitable again. These ships will spend generations away from earth; only a select few get to escape on one of these. Some people have been lucky enough to find a place in a permanent shelter on earth where they will live and wait out the time. Some of the less fortunate could only secure a place that should be safe for the comet’s impact, but where they cannot stay long term; this is where Denise and her mom are headed. Denise’s mom is a bit of a mess; she uses drugs and is not the most responsible of parents, but she is patient with Denise and is also kind. In fact, when they see someone stranded on the side of the road her mom decides to stop and help even though a comet is fast approaching. This act of generosity might just be the thing that saves Denise’s family.

 

If you enjoy science fiction stories about surviving the end of the world Life as We Knew It, by Susan Pfeffer, Divergent, by Veronica Roth, or In The After, by Demitria Lunetta.

The Sun Is Also a Star

Friday, January 27th, 2017

28763485by Yoon, 348 pages, Grades 8 and up

Natasha, Daniel and the Universe all come together to tell this story. Natasha is having a bad day; her parents brought her to the United States from Jamaica when she was just 8. They immigrated illegally and now it looks like they are being deported. The thing is, Natasha can’t remember anything but being American, and she has goals and aspirations that she has worked hard to put in place here in the U.S. She didn’t choose to move without the proper authority, and she has no idea what being Jamaican even looks like. Daniel has always been the good son; his brother is the trouble-maker. His family appreciates the fact that he studies hard and follows the rules, but his family also has plans for his future that don’t fit with Daniel’s own dreams for himself. How can he reconcile these two sides of himself: the good kid and the passionate artist?  He is a poet and a dreamer; Natasha is a scientist and a realist. It would seem like their two life paths are too separate to ever intersect, but the Universe has another plan in mind.

 

If you enjoy realistic fiction books about teens you might also like The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, or I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, or Every Day, by David Levithan.

You Are My Only

Monday, November 14th, 2016

you-are-my-only-beth-kephart-book-coverby Beth Kephart, 240 pages, Grades 7 and up

Emmy is a young first time mother when her baby is stolen. She is blamed and forced into an asylum as a result of the kidnapping where she grieves the loss of Baby and tries to understand her new circumstances and how to survive them.

Sophie has grown up home-schooled by her mother; they have lived in many different houses in many different cities in the effort to avoid the “No Good” her mother fears. Sophie has never really known anyone but her mother, but now that she is 14 she has become curious about people around her. The friends she makes next door empower her to investigate her mother’s past and give her strength to come to terms with what she discovers.

The two girls each narrate alternating chapters until their stories come together.

If you enjoy books about teenagers in trouble or complicated family situations you might also enjoy: Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary Schmidt, or Waiting for Normal, Leslie Connor.

The Boy in the Black Suit

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

21490991by Jason Reynolds, 255 pages, Grades 7 and up

Matt’s mom just passed away; it is a difficult time. His dad is struggling so much that he cannot offer Matt any support. Mr. Ray offers him a job at the funeral home, but he is sure this is the last thing he wants to do. The $15 an hour is hard to pass up, though, and soon enough he is wearing a suit to school so he is ready for work at the funeral home right after. One day while helping out, Matt finds himself sitting at the back of the room during someone’s funeral. Somehow listening to the people share what they loved about the person who had died, and what they will miss and how they experience grief, helps Matt process his own grief. He begins to make a habit of secretly listening to other people’s memorials and this is how he meets Lovey. She has had a hard go of it herself, but her positive nature inspires Matt and helps him heal.

If you like books about overcoming adversity, you might also like: Guitar Boy, by Mary Jane Auch, Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, Ghetto Cowboy, by Greg Neri.

Dream On, Amber

Monday, April 18th, 2016

25965546by Emma Shevah, 266 pages, Grades 6 and up

Amber’s mom is Italian and her father is Japanese, but she lives in England with her grandmother, mom and little sister. This year she is about to start middle school in a new neighborhood which gets her contemplating her identity. She looks Japanese, but her father hasn’t been in contact since she was a little kid so she doesn’t really feel connected to that part of her heritage. She is not the only thinking about their dad, her little sister is convinced she can get him to come to her birthday party and Amber feels like she needs to help set her sister straight; their dad is not coming home for that or anything else anytime soon.

If you like epistolary novels (novels written like journals or a series of documents) you might also enjoy: Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, or Regarding the Fountains, by Kate Klise.  If you enjoy books about identity, you might also enjoy My Basmati Bat Mitzva, by Paula Freedman, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

The Hired Girl

Friday, January 29th, 2016

25163300by Laura Amy Schlitz, 387 pages, Grades 6-8

Joan is basically treated like a house slave by her brothers and her father. She cleans, cooks and tends to their animals all day everyday for not a penny. When her mother was alive her father at least allowed the egg money to be hers, but Joan is only 14 and her father cannot see why she would need money of her own. Joan doesn’t really need the money, what she really wants is books to read. She has read the three she owns over and over. One day her teacher comes by to see why she no longer attends school. When she sees her father will not be persuaded to send her back she tries to lend Joan a book or two, but Joan’s father does not allow; he says reading will make her lazy. Next, Joan tries to demand the egg money without success, and then she decides to go on strike to show her father how hard she works and that they really need her. This plan backfires because instead of learning to appreciate her more, her father burns her books to teach her a lesson; the only thing in her life that bring her joy are gone. That is the last straw; Joan decides to run away and try to become a hired girl in Baltimore. Hired girls make as much as $6.00 a week and certainly she can work as hard as any city girl!
If you enjoy historical fiction with female protagonists you might also enjoy: Oh Pioneers, by Willa Cather, Lyddie, by Katherine Patterson, or , Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Orbiting Jupiter

Friday, January 29th, 2016

41uZrunxtKL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_by Gary Schmidt, 183 pages, Grades 7 and up

Everyone at Jack’s school thinks his new foster brother, Joseph, is trouble. They say he got kicked out of his last school for beating up a teacher. They also say he is angry, mean and prone to violence, but Jack sees him differently. At Jack’s family farm Joseph has to help with all the chores since he is a new member of the household. Joseph doesn’t know much, but he seems to be trying and he never gives up or complains. Jack is patient with Joseph and eventually Joseph opens up and shares his secret; he is a father, and all he can think about is getting back to see his baby, Jupiter.

If you like books about kids persevering despite challenging family situations you might also enjoy: Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor,Guitar Boy, by Mary Jane Auch, or Hold Fast, by Blue Balliet.

Rain, Reign

Monday, April 13th, 2015

20575434by Ann Martin, 222 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Rose loves homonyms; she is obsessed with them, in fact. When she finds a new set of homonyms she adds it to her list written all by hand; her father doesn’t think they need computers at home. Sometimes when she finds a new set it is so exciting that her aide has to help her calm down outside the classroom, and sometimes other kids in her class don’t understand her because of this.  Some bad things that have happened to Rose are: her mother left, her father spends a lot of time at the neighborhood bar, and she is not allowed to ride the school bus anymore. The best thing that happened to Rose is that her dad gave her a dog. He found her one day after a big rainstorm and brought her home to Rose; she called her Rain. Rose wondered why anyone would let such a good dog go wandering around without a collar; her dad tells her whoever owner her before must not have cared very much. When Rain goes missing from their house, Rose understands that sometimes even dogs who are loved can get out without a collar and lose their way; it doesn’t mean the owner doesn’t care. Rose knows she cares about Rain more than anything, but it will take more than that to get her back.

 

If you like books about dogs and their owners you might also like: Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate di Camillo, A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews, or Cracker, by Cynthia Kadohata.

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.

 

Bluefish

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

bluefishby Pat Schmatz, 226 pages, Grades 7-9

Nominated for CYRM 2015!

Travis’ parents died, his dog went missing, and his Grandpa just made him move from the house in the country he loved. Now he is starting at a new school and it is hard to find where he belongs. When Velveeta befriends him he is not clear what he has done to deserve it, but she explains that she observed a small act of kindness his first morning in the hallway that convinced her to like him. She is a talker and he is a listener, so it is a good match. The trouble begins when they are assigned to work on a project together. It is not that Travis doesn’t want to do a good job, he just never learned to read, and feels like it is too late to get help or admit it; he always figures out a way to slip by, and no one at home is really keeping track. This Velveeta, though, is hard to shake, and though he wants to just push her away it does feel good to have a friend.

If you enjoy realistic fiction about kids with difficult family situations you might also enjoy Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Scrawl, by Mark Shulman.

 

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

 

Picture Me Gone

Monday, March 31st, 2014

picture me goneby Meg Rosoff, 239 pages, Grades 7 and up

Mila is one of those intuitive people; she can read people. She lives happily and uneventfully with her parents in London until her father’s old friend, Matthew, goes missing.  Mila and her dad, Gil, go to the United States to solve the mystery of Gil’s missing friend. It turns out Mila is not only helping her dad solve the puzzle of the moment, but also uncovering the details of an older mystery besides. Mila discovers no one is just good, or evil; people and relationships are complex and life can sometimes be pretty messy.

If you enjoy realistic fiction you might also like: Guitar Boy by M.J. Auch or Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise. If you are interested in the complexity of life you might also enjoy: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, or Dirty Little Secrets, by C. J. Omololu.

 

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

Heat

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

heatby Mike Lupica, 220 pages, Grades 6-8

* STUDENT REVIEW *

Michael, a star baseball player, and his brother Carlos are living alone without their parents. The boys came to the U.S, from Cuba with their father. Shortly after arriving, their father goes missing and the boys are trying to make it on their own. Michael is a very good baseball player;  in one game Michael strikes out a hot-headed player named Justin whose father is the coaches.  Justin and his father decide to try and kick Michael out of the league by getting all the coaches to believe Michael is over the age limit. All the coaches sign a form requesting the league to investigate Michael’s age. To keep playing baseball Michael has to show his birth certificate.  The boys cannot find Michael’s birth certificate and what’s worse is that it is drawing attention to the fact that they are living without a parent.

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If you enjoy books about children managing without their parents then you might also like:  Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or  Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.  If you enjoy books about baseball, you might also like:  Under the Blood Red Sun, by Graham Sallisbury, or One Handed Catch, by Mary Jane Auch.

 

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

 

Counting By 7s

Monday, December 16th, 2013

counting by 7sby Holly Goldberg Sloan, 380 pages, Grades 6 and up

Willow Chance is a genius.  She meets a girl from Vietnam and spends the next 7 days studying Vietnamese.  She learns 85 phrases in addition to a number of verbs and their conjugations. Besides languages Willow also enjoys studying medical conditions and plants, but she has at twelve she has already had a pretty hard life.  She has been orphaned,  adopted, she has had problems in school – she has trouble making small talk and therefore making friends, and she is just about to start a new school which promises to be a challenge. That seems like enough, but besides all that her adoptive parents who love her and she loves so much suddenly die in a car accident. Willow, who likes to know how everything is going to work, finds herself in a place completely out of her control; it is the first time in her life that even counting by 7s has not helped her feel better.

If you enjoy books about kids in unusual circumstances you might also like:  Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

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

 

Liar & Spy

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

liar&spyby Rebecca Stead, 180 pages, Grades 6-8

Georges and his mom and dad have just downsized and are moving out of a house and into an apartment. He has been navigating bullying and his parents’ extra time working and away from home so when an opportunity to respond to a handwritten flyer for a spy club presents itself, his father encourages him to check it out.  Safer is a homeschooled kid living in the apartment complex and he allows Georges to help him spy on Mr. X, who he believes is a murderer. A new friend and the distraction of spying on Mr. X might be just what Georges needs to help him through this difficult time, but there is more than one mystery that needs unraveling in Georges’ life.  Who will turn out to be the liar and who the spy in the end?

If you enjoy this book, you might like others by Rebecca Stead like:  When You Reach Me (Newbery award winner 2010), and First Light.

 

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

 

Eve & Adam

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate, 291 pages, Grades 7 and up

eve&adamOne of Eve’s first memories after the accident is her mother’s voice insisting that her daughter needs more professional care and would be moving to The Lab immediately.  Typical mom, pushing people around and believing she always could do everything better. I guess she might have been right this time because Eve is recovering incredibly quickly considering the seriousness of her injuries, but recovery is still pretty boring for a teenager.  In an effort to keep Eve busy, her mother decides to let her test out her new genetics computer program, and Eve is playing in her free time creating a human from scratch – a human she believes is virtual. When Eve discovers another teen at the lab, a live-in assistant working for her mother, he tells her things that have her questioning a lot of things she has believed her whole life. What is really going on in the family lab? Why is Eve’s recovery so miraculous? Who, or what, is Adam and are there others like him?

 

If you enjoy science fiction stories about genetics you might also enjoy Double Identity, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, or When We Wake, by Karen Healey.

 

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

 

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.

 

Homesick

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

 

by Kate Klise, 180 pages, Grades 6-8

Poor Benny is homesick in his own house. Benny’s dad is a junk expert, but when his shop gets closed down and he brings all his stuff home – he cannot part with even a tiny bit – Benny’s mom just can take the clutter and she moves back to her hometown by herself. It doesn’t feel like home to Benny anymore because the kitchen is full of empty pizza boxes and nothing to eat, the house is stacked with random stuff, his dad seems lost in his own worries, and, of course, his mom isn’t there.

Now that the town has won “The Most Charming Town” contest more people than just Benny and his mom want to see their house cleaned out; no one is sure that their town can live up to expectations since Miss Turnipson embellished quite a bit when she wrote her entrance essay nominating the town.  The contest officials are due in town any day and pulling the town together might take more than is humanly possible.

If you enjoy books about quirky towns and interesting characters you might also like:  Deliver Us From Normal by Kate Klise, A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech.

 

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.

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.

Wild Things

Friday, December 14th, 2012

wildthingsby Clay Carmichael, 241 pages, Grades 5-8

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.

 

Middle of Nowhere

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Middle-of-Nowhere-cover-81-140x206by Caroline Anderson, 214 pages, Grades 5-8

Curtis has been a foster kid before the last time his mother disappeared.  That time he was only six, the same age Artie is now, and his foster brother was a bully who made his life miserable.  

That is why this time when his mom doesn’t come home Curtis takes care of things himself.  He is convinced if they let someone know she is missing, they will be separated and sent to terrible foster families.  It seems possible Curtis might manage it when Mom is only gone for a few days, but as those days stretch into weeks and weeks into months, it is too much for a 12-year-old boy to handle.  

Luckily when a neighbor lady asks Curtis for a hand, they realize they can help each other and the boys manage a little longer on their own, but Mrs. Burt decides they all need a summer vacation, so she takes them to “the middle of nowhere” and Curtis starts to worry he will never see his mother again. 

If you enjoy books about kids trying to make the best of a bad 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.

Moon Over Manifest

Monday, August 13th, 2012

PDF Creation in Quark 7by Clare Vanderpool, 351 pages, Grades 5-8

 
Abilene is used to moving from place to place in 1936.  She and her dad never stay too long anywhere so she has seen a lot of different towns in her 12 years.  Unstable as life on the road might seem to an outsider, Abilene’s dad has been the one constant in her life; they always stick together.  This summer, though, things are different; her dad just drops her in his hometown of Manifest with complete strangers (his father’s good friends) and leaves her there alone.  He says it is just for the summer, but Pastor Shady makes her attend the last day of school anyway.  At first she thinks she’ll be quietly counting the days until her stay in Manifest is over, but then she discovers a loose floorboard with treasures beneath:  letters and mementos about the town in 1918 and a notorious WWII spy called the Rattler.  Abilene is surrounded by mysteries and is determined to discover how these characters fit together and what they can teach her about her father’s personal history as well.
 
If you enjoy stories about kids overcoming family hardship, you might also enjoy Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, or A Dog for Life, by L.S. Matthews.
 

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.

Half Brother

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

half brotherby Kenneth Oppel, 375 pages, Grades 7-11

Ben had always hoped for a sibling, but he never expected that his parents would adopt a little brother like Zan.  His father is a behavioral psychologist who has transplanted the family to Canada to study chimpanzees, so it wasn’t so unexpected that his parents would bring a chimp into their home.  But, in 1973 on Ben’s thirteenth birthday they surprise him with “a little brother.” Zan is a chimpanzee that they expect Ben to treat like a sibling.  It is all part of his father’s study, but it soon becomes difficult to distinguish experiment from genuine feelings, and the thing is what is cute when the chimp is a baby might be a real problem when Zan is stronger than everyone he lives with.

If you enjoy speculative fiction, you might also like Airborn, also by Kenneth Oppel, or Crunch by Leslie Connor, or A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews; these books have a realistic feel, but a fantasy twist.

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

Every Soul A Star

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Every_Soul_a_Star_book_coverby Wendy Mass, 322 pages, Grades 5-9

Student Review

Three lives are about to be changed forever.  Thousands of people gather on a tiny isolated campground to watch something unforgettable: a total eclipse of the sun.
Ally’s family has owned Moon Shadow Campground ever since she was born. She likes simple things like stargazing and comet hunting. And she refuses to imagine it any other way.
Bree is popular, gorgeous and is perfectly happy until her parents ruin everything. She can’t imaging herself camping or hiking. For Bree, fun means putting on makeup, checking out the latest fashions, modeling and being popular – the exact opposite of her parents. What is Bree trying to hide?
Jack is overweight, and a lost cause in school. He is used to sitting alone in his treehouse reading or drawing aliens. When his science teacher offers him a deal that gets him out of summer school,  Jack finds himself in a place he would have never even dreamed of. MC

 

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

If you enjoy books about groups of friends you might also like:  The View From Saturday by E.L. Koningsburg, The Misfits, by James Howe, or The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.

 

Waiting For Normal

Friday, January 6th, 2012

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

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.

 

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The Poison Diaries

Friday, June 3rd, 2011
poison diariesby Maryrose Wood,    278 pages,   Grades 7 and up. Even Jesamine, who is the daughter of the apothecary and a skilled gardener,  is not allowed beyond the locked gate of the poison garden. Jesamine lives with her father, who heals the sick in and around London, in a country house in the mid 1800s.

One day the man in charge of the local home for the insane delivers a mysterious young man he calls Weed to their doorstep.  Jesamine’s father agrees to take him in even though he seems dangerous; he might be to blame for curing those in the asylum, and creating an epidemic of insanity in town.

The arrival of Weed reveals things to Jesamine that she has not realized about herself, about her father, and about the nature of poisons. Her life will never be the same.

If you like romance, mystery and fantasy you might also like Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, or Matched by Allie Condie.

 

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

 

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.

Unwind

Monday, November 29th, 2010

UnwindBookCoverBy Neil Shusterman, 335 pages.         Grades 7-9

It is the future, and if you are between the ages of thirteen and eighteen you worry every day about becoming an “unwind.”

When no one won the terrible civil war between the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life groups there was a compromise.It was decided that all babies would be born, that children would be untouchable from birth to 13, and that between 13 and 18 any child could be unwound. Every single body part goes on living in another body, so it is not considered death.The unwound teen continues to live in different places.

In this version of the future there are no doctors, only surgeons.There is a transplanting process that works so well, people just replace parts that are damaged or diseased instead of trying to cure them.The technology is great for people who lose a limb, but you can also “correct” things like baldness with a transplanted scalp full of hair, or replace your crooked teeth with a brand new set.

Connor is trouble, and his parents have had enough.Risa has no parents, and the state homes need to make space for the new babies being “storked,” left on their doorstep.Lev is a “tithe;” he has been raised since birth to be unwound as a sacrifice to god. “Unwinds” are outcasts whom no one wants to help, so how can they escape their fate?

Connections:  For other survival stories full of adventure try:  The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, or Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.  Another edgy science fiction adventure is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

Scrawl

Friday, November 19th, 2010

ShulmanScrawlv2Finalby Mark Shulman  p.  230   Grades 7 and up.

Tod Munn has a bad reputation; he has been known to steal the wimps’ lunch money, push his way into the front of the  lunch line and shove people into the lockers when they least expect it.  He is not someone you want to mess with if you don’t want to get hurt.  Naturally Tod has landed himself in detention, and this time it is for something really bad, but he is not outside raking leaves with his “droogs,” instead he is spending time one-on-one with the school counselor, Mrs. Woodrow.

For detention he has  to write in a journal every day after school.   He spends weeks with the counselor in a hot school room writing and writing until it feels like his hand might fall off.  Tod thinks the counselor is trying to “fix the bad guy,” and he doesn’t think it is going to work, either. Who do you think is right; is the bully really a bad guy, or is there more to the story than meets the eye?

Connections:  If you like books about tough kids you might like Small Steps by Louis Sachar or if you enjoy books written in journal form you might also enjoy Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech.

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.

Crunch

Monday, October 11th, 2010

crunch-leslie-connor-book-cover-artby Leslie Connor, 330 pages – Grades 5-8

A sudden oil crisis leaves Dewey and his older sister to run the family’s bike shop and care for their younger siblings while their parents are stranded up north.  The crunch has made the bike shop incredibly busy, and to make matters worse, a thief is stealing precious precious parts, but Dewey has a plan to identify the culprit.

Connections:  Check out the author’s website.  If you like mysteries with an environmental theme, try reading Gloria Shurzynski’s National Park series.

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.

Dairy Queen

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Diary-Queenby Catherine Gilbert Murdock.  p.  274  Grades 7-8

What a summer!  Fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, works dawn to dusk on her family’s dairy farm after her father has hip surgery.  Life is pretty dismal until the coach from her high school’s rival team asks D.J to coach his budding quarterback, the gorgeous Brian Nelson.  While training and doing farm chores, the two teenagers become friends, but things get complicated when D.J. tries out for her high school’s football team.

Connections:  The sequel is Off SeasonRunning Loose by Chris Crutcher is another football romance.

Antsy Does Time

Monday, June 15th, 2009

antsy does timeBy Neal Shusterman, p. 247 – Grades 6-9. 

If you enjoyed meeting Antsy (Anthony Bonano) in the Schwa Was Here, you’ll love encountering him again in this humorous teen novel in which he gives Gunnar Umlaut a month of his life.  When classmate Gunnar tells Antsy that he only has six months to live, Antsy draws up a contract giving Gunnar a month of his life, which earns him the attention and a kiss from Gunnar’s gorgeous older sister.  Soon other kids and even the principal want to donate months of their lives to Gunnar.  Time passes, and Gunnar isn’t showing symptoms.  What’s up?

 

Connection:  Other humorous novels where schemes get out of hand are The Schwa Was Here by Neal Schusterman, The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian, and Peeled by Joan Bauer.

Wintergirls

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Wintergirlsby Laurie Halse Anderson, p. 278 – Grades 8 & Up

This novel, for mature readers, tells the story of Lia who has just found out about the death of her once best friend, Cassie. While they were friends, both girls suffered from eating disorders: Lia- anorexia and Cassie- bulimia. On the night of Cassie’s death, Lia received 33 phone calls and messages from Cassie… all of which Lia had left unanswered. Lia’s family (too busy mother, distant father and clueless stepmother) are concerned that the news will send Lia over the edge again and back to New Seasons the rehabilitation center she has already visited twice.

Connection:  For another story that shows a teen dealing with the death of another teen read Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.

Seaborn

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Seaborn, p.201 – Grades 6-9

Sixteen-year-old Luke would rather stay home and fish than go on the annual trip with his family on their small, cramped sailboat.  Luke decides he has no choice but to go when his mother walks out out on them.  The two decide to explore the Gulf Stream rather than sticking to the islands off the coast of Massachussetts and run into trouble when an unexpected storm blows in.

Connection:  This quick read is a good choice for fans of Gordon Korman’s Dive, Everest & Island series.  –CRW