Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audio Review: Kneel by Candace Buford

Kneel by Candace Buford. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~8.3 hours. Read by Preston Butler III. HarperAudio/ Inkyard/ HarperCollins Publishers, September, 2021. 9781488211805. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy rainy Tuesday! There has been a flash flood warning in my area since last night and it has been raining steadily. Hopefully, the winds will stay calm and my hundred year old American Beech tree will remain standing.

Teen Tuesday features Kneel by Candace Buford. Rus Boudreaux and his best friend, Marion LaSalle are co-captains of their football team entering their senior year with high hopes for a winning season, another chance at the state championship and a football scholarship to a D-1 college. A scholarship is their only way out of their racially segregated parish in Louisiana. At the start of their second game of the season, against the team's rival, one of the white co-captains hurls a racial slur after the coin toss and the other sucker punches Marion. The refs turn a blind eye to the slur and don't defend Marion as he is hauled off the field in handcuffs and eventually beaten by police for "resisting arrest." Rus knows that Marion's chances for a scholarship are nonexistent if he can't play football, so he takes a knee during the national anthem at the next game, earning himself the ire of his coach, his teammates, his parents and the press as the media choose to portray him and Marion as thugs.

Rus' first-person narrative is compelling from the start as this thoughtful athlete tries to play by rules that seem to change at the whim of the privileged. Kneel is the author's debut and it's an impressive one peopled with complex characters dealing with real issues of poverty, racism and broken dreams.

New-to-me narrator Preston Butler III turned in a well-paced, emotionally resonant performance as Rus. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Audio Review: Unplugged by Gordon Korman

Unplugged by Gordon Korman. Unabridged e-audiobook. ~6.5 hours. Read by a cast of six. HarperAudio/ HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2021. 9780063058095. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Monday! I hope your weekend was fantastic. Mine was quite nice. The week promises to be rainy, so I'm glad I had a lot of outdoors time. Middle Grade Monday features Unplugged by Gordon Korman. Jett Baranov is an unabashed bad boy. His dad is founder and CEO of a huge tech company and has the money to bail Jett out of whatever trouble he gets into, so Jett kept upping the ante until his dad put his foot down. The family's private jet dumps Jett and his bodyguard/ babysitter in rural Arkansas to spend the summer at a place called the Oasis. It's in the middle of nowhere, the menu is totally vegetarian, the activities include meditation and, worst of all, Jett has to turn over all electronics. Jett sets about doing what Jett does best.

Mr. Korman has lots of fans at my school and deservedly so. His books are often quite funny and fast-paced. This one's pretty outlandish, but tons of fun.

The multiple narrators set a brisk pace and each was well-suited to their character. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, so I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review:

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein. unpgd. Candlewick Press, November 9, 2021. 9781536207781.

Publisher synopsis: It’s bright and early on a Saturday morning, and the little red chicken wants cookies for breakfast. What better way to persuade Papa than by jarring him awake and gleefully interjecting cookies—and herself!—into every nursery rhyme they read together? Though the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe heartily endorses the little red chicken’s plan, Papa has his own idea for a sweet breakfast for his determined daughter. Featuring the same riotous charm and bright, bold art as Interrupting Chicken and Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, David Ezra Stein’s third installment will have any fan with a sweet tooth and a love of meta rhyme clamoring to find out: will the early bird get the cookie?

Wake up! The little red chicken is hungry—and sillier than ever—in her latest star turn since debuting in the Caldecott Honor Book Interrupting Chicken.


What was in your mailbox this week? 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

#tbt: Rest in Peace Jerry Pinkney

Image: LBYR

Yesterday (10/20/21) brought news that Jerry Pinkney died of a heart attack at age 81. There are any number of his many books to choose from for a #tbt post, but I chose his wordless retelling of Aesop's fable The Lion & the Mouse. This was the work that won him Caldecott gold after winning five honors! John Henry, retold by Julius Lester, is another of my favorites. I still cannot read that and Mr. Pinkney's retelling of The Little Matchgirl without crying.

Mr. Pinkney illustrated over a 100 books and picture books. He primarily worked with watercolor and often added a dash of red somewhere in his paintings. He was a gentle and generous man and I never missed an opportunity to listen to him speak a conferences. Mrs. Churchill and I not only got to hear him speak and watch him paint at a conference, but he listened to us present a talk about how we used Lion & Mouse as a mentor text in a wordless book unit!

Take a moment to search your local library catalog for his name. Choose any title and you won't be sorry. 

Waiting on Wednesday (a day late):

Happy Wednesday! Waiting on Wednesday features This is Not a Drill by K.A. Holt. Ms. Holt's verse novels are quite popular at TMS, especially, House Arrest. This novel is told in texts and explores an unfortunate reality. From the publisher: Told through text messages, this timely story explores the real dangers kids face with humor, insight, and a ton of heart.

Ava is having a really bad day. Her parents are getting divorced. She just had a big argument with her two best friends. And she forgot to charge her phone… again.

To top it all off, while she is hiding out in the bathroom over lunch, the alarm goes off for a lockdown drill. Ava knows the rules. She has to get herself into a classroom, turn the ringer off on her phone, lock the door, and cover the windows. But all of the rooms have already been locked from the inside and there is no one in the halls.

Pretty soon she realizes there is an intruder in the building. This isn’t a drill.

This is Not a Drill releases in March of 2022.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Teen Tuesday Audiobook Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Happy Tuesday! Well, the Hunter's Moon sure put on a show last night as it waxes toward full tomorrow. I hope the weather cooperates and we can continue to bask in its light. And, I could see Orion nearly halfway up at 5 AM. I've been watching him make his way across the pre-sunrise sky since September. I will never forgot the morning I looked out from my deck at the beach at 3AM one August. I saw Orion appear to rise from the ocean.

Well, TMS Readers, I did it. An eighth grader has been telling me that I needed to read The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani for years! She might be a little obsessed with this series and its author. The hype is real!

Teen Tuesday features The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. This fantasy fairy tale series starter was published in 2013 and was the author's debut. Its 14+ hours fly by as listeners are transported into Agatha and Sophie's adventures. Every four years in their village, two children, age 12 or older are kidnapped, never to be seen again, presumably transported to the School for Good and Evil. While most of the villager dread this arrival, Sophie believes herself to be a princess and hopes for it. She goes about her day doing good, especially seeking out homely Agatha, who lives in a cemetery. Agatha just wants to be left alone. A surprise happens on the day of the kidnapping and both girls end up in unexpected circumstances.
The world-building is quite vivid and the many characters add charm, humor or menace as Sophie and Agatha try to find where they truly belong. Not surprisingly, this cinematic epic has been adapted for film and is be released on Netflix soon.

Thanks to my student for the recommendation! I'm hooked.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler

AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler. 272 p. Carolrhoda Books/ Lerner Publishing Group, September, 2021. 9781541599116. (Review of arc courtesy of Wunderkind PR.)

Happy Monday! I hope you all had an amazing weekend. Mine was very productive, but also emotionally draining as I am continuing to declutter my house. My husband saved EVERYTHING! I also caught up on grading and sent progress reports. Yay! Boo didn't get his usual very long walks, but they were long enough. 

Now it's Monday.  Ah, don't you just love the smell of a crisp autumn morning? That's what is was here in northern NJ earlier. Did you notice the rising waxing gibbous moon last night? Don't you love it when math features prominently in a novel? I do even though I'm math phobic. Middle Grade Monday features AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler. 

It's hard enough moving to a new school at any age, but moving during middle and high school can be particularly brutal. Moving because your parents want a "fresh start" after the death of your younger brother doesn't exactly help the grief process, especially when your dad has become distant and your mom obsessively decorates. Add to that the fact that the town you moved to, the seventh grade you are about to join, are survivors of a school shooting as third graders. In fact, your new room is the former room of one of the dead students.

Twelve-year-old Lucy Rothman navigates life without Theo while she observes and listens to her classmates shared trauma. She's not sure how to respond and turns to her beloved math as comfort. This is one thing she understands and does well, but then her friendly math teacher adds an extra-credit question to her first test and now, Lucy's not so sure math is predictable and comforting.

While the grief Lucy and her classmates feel is palpable, life does go on, sometimes in surprising ways. This is Ms. Isler's debut novel and she authentically portrays middle school dynamics (friendship drama and crushes) as well as life after the unthinkable (PTSD and coping). Sadly, school violence is a timely topic. This book is an important, age-appropriate exploration of all the feelings tweens might encounter and work through.

Lucy is thoughtful and relatable. I just loved her careful observations of her new circumstances. Give this book to students who enjoy intense exploration of emotion. It's a difficult book to read, but also a difficult book to put down.