Friday, December 29, 2017

Fabulous Reads, Quick Blog

Hi all! Being that it is Winter Break, I've been reading quite a bit, so I'm not going to spend much time writing here. I'm going to share the books that I've read recently and let you decide what interests you.

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera

Didn't think I was going to like this book because Margot was a brat at the beginning of the book, but she ended up figuring life out - as best she could at this point in her life. It ended up being a great read!

From Goodreads: Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.


Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father's credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot 
Sánchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. 

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moisés—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway 

I was hooked from the very beginning. Family and growing up and secrets. Everything necessary for a good novel. Plus it's young adult! What more could I ask for?

From Goodreads: A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

This book had me laughing, crying, questioning, and feeling frustrated! Every emotion came through for me in this book. 

From Goodreads: Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. 

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins 

Three generations of Bengali women. Loved this book!

From Goodreads: Nominated for the National Book Award | PW, NYPL, Horn Book, JLG, and SLJ Best Book of the Year Lists | Six starred reviews: ★ Horn Book ★ School Library Journal ★ Publishers Weekly ★ Booklist ★ Shelf Awareness ★ VOYA 

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture--for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity--award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

I think this may be one of my favorites this year! Here's what I wrote on my Goodreads review: Everything - writing, characters, plot - was absolutely beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. I am not typically a fan of dystopian novels, but this novel captured my heart and soul. A beautiful book set in the future reminds us of how we need to take care of our earth and one another and how one group of people has been decimated over hundreds and hundreds of years - not just the time in the book. So many lessons in this book! I also stopped reading at times to reread passages from the book - the writing captivated me.

From Goodreads: In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America's Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the "recruiters" who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing "factories." 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Put the Damn Guns Down

I need to write now, while the novel Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is still fresh in my mind although I have a strong suspicion this is a novel I won't soon forget. You see, I teach many young African-American men - 8th graders to be exact, and I know that many of them live the reality author Jason Reynolds portrays in his realistic, novel-in-verse.

Will, 15 years old, lives with his mom and older brother Shawn in a neighborhood that most would consider violent. Will and Shawn's dad was lost to gun violence. Their uncle was lost to gun violence. Shawn's "big brother," mentor, and role model was lost to gun violence. Will's friend in elementary school was lost to gun violence. It's a never-ending spiral of people lost to gun violence in this book.

Right from the start, Will witnesses another murder - his brother Shawn. There are three rules that have been passed down to men in the family from generation to generation.

  1. Don't cry.
  2. Don't snitch.
  3. Get revenge.
Will doesn't cry. He doesn't snitch. He decides to get revenge and so hops on the elevator from his apartment down to the lobby level, and it's a "long way down." In this short elevator ride, Will meets the people from his past who were gunned down. Each murder victim has his own story to tell, and it's up to Will to decide what he's going to do with his brother Shawn's killer.

Jason Reynolds does not preach to the reader that "killing is wrong." Instead, he takes a more subtle approach to get the reader thinking about guns, life, and revenge. The people from Will's past are honest and real and purposeful in what they share with Will - as long as Will ends up understanding their message. 

Being a white female, I have heard many times from my white "friends" about how black men are killing black men and "it's their own fault," "good riddance," and "another bad black guy gone." The problem with that thinking is that there is so much more to those situations, and it's never a clear-cut issue. Yes, guns and murder are insanely wrong, but how do we as a society stop this senseless violence? It's up to all of us, and one way to do this is to share this book, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. 

Trust me. You will think about this book for days and weeks and maybe even months to come. You will want to share this book. You will want to talk about this book. Maybe it will even get you or someone you know to be a catalyst for changing this daily American tragedy . . . 

Amazon blurb: 

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Told in short, fierce staccato narrative verse, Long Way Down is a fast and furious, dazzlingly brilliant look at teenage gun violence, as could only be told by Jason Reynolds.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Knowledge Is Power

"The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading."
~ David Bailey, English photographer

I don't know about you, but our country's politics make me feel anxious and sad every day - not for me but my students. My students are the most amazing 8th graders, and they rise up to my high expectations day in and day out. Yet . . . many of my students have obstacles that they are trying to overcome: poverty, homelessness, racial inequities, religious discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, immigration issues, parental incarceration . . . The list could go on and on, and still my students come to school because they know that "knowledge is power." 

Some days, I wonder if I truly am helping my students. There is so much hate in our country right now. Too many Americans look down on my students because of their race, social economic status, religion, and so on. Is the fact that I show up to school every day going to make a difference in my students' lives? I have hope that I do make a difference. 

My main focus is helping the kids to understand that reading and writing gives them power - power to beat the system and power to be who they want to be. My students are reading books with characters like them (mirrors) and reading books about characters not like them (windows). With all of this reading, my students are able to see our country and the world from multiple perspectives, which gives them power - power to help make the world a better place. 

Because I have such a diverse group of students, I read quite diverse books. I love middle grade and young adult novels because I feel more connected to my students that way and I can help my students find books that speak to them. 

I have to give a quick shout-out to our amazing Media Center Specialist, Anna Teeple, because she has a way with helping our most "still developing" readers find books they love! It's a team effort at our school, and I appreciate all of her support with our students. Thanks, Anna!

Now, on to the books I have read recently that I hope you will enjoy as well . . . 

Posted by John David Anderson 

This is a must-read for all middle school students, parents of middle school students, teachers, administrators, counselors, you name it. It delves into the topic of how words really do hurt and how we treat others. I plan on using this for a read-aloud in my Advisory class soon. This book will definitely make for good classroom conversations. 

Goodreads blurb: In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

Akata Warrior (Akata Witch series, book #2) by Nnedi Okorafor 

If you are into fantasy books, this is the series for you. I enjoyed the first book Akata Witch and enjoyed the second book in the series as well. It's great to have books to share with my students that take place in other countries, and this book takes place in Nigeria, from which I have several students. It's a fun, fast-paced, and intense book that gives the reader a different view of the world.

Goodreads blurb: A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. 

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Much-honored Nnedi Okorafor, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, merges today’s Nigeria with a unique world she creates. Akata Warrior blends mythology, fantasy, history and magic into a compelling tale that will keep readers spellbound.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

I didn't start out loving this book. I didn't like the main character because I felt she was the stereotypical, upper-middle class white girl with typical problems. She seemed standoffish to me and a little self-centered, but . . . about forty to fifty pages in I had to check myself. I was being critical of a character because of my preconceived notions - exactly what I tell my own children and my students not to do because people are dealing with issues that are usually hidden. The main character, Bailey, is dealing with problems, and I shouldn't have judged. Well, I loved this book! It reminded me that books give us knowledge and help us to be more empathetic, which is what I obviously needed. 

Goodreads blurb: The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green 

Author John Green has the ability to take the lives and emotions of teenagers and turn them into books that everyone loves. Now, I know John Green is famous for his novel The Fault in Our Stars, but that wasn't my favorite books of his. I love his many other books that feature quirky teenage characters from all walks of life. Turtles All the Way Down doesn't disappoint. Aza, Daisy, and Davis are truly likable characters, each dealing with their individual problems. 

Goodreads blurb: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reading Can Seriously Damage Your Ignorance

In our current political climate, all sides tend to post information that isn't true. Much of that false information now comes from social media sites and can go viral in minutes. My job as an English teacher is to help my students determine what is actual news (backed up by verifiable facts) and what is fake news (not backed up by verifiable facts).

In addition to shared false information, there seems to be a lot of hate in our country right now - once again, on all sides. I am so lucky to be an English teacher because I can recommend books that are mirrors and windows for my students. Students can see themselves in books - mirrors, and students can see others in books - windows. There is no better feeling in the world when a student, after finishing a book, says to me, "I loved that book! It made me think about things differently."

We all have or biases and prejudices, but many times that comes from our fear of the unknown. Reading, fiction or nonfiction, is one of the best ways to challenge our biases and prejudices. Do we end up agreeing with an author's perspective, thinking about the author's perspective in a different light, or totally changing our thinking because of what the author was putting out there?

I love to read books and articles from many perspectives. This is how I remain an informed citizen and how I am able to empathize with others. I don't always agree with what an author has to say, but, at least, I can say I have a new perspective and something to think about and read about further. In the end, "Reading can seriously damage your ignorance." And . . . isn't that what an informed democracy is all about?

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

This is one of those books that "can seriously damage your ignorance." Both sides of the refugee debate are shown in this young adult book by Randa Abdel-Fattah. To be honest, I had never really considered the ideas of those against accepting refugees into the country, but this book forced me to look at all sides of the issue. Just like the Take a Knee issue here in the United States, people of all different races, ethnicities, religions, etc. have ideas on how to deal with the ever-growing refugee populations around the world. In fact, when my students were looking at the Take a Knee issue in my classes, one of my students, who is black, disagreed with the majority of the students and felt that taking a knee was disrespectful. Just like my student, there were minor characters in the book who were immigrants themselves and felt that taking in refugees was wrong. I think it's important to be able to hear all sides and have an informed perspective. It would be great if people who are against taking in refugees would read this book, too, because there is so much information to learn from both sides. Ms. Abdel-Fattah does an excellent job of allowing all voices to be heard in the book, but she does have her own perspective, which is obvious when reading her book.

Goodreads blurb: A remarkable story about the power of choosing tolerance from one of the most important voices in contemporary Muslim literature, critically acclaimed author Randa Abdel-Fattah. Michael usually concerns himself with basketball and hanging out with his friends, but every once in a while, his parents drag him to meetings and rallies with their anti-immigrant group. And it all makes sense to Michael. Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart -- and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents' politics seem much more complicated. Mina has already had a long and arduous journey leaving behind her besieged home in Afghanistan, and the frigid welcome at her new school is daunting. She just wants to settle in and help her parents get their restaurant up and running. But nothing about her new community will be that easy. As tensions increase, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

New experiences . . . all from my living room couch

I apologize for not writing on this blog for a few weeks, but I've been hooked on reading so many great books (and teaching 8th grade English)! In looking over my most recent reads, I've read books ranging from a Native American childhood in the Southwest to an Egyptian girl, who was sold as a slave at eight years old to a wealthy family.

These books have made me cry, have made me laugh, and have made me think about how lucky I am to live the life I live. Reading lets me experience the lives of others without ever leaving my couch, and I am so thankful that middle school students and high school students have a multitude of fabulous books by fabulous authors to chose from. Here are the four books I have read in the past four weeks:

Rattlesnake Mesa: Stories from a Native American Childhood by Ednah New Rider Weber

I'll be honest; I usually judge a book by it's cover. That's terrible - I know, especially since I'm an English teacher, and this book had sat in my closet for over a year because I didn't like the cover. Well, I finally decided to read it, and I wonder why I waited so long. It was an eye-opening book. The author, Ednah New Rider Weber, shares brief stories about her childhood - about her friends and family and her times at an Indian boarding school, which she, along with thousands of other Native children, were forced to attend by our government in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ms. New Rider Weber has a way of telling each story with heart yet at the same time making each story brief, so she can share as many of her wonderful (and heartbreaking) stories as possible.

Goodreads blurb (a really quirk blurb that doesn't do the book justice): EdNah, a seven-year-old Pawnee girl, goes to live with a father she hardly knows on a Navajo reservation after her grandmother dies.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Just read this book! That's all I need to say.

Goodreads blurb: Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave by Shyima Hall

Recently and over the past several months, there have been news stories about human trafficking in the United States and across the globe, but it never really dawned on me what was truly happening to these children, teens, and adults who were sold into slavery or captured into slavery. Shyima Hall's story begins in Egypt where she is a happy child even though she lives in abject poverty. At eight years old, she is sold by her parents to a wealthy family in Egypt; this family eventually leaves Egypt and takes Shyima with them to the United States to be their slave from before sun-up to well after sundown. There is a happy ending to this real-life story, but that happiness comes slowly to Shyima.

Goodreads blurb: Shyima Hall was born in Egypt on September 29, 1989, the seventh child of desperately poor parents. When she was eight, her parents sold her into slavery. Shyima then moved two hours away to Egypt’s capitol city of Cairo to live with a wealthy family and serve them eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. When she was ten, her captors moved to Orange County, California, and smuggled Shyima with them. Two years later, an anonymous call from a neighbor brought about the end of Shyima’s servitude—but her journey to true freedom was far from over.

A volunteer at her local police department since she was a teenager, Shyima is passionate about helping to rescue others who are in bondage. Now a US citizen, she regularly speaks out about human trafficking and intends to one day become an immigration officer. In Hidden Girl, Shyima candidly reveals how she overcame her harrowing circumstances and brings vital awareness to a timely and relevant topic.

Patina (Track series, #2) by Jason Reynolds

If you've never read a book by Jason Reynolds, I highly recommend everything he has written! Reynolds has a way of getting to the heart of the characters in his story and making his readers want to finish one of his books in one sitting. 

Patina is another one of these books. It is the second book in his Track series. (Ghost was the first one in the series, which
I also highly recommend.) Patina, a.k.a. Patty, will have you cheering her on as she deals with her mom's illness, her new school, and doing her best to take care of everyone around her, including her younger sister, Maddy.

Goodreads blurb: Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. So Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds up, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

No Human Being Is Illegal

Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Holocaust survivor, said, "You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?"

Think about that. "How can a human being be illegal?" It baffles my mind that there are currently 65.6 million people worldwide who have been displaced from their homes. 22.5 million of those are refugees. Also included in that number are 10 million stateless people, which means they don't have a country to call home; they are country-less. Over half of the refugees come from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. (from UNHCR Figures at a Glance).

Americans, Europeans, Middle Easterners, and others have mixed views on helping refugees. Should refugees be allowed to enter their countries, or should refugees be returned to their homes - the places they were fleeing from in the first place.  Before reading Refugee, I agreed with those who said we should take refugees in. After reading Refugee, my belief is even stronger. Those fleeing their countries are desperate; we must take them in.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

This book is a popular one in our public library system, and I was on the wait list for two months. The book is well worth the wait. To be honest, I think Refugee is one of the most important books of our time, and it is a must-read for middle school students to adults. For those who believe refugees are "illegal" and should be sent back home, this book will open your eyes to the horrors refugees experience in their homelands and then on their journeys. It was an absolutely heart-breaking book. Children and families are risking their lives to live somewhere safe. We need to be accepting of them and help. They are humans and can't be illegal. Warning: Tears might be shed at the end of the novel.

Goodreads Blurb: JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .

ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .

MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .

All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, their stories will tie together in the end.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Great books to start the new school year!

Sitting on my front porch, fall is in the air. The sky blinds a bright blue, the wind blows crisply, and the leaves mix with colors - yellow, red, orange, maroon, and some green still. I love this time of year because I can grab a blanket and a good book and curl up to read - inside or outside.  I have enjoyed a few books the past few weeks, and I hope you can find one or two you might enjoy on a crisp, autumn day (or evening).

Listen, Slowly by Thannhà Lai

Being honest here . . . I  haven't finished the book yet. I'm reading it very sloooooowly because I don't want to leave Mai yet. She is a 12 year old Vietnamese girl, born in the United States, who is on a summer trip to help her Ba (grandma) find out what happened to her husband, Mai's Ong (grandpa) during the Vietnam war. Mai has such a wonderful spirit! She is a real American 12-year old girl, who wants nothing to do with traveling to Vietnam. While she is gone, she worries about her friend Montana stealing the boy she loves - even though the boy has no idea about Mai's feelings for him. While on this trip, Mai slowly comes to discover her roots and her love for the country of Vietnam and her "maybe-relatives." Listen, Slowly is a funny, honest, and heartwarming story of growing up, loss, and compassion.

Goodreads summary:

A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess

Want a book you can read in a day because you won't be able to put it down? This one is for you! I was hooked from the very first page of this novel-in-verse (or novel-in-rock and roll). Blade Morrison, seventeen year old, is trying to figure out his life and embarks on a journey to Ghana. In Ghana, Blade comes to a better understanding of himself and his father. That's all I want to say.  You won't want to put this amazing book down!

Goodreads blurb:

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true. 

Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein, and Stephen Gilpin

Well, if you like books with underdogs, this book is for you. Pottymouth (a.k.a Michael) and Stoopid (a.k.a David) have been picked on since Kindergarten because of the crazy things they do - although they don't think they are crazy. The boys are just being themselves. Included in the book are an amazing mom, a devious ex-dad, an evil classmate, and a rich cartoon producer. The book was a little unbelievable, but, if you are a middle school student looking for a fun, outlandish, and fast-paced book, then this is the book for you.


Tired of being bullied, middle-school underdogs Pottymouth and Stoopid finally fight back with the power of funny.David and his best friend Michael were tagged with awful nicknames way back in preschool when everyone did silly things. Fast-forward to seventh grade Pottymouth and Stoopid are still stuck with the names-and everyone in school, including the teachers and their principal, believe the labels are true. So how do they go about changing everyones minds By turning their misery into megastardom on TV, of course And this important story delivers more than just laughs-it shows that the worst bullying doesn't have to be physical...and that things will get better.

Fabulous Reads, Quick Blog

Hi all! Being that it is Winter Break, I've been reading quite a bit, so I'm not going to spend much time writing here. I'm goin...