Wednesday, June 30, 2021

#tbt: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. 160 p. Origami Yoda #1. Amulet Books/ Abrams Books, March 2010. 9780810984257. (Own)

Happy Thursday! How are you managing in this heat? I was smart enough to take Boo for a longish walk early, but then made the mistake of taking him for a short (1 mile) walk downtown to pick up lunch. Evil!

 #tbt features The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger. This series starter was published in 2010. It is presented as a case file compiled by Tommy, who is trying to figure out if Origami Yoda really is speaking through Dwight. Dwight is the class oddball, but when he sports Origami Yoda on his finger, he speaks words of wisdom in a Yoda voice. The case file is filled with anecdotes illustrated by Tommy's friend, Kellen and told from the POV of a variety of classmates, many of whom believe in Dwight's powers. There are directions for folding your own Origami Yoda at the back of the book. This series starter is followed by Darth Paper Strikes Back, Secrets of the Fortune Wookiee, The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue, and Emperor Pickeltine Rides the Bus. Each book contains instructions for more origami folding fun.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Friends Forever by Shannon Hale

Friends Forever by Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 304 p. Friends Volume 3. First Second/ Macmillan Publishers, August 31, 2021. 9781250317568.

Waiting on Wednesday features Forever Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. This pair's earlier collaborations, Real Friends and Best Friends are TMS favorites. Fans will be psyched to learn of volume 3! 

Here's the publisher synopsis: Shannon is in eighth grade, and life is more complicated than ever. Everything keeps changing, her classmates are starting to date each other (but nobody wants to date her!), and no matter how hard she tries, Shannon can never seem to just be happy.

As she works through her insecurities and undiagnosed depression, she worries about disappointing all the people who care about her. Is something wrong with her? Can she be the person everyone expects her to be? And who does she actually want to be?

With their signature humor, warmth, and insight, Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham have crafted another incredible love letter to their younger selves and to readers everywhere, a reminder to us all that we are enough.

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Indivisible by Daniel Aleman

Image: LBYR

Indivisible by Daniel Aleman. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~9 hours. Read by Adan Rocha. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/ Machete Audio, May, 2021. 9781549138058. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Tuesday! Today is the end of my first full week of summer break and it certainly has been eventful as have the last 26 days. I'm reading some awesome books and have just made my way through a stack of fun picture books. 

Teen Tuesday features Indivisible by debut author, Daniel Aleman. Sixteen-year-old Mateo Garcia leads a pretty good life in the lower east side of Manhattan. He's out to his supportive parents, he's on track to get into a good college, he has two best friends in Kimmie and Adam and, while he may be poor, he, his seven-year-old sister, Sophie, and his parents are close-knit and happy. All that comes crashing down when ICE agents arrest his parents. It doesn't matter that they have built a life in the U.S. after overstaying their visas. It doesn't matter that their children were born here and are U.S. citizens. It doesn't matter that Pa runs a bodega that is an important part of their neighborhood. 

With no relatives to turn to, Mateo and Sophie do their best to maintain normalcy. A family friend offers to take them in, but Mateo declines. His apartment is tiny and his wife just had a baby. Soon, the reality of keeping up at school, running the bodega, caring for Sophie and making rent sets it. A near-miss with Child Protection forces Mateo to face reality.

Mr. Aleman effectively puts faces on the faceless. He paints portraits of striving immigrants who love their adoptive country and work hard for very little. Mateo is an earnest narrator and Adan Rocha's performance is nuanced and emotionally resonant. 

Like Efrén Divided, Indivisible is powerful, timely and important. It belongs in all library collections. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Middle Grade Monday Arc Review: Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi

Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Melissa Manwill. 250 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, July 6, 2021. 9780062989208. (Review of arc courtesy of Blue Slip Media.)

Happy first Monday of summer break! How's your summer reading going so far? Middle Grade Monday features Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Melissa Manwill. This heartwarming story is told in the third-person from multiple points of view-canine, feline and human. Miss Lottie has opened her home and her heart to shelter animals. Quinn is the neighborhood boy who often helps Miss Lottie and is dealing with grief over the death of his father as well as a pack of bullies that includes his older brother. There's Gus, whom Miss Lottie adopted first, Ghost, a reclusive cat, Tank, Roo and Moon Pie, the youngest of the bunch.  Moon Pie is missing his owner, Gertie. He thinks Gertie is away on vacation. Unfortunately, she died and Miss Lottie and the pack want to protect Moon Pie. 

When Miss Lottie brings Decker home, it is with the understanding that Gus needs to approve the new addition. There's something about Decker that doesn't sit well with Gus, but Miss Lottie seems to have her heart set on adopting Decker, so he acquiesces. It doesn't take Decker long to begin undermining the happiness of the pack and setting in motion a plan to get rid of the rest of the pack.

What a gift of a book for dog lovers young and old. I just loved this. As the POV shifts, the reader gains insight into the personality and past of each character. The illustrations were unfinished in the arc I read, but help convey the personalities of the characters and tension in the story. Decker is one dangerous dude. Don't miss Secondhand Dogs if you love a good dog story. It publishes July 6.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" is was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, for the link no longer takes you to it. So, I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review: This week brought boxes and boxes from Scholastic! Woot! I also got to watch the authors talk about their books on two webinars. Thank you Lizette, Emily and Scholastic!

Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick. 208 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., September 21, 2021. 9781338777246.

Publisher synopsis: A ship. A garden. A library. A key. In Kaleidoscope, the incomparable Brian Selznick presents the story of two people bound to each other through time and space, memory and dreams. At the center of their relationship is a mystery about the nature of grief and love which will look different to each reader. Kaleidoscope is a feat of storytelling that illuminates how even the wildest tales can help us in the hardest times.

Things We Couldn't Say by Jay Coles. 320 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., September 21, 2021. 9781338734188.

Publisher synopsis: There's always been a hole in Gio's life. Not because he's into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio's life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her… and now, just as he's started to get his life together, she's back.
It's hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio's started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio's not sure… especially because he's not sure what he wants from anyone right now.

There are no easy answers to love — whether it's family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn't Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he'll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.

Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson. 320 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 5, 2021. 9781338348538.


Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he’s finally big enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant’s friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, he only has one thing on his mind: how he’ll measure up to his father’s expectations at the card table.

Then Ant’s best friend gets grounded, and he’s forced to find another spades partner. And Shirley, the new girl in his class, isn’t exactly what he has in mind. She doesn’t understand that trash talking is part of the game. Or why Ant’s dad doesn’t want him playing with a girl. But she’s smart and tough and pretty, and knows every card trick in the book. So Ant decides to join forces with Shirley — and keep his plans a secret.

Only it turns out secrets are another Joplin Man tradition. And his father is hiding one so big it may tear their family apart…

Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui. 288 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 19, 2021. 9781338702064.

Publisher synopsis:Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it's time to go to "real school."

Nimra's nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything. Unfortunately, middle school sucks. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids.

Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna's good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school's popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn't allowed in Islam, and she's pretty sure her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out.

But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band — they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra's lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna's friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide if winning her friend back is worth giving up everything — and everyone — she cares about.

Room to Dream by Kelly Yang. 320 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., September 21, 2021. 9781338621129.

Publisher synopsis: Mia Tang is going for her dreams.

After years of hard work, Mia Tang finally gets to go on vacation with her family — to China! A total dream come true! Mia can't wait to see all her cousins and grandparents again, especially her cousin Shen. As she roams around Beijing, witnessing some of the big changes China's going through, Mia thinks about the changes in her own life, like… 

1. Lupe's taking classes at the high school! And Mia's own plans to be a big writer are… stuck.

2. Something happened with Jason and Mia has no idea what to do about it.

3. New buildings are popping up all around the motel, and small businesses are disappearing.

Can the Calivista survive? Buckle up! Mia is more determined than ever to get through the turbulence, now that she finally has… room to dream!

Set Me Free by Ann Clare LeZotte. 288 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., September 21, 2021. 9781338742497.

Publisher synopsis: Three years after being kidnapped and rendered a "live specimen" in a cruel experiment to determine the cause of her deafness, fourteen year old Mary Lambert is summoned from her home in Martha's Vineyard to the mainland to teach a younger deaf-mute girl to communicate with sign language. She can't help but wonder, Can a child of eight with no prior language be taught? Still, weary of domestic life and struggling to write as she used to, Mary pours all her passion into the pursuit of freeing this child from the prison of her isolation. But when she arrives at the manor, Mary discovers that there is much more to the girl's story — and the circumstances of her confinement — than she ever could have imagined. Freeing her suddenly takes on a much greater meaning — and risk.

Part thriller, part historical adventure, part searing exposé of ableism and race discrimination, Fly Away Home is a spellbinding follow-up to the groundbreaking Show Me a Sign.

We Shall Overcome by Bryan Collier. unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc., November 2, 2021. 9781338540376.

Publisher synopsis: “We Shall Overcome” is one of the most recognizable anthems of the Civil Rights movement, widely performed at protests and rallies to promote nonviolent civil rights activism. Now, these inspirational, empowering, legendary lyrics are brought to life with the stirring, evocative, and breathtaking illustrations from Caldecott Honor recipient and nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Bryan Collier. Powerfully imagined for the present moment, Collier’s illustrations meld the most emblematic moments of the twentieth century Civil Rights movement with the present day, depicting the movements, protests, and demonstrations — big and small — as the fight for justice continues. With illustrations full of depth, tenderness, and expression, and offering historical context while remaining powerfully relevant to the present-day, this impactful picture book is a must-have for every home, classroom, and bookshelf.

The Children's Moon by Carmen Agra Deedy. unpaged. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., October 19, 2021. 9781338216394.

Publisher synopsis: Have you ever seen the moon on a clear blue day and wondered why?

There once was a time when the sun alone ruled the day, the moon graced the night, and little children were sent to bed before sunset. Then early one dawn, the moon heard sounds of children laughing, and she yearned to see them by daylight.

"Certainly not!" snapped the sun. "The day is mine. The night is yours!"

But the moon had a clever plan...

Carmen Agra Deedy and Jim LaMarche have brilliantly crafted an original pourquoi tale about finding one's place in the universe.

Our Table by Peter H. Reynolds. Unpgd. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Press, October 5, 2021. 978133857232.

Publisher synopsis: This moving, tender story begins with a man building a table for his family. As the man becomes a father, and then a grandfather, the table stands tall and strong, serving as the place where family comes together to share meals, laughter, and love. But as time passes, the table gradually goes unused, and then forgotten. Will the bonds of family be enough to bring this family back together and remind them of what matters most?

In exquisite, expressive watercolor, and his signature messages of love, kindness, and acceptance, Peter H. Reynolds brings a tender touch to this special picture book. An ode to multi-generational love and the traditions that unite families, The Table brings readers together with a universal message of gratitude.


When I learned that Kathi Appelt had a new book coming out and I had the opportunity to snag an arc, there was no hesitation on my part! 

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appel. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. 336 p. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, September 7, 2021. 9781534406438.

Publisher synopsis: Perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan, this exquisite middle grade novel from Newbery Honoree and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt follows an old camel out to save two baby kestrel chicks during a massive storm in the Texas desert— filled with over a dozen illustrations by Caldecott winner Eric Rohmann.

Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion.

But those stories were from before. Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, June 25, 2021

Fact Friday: Wild Vet Adventures: saving animals around the world with Dr. Gabby Wild by Gabby Wild with Jennifer Szymanski.

Wild Vet Adventures: saving animals around the world with Dr. Gabby Wild by Gabby Wild with Jennifer Szymanski. 192 p. National Geographic Kids/ National Geographic, March 2021. 9781426338691. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Happy Friday! Fact Friday features Wild Vet Adventures: saving animals around the world with Dr. Gabby Wild by Gabby Wild with Jennifer Szymanski. National Geographic Kids publications are always interesting and this title is sure to have wide appeal. Wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Gabby Zonenshine, aka, Dr. Gabby Wild, travels the world tending to wild animals. This oversized, browseable book is organized by continent and features colorful backgrounds, eye-catching photos and fascinating facts about each animal. There's quite a variety of animals from dung beetles to an octopus to kangaroos. If you love geography, animals or hope to be a vet someday, this is the book for you.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

#tbt: Gone by Michael Grant

Gone by Michael Grant. 576 p. Gone series #1. Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins Publishers, June, 2008. 9780061448768. (Own.)

Happy second day of summer vacation! Wasn't the weather (in NJ) gorgeous yesterday? Nice weather should continue today, so get outside and enjoy it. I read for a few hours on my deck in the shade and it was wonderful. The weather should hold for the rise of the Strawberry Moon tonight. It's the last Supermoon of 2021 according to

#tbt features Gone by Michael Grant. Gone is book one of the science fiction series of the same name. It's a hefty book, weighing in at nearly 600 pages, but it's a page-turner. Sam is sitting in school one day, listening to his teacher drone on when, poof, he's gone. His teacher literally disappeared as did everyone over the age of fourteen in the school. Turns out, everyone over fourteen throughout the town of Perdido did as well, leaving behind a bunch of bewildered children. Sam and his friends attempt to make a plan for survival while looking for ways to escape. Turns out, there's a force field surrounding the area and no way of communicating beyond it. Oh, and some of the survivors find they now possess strange powers, such as telekinesis. And then there are the strange animal mutations to deal with.

There are nine books in the series. Gone was published in June of 2008 and was followed by Hunger in 2009. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson

Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson. 320 p. Scholastic Inc., October 5, 2021. 9781338348538.

Waiting on Wednesday features Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson. Fans of Mr. Johnson will be thrilled to learn that he has a new book due this fall. That cover is amazing. Here's the publisher synopsis: SECRETS ARE ALWAYS A GAMBLE

Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he's finally old enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant's friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, Ant only has one thing on his mind: how he'll measure up to his father's expectations at the card table.

Then Ant's best friend gets grounded, and he's forced to find another spades partner. And Shirley, the new girl in his class, isn't exactly who he has in mind. She talks a whole lot of trash — way more than his old partner. Plus, he's not sure that his father wants him playing with a girl. But she's smart and tough and pretty, and knows every card trick in the book. So Ant decides to join forces with Shirley — and keep his plans a secret.

Only it turns out secrets are another Joplin Man tradition. And his father is hiding one so big it may tear their family apart...

Monday, June 21, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~7 hours. Read by Chad Burros. HarperAudio/ Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins Publishers, May, 2021. 9780063088762. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Well, we made it! Happy last day of school! This has been quite the school year and I'm happy that it's over. Personally, I have a challenging summer ahead. I'm glad that I no longer have to juggle school along with the sudden changes that have befallen my family. I can devote all my attention and energy to it over the summer. 

Teen Tuesday features Pumpkin by Julie Murphy. This is the concluding volume to the trilogy that began with Dumplin' and continued with Puddin'. Clover City, Texas is too small to contain high school senior Waylon "Pumpkin" Brewer. He's tall, redheaded, fat and flamboyant. He has been out for a while, but that doesn't mean his life is easy. He can't wait until graduation and the time when he and his twin sister and best friend, Clementine, will move to Austen to attend community college. Then, he's convinced that he can be his true self. He has even planned his wardrobe.

On one fateful night, Waylon is dumped by his closeted hook-up and he discovers that Clementine not only applied to, but was accepted to the University of Georgia. Heartbroken, Waylon dons a wig, puts makeup on and videotapes himself singing as "Pumpkin (his grammy's nickname for him)," thinking he might audition for his favorite show, Fiercest of Them All. After the video is accidentally leaked, Waylon finds himself nominated for Prom Queen and Clem's girlfriend Hannah is nominated for Prom King. Instead of being humiliated, Hannah encourages Waylon to go through with it with her.

Waylon's voice in this first-person narrative is at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, but always utterly honest and charming. Characters from the earlier novels make appearances and become involved in Waylon's journey in large and small ways. Even though this novel can stand alone, reading all three will be a treat. New-to-me narrator, Chad Burros, turned in a delightful performance, imbuing Waylon with energy, determination and longing. I just loved this. 

Middle Grade Monday: Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

Happy Monday TMS Readers! I hope you had a wonderful Summer Solstice and celebrated the dads in your life yesterday. Middle Grade Monday features Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. Reha narrates her story in this poignant verse novel set in 1983 about growing up part of two worlds. At school, Reha is the only Indian American; while she has a best friend, she feels isolated. On the weekends, she's immersed in her Indian community, celebrating the culture and hanging with Sunita, her other best friend. She chafes at the constraints her overprotective parents place on her and argues with them to be able to attend a school dance. On the night of the dance, her mother falls ill and then Reha's world is split in two yet again-this time between home and hospital as she and her dad try to cope with her mother's illness.

If you like verse novels, #ownvoices novels and/ or sad stories, Red, White and Whole is the book for you. I read this one with my ears and enjoyed the narration. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Fact Friday: Why Longfellow Lied: the truth about Paul Revere's Midnight Ride by Jeff Lantos

Why Longfellow Lied: the truth about Paul Revere's Midnight Ride by Jeff Lantos. 160 p. Charlesbridge, August 3, 2021. 9781580899338. (Review of e-arc courtesy of publisher.) (Cover image below. Blogger kept putting it down there instead of up here.)

Happy Friday! Fact Friday features Why Longfellow Lied: the truth about Paul Revere's Midnight Ride by Jeff Lantos. "Listen my children, and you shall hear..." Sound familiar? Those are the first words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, Paul Revere's Ride. It was written in 1860 as the United States of America was on the brink of civil war. While it is a poem that many, including myself assume is historically accurate, it is actually filled with inaccuracies. Very little documentation about that fateful night is available BECAUSE IT WAS A SECRET MISSION. Colonists were not discussing Paul Revere's role in the relaying of information about British troop movement in the days and weeks after BECAUSE IT WAS A SECRET! Still, the poem endures, and rightly so, for it is a lovely, lively, inspiring poem.

Mr. Lentos examines the poem line by line and parses the fact from fiction in this absolutely fascinating book-definitely one to revisit over and over to absorb it all. It is opiously illustrated with maps, and photos of engravings and art. Back matter includes exhaustive source notes and a six-page bibliography. I can't wait to reread this when it publishes in August. The seventh grade social studies teacher at my school can't wait either! First purchase!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

#tbt: So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez

So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez. 240 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (Own)

Happy Thursday TMS Readers and congratulations eighth graders on your commencement last night. #tbt features So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez wrote two YA novels prior to making his middle grade debut with So Hard to Say in 2004. It's a dual-narrative where the POV shifts between Frederick, who has just moved to California from Wisconsin and Xio, the pretty and popular girl who is determined to make him her first boyfriend. The two become good friends and Frederick joins a pick-up soccer team, but as Xio begins to push her agenda, Frederick realizes that he spends more time dreaming about his teammate, Victor that about his best friend, Xio.

So Hard to Say was one of the first middle grade novels to explore sexual identity. Mr. Sanchez created appealing, relatable characters and while there's plenty of adolescent angst, there's plenty of warmth and humor as well. So Hard to Say won the LAMBDA Literary Award and was named a NYPL Best Book for Teens book.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Big Shot by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Big Shot by Jeff Kinney. Diary of a Wimpy Kid series #16. 224 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, October 25, 2021. 9781419749155. 

The Wimpy Kid series is still going strong since the very first one was published way back in 2004. Here's the publisher synopsis: In Big Shot, book 16 of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series from #1 international bestselling author Jeff Kinney, Greg Heffley and sports just don’t mix.

After a disastrous field day competition at school, Greg decides that when it comes to his athletic career, he’s officially retired. But after his mom urges him to give sports one more chance, he reluctantly agrees to sign up for basketball.

Tryouts are a mess, and Greg is sure he won’t make the cut. But he unexpectedly lands a spot on the worst team.

As Greg and his new teammates start the season, their chances of winning even a single game look slim. But in sports, anything can happen. When everything is on the line and the ball is in Greg’s hands, will he rise to the occasion? Or will he blow his big shot?

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~665 minutes, Holiday House/ Listening Library, February, 2021. 9780593397183. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Last time! Happy penultimate Tuesday of the 2020 - 2021 school year! The final day of school is one week away! I hope you've got your summer reading lined up! If not, be sure to check this space for recommendations all through the summer!

Teen Tuesday features Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado. Sixteen-year-old Charlotte, "Charlie" Vega is a brown girl growing up in a mostly white Connecticut suberb. She's a writer and a reader. She and her mom still miss her dad who died. She has a gorgeous, Black and popular best friend named Amelia and Charlie plays the third-wheel, fat friend role pretty amiably. Her mom used to be overweight as well, but now she has slimmed down and is constantly nagging Charlie about her weight. Charlie longs for a swoony romance of her own and is so pumped when her crush, a football player named Cal invites her to a football awards dance. Can this really be happening?

Charlie is the smart, endearing narrator of this slow-paced, thoughtful romance. Debut author Crystal Maldonado explores mother-daughter as well as best friend dynamics and issues of self-acceptance and fat-shaming as Charlie struggles to find love and her place in the world. New-to-me narrator, Carla Vega's portrayed a thoughtful Charlie in a well-paced, engaging performance. While adult-me occasionally rolled my eyes at Charlie's naiveté, teen readers will root for Charlie to go for it.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: The Leak by Kate Reed Petty

Image: Macmillan

The Leak by Kate Reed Petty and illustrated by Andrea Bell. 240 p. First: Second/ Macmillan, March, 2021. 9781250217967. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Yes, I am going to write it because I get to do so five time every school year! Happy penultimate Monday of the 2020-2021 school year! 

Middle Grade Monday features The Leak by Kate Reed Petty and illustrated by Andrea Bell. Twelve-year-old Ruth Keller is an aspiring journalist who questions everything. She is especially peeved by the state of her teeth and the fact that her dentist accuses her of not flossing, when she does so several times a day! She writes an online newspaper and usually covers the middle school beat, featuring articles about grafitti. When she and her friend discover a bunch of dead fish and black slime in a lake in her neighborhood, Ruth decides to investigate. Her muckraking leads to some scary consequences and Ruth must decide how far she's willing to go to uncover the truth.

This colorful, engaging graphic novel walks readers through what a real investigative reporter does while maintaining suspense. The book is dedicated to the residents of Flint, Michigan, who were being poisoned by contaminated drinking water some years ago. By the way, one of the most prominent social justice activists in the Flint Water Crisis was an eight-year-old girl. Mari Copeny wrote a letter to then President Barack Obama inviting him to visit Flint, Michigan to observe first-hand what the residents were faced with.

I'm excited to add this to my school library's collection. It's never too early to encourage youth activism. 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" is was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, for the link no longer takes you to it. So, I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review:

Indelible Ann: the Larger-Than-Life Story of Governor Ann Richards by Meghan P. Browne. Illustrated by Carlynn Whitt. unpgd. Random House Studio/ Random House Children's Books, June 22, 2021. 9780593173275.

Publisher synopsis: A folksy, larger-than-life picture book biography about Ann Richards, the late governor of Texas who has inspired countless women in politics today.

Dorothy Ann Willis hailed from a small Texas town, but early on she found her voice and the guts to use it.

During her childhood in San Diego and her high school years back in Texas (when she dropped the "Dorothy"), Ann discovered a spark and passion for civic duty. It led her all the way to Washington, DC, where she, along with other girls from around the country, learned about the business of politics. Fast forward to Ann taking on the political boys' club: she became county commissioner, then state treasurer, and finally governor of Texas. In this stunning picture book biography, full of vim, vigor, and folksy charm, two Texan creators take us through the life of the legendary "big mouth, big hair" governor of Texas, a woman who was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and in turn became an inspiration to Hillary Clinton and countless others.

This looks like a nice addition to my sixth grade picture book biography unit. 

Playing a Dangerous Game by Patrick Ochieng. 192 p. Norton Young Readers, August 17, 2021. 9781324019138.

Publisher synopsis: This whip-smart coming-of-age novel sees a group of boys embark on a madcap, high-stakes adventure of survival and friendship.

Lumush and his three friends live with their families in Railway Estate, spending their free time in the countryside or in the yards behind the estate, playing a game of chance called pata potea next to the wreck of an old car. When the boys’ attention begins to wander farther, they discover a deserted house believed to be haunted. As they explore the house, they learn that it’s not ghosts they have to fear but the malevolent Mwachuma. By day he works in his junkyard, but by night he and his accomplices steal coffee from the railway yard and smuggle it into the “ghost house.” As the young boys are drawn into this criminal underworld, they face a mounting danger that threatens both themselves and their families.

With rich storytelling and gripping adventure, Playing a Dangerous Game is a brilliant debut set in 1970s Kenya from a talented new voice in children’s fiction.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, June 11, 2021

Fact Friday and Arc Review: Accused: My Story of Injustice by Adama Bah

Accused: My Story of Injustice by Adama Bah, . 112 p. I, Witness series #1. Norton Young Readers, August 3, 2021. 9781324016632. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy penultimate Friday of the 2020 - 2021 school year! Fact Friday features Accused: My Story of Injustice by Adama Bah. This memoir is the first book of a new nonfiction series called I, Witness, aimed at a middle school audience. 

Ms. Bah was sixteen-year-old in 2005, when the Department of Homeland Security raided her apartment in Harlem. She and her father were handcuffed and arrested. They were separated and she was interrogated and eventually held for months, accused of terrorism. Eventually, she learned that an acquaintance named her as a potential suicide bomber, only to later find out that that young lady was told that Ms. Bah named her. When she was released, with a curfew and an ankle monitor, she discovered that her father had been deported and her family was starving, so she quit high school and worked five jobs to support them, but continued to suffer from the trauma as well as the fallout of being accused of terrorism. She learned she was on a "No Fly" list as she tried to board a plane with the family she was working for.

This memoir is short and simply told but really packs a punch as readers learn about the reality of Islamophobia in painful detail.

Accused will publish on August 3 along with book 2 of the series, Hurricane: My Story of Resilience by Salvadore Gomez-Colon.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

#tbt: A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. 400 p. Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic Inc. March, 2008. 9780439895767. (Own)

Happy penultimate Thursday of the 2021 school year! #tbt features A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. I hope Ms. Bunce's name seems familiar to you now, since I featured her Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries on Monday and Wednesday! A Curse as Dark as Gold is a reimagining of the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. 

Charlotte Miller's father has died leaving his struggling textile mill to his daughters. Townsfolk like to say that the mill is cursed, but Charlotte is determined to make it work despite the fact that her greedy uncle would like to see it fail. Enter a dwarf named Jack Spinner. What would Charlotte do in order to succeed?

A Curse as Dark as Gold
is long. Clocking in at almost 400 pages and tending toward slow and elaborate pacing, this won't appeal to teens who like fast and furious. Thoughtful teens, especially those who enjoy fairy tale retellings will appreciate the lovely writing, vivid setting and fascinating characters, as well as Ms. Bunce's take on what might be my least favorite fairy tale. I really liked it.

This story was published in 2008 and was Ms. Bunce's debut. It won the William Morris Award, which is given to a debut author and it was named an ALA Best Book For Young Adults as well as a Smithsonian Notable Book.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Cover Coincidence: Fences

A "Cover Coincidence" post is the occasional post prompted by the question, "Where have I seen this before?"

I read Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros a while back and thought the cover was very striking.

I got a deja vu feeling recently, when I came across this, which I am really looking forward to reading: 

Waiting on Wednesday: Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Image: Workman

Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce. 368 p. Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery #3. Algonquin Young Readers/ Workman, October 5, 2021. 9781616209209.

Happy Wednesday! One more Wednesday after today! Waiting on Wednesday features Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce. I gave a hint to this post when I recommended Premeditated Myrtle on Monday. Here's the publisher synopsis:

Myrtle Hardcastle—twelve-year-old Young Lady of Quality and Victorian amateur detective—is back on the case, solving a string of bizarre murders in her hometown of Swinburne.

When the proprietor of Leighton’s Mercantile is found dead on the morning his annual Christmas shop display is to be unveiled, it’s clear a killer had revenge in mind. But who would want to kill the local dry-goods merchant? Perhaps someone who remembers the mysterious scandal that destroyed his career as a professor and archaeologist. When the killer strikes again, each time manipulating the figures in the display to foretell the crime, Myrtle finds herself racing to uncover the long-buried facts of a cold case—and the motivations of a modern murderer.

Cold-Blooded Myrtle releases on October 5. Be sure to check out the first two books in the series before then. The books do not need to be read in order, but Myrtle is such a firecracker, you won't want to miss any. Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Teen Tuesday: A Thief Among the Trees: an Ember in the Ashes Graphic Novel by Sabaa Tahir

A Thief Among the Trees by Sabaa Tahir and Nicole Andelfinger. Illustrated by Sonia Liao. 144 p. Archaia, July, 2020. 9781684155248. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Happy Tuesday! Only two more school day Tuesdays after today! The last day of school is two weeks from today! I am so ready to end this school year. Teen Tuesday features A Thief Among the Trees by Sabaa Tahir. If Ms. Tahir's name rings a bell, it's because I recently finished her Ember in the Ashes series. It was then that I discovered this graphic novel prequel to the events in the series. This first book in a planned three-book adaptation tells the story of Helene and Elias as Fivers during their training at Blackcliff Academy. They and their best friend, Tavi, are a team that is competing with other teams of Fivers to land on an isolated island in order to steal a rare poison.

Knowledge of the series is not necessary to enjoy this suspenseful adventure, but fans will enjoy this peek into the formative years of Elias and Helene. The full-color art leans toward the dark and murky and similarities between characters sometimes causes confusion. I'd be interested in reading the next installments.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Middle Grade Monday Audio Review: Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Image: Workman

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~8 hours, 12 minutes. Read by Bethan Rose Young. Recorded Books, October, 2020. 978190085461. (Review of downloadable audio borrowed from public library.)

Happy Monday! Only two more Mondays left in our school year after today! Middle Grade Monday features Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce. Myrtle Hardcastle is a smart and spunky twelve-year-old who lives with her lawyer father and governess in Swinburne, England. She has a keen and curious mind and full access to all her father's law books and her dead mother's microscope. Her governess, Miss Judson, encourages her curiosity, but also reminds Myrtle that she is also training to be a Young Lady of Quality. Young Ladies of Quality don't spy on their neighbors. Myrtle calls it observing. When she notices that her unpleasant neighbor, Miss Wodehouse wasn't up and about for her morning routine, Myrtle calls the constabulary, who find the old woman dead in her bathtub. The death is ruled to be of natural causes, but Myrtle isn't so sure and launches her own investigation.

This intriguing whodunit will have you guessing. It's set in the Victorian Era and Myrtle constantly struggles with her drive to learn and the constraints on women and girls at the time. She's a spunky, endearing main character surrounded by a cast of colorful secondary characters. It's a long book and the vocabulary is fairly difficult, but if you love a good mystery and have outgrown the mild, middle grade stuff, Myrtle's your gal!

I just adored the audiobook energetically narrated by a new-to-me narrator. Perfectly paced and energetic. The voice made me love Myrtle even more. 

Premeditated Myrtle is book one of the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series. It was published last year and won an Edgar Award in the children's book category. If you enjoy it, move right on to book two, Premeditated Myrtle as I did! I can't wait for #3, Cold Blooded Myrtle, due out in October.. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" is was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, for the link no longer takes you to it. So, I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review:
Rescue at Lake Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson. 186 p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April, 2021. 9780358334859.

Publisher synopsis: In this funny and moving animals-in-peril adventure, a twelve-year-old girl and her two best friends determine to rescue two orphaned beaver kits—and soon find themselves trying to solve a local environmental crisis. Perfect for fans of Pax and A Boy Called Bat.

Everyone knows that twelve-year-old Madison “Madi” Lewis is not allowed to bring home any more animals. After she's saved hairless mice, two birds, a rabbit, and a stray tom cat that ended up destroying the front porch, Madi’s parents decide that if they find one more stray animal in the house, she won’t be allowed to meet Jane Goodall at an upcoming gala event.

But when Madi and her two best friends, Aaron and Jack, rescue beaver kits whose mother was killed, they find themselves at the center of a local conspiracy that’s putting the beavers and their habitats in danger. As Madi and her friends race to uncover the threat targeting the beavers, Madi must put her animal whisperer skills to the test in both raising the orphaned beaver kits and staying out of trouble long enough.

Image: Macmillan

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman. 388 p. Tor Teen/ A Tom Doherty Associates Book, November 9, 2021. 9781250789259.

Publisher synopsis: The Blood Moon rises. The Blood Veil falls. The Tournament begins.

Every generation, at the coming of the Blood Moon, seven families in the remote city of Ilvernath each name a champion to compete in a tournament to the death.

The prize? Exclusive control over a secret wellspring of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world—one thought long depleted.

This year, thanks to a salacious tell-all book, the seven champions are thrust into the worldwide spotlight, granting each of them new information, new means to win, and most importantly, a choice: accept their fate or rewrite their story.

But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

I also received a nifty "terrific Tuesdays" fall planner from Penguin.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Fact Friday: Strange Nature: the Insect Portraits of Levon Bliss by Gary Mone

Strange Nature: the Insect Portraits of Levon Bliss by Gary Mone. Illustrated by Levon Bliss. 40 p. Abrams Books for Young Readers/ Abrams Books, March, 2021. 9781419731662. (Review of finished copy borrowed from public library.)

Fact Friday features Strange Nature: the Insect Portraits of Levon Bliss by Gary Mone. Calling all entomologists! Mr. Mone has adapted Mr. Bliss' book for adults entitled, Microsculpture, for young people and it is not to be missed. One page features a stunning photo of an insect and the opposite page contains information, like the size, location and other fascinating facts presented in a conversational, sometimes humorous way. This is definitely a book to meander through, stopping to pore over the photos, which not only feature the full insect, but extreme close-ups of various body parts.  

Back matter includes a glossary and an invitation to learn more about the world of microsculpture by visiting I had a hard time wrapping my head around how Mr. Bliss created these phenomenal photos and visited the site. It was very helpful to view the short movie. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

#tbt: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. 224 p. Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House Children's Books, September, 2003. 

I highlight LGBTQIA+ titles throughout the year, but June is Pride Month, so I will try to be a bit more intentional in the Daily Book Talks. #tbt features Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. This exuberant romance turns the romantic trope of "boy meets girl" on its head in the most delightful ways.

Our narrator, Paul, is an openly gay sophomore who is lucky enough to live in a gay-friendly town in New Jersey where the star quarterback on the football team, Infinite Darlene, is also homecoming queen. When Noah moves to town, Paul is instantly smitten, but Noah is cautious, having recently broken up with a cheating boyfriend.

Boy Meets Boy was published in 2003. It received the Lamda Literary Award for Children/ Young Adults and regularly appears on lists of best LGBTQIA+ books for young readers. David Levithan has written quite a few books, including Every Day, which was adapted for film.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Clash by Kayla Miller

Clash by Kayla Miller. 224 p. Click series #4. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 20, 2021. 9780358242192.

Waiting on Wednesday features Clash by Kayla Miller. This is book four of the Click series, which is quite popular at my school. 

Publisher synopsis: Olive, meet Natasha.

There’s a new kid in town! From the moment Natasha sets foot in class, it’s clear she’s one of the coolest kids in sixth grade. Everyone wants to be her friend, including Olive . . . but things might not be so easy.

Olive tries her best to befriend Nat, but it seems like the only thing they have in common is that they both want to hang out with Olive’s friends! Watching as Natasha gets closer with some of her best buds, Olive can’t help but worry that they’re starting to like Nat more than they like her . . . and who could blame them? Nat is just that cool . . . and Olive is, well, just Olive.

The New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Kayla Miller delivers a nuanced look at navigating middle school friendships and the importance of both empathy and respect.

Review: Franklin Endicott and the Third Key by Kate DiCamillo

Franklin Endicott and the Third Key by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Tales from Deckawoo Drive series. 104 p. Candlewick Press, June 8, 2021. 9781536201819. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Franklin Endicott of Deckawoo Drive is a worrier, but not just a garden variety worrier. He keeps lists of his worries, then alphabetizes them. His list is long and, on top of that, he suffers from vivid nightmares. He finds some comfort visiting the Lincoln sisters. They have a wonderful set of encyclopedias that he is welcome to use anytime. 

One day, he accompanies Eugenia Lincoln to Odd Buddy Lamp's thrift store to get a key duplicated. Eugenia leaves Franklin in the store to wait while she finishes her errands. Franklin is quite disturbed by the menacing and eclectic items for sale. Items like a bug stuck forever in amber were unsettling enough, but the stuffed weasel and jar of eyeballs just sent Franklin right over the edge of anxiety, not to mention that Odd Buddy Lamp himself was just, odd! When Franklin discovers a third key in Miss Lincoln's envelop, she sends him back to the thrift store ALONE to find out why. 

I can't prove this, but I'd like to think I could spot something written by Kate DiCamillo were I handed a manuscript blind. She takes such care with her characters and often speaks to the heart of childhood wants and worries. Franklin is so endearing, made more so by Chris Van Dusen's illustrations.

I especially loved that Buddy gifts Franklin a book of short stories and was tickled that the book included the story, Eleven, a story that we read with our sixth graders this year. It really is quite amazing what Ms. DiCamillo manages to accomplish in just over one hundred pages. 

I've been out of the elementary scene for quite a while and so, lost track of Mercy Watson and her spin-offs. Franklin Endicott and the Third Key is volume six of the Tales from Deckwoo Drive series and I promised myself to read volumes one through five. Franklin Endicott and the Third Key releases next Tuesday, June 8. 

Teen Tuesday: The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. 304 p. July, 2020. 9781368053297. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Tuesday! I hope you had a restful, reflective Memorial Day Weekend. Teen Tuesday features The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. It's Election Day and eighteen-year-old Marva can't wait to vote. In fact, she's first in line to cast her very first ballot. She's been politically active for awhile working to register people to vote and feels passionate about the electoral process, which is why she's utterly dismayed by her white boyfriend's decision not to vote.

Further back in line is Duke, also voting for the first time. He just wants to get it over with, head to school, take his calculus test, then focus on the evening, when his band will play their first paying gig. Only, when Duke gets to the front of the line, he learns he's not registered to vote at that polling place. Marva overhears this and intervenes. Duke's surprised and intrigued by this intense stranger and accepts her offer of a ride back to his old neighborhood to vote. Only, he's not registered there either and Marva learns that her IG-famous cat, Eartha Kitty, aka Selma, has gone missing.

This smart romance is told from the alternating points of view of Marva and Duke. They are two whip-smart, socially aware Black teens who get to know each other over the course of an eventful election day. Relevant issues from race relations to voter suppression have been skillfully woven into an entertaining romance. I just loved this to bits.