Summerlost (released, 3/29/16) by New York Times bestselling author, Ally Condie, who will be visiting with all district seventh graders on 4/12/16. The strong bond of friendship between Cedar and Leo is reminiscent of the model friendship between Leslie and Jess in Bridge to Terabithia. My favorite line in the book: "I have been in the presence of a lot of greatness. And people I love who loved me back. It might be the same thing." Ally dedicates this book to "...all those who live with hard things every day who step up and keep going." I want to read more about Cedar and Leo. I would highly recommend this book.
Every Storm by highly versatile Wisconsin author, Lori Wick. This adult Christian romance novel somehow surfaced on my nightstand. It is a charming, yet heartbreaking story set during World War II. Woven throughout the book is the criticalness of strong faith and family to persevere in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. This is a young adult biography. What struck me most about her story is how she spoke so freely about her strong faith and dependence on God. It was easy for me to relate to. She is truly a remarkable young lady with wisdom beyond her years. It is no surprise she is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Difficult to relate to was how she explained living with terrorism. Would I be willing to risk my life to fight for the right to be educated? Yes. I probably would, especially when considering how it might affect my daughter and future generations.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is an adult, realistic fiction work. Time and touch are two critical ingredients to raising healthy children. When these critical elements are lacking in formative years, as in the life of Victoria, our protaganist, the effects are lasting, or, are they? She bounces from foster home to foster home, learning the many ways adults are not to be trusted. Expertly captured are the incredibly challenging, yet rewarding, first couple months of raising and nursing a newborn. Completely captivating is the language of flowers. I've always felt a masterfully crafted bouquet is a perfect gift. This book confirms it. After reading the meaning of lavender, I forgive my husband for accidentally weeding it from our garden. I'll never look at a flower the same way. They speak to me. They speak to us.
The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere. Vincent Van Gogh sums up the theme of this realistic fiction story with this insight, "The more I think it over, the more I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people." Are we living with the end in mind, focusing our energies on what truly matters? As the lives of our two main characters become intertwined, their polar opposite approaches to life give us cause to pause and reflect.
NEED by New York Times Best Selling Author and Young Adult Library Services Association 2014 Teens' Top Ten winner, Joelle Charbonneau. The heart of the matter is this: Things people wouldn't have the guts to do in person, they do online with the imaginary "safe" veil the Internet provides. I can invite ten friends to join the new NEED social networking site and receive the free new iPhone I need. Why wouldn't I do it? Next, I deliver a box to a front door in exchange for a better physics grade. What's the harm in that? This YA thriller causes us to rethink that "safe" Internet veil. Kaylee and Nate learn firsthand how deadly it can be.
Crenshaw by 2013 Newbery Award winning author, Katherine Applegate. Fact: Perceptive and smart is what kids are, and Jackson, Robin, and Marisol are no exception. Fact: Messy is what life is. Fact: Adults like to protect kids from all the mess, but when life isn’t all rainbows and flowers, how can this be accomplished while maintaining integrity? It’s a mind boggling puzzle. Fortunately, Applegate provides a few golden puzzle pieces in her latest masterpiece. Newbery hopefuls, look out. She’s got grounds for winning yet again, as this tale for all ages gives us a new best friend to grab off the shelf when we need it. Long live the magic.
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain. Actually, this was my first opportunity to experience the audiobook format. With five kids, finding long stretches of extended quiet time is tricky. I had a long drive by myself, a rare occurrence. It's adult historical fiction taking place in the early '60's in Raleigh, North Carolina, and dealing with eugenics, a dark part of U.S. history. Protagonist June, a young, idealistic social worker, ends up going rogue. The gripping plot is expertly narrated. Be sure you have time to complete the eleven hour book. You won't be able to stop listening. You'll consider a degree in social work.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Ivan the gorilla, and our storyteller, has become adept at making the very best of his situation. Living in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade doesn't prove ideal, but he has friends. When his best bud, Stella, needs his help, he is there for her. Against all odds, he leaves no stone unturned in an all out effort to keep his promise to Stella. It's a story that may bring a tear or two as we surmise the way out of our own cage may be to work tirelessly for others.
Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills. First born, high achieving perfectionist, Sierra, finds herself in a very unfortunate situation - she accidentally takes her mom's lunch to school with a paring knife in it. This realistic fiction story gives us yet another example of how our world just isn't as black and white as we'd like it to be. My favorite lesson in the book: we don't fully know who we are and what we're capable of until circumstances test us. Most often we end up stronger and better because of it. This is a GREAT read for grades 4 and up.
Family Life: A Novel by Akhil Sharma. It's an adult fiction read, giving insight to growing up in Delhi, India, and immigrating to America. When Ajay's family is beset by misfortune, he does all he can to hold everything together. As his mother says, he is gifted with the ability to "eat pain". It's inspiring.
The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White. It's dark fantasy, but what a page turner! It's easy to see why Kirkus gave it a starred review. After reading the shocking plot twist at the end, you will be happy to know the sequel came out recently!
Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. It's a nonfiction award winning read! How can you take a scientific observation and apply the knowledge to construct a "gadget" leading to world dominance? The recipe for success: never underestimate the power of a bright and motivated group of scientists, select a brilliant leader, watch your back, sabotage the competition, and work tirelessly on the task every day except Sunday.
I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 by Lauren Tarshis. This is a quick historical fiction read from our very popular I Survived series. Runaway slave, Thomas, and his little sister, Birdie, fight for survival with the help of the Union Army. The gift of the read is a solid understanding of what the terrible Civil War meant to our country. Included is a strong bibliography for further reading, as well as an incredible speech, The Gettysburg Address.
The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett! Dueling pranksters compete for THE school prankster title. Interested in joining the International Order of Disorder? Consider taking the prankster oath. The world may look better upside down. So be it.
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. This is an adult fiction read where our protagonist struggles with how to handle important information she now has. Themes include the horrors of World War II, judging situations as black and white when they are gray, as well as forgiveness.
Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh, paintings by Wendell Minor. You have a clear sense of the way Hopper, one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century, viewed his world through this lovely biography picture book. It is thought provoking to consider how he can be viewed as both a hero and an explorer. Perseverance is another of the book's themes.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman. You may want to have tissue on hand for this one. It's a realistic illustration of how life can change on a dime. Our protagonist wrestles mightily with the path she should choose following this incredibly life altering event. When your life comes to an end, what is it that remains important? (for mature readers)
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin Van Draanen. What a page turner! I started it Saturday afternoon and finished it Saturday evening (apologies to my kids...cereal for dinner). Sammy got herself into some sticky situations, and not all of them were caused by delicious Double Dominoes. I loved venturing to the mall rooftop with her, and couldn't get out of the Heavenly Hotel fast enough ( not so heavenly). I can't wait for the next adventure.