Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. 271 p. Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, February 5, 2015. 9780399162596. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Ally Nickerson has a secret. She has been able to keep it because her family has moved just about yearly for each of the six years she has been in school. She can't read. The letters swim before her eyes and she gets headaches each time she tries to read. She'd love to read. She has decided that she's just too stupid to learn and has devised ways to hide her secret. Unfortunately, her solution is to act up until she is sent to the principal's office. She'd love to stay out of trouble. She feels for her mother, who works long hours as a waitress while her father is deployed in Iraq. She really doesn't want to add to her mother's worries but she is stuck. 

This is the first year she'll be attending the same school two years in a row. Her sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hall, is leaving to have a baby and she wants Ally to try and write something for Mr. Daniels, the teacher who will be replacing her. Ally digs her heels in and won't; so she's sent to the principal's office. Mrs. Silver is growing weary of Ally's obstinance.

Class mean girl, Shay, seems to have it in for Ally but includes Albert and Kiesha in her sniping. The thing is, neither one of them seem to let Shay get to them. This intrigues Ally. It isn't long before the three of them form a tentative friendship. 

Mr. Daniels is not like any teacher Ally has encountered. First of all, he calls his students "Fantasticos" and seems to celebrate everything. Most importantly, he doesn't get mad at Ally's antics. He seems to want to truly understand her. 

From page 56 of the arc: "Ally?" He pauses. "Can you tell me why you don't want to be seen?"

"I think it would be easier to be invisible."


I shrug. I want to give him an answer, but I have both too many words and not enough.

My arc is totally dog-earred as rarely did a page go by that I wasn't struck by something - a turn of phrase, a phenomenal simile, Ally's hysterical observation, or a bit of dialogue that rang so true, I needed to savor it. This is a book I will definitely reread more than once. I see it's releasing as an audiobook as well so that's a definite reread. I can open to any page and settle right in.  While Ally catapulted into my heart in the first paragraph, Albert, Kiesha, Oliver, Travis, Mr. Daniels and even Mr. and Mrs. Nickerson found spots as well. 

Even though the teachers at my school are extraordinary at identifying student learning issues, my thoughts kept turning to one teacher in particular. Mr. Daniels reminds me of her. I want her to read the book next. But I want all the teachers to read it and will encourage them to read it aloud to their students. Students will find much to relate to and to discuss. Finally, I know just which of my readers are going to love Fish in a Tree. I don't expect to see it sit much once a finished copy hits my library's shelf.

I enjoyed Ms. Mullaly Hunt's debut, One for the Murphys and was so looking forward to her sophomore offering. I was feeling such jealousy of folks who were lucky receivers of arcs. Then, I received an arc at a book event but was unable to get to it till now. I'm glad I didn't squeeze it in among my other reading obligations. This one deserved 100% attention. I also resisted swallowing it whole. The buzz and hype are well-deserved. Hooray for Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Fish in a Tree!

Waiting on Wednesday - The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles of upcoming releases.

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. 362 p. Random House Children's Books, March 24, 2015. 9780375870774.

Publisher synopsis: With over one million copies sold, this series of modern classics about the charming Penderwick family, from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller Jeanne Birdsall, is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager.

Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and there are surprises in store for each member of the family.

Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbor Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty’s new dog-walking business. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. But when some unwelcome surprises make themselves known, the best-laid plans fall apart.

Filled with all the heart, hilarity, and charm that has come to define this beloved clan, The Penderwicks in Spring is about fun and family and friends (and dogs), and what happens when you bring what's hidden into the bright light of the spring sun.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share the titles of books whose release we are eagerly anticipating.

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin. 176 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, June 16, 2015. 9781442485037.

Publisher synopsis: Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel from the author of The Summer Before Boys that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked.
Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes is about to start middle school, and only her aunt knows her deepest, darkest, most secret secret: her mother is in prison.
Then Margalit Tipps moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two immediately hit it off. Ruby thinks she’s found her first true-blue friend—but can she tell Margalit the truth about her mom? Maybe not. Because it turns out that Margalit’s family history seems closely connected to the very event that put her mother in prison, and if Ruby comes clean, she could lose everything she cares about most.

I have adored many of this author's books in the past and am quite psyched to read this one. And, how much do I love the cover?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Blog Tour: Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

Emmanuel's Dream: the true story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. unpgd. Schwartz & Wade/ Random House Children's Books, January 6, 2015. 9780449817445. (Finished copy courtesy of Blueslip Media for review.)

Parents, educators and librarians looking for a gentle story of inspiration, courage and determination need look no further than this book. It is the story of Emmanuel Ofusu Yeboah, who was born with a deformed leg in Ghana to a mother who accepted her son and his deformity.  In Ghana, the prevailing notion was that babies born with deformities were cursed. Parents were encouraged to abandon or even kill these infants. Emmanuel's mother, Comfort, could not and loved her son unconditionally. Emmanuel's father could not accept his son and left the family. In fact, that scene depicting the father leaving mother, child and grandmother behind as he leaves their hut is heartbreaking.

Ensuing pages show that Comfort nurtured Emmanuel but did not baby him. She expected him to fetch water and he even shined shoes to earn money. When it came time for Emmanuel to start school, Comfort carried him there. He was the only child with a disability at school and endured being excluded. As a solution, he saved his money and purchased a soccer ball and learned to play using the crutches that his grandmother was able to find for him. When he became too heavy for his mother to carry him to school, he hopped there.

He left school at the age of thirteen when his mother became too ill to work in order to support the family. No one would hire him. He was expected to take to the streets to beg. A food vendor hired him to work at his stall and when Emmanuel wasn't busy preparing food, he shined shoes and sent his money home to support his family. 

He was able to return home to visit before his mother died. Her last words to him were, "Be respectful, take care of your family, don't ever beg. And don't give up." He returned to his job contemplating how he would honor those words. "He would honor them by showing everyone that being disabled does not mean being unable." He found a way to raise money for a bicycle and decided to bike across Ghana to raise money and awareness. 

The text is spare and poetic. Its slightly matter-of-fact tone doesn't hit the reader over the head with its message. The message is amazing but Ms. Thompson trusts Emmanuel's actions to speak for themselves. The collage illustrations are spare as well. The peachy beige background allow the figures to pop. The warm skin tones and vibrant colors of the clothing of Emmanuel, his family and friends engage the eye. There's energy, there's sadness, there's joy. It all tumbles out of the pages.

An author's note provides additional information about Emmanuel's continued efforts, including the suggestion to visit the Emmanuel Education Foundation and Sports Academy website for more information.

I recommend this to introduce a unit on social justice or disability awareness for young readers all the way through middle school. It would be very easy to follow the reading with discussion and follow that with a viewing of the documentary, Emmanuel's Gift. 

Other bloggers have posted a series of interviews with the author. Click on the links below to read these. Thanks to Barb at Blueslip Media for the chance to read Emmanuel's Dream.

Mon, Jan 12: Great Kid Books
Tues, Jan 13: 5 Minutes for Books
Wed, Jan 14: Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Jan 15: Sharpread
Fri, Jan 16: Cracking the Cover
Sat, Jan 17: Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 19: Once Upon a Story
Wed, Jan 21: Geo Librarian
Thurs, Jan 22: Nonfiction Detectives
Fri, Jan 23: The Fourth Musketeer
Mon, Jan 26: NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Jan 27: 
Teach Mentor Texts

Saturday, January 17, 2015

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.

For review:

My Life in Dioramas by Tara Altebrando. Illustrated by T.L. Bonaddio. 253 p. Running Press Book Publishers, April 

Publisher synopsis: Twelve-year-old Kate Marino thinks she is a real mastermind. At least when it comes to hatching a plan to dissuade potential buyers from purchasing Big Red, the old farmhouse that has been the only home Kate has ever known, and which her parents are selling in order to downsize.

Kate has not even moved yet, and already everything seems to be changing in unwelcome ways. Suddenly every moment and memory seems fleeting, even if it has been something that Kate has taken to be a forever truth. Making dioramas of the people she loves in the places that she holds dear gives Kate a sense of calm. But it may take several bags of stink, the help of her best friends, and a few fake dogs in order for her to be able to keep her life the way that she knows and loves it.

With sincerity and humor, author Tara Altebrando (The Battle of Darcy Lane) thoughtfully explores the pain—and promise—of letting go. Artist T.L. Bonaddio’s warm interior illustrations accentuate the tangible shoebox moments that make an impression for a lifetime.


A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger. Illustrated by Dan Santat. unpgd. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, December, 2014. 9780316376389.

Publisher synopsis: CRANKENSTEIN!

See what happens to an ordinary kid on the most lovey-dovey, yuckiest day of the year-Valentine's Day!

Cheesy cards, allergy-inducing bouquets, and heart-shaped everything? It's enough to turn anyone into a monster!


But Crankenstein might just find a way to turn his sour day sweet... because even the crankiest monsters have hearts!

Also, the PTO book fair was this week and I bought 20 books there but I'll probably spread them out over the next few StS posts.

Happy reading!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beautiful Moon by Tonya Bolden

Beautiful Moon: a child's prayer by Tonya Bolden. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. unpgd. Harry N. Abrams Inc., November, 2014. 9781419707926. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

A young boy awakens suddenly. Was it the light of the gorgeous full moon flooding his room or the remembrance of forgotten prayers. Bathed in the golden yellow light, the boy earnestly prays for the homeless, for those fighting wars overseas, for the hungry and for his own family. 

The illustrations accompanying those wishes are dark and foreboding despite the fullness of the moon. The illustrations are luminous and the text is lyrical making for intimate and cozy bedtime reading, especially for those who end their day in prayer. 

Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood

Imani's Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood. Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell. unpgd. Charlesbridge Publisher, October, 2014. 9781934133576. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

Imani is constantly teased by the members of her Maasai tribe for her short stature. What she lacks in height, she makes up for with determination and imagination thanks to her supportive mother who fuels Imani with stories each night. Tales of the moon goddess and Anansi sustain her and it is her heart's desire to touch the moon. As she tries and fails, the taunts do not diminish her intentions. Magical realism is deeply embedded in this lilting story. The bright, energetic illustrations are endearing and add to the sweetness of the story.