Category Archives: basketball

Juvie by Steve Watkins


I received this e-galley from the publisher via Netgalley and read it on my ancient Kindle, so I didn’t pay much attention to the cover, including–I’m embarrassed to say–the author’s name. The story is written from a female teen’s point of view, and it’s done so well that I was shocked when I sat down to write this review and discovered that the author is male. I was also surprised to realize that, had I seen the cover before reading the story, I would have thought that was a book about a teen boy. My own misguided preconceptions, of course–girls go to jail, too.

Publisher’s description:  Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one — she’s the star player on her AAU basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player, and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal — wrong place, wrong time — it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn’t commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger — at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla, and at herself — fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu, and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie tells the story of two sisters grappling with accountability, sacrifice — and who will be there to help you after you take the fall.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* is struggling with making good choices in life

* knows someone who has been incarcerated or has first-hand experience with the juvenile detention system

* plays basketball–Sadie is on the college scholarship path when she has to leave high school to serve her six-month sentence.

* has a family member who suffers from agoraphobia–Sadie’s father never makes an appearance in the story because he hasn’t come out of his house in years. Although we don’t get to know him as well as we know the agoraphobic father in Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect,  we can still feel Sadie’s father’s love for her when he does reach out to her via the US mail.

Use this to discuss:

* Character Motivation–Sadie decides to take the fall for her older sister, Carla, who has been in trouble with the law in the past. Should she have made that sacrifice? What if Sadie’s decision can’t save her sister or her young niece, Lulu? Would she have made the same sacrifice if she had known that she’d spend six months in jail?

* Ethics–When Sadie tries to shield a fellow inmate from harm during a prison riot, she is reprimanded for getting involved and told that her only job in juvie is to follow directions. Yet she later risks her own life to save another. Sadie’s choices in these scenes would make good fodder for discussion. And speaking of choices…

* Choices–At first, I was indignant at the unfairness of Sadie going to jail for something she didn’t do. But Sadie eventually comes to the conclusion that although she didn’t knowingly break the law, a series of smaller bad decisions led her to the wrong place at the wrong time. Did she deserve to go to jail? Definitely not. But the ultimate consequences of her choices that led her to the scene of the crime could have so easily been avoided.

*Types of Conflict–There are several types in this story–character vs. character, and character vs. self, but the most interesting to explore might be character vs. society and the role of prisons in our society. The disparity between the crimes that some of the characters commit on the outside and their behavior on the inside would also make for good discussion.

Visit author Steve Watkins’ website here.

Click here for reviews (including starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly) and here to read the first chapter.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: October 8, 2013

ISBN-10: 0763655090

ISBN-13: 978-0763655099

Number of Pages: 320

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.


The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Today Biblio Links welcomes middle grade author Wendy Wan Long Shang!

Our school was lucky enough to have Wendy come and visit last summer to lead some writing workshops, and her book doesn’t stay on our shelves long (we’ve got several copies). I teach in a very culturally diverse school, and I’m always eager to hand our students books that reflect their multicultural backgrounds. Many of our families have grandparents and other extended family living with them, and those kids immediately connect with THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU. Although this book first caught my attention because of its multicultural appeal, it has tons of heart that all kinds of kids will enjoy. Lucy’s story is about dealing with bullies, navigating two cultures, and pursuing her dream of basketball stardom.
Here’s a summary of the story from Indie Bound:
In this humorous and heartfelt debut about a split cultural identity, nothing goes according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu.
Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.
Wendy was kind enough to stop by and talk about how LUCY can be used in the classroom.

Biblio Links:A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Who is this child?

Wendy Shang: I think I wrote LUCY in part because I needed a story like this one.  When I was growing up, it was very rare for me to find a modern Chinese-American character in books or popular culture.  (Hence my undying love for Judy Blume and her Tracy Wu character, the best friend of Jill, in BLUBBER.)

There is so much more diversity in today’s children’s literature scene, thank goodness, but I’d like to think that LUCY is perfect for a kid who feels that everyone else’s family is so much more supportive, fair and well, mainstream, than his or her own.  I hope that kids who read LUCY realize that their own families can be amazing sources of strength and inspiration.

Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

Wendy Shang: I would love to see LUCY used in a discussion of how characters change and grow over the course of a book.  Having just completed a series of writing workshops with 4th, 5th and 6th graders, I think that’s a challenging thing to get kids to think about, though it’s so essential to storytelling.  It would be great to hear the teacher ask, “How does Lucy’s outlook change from the beginning of the book to the end of the book?”

Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Wendy Shang: They can go to, where they can learn about my childhood and my (slight) gummi bear obsession.

Biblio Links: And who doesn’t like gummy bears?? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Wendy!
Click here to read the glowing reviews and awards bestowed upon THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU.For teachers and librarians, Wendy’s website has discussion questions and activities for readers. Check out Wendy’s advice on how kids can find their writing voice in this Scholastic’s Instructor magazine article.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: January 1, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0545162159

Number of Pages: 320

Ages: 8 and up