Literary Genres:  Realistic Fiction

Abbott, Tony.  FIREGIRL.  New York:  Little, Brown & Co., 2006.  145p.
    ISBN: 0-316-01171-1 hb. $15.99.   Gr. 6-9   JUV FIC

    "On the outside it doesn't look like very much happened.  A burned girl was in my class for a while.  Once I brought her some homework.  In class she said my name.  Then she was gone.  That's pretty much all that had happened." (pg. 144)
    Of course, a lot more happened to Tom Bender, the narrator and main character of FIREGIRL.  When something out of the ordinary occurs in the life of anyone, let alone a 7th grader, it's bound to have a lasting impact.  The short novel covers many issues adolescents face - loneliness, competition, divorce, gossip - but mostly it focuses on the issue so critical to teens - 'being different.'  When Jessica Feeney enters the classroom early in the fall term, everyone is shocked by her appearance.  Her face, hands and legs were the most evident effects of an accident.  Surprisingly, Mrs. Tracey, the classroom teacher, offered few details about how Jessica had been burned other than in a "terrible accident."  This leads to childish speculation, gossip and false accusations that Jessica was somehow to blame for the accident in which, many of the kids believed, her attractive younger sister died. 
    Tom struggles with feelings of fear of Jessica, which he knows isn't right, as well as fear of being socially ostracized by the other kids for getting close in any way to the burned girl.  But Tom ends up learning about Jessica's accident and gets to know Jessica a bit better.  Tom also struggles in his friendship with Jeff whose parents divorced recently.  Jeff's mood swings and his instant dislike and fear of Jessica confuse and anger Tom.  When Jeff's uncle finally arrives with his hot rod, a car Tom is obsessed with and anxious to ride in, Tom struggles between taking a ride or going to see Jessica as he promised.   His decision to go to Jessica angers Jeff and creates the final break in their close relationship. 
    At the conclusion of the book, Tom and Jeff are no longer close buddies, and Jessica has moved.  When Courtney, the prettiest, smartest girl in the class and whom Tom has a crush on, assures him that his actions, few that they were, were important to Jessica, he doesn't feel reassured.  But the reader will understand that Tom has changed and has grown up quite a bit in just a short period of time. 
    Tony Abbott is an author of many books for young readers, including the popular Secrets of Droon series.  A bookseller and librarian, he captures of the heart and feelings of young boys very well in FIREGIRL.
    Mary Cary Crawford, Retired Director, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI

Angleberger, Tom. THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA.  New York:
          Amulet Books, 2010.  141p. 9780810-984257 hb. $12.95   Gr. 4-6   Juv. FIC

          If the title doesn’t reel you in to read this story, the unusual page design will hook you when you open the book.  Each page looks as though it’s been crumpled and discarded before being smoothed out again for you to read.  Reluctant readers will also appreciate the clever pencil drawings and posters interspersed among the pages.
          Take four sixth-grade boys, add a newly found interest in girls, curiosity about how to express those intentions, and Angleberger has the perfect plot for a story.  Increase interest with a finger-puppet Yoda who dispenses wisdom on relationships to Tommy and his middle school friends.  Each member of the group contributes a chapter from his own viewpoint, rounding out this tale of friendship and pre-teen angst.  The entire story is a debate about the validity of Yoda’s relationship advice.  There’s also a complete set of origami instructions at the back of the book for making your very own Yoda, along with Internet references for other Yoda designs.  Although the main characters are boys, readers of both genders from grades 4 - 6 will love this book!
          Lynette Suckow, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI

Banks, Lynne Reid.  ALICE BY ACCIDENT.  New York, NY:  Harper Collins, 2000.
    140p.  0-380-97865-2 hb., $14.95.    Gr. 5-9     FIC

    Nine-year-old Alice is given an assignment to write about her life.  She starts by explaining that she was told she was an accident.  However, when she starts telling everyone, she quickly finds that there are some things better not said.  Her mother, however, assures her that she’s a "happy accident". At this point though she decides to keep two notebooks, one for school and one that is her "special" notebook.  In this she writes about her mother who must cope with problems of money, career, health, where to live, and being single.  She writes about the estrangement with her absent father’s mother In her school notebook she writes creative stories and seeks to improve her writing.  Her teacher’s corrections are included with suggestions to improve her spelling.  There’s lots of humor but also a portrayal real human issues.  Alice grows with the book and even her spelling improves. A great read!
    Barbara Berry; retired school library media specialist, Kalkaska (MI) Public Schools
 
Bauer, Marion Dane.  A BEAR NAMED TROUBLE.  New York:  Clarion Books,
            2005.  120p.  ISBN: 13- 978-0-618-51738-1 hb.   Gr. 4-7   Juv. FIC

             The young bear had it made in the world of nature.  As the only cub, he was very close to his mother who protected him and taught him everything he needed to know for three years.  But nature can seem cruel sometimes, and that time came when mother bear let the young bear know, in no uncertain terms, that their relationship was over. Confused and seemingly lonely, the young bear had painful encounters as he sought food and shelter.
            A 10-year-old boy, Jonathan, was living in Anchorage near the Alaska Zoo where his father was zoo keeper. Jonathan and his dad had come to Alaska from Duluth, Minnesota.  Mom and sister Rhonda had stayed behind until the school year ended; then the family would be united in their new home in Anchorage.
            The young bear's existence was in peril because of an injury to his jaw, making it difficult to eat anything but soft food. It was at Jonathan's home where the first encounter with the bear took place.  Soon to be named "Trouble," he began eating from garbage cans and eventually broke into the Alaska zoo in desperate search of food.
            This book is a well written, adventurous meshing of the worlds of a young boy and a young bear. There is the understated parallel of boy and bear without the maternal influence in their lives, though for Jonathan it is only temporary.   It would be especially enjoyable to young readers along the Lake Superior shoreline because of the proximity of the Duluth Zoo, which plays a significant part in the story. In fact, some readers may have actually visited Trouble in the Duluth Zoo.
            Judy Bennett, Ironwood Carnegie Library Clerk, Ironwood, MI

Borgencht, Davi d and Lurie, Alexander.  DEADLY SEAS.  Series: Worst-Case Scenario: An
      Ultimate Adventure Novel/4.   Illus: Lancy Labat.   San Fancisco: Chronicle  Books, 2012.
       204p. ISBN 978-1-4521-0917-6 hc., $12.99    Gr. 5 & up    JF

      Consultant Mike Perham became the youngest person to sail solo across the Atlantic at age 14, a record that still stands. At 16 he completed a record-breaking voyage round-the-world.  The challenges that face the Captain, crew and reader are authentic, some of them faced by Perham; the readers’ choice will result in survival or death. After facing a life-threatening challenge, it’s up to the reader to make one of two offered choices. Will you live to face another crisis or has the voyage has ended for you and perhaps the Captain and crew. Maps charting the ship’s course, a description of the workings of the ship, sailing terms, instructions on knot making, survival tips and a description of how the Panama Canal works add factual information to aid adventurers reach informed decisions. In addition to learning about sailing during the adventure, the lesson of the consequences to making decisions is sure to be thought-provoking. The series should be successful with both genders.
     
Barbara Ward, Dickinson County Library, Children’s Librarian, Retired

Bracegirdle, P.J.  SINISTER SCENES. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. 314p.
            ISBN: 978-1-4169-3420-2 hb.$15.99.    Gr. 5-8     Juv. FIC

            SINISTER SCENES is part of "The Joy of Spooking" trilogy.  The town of Spooking is overrun by a movie crew that has come to shoot a horrow movie.  When the movie's young star goes missing, Joy Wells replaces her on the set.  Joy believes her life is about to change dramatically, especially when her famous costar delivers a horrifying, unscripted performance.  As the novel draws to an end, the true story behind the town of Spooking is finally revealed.  Readers will enjoy the suspense and surprise ending.
             Joyce Hoskins,Teacher- L'Anse School Public Library, L’Anse, MI

Brown, Devin.  NOT EXACTLY NORMAL.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 
            2005.  234p.  ISBN: 0-8028-5283-1 hb. $15.00    Gr. 5-8    J FIC

            It's a fact:  Todd is an engaging boy concerned about what's normal and what's not.  This book is written in the first person of Todd Farrel, who often lets his readers know when he reports a fact by stating, "It's a fact."  Todd is a 6th grader attending a small church school in rural New England.  The book provides a snapshot of Todd's
family, school chums and teachers and a pretty typical life of an average 6th grader for a week or so leading up to Christmas.  Todd wants to do something special, maybe 'not exactly normal' for his social studies report.  In attempting to have a mystical experience, Todd learns a lot about himself and his strengths.  The story drags a bit and Todd's parents seem almost too good to be true, but overall, most upper-elementary students, especially boys, will enjoy the journey. 
            Mary Cary Crawford, Retired Library Director, Escanaba Public Library

Cabot, Meg.  ALL-AMERICAN GIRL.  New York: HarperCollins, 2002.  247p.
    0-06-029470-1 hb.,  $15.99   Gr. 7-12    FIC

    Samantha Madison is a privileged sixteen-year-old, full of artistic ambitions and teen angst, living in Washington D.C.  When she saves the life of the President of the United States, her life changes dramatically.  She realizes she is not the under-appreciated, outcast rebel she always imagined she was, and that other people are not what they seem to be either.  Full of humor, outrageous situations, and witty writing, this book will appeal to many teen girls.  It’s a fun romp through one year of the chaotic life of a very likable, and maturing, teen.  Highly recommended for middle school or high school.
    Maureen Booth; Library Media Specialist, Southfield High School,  Southfield (MI) Public Schools

Cabot, Meg. BLAST FROM THE PAST.  Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls, #6. New York:
      Scholastic Press. 2010.  282p.  978-0-545-04048-8; hb. $15.99.   Gr. 4-6    Juv FIC

      Allie really, really wants a cell phone, but her parents have ruled: no cell phones until she's in the sixth grade. Taking the edge from that great life disappointment is a planned class trip. Allie will get to ride on a school bus, a delight missing from her life since she lives close to the school. Alas, the trip to an historic one-room schoolhouse is blighted by Allie's assigned seat-desk partner, an ex-friend who betrayed Allie before she moved. Such angst; the trip is going to be ruined!  Allie is funny, her character true to girl's her age. Girls will giggle and smile as they enjoy this Cabot offering.
      Barb Ward, Children's Librarian, Retired. Dickinson County Library, Iron Mountain, MI

Champion, Joyce.  EMILY AND ALICE BABY-SIT BURTON.  Illus. by Joan Parazette. 
    New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2001. unp.  0-15-202184-1 hb. $14.00  99-6187   Gr.1-4     E

    This easy chapter book has pizzazz!  Third in the series about best friends, Emily and Ann, they hope to start a baby-sitting business.  The girls canvass the neighborhood for potential customers. Little do they realize when they sign up for their first job it would be a disgruntled bulldog who is upset by a new baby in the family. Not what they expected!   It doesn't take long for the two young entrepreneurs to realize that all this canine really wants is some TLC.  Be assured---Burton gets it. The bright cartoon-like watercolor/pen-and-ink illustrations extend the text which in itself is expressive and witty.  Fresh readers will enjoy the wit and enthusiasm of the girls as they face the challenges that only a four-legged charge could provide.  For Emily and Ann, business has really gone to the dogs!
    Patricia Fittante; Children’s Librarian, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI

Christopher, Lucy. Flyaway.  New York:  Chicken House/Scholastic, Inc.,  2011. 336p.
           
ISBN
978-0-545-31771-9 hb. $16.99     Gr. 5-8    Juv. FIC

            Isla, like her father and veterinarian grandfather,  is a nature lover.  She and her father wait for the return of migrating whooping swans every year. Early one chilly morning when her father senses their return, he and Ilsa go out in the early dawn to watch the return. To their horror, two of the swans are killed by new unmarked live power lines. The rest of the flock flies safely off after several frightening moments.  One day when Ilsa and her father are looking for the swans’ new winter home, Ilsa’s father has a life threatening heart attack. While he is the hospital waiting for surgery, Ilsa meets Harry, a young patient in the cancer unit. From Harry’s hospital room window, they see a young whooping swan on the small lake below. As Ilsa tries to deal with a withdrawn grandfather, and her beloved father’s failing health, she is increasing drawn to Harry. To Ilsa, saving the young swan becomes connected with her father’s survival; he seems to be vitalized by Ilsa’s reports of the swan’s actions.  Ilsa is part of a loving family who are facing a catastrophic situation. Harry, waiting for a donor match for a bone marrow transplant is impish and brave. The very likeable characters and their story are just right. Christopher is a welcome addition to both Teen and Children’s genre.  
           
Barbara Ward, Retired Children’s Librarian, Dickinson County Library

Christopher, Matt.  COOL AS ICE.  New York: Little, 2001.  148p.  0-316-13489-9;
    hb., $15.95.   0-316-13520-8 pb., $4.50.    Gr. 4-7     FIC

    Twelve-year-old Chris is small for his age, tired of practicing his figure skating for hours on end and is ready for a new challenge.  With the help of his absentee Dad, his hard-working Mom (who worries about injuries), and his female next-door neighbor (younger, bigger, and tougher who would LOVE to play on a hockey team), Chris eventually makes the all-star traveling hockey team.  Chris and his teammate Derek (the only African American in the league) are often picked on by the bigger, rougher players on the opposing teams.  This hockey story is jam-packed with all the excitement of the game.  It is also a story of finding the courage and heart to overcome obstacles, to defeat prejudice, and to become a winner both on and off the ice.
    Carolyn Anderson, L'Anse, MI; Retired elementary teacher and hockey fan, L’Anse, MI School

Christopher, Matt.  RUN FOR IT.  Boston:  Little, 2002.  121p.
    0-316-34899-6 hb., $15.95   0-316-34914-3 pb.,  $4.50   Gr. 3-7    FIC

    The Matt Christopher books claim to be the number one sports series.  The 64 volumes in the series (so far) include stories by various authors featuring baseball, basketball, football, soccer, ice hockey, biking, in line skating, skateboarding, snowboarding, tennis, volleyball and running.  They are fast-paced and action-packed reading usually about a modest young hero who overcomes fear and/or long odds.   In this title, Theo is a 13-year-old whose idea of fun is video games and TV.  He is unhappy about his lack of ability in sports but has no motivation to change until his favorite aunt, Mary, is diagnosed with cancer.  Feeling helpless, he agrees to join his friend, Paul, in an upcoming 5-kilometer road race to raise money for cancer research.  The problem is that he can run only a very short distance.  Will he be able to face his challenge as bravely as Aunt Mary is facing hers?   The Matt Christopher books are predictable but entertaining, exciting and motivational.  Those who especially enjoy the series are invited to join the Matt Christopher Fan Club.
    Carolyn Anderson;  L'Anse, MI, Retired elementary teacher and public library advisory board member 

Christopher, Matt.  SPIKE IT.  Boston, MA:  Little Brown, 1998.  147p.  
    0-316-13451-1 hb. $15.95  Gr. 3-7  FIC

    Matt Christopher is well known for his popular sports stories; this will be a hit with young girls.  The sport is middle school volleyball, but the action centers around the problems that two young girls have with the blending of their two families.  Michaela and her mom come to live in Jamie's home when their parents marry.  Michaela is pretty and smart and moves in on Jamie's friends very quickly.  The problem erupts when Michaela replaces Jamie's injured friend on the volleyball team.  Jamie is overwrought with jealousy and resentment.  The girls learn respect for each other as they battle for the district championship.  Matt Christopher's books are hard to keep on the shelf with middle schoolers, and this book, once the girls find it, will not sit long either.
    Linda Cooley, Director, L'Anse Area Public School Library

Cole, Sheila.  THE CANYON.  New York:  Harper, 2002.  160p.  0-06-029496-5
    lib.bdg., $15.89    2001-39374    Gr. 3-8     FIC     PAULIN’S PICKS

    Eleven-year-old Zachary Barnes and his friend Trevor are unhappy because a corporation is planning to build homes in San Ramon Canyon so they vandalize some of the equipment.  This act haunts Zach after he holds a rally for teens to circulate petitions for stopping the development in an area where most of the town enjoys outdoor activities.  Unusual alliances, a mouse, and baseball cards are part of the solution.  This book effectively deals with peer pressure, friendship, the generation gap, environmental concerns, moral dilemmas, family issues, and solving a problem.  This book generates god discussion and would make a good classroom set.  Purchase for intermediate and middle school students and remedial high school students.
    Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Connelly, Neil.  THE MIRACLE STEALER. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010
      230p. ISBN: 978-0-545-1295-7 hb. $17.99   Gr. 4-6   JUV

      Andi Grant and her six year old brother, Daniel, live in Pardise, Pennsylvania.  When Daniel was 3 years old, he fell into a hole and was miraculoulsly rescued alive.  Many of the townsfolk called him a miracle and began to believe that he had special powers of prayer. After her left the family, it was up to Andi to protect her brother and fight with her mother over her brother’s actual “abilities.”
      When Daniel is present as a woman, who has lost two children, delivers a healthy baby, the town once again is in an frenzy over Daniel's "special powers".  People came from all over the country to see him and get his "help" with their needs.  Andi set out to come up with the "Anti-miracle" plan to make people believe that everything with Daniel has been a hoax. However, the plan goes horribly wrong.
This is a wonderful story about family and faith.
       Melissa Coyne, Patron, Munising School Public Library, Munising, MI

Creech, Sharon.  CHASING REDBIRD.   New York:  Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins, 1997.  261p.     
    0-06-440696-2 pb. $4.95;  0-06-026988-X lib.bdg. $15.89;  0-06-026987 hb. $14.95   Gr. 3-7    FIC

    Thirteen-year-old Zinny Taylor, the sometimes overlooked middle child of a large family, discovers an overgrown 20-mile trail crossing her family's backyard and is determined to clear it.  She sees it as the chance to have a project and a place that is hers and hers alone; but even more than that she has a strong feeling that the trail holds the answers to questions about the deaths of her little cousin Rose and her beloved Aunt Jessie.  Creech's dialogue is marvelous in a down home Southern style, and it brings the personalities of all her characters to life.  One subplot of the book concerns the growing romance between Zinny and 16-year-old Jake.  Zinny is used to having boys befriend her in order to get to her older sister, May, and she leads Jake on a merry chase in order to prove that his affections are really for her.  Zinny is supposed to be the Taylor who "doesn't talk much" but she comes into her own as she tells Jake off and initially discourages his advances in no uncertain terms.
     Zinny's determination to uncover both the trail and family secrets is inspiring.  At the same time, this determination leads to one of the reservations I had about the book.  Would parents allow their 13-year-old child to work on a deserted, sometimes dangerous trail for as many days as Zinny did with no adult supervision?  One ethical situation continues to bother me as well.  Zinny's motivation to cover (and then quickly uncover) her ill uncle's face with a pillow was never explained to my satisfaction. Her action seemed to come from out of the blue, and afterwards she never takes the time to try to understand it.  This is especially odd in light of the guilt she continues to feel over her aunt's and cousin's deaths.  Overall the memorable characters and often humorous writing style make this book a good choice for advanced readers in the upper elementary and middle school grades.
    Inga Banitt; MLS, 5 years of experience working in libraries and children's bookstores.

Creech, Sharon.  LOVE THAT DOG: A NOVEL.  Cotler/HarperCollins, 2001. 105p.  0-05-029287-3 hb. $14.95; 0-06-029289-X lib.bdg., $14.89; 0-06-008790-0 pb. $10.00;   Gr. 3-6    FIC

    During the course of any novel it is hoped that the characters would grow.  In this poetical novel, Jack, a member of Ms. Stretchberry's class, thinks that poetry writing is for girls.  During the course of this book, Jack reacts to poems shared by his teacher and agrees to have poems he has written posted on the classroom wall only if his name is not on them.  He appreciates a poem written by Walter Dean Myers and writes to him, inviting him to their school and is delighted when the author/poet comes to visit.  The death of his dog, Sky, unfolds in prose and poetry throughout the book.  Adults who already know the poems that Ms. shares with her class have a special appreciation for Jack's bafflement and/or appreciation of them.  Fortunately for student readers, eight poems appear at the end of the book.  When reading this book aloud to students, teachers might share these poems first so students can have that same pleasure of recognition.  It is hoped that all students will learn to appreciate and write poetry between Sept. 13 and June 6 just like Jack does.  This is an exceptional book that is dedicated to the "Mr.-Ms. Stretchberrys who inspire students every day."   The format of the book adds to the appreciation of Jack’s story in a book will be enjoyed by students and teachers alike.
    Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Creech, Sharon.  THE WANDERER.  Illus by David Ddiaz.  Colter/Harper, 2000. 305p.  
    0-06-027730-0  hb., $15.95   0-06-027731-9 lib.bdg., $15.89    Gr. 3-7    J FIC

    Creech, winner the the Newbery Medal for WALK TWO MOONS (Harper, 1996), writes about another girl’s spiritual journey as she seeks her past and future.  This story, though less successful, is still well crafted.  It has been the lifelong desire of three brothers to cross the Atlantic in a sailboat.  The configuration of the sailors has an odd ring.  Thirteen-year-old Sophie goes on “The Wanderer” to cross the ocean with three uncles and two male cousins.  Readers buy this premise because they are her relatives until early on in the book, readers learn that Sophie is adopted.  The story is told alternately through Sophie and her cousin Coldy’s logs.  Lest readers be confused which “I” is speaking, there is a large graphic at the beginning of each chapter along with a smaller graphic that features the name the speaker.  While each of the crew is expected to teach something to the others like teaching about the sextant, radio code, or something nautical; the narrators offer something different.  Cody teaches juggling and Sophie tells them Bompie’s stories.  Bompie is the grandfather they are sailing toward in England.   The characters are genuine and readers are part of the interaction between fathers and sons and among the crew as they survive and try to get along with each other in close quarters.  They literally “weather the storm.”
    The plot is divided between survival at sea and learning about Sophie’s parentage.  One red herring is that she might belong to one of the uncles but that thread never materializes. Despite the buildup about Sophie’s real parents, readers never learn the answer.  Another buildup is finding out how Sophie knows Bompie’s life history when he is not her real grandfather.  When readers learn why she does, they are disappointed in the reason unless they realize that the story is really about how a young girl is amalgamated into a new family.  Fans of Creech will enjoy this book.
    Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center  
    *Editor’s note: This book is a 2001 Newbery Honor Book.

Crew, Gary.  TROY THOMPSON’S EXCELLENT PEOTRY (sic) BOOK. Illus. by Craig Smith.  
           
La Jolla, CA: Kane/Miller, 2003.  92 p.  ISBN 1929132522, hb.,
$14.95   Gr. 4-8    J FIC

            This book is "one of a kind," done in the form of poetry assignments. The story is told through the 6th grade teacher, Ms. Kranke, and her student, Troy Thompson. Each poetry exercise is explained, outlined, examples given, and Troy’s completed assignment is then critiqued and graded by Ms. Kranke. The poetry is enhanced by Troy’s imaginative and artistic illustrations to accompany the interpretation of each poetic form.
            The book is a wonderful tool for use in teaching poetry forms such as Haiku, ballads, and odes, to name just a few. It is also touching as Troy expresses emotions through his writing relating to the death of his father, a policeman killed in the line of duty, and his feelings toward his girlfriend. Humor is also expressed as "typical adolescent boy" themes and language are used. The story ends with Troy submitting a final poem in a poetry contest about his relationship with his teacher, Ms. Kranke.   I believe this book will give great insight and ideas for classroom use; an excellent resource for poetic expression for students.
            Jana Aho, Media Assistant, Gladstone School & Public Library, Gladstone, MI

d'Arge, Mackie.  LIFTING THE SKY.  New York: Bloomsbury U.S.A., 2009.
          310p. ISBN: 978-1-59990-186-2 hb. $16.99.     Gr. 4-8   Juv.

          This was a very heartwarming and touching book about a young girl living on a Wyoming ranch with her mother.  Everyone in the story seems to be searching for something.  Blue wants to find the father who left her long ago, her mother is looking for a home to settle down in, and Blue’s Native American friend is seeking a mystical spot. The story tells of the young girl's self-journey and her growth as a person.  Blue starts out quiet and unsure of herself and her gifts.  As the story progresses, she meets people who help her accept and embrace her differences.  Close to the end of the story, Blue has to make a decision about her father's place in her life.  I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to young people of all ages (even the young at heart).
          Melissa Coyne, Substitute Teacher/Patron, Tahquamenon Area Library

Delton, Judy. ANGEL BITES THE BULLET. Illus. by Jill Weber. Boston: Houghton
    Mifflin, 2000. 112p. 0-618-04085-4 hb., $15.00   00-027600   Gr. 3-6    FIC

    With more than one hundred books to her credit, Delton maintains her popularity and appeal to the middle-grade readers with her ability to tell it like it is.  This being the seventh story of the little worrywart, Angel springs into action when her mother's best friend, Alyce comes to visit and takes over Angel's bedroom.  Angel wants her room back!  There is but one solution.   Play matchmaker.  Find Alyce a husband---or a job.  Angel and her best friend, Edna, scheme and cavort in this fast-paced story with a style that will hook young readers and tickle their funny bones.  Weber's cartoon-like drawings convey the innocent, but shrewd thinking of Delton's brainchild, and the two together have created a welcomed addition to a "fast-bullet" series.
    Patricia Fittante; Children’s Librarian, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI
  
DiCamillo, Kate.   BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE.  Cambridge, MA:  Candlewick,
    2000.  182p.  0-7636-0776-2; hb.,   $15.99.   99-34260   Gr. 3-7     FIC

     While she in a Winn-Dixie grocery store, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni saves a stray dog, which helps her to save herself.  Opal and her father recently moved to a trailer park in Florida and since it is summer, she only knows the kids who come to her father’s church; she doesn’t like them and they don’t like her.  Because her mother left her when she was three, Opal has questions about her mother but her father never talks about his wife.  However, Winn-Dixie causes the preacher to come out of his turtle shell to tell Opal ten things about her mother, including the information that she left them because she drank and because she didn’t enjoy living in a goldfish bowl as a preacher’s wife.  Because Winn-Dixie does not like to be left alone, he is invited into the Open Arms Baptist Church where he makes friends by catching a mouse and laying it at the feet of the preacher.  Because it has been to church, the dog is also invited into the Herman W. Block Memorial Library, owned by Miss Franny Block who tells stories to Opal and Winn-Dixie.  In order to earn a collar and leash, Opal does odd jobs at Gertrude’s Pets for an ex-convict who mesmerizes the animals with his singing and guitar playing.   Dunlap, Stevie, Amanda, and Sweetie Pie, all from the church, become her friends through Opal’s interactions with her dog and the women she meets.  Because of Winn-Dixie, she also meets Gloria Dump whom the boys think is a witch.
    When this motley crew gets invited to a picnic and Winn-Dixie gets lost because he is afraid of a storm, the book culminates with Opal’s coming to terms with her mother’s absence.   The unusual group are reminiscent of the neighbors in Conly‘s  CRAZY LADY (Harper, 1990).   This is an important addition to school and public libraries everywhere.
    Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center
   *Editor’s Note.  This book is a 2001 Newbery  Honor Book.

Dodds, Bill.  MY SISTER ANNIE.  Honesdale, PA:  Caroline House, 1993.  96p.
           
ISBN 1-56397-114-3 hb. $14.95   Gr. 4-7   Juv. FIC

            This is a moving account of eleven year old Charlie, who is dealing with many issues; mainly that he has an older, learning-disabled sister who is an embarrassment to him.  He is also dealing with moving from elementary school to middle school, his initiation into the “Bombers” group, asking a girl to a dance, and pitching in a championship baseball game.  It’s a good story about dealing with individual differences in families and in the community at large.
            Ann Best, Bookmobile Assistant, Menominee County Library

Draper, Sharon.  OUT OF MY MIND. New York: Atheneum Books for Young
          Readers, 2010.  ISBN 978-14169-7170-2 hb.   Grades 3-7    Juv.Fic

          It only takes a minute to discover that the protagonist, Melody, is in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy and has never spoken a word in her life.  The author, Sharon Draper, brings readers past Melody's disabled body into her stream of thought just as she's writing an autobiography of herself.  Flashes of memory are seamlessly woven into the storyline.  The story is a combination of regular stages of development that every child goes through and awkward moments that only a handicapped child would experience.
          Melody finds her place in the sun when she tries out for the quiz team, aided by her fantastic photographic memory.  All those years of listening finally pay off when the quiz team is victorious in the regional competition.  Can they also win the national title?  There is a point in the story where the kids on the quiz team place conformity above anything else, with disregard to intelligence, compassion, and logic.  Melody, along with the reader, realizes how fragile peer relationships can be.  You can depend on yourself and, hopefully, your family.  What an eye-opener for readers of all ages!
         Lynette Suckow, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI

Duncan, Lois.  NEWS FOR DOGS.  New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2009.  215p. 
          ISBN 978-0-545-10853-9 hb. $16.99.   Gr. 3-5   J FIC

Duncan’s book Hotel For Dogs, now a motion picture, may pave the way for this second “dogs” offering.  Andi talks her brother, Bruce, into working as the photographer for her newest brainstorm, a newspaper for dogs. Bruce is saving money to buy the dog he rescued from a nasty, canine abusing classmate. When dogs start disappearing as the result of dognapping and ransom demands are sent to their owners, the newspaper staff goes to Aunt Alice, a retired private eye, for help. Predictable and light-weight, but still a good summer read for the younger readers.
          Barb Ward, Retired Children’s Librarian, Dickinson County Library

Easton, Patricia Harrison.  DAVEY’S BLUE-EYED FROG.  Illus. by Mike Wohnoutka.   
           
New York: Clarion Books, 2003.  92 p.  ISBN 0618181857 hb. $14.00  Gr. 3-5     J FIC

            The author captures the fun and adventure of discovering pond creatures by two friends, Davey and Becky. The children are netting tadpoles when Davey meets up with a blue-eyed frog that talks – and she’s a girl! The frog, introduces herself as Princess Amelia and immediately orders Davey to kiss her to break the evil spell she is under. Once kissed, she will be able to return to her world to rule. "Yeah, right," Davey thinks. He has bigger ideas for this talking frog and kissing isn’t part of his plan. Davey wants to show off his discovery to his third grade buddies.
            This book turns out to be a charming story about learning responsibility by caring for pets and for friends. Becky is introduced to Amelia and a bond is created between the three characters. Davey realizes he has to protect the princess from his little brother, his dog and cat, and from his plan to expose her. He wrestles with his conscience about releasing Princess Amelia from the spell or being the center of attention himself. Becky helps Davey make the right choice and come to a responsible decision. Excellent pencil illustrations with adorable expressions are found throughout the book. It’s a really good lesson story for upper elementary students.
            Jana Aho, Media Assistant, Gladstone School & Public Library, Gladstone, MI

Flake, Sharon G.  THE SKIN I'M IN.  New York: Hyperion, 1998. 171 p.      
    ISBN 0-7868-0444-0 hb, $14.95. 98-019615   Gr. 6-12.  FIC

     In her first novel, Flake tells the story of an  inner city, middle school student, Maleeka Madison.  Teased because her skin is too black, her mother sews her clothes, and because she is bright, Maleeka tries to protect herself by hooking up with Charlese, the toughest girl at school.  As Char's flunky,  Maleeka must do what she is told as well as suffer Char's abuse; otherwise, not only will Char beat her, but she will also withdraw her protection.  Thus, Maleeka finds herself doing Char's homework, smoking in the girl's room, and cutting class at the snap of Char's fingers.
    Into Maleeka's life comes Miss Saunders, a "freak" like Maleeka, with "a giant white stain spread halfway across her face like somebody tossed acid on it."  Recognizing Maleeeka's potential as both a writer and a student, Miss Saunders struggles to keep Maleeka  from "falling through the cracks" as do so many inner city students.  Maleeka, however, tries to avoid Miss Saunders's attention, feeling that it will do nothing but further alienate her from the other students.
    Although this story deals with life in the inner city, its themes of peer pressure, teasing, and ultimately learning to accept oneself transcend race, class, and age.  With a touch of Black English to give the text flavor, Maleeka tells her own story.  As we look at the world through  her eyes, we feel her loneliness and pain and hope that she will learn to recognize the beauty within herself before her self-loathing leads her to destruction.
    Carolyn McManis ,Library Assistant, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI

Flinn, Alex.  BREAKING POINT.  New York: Harper Collins, 2002.  241p.
    0-06-623847-1 hb., $15.95   2001-39504   Gr. 9-12     FIC

    Resentful of years of moving with his military family, his parents’ recent divorce, his mother’s smothering attentions, and his father’s inattention, fifteen-year-old Paul just wants to have friends and be popular.  Enrolled in an exclusive, private high school – a benefit of his mother’s secretarial position there – Paul feels completely out of place.  He is tormented and harassed by all the students except for a couple of other social outcasts. Everything changes when charismatic Charlie Good befriends him.  Though there are warnings, Paul does not realize that Charlie’s friendship only comes with a terrible price.
    Touching on topics of harassment, peer pressure, manipulation, suicide and school violence, this is a very realistic account of how teen violence can occur – even by the “good” kids.  Many teens will be able to relate to Paul’s conflicting emotions about his parents, his home and his life.  Like him, they might do most anything to be part of the group they admire.  It is sure to raise discussions about peer pressure, friendship, violence and responsibility.  Recommended for mature readers.
    Maureen Booth; Library Media Specialist, Southfield High School,  Southfield, MI
  
Fogelin, Adrian. THE SORTA SISTERS. Atlanta, Georgia: Peachtree Publishers, 2007.
          279p.  ISBN: 1-56145-424-9 hb. $15.95.    Gr. 4-7    Juv.

          This was a heartwarming book about two girls who have very unique lives and how thye create a lasting friendship.  Anna is a foster child who is in a new, and hopefully last, home and has very few friends, in or out of school.  The other girl, Mica, is an only child who lives on a boat with her father and is home-schooled. Mica and Anna have a common friend, Ben, who brings Anna a letter from Mica after Christmas vacation.  This begins a pen-pal relationship that becomes a close friendship.  After traveling for some time, Mica and her father dock their boat and plan to stay in one place.  Therefore, Mica will be attending public school for the first time in many, many years.  By corresponding through letters, the two girls help each other through many trials and tribulations.  Finally, trouble hits hard for both girls and they have to rely on each other to fix all the problems. Yyoung girls and pre-teens will be able to relate to the characters in the book and enjoy it very much.
          Melissa Coyne, Substitute Teacher, Tahquamenon Area Library, Newbery, MI

Freeman, Martha. FOURTH GRADE WEIRDO. New York: Holiday House, 1999.
    148p. 0-8234-1460-4 lib.bdg.   $15.95.     99-12201      Gr. 2-5      FIC

     Mr. Ditzwinkle, "Ditz" for short is not a conventional teacher. The kids love his antics, but rule-abiding Dexter does not appreciate the unusual antics of his new teacher.  Briefcase-carrying Dexter finds it difficult to cope with anything outside of normal routine and as a result is described as "dweebacious."  This comical novel follows this fourth grader from his nerdy routine paranoia to becoming an amateur detective who helps solve the mystery of who is taking the missing things from Prospect Avenue School. Fourth graders particularly will enjoy this title, but it is a fun read for any child in the 9-12 range.
    Patricia Fittante; Children's Librarian, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI
 
Gantos, Jack.  JOEY PIGSA LOSES CONTROL.  New York:  Farrar, 2000.
    196p.   0-374-39989-1 hb., $16.00.    00-20098      Gr.  4-7     FIC

    This title is a sequel to JOEY PIGSA SWALLOWED THE KEY (Farrar, 1998), a National Book Award finalist.  Joey’s Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is under control when he takes his medicine but during his visit to his father for the summer, his father tells him, “You are your own man, in control of your own life…You don’t need them.”   So Joey does not put on his patches and ruins the championship baseball game where his father is a coach to fulfill his community service.   Even at his worst, Joey is more in control than his father who is just a bigger version of himself.  His grandmother, who carries oxygen with her because of Emphysema, cons Joey out of his emergency money for cigarettes.  Joey’s mother and his father’s girlfriends are also well rounded characters and the only responsible adults in the book.  Sequels are often disappointing but this one is not.  Both are important additions to school and public libraries.
    Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center

Harlow, Joan.  SECRET OF THE NIGHT PONIES.  NY: Margaret K. McElderry
          Books, c.2009.  323p. ISBN: 978-1416907831 hb. $16.99  Gr. 6-9   JUV

          This story reminded me of "Misty of Chincoteague" by Marguerite Henry.  However, this story is set in the much colder and rougher shores of Newfoundland.  A  group of children led by Jessie Wheller set out to rescue a herd of wild ponies and along the way help an abused child from their town. Waking up the adults to the plight not only of the ponies, but also of this lonely child in their midst. Has the same appeal as the "Chincoteague" pony stories, only the dialect and the name of the islands are different. Anyone, Middle  School and older, who likes horses, ponies and adventure will enjoy this story.
          Bronwen Stair, Gerrish-Higgins School District Public Library, Roscommon, MI 

Hayden, Torey.  THE VERY WORST THING.  New York:  Harper Collins, 2003.
    169p.  ISBN: 0-06-029792-1  hb. $15.99   Gr. 5-7   Juv. Fic.

    David was a foster child who couldn't remember his parents.  He had been separated from his older sister Lily, a trouble-making teen who lived in a "home," also known as "kid jail." Those life experiences made it to David's list of very worst things. David's social worker placed the 11-year-old with Granny, a kind, elderly widow, who lived alone. With her undertanding and patience, David began to widen his explorations into the countryside and into tenuous relationships. The excitement of hatching an owl's egg, which he discovered in a field, and a friendship with a feisty young neighbor girl, Mab, broadened David's focus.  Life's hardships are not sugar-coated in this story, but ultimately David grows emotionally and intellectually as he learns to trust others as well as himself.
    Judy Bennett, Ironwood Carnegie Library, Ironwood, MI

Horvath, Polly.  EVERYTHING ON A WAFFLE.  New York:  Farrar, 2001.
    150p.  0-374-32236-8 hb., $16.00   00-35399  Gr.  5-7    FIC

    Eleven-year-old Primrose Squarp's father was out in a storm in his fishing boat so her mother set out in their sailboat to rescue him.  Neither returned and everyone said they were dead but Primrose knew her parents were on an island somewhere waiting to be rescued.  Primrose was sent to live with Miss Perfidy, an elderly lady who was paid an hourly fee to keep her.  Finally her Uncle Jack returned to Coal Harbor, resigned from the Navy, took care of Primrose, and became a developer who tried to change the dying town into a tourist town.  Miss Honeycut, a terrible guidance counselor, caused Primrose to be taken from her uncle and placed in a foster home.
    Each chapter of the book ends with a recipe that reminds Primrose of someone who appeared in that chapter. Miss Bowzer served waffles with everything on her menu to provide the title for the book.  Miss Bowzer, owner and cook at a restaurant called The Girl on the Red Swing, became the adult female confidant to Primrose in the absence of her mother.  Sparks flew between Miss Bowzer and Uncle Jack but their relationship happily changes at the end of the book.  Although the book is filled with interesting characters, the ending regarding Primrose’s parents seems unrealistic.
    Told in the first person by Primrose, her story is set in British Columbia.  The time is more nebulous.  Because 16mm projectors are in use in school it probably took place in the 80s or 90s because most schools have replaced 16mm films with videos.  Horvath was born in Michigan so authors in that state can claim her as their own.
    Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

Johnson, Angela.  THE FIRST PART LAST.  New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for
    Young Readers, 2003.  131p.  0-689-84922-2-hb.  $15.95  Gr. 7-12  YA FIC

    Bobby steps into a new world when his daughter, Feather, is born.  What can he and his girlfriend expect from their parents and friends while taking on the challenge of parenthood?  Relationships and circumstances dominate this story of teenage love.  The author shifts between "then" and "now" to narrate the past through the present.  Angela Johnson deserves the Corretta Scott King Award for this gripping story.  It is highly recommended for junior and senior high students.
    Lynette Suckow, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI

Lay, Kathryn.  CROWN ME!  New York:  Holiday House, 2004.  202p. 
           
ISBN=0-8234-1845-6 hb.  $16.95.   Gr. 4-8   Juv.

            Justin Davies is an ambitious fifth grader running for student council president...that is if he can make it through being King first. Compromise, honesty, and fairness are just a few of the lessons he will learn.  Each chapter is started with a future political rule that alludes to what will happen next.  A great book that can help kids understand the difficulties that politicians, leaders, and parents face when trying to please everyone, CROWN ME! will provide good reading to upper elementary students.
            Kari Klaboe, K.I. Sawyer Learning Center and Library

Lewis, Maggie.  MORGY MAKES HIS MOVE.  Illus. by Michael Chesworth.  Boston, MA:  
           
Houghton Mifflin, 1999.  74p.  ISBN 0618196803 hb. $15.00     Gr. 3-5     Juv. FIC

            Young hockey fans will enjoy reading about Morgy, a California kid who moves to Massachusetts and tries to play hockey as he adapts to a new school.  You can guess who becomes the target of Ferguson, the local bully.  Most children from the northern states can identify with the hockey and the “new kid” aspects of the book.  As if dealing with that isn’t enough, Morgy learns that his mother is expecting twins.  How many changes can happen to one family?   A new friend and an unusual hobby are included in the solution.
           
Bettina Graber,  Munising School and Public Library, Munising, MI

Levy, Elizabeth. NIGHT OF THE LIVING GERBIL.  Illus. by Bill Basso.  New York:
    HarperCollins, 2001. 84p.   0-06-028588-5 hb.,  $14.95.  00-054230   Gr. 3-5   FIC

    Termie and Extermie are Robert's two gerbils, Terminator and Exter-Minator.   Life is good for them until one Saturday morning when Robert discovers Extermie lying on the bottom of the cage.  Off to the vet trot Robert, his brother, Sam and Mother. Even medical science cannot help Extermie who goes "to meet the jolly big exterminator in the sky."  To make matters worse, bossy cousin Mabel keeps telling Robert how he should feel and brother, Sam, cannot keep his dead gerbil jokes to himself.  Finally, Sam comes up with a hopeful solution to cheer Robert-- a visit to the Weird Science store and weird Mr. Winston.  What comes next will come as a surprise to all who have journeyed into this humorous, madcap adventure, so typical of Levy and her many endearing tales.
    Patricia J. Fittante, Children’s Librarian, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI
 
Lynch, Chris. THE WOLF GANG.  He-Man Women Haters Club Series. New York:  HarperCollins, 
    1998.  96p.  0-06-027418-2 hb.  $14.89.  0-06-440659-8 pb. $4.50   97-41954     Gr. 4-8    FIC

    The fictional antics of The He-Man Woman Haters Club continue in this, the fifth book in this series.  Johnny Chesthair has a problem; his previously loyal club members are deserting the He-Men to join Wolfman's club  When he investigates he finds Wolfman's club ensconced in, of allplaces, a beauty salon.  Worse than that, Wolf has recruited into his club the He-Men's worst enemies-- girls.  Readers of this series will enjoy the troubles Steve (aka JohnnyChesthair) encounters as he tries to destroy Wolf's club and, although he is the last of the gang to realize it, regain Wolf's friendship.  Will he go so far as to allow girls in his club as double agents? And if Wolf does return to the He-Man club, will Steve be able to share the leadership role?Therein lies the theme of this story, which is resolved at the end.  The story is told through the first person narrative of Steve, to whom readers, especially boys, will relate.  It is a light hearted romp for readers in grades 4-8 which may provide boys, especially reluctant readers, with a story of interest and perhaps encourage them to read other books in the series.
    Ragene Henry, teacher, Sawyer Elementary, Gwinn Public Schools, Gwinn, MI
 
Maguire, Gregory.  THREE ROTTEN EGGS.   Hamlet Chronicles, Vol. 5.  New York:
    Clairon/Houghton, 2002.   192p.   0-618-09655-8     Gr. 4-8    FIC

    This is a great read-a-loud if you can get your tongue around the names of the kids in Miss Earth’s class and if you can sing the country western that is sprinkled throughout the book.   Thaddeus Nero Tweed, Thud, is the size of a baby bison that has arrived to become a part of Miss Earth’s class.  This elementary school in the town of Hamlet is a last resort.  Thud has been kicked out of every private school to which his wealthy mother has sent him. His arrival coincides with the arrival of a motorcycle with a briefcase of stolen, genetically altered reserve evolution eggs. The motorcycle is hit by lightening outside a local store.   Thud’s terrible attitude does cause havoc in Miss Earth’s class...just in time for the spring egg hunt.  Instead of hunting as a class, he causes a competition ; the girls (Tattletales) compete with the boys (Copycats).  Of course, the bio-engineered eggs are found, and the three that are left are ready to hatch.   When Miss Earth finds out about the fertilized eggs, the class begins a project to hatched using a borrowed hen.  Thud can’t help but be interested in spite of himself, especially when it is discovered that the newly hatched chicks can breath fire!  This is a fun book!  All students will recognize their classmates in the students in Hamlet elementary.
    Charlotte A. Wuepper, Media Specialist; Upton Middle School, St. Joseph, Michigan

Manzano, Sonia.  THE REVOLUTION OF EVELYN SERRANO.   New York:  Scholastic Press,
      2012.   205p.  ISBN 978-0-545-32505-9 hc., $17.99    Gr. 5 & up    JF/YA

      Rosa Serrano wants to be called Evelyn, an American sounding name. Living in East Harlem barrio in 1969, she feels suffocated by her Puerto Rican neighborhood. She hates the small apartment she lives in, mami’s passiveness, garbage piling the street because of lack of city service, the poverty and the feeling of helplessness  to change her life.  When her mami’s abuela (grandmother) comes to stay, she is relegated to the sofa in the living room, giving up her bedroom, the only refuge in the apartment, to abuela.  Abuela is everything that Evelyn’s mother is not; flamboyant, outspoken and often outrageous. She shakes up Evelyn’s world with stories about her grandfather’s participation in the massacre during the 1937 revolution in Puerto Rico, a history which mami deny’s and doesn’t want to revisit.  Drawn into the fever rising in the barrio, Evelyn joins abuela and the newly formed Young Lords and others in a sit-in at the neighborhood church, learning about passive resistance and how she and her family and neighbors can peaceably make a difference in their community.  The revolution and massacre in Puerto Rico in 1937 and the sit-in in 1967 are factual, bringing historical facts not often visited into a well-crafted novel.  In an ever-increasing multicultural nation, this book is a must-have for libraries and schools.
     
Barbara Ward, Dickinson County Library, Children’s Librarian, Retired

Mass, Wendy.  FINALLY.   New York:  Scholastic Press, 2010.   296p.
      ISBN: 978-0-545-05242-9 hb. $16.99.    Gr. 4-6    Juv. FIC

      Finally is about Rory, a young girl who has been waiting to turn 12 and be able to do all the things her parents told her she would be able to do "when you're 12", most of which her friends have been able to do for a while now.   As the book progresses, Rory finds that some of the things she has been waiting to be able to do are not as fun or interesting as she thought they would be.  Finally is a very light, engaging, yet easily readable book.  The story will delight girls from age 10 to 13, and possibly some boys who would like to laugh at the "tragic" story of Rory.
      Melissa Coyne,  Patron, Munising School Public Library

McKenna, Colleen O’Shaughnessy.  DOGGONE…THIRD GRADE.  Illus by  Stephanie Roth.
    New York:  Holiday, 2002.  82p.  0-8234-1696-8 hb., $15.95  Gr. 1-4     FIC

    This story speaks directly to every insecure child who "exaggerates" (read "lies") when pushed too far by the class bigmouth.  The problem is that he/she must then back up the words with action.  Talent-less Gordie claims that his dog Scratch will perform tricks for the talent show that his third grade class will present for the fifth graders.  But Scratch's only talent is misbehavior and Gordie has only a week to prepare. Compounding his problem is the fact that bigmouth Lucy and the rest of his classmates know how dumb his dog really is and the new kid in the class is charming his friends and has a dog that appears in TV commercials.  Scratch becomes the star of the show thanks to a great idea and a jar of peanut butter.  Author McKenna has taught third grade and her knowledge of the way third graders think and feel is evident.
    Carolyn Anderson, Retired teacher/Public Library Advisory Board, L'Anse, MI

Murtagh Paratore, Colleen. DREAMSLEEVES. New York: Scholastic Press, 2012
            273p.   ISBN 978-0-545-31020-8  hb. $16.99   Gr. 5-8    Juv

Meet Aislinn (A), an Irish Catholic girl whose family does not meet any standard relating to ordinary. Meet Aslinn, an extraordinary girl, whose name is old Irish for dream. Meet Aislinn, loving and patient sitter for her younger siblings, B, C, D, and E while her father and mother work to support their family. Aptly named, Aslinn’s dreams make her life with her strict, volatile alcoholic father bearable.  This wonderful book is funny, heartbreaking and hopeful. Readers will want to get into the story to hug and intercede for this compelling girl who finds a way to keep on dreaming and hoping, after so many promises and dreams have been broken.  Readers with less than stellar home-lives will identify with Aislinn; those more fortunate will have their eyes opened and will readily identify with teen crises of a first crush, losing a friend and most of all, keeping your dreams. Colleen Murtagh Paratore’s novel is honest and uplifting.
            Barbara Ward, Retired Children’s Librarian, Dickinson County Library,

Myers, Anna.  WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS.   New York, Walker, 2000. 170p.
    0-8027-8725-8 hb.,  $18.95   Gr. 7-10    FIC

    A very beautiful, touching story about two reclusive individuals – young Ophelia who has just moved into a new foster family, and Portia McKay, an elderly neighbor who needs someone to read to her.  Both share an interest initially in a love of literature, especially Shakespeare but gradually they learn they have more in common, a horrible secret that has left each emotionally alone.  The story is artfully crafted with each somewhat reluctant to share feelings with the other.  As the characters develop, the dark secret in each one’s life slowly is revealed and evolves into a dramatic ending.  A truly impressive, moving story which teens will enjoy.
    Barbara Berry; retired school library-media specialist
 
Myers, Walter Dean.  THE DREAM BEARER.  New York:  HarperCollins, Inc., 2003.  
     181p.  ISBN 0-06-029521-X hb.  $15.99     Gr. 5-9      Juv.

     David tries to relate to his father, Reuben, and his brother, Ty, but doesn’t want to be like either one of them.  
They each have their own weaknesses to overcome.  David does have the support of his friends and a mysterious 
old man who tells David about his dreams.  How can he be true to himself when he's pulled in different directions 
by his friends and family?  David will have to trust his sense of right and wrong to make a life for himself.

    Lynette Suckow, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI

Norman, Tony.  NERVOUS.  Illus. by Paul Savage. Mankato, MN:  Stone Arch Books,             
   
2006.  40p.   ISBN  1-59889-018-2 hb. $14.95 Ages 8-12  Juvenile Fiction

     The school talent school show gives students who view themselves as losers a chance at success.  Dream Stars Talent Show advertises a chance for the winning band to make a CD and have airtime on the local radio station.  The story is great for encouraging kids to stretch their talents by encouraging others to join their efforts.  Even down and outs have a chance at success and the characters in this book are excellent examples.  A leader named Cass emerges and helps other “nerds” spread their musical wings and overcome setbacks and cheating by the competing band. 
      Read this book and discover a satisfying ending.  At the back there are discussion questions and writing prompts, along with websites to use as teaching tools.  NERVOUS is an easy to read chapter book with a unique instructional method for learning about social topics. A good cover, size and the black and white illustrations do not detract from the text. It’s a welcome addition for the juvenile reading section to encourage the reluctant reader with a current topic and easy format.  This book is one in a series.
       Jana Aho, Gladstone School and Public Library, Gladstone, MI

Oates, Joyce Carol.  FREAKY GREEN EYES.  New York, NY:  Harper Tempest, 2003.  341p.  
	0-06-623757-2 hb., $17.89     Gr. 6-10     YA

	Fifteen year old Francesca nicknames her inner, stronger self Freaky Green Eyes.  Her perfect world falls 
apart when her mother leaves and Franky decides to stay with her father because it was her mother's decision to leave 
the family.  But, when mother comes up missing, Freaky Green Eyes know that something is very wrong.
The characters in this book are so believable and so real.  Young readers will have their eyes opened to the real world 
where wealth and good looks do not always mean a perfect environment.
	Linda Cooley, Library Director, L'Anse School/Public Library

Richmond, Sandra.  SHOOT TO SCORE, Vol. 31.  Sports Stories series.  Toronto: 
    James Lorimer, 1999.  92p.  1-55028-642-0 pb., $5.50    Gr. 3-8    FIC

    Hockey players and fans will relate to this story which combines a lesson on growing up with an exciting tale of making the team.  Steven wants in the worst way to be on the rep team, to match his older brother's achievements, and to make his dad proud.  However, he hasn't learned the importance of setting goals, hard work or the meaning of teamwork.  Intertwined with hockey games, school and family interactions, Steven makes some hard choices and learns the hard lessons all teens must eventually learn.  Richmond accomplishes this without sounding preachy.
    Carolyn Anderson; retired elementary teacher,Member of the L’Anse (MI) Public Library Advisory Board

Russell, Rachel. DORK DIARIES: TALES FROM A NOT-SO-FABULOUS LIFE NY: Aladdin, 2009. 
           216p.  ISBN: 978-1416980063 hb. $12.99     Gr. 5-8     JUV

           Yes, looks just like the "Diary of a wimpy kid" books by Jeff Kinney. Only difference is, this is the diary of a female student, and the drawings aren't quite as cartoonish. Other than the obvious copy cat, this is a fun book, I enjoyed reading about Nikki J. Maxwell and her adjustment to a new Middle School. Moving into middle school is hard, you didn't go to elementary with these kids, starting over is hard. Nikki wants to really start over, she wants to be in the cool crowd (who doesn't?), not in with the nerds and the dorks (her terms). The author has done a good job making her try at popularity funny.
          Several negatives about this book:
1. It will be dated quite quickly because of the references to popular singers, actors and TV shows.
2. I have read so many young adult and junior high books with this same theme .... the popular crowd is run by a nasty girl, "normal" nice girl  wants to part of popular crowd, ends up with normal good friends instead, realizing how shallow popularity is by end of book.
3. This book is set in a private school. I remember when we moved to Roscommon, and my daughter was in eighth grade. Popular girls threatened to beat her up because she had an older brother so she knew boys in tenth grade. Hasn't changed much around here, there are still girls who will threaten to beat the new girls to a pulp ... and sometimes do. In other words not realistic to our area or to middle school kids in general.
            Bronwen Stair, Gerrish-Higgins School District Public Library, Roscommon, MI 

Rylant, Cynthia.  GOD WENT TO BEAUTY SCHOOL.  New York:  HarperCollins
    Publishers, Inc., 2003.  0-06-009434-6 lib. bdg.;  $14.99   Gr. 6-9   Juv.

    Rylant reflects on everyday life through the eyes of a teen girl with a novel written in chapters of a single poem each.  The poems are long and narrow, taking up only a part of each page, making the book a quick read.  Each poem is an independent thought, but the collection ties itself together seamlessly.  This book would work well in an English classroom or in personal collection.
    Lynette Suckow, Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI
   

Salmansohn, Karen. OH, AND ANOTHER THING.  Ill. by author.  Berkeley, CA;
    Tricycle Press, 2001.  1-58246-045-0 hb., $12.95. 2001-001169  Gr. 3-5     FIC

    Twelve-year-old Alexandra rambles on! (second book in series) When your VBF (Very Best Friend) is becoming somewhat of a mystery, your brother continues to bug you, and your parents just won't listen and understand, what is this young girl to do? Write, right?  And that is exactly what Alexandra does.  Alexandra rambles on in her second diary.  She explores some of the biggest issues facing adolescent girls; sibling rivalry, feelings about boys, and teachers who just don't know how to communicate.  This volume is written in notebook format. The text is accompanied with doodles and original, unique musings.  Although some of the pages are full from top to bottom and a bit busy at times, the bright colorful backgrounds will turn on the “tween-teen” with the same force as a graphic novel.  Oh, and another thing........
    Patricia Fittante Children’s Librarian, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI

Salmansohn, Karen. ONE PUPPY, THREE TALES: ALEXANDRA RAMBLES ON. BOOK  #1
    California: Tricycle Press, 2001.  unp. ISBN 1-58246-034-5 hb. $10.36     Gr. 3-5    FIC

    Don't let the title fool you!  If it is stories of puppies you are looking for, try again.  Using a very busy diary format, which is sometimes distracting, Salmansohn has created a haven for twelve-year-old Alexandra.  With the artistic flair and imagination of a preteen, Alexandra tries to understand her relationship with her father, mother, and best friend, which is not an easy task.  Because of the book design and content, this book definitely will appeal mainly to the creative feminine mind.   If by chance, you want something that totally deviates from generic design, give this a try.
    Patricia Fittante; Children’s Librarian, Escanaba Public Library, Escanaba, MI

Saunders, Susan.  LUCKY LADY.  New York: Harper, 2000.  120p.
    0-380-97784-2 hb., $14.95    99-42648   Gr. 3-6    FIC

    Jamie Cooper’s mother goes on assignment to Southeast Asia and sends her to stay with her Grandfather on his ranch in Texas.  However, when she arrives, her Grandfather is not interested in anything, has sold all of his animals, and has leased the ranch.  This story has all the elements of a “horse opera:” a taciturn grandfather, a difficult horse that needs saving from the glue factory, a near miss with a rattlesnake, and a brush fire.  If this isn’t enough, her mother doesn’t call from Asia and Jamie learns that her mother might be caught in a flood.   Readers will agree with the heroine when Jamie says on the second to last page, “How had all of this happened in less than two weeks?”   However, if this is a young girl’s first horse book or is read by a young girl who has or wants a horse of her own, this is good introductory fare; an easy satisfactory read.  If you can’t afford the hardback, wait for the paperback when it becomes available.
    Mary Ann Paulin; Director, Superiorland Preview Center

Spafford-Fitz, Karen.  DOG WALKER.  Victoria, BC, Canada:  Orca Book Publishers,
            2006.   110p.  ISBN: 1-55143-533-0  hb.  $14.95.   Gr. 6-9   Juv Fic

            Turk, a 14-year-old boy, seems very normal; it's his parents, especially his mom, who need help. His mother reads parenting magazines, then puts into practice the recommended "quality family time," which bores poor Turk no end.  Imagine Monopoly games with snacks; and not even pizza for the snack, instead it's smoked salmon and crackers.  What's a boy to do?  There’s never enough money in the real sense either; Monopoly money just doesn't cut it. But events are soon to change as Turk is presented with a dog to care for in its owner's absence. He will learn how responsibility can tie you down as well as help you grow when Turk begins a profitable dog-walking business.  This book deals gently and humorously with various social and family situations that pre-teens and early teens might be confronting.
            Judy Bennett, Ironwood Carnegie Library, Ironwood, MI

Strasser, Todd.  CON-FIDENCE.  New York:  Holiday House, 2002.  154 p. 
    ISBN 0-8234-1394-2 hb.  $16.95      Gr. 6-9      J FIC

 

    Lauren's desire is to be a part of the "Don't You Wish You Were Me?" table at lunch.  When new girl Celeste moves into the "wanna-bes" right away and befriends Lauren, Lauren is eager to do anything to stay with the in-crowd.  Lauren ignores her best friend, does Celeste' homework, and loans Celeste her hard-earned babysitting money.  When class money disappears, Lauren uses her own money to fund the class party.  At the party, Celeste's grand scheme is revealed.  The most popular girl in the class has been humiliated, Lauren has been accused of stealing class funds, and Celeste walks away with the most popular boy and the class funds.  
    This book has such a powerful message for young girls, and yet, has an understanding of their desires to be accepted.  Lauren represents many young girls and the reader, who can see the ending coming, easily understands the situation.  It is a good story and one that will circulate well in young adult collections.

     Linda Cooley; Director, L'Anse School/Public Library

Talbert, Marc.  SMALL CHANGE.  New York, Dorling Kindersley, 2000.
    170p.  0-7894-2531-9   Gr. 7-9   FIC

    Boring, that’s what Tom thinks of the family vacation in Mexico.  He would much rather be back in Minnesota ice fishing.  That all changes when he takes his eight-year-old younger sister, Phippa, into town to go shopping.  Suddenly they find themselves in the midst of gunfire and are rescued by a Mexican boy, Ignacio, and Ignacio’s father.  Unable to reunite with their parents they are driven to Ignacio’s ranch and the family opens their hearts to help them survive.   The comfortable life Tom and Phippa had is turned upside down as they come to learn  about poverty and the true warmth of family love and bravery.  This is a great story about human relationships and courage.  One comes away with a much greater sense of the meaning of cultural diversity and how it can enhance our life.
    Barbara Berry; retired school library-media specialist

Tolan, Stephanie S.  SURVIVING THE APPLEWHITES.  New York:  HarperCollins,
    2002.  224p.  0-06-623602-9 hb., $15.99  2002-1474   Gr. 5-9   FIC

    Jake, an out-of-control teen, complete with red spiked hair and multiple piercings has been sent as a last resort to the Applewhite family’s Creative Academy.  The Applewhites are an extended family of writers, artists, furniture builders, educators and a Broadway director.  E.D., a girl Jake’s age, is the only one to view this former school arsonist with skepticism and she must share her curriculum with him.  The family dog and four-year-old Destiny immediately attach themselves to Jake.   Jake takes responsibility for them, because everyone else is busy with meditating or with other artistic pursuits.  Destiny’s father is staging a production of The Sound of Music in which the entire clan becomes involved.  Even Jake, after it is discovered that he can sing.  There is so much activity and there are so many catastrophes in this book that the reader gets nervous.  It is a little far fetched to think that delinquent Jake would agree to sing “I am Sixteen  Going on Seventeen,”  or that the production could be accompanied solely by accordion but that is the way it goes!  The cover of the book is a winner!  It alone will sell this book.  It’s great to see a kid shedding his earrings, spiked hair and black clothing to become a person!
    Charlotte A. Wuepper, Media Specialist; Upton Middle School, St. Joseph, Michigan

Tulloch, Richard.  WEIRD STUFF.  Illus. by Shane Nagle. New York:  Walker & Co.,             
            2006. 196 p.  ISBN  0-807-8058-X  hb.  $16.95  Ages 9-12  J FIC

            Read about the not-so-ordinary life of Brian (a.k.a. Ice Man) Hobble and his adventures at Garunga District School. The weird stuff he experiences will capture the reader’s interest because the adventures are delightfully recounted in language so colorful it will make you laugh. From the soccer field, science lab, to girls and ghostwriting pens, Australian author, Richard Tulloch, uses words and their meanings to bring out many “well defined” moments.  This book is very useful in the illustration of how to “write what you know” creatively. 
            A famous author visits Garunga School and, with the help of a borrowed pink easy flow ghostwriting pen, Brian is chosen to participate in a special interest writing group. He begins by ghostwriting “hot” romance stories, but soon discovers his own writing abilities as he recounts the thrill of kicking the winning soccer goal and the antics of frog dissection in science lab. Read this book and discover that imagination is the key to reading enjoyment. 
            The illustrations by Shane Nagle fit perfectly and are done in a graphic format. Tadpoles grow to frogs at the page corners and bring the frog “life cycle” to life.  Recommended for middle school collections,it’s a good read with good content.
            Jana Aho, Gladstone School and Public Library, Gladstone, MI

Weston, Martha.  ACT I, ACT II, ACT NORMAL.  Brookfield, CT:  Roaring Brook Press, 2003. 
          149p. ISBN 0-7613-2859-9 hb.  $15.99  Gr. 5-8    Juv Fiction

          A Middle school student, Topher, wants the lead in the school play. Then he finds out the play is Rumplestiltskin, and a musical at that.  This story is about Topher and all the trials and tribulations a middle schooler goes through being in a school play.  He takes a lot of teasing from the class bully, but in the end, manages to get even with him.  This story is a great for Junior High students. It really does a good job at showing the different cliques and how they can intertwine.
         
Laurel Miller, K.I. Sawyer Learning Center and Library

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