Monday, September 28, 2020

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick.304 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, May, 2020. 9781984815316. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Middle Grade Monday features Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick. Our thirteen-year-old narrator, Frankie, lives in Long Beach, a Washington State seaside town, with her twin sister in an inn that her mother runs with her boyfriend. Frankie is autistic and has ADHD. In order to avoid taking medication, she's working very hard to control her emotions. But it's difficult and she's not always successful. She recently lost her only friend, Colette, to her sister, Tess. Tess is the nice one, the easy one. Frankie can be prickly.

Ever since a tornado touched down near her school when she was five, Frankie has been obsessed with them and a show about tornado chasers. She relates to them as she feels her brain often twists around like a tornado. When Colette goes missing, Frankie learns that she may've been the last person Colette saw. Frankie is determined to follow the few clues Colette left behind even if it gets her in trouble with the police and her family.

It's sometimes hard to follow Frankie's logic and her roundabout way of speaking. Readers will grow to appreciate her tenacity as she persists in seeking answers even when the adults around her insist that she's wrong. 

Tornado Brain is available to borrow through Inter-Library Loan (ILL) and is available through ebccls in an e-book format. The e-audiobook is available to place on hold. I might reread this one with my ears because it's narrated by a favorite audiobook reader of mine. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

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.

Things are starting to settle in my virtual teaching routine. 

For Review:
Image: Scholastic

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc., October 6, 2020. 9781338574852.

Publisher synopsis: Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.

Tami Charles pens a poetic, lyrical text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby reassures readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughs, through the hardship of adolescent struggles, and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter. Accompanied by illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier, a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner or honoree, All Because You Matter empowers readers with pride, joy, and comfort, reminding them of their roots and strengthening them for the days to come.

Lyrical, personal, and full of love, All Because You Matter is for the picture book audience what The Hate U Give was for YA and Ghost Boys was for middle grade: a conversation starter, a community touchstone, and a deep affirmation of worth for the young readers who need it most.

Image: Macmillan

Ronan the Librarian by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie. Illustrated by Victoria Maderna. unpgd. Roaring Brook Press/ Macmillan, April, 2020. 9781250189219.

Publisher synopsis: This humorous picture book from sister duo Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and illustrator Victoria Maderna follows Ronan the Barbarian as he he grows from being just a rough-and-tumble warrior to Ronan the Librarian—a rough-and-tumble warrior who loves books.

Ronan was a mighty barbarian.

He invaded. He raided. And back home, he traded.

He always found the greatest treasures.

Until one day, Ronan found something no barbarian wants:

A BOOK.

At first, his fellow barbarians are skeptical of his newfound passion for reading, but in the end, even they aren't immune to the charms of a good book.


Two boxes arrived from Scholastic filled with swag and 100th anniversary goodies!





Purchased: I finally used those AZ gift cards!

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson. 266 p. Nancy Paulson Books/ Penguin Random House, September, 2020. 9780399545436.

Publisher synopsis: For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone's hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he's as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ's house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ's mom explains it's because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that—but it doesn't make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can't remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?

Image: Macmillan

Flamer by Mike Curato. 366 p. Henry Holt and Company/ Macmillan, September, 2020. 9781627796415.

Publisher synopsis: I know I’m not gay. Gay boys like other boys. I hate boys. They’re mean, and scary, and they’re always destroying something or saying something dumb or both.
I hate that word. Gay. It makes me feel . . . unsafe.

It's the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone's going through changes—but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can
't stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.

Image: Macmillan

Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai. 332 p. Henry Holt and Company/ Macmillan,September, 2020. 9781250314116.

Publisher synopsis: Henry Khoo's family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywherewithout his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!

But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he's on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.

Remy Lai takes readers on an adventure filled with humor, heart, and hijinks that’s a sure bet for fans of Jerry Craft, Terri Libenson, and Shannon Hale!

Act by Kayla Miller. 216 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July, 2020.  9780358206354.

Publisher synopsis: How do you know when the person who can make the difference . . . is you? 

Olive is excited to start sixth grade: new teachers, new experiences, and a field trip to the big city with her best buds!

But when Olive finds out that a school policy is keeping some kids from going on the trip, she decides to act. She's prepared to do whatever it takes to be heard—even if it means running against Trent and Sawyer, two of her closest friends, in the student council election! With intense campaign competition and emotions running high, can Olive make a big change and keep her friends?



Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson. 374 p. Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, September, 2020. 9780062840355.

Publisher synopsis: Award-winning author Tiffany D. Jackson delivers another riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines mystery that exposes horrific secrets hiding behind the limelight and embraces the power of a young woman’s voice.

When legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being a famous singer take flight. Until Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Who killed Korey Fields?

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted’s dreams had turned into a nightmare. Because behind Korey’s charm and star power was a controlling dark side. Now he’s dead, the police are at the door, and all signs point to Enchanted.


If you leave a comment, leave the link to your stack. I will pop by and to check out your stack!

Fact Friday: Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin

Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin. 40 p. Neal Porter Books/ Holiday House, September, 2020. 9780823446230. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

In #nevertoooldforpicturebook news, Fact Friday features Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin. Mr. Chin is an award-winning author illustrator who manages to present big-concept ideas in an understandable way to young (and older) readers paired with stunning illustrations that grab and hold. In Grand Canyon, he took us deep into the canyon and far back into history to help us appreciate this natural wonder. In Your Place in the Universe, he helps the us understand comparative measurement, starting small with inches, by showing how tall the average eight-year-old is, then moving onto feet, by comparing the eight year old to the average sized giraffe before ending at the theoretical end of the universe. Back matter includes an author note and sources for further reading. Surely anyone who loses themselves in this brilliant picture book will be eager to learn more.

This is one of my favorite picture books of the year. Honestly, I didn't think Mr. Chin could out-do himself after Grand Canyon. I found myself unwilling to turn the pages, wanting to remain on each spread for awhile. It's a book I will return to often.

I feel I need to apologize. Since school started and I am teaching language arts virtually to fifth and sixth grade hybrid students on their virtual days, my reading has plummeted and my reviewing has been a struggle. I don't write long reviews, but I don't write quickly. Each short review takes a really long time for me and I just don't have it because my focus necessarily has to be on preparing lessons for language arts instead of library. I am privileged to work with two seasoned, extraordinary teachers who are doing the heavy lifting by planning; but I feel like a first year teacher, at year twenty-two along with the exhaustion that accompanies it.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

#tbt: King Arthur Retellings Continued: Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Image: Scholastic

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. 340 p. Scholastic Press, Scholastic Inc., 2008. 9780545093347. (Own.)

#tbt features one of my favorite King Arthur retellings, Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. This novel was published in the U.K. in 2007, where it received the Carnegie Medal given to the best children's book of the year. It was published in the U.S. the following year. Gwynna is a servant girl, who runs away when her village is attacked and burned to the ground. She is discovered in the woods by Myrddin, a bard who proposes a deal. He will protect her if she binds herself in service of him. Myrddin, himself is bound in service to Arthur, the young conquerer who would be king and unite Britain. The two set about king-making and myth-making, knowing that there would be dire consequences if they are discovered. This first-person narrative is so immersive, pages will fly!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Waiting on Wednesday: Pity Party by Kathleen Lane

Image: LBYR

Pity Party by Kathleen Lane. 208 p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, January 19, 2021. 9780316417358.

Waiting on Wednesday features Pity Party by Kathleen Lane. Here's the publisher synopsis: Welcome to Pity Party, where the social anxieties that plague us all are twisted into funny, deeply resonant, and ultimately reassuring psychological thrills.


There's a story about a mood ring that tells the absolute truth. One about social media followers who literally follow you around. And one about a kid whose wish for a new, improved self is answered when a mysterious box arrives in the mail. There's also a personality test, a fortune teller, a letter from the Department of Insecurity, and an interactive Choose Your Own Catastrophe.

Come to the party for a grab bag of delightfully dark stories that ultimately offers a life-affirming reminder that there is hope and humor to be found amid our misery.

Aren't we all entitled to a little pity party the way 2020 has been going?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Teen Tuesday: Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness. Unabridged audiobook. ~10 hours. Read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt.Quill Tree Books, June 2020. (Review of downloadable e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Burn by Patrick Ness. Mr. Ness, ever the experimenter, blends dragons from fantasy with parallel universes from sci-fi with Cold War history and a dash of noir in a 1957 rural Washinton State setting. Sarah Dewhurst has enough to deal with being bi-racial in a small town and keeping her budding romance with the only Japanese American boy in town a secret. Her father's farm is failing, especially since her mother's death. He has hired a dragon, a Russian dragon, named Kazimir to help. Dragons and humans exist under an uneasy truce, but a Russian dragon! Kazimir may be working for gold, but he's also there due to a prophecy. In a parallel story, Malcolm, a teen acolyte in a cult called the Believers, sets out to make his way across the country to a small farm in Washington State. He's being pursued by two shadowy FBI agents. Malcolm does not want to, but he will kill anyone who interferes with him reaching his target - Sarah Dewhurst.

The complex plot takes a bit of time to come together. Stick with it. Because when it does, your mind will be blown!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Middle Grade Monday: Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey to justice by Debbie Levy

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey to justice by Debbie Levy. Illustrated by Whitney Gardner. 209 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, November, 2019. 9781534424555. (Review of book borrowed from public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's journey to justice by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Whitney Gardner to mourn the passing and to celebrate the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Students in grades 7 & 8 and beyond are familiar with Ms. Levy's picture book about Justice Ginsburg, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes her mark. We read this picture book biography quite closely in our library unit studying picture book biographies. 

This graphic novel biography expands readers' knowledge of the legal giant as they follow Ruth, also known as "Kiki," pronounced, "Kick-ee," because she kicked so much as a baby, from her roots in Brooklyn, New York to Cornell and beyond. Art is minimalist and mostly done in blues and white, with occasional red to draw the eye. As usual, Ms. Levy's research is evident in the copious back matter where fans and researchers can find more to read.

I've seen plenty of memes floating around this past weekend honoring Justice Ginsburg. One which particularly resonates simply lists the rights that women enjoy thanks to her tireless work toward equity and equality.