Monday, June 18, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3 CD. 6 hours and 42 minutes. Read by MacLeod Andrews. Scholastic on Brilliance Audio, 2017. 9781536681796. (Own)

Twelve-year-old Jonathan Grimsby sits handcuffed in a boat speeding across the choppy sea on a chilly evening. He's seasick and scared and the pilot of the boat isn't helping things by taunting him about the evil place he's about to enter. Slabhenge is a stone reformatory that sits on a rock of an island off an un-named coast. It used to house an insane asylum; but Jonathan doesn't care. When Jonathan is ushered into the headmaster's office. He's made to kneel on a device called a Sinner's Sorrow, which, after a few minutes, causes the kneeler to suffer excruciating pain. But Jonathan doesn't care. The next morning, all the boys are trooped up to the roof to stand balancing in the pouring rain. Again, Jonathan doesn't care. He feels he deserves everything he's getting. 

What terrible thing did Jonathan do to land in Slabhenge? The reader does not find out till the very end of this Holes meets Lord of the Flies thriller. Often over-the top but nearly constantly suspenseful, readers are quickly drawn in and ignore the plot holes. Well, young readers do. They drove me a bit berserk. That said, I booktalk Scar Island like crazy for my tweens who like gothic suspense and plot-driven books. 

One of my favorite narrators performed this one. He many voices and brilliant pacing kept me involved though I figured out Jonathan's crime well before the reveal. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fact Friday: Double feature audio review: Girling Up and Boying Up by Maiyam Bialik

Fact Friday presents a double feature:

Girling Up: how to be smart, strong and spectacular by Mayim Bialik, PhD. Unabridged audiobook on three compact discs. 3 hours, 44 minutes. Read by the author. Listening Library, 9781524780388. (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Boying Up: How to be Brave, Bold and Brilliant by Mayim Bialik, PhD. Unabridged e-audiobook. Read by the author. Listening Library, 2018. 978052551982. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

There is not a lot of difference in content between these two chatty, informative audiobooks. Bialik provides information on the opposite sex in each. I felt like I was listening to the same book. That's fine. The experience was pleasant, positive and earnest, sort of like listening to your friend's cool mom. Listening without the book deprives the reader of the line drawings, but it did add that human, "mom" dimension. The science of puberty is presented in easily understandable, straightforward language with lots of reassurances that most everyone's experience is "perfectly normal." There is a lot of talk of acceptance with a discussion about gender roles and ideals of masculinity and femininity, which leads into talk about gender fluidity. There is little to no conversation about same sex attraction in Boying Up and none that I can remember in Girling Up.

Boying Up had snippets of unattributed "He Said" additions to compensate for the fact that the author isn't a total expert on the male experience. Neither volume breaks new ground with the content, but the author's name recognition and encouraging tone should make this easy for tween and teen readers to relate to.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

#tbt: Savvy by Ingrid Law

Savvy by Ingrid Law. 342 p. Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin Young Reader's Group, May, 2008. 9780803733060. (Own)

#tbt celebrates the tenth anniversary of Savvy by Ingrid Law. Law made her debut with Savvy in May of 2008 and received a Newbery honor for it in January of 2009. It is the first-person narration of Mississippi Beaumont, or Mibs and she's about to turn thirteen. That's when all the members of the Beaumont family come into their savvy, or gift. No one knows what it will be and how it might upend their lives. The family had to move inland when Mibs' older brother, Fish turned thirteen. His savvy is a hurricane.

Just before her big day, Poppa's sent to the hospital after a terrible accident and Mibs now wants a savvy that will save him. 

This fast-paced work of magical realism will engage readers with its endearing narrator, short, cliffhanger chapters and  tall-tale quality. Here's a picture of the tenth anniversary paperback:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

Crush by Svetlana Chmakova. Berrybrook Middle School Series #3. 224 p. Yen Press, October 30, 2018. 9780316363242.

I am so happy that this charming series is continuing. My students love Awkward and Brave.

Publisher synopsis: Jorge seems to have it all together. He's big enough that nobody really messes with him, but he's also a genuinely sweet guy with a solid, reliable group of friends. The only time he ever feels off his game is when he crosses paths with a certain girl... But when the group dynamic among the boys starts to shift, will Jorge be able to balance what his friends expect of him versus what he actually wants? 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Teen Tuesday: Pop by Gordon Korman

Pop by Gordon Korman. 263 p. HarperColling Publishers, August, 2009. 9780061742286. (Own)

Marcus Jordan is a quarterback. He has moved to a new town and hopes to join the football team as a quarterback. He spends some time at the park hoping to meet some football players. Instead, he meets Charlie. Charlie is middle-aged and a bit of an oddball but boy, does he know football and the two strike up a friendship. Once school starts, Marcus finds that he isn't being welcomed with open arms, especially by the reigning QB, who happens to be Charlie's son. This fast-paced novel has great football action, humor and some sadness. It happens to be one of my favorite Korman titles. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Middle Grade Monday and arc review: Soof by Sarah Weeks

Soof by Sarah Weeks. 208 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 9, 2018. 9780545846691.

When I heard about Soof back in the fall, my first thought was, "Ooh! I hope my SLJ editor assigns it to me!" I had the pleasure of reviewing Pie for the journal in 2011. Back in 2005, before I started blogging or reviewing, I adored So B. It. But really, I enjoy everything that Sarah Weeks writes. Then I remembered the 250 word maximum for reviews and the fact that I need to write more formally and objectively. I realized that I would be fine not reviewing Soof for SLJ. I thought that if I could get my hands on an arc, I could gush and meander to my heart's content here on the blog. Thanks to Mary and Trish at Books, Bytes and Beyond, who loaned me their arc.

Anyone who has read So B. It knows that "soof" (spoiler alert) is Heidi It's mother's word for love. They also understand the importance of the jar of jellybeans on the cover of Soof. But Soof can very definitely stand alone.

I will synopsize very loosely and vaguely. Ruby and Sheriff Roy finally had a daughter whom they named Aurora, or Rory. She's in fifth grade now. Soof is her first-person narration. She has no friends, except for her dog, Duck and acknowledges that she is weird. She has grown up hearing Heidi stories and how Heidi brought her parents luck. Blah, blah, blah. Aurora doesn't feel at all lucky and now that Heidi is married, about to have a baby of her own and coming to visit, Aurora is less than pleased. She might even be feeling a bit threatened.

I will admit that when I heard the premise, I wondered how Weeks would pull it off. Heidi would be around twenty-four, a bit young for someone to be married and having a baby in my neighborhood. I became curious about her story. What happened in the intervening years? But this is Aurora's story and it's just perfect. I fell in love with Aurora immediately. Her voice is instantly engaging. She's keenly observant, unapologetically frank and often hilarious. I warn you though; there will be tears. And goosebumps at the end. I ached for her. I also ached for Ruby, who loves her daughter fiercely and wants to do right by her.

Weeks has a knack for getting at emotional truths with an economy of words. Most of her books are under 200 pages but her characters and settings are vivid and memorable. Like Aurora, she's an astute observer who also has an ear for authentic tween dialogue. (She's not as prickly as Aurora though.) She visited our school back in September and the students were so attentive because she was incredibly interesting and connected to them. During her presentation, she shared a photo she took that inspired a scene in Soof. When I got to that scene in the book, I was floored. Again, I'm being deliberately vague here in order for you to approach this with as few preconceptions as possible. It's the tiny details that etch scenes into your heart. 

Soof is a first-purchase. A perfect book for any reader; but fans of So B. It will devour it whole and turn back to page one to begin again, as I did. I can also open the book at any page and fall in love again. Give it to fans of gentler books or books featuring endearingly oddball narrators. Look for it early October. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

For review: 

Here to Stay by Sara Farizan. 263 p. Algonquin/ Workman Publishing, September 18, 2018. 978161207007. 

Publisher synopsis: For most of high school, Bijan Maid has flown under the radar. He gets good grades, reads comics, hangs out with his best friend, Sean, and secretly crushes on Elle, one of the most popular girls in his school. When he's called off the basketball team's varsity bench and makes the winning basket in a playoff game, everything changes in an instant.

But not everyone is happy that Bijan is the man of the hour: an anonymous cyberbully sends the entire school a picture of Bijan photoshopped to look like a terrorist. His mother is horrified, and the school administration is outraged. They promise to find and punish the culprit. All Bijan wants is to pretend it never happened and move on, but the incident isn't so easily erased. Though many of his classmates rally behind Bijan, some don't want him or his type to be a part of their school And Bijan's finding out it's not always easy to tell your enemies from your friends.
 Purchased: Whoa! Nothing, though I do have a few audios I've been meaning to purchase.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you? Leave a comment with a link to your stack and I'll stop by.