Category Archives: loss

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

140127095838-25-young-adult-book-awards-horizontal-gallery1With four starred reviews and a Pura Belpré Award on the cover, I knew this would be a good book. What I didn’t realize is that I would stay up until 1:30 in the morning reading the last chapters, needing to know how everything turns out for Piddy Sanchez. This is a gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story that ultimately offers hope in the power of making our own choices in life.

Publisher’s description:  One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* has reached a cross-roads and has important choices or decisions to make

* struggles with poverty, or needs to be introduced to someone who does

* is being raised by a single parent

* is exploring what it means to be part of a particular culture or to straddle more than one culture (Piddy is bullied by Yaqui in part because Yaqui doesn’t think she is “Latina enough.”)

* responds to a teen voice that is honest and  unapologetic

Use this to discuss:

* Choices –Piddy has a slew of choices in front of her, and not one of them is easy. We see the choices that her friend Joey makes, and some of the choices that Yaqui makes. What choices does Piddy have in life? What are the ramifications of each? This would make for a good discussion, especially when paired with Steve Watkins’ young adult novel Juvie.

juvie-198x300

* Community–Although Piddy is being raised by her mother and has never met her father, she doesn’t lack for a support network. Lila, her mother’s friend, and the other ladies at the beauty salon where Lila works (and where Piddy works on the weekends) form a tightly-knit community that looks out for each other. Use Piddy’s story as a springboard to discuss various support systems that teens have in their lives.

* Point of View–Although we never get into Yaqui’s head, we get a glimpse of what her life must be like through Raul, a policeman who patrols Yaqui’s crime-ridden neighborhood, and Joey, Piddy’s friend and neighbor who lives with daily violence in his own home. Although Yaqui is the girl we want to hate, Meg Medina won’t let us, even though she keeps Yaqui’s point of view at arm’s length. How would Yaqui describe seeing Piddy for the first time? What bothers her so much about Piddy Sanchez?

* Bullying–One of the biggest choices Piddy must make is how to handle Yaqui’s bullying. Should she try to avoid Yaqui? Confront her? Tell an adult? This would make an excellent discussion starter about how to handle bullying and its lingering consequences.

Visit author Meg Medina’s website here, and read some sample chapters and see the string of honors this book has received here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: March 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-65859-5 (hardcover); 978-0-7636-7164-8 (paperback)

Number of Pages: 272

For ages 14 and up

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

I was instantly drawn in by 13-year-old Theo (Theodora). She loses her beloved grandfather, Jack, in the very first chapter, leaving her alone with her dysfunctional, almost-always absent mother and not enough money to eat much more than Theo can grow in her backyard city garden. Yet Theo never feels sorry for herself, and neither does the reader. I admired her pluck and self-sufficiency, and gladly went along for the ride as Theo and her new (first ever?) friend, Bodhi, launch themselves into an adventure/mystery that kept me turning pages right up until the satisfying end. I’ll definitely be recommending this to my students in the fall.

Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.

Publisher’s description:  A mystery for readers who loved Chasing Vermeer and From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler…

 Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

 The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys a good mystery

* is interested in art history and/or the Renaissance

* has a bit of background/interest in World War II

* has seen the movie The Monuments Men (PG13). Click link to view the trailer for those who haven’t seen the movie–this will provide important background info for one section of the book).

* has a family member who suffers from mental illness. Theo’s mother is almost always in her bedroom working on a math equation for her thesis, but Theo is definitely the caretaker in the house.

Use this to discuss:

* The Role of Art in Culture –The story behind the missing painting is an interesting one. The topic should spark some interesting discussions on the purpose of art, to whom it really belongs, and it’s value–both monetary and intrinsic.

* The Renaissance–It’s interesting to learn snippets of what some of this period’s famous artists were like as people.

* Research–One of my favorite characters is the super cool librarian 😉 , a young guy who helps Theo with her research, both in print and online. It’s the perfect example of going from a general topic to specifics, reliability of sources, cross-checking sources, etc.

* Museum Field Trip Prep–The next time I walk into an art museum, I’ll definitely take a closer look at the exhibits, thanks to this book. Under the Egg would serve as a nice primer before you and your students head out on a museum field trip. Most major museums have virtual tours, like the Met, one of the NYC museums featured in the book.

Visit author Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s website here, excellent links to resources about World War II, Art, and more here, and a discussion guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Dial/Penguin

Publication Date: March 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0803740013

Number of Pages: 256

For ages 9-12, but I think slightly older readers will also enjoy the layered art history aspects of the book.

The Art of Flying by Judy Hoffman

The Art of Flying

I was charmed by this sweet adventure story about a girl named Fortuna who finds a friend in Martin, a shy boy who has been transformed from bird to human. The fantasy elements–witchcraft, talking animals, and flying children–all felt believable.

Publisher’s description:                Fortuna Dalliance is practical. Rational. Clever. But when she finds herself at the doorstep of an adventure, she discovers something that has been inside her all along: the courage to step through. 

The old Baldwin sisters are in trouble, and they’ve asked Fortuna to help them out of a fix. The sisters have accidentally turned a swallow into a boy, and he refuses to be turned back. But if Martin doesn’t return to his original form within five days, he’ll remain a boy forever . . . and the Baldwin sisters will have a lot to answer for. Fortuna’s not sure she believes in magic, and once she’s gotten to know Martin, she’s not sure she wants him to be changed back. As Fortuna figures out what it truly means to be a friend, she must decide whose side she’s on-before it’s too late.

Judy Hoffman’s debut, with delightful illustrations by Stephanie Graegin, weaves an enchanting tale of loyalty, freedom, and feathers.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* wants to read about witches and bad guys but isn’t ready for anything super scary yet,

* has a  best friend who drifts away–not because of an argument, but just with the passage of time,

* loves being outside, or

* anyone who has ever dreamed of flying.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–While this story is told from Fortuna’s point of view, her challenge is to realize that what she wants isn’t necessarily best for her new friend, Martin. She has to make some tough choices for the benefit of her friend, which would make a good discussion starter on empathy and what it means to be a good friend.

* Anti-Bullying Strategies--The antagonist in the story is a bully–both in his human and owl form. The Baldwin sisters get into trouble because they change Martin and his brother from swallows into boys when they are being bullied by the owl. Use this opportunity to discuss the role of bystanders in bullying and what kids can do when they witness another person being bullied.

*Types of Conflict–There’re a lot examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character, self, and…magic.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: October 29, 2013

ISBN-10: 1423158156

ISBN-13: 978-1423158158

Number of Pages: 310

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.

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

NotaDroptoDrink_final_1I could not put this book down. Aside from the intriguing premise–what would we do if water suddenly became a scare commodity?–I found the characters to be believable, flawed, and empathetic. The plot is a tapestry of both tension and moments of tenderness, with several believable plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I would hand Not A Drop to Drink to both boys and girls; with the survival elements and light (very light) romance, this book should have wide appeal with teens.

Publisher’s description:  Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

Hand this book to the teen who:

* enjoys dystopian tales and stories of survival

* likes strong female characters (Lynn is more skilled at self-defense and survival than is her friend Eli, a city-born teen.)

* wants (or doesn’t mind) books that have elements of light romance, yet doesn’t want (or need) romance to dominate the plot.

Use this to teach:

* Environmental Issues–Although the reason for the water shortage is never explained, this story is sure to spark discussions of resource conservation within the context of global warming and rising pollution levels.

* Human Nature--At which point does our survival instinct overcome empathy and charity towards others? Government policies and main character Lynn’s  believable shift in her world view will make excellent fodder for classroom discussion.

*Types of Conflict–Lots of examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character, self, society, and nature.

*Text-to-Text Connections–Pair this with Melanie Crowder’s Parched and Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water, as well as Mike Mullin’s Ashfall trilogy.

Resources for Educators here

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews and here for the author’s website.

Publisher: Harper Collins / Katherine Tegen

Publication Date: September 24, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0062198501

Number of Pages: 320

Interest Level: Ages 14 to 17

Rose by Holly Webb

517zbG28mQL._SY300_I was charmed by Rose right from the start. She’s likable and believable–someone you’d want as a friend.

Publisher’s description: Rose isn’t like the other orphans at St Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls. Instead of dreaming of getting adopted by loving, wealthy parents, Rose wants to get a job and be independent. She doesn’t need anyone but herself. She finds her escape working as a maid for Mr. Fountain, an alchemist. Unable to ignore the magic that flows throughout the grand residence, Rose realizes that just maybe; she might have a little bit of magic in her too. This new series featuring magicians, witches, talking cats, mist-monsters, and friendships will have young readers in a trance!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys reading about magic and alchemy and mystery,

* is ready for some scariness, but not too too much, and

* gobbles up historical fiction or stories set back in time.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–While this story is from Rose’s point of view, we soon meet Freddie, the alchemist’s haughty apprentice. Freddie has no redeeming qualities at the start, but will grow on you as you (and Rose) get to know him better. Ask students to retell (in writing or orally) Rose’s first meeting with Freddie from Freddie’s point of view.

* Chemistry--Although the potions and magic mixtures are straight fiction, it would be fun to pair this title with a science unit on mixtures, solutions, and chemical properties.

*Genre blending–More and more books today are difficult to fit into one genre, and this is one of them. Fantasy? Check. Historical fiction? Yup. Is it more one than the other? Let you students decide.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky

Publication Date: September 3, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1402285813

Number of Pages: 240

Interest Level: Ages 9 and up

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

After IrisThere is so much that I love about this book that I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start with the publisher‘s description:  

An unforgettable middle-grade debut that will steal your heart…

Blue Gadsby’s twin sister, Iris, died three years ago and her family has never been the same. Her histrionic older sister, Flora, changes her hair color daily; her younger siblings, Jasmine and Twig, are completely obsessed with their pet rats; and both of her parents spend weeks away from home–and each other. Enter Zoran the Bosnian male au pair and Joss the troublemaking boy next door, and life for the Gadsby family takes a turn for the even more chaotic. Blue poignantly captures her family’s trials and tribulations from fragmented to fully dysfunctional to ultimately reunited, in a sequence of film transcripts and diary entries that will make you cry, laugh, and give thanks for the gift of families.

With the charm of The Penderwicks and the poignancy of When You Reach Me, Natasha Farrant’s After Iris is a story that will stay with readers long after the last page.

My impression: Considering that this story is, in part, about Blue dealing with the death of her twin sister, Iris, this is not a maudlin tale. I laughed out loud more than once and was charmed countless times by Blue’s honest observations about her crazy (albeit lovable) family and life in general. The story is set in England, yet still feels accessible to American readers.

As a school librarian, I take advantage of the summer months to catch up on reading; I usually go straight from the last page of one book to first page of the next in the same day. But after I reached the last page of After Iris, I didn’t want to jump into the next book quite yet; I wanted time to linger in Blue’s world and reflect on her story before moving on to another.

After Iris is one of my favorite reads of 2013.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* has a twin or a close sibling

* enjoys books with a diary or journal format

* is interested in the art of film or making videos

* has been separated from a parent due to the parent’s job, a divorce, etc.

Use this to teach:

Format–Told in diary entries and Blue’s home-movie film transcripts, the story unfolds in an unconventional way. The story’s format will spark good discussion about why the author may have chose to tell Blue’s story in this way. Of particular note is the metaphoric  last scene when the camera is turned on Blue  for the very first time.

* Coping Strategies--Blue not only has to deal with missing her twin sister, Iris, but also with her first broken heart in love and fear of her parents’ divorce. The various ways in which Blue’s family members each deal with Iris’ death also merit discussion and analysis.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click  here for reviews.

Author’s website here.

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: July 2013

ISBN-10: 0803739826

ISBN-13: 978-0803739826

Number of Pages: 272

Interest Level: Ages 10 and up

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.

Paradox by Ammi-Joan Paquette

paradox_thumbToday Biblio Links once again welcomes prolific author Ammi-Joan Paquette! She’s had three picture books and two middle grade novels published so far, with another picture book coming out this fall.

Today’s review is for her thrilling sci-fi debut young adult novel Paradox.

Publisher’s summary:  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?

~

Once I realized that I could NOT put this book down, I immediately thought of several reluctant readers in my library who would love this fast-paced, sci-fi mystery. It’s got a strong female main character, an unfolding mystery, high stakes, danger, and a fascinating other-world setting. Really, what’s not to love?

As a librarian in a very culturally diverse school district, one of the things I appreciate most about Paradox is something I haven’t seen mentioned in other reviews:  the book’s multicultural cast of characters. Ana Ortez is the main character, and she is eventually joined by three other teens, Todd Oslow, Ysa Klein, and Chen Wai. Race or culture doesn’t factor into the plot or dialogue at all. Love that.

JoanI asked Joan to tell us how Paradox might fit into your library or classroom.

BiblioLinks:  A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Paradox. Who is this kid?

Joan: The ideal PARADOX reader is a student who looks for fast-paced stories and benefits from highly active, engaging storylines. It’s a spare, quick read that would be ideal for reluctant readers. It’s also great for kids with a scientific inclination, and those who like to puzzle out problems and collect data to come to a conclusion. The perfect read for analytical thinkers who want to put their active brains to recreational use!

BiblioLinks: I agree, Joan–this book will definitely appeal to reluctant (and avid!) readers. If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Paradox in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

 Joan: There are many science-based springboard discussions that could arise from this book: the development of disease and how contagious agents could be spread across a global landscape; the very real developments of space travel and the recent discovery of potentially habitable planets; rotation of binary solar systems and how they differ from our own. There’s also a lot of story connections to be made, connecting the generational links and organizing them into a time-sequential storyline, understanding the logic of how the different elements in the book all fit together. Students might also use the enclosed news articles as a springboard to writing their own articles highlighting recent real-life scientific breakthroughs they find exciting and groundbreaking.

 BiblioLinks: Lots of STEM connections for educators to explore. In addition to using the newspapers articles as springboards like you mentioned, the interview transcript with Ana’s mother could also spark spin-offs where students could create mock interviews with other characters in the story. The present-tense, third person point of view would also make for some interesting discussions.

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

 Joan: You can find me on the web at www.ajpaquette.com, and for more about PARADOX specifically, visit the Random Buzzers forum to read some Q&As from teen readers here, or drop by here to read the opening chapter.

Biblio Links: Thanks for joining us, Joan!

Teachers and librarians, click here for rave reviews of Paradox.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0375869624

Interest Level: ages 12 and up

Number of Pages: 240

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Although Paradox is a young adult title, it’s recommended for ages 12 and up, so I’ve included it in Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday round up. Click here to visit her blog for more middle grade recommendations.

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!

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!