Albie doesn’t feel like he’s ever good enough at anything; he isn’t the smartest student at school, he can’t get his father’s attention, and he can’t draw like his babysitter, Calista. On top of all this, he’s dealing with all the changes in his life. His best friend’s time is being monopolized by the fact that their family was chosen to be the stars of a new reality show. He is starting a new school, and doesn’t fit in, making him an easy target for bullies. Albie also can’t seem to measure up to the expectations his parents have for him.
With all of these challenges, Albie welcomes any help that Calista can give him. She tries to show him that he is perfect the way that he is, and that there are things that he is good at.
I really enjoyed Lisa Graff’s first book, A Tangle of Knots. Absolutely Almost is even better, and discusses many issues that children will be able to relate to
Coming Home is a picture book about a little boy in a red shirt who is searching for his mother in a group of returning soldiers. With almost no text, author and illustrator Greg Ruth tells the story in the powerful pictures. As the boy is searching, reunions are happening all around him. Finally, his mother appears in the crowd.
In just a few words, Greg Ruth says a lot in his book. It’s important to be thinking about our American soldiers; the fact that many of them are currently away from home and have families that are eagerly awaiting their return.
P.J. Parrish's books always suck me in on the first page. The Unquiet Grave is no different, and is another incredible story in the Louis Kincaid series.
In this book, Louis receives a call from his foster father asking him to come home to Michigan. A closed mental hospital has been bought, and is being destroyed to make room for new developments. All of the bodies in the hospital's old graveyard are being dug up, and families have been asked to make new arrangements. Louis' foster father's first love was in the hospital, and he wants to rebury her, properly. The only problem is that her casket is full of rocks.
As Louis starts to investigate, a young woman who worked at the hospital is found dead. Louis becomes involved in the case, and finds that the old hospital hid a lot of secrets, and those secrets have left a killer on the loose.
Jane Casey is an adult mystery writer, and How to Fall is her first young adult novel. It’s the beginning of a new series about sixteen-year-old Jess Tennant, a young lady whose curious nature and smart mouth get her into sticky situations.
In How to Fall, Jess is dragged to her mother’s hometown, Port Sentinel, for the summer. Jess has never met her relatives, but she does know that she looks almost exactly like her cousin Freya, who died the previous year. Freya was found at the bottom of a cliff, and her death is ruled a suicide. However, Jess decides to look into it for herself and finds that there is much more to the story, and that there can be a lot of secrets in a small town.
Jane Casey is a very talented mystery writer, with intriguing stories. How to Fall is a great thriller and a good start to Casey’s new series.
If you haven't been in lately, Saturn has been getting a ton of new games in. One of those games is called Tapple, a fast-paced word game.
It's a simple one to understand; you and the other players pick a category from the cards, such as song titles, sci-fi and fantasy, etc. Then, you pass around the Tapple Wheel, which has all of the letters of the alphabet on it. You must come up with a word related to the topic, push down the letter it starts with to take it out of play, then pass the wheel on before your time runs out!
I love speed games like this that make you think on your feet. Tapple is also a game that is easy for children and adults to play together, making it the perfect game for the holidays.
There is no shortage of stories about the events during WWII and the Holocaust, and new ones come out all the time. 50 Children is another extraordinary story about a couple from Philadelphia who were determined to help Jewish children get out of Europe.
Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus had their own children and jobs to worry about, but when the Brith Sholom organization that Gilbert belonged to asked him to take charge of an operation to save Jewish children from the violence in Nazi Germany, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Most of the book is about all of the hoops that the Kraus’ had to jump through in order to legally get the fifty children they could save out of Europe. Laws at the time made it very difficult for people to immigrate into the United States, which made it a very lengthy process. Gilbert and Eleanor were also told by many people that they shouldn’t bother because they were never going to succeed. However, they didn’t give up, and because of that saved fifty children from becoming victims of the Holocaust.
This was a really interesting story. The Kraus’ succeeded against immeasurable odds, and saved not only fifty children, but also many of their families who were able to come to the United States because their children were here. 50 Children is definitely a good book to read if you are interested in history.
Unbroken tells the remarkable story of former Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, and his experiences during WWII. When the U.S. became involved in WWII, Zamperini joined the Army Air Corps. He showed incredible courage, resilience, and determination in order to survive a plane crash, being a castaway in the Pacific Ocean, and a prisoner of war of the Japanese. His story is an emotional roller coaster, and is almost impossible to put down.
When a bomb is found in the vent of a mall, the mall is locked down and quarantined. While the government tries to figure out what biological agent the bomb contained in order to help those who were exposed, everyone who is stuck in the mall has to deal with the deteriorating conditions. It’s every person for themselves, and between the fighting, supplies running out, and the frightening reality that people are starting to get sick, things get crazy very quickly.
Narrated by four teenagers, No Safety in Numbers is the thrilling beginning of a trilogy that examines what people will do to survive.
Calvin, Look Out! is a cute little children’s book about a bird who is a bookworm. However, Calvin has been having trouble reading the books that he loves. He finds out that he needs glasses, which is fine until his family starts making fun of him. But, when Calvin gets into trouble in the woods, his glasses might be the only thing that can save him.
Jenna’s mother, Alice, disappeared when Jenna was young, and she hasn’t stopped searching for her since. She is determined to prove to everyone that her mother didn’t abandon her, but Jenna has a lot of questions to answer. Knowing she can’t do it on her own, Jenna enlists the help of Serenity Jones, a famous psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, the detective that investigated Alice’s disappearance.
Their quest seems to turn up more questions than answers, and some of those questions are going to have hard answers for all three of them.
Picoult has written an intriguing mystery in Leaving Time. It will keep you guessing about what actually happened the night that Alice disappeared until the last pages.
An incredible story, Positive is a memoir written by Paige Rawl, a young woman who dealt with daily bullying from her classmates all throughout middle school.
Paige was born with HIV, a fact that she didn’t really become aware of until middle school because her mother tried not to make a big deal out of it. However, after Paige shared that she has HIV with her best friend, it soon spread throughout the entire school. Paige had to deal with constant bullying and a school administration that didn’t do anything to protect her.
This is an amazing story, and one of my favorite reads for this year.
The Only Thing to Fear examines the possibility of what the United States may have been like if the Nazis had won WWII. In the book, the Nazis succeeded at making genetically modified soldiers, ones that were genetically engineered with special abilities. The U.S. has been turned into a dictatorship, and has been divided among the Axis powers.
Zara yearns for the life she has only read about in banned books. With every terrible act that the Nazis commit against the Americans in Zara’s town, she only becomes more determined to do something. The problem is that she has a secret that must be keep hidden at all costs. Zara has the ability to control the weather, but anyone who has special abilities that are not Axis soldiers are put to death. Zara has to decide if helping the Revolution is worth her life.
This was a really interesting historical fiction book. The action doesn’t stop from the beginning of the book to the end. Anyone who is interested in “What if?” scenarios should read this book.
A fun read, The Fourteenth Goldfish is about eleven-year-old Ellie, who is going through a period of transition at the start of middle school. She is struggling with all of the different changes in her life. Then, on top of everything, one night her mother comes home with a visitor, a fourteen-year-old boy.
Ellie's grandfather is a scientist who has been searching for a way to reverse the aging process, and now he has finally succeeded. This brings a lot of challenges and changes for everyone, but it also has the advantage that Ellie gets a chance to know her grandfather and learn about her family.
I really liked the fact that The Fourteenth Goldfish talks about famous scientists and how their discoveries changed the world. The Fourteenth Goldfish points out that science, and life, is full of possibilities.
The Silkworm is the second book that J.K. Rowling has written about her character Cormoran Strike using her penname, Robert Galbraith. It’s another intriguing mystery with many twists and turns.
Cormoran Strike has been getting a lot of clients after solving the Lula Landry case, but something about Leonora Quine, who comes in looking for her missing husband, catches his attention. Owen Quine is an author, and it’s not uncommon for him to disappear for days at a time. But, his family needs him at home, and Strike soon starts to think that this is not one of the author’s typical disappearances. Quine has written a slanderous new book about many of the people in the publishing world, and all of them are determined that the book not be made public.
Strike’s concerns are confirmed when he finds Quine’s mutilated body. With a multitude of suspects that all have secrets to hide, Strike will have to use all of his skills and cunning to try and outsmart this killer.
If I Stay is an interesting story about the difficult choice that the main character, Mia, has to make after a tragic accident. The accident causes Mia to lose the most important thing to her, her family. It leaves her in a coma, but she has an out of body experience, and can see and hear everything around her. She has to decide whether or not she is going to pass on and join her family, or stay with her surviving family and friends.
While Mia is in the hospital, her boyfriend Adam rushes to be by her side and pleads with her to stay. Even though Mia has lost her parents and younger brother, Mia and Adam’s love story shows that she does still have things to live for.
If I Stay is a quick read, and the story pulls you in. While the story could have been really sappy, author Gayle Forman does a nice job of keeping it grounded and concentrates on what we have to be thankful for in our lives.
The Amelia Bedelia stories have always been one of my favorite collections. So, I was excited to hear that Amelia Bedelia will now have her own chapter books, set when she was a young girl.
The first book in the series is Amelia Bedelia Means Business. Amelia Bedelia loves her bike, but when one of her classmates comes to school with a brand new bike, Amelia Bedelia has to have one just like it. Her parents agree to pay half, if Amelia Bedelia can come up with the other half. Her disastrous attempts to make money include a waitressing job, a lemonade stand, and a bike parade.
I chuckled the entire time I read this book. It’s a wonderful way to introduce the next generation to the ridiculous oddities of Amelia Bedelia. This is a great series for young girls who are just starting to read chapter books.
Though I love to read, there are many classics I haven’t read, and I decided that it was something I needed to remedy. I started with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The Crucible is a short play, but communicates a lot in each page.
The Crucible is a historical play, based on the events of the Salem witch trials. It explores how fear can impact a whole society. Miller chose to tell this story for a reason. He wrote it during the Red Scare, when people saw communists everywhere. The finger pointing that happened during the Salem witch trials was duplicated in the hearings that happened in the 1940s-1950s. Miller used his play to illustrate the point that fear could bring down a society.
Gardnerville is a town in which those who are terminally ill don’t die, and the effects of old age are slowed. However, all of this comes at a cost. When children hit adolescence, their thoughts, wishes, and demands can come true, and almost always comes with deadly consequences. Teenagers who cause the death of someone because of their actions are sent to the reformatory until they are deemed no longer dangerous.
Sky and Piper Gardner had made plans to try and end all of the craziness in their town, but when Piper commits an act that causes her to be sent to the reformatory, Sky spends the next few years trying to forget what happened.
Four years later, the town starts falling apart and Sky believes that it’s Piper telling her it’s time to bring the town down. However, Sky has spent the four years in a fog, and as she begins to come out of it and search for the answers to the questions she’s been running from, will she be able to handle the answers?
Don’t You Forget About Me is an interesting sci-fi for young adults, and has an ending you won’t see coming.
I don’t often read British novels, but The Stranger You Know sounded like an interesting mystery, and it didn’t disappoint.
Women are being murdered all over London, and detective Maeve Kerrigan is brought into the case after the murders are connected. The murderer is very good at what he or she does, and leaves little evidence behind. However, once the murders have been connected, the police find that they’re very similar to a cold case, one in which Maeve’s partner was a suspect.
This is a really well written mystery, with suspense, intrigue, and several surprising plot twists.
One of my favorite children’s mystery series is the Silver Jaguar Society books by Kate Messner. The Silver Jaguar Society is a group of adults who are descendants of famous artists, writers, and thinkers. They help protect famous artifacts from a group known as the Serpentine Princes. In the first book, several children of society members ended up getting involved in a case, and became junior members.
Manhunt is the third book in the series, and Henry, Anna, and Jose are in Paris with their family members, trying to protect priceless works of art from the Serpentine Princes. However, there is a traitor in the Silver Jaguar Society, and this time the Serpentine Princes have also made a threat against society members.
Not knowing who to trust after their relatives don’t come home after a mission, Henry, Anna, and Jose aren’t sure what to do. The only thing they know is that they need to protect the Mona Lisa, though first they need to find the painting.
This is another thrilling tale by Messner.
A Long Way Home is the amazing story of a 5-year-old boy from India who gets lost while traveling with his older brother, manages to survive on the streets of some of India’s most dangerous cities on his own, and eventually is adopted by an Australian couple.
Saroo lived with his mother, two older brothers, and younger sister. His brothers would hop on trains and search in nearby towns for work they could do to support their family. On one such trip, Saroo tagged long. However, he got on the wrong train, traveled for several hours, and ended up getting hopelessly lost. After surviving on the streets, a teenage boy finally noticed him and took him to a police station. Saroo spent some time in homes, until being adopted by an Australian couple.
While growing up, Saroo tried to remember everything about his life in India, in the hope that one day he would be able to see his family again. But, none of the names of places he remembered panned out. Years later, Saroo begins to find new possibilities through new technology. After months of searching using Google Earth, he finds what he thinks is his home. He travels there to check it out and, hopefully, to find some closure.
Saroo gets his happy ending, and his tale shows that with perseverance, hard work, hope, and some luck, people can do almost anything they put their minds to. This is a wonderful, hopeful, true story about life, and it shows how small acts of kindness can make a big difference.
Melody has cerebral palsy and is stuck inside her own head. She has tons of knowledge, but cannot share it, or even say a simple “I love you,” to her parents. A few special people in Melody’s life realize how smart she is, and fight to get her what she needs in order to be heard.
At school, Melody has always been treated like a young child, learning simple math and the alphabet over and over again. Then, in fifth grade, she and her fellow special education students get a new teacher and several new aides who get them included in general education classes.
One day, Melody is able to communicate to her aide that she wants a computer like Stephan Hawking has. The computer allows her to communicate with the rest of the world, but not everyone is ready for that.
This is a wonderful, amazing story. I loved it, and I think it’s an important book for children to read because they will gain new understandings of those people they might not normally get to know.
An interesting and unique tale, in The Glass Sentence the world has been torn into different time zones. The surviving civilizations call this the Great Disruption, and have tried to adapt to this new life the best they can.
Many people became mapmakers, mapping the various corners of the globe and assisting in stabilizing this new world. Sophia’s parents and her Uncle Shadrack did this, but her uncle stopped traveling to care for his niece when Sophia’s parents disappear one trip.
Years later, when Sophia is a teenager, changes start coming to the land, and Shadrack decides it is time for him and Sophia to go and try to find her parents. However, before they can begin their venture, Shadrack is kidnapped. Sophia, with the help of a boy named Theo, travel the different lands in an attempt to find her uncle, and by doing so Sophia learns more about the world around her. She also discovers many dangers that she never could have imagined, and finds out that there is one danger that may be close to destroying the world.
June works at a bank in New York City where she is responsible for closing independent businesses that haven’t been paying their bills. When the news comes that her great-aunt has passed away and left her children’s bookstore to June, she has to go home to handle it. June hasn’t been home in a long time, and her plan is to close the bookstore and sell the building so she can return to New York City. However, she finds a few surprises when she returns. Her great-aunt has left a scavenger hunt for June, consisting of letters between herself and Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon and other children’s books. The two women were best friends, and they shared everything. June learns a lot about her aunt, including the fact that there were a few secrets her great-aunt kept that June becomes determined to discover.
This is a wonderful book and is going to be my next staff pick! It is very well-written, with an intriguing plot. Goodnight June is a perfect book to read during your summer vacation.
I loved P.J. Parrish’s Heart of Ice, so I decided I needed to read another one of the books in this series. I went back to the beginning of the series, Dark of the Moon.
Detective Louis Kincaid goes from Detroit, down to Black Pool, Mississippi, to be with his dying mother. Things are pretty quiet in the small southern town, until the day that the bones of a young black man are discovered. Soon after, two white men, prominent members of the community, are also found dead.
The case brings up racial tensions that have simmered in the town for generations. Louis finds himself with no allies, and has to deal with traditions and a way of thinking that is very difficult to break. While trying to find justice for those who have been murdered, Louis himself finds himself in danger of ending up another victim.
In the Middle East there is a tradition known as bacha posh, which allows families who need a male to help with daily affairs to dress one of their young daughters as a boy until the girl is of marriage age. Rahima has a drug addicted father who is often gone and no brothers so she accepts the role as the boy in the family. Years earlier, her great-great grandmother, Shekiba, did the same thing.
Shekiba was unwanted by her grandmother and uncles after her parents and siblings died. Her father had treated her as a boy, but after his death, she had to accept a new role, and had trouble with this. She ended up going from place to place, and didn’t know where she belonged, or who she was.
Rahima plays the role of a son until she gets too old and her father marries her off. Her marriage is extremely unhappy, but change may be coming with the arrival of American troops.
Switching between the past and the present, this amazing story shows how two women are just trying to make sense of their place in their world. The women both show incredible courage against all odds in an attempt to improve their lives. People who liked The Kite Runner definitely need to read this book!
In this hilarious children’s book, a director just wants a simple movie about moose. He wants to show what a normal, everyday moose does in their daily life, but his actor doesn’t want to be a normal moose. The moose wants to be an astronaut. The situation gets crazier as the moose’s grandmother, who wants to play lacrosse, and a giraffe who wants to be a doctor join the scene.
What do you do when you are told you can’t be something? Ignore the naysayers and keep trying, of course!
Dorothy Must Die is a unique take on the classic tale of Dorothy and the Land of Oz. It’s very dark, odd at times, and everything has been turned upside down and warped.
Amy is a small town Kansas girl who, of course, ends up in Oz after being sucked into a tornado. She has seen The Wizard of Oz before, so she figures out pretty quickly where she is. However, Amy can also tell that something is terribly wrong.
It turns out that Dorothy got a taste for magic in Oz, figured out a way to come back, and began stealing the magic from all over the land. Oz survives on the magic that flows underground, so not only is Dorothy killing the land, she is killing those who live there by terrorizing and tormenting them. Dorothy, Glinda, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow have all been twisted by power and turned evil.
Amy joins up with a group of witches who were once considered evil. They believe the only way to save Oz and its people is to kill Dorothy, and they begin to train Amy to do just that because they feel that she is their only hope.
Based on the true story of 14 Irish immigrants traveling to the United States in search of a better life, The Girl Who Came Home explores another perspective of those who experienced one of the worst tragedies in our history, the sinking of the Titanic.
After her mother dies, Maggie’s aunt comes to Ireland to bring her back to America with her. 12 other people from their small village decide to go with them. The fourteen of them get third class tickets on the Titanic.
Decades later, Grace, Maggie’s great-granddaughter, is trying to find her own path. Grace was at college studying to be a writer until her father died and she decided to stay at home to take care of her sick mother. 2 years later, on her birthday, Grace’s great-grandmother decides to tell her the story of her travels on the Titanic.
The book flips between the stories of the two women, and their search for who they are and their hopes for the future.
The Girl Who Came Home is a wonderful story, but be sure to have a Kleenex box handy. Though it’s a story that has been told over and over, this book does a great job at remembering all those who lost their lives that night.
Mo Willems is one of my favorite children's authors. He has a quirky sense of humor that is demonstrated in all of his books. His newest book is the next in the Pigeon series, called The Pigeon Needs a Bath!
As you can probably guess from the title, Pigeon is filthy and smelly, and really needs a bath. But Pigeon never wants to do what he is told, and the way he tries to talk his way out of taking a bath should sound familiar to any parent. Pigeon finally agrees to a bath when a group of flies decides he needs a bath because he stinks! But even after agreeing, Pigeon still tries to stall. Just how long can he procrastinate and make excuses to avoid the bathtub? Read the book and find out!
After an accident kills her daughter, Hannah Scott makes the tough decision to donate her daughter’s organs. A year later, a chance encounter leads to Hannah meeting the Bell family, whose daughter Maddie is alive due to that organ donation.
Hannah and Maddie’s mother, Olivia, become friends, and Hannah finds that the Bell family isn’t as perfect as they try to appear. Olivia’s husband is abusive, but with a daughter who had a life threatening disease, she couldn’t leave him and now she feels stuck.
Maddie, after being sick for so long, is having trouble adjusting to a normal life. She also struggles with how to deal with her parents’ relationship and her father’s temper.
The three women form a unique bond, and in this bond, all of them start to heal. Safe with Me is an amazing story. It’s a tear jerker at times, but overall, it’s a hopeful story about love, and looking out for your friends and family.